Best of our wild blogs: 21 Oct 15

Flocking of Asian Glossy Starlings
Bird Ecology Study Group

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Malaysia: Expert warns of haze danger

AINA NASA New Straits Times 21 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Afew more weeks of acrid haze, and Malaysians risk contracting acute and chronic health diseases, which could result in death.

As the thick smog continues to choke the region, health experts are worried the smoke caused by forest fires in Indonesia could pose health problems.

Environmental Health and Research fellow of the United Nations University-International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH), Professor Dr Jamal Hisham Hashim, said a study published by reputable international journal Nature claimed that outdoor air pollution contributed significantly to premature deaths around the globe.

“Health impacts of air pollution are a function of dose as well as duration of exposure to air pollutants.

“We know the dose or level of particulate pollutant has attained hazardous levels of more than 300 in API (Air Pollutant Index) some time ago,” he told the New Straits Times.

According to the study, outdoor air pollution contributes to 3.3 million premature deaths per year globally from stroke (39.7 per cent), heart attack (32.7 per cent), chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (15.7 per cent), acute lower respiratory infection (seven per cent) and lung cancer (4.9 per cent).

Most of the deaths, Dr Jamal said, were due to the worsening of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases by the fine particle, PM2.5.
“PM2.5 comes mainly from combustion sources like motor vehicles, power plants, incinerators and forest fires.

“PM2.5 of carbonaceous origins, like forest fires and biomass burnings, is believed to be a more potent health hazard than that from other sources.”
The groups most at risk, Jamal added, were the elderly with hypertension and heart diseases, those with respiratory diseases like asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and children who were physically more active and with immature lungs.

“The effects of the haze are worse on the heart than the lungs, leading to strokes and heart attacks.”

Dr Jamal said the levels of PM2.5 in our atmosphere could not be determined as the system had yet to be put in place.

It was reported recently that Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Hamim Samuri said the ministry was pushing for all 52 monitoring stations nationwide to include the measurement of PM2.5 as the matter had been outlined in the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020).

However, Hamim said, the move could only take effect in two years.

Responding to this, Dr Jamal said the monitoring exercise could be done in stages.

“The best defence against haze is to stay indoors. It is also important to reduce indoor sources of air pollution like smoking, frying and burning of mosquito coils.

“If you must go outside, wear N95 masks,” he said, adding that N95 masks were most effective because they were designed for dusty atmospheres and could filter the air people breathed.

“The normal surgical mask was designed to prevent users from spreading germs, not protecting them from the air outside. However, any kind of mask is better than nothing.”

In Malacca, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said government hospitals and clinics were ready to provide medical assistance to those suffering from haze-related illnesses.

“The public should avoid outdoor activities, if possible,” he said before opening the state MIC special convention here yesterday.

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MOE to review haze management in schools

KELLY NG Today Online 21 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Education (MOE) is working with the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency to review its haze-management measures in schools, it said today (Oct 20) in response to TODAY’s queries. “We will provide an update on the enhanced haze management measures when we have completed the review,” the ministry said.

Together with MOH and NEA, the education ministry will “carefully re-assess our existing haze-management measures to better protect our students from the effects of haze for future haze seasons”.

MOE was responding to a petition for the ministry to take immediate steps to haze-proof its schools. Started two days ago, the petition has garnered more than 2,200 supporters as of 10pm today.

Initiated by Dr Christy Toh — a mother of two aged five and nine — the petition on called on MOE to make arrangements for lessons to be conducted in air-conditioned rooms with mechanical air filters and implement e-learning for “non-essential lessons” when PM2.5 concentration reaches unhealthy levels, among other things. Support for the petition grew as both PM2.5 and three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings rocketed on yesterday night. The one-hour PM2.5 levels hit 471 micrograms per cubic metre in western Singapore at 11pm — the highest level recorded so far this year.

PM2.5 refers to fine particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which can slip past the nasal passages into the lungs and blood streams. Guidelines by the World Health Organization state that there is little evidence for setting a threshold for particular matter below which there will be no adverse health effects. But, the American Environmental Protection Agency sets a 24-hour threshold for PM2.5 at a level of 35 micrograms per cubic metre.

In the petition, Dr Toh noted that children are particularly vulnerable to the haze because their respiratory systems are immature. She told TODAY: “The measures now are very inconsistent across different schools, you have teachers who say children do not need to wear masks in the classroom because classrooms are ‘indoors’ even though the doors and windows remain open.”

Other parents whom this newspaper spoke to noted that current MOE guidelines only call for lesson plans to be modified only when the 24-hour PSI surges beyond 200, which they found inadequate.

Mdm Law Jee Wei, who has a 10-year-old son and five-year-old daughter, said she has kept her son from school for at least five times over the last two months when haze conditions worsened. “But we cannot keep doing that, we don’t want him to fall back (in his studies), and he wants to attend classes too,” she said.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease doctor in private practice, said school-going children are especially vulnerable because many classrooms are not air-conditioned. “Even when we move students into an air-conditioned hall when PSI levels cross MOE’s threshold, the hall will be overcrowded and lessons cannot be conducted in an effective manner,” he said.

As part of MOE’s existing haze-management measures, all schools have sufficient enclosed spaces to cater to the students. The schools are also equipped with air purifiers for students who feel unwell or have underlying conditions. Citing the closure of schools on Sept 25, MOE said it would also consider shutting schools when the 24-hour PSI for the next day is expected to hit hazardous levels. It added: “Nevertheless, we also note that this year’s haze season is unusually prolonged, and with more episodes of elevated PSI levels than we have typically experienced in the past.”

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Indonesia names Singaporean company as suspect in land fires

Another foreign firm named suspect in land fires
Antara 21 Oct 15;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The police have named oil palm plantation company PT Palm Lestari Makmur as a suspect in an alleged case of land and forest fires in its concession area in Indragiri Hulu district, Riau province.

"The company has been named as a suspect and we will soon bring the case to justice," Special Crime Director of the Riau Provincial Police, Senior Commissioner Arif Rahman Hakim, said here on Tuesday.

The police are currently investigating several witnesses, including an expert witness, in the alleged case of land fires involving the Singaporean company, he said.

Deputy Director of Special Crime of the Riau Provincial Police, Adjunct Senior Commissioner Ari Rahman Nafarin, said 29 hectares land has allegedly been burned by the company.

The police named the company as a suspect after investigating a number of its executives, he said.

Nafarin said the police are also in the process of investigating other foreign company, PT Pan United in Bengkalis district, Riau province, for allegedly setting fire to its land.

"We will announce the developments in the investigation of the case in the near future," he said.

In August 2015, the police had also named oil palm plantation firm, PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo, as a suspect in a case of land fire.

The police later named Frans Katihokang, one of the companys executives, as a suspect in the case.

Nafarin said the company is charged with an act of negligence leading to land fire, pursuant to Law No. 32/2009 on Environmental Protection and Management.(*)

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Indonesia: Flights canceled, hot spots increase in Sumatra 20 Oct 15;

Flights at the Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport in Pekanbaru, Riau, have been canceled on Tuesday due to smog, including those from Garuda Indonesia, Sriwijaya, Lion Air and Citilink.

"Of the 70 flights scheduled for today, 24 have been confirmed as canceled," said the airport's duty manager Hasnan Siregar on Tuesday as quoted by Antara news agency.

According to Hasnan, dozens of other flights have also been delayed due to limited visibility, which reached 800 meters at 11 a.m.

On Monday, all of the flights at the airport, 78 in total, were canceled due to similar reasons.

According to Pekanbaru's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), half of Riau province was covered in thick haze on Tuesday morning with visibility between 50 to 400 meters.

"Dumai suffers the worst with visibility only 50 meters at 7 a.m. Others, like Pelalawan and Pekanbaru, are between 300 and 400 m," said head of BMKG Pekanbaru Sugarin.

According to Sugarin, up to 825 hot spots were detected throughout Sumatra on Tuesday morning, with South Sumatra being the highest contributor with 654 hot spots.

Jambi, which previously had zero hot spots, is reportedly on fire again, with up to 110 hot spots detected. (kes)(++++)

Hot spots increase in Papua, South Sumatra 21 Oct 15;

Several flights at Moses Kilangin Airport in Timika, Mimika regency, Papua, were canceled on Wednesday morning because as a thick haze from nearby fires brought visibility down to around 1 kilometer.

According to Timika meteorology station spokesperson Dwi Christanto, the region's cool weather has kept the haze from dissipating, leaving it to blanket the airport instead.

"Weather conditions in Timika will improve if the number of hot spots in Merauke regency are reduced and firefighting is maximized," said Dwi on Wednesday as quoted by Antara news agency.

Since Oct. 15, the airport has been unable to serve wide-body aircraft such as those from Garuda Indonesia, Sriwijaya Air and Airfast Indonesia.

On Tuesday, 257 hot spots were detected by NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites in Papua and Maluku, up from 229 the previous day. Yos Sudarso Island in Merauke regency and the border area between Merauke and Mappi regencies were said to have the most hot spots.

Meanwhile, the number of hot spots in South Sumatra has also increased, rising to 530 on Wednesday, spread across 16 regencies and cities. This increase comes despite the area having been the focus of foreign aid as requested by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. Two days ago, there were only 163 hot spots in South Sumatra.

"The number of hot spots detected in South Sumatra in October has been fluctuating. It will decrease for a few days, but the next day drastically increase, just like today," said spokesperson for the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) South Sumatra, Indra Purnama.

Ogan Komering Ilir regency is home to most of South Sumatra’s hot spots, with 356, followed by Musi Rawas with 50 hot spots, Musi Banyuasin with 35, Banyuasin with 34, Lahat with 13, North Musi Rawas with 11 and Ogan Komering Ulu with 10. (kes)(++++)

Riau extends haze emergency status 20 Oct 15;

Riau province has extended its air-pollution emergency status up to Nov. 1 a top official said on Tuesday.

Acting Riau governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman issued a decree on the status extension on Oct. 19.

"We extend the haze emergency status as the air quality in Riau is not stable yet and there is still haze from neighboring provinces," he said as reported by Antara news agency.

Riau and other parts of Sumatra have been covered with their worst haze in history over the past three months due to forest and land fires mostly caused by land clearing for plantation companies.

Rachman said that the decision to prolong the status had been made in consultation with related agencies like the Riau haze task force and the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

He cited the BMKG’s statement that air quality is still poor and that rainy season was predicted not to come until early November.

"We must increase health services so there will be no more people getting sick from the haze," he said.

Data from the Riau haze task force showed that air-pollution in Riau's capital of Pekanbaru was at a "dangerous" level.

Thick haze still covers Pekanbaru and continues to disrupt flights at Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport.

Riau health office reports that there were 62,531 people affected by respiratory infections from Sept 29 to Oct. 18. (rin) (++++)

Law continues to be enforced against forest burners: Minister
Antara 20 Oct 15;

Palembang, S Sumatra (ANTARA News) - The police will continue to enforce the law against those found guilty of setting fire to forests, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has said.

"The law enforcement has been carried out by the police and is being coordinated with the Environment and Forestry Ministry," Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said here on Tuesday.

He said he was continuously evaluating the way investigations in cases of those accused of setting fire to forest were proceeding.

"The law against those burning forest should be enforced firmly as part of the efforts to prevent such forest fires in the future," the minister said.

However, he noted, that the government has cooperated with foreign countries to extinguish land and forest fires in several provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

"Two aircrafts from Russia will arrive this evening. These planes have a capacity of 12 thousand liters. I hope these will enable better handling of forest fires," he said.

Meanwhile, the National Police Chief, General Badrodin Haiti, said the police continues to investigate some reports of forest and plantation fires on Sumatra and Kalimantan islands.

"There are hundreds of reports of forest fires in Indonesia. We continue to investigate those cases," he said.

The police has submitted files of perpetrators involved in the fires to the Attorney Generals Office.

Earlier, the police had received 244 reports on forest and plantation fires. Of the 244 reports, 218 are being investigated, and 26 are in the pre-investigation stage.

Of the total number of cases registered, 113 cases involve individuals and 48 involve companies.

National Police Chief General Badrodin Haiti revealed that till October 12, the police had named 240 suspects, including individuals and 12 companies, in forest and land fire cases in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

They will be charged under the law on Protection and Management of the Environment that provides for a minimum punishment of three years and a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, with a fine ranging from Rp3 billion to Rp10 billion.

The 12 companies are suspected of having acted as the mastermind behind the fires.

Of the companies named suspects, two are foreign companies. "One of the two foreign companies is from Malaysia, the other one being from China," Haiti told a press conference recently.

He said his office would conduct intensive investigations into the activities of the two foreign companies.

He said the police were also investigating possible involvement of a Singaporean firm in forest and land fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

"We are still examining the involvement of the Singaporean company. I could not yet ascertain its involvement," the police chief said.(*)

Palangka Raya authorities close schools as haze reaches hazardous level
Antara 20 Oct 15;

Palangka Raya, C Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - The Palangka Raya authorities have decided to temporarily close schools from the kindergarten to senior high school level as haze from forest fires has reached 1,354.32 PM10 level, which is deemed categorically dangerous.

The schools were closed from October 19 to 21, 2015, Septia Rianty, a senior high school teacher, stated here, Monday.

The students have been given homework, so they could study at home, she added.

"Teachers are actually highly concerned as the learning process of the students has been disrupted frequently due to the haze from forest fires," she affirmed.

She hoped the government would take stern action, so that such a disaster would not recur in the coming years.

Previously, the capital of Central Kalimantan had closed schools on September 10-16, on September 25-October 6, and yet again on October 16-17 due to the haze.

Head of the Palangka Raya education office Norma Hikmah remarked that the decision to close the schools was taken to prevent students from falling ill due to the air pollution.(*)

Get Real goes to the Heart of the Haze
Channel NewsAsia's investigative documentary team speaks to firefighters, activists, politicians and people on the street in Kalimantan, Indonesia, dealing with one of the worst haze crises since 1997.
Kane Cunico Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 15;

PALANGKA RAYA: Around her, air pollution index (API) levels are at a staggering 2,600 API and a thick, yellowish haze her hometown a haunting, post-apocalyptic hue, yet college student Emmanuela Dewi Shinta is hopeful that things will get better.

"I’ll like to be optimistic about the next year, that there will be no haze,” the 23-year-old told Channel NewsAsia.

Emmanuela has been doing her bit to stem recurrence of the haze. She lobbies local politicians to take action on the yearly burning of peat land to make way for palm oil plantations and volunteers her time taking food to firefighters and villagers battling up to hundreds of hotspots around Central Kalimantan.

Emmanuela is one of the many people Channel NewsAsia's Get Real team spoke to at ground zero of the haze problem for the documentary Heart of the Haze. This year, Indonesians are experiencing one of its worst rash of forest and plantation fires since 1997. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said up to 1.7 million hectares of land is burning.


Prior to the team's arrival in Palangka Raya on Sep 22, API levels were at 800. Anything above 350 according to Indonesia’s meteorological, climate and geophysics department is in the hazardous range. But API levels went off the charts the moment they landed and stayed that way for the next two weeks, at one point reaching 2,600.

Said producer Say Xiangyu, who filmed outdoors in such conditions for more than 12 hours daily for eight days, said: “The toxic haze affects you physically. The crew experienced breathing difficulties and felt dizzy on shoots. But it also gets to you mentally. You start feeling trapped, because there is nowhere to run from the haze. The haze is inside the mall, your hotel room and flights are grounded.”

Ms Say said comfort levels aside, it was more important for the crew and her to tell the stories of those living so close to the danger zone.

“I was amazed by their spirit. They did not sit around and wait for the government to help them. Instead, they joined the fight and asked what they could do for the country. Even if it’s in small ways, like cooking lunch for volunteers.

“I remember a particularly poignant moment when I stood at the grave of a girl called Intan. Her parents told me that the haze killed her. That really hit home for me – that this haze is not just irritating, or toxic – it’s deadly. And I never want to take fresh air for granted.”

Filming alongside Ms Say was cameraman, Bjorn Vaughn, 34, a resident of Palangka Raya for almost six years. His wife and child have moved to Jakarta to escape the toxic pall.

“Half the time I wouldn’t even recognise where we were. I felt that the whole place had an alternate dimension and it was very eerie,” he said referring to the yellowish smoke that descended upon the city.

Mr Vaughn said the crew was ultimately moved by the humanity that they uncovered throughout their journey. In particular, he was inspired by the many volunteer firefighters, some of them still in their teens. “I reflected on the many experiences that we had and the devastation we saw, and I would be very sad. I would think of that young firefighter in the news. That moved me to tears, that he’s fighting the fires because it was his spiritual calling,” said Mr Vaughn.

“People in Central Kalimantan, despite the circumstances, have amazing coping ability, and this incredible positivity.

“Their ability to be so loving, despite everything. It’s very hard to understand how people can stay so incredibly positive.”

Channel NewsAsia’s Get Real documentary, Heart Of The Haze, airs tonight, 8pm (SG/HK) and 7pm (JKT). Encores will be broadcast on Oct 21, 6pm (SG/HK) and Oct 22, 1pm (SG/HK).

Haze crisis could persist into new year, say experts
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Strait Times Jakarta Post 20 Oct 15;

The fires raging in forests and peatland across Indonesia, which produce the thick haze that has spread across South-east Asia in recent weeks, are unlikely to be put out in the next month or two.

This means the crisis could persist into the new year, experts said, as the latest reports show hot spots emerging in 18 provinces in the archipelagic state in the past few days.

"Maybe it will last until December and January," Dr Herry Purnomo of the Centre for International Forestry Research said in a Reuters report yesterday. He added that there were also hot spots in Papua, a region usually spared such fires, because "people are opening new agriculture areas, like palm oil".

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry yesterday said it was still investigating the cause of the fires in Papua. But its director-general of law enforcement, Mr Rasio Ridho Sani, said this year's fires have reached an unprecedented level.

"We have never imagined we would ever see those lines of hot spots in Sulawesi and Papua," he told reporters, pointing to a hot- spot map during the briefing.

The smouldering haze from the fires has spread across many parts of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was quoted in an Agence France-Presse report as saying that he expects the crisis to continue for another month. "Unless there is rain, there is no way human intervention can put out the fires."

Indonesian national disaster management agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told The Straits Times: "Rain will start in December. It is impossible that we will still have the haze problem in January."

Meanwhile, three cities on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao were also covered by thick smoke. Weather forecaster Gerry Pedrico told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the haze had been covering the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro and General Santos since last Saturday.

The end of Indonesia's annual dry spell in October is usually marked by the start of the rainy season.

But the dry weather in Indonesia this year has been exacerbated by an extended El Nino season. This has made it harder to put out the fires, despite multinational firefighting operations in South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan - two of the worst-hit provinces in Indonesia.

Yesterday, a state of emergency was declared in North Sulawesi, which opened the doors for Jakarta to help contain the fires there.

A water bomber that can carry 4,300 litres of water was being prepared for deployment in the province, one of the latest to be hit by fires, said Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

Her ministry yesterday also revoked the licences of two plantation companies and suspended four firms for allegedly using fire to clear land. It also ordered another four companies to procure adequate equipment to prevent and douse fires on their concessions.

Mr Tri Budiarto, who is in charge of emergency response at BNPB, said the forecast from Indonesia's meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency indicates that in about a week, areas south of the Equator, which include South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, should see rainfall.

"If this proves to be true later, God willing, our firefighting operations would get a lift," he said.

The haze crisis seems to be showing no signs of abating, but the Joko Widodo government is doing all it can to resolve the fires, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said in Singapore yesterday.

Mr Luhut, who was speaking at the RSIS-Brookings-KADIN Distinguished Public Lecture, said on the sidelines of the event that two Russian-made Beriev Be-200 water bombers will be deployed today in South Sumatra's Ogan Komering Ilir regency.

He will also be heading to areas badly hit by forest fires in South Sumatra today. "I will be there to see the progress of the firefighting operations and also get a briefing on the effectiveness of water bombing," he said.

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Malaysia, Australia withdraw firefighting assets from Indonesia

Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency says the Bombardier amphibious aircraft from Malaysia and the Hercules aircraft from Australia flew back on Monday.

By Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 15;

JAKARTA: Malaysia and Australia have withdrawn their assets from Indonesia after completing five days of fire fighting in South Sumatra.

Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) on Tuesday (Oct 20) said the Bombardier amphibious aircraft from Malaysia and the Hercules aircraft from Australia flew back on Monday. However, BNPB did not mention if the Malaysian aircraft were going back for servicing as claimed in some reports.

Currently, there are still 11 Indonesian aircraft and one Chinook helicopter from Singapore available to continue water bombing efforts. These assets will be reinforced with two units of the Russian Beriev BE-200 amphibious aircraft expected to arrive in Palembang on Wednesday.

The aircraft, which can carry 12,000 litres of water, will be accompanied by 20 Russian crew. Indonesia has used the Beriev BE-200 for firefighting missions in 2007.

- CNA/yt

Malaysia to continue sending aircraft to ‘waterbomb’ Sumatera fires
New Straits Times 20 Oct 15;

SUBANG: Malaysia will continue deploying its assets to Indonesia to tackle the haze resulting from fires in Sumatera.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the CL415 Bombardier aircraft and AS365N3 Dauphin helicopter deployed to Sumatera were brought back to Malaysia today to undergo maintenance.

"The assets need to be brought back temporarily for maintenance. It will take about 100 hours before we can deploy our assets back to Indonesia.
"We will deploy the aircraft and helicopter to Indonesia on either Friday or next Monday," he told a press conference after the helicopter and aircraft homecoming ceremony at the Maritime Air Station, here today.

A total of 25 Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) personnel were involved in the mission and they arrived at about 1.15pm today.
Shahidan said on average, Bombardier CL415 aircraft pilots carried out 26 water bombing runs, dumping a total of 165,000 litres of water onto the blaze daily.

On Oct 11, the MMEA began its firefighting operation in the South Sumatera region to combat raging forest fires in Indonesia which had blanketed the republic and parts of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia in choking haze.

Reports by Zahratulhayat Mat Arif, Yip Zhi Min and Ko Ja Yee

Indonesia brings in Russian aircraft to tackle haze
Edna Tarigan, 20 Oct 15;

Malaysia and Australia's aid to Indonesia in lending water bombing aircraft ended on Monday. So, Indonesia turned to Russia for more help to tackle the haze crisis.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said on Tuesday that Bombardier aircraft from Malaysia and Hercules aircraft from Australia had returned to their respective countries.

"They have ended their five-day mission. There is only Chinook Mustang helicopter conducting water bombing in South Sumatra,” Sutopo said in a statement sent to on Tuesday.

He said there are currently 11 helicopters and airplanes, ten from Indonesia and one from Singapore for water bombing and cloud seeding.

"To increase the water bombing efforts, the government brought in two units of amphibi aircraft Beriev Be-200 along with 20 crew from Russia. They will land on Wednesday morning in Palembang," he said, adding that Russian Embassy officials have arrived in Palembang.

Sutopo explained that the the Be-200 plane is a legendary amphibious water bombing aircraft with a 12,000 liter capacity. Its ability includes taking water from rivers, lakes and the sea.

"Indonesia used this type of aircraft in the 2007 forest and land fires," he said.

As part of its strategy, the government moved two Air Tractor planes to Pangkal Pinang, Bangka Belitung province, to support the operation as Palembang airport is covered with thick haze with less visibility that disrupts the flights.

Sutopo added that water tanks with a capacity of 5,000 liters of water, chemical materials and other equipment have been prepared in the Pangkal Pinang base for fire extinguishing operations.

Seperately, Sugarin Hidayat, chief of Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said there were 623 hot spots detected in Sumatra on Tuesday. The Terra Aqua satellites recorded 19 hot spots in Bengkulul, 67 in Jambi, 23 in Lampung, 456 in South Sumatra, 6 in West Sumatra, 28 in Bangka Belitung and 24 in Riau.

“The weather in Riau is cloudy and covered by haze. The potential for rain is very low, “ he said. (rin)

More water-bombers needed to put out hotspots
Antara 20 Oct 15;

Palembang, S Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said more water-bombing aircraft are needed to put out fire hotspots in South Sumatra province.

The need for additional water-bombing aircraft is based on the land and forest area, including peatland, burnt in the province, he said after inspecting land fires in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra, on Tuesday.

To extinguish land and forest fires more effectively, the forest firefighting task force needs more water-bombing aircraft, he said.

He said peatland fires in South Sumatra have not been put out as yet.

The prolonged drought, coupled with strong winds and high drought rate, have made the spread of land fires uncontrollable, he said.

The minister said he will evaluate the need for water-bombing planes to achieve maximum results in putting out the hotspots.

He said he will report the evaluation to President Joko Widodo for consideration.

Several foreign aircraft are assisting the task force in fighting land and forest fires but these efforts were not enough to end the land and forest fires.

Head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Wiliem Rampangile said earlier in the day that low visibility and limited water sources have impeded the operation of foreign airplanes to assist in land and forest fire fighting efforts in South Sumatra.

During their six days of operation, some of the foreign airplanes found it difficult to conduct water-bombing operations as visibility dropped to only 700 meters in several areas, he said.

In the land and forest fire-affected areas of Cengal and Pedamaran in Ogan Komering Ilir district, only a Malaysian plane with a capacity of carrying five thousand liters of water proved effective in reaching the scene without having to return to the base for refilling, he said.

In the meantime, a Hercules N405 LC plane from Australia which has a capacity of carrying 15 thousand liters of water, had difficulty in accessing the target site due to low visibility, he said.

He said low visibility and limited water sources are among the obstacles being faced by fire fighters in extinguishing land and forest fires in South Sumatra, currently blanketed by a thick smoke.(*)

Low visibility impedes water-bombing operations in S Sumatra
Antara 20 Oct 15;

Palembang, S Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Low visibility and limited water sources have impeded the operation of foreign airplanes that are here to assist in putting out land and forest fires in South Sumatra province.

During their six days of operation, some of the foreign airplanes found it difficult to conduct water-bombing as visibility dropped to only 700 meters in several areas, head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Wiliem Rampangile, said here on Tuesday.

In the land and forest fire-affected areas of Cengal and Pedamaran in Ogan Komering Ilir district, only a Malaysian plane with a capacity of carrying 5 thousand liters of water proved effective in accessing the target site without having to return to the base for refilling, he said.

In the meantime, a Hercules N405 LC plane from Australia which has a capacity of carrying 15 thousand liters of water had difficulties reaching the scene due to low visibility, he said.

He said low visibility and limited water sources are among the obstacles that firefighters are facing in extinguishing land and forest fires in South Sumatra which is currently blanketed by a thick smoke.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said during his working visit to the province on Tuesday that the government will extend the period in which foreign planes can assist to put out land and forest fires.

He said two Russian planes with a capacity to carry 12 tons of water each are expected to arrive in South Sumatra on Tuesday night.

An Australian aircraft has reportedly concluded its designated period to assist in putting out land and forest fires in South Sumatra.

"The Australian aircraft, after completing the period it was assigned to provide assistance to put out the fires in the forest and land areas in South Sumatra, is now headed back to its country," Rampangilei said on Monday.

A Malaysian aircraft, too, completed its assistance period, which only leaves the Singaporean aircraft that is still helping in extinguishing the fires in South Sumatras forest and land areas.

The disaster management agency continues its efforts to fight the ongoing forest fires.(*)

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Malaysia: Selangor hard hit by haze

New Straits Times 21 Oct 15;

SHAH ALAM: The air quality in Selangor appears to be deteriorating with Shah Alam registering an Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of 226 this morning.

Port Klang is not far behind with an API of 200, just seven points below the very unhealthy category.

The other three stations in Selangor also recorded increasingly worsening API with Banting registering a reading of 181 followed by Petaling Jaya (183), and Kuala Selangor recording 152.

Elsewhere, areas which recorded unhealthy API this morning were Putrajaya (189), Batu Muda (164), Cheras (147), Seremban (150), Port Dickson (117), Nilai (145), Bukit Rambai (120), and Bandaraya Melaka (114).

In the northern states, areas with unhealthy readings include USM (143), Seberang Jaya 2 (143), Perai (120), Tanjung Malim (122), Seri Manjung (143), SK Jalan Pegoh, Ipoh (149), Kg Air Putih, Taiping (118), Jalan Tasek, Ipoh (136), Alor Setar (131), Bakar Arang, Sg Petani (137), and Langkawi (127). Over in Sarawak, areas with unhealthy API readings are Kuching (131), Samarahan (135) and Sarikei (115).

Haze may end when monsoon starts

PETALING JAYA: Even if Indonesian fires burn well into 2016, the haze in Malaysia is likely to end with the coming of the north-east monsoon, which starts next month.

The Meterological Department said winds from the South China Sea heading here then could push the smoke away to the west.

“By early November, we expect to be free from the transboundary haze. We’re going to have the north-east monsoon from the South China Sea,” said director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail.

Referring to a Reuters report that the haze could go on until March, she said that irrespective of burning in Indonesia, Malaysia would not be affected.

She said the haze here, which saw the air pollutant index reading climb to 178 in Port Klang at 5pm yesterday, was expected to improve with Typhoon Koppu now in the Philippines weakening by Oct 26.

In Klang, the town was seriously under assault yesterday.

Visibility was so bad that speedboat operators plying from Port Klang jetty to Pulau Ketam had to depend on their global positioning system (GPS) to find their way about.

Speedboat United Pulau Ketam-Port Klang chairman Lim Hack Tong said it was difficult to navigate the speedboats towards the island without GPS help due to the heavy smog.

He said speedboat operators were finding it difficult to make a living since the haze hit Klang.

He added that speedboat operators mostly depended on tourists and locals visiting Pulau Ketam during the weekends but the numbers had dropped drastically in recent times.

The thick haze has also prompted some schools to take precautionary measures such as directing students to wear masks in the classroom.

Chung Hua Independent High School board of trustees member Datuk Teh Meng Huat said students had to attend classes as they needed to prepare for the Unified Examination Certificate exam, which starts today.

“Although the haze is bad, we cannot close our school due to the examination, so we have asked the students to wear masks during classes,” said Teh.

Northeast monsoon to end the haze?
New Straits Times 21 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD) does not see the haze prolonging till March as the northeast monsoon season, beginning next month, would bring heavy rainfall.

Its director-general, Datuk Che Gayah Ismail, said the northeast monsoon season would also cause the wind to blow away from the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak.

“The wind during this monsoon season will blow from the sea.

“We are certain that no matter how bad the burning is in Indonesia, it will not come Malaysia’s way,” Che Gayah told the New Straits Times yesterday, adding that Malaysia could expect some reprieve from the haze on Monday.
“The haze is due to the inter-monsoon season, which is blowing the smog this way.”

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said the haze was due to the effects of cyclones caused by the El Nino phenomenon, and if the northeast monsoon season came on time, the change in wind patterns might bring some reprieve by mid-November.

The ministry yesterday also issued a statement to dismiss fake viral Air Pollutant Index (API) readings and news on a “yellow haze” phenomenon circulating via WhatsApp and social media.

It said throughout the period, the Department of Environment (DoE) monitored the haze and the exposure of carbon monoxide had been below the Recommended Malaysia Air Quality Guidelines, which is less than 30 parts per million (ppm) per hour or 35 microgram per meter.

“The readings of the carbon monoxide were below the Recommended Malaysia Air Quality Guidelines, and it does not cause the “yellow haze” phenomenon.”
As of 5pm yesterday, 25 areas recorded unhealthy API readings, but all the readings were below 200 with Port Klang recording the highest API reading at 178.

Environmental Health and Research fellow from the United Nations University-International Institute for Global Health, Professor Dr Jamal Hisham Hashim, in explaining the seemingly “yellowish” haze, said it was possibly due to light absorption from other particles, which accumulated in the current stagnant air.

Besides the haze, he said, the air was filled with nitrogen oxide, which comes from local air pollutants such motor vehicles’ fumes.

“The nitrogen oxide can block blue and violet lights from the visible light spectrum, allowing only yellow and red colours through.

“The air is stagnant and whatever we produce will accumulate in the air,” he said adding that the “yellowish haze was unlikely to be toxic as it was only a light phenomenon”.

Additional reporting by Tasnim Lokman and Beatrice Nita Jay

No yellow haze, says DOE
The Star 21 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Department of the Environment (DOE) has denied the existence of the "yellow haze" phenomena as is being spread on social media.

DOE said its monitoring of the haze situation in the country found the concentration of carbon monoxide was low and did not cause the phenomena.

"The reading on the carbon monoxide concentration is less that the Recommended Malaysia Air Quality Guidelines, that is below 30 ppm (1 hour) or 35 microgrammes per cubic metre (1 hour).

"It does not cause the yellow haze phenomena," DOE said in a statement in clarifying the false information being spread on social media.

DOE drew attention to the fact that the Air Pollutants Index in Malaysia was the best yardstick for measuring the main pollutants in the atmosphere which are fine dust with size less than 10 micrometres (PM10); carbon monoxide; sulphur dioxide; nitrogen dioxie and ozone, in accordance to international standards. - Bernama.

Haze forced two Ipoh-bound flights to land in Subang
BALQIS ARIFFIN New Straits Times 21 Oct 15;

IPOH: Two planes that were heading to Ipoh had to be diverted to Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang following the severe haze in the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport (LTSAS) here this morning.

Manager of Malaysian Airport Holding Berhad LTSAS, Mohd Ali Osman said the plane's flight from Singapore Air ATR72 and ATR72 Firefly from Johor Bharu each should have arrived at the track LTAS at 11.30am and 11.35am respectively.

"Both aircraft should have landed at the airport as scheduled.

"But we got a signal that the two aircrafts were already half way down here have diverted their course to Subang after getting early information on the haze," he said.

Ali said that so far the airport had recorded a visibility of 1,000 meters at 11.30 this morning. "However operation or the airport runway still operated as usual," he said.

Malaysians want action to end haze
VICTORIA BROWN The Star 21 Oct 15;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians are at the end of their tether having to live with the unhealthy air probably until March next year, and are demanding concrete action from both the Government and Indonesia.
Voicing their frustration in cyberspace, many urged the Government to push Indonesia for an end to the forest fires raging in various areas in the republic.

Many commented that the haze should be tackled at the root cause.

“There has been much coverage on the haze, but little on the cause of the forest fires,” commented Facebook user Chey Vun Khen.

“The haze will not end until its root cause is solved,” he said on The Star Online Facebook page.

The Star on Monday reported that experts predict an increasing number of hotspots and raging fires in new areas in Indonesia. Along with the El Nino-like conditions, this may mean that Malaysians could be smothered by the haze until March next year.

Facebook user Usun Jau said if the cause was not tackled, the haze would keep coming back in years to come.

“By the time it ends next year, another forest fire would be created again. The cycle goes on and on,” said Jau.

Many wanted the endless cycle of haze to be stopped once and for all.

Facebook user Fook Weng Edmond Lee said Malaysia should take a class action lawsuit against Indonesia for the yearly haze problem.

“The economic consequence is enormous,” he said.

Readers said that the closure of schools every other day due to the haze was not practical.

Facebook user Siti Fatimah Zahra said that she pitied the school children and teachers because so many activities have been postponed and rescheduled.

“If they keep closing schools on weekly basis, the year end exams will never finish,” said April Blossom.

“No more closing schools! Let the kids finish their exams,” she said.

Malaysians are also worried about the health effects caused by the haze.

Schools in several Malaysian state to close for third day due to haze
The areas affected include Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Sabah and Perak, which had Unhealthy readings Tuesday afternoon.
Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Schools in several parts of Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Sabah and Perak, have been advised by the Ministry of Education to close on Wednesday (Oct 21) due to the deteriorating haze conditions.

In a statement on Tuesday, the ministry said the affected areas are: Selangor; Putrajaya; Kuala Lumpur; Kuching, Padawan, Bau Lundu, Serian, Samrahan, Simunjan and Lubok Antu in Sarawak; Kinta Utara, Kinta Selatan, Manjung and Tanjung Malim in Perak; and Kuala Muda/Yan in Kedah.

“A total of 2,528 schools and 1,734,668 students from the mentioned areas will be affected,” said the ministry.

The education ministry said it had been monitoring the haze situation until 4pm and all areas affected had Air Pollutant Index (API) readings in the Unhealthy range.

However schools in Malacca and Negeri Sembilan that were closed on Tuesday will resume classes on Wednesday, along with schools in Tawau, Lahad Datu, Semporna and Kunak in Sabah, and Muar, Ledang and Segamat in Johor.

- CNA/ek

Only shift in forces of nature can end haze
ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL New Straits Times 21 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Only a shift in attitude by the forces of nature can put an end to the environmental catastrophe brought by haze in the region.

This is how Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar put the situation into perspective today, as without natural intervention, Malaysians could be faced with hazy conditions until March.

"Our hopes that Indonesia would be able to put out peat fires in Sumatera and Kalimantan earlier this month didn't materialise because of dry weather and wind conditions," said Wan Junaidi.

"We hoped in September that winds from the South China Sea would sweep the haze in Sarawak and the Peninsula to the South.

" But a combination of the Dujuan and Mujigae typhoons in the Philippines, low pressure of winds from the South China Sea, dry conditions brought about by the El Nino effect in Indonesia had worsened the haze."

Riding on the momentum of the typhoons which hit the Philippines coming from the South, winds blew the haze from peat fires in Kalimantan towards the Peninsula.

Wan Junaidi said Malaysia will continue to provide assistance to Indonesia via the National Security Council and although a Bombardier aircraft that has been used effectively for water bombing operations had to be called back yesterday for servicing, it would be despatched back to Sumatra once maintenance is done.

He added that information provided by Indonesian authorities also indicate that the cause of massive forest fires was due to open burning which unforcedly got out of hand and spread to forests due to dry conditions.

"From what we have learned just three percent of the burning was done by multinational companies, while the rest were small holders. It just got out of hand when they failed to control the fires which then spread into the forests," said Wan Junaidi.

Malaysian parliament to debate emergency motion on haze
The Star/ANN AsiaOne 21 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR - The Dewan Rakyat will set aside one hour Wednesday to debate an emergency motion on the worsening haze situation affecting the country.

Hee Loy Sian (PKR-PJ Selatan) tabled the motion in Parliament and deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee allowed it to be debated in the august House.

Hee said that the haze had reached serious levels that were not only affecting health, but also tourism and businesses as well.

One hour will be set aside between 4.30pm to 5.30pm Wednesday for lawmakers to debate the issue plaguing the country.

As of 11am Wednesday morning, several areas recorded unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings.

Among the areas with unhealthy readings are Petaling Jaya (187), Banting (192) and Putrajaya (194).

Port Klang and Shah Alam recorded very unhealthy API readings of 204 and 235 respectively.

"What we can hope for now is for rain to come and put out the fires in Indonesia. On our part here, cloud seeding operations will continue daily in area with an API reading of above 150," he said.

Read more!

South Thailand shrouded in haze

The Nation/ANN AsiaOne 21 Oct 15;

The per cubic metre dust particle reading in Songkhla was 94mcg, Yala at 80mcg and Narathiwat at 74mcg, Environment Region 16 Office director Halem Jehmarikan said yesterday. He also called on people with respiratory diseases to be on guard.

Meanwhile, Songkhla Fishery Association president Praporn Akuru said trawlers had to be careful as the smog affected visibility, especially at night. He said this would continue for another two days.

Read more!

Indonesian eco-resort to be accessible only from Singapore

According to the developer, visitors will only be able to access the islands in Indonesian waters via a ferry service shuttling to and from HarbourFront.
Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: What is billed as the world's largest eco-park resort being built in Indonesian waters will be only accessible via ferry service from Singapore, developers of Funtasy Island said on Tuesday (Oct 20).

The 328-hectare development featuring dolphin lagoon villas, a theme park and beach club, is located 16km away from Singapore. There will be a 25-minute ferry service shuttling to HarbourFront, Funtasy Island Development (FID) said in a news conference.

Previously known as Pulau Manis, the cluster of six small islands north of Batam was acquired by Batam-based developer PT Batam Island Marina 20 years ago. Since 2010, FID has spent S$300 million on the development of the island.

The project is expected to have a soft launch by the end of the first quarter of 2016 and will now include a resort hotel developed in partnership with Louvre Hotels Group, FID announced on Tuesday.


FID said 70 per cent of the island's natural environment will be preserved. The remaining 30 per cent will be allocated to the construction of 400 villas and two hotels. Director of FID Michael Yong said: "Before we even started construction, we planted 4,000 mangrove trees around the island. We also worked with the local authorities to plant almost 200 coral cubes." FID has plans for a conservation fund to plant one coral on the island for every visitor, he said.

As for its advertising which highlighted dolphins at the doorstep, Mr Yong said the waters have proven to be a suitable habitat for the mammals, and that he expects a few schools of wild dolphins to be in the area.

"We also worked with the fishermen to build structures using compacted palm tree leaves and put it around the island for growth of algae to attract small fishes, which will in turn attract dolphins around the area," he added.

Asked whether the annual haze problem could cloud the island, Mr Yong said that would be inevitable as "haze that reaches Singapore will also reach Funtasy Island". However, he said developers would plan for "more underwater activities which will not be affected by haze".

"We will have more water sport activities. We also want to propose the first cave diving training centre," he said.

Funtasy Island villas are priced at about S$750,000, but about 85 per cent of the properties have been sold or leased to date, FID said. The island is currently uninhabited, but is expected to house an estimated 1,500 staff and 3,000 visitors once it is fully functional at the next of 2016.

- CNA/ww

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Watchdog finds fault with various claims, wants developers to make ad changes
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Preservation groups, activists raise concerns about Batam property with captive dolphins
Audrey Tan and Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 May 15;

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S Dhanabalan to head company behind Mandai rejuvenation

The former chairman of Temasek has been appointed as the chairman of Mandai Safari Park Holdings.
Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Mr S Dhanabalan, the former chairman of Temasek Holdings and the current chairman of its philanthropic arm Temasek Trust, will head the company that is responsible for the rejuvenation of Mandai.

In a news release on Tuesday (Oct 20), Mandai Safari Park Holdings said Mr Dhanabalan has been appointed as its chairman. The company is overseeing the concept development to turn Mandai into an integrated wildlife and nature heritage space.

“I am honoured to be part of the team that will bring the vision of a rejuvenated Mandai to reality. By adopting an integrated, sustainable and inclusive approach, we will work towards creating an attraction for Singaporeans and visitors to enjoy the biodiversity available in Singapore,” Mr Dhanabalan said.

Together with the Mandai Safari Park team, Mr Dhanabalan said he has been engaging environmental groups and civil societies.

“My recent conversations have underscored how passionate and committed people in Singapore are towards conservation today. I see the new Mandai as a space to inspire and educate people of all ages in environmental conservation.”

Mr Dhanabalan is joined by 10 other directors including Ms Claire Chiang, former Chairman of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), and Mr Mike Barclay, who was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of WRS on Oct 1. Mr Barclay will also serve as Mandai Safari Park’s Executive Director.

In March, Mandai Safari Park commissioned an Environmental Impact Assessment of the development. The findings will be announced in the second quarter of 2016, the company said.

- CNA/cy

S Dhanabalan to chair Temasek-owned entity behind Mandai mega-project
Today Online 21 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — Former Cabinet Minister and chairman of state-owned investment company Temasek S Dhanabalan has been appointed chairman of Mandai Safari Park Holdings, which will oversee the concept development of Mandai into a wildlife and nature heritage space.

Mr Dhanabalan — who retired as Temasek chairman in 2013 after 17 years — is currently chairman of Temasek Trust, the philanthropic arm of Temasek.

He heads the board of directors of the Mandai Safari Park Holdings, which consists 10 other directors, including Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) chief executive Mike Barclay, Singapore Tourism Board chief executive Lionel Yeo and marine biologist Leo Tan.

Mr Barclay, the former chief executive of Sentosa Development Corporation who became WRS chief executive on Oct 1, will also serve as executive director of the Mandai Safari Park Holdings.

The latter is wholly owned by Temasek and holds an 88 per cent stake in WRS.

WRS is the holding company of Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, River Safari and Singapore Zoo.

Plans for a mega-nature attraction in Mandai were first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on a “live” television programme last year.

Early this year, Temasek, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry said Mandai could feature a new “immersive zoo-type experience” in addition to the existing attractions there. The work is set to finish around 2020.

Mr Dhanabalan and the Mandai Safari Park Holdings team have been engaging environmental groups and civil society, according to a statement issued yesterday.

“My recent conversations have underscored how passionate and committed people in Singapore are towards conservation today.

“I see the new Mandai as a space to inspire and educate people of all ages in environmental conservation,” he said.

Findings of the Environmental Impact Assessment for Mandai — conducted by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and other agencies — are likely to be shared in the second quarter of next year.

The assessment was commissioned in March, and detailed biodiversity and physical data are being collected, said Mandai Safari Park Holdings. It will explore and incorporate sustainable solutions in the development of Mandai, which will cover about 120ha.

Ideas for Mandai include the possible relocation of Jurong Bird Park to the precinct.

A concept video that was released early this year depicted a “zoo in the air” with aerial walkways weaving through a forest, a waterfall cavern for boat rides and a walkway for wildlife crossings. WRS is also looking to use the development as a research platform.

Dhanabalan to chair Temasek's Mandai rejuvenation unit
Melissa Tan Business Times 20 Oct 15;

TEMASEK Holdings' proposal to turn Mandai into an integrated wildlife and nature heritage area has been taken another step towards realisation.

The Singapore investment firm has set up a wholly-owned unit to oversee the "concept development" for the estate's makeover and asked its former chairman S Dhanabalan to chair it, according to a press release the unit sent out on Tuesday.

Mandai Safari Park Holdings said in its statement that it commissioned a study of the proposed development's impact on the environment in March this year and expects to be able to publish findings in the second quarter of 2016. This environmental impact assessment "aims to explore and incorporate sustainable solutions in the development of the precinct", it added.

The proposed development is expected to be completed in phases over a decade and the first phase has been estimated to cost about S$1 billion, according to media reports in January 2015.

Mandai Safari said that besides driving the development plans, it will also oversee the business and strategic development of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

WRS is the holding company and operator of the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari and River Safari. Mandai Safari owns 88 per cent of WRS and the Singapore Tourism Board owns the remaining 12 per cent.

Mandai Safari will have 10 other directors besides Mr Dhanabalan, who is also chairman of Temasek's philanthropic arm Temasek Trust. These include former WRS chairman Claire Chiang and WRS's new chief executive officer Mike Barclay.

Read more!

Air-cons to face higher energy-saving standards from next September

STACEY LIM Today Online 21 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — Starting next September, the air-conditioners sold here will have to meet higher energy-saving standards, with a minimum energy-efficiency rating of two ticks, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said today (Oct 20).

Currently, air-conditioners that are imported into Singapore must have at least one tick under the Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme (MELS).

The number of ticks on the label indicates the relative energy efficiency of the product, with more ticks indicating better energy efficiency.

Households that switch from a one-tick to a two-tick air-conditioner can save about S$100 annually in energy costs, the NEA said.

According to a 2012 survey conducted by NEA on household energy consumption, air-conditioning accounted for 36.7 per cent of the total household electricity consumption.

By raising the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for air-conditioners, consumers can benefit from appliances with better energy efficiency, and lower energy consumption and costs at the same time, the NEA said.

They will also help to reduce Singapore’s carbon footprint.

Apart from the MEPS, consumers can also check the labels on the household appliances in stores to help them make better-informed decisions before making their purchases.

Under the MELS, electrical appliances, such as air-conditioners, refrigerators and clothes dryers, are required to have labels that carry useful information, such as their annual energy consumption and energy costs.

The NEA regularly reviews the MEPS of various household appliances to ensure that the standards keep up with technological improvements as well as with changing market conditions.

The MEPS and MELS will also be extended to other appliances, such as water heaters and general lighting.

To allow importers, manufacturers and retailers sufficient time to clear their existing stocks of air-conditioners, products that are in the market or were imported before Sept 1 next year will be exempted from the regulations for a year.

Ms Swen Tan, 47, a consulting sales manager for Daikin Airconditioning, said the regulation that will take effect next September will have “minimal impact” on the company as most of its air-conditioning models are rated “more than two ticks”.

She added: “It is good (on the part) of the NEA because we are going towards a green and efficient performance (of air conditioning), and we recommend the end-user to use energy-efficient appliances to reduce carbon emissions.”

Higher energy standards for air-conditioners from next September
Air-conditioners being sold in Singapore must have a minimum energy-efficiency rating of at least two ticks, up from one tick currently.

Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Starting next September, air-conditioners being sold in Singapore will have to meet higher energy standards with a minimum energy-efficiency rating of at least two ticks, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Tuesday (Oct 20).

Currently, air-conditioners that are imported into Singapore must have at least one tick under the Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme. The number of ticks on the label indicates the relative energy efficiency of the product.

Households that switch from a one-tick to a two-tick air-conditioner can save about S$100 annually in energy costs, the NEA said.

According to a survey conducted by NEA on household energy consumption, air-conditioning accounts for about 37 per cent of a household’s electricity consumption.

To allow importers, manufacturers and retailers sufficient time to clear their existing stocks of air-conditioners, products that are in the market or were imported before Sep 1, 2016 will be exempted from the regulations for a year, NEA said.

- CNA/cy

Less energy-efficient air-cons to be phased out
Carolyn Khew Straits Times AsiaOne 22 Oct 15;

Air-conditioning accounts for about 37 per cent of total household energy consumption here, the highest of all home appliances. Switching to a more energy-efficient model will help each household save $100 a year in energy costs.

Photo: The Straits Times

In a bid to cut Singapore's energy consumption, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will phase out less energy-efficient air-conditioners by September next year.

Currently, air-conditioning models sold here must have at least one tick on the energy label, which is used to help consumers gauge how energy-efficient a particular electrical appliance is.

From September next year, however, the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) will be raised and all models here will be required to have at least two ticks.

The electrical appliance will be the first to have the minimum requirement of two ticks, meaning it uses less energy.

The switch will help a household save $100 annually in energy costs, the agency said, adding that it is giving importers, manufacturers and retailers enough time to clear their existing stocks.

Products that are on the market or imported before Sept 1 next year will be exempted from regulations for a year, meaning that they can be on sale until September 2017.

The NEA added that it will review the MEPS from time to time and assess whether standards for household appliances should be raised.

Introduced in 2008, the Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme also covers refrigerators and clothes dryers. Under it, the more ticks awarded, the more energy-efficient the product is.

According to a 2012 NEA study on household energy consumption, air-conditioning accounted for about 37 per cent of total household electricity consumption - the highest among all home appliances.

The labelling scheme is part of the Government's bid to reduce its energy consumption and ecological footprint.

Singapore has pledged to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted for each dollar of gross domestic product by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Retailers The Straits Times spoke to yesterday said that they generally had no issues about phasing out the less efficient air-conditioners.

Retailer Gain City, for instance, said that only 3 per cent of its air-conditioners are one tick.

Furniture and electronics retail giant Courts Singapore said it stopped selling one tick air-conditioners last year.

While retailers say air-conditioners that are more energy-efficient are likely to cost more, it will not deter some, like housewife Wendy Choo, from buying them.

"I'll pay more for energy savings," said the 57-year-old. "In the long term, you can save a lot in terms of usage cost."

Read more!

Singapore: Walking a wild path at Pulau Ubin

Jim Eagles New Zealand Herald 21 Oct 15;

At Pulau Ubin, away from Singapore's glossy towers, Jim Eagles comes face to face with some local wildlife.

In a clearing beside the track was a massive old tree which soared above the surrounding forest. Around its base were clustered the carved stones of a Muslim burial area.

And, this being Singapore, up its trunk climbed the wires and insulators of a lightning conductor.

"This is a pulai tree," said Alan, the national parks conservation officer who was showing us round the island of Pulau Ubin. "It is very old and very precious."

That, presumably, was why it was protected by a lightning conductor? "Yes. Many of our finest trees are struck by lightning and destroyed. So for this tree we spent $10,000 to keep it safe. We brought in some expert tree climbers to take the wire right to the top."

Looking up at the way the tree disappeared out of sight high above the jungle canopy I thought that must have been some climb. And I asked Alan if the effort had been worthwhile.

"Oh, yes," he said. "It has been struck by lightning several times. You can see on the counter."

Looking at the little counter I saw it registered "5". So, but for the lightning conductor, the tree would have been hit by lightning five times. "Yes," said Alan. "It would have been destroyed."

But this is Singapore, where more than five million people live in an area the size of Lake Taupo, a place where they don't do things by halves.

During the decades when all effort was concentrated on transforming this cluster of tropical islands into a modern city, Pulau Ubin was almost obliterated, its stone - the name means Granite Island - dug out of six huge quarries, its forests cut down to make way for rubber, pineapple and coffee plantations, its bays dammed for prawn farming,

But 50 or so years ago, when the Government decided to make Singapore a garden city, that process went into reverse. The quarries are now tranquil lakes where waterfowl play. The jungle has largely grown back and native birds and animals have returned. The coastline has been restored.

These days Pulau Ubin provides Singaporeans and visitors with a taste of what Singapore was like before Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in 1819 and transformed the peaceful island off the coast of Asia into a global trading hub.

To get there involves taking a ride in a bumboat - small wooden craft able to carry a dozen passengers - from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal.

We headed for the jewel in the island's crown, the 100ha Chek Jawa Wetlands, pausing only to inspect some of the most interesting trees, including one of the surviving rubber trees, still dripping its sticky white juice into a bowl, and a cluster of durian trees

The restoration of the island has attracted back mischievous monkeys and the magnificent oriental pied hornbill - black and white birds with huge yellow beaks.

As we did the 600m coastal boardwalk, Alan pointed out an inlet "where a family of otters often comes to play" - sadly not today - and a bay where the red jungle fowls - ancestors of today's domestic chickens - feed when the tide is out.

Ironically, these ancient chickens are now the only fowls on the island because, Alan said, "after the last bird flu outbreak all the domestic chickens were slaughtered.

At one point the boardwalk crosses a big area of seagrass where "the biologists have found the feeding trails of dugong - seacows - though I have never seen any dugong here myself."

Because the tide was in we weren't able to spot the dugong trails or enjoy the many species that flourish on the mudflats but we did get to see plenty of fish including a large shoal of fine fat yellowtails.

Towards the end, when we got closer to shore, we were able to enjoy the antics of the mudskippers, amphibians with legs and fishtails, equally at home on land or in the sea, foraging along the water's edge.

The coastal walk leads on to another 500m of boardwalk through a forest of several types of mangrove - some of them massive trees with equally massive aerial root systems - and other coastal plants.

Among them was the nipa palm whose fruit, which grows in picturesque brown clusters, makes a famous local dessert.

I was intrigued by what looked like mud volcanoes along the way. "Those are the homes of mud lobsters. You are not likely to see them because they come out when their homes are covered in water."

Suddenly I saw what might be a mud lobster coming out of one of the volcanoes. "Sorry, no," said Alan. "That is only a crab. That is the tenant. The owner is about a metre down under the mud."

There was a flurry of excitement when some youngsters walking behind us spotted a monitor lizard prowling along the edge of the wetland under the boardwalk, its blue tongue flicking out, looking for titbits left by the falling tide.

And there was even more excitement at the end of the walk when a sow and half a dozen large piglets emerged from the forest seemingly keen to pose for pictures. Alan, who had earlier told us we were highly unlikely to see any of the wild pigs on the island, sighed. "Someone has been feeding them. We tell them not to. There are signs up saying it is forbidden. But it is still happening."

Some of the other species on the island that we hadn't seen were on display in the visitor centre which occupies an extraordinary tudor-style house built by English colonial officials in the 1930s and famous for having probably the only genuine fireplace in Singapore.

The fireplace no longer works - I can't imagine why anyone would ever have wanted to light a fire with temperatures in the 30s and humidity in the 90s - because the chimney has been closed off to protect a family of pouched tomb bats that have made a home there.

When I expressed interest in the bats one of the park officials told me the water tower for the house was home to a family of Malayan false vampire bats.

Thank goodness, I thought, that they weren't real vampire bats.

But then, this being Singapore, if they were real vampire bats they'd probably be fixed up with an artificial supply of blood to keep them healthy and the locals safe.


Getting there: Singapore Airlines flies daily from Auckland to Singapore.

Where to stay: Hotel Fort Canning is a modern hotel set in a tranquil historic park in the heart of downtown Singapore.

For more information: Visit

The writer travelled with help from Singapore Airlines and Singapore Tourism Board.

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