Best of our wild blogs: 26 Oct 15

Talks for Marine Park volunteers
wild shores of singapore

flagged redshanks @ SBWR - 24Oct2015

Purple Mud Crab (Scylla tranquebarica) @ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Monday Morgue

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Indonesia: Emissions From Indonesia’s Fires Reach New Highs, but Solutions Are Within Reach

Nirarta Samadhi & Nigel Sizer Jakarta Globe 26 Oct 15;

Indonesia’s forest and land fires have reached a new level of global significance. New analysis published this week by Guido van der Werf, lead scientist with the Global Fire Emissions Database, indicates that since September greenhouse gas emissions from the fires exceeded the average daily emissions from all US economic activity. Extrapolating from van der Werf’s estimates, these emissions are likely to add about 3 percent to total global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities for the year. The emissions from fires so far in 2015 are more than three times higher than expected by Indonesia’s national planning agency.

The fires in Indonesia are set to clear land for agriculture or as a weapon in conflict over land. Many of the fires are burning on carbon-rich peatlands and as a result spew extremely large amounts of toxic smog into the air and climate-altering gas into the atmosphere.

The economic cost is huge, likely to exceed $14 billion. Firefighting costs are currently heading toward $50 million per week, paid for by Indonesian taxpayers at a time of slowing growth and severe stress on the national economy. Health impacts from the smog have reached epidemic proportions both in Indonesia and neighboring countries, with more than 300,000 people seeking medical help for respiratory complaints. Tragically, a number of children have died from acute breathing difficulties.

Indonesia’s neighbors are upset. Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are calling for more action. Now, Indonesia’s fire emissions are drawing the attention of United Nations’ negotiators as they focus on completing the critically important global climate agreement in just a few weeks in Paris.

To its credit, the Jokowi administration has accepted responsibility and apologized to the country’s neighbors, while also mounting a massive effort, with over 20,000 responders, to fight the fires. But a crucial lesson from the crisis must be heeded: an ounce of prevention is better than almost any amount of cure. In other words, the costs of reducing the risk of future fire crises by taking preventative measures are far less than the costs of firefighting along with the damage to land, people and the climate.

We recommend significant financial investment and active leadership from President Jokowi to address the underlying causes of the fires in the most fire-prone provinces. What is certain is that the investment needed over several years is less than is being spent fighting fires just in the last month. To succeed, this must be accompanied with leadership from the president himself to ensure ministries follow through. Three priority actions should be fully funded and implemented by the Jokowi administration working in close partnership with Indonesian researchers, civil society and government agencies at the national and local levels. The provinces of Riau, South Sumatra, Central and West Kalimantan should be the initial focus of these efforts, as these areas account for the vast majority of the fires.

The first priority is to get serious about an existing, but stalled effort, known as One Map. This initiative, about which President Jokowi has spoken positively, would reduce the current confusion over land and resource ownership and rights, where many conflicting maps are managed by different agencies. One Map aims to create one accurate, up-to-date, publicly accessible, online map overseen by the office of the president. One Map has wide support from business and civil society, but is limping along as the president and his ministers have prioritized other development objectives.

Second, the boundaries determined through One Map should be consistently enforced, along with other key laws and regulations. Land use sectors in Indonesia are notoriously poorly governed, as evidenced by several former governors and district heads now serving jail time, or likely to be doing so, following illegal land deals. Illegal burning has been a central part of the picture, and we applaud the current efforts of Indonesia’s law enforcement agencies to investigate fire crimes for the first time on a scale commensurate with the problem. Strengthening and enforcement of regulations that protect peatlands, which generate the most potent emissions when burned, is desperately needed. Special funds could be allocated to train and support elite national, mobile enforcement units, which would be kept clean of corruption and run by commanders scrutinized by a panel of independent observers, with additional oversight from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the executive office of the president. Small, medium and large companies should all be held accountable before the law if they are found to be clearing land illegally using fire.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the needs of poor farmers in the priority provinces, and more widely across Indonesia, need urgent attention. A significant portion of the fires started as legal small fires set by these farmers to clear their land. These thousands of legal fires across landscapes should be prevented through provision of access to alternative land clearing techniques and equipment, with low-cost financing through local microfinance schemes. Poor farmers also need urgent help to clarify their land and resource rights, shift to higher quality crop breeds, and improve their use of fertilizers and other inputs. Training and outreach efforts are also needed for smaller companies that do not have the capacity of larger firms to quickly adapt their practices. Tax and other incentives could also be explored to encourage more sustainable land management.

The World Resources Institute, with staff in Jakarta and Washington D.C., along with many of our partners, are prepared to help with the implementation of these steps. The current crisis should focus the country’s leadership on priority actions that would greatly reduce the risk of future fires, while also helping raise incomes of poor farmers and reduce land conflict. With improved land management, Indonesia can take advantage of the growing demand for sustainable agricultural commodities such as palm oil, cacao and coffee. In addition, it can reduce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions and help the country achieve its national development and climate goals.

Dr. Nirarta Samadhi is director of WRI Indonesia, based in Jakarta, and Dr. Nigel Sizer is global director of the forests program at World Resources Institute, based in Washington D.C.

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Haze hits para athletes

Vanessa Kang, The Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Oct 15;

The haze has cast a pall over Singapore for much of the last two months and it has also become a major issue for local athletes preparing for the Dec 3 to 9 ASEAN Para Games (APG).

The thick smog has led to cancellations of outdoor training sessions or relocation to less-than-suitable training venues.

For instance, the Republic's 17-strong track-and-field squad have had their programmes severely disrupted. Earlier this month, they went 10 consecutive days without training.

Said coach Muhamad Hosni: "Our athletes cannot train because of the haze. It is at a dangerous level and unhealthy for training."

For the former national sprinter and SEA Games bronze medallist, indoor gym work can act as an alternative but it is a poor substitute.

"There is a world of difference training on a treadmill as the treadmill is more controlled while on the track, you can feel the pull of gravity and the wind conditions can slow you down," he explained.

"You can push yourself more on the track compared to the treadmill."

Even when they do manage to train outdoors, recovery takes longer, noted para-sprinter Lieu Teck Hua, who competes in the 100m and 200m (T42) sprints.

"My throat is a little dry when I run and I'll experience a little coughing afterwards," he said.

Added wheelchair sprinter (400m, 800m) Jack Lai: "It really affects me because if I miss training for a long stretch, whatever progress I've made is wasted and I have to start all over again."

In recent weeks, the haze has consistently shot above the unhealthy level of 101.

The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit a 2015 high of 267 to 322 on Sept 25 and on Wednesday, the PM2.5 particles reading, an air pollutant smaller than 2.5 micrometres, reached 442 micrograms per cubic metre in the west, the highest this year. The World Health Organisation's maximum average annual exposure level is 10.

Instead of practising their drills on a full-sized field, the cerebral palsy football team now train in a semi-sheltered futsal facility in Kovan to avoid the haze whenever the PSI goes beyond 120.

This was not ideal for coach Mohamed Zainudeen but he was left with little choice.

He said: "It's a small pitch, about half the size of the actual pitch, so we can't do drills like crossing or finishing and can only play small-sided games."

The APG, hosted in Singapore for the first time, will feature 3,000 athletes and officials from 11 participating nations.

Of the 15 sports contested, five will be held outdoors or in naturally ventilated venues. These are archery (Kallang Cricket Field), athletics and cerebral palsy football (National Stadium), sailing (Marina Bay) and swimming (OCBC Aquatic Centre).

With recent reports indicating that the haze, caused by forest fires in Indonesia, may last until early next year, para-athletes are unlikely to train under clear skies from now until the APG.

But that should not stop them from giving their all, noted chef de mission Raja Singh.

He said: "It is the athletes' responsibility to perform and to psych themselves up and not give excuses like the haze.

"They have to be strong in mind and character to do their best and train as hard as possible. Being elite athletes, they need to be composed and their performance should not be compromised."

Having returned from the last APG in Myanmar in January 2014 empty-handed, the athletics team are determined to put in an improved showing on home soil - haze or no haze.

Said Lieu: "We have committed our time to training and we do not want our hard work to go to down the drain, we want to achieve something."

Stranded in Langkawi - How effects of haze hit home
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Oct 15;

I was one of the nearly 3,000 people left stranded in Langkawi recently because of the haze.

What was supposed to be an 85-minute flight back to Singapore eventually turned into a 41-hour-long adventure involving two cancelled flights, a three-hour ferry ride and a 10-hour bus journey.

During the five-day vacation on the island of Langkawi, located off north-western Malaysia, the haze kept its nose out of our itinerary - which consisted mostly of swimming, diving and lazing by the beach.

That is, until last Tuesday, when my colleague and I were due to fly back to Singapore from the Langkawi International Airport.

We were given some idea of how bad the situation was on the way to the airport, when the taxi driver complained about how the jerebu - Bahasa for haze - had returned with a vengeance. And he warned that in the past, the haze had forced planes to be grounded.

This was exactly what happened when we reached the airport. First, we were informed that the 3.40pm Tigerair flight we were taking back home had been delayed.

Then, our worst fears were realised at about 5pm, when the sign came up to indicate that the flight had been cancelled. We were told that poor visibility meant aircraft could not land.

The next flight was at 11am the next day and the airline put us up at a nearby hotel.

But the next morning, that flight was first delayed for four hours, and then cancelled.

By this point, the small Langkawi International Airport was filled with stranded passengers huddling near charging points, or lounging in any available seat.

But people seemed mostly relaxed and we did not encounter anyone making a fuss.

The staff were also helpful and polite, patiently answering our many questions.

The next Tigerair flight for Singapore was scheduled to depart only on Friday, and even then there was no guarantee it would not be cancelled.

So, at about 3pm on Wednesday, my colleague and I decided to find another route back - a three-hour ferry ride to Penang, then a 10-hour bus ride to Singapore.

And we had to make these arrangements within an hour if we wanted to make the last ferry to Penang.

As we scrambled to call home, send e-mail to our bosses and change more money, Rachel and I met two other Singaporeans who helped us book bus tickets online.

We arrived in Singapore early on Thursday morning - tired, hungry and glad to be home.

As an environment reporter with The Straits Times, I have written much about how the haze has affected lives.

But it took an incident like this to drive home the long-reaching effects of the haze.

Imagine how much worse it is for those living at ground zero.

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Singapore will continue working to tackle root causes of haze-causing fires: MFA

Singapore looks forward to Indonesia’s response to “repeated requests” to share information on the errant companies contributing to the haze, following its agreement to do so on Sep 27, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says.
Channel NewsAsia 25 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Even though Singapore’s fire-fighting mission in Indonesia has ended, the work to tackle the root causes of the haze-causing fires is not over, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Sunday (Oct 25).

A team comprising 40 Singapore Armed Forces’ and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers returned home on Saturday after more than 10 days battling forest fires in Palembang, Indonesia.

In response to media queries, MFA said the Government intends to enhance bilateral, regional and international cooperation to tackle the fires, and will continue to take legal action against errant companies responsible for the haze through the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act.

To that end, Singapore looks forward to Indonesia’s response to “repeated requests” to share information on the errant companies following its agreement to do so on Sep 27, MFA said.

“This information will be critical in helping Singapore to take the fullest course of legal action against these companies under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act,” it said.

Singapore’s deployment was a demonstration of its commitment to work closely with Indonesia and other affected countries to address the haze problem, MFA said.

“Over the last two weeks, the Singapore Armed Forces and the Singapore Civil Defence Force have worked tirelessly in very difficult conditions to assist Indonesia in its fire-fighting efforts. The Singapore Government has offered haze assistance packages to Indonesia since 2005, and our assistance this year is in line with what the Indonesian Government had requested,” it said.


Despite the protracted haze situation this year, Singapore remains committed to cooperating with Indonesia, MFA said.

“We look forward to resuming our bilateral environmental cooperation with Jambi Province which has been beneficial to the peoples of Jambi. Singapore hopes to expand such cooperation to other regions and provinces in Indonesia,” it said.

The ministry also called for “firm and decisive action” from ASEAN to prevent the recurrence of the haze. It said Singapore will work closely with other ASEAN countries to fully operationlise the ASEAN Haze Monitoring System and other cooperative initiatives.

The fires and haze have global implications, MFA said, adding that this year’s fires have resulted in a “significant increase” of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Singapore will continue to work with like-minded countries, at the international level, on a lasting solution, including in the global effort to mitigate the effects of climate change.”

- CNA/cy

S’pore committed to tackling haze issue with Indonesia, other ASEAN countries: MFA
Today Online 25 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — The Singapore Government will continue to “enhance bilateral, regional and international cooperation to tackle the root causes of the fires that cause haze”, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesperson in a press statement today (Oct 25).

On Oct 10, a Singapore team comprising of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel was deployed to Indonesia to help in its fire-fighting efforts. The team returned home yesterday after two weeks, having discharged more than 400,000 litres of water and doused more than 50 hotspots.

Over the last 10 years, the Singapore government has offered haze assistance packages to Indonesia and the assistance this year is in line with what the Indonesian government had requested, MFA said.

“Over the last two weeks, the SAF and the SCDF have worked tirelessly in very difficult conditions to assist Indonesia in its fire-fighting efforts.

The deployment was a demonstration of Singapore’s commitment to work closely with Indonesia, and other affected countries, to address an annual problem which continues to affect Indonesia and many countries in the region, particularly the health and livelihoods of our peoples,” said the MFA.

Reinforcing the need for effective preventive action against a protracted haze situation, the Government said it will continue to serve legal notices to errant companies responsible for the haze through the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA). So far, notices to five errant companies have been served.

“We look forward to Indonesia’s response to our repeated requests to share information on these companies, following its agreement to do so on Sept 27. This information will be critical in helping Singapore to take the fullest course of legal action against these companies under the THPA,” MFA said.

The cooperation will extend beyond Indonesia, and include other ASEAN countries affected by the haze.

The MFA added: “ASEAN must take firm and decisive action, through enhanced regional cooperation, to help prevent the recurrence of this transboundary problem. Singapore will work closely with other ASEAN countries to fully operationalise the ASEAN Haze Monitoring System, and other cooperative initiatives.”

The haze situation has adversely affected countries in the neighbouring region, causing Singapore and parts of Malaysia to force schools to close and airlines to cancel flights. While Thailand usually avoids the worst effects of Indonesia’s fires, prevailing winds in recent weeks have driven the smog further north, resulting in the country having the worst polluting levels in a decade. WONG CASANDRA

S’pore haze mission over, but fight to go on
Today Online 26 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — Even though Singapore’s fire-fighting mission in Indonesia has ended, the work to tackle the root causes of the haze-causing fires is not over, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said yesterday.

The Ministry said the Government intends to enhance bilateral, regional and international cooperation to tackle the fires, and will continue to take legal action against errant companies responsible for the haze through the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act. To this end, Singapore looks forward to Indonesia’s response to “repeated requests” to share information on the errant companies following its agreement to do so on Sept 27, the MFA said.

“This information will be critical in helping Singapore to take the fullest course of legal action against these companies under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act,” it said. A team comprising 40 Singapore Armed Forces’ and Singapore Civil Defence Force officers returned home on Saturday after more than 10 days battling forest fires in Palembang, Indonesia.

Singapore’s deployment was a demonstration of its commitment to work closely with Indonesia and other affected countries to address the haze problem, the MFA said.

“Over the last two weeks, the Singapore Armed Forces and the Singapore Civil Defence Force have worked tirelessly in very difficult conditions to assist Indonesia in its fire-fighting efforts. The Singapore Government has offered haze assistance packages to Indonesia since 2005, and our assistance this year is in line with what the Indonesian Government had requested,” it said.

Despite the protracted haze situation this year, Singapore remains committed to cooperating with Indonesia, the MFA said. “We look forward to resuming our bilateral environmental cooperation with Jambi Province which has been beneficial to the peoples of Jambi. Singapore hopes to expand such cooperation to other regions and provinces in Indonesia,” it said.

The ministry also called for “firm and decisive action” from ASEAN to prevent the recurrence of the haze. It said Singapore will work closely with other ASEAN countries to fully operationalise the ASEAN Haze Monitoring System and other cooperative initiatives. The fires and haze have global implications, the MFA said, adding that this year’s fires have resulted in a “significant increase” of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Singapore will continue to work with like-minded countries, at the international level, on a lasting solution, including in the global effort to mitigate the effects of climate change.”

The hazy conditions and reduced visibility yesterday in Singapore are expected to persist today, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA). In its advisory, it said there is a possibility of some deterioration if denser haze is blown in from Kalimantan.

As of 6pm last night, the 3-hour PSI was 153. Air quality is expected to be in the mid to high sections of the unhealthy range. CHANNEL NEWSASIA

Singapore urges ASEAN to act on haze
AFP AsiaOne 25 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE - Singapore on Sunday urged fellow ASEAN members to take "firm and decisive action" against the lethal haze still spreading across the region ahead of a group summit in Malaysia next month.

The city-state, one of the most badly affected by recurring smog from land fires in Indonesia, issued the call after Singaporean troops and firefighters returned from an international assistance mission in Indonesia's Sumatra island.

"ASEAN must take firm and decisive action, through enhanced regional cooperation, to help prevent the recurrence of this transboundary problem," Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement.

"Singapore will work closely with other ASEAN countries to fully operationalise the ASEAN Haze Monitoring System, and other cooperative initiatives," it said.

The haze has killed at least 10 in Indonesia and caused respiratory illnesses in half a million, Jakarta authorities said, while winds have carried the smoke into Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines this year.

In some instances this has forced the closure of schools, disrupted air traffic and restricted people indoors. Thai officials said the haze was the worst they had seen in a decade and called its continuing spread a "crisis".

Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will hold a summit in Kuala Lumpur on November 19 before expanding to meet their counterparts from key trading partners in the following two days.

The agenda of the summit has not been made public, but diplomatic sources say the haze is likely to be raised by member countries affected by the pollution.

The MFA said Singapore will pursue legal action against "errant companies responsible for the haze" and called on Indonesia to respond to "our repeated requests to share information" on the firms.

Paper and palm oil firms have been blamed for deliberately setting off fires to clear land - including flammable peat-rich terrain - for cultivation, a traditional practice aggravated this year by drier-than-usual conditions due to the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Singapore last month launched legal action that could lead to massive fines against Indonesian companies.

Five Indonesian companies including multinational Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), part of the Sinar Mas conglomerate, have been served with legal notices.

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3 ways to make money talk louder in fighting the haze

Burton Ong, Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Oct 15;

Money lies at the root of the haze problem, which has afflicted the region over the past month. Open burning is the most cost-effective means of forest clearance, a necessary operational stage in the oil palm plantation business.

Concession holders and their licensees pay their contractors to engage in these activities because the externalities of such practices - particularly the health and economic consequences of the haze - are not borne by them directly. Neither do those who purchase palm oil for manufacturing purposes pay for the environmental harm caused by palm oil producers. In addition, corruption prevents the effective enforcement of laws which prohibit open burning activities. But perhaps money might also be part of the solution?

Here are three financial responses Singapore should consider.

First, crunch the numbers.

Calculate, or at least give a credible estimate of, the cost of the haze to Singapore. To what extent has patronage at alfresco establishments declined? How much has been wasted because outdoor events have had to be cancelled or rescheduled? How much more has been spent on respiratory illnesses this past month, compared to non-haze-season months? Only with estimates of these figures can we appreciate the full economic magnitude of the haze, as well as how far we should be prepared to go to combat this problem.

Just as Singapore is able to give numerical estimates of the economic benefits of its various policies - whether to build casinos, to expand Changi Airport or redevelop a piece of land - putting a figure to the various financial consequences of the haze should not be too much of a challenge.

Second, invest in research and development. Substitutes for palm oil should be developed and improved so that there will be less reliance on, and demand for, this commodity. As a centre for biotechnology research and investment, Singapore is well placed to promote agro-technological advancements that encourage producers of household goods and food manufacturers to switch to crop oils that are produced without large-scale open burning. Consumers would then be empowered to make purchasing decisions that demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the palm oil industry.

Similarly, Singapore has had great success in relying on science and technology to address its major security concerns: Water (for example, reservoirs, recycling and desalination) and energy (for example, energy-efficient buildings, liquefied natural gas and renewable energy sources). Surely science can provide us with a way to diminish our dependence on the palm oil industry and its pollutive business practices.

Third, reward whistle-blowers. One of the biggest problems with prosecuting errant land users who engage in open burning is gathering enough evidence against them. Sufficiently reliable and detailed information is necessary to secure successful, and timely, prosecutions against these wrongdoers. Individual informants may be incentivised to squeal on those who engage in burning practices if they are rewarded for providing enough information to prosecutors. Better still, pyro-contractors hired by errant plantation businesses might choose to report their employers, in exchange for a financial reward, instead of setting these fires.

The income that individual fire-starters lose from not carrying out their orders can be more than compensated for with a carefully designed monetary incentive scheme.

Once again, Singapore has already had some experience with such strategies. The Competition Commission of Singapore has a whistle-blowing scheme which rewards those who expose the anti-competitive shenanigans of others. Furthermore, if the National Environment Agency is willing to consider giving rewards to those who provide the authorities with evidence of littering that leads to successful prosecutions, why not extend the same incentives to those who supply evidence against the culprits of a much more serious environmental crime?

Singapore has certainly not been passively tolerant of the situation, commencing investigations against Singapore-linked businesses connected to the burning and offering fire-fighting assistance.

Given the complex nature of the haze problem - a conflagration of commercial, geo-political and climatic factors - it would be naive to think it will go away any time soon. However, rather than just complaining about or, worse, adapting to the poor air quality, why not pursue a few more pro-active steps that might help us - pardon the pun - fight fire with fire?

The writer is associate professor, Faculty of Law at NUS, and deputy director at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law

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Indonesia: Haze from Sumatra, Kalimantan affects Jakarta

Antara 25 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News)- The haze emanating from the forest fires that have hit the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, has affected Jakarta, according to National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

"Parts of Jakarta has been shrouded by thin haze coming from Sumatra and Kalimantan," Sutopo Nugroho, spokesman of the BNPB, said here Sunday.

The haze has also affected Banten, West Java, parts of East Java, Bali and Nusa Tenggara, he added.

A monitoring by the Himawari satellite on Sunday (Oct. 25) at 8:30 a.m. local time, showed that the smoke has spread to Jakarta and other provinces.

On Saturday (Oct. 24), the Himawari satellite detected thin haze over Java Sea and parts of Jakarta.

A joint task force is still doing its utmost to extinguish forest, peatland and plantation fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan particularly.

"Aerial operations by using water bombings are being carried out continuously, and so land operations," he noted.

So far, more than 43 million people on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan have been exposed to the haze.

Earlier, the haze from Sumatra and Kalimantan has affected neighboring countries mainly Singapore, and parts of Malaysia and Thailand.

Haze continues to spread throughout archipelago
Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 25 Oct 15;

As mitigation efforts have yielded minimal results, haze from raging wildfires in Indonesia continues to spread, with almost all major islands in the archipelago affected by the hazardous smoke, some of which has made it as far as the Philippines.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said on Saturday the haze had caused the air quality in the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore to deteriorate.

“The haze from Sumatra and Kalimantan continues to spread,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) earlier reported that the Himawari satellite showed “a thin haze blanketing the Java Sea and parts of Jakarta”.

The report was quickly dispelled by the BMKG, saying the haze did not come from land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, it was just regular haze.

“Today, Java is still relatively safe [from the haze],” BMKG spokesman Fachri Radjab said.

Another BMKG spokesman, Harry Tirto Djatmiko, said haze from land and forest fires usually hovered between altitudes of 3,000 and 5,000 meters. “For altitudes up until 3,000m, it’s just regular haze,” he said, explaining the characteristic of the haze in Jakarta.

While Java continues to be free from haze, almost all major islands in Indonesia have been affected, with Sulawesi being the latest casualty.

BMKG Southeast Sulawesi chapter in Kendari said haze from the southern part of Papua had traveled to some parts of the province, blanketing Kendari, Konawe, Bombana North Konawe, South Konawe, Baubau, Buton and Muna.

“Based on Himawari satellite images on Friday, the haze only covered Kendari and parts of South Konawe. But today, almost all of Southeast Sulawesi has been affected by the haze from Papua,” BMKG Kendari spokesman Aris Yunatas said.

The haze has also disrupted flights across the Philippines, forcing carriers to cancel flights, close airports and ground small aircraft.

In separate advisories, Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific said they had not been flying to Cotabato city in the southern island of Mindanao since Oct. 17.

This week, Cebu Pacific also cancelled two flights to General Santos city, also in Mindanao, on Thursday. On Friday, both airlines canceled flights to a third city, Dumaguete, in the central Philippines.

Cotabato, General Santos and Dumaguete are gateways to central and southern regions in the Philippines that are home to at least 10 million.

At least eight haze-affected airports, meanwhile, have grounded planes without instruments that will allow pilots to land and takeoff in low to near-zero visibility.

These include Clark airport, in the main island of Luzon, just two hours north of the capital Manila.

The others are in Cotabato, Davao, Laguindingan, Tambler and Zamboanga in Mindanao, and Mactan and Busuanga in central Philippines.

Thick layers of greyish clouds consistent with haze have been blanketing large parts of Mindanao and central Philippines this month.

Besides disrupting flights, the haze has put the lives of many people at risk, with more than 500,000 people suffering from respiratory problems due to the haze in six provinces in Indonesia.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Friday ordered an immediate evacuation of babies, children and people vulnerable to worsening air quality.

To start the evacuation efforts, five ministers, including Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan and Health Minister Nila F Moeloek, flew to South Kalimantan.

Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Puan Maharani was not among the entourage, despite her position as the coordinator of several ministries in charge of the evacuation, such as the Social Ministry and the Health Ministry.

BPBD Tells Jakarta Residents to Prepare for Haze
Tempo 25 Oct 15;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Head of the Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) Denny Wahyu Haryanto has urged Jakarta residents to be prepared to face haze coming from Sumatra.

"I have also instructed hospitals to stand by,” he said on Sunday (25/10).

Although haze has reportedly reached Jakarta, The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has not officially announced it.

"We’re still coordinating with them (BMKG) first to confirm this matter,” Denny said, adding that haze that reached Jakarta might not be from forest fires in Sumatra.

Previously, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) reported that haze from Sumatra was detected to have reached Jakarta.

"Some parts of Jakarta have been covered with thin haze,” said BNPB Spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

Air Quality in Seven Cities Hit Dangerous Level
Tempo 25 Oct 15;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) recorded at least seven cities and regions are having air quality that reaches dangerous level due to haze. These include Pekanbaru (618.12), Jambi (592.74), Palembang (591.33), and Palangkaraya (1,347.68), among others.

“This what makes 503 thousand people suffer ISPA (acute respiratory infection),” BNPB Data Chief Sutopo Nugroho told Tempo on Saturday, October 24.

Other regions such as Pontianak, Banjarbaru and Samarinda where the index hits 81.73, 81.67 and 118 each, are categorized being in medium level.

The haze also reduces visibility in the affected areas. in Pekanbaru, for example, visibility is only 300 meters. while in Padang, Jambi and Palembang, the visibility reaches 1,000 meters, 600 meters and 700 meters each.

In Kalimantan, Palangkaraya sees worst visibility up to only 100 meters while in Ketapang it is 400 meters.

Terra & Aqua images show there are 224 hot spots across regions in Sumatra mostly in South Sumatra (199 spots). More hotspots are detected in Kalimantan amounting 1,306 hot spots in total. Central Kalimantan has the most hot spots amounting to 697 spots.

BNPB and TNI continue to deploy thousands of joint personnel and dozens of aircraft in a bid to extinguish the hot spots.


Haze Over Java Sea May Be Pollution: Forestry Ministry
Tempo 26 Oct 15;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta-The Head of Public Relations department of the Environment and Forestry Ministry, Eka W. Soegiri, said that thin haze covering Java Sea and some parts of Jakarta are probably the result of air pollution in Jakarta, not the haze spread from the fire in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

“Based on the wind direction, the haze of fire goes north, it’s not supposed to reach Java Island,” he said on the phone to Tempo on Sunday, October 25.

According to Eka, there hasn’t been any direct confirmation from Indonesia Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics (BMKG) about the origin of thin haze around Jakarta. The haze is claimed to be the combination of high pollution in Jakarta and the current temperature.

“Maybe the haze is the result of rotated pollution. We could see Mt. Salak from the airplane which about to land in Jakarta, now we can’t.”

Eka added, haze movement in Sumatra and Kalimantan goes north and west. It started to have the impact in Aceh and North Sumatra, as on Sunday morning the haze blocked the view and shut down Kualanamu Airport in Medan.


From Aceh to Papua, Fires Blaze a Hazy Trail
Jakarta Globe 26 Oct 15;

Jakarta. The worst forest fires in living memory continue to generate huge amounts of health-threatening smoke throughout Indonesia, with winds spreading the haze to areas previously untouched by the problem.

The national weather agency, or BMKG, reported on Sunday that three-quarters of Indonesian territory was affected to varying degrees by the haze, including the capital Jakarta, with fires burning out of control across hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest in Sumatra and Kalimantan – the heartland of Indonesia’s palm oil industry – as well as in the relatively untouched forests of Sulawesi and Papua, where the government has massive ambitions of clearing more space for farmland.

The only areas not affected by the haze as of Sunday, according to the BMKG, were Yogyakarta, Central Java, parts of East Java, East Nusa Tenggara and the northern part of Papua.


The island of Sumatra continues to be the hardest hit by the fires there, particularly in the province of Riau, where oil palm planters are accused of slash-and-burn clearing of ostensibly protected peat forests.

The haze there has spread north, as far as Aceh province, and affected flights at Kualanamu airport outside Medan, North Sumatra.

Thirty flights were cancelled on Sunday as a result of poor visibility caused by the haze, and as of Monday morning airport authorities had still not permitted any flights to take off or land there. Schools in Medan have been ordered closed until at least Thursday.

In Aceh, flights have also been cancelled to and from Banda Aceh’s Sultan Iskandar Muda airport, with visibility through the weekend and Monday no higher than 800 meters. Airport authorities say they require visibility of at least 2,000 meters to ensure flight safety.

The haze has also forced residents of Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar district to remain indoors much of the time. Air pollution indexes in both regions have remained at unsafe levels all weekend.

In Jambi, another province devastated by forest fires, the index is now in hazardous territory, having already been declared unsafe more than three months ago. Local authorities said the index “improved” on Monday to around 400 – down from an apocalyptic 600 over the weekend. The “safe” range is 0 to 50; anything over 200 is considered “very unhealthy,” and over 300 “hazardous.” Visibility there is down to just 200 meters, and schools remain closed as of Monday.

In Bengkulu province, south of Riau, visibility was down to a myopic 10 meters on Monday morning in two districts and 50 meters in a third, while in seven of the remaining districts it was at 200 meters. Local authorities have advised residents not to go outdoors unless absolutely necessary.


The haze continues to choke large areas of Kalimantan, with officials warning there is little prospect of quelling the forest fires before the expected start of rains in late November.

Some 43 million people have been affected by haze in Sumatra and Kalimantan alone, according to the BMKG, and on Saturday the Navy sent a frigate to evacuate residents from hard-hit areas around Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan.

In Pontianak, West Kalimantan, long-suffering residents received a temporary respite from the haze when rains fell briefly last Thursday and Friday, but by the weekend the haze was back in force. The air quality in the city on Monday morning was “very unhealthy” at more than 260.


On the island of Sulawesi, until recently relatively untouched by industrial-scale plantations, fires set to clear forests for farmland have destroyed vast tracts of forest and generated more haze.

Flights were cancelled or postponed throughout the weekend to and from Sam Ratulangi airport in Manado, North Sulawesi. Fires in the province have razed more than 18,000 hectares of forest and counting, officials say.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, more than 40 flights were delayed or cancelled on Sunday at Sultan Hasanuddin airport because of the haze. The province accounted for 151 of the 800 fire hot spots detected by satellite across Sulawesi over the weekend.

In North Maluku, part of the famed “Spice Islands” archipelago, the military is helping fight forest fires that have flared up there. Officials said they had managed to put out two major blazes there on North Halmahera Island over the weekend, but continue to battle an undisclosed number of other fires spread across the region. There were more than 40 hot spots detected across North Maluku over the weekend.

A screengrab of the fire hot spot map taken from the BNPB website. (JG Screengrab) A screengrab of the fire hot spot map taken from the BNPB website. (JG Screengrab)

The Papua region, Indonesia’s half of the island of New Guinea, is home to the largest unspoiled tract of forest in the country, but fires there are threatening to turn it into another victim of the oil palm monoculture curse.

Residents and soldiers worked throughout the weekend to put out a blaze burning since last week in the heavily forest foothills just outside Jayapura, the Papua provincial capital.

In the southern Mappi district, haze from forest fires there forced the closure of the local Air Force base for a fifth straight day on Saturday. The haze eased slightly by Sunday to allow the resumption of military flights.


In the nation’s capital, residents awoke to a thin cloak of haze shrouding the Jakarta skyline. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said the haze was only temporary and would soon dissipate with the wind. He added the air quality was as good as could be expected for Jakarta, and that the particles in the haze posed much less of a health risk than the daily dose of exhaust fumes from the vehicles clogging the city’s streets.

Int’l bike competition canceled due to haze 26 Oct 15;

An international mountain bike competition, the Asia Pacific Mountain Bike Challenge (APMBC), which was set to be held in Lubuklinggau, Bengkulu, at the end of November, has been canceled due to thick smoke currently blanketing the city.

APMBC 2015 organizing committee chairman Leonardi Sohe said the international competition had been planned since 2014 and all Asia Pacific countries had been invited to attend the event. As of today, 100 athletes from 18 countries, such as Canada, Germany, India, Nepal and Spain, had registered to participate in the event.

Leonardi said that in 2013, a similar competition was held in Bukit Sulap, Lubuklinggau, and it was quite successful. But due to the ongoing haze disaster, several athletes registered for this year’s competition had withdrawn their participation, he said.

Lubuklinggau regional secretary Parigan Syahrin said the cancellation of the APMBC was due to several reasons, but mainly the haze. He said participants of the event doubted that the competition could be safely held amid the haze problem that has affected the area for several months.

Parigan said with the current situation, it would be difficult for the athletes to arrive in Lubuklinggau timely as the haze had caused flight delays and cancellations almost every day due. The health impacts of the haze were also a great concern. There were worries that the athletes would not be able to compete in an area heavily blanketed with smoke.

APMBC is one of supporting activities of the Visit Lubuklinggau 2015 program being held to address concerns that Lubuklinggau has received poor attention from both national and international communities.

“As part of our efforts, we cooperated with the Indonesian Cycling Association (ISSI) and proposed a request permit to the Asian Cycling Federation to hold APMBC 2015 in Lubuklinggau so that the city could attract the world’s attention,” said Parigan.

The National Disaster Management Body (BNPB) said on Sunday smoke that had seriously affected many parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan, disrupting transportation and causing health problems in the area, and had now started to spread to Java.

“Based on results of the Himawari satellite, the thin haze has started to cover the air above the Java Sea and is now heading to Jakarta,” the head of BNPB’s information data center Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Sunday as reported by

In Bandung, airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II had to delay flights from Husein Sastranegara Airport on Sunday as visibility dropped to 3,000 meters from the safe condition of 3,900 m.

Angkasa Pura II spokesman Mabruri said that until 11 a.m., the airport authority had to delay five flights from Husein Sastranegara Airport, while six planes scheduled to land in the airport were redirected to Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Tangerang, Banten. (ags/ebf)

Life goes on as normal in haze-hit city
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Oct 15;

Palangkaraya, which has been affected by the densest smoke from peatland fires in recent months, is on the verge of a mass evacuation.

However, people living in the capital of Central Kalimantan did not seem to care as most went about their normal lives, doing what they usually do on a Sunday morning.

Yesterday, many were at Bundaran Besar, or big roundabout in English, the city's most popular weekend spot, for their morning stroll.

Youngsters were seen out in groups jogging, cycling, in-line skating and playing football, mostly without wearing any masks to protect them from the haze.

This, even though the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was hovering above 1,500 for most of the day.

The scene of normalcy in the midst of the toxic haze, however, belies the mobilisation under way outside the city of more than 220,000 people, where Indonesia's Social Affairs Minister Kofifah Indar Parawansa was frenetically overseeing the setting up of emergency shelters in the event the haze renders the city unliveable.

Palangkaraya, and the smaller towns and villages around it, is the worst hit among the places in Indonesia affected by the haze.

The PSI there regularly soars into four-digit levels. Yesterday, air pollution peaked at 1,682, still within the "hazardous" zone but a far cry from the more than 2,400 PSI it reached on Saturday.

As of 5pm, the PSI was 518. In Indonesia, any index reading above 350 is considered hazardous.

The central government is racing against time to build emergency shelters. There is concern that the peatland fires, raging unabated due to the dry spell, will worsen conditions described by National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho as a "crime against humanity of extraordinary proportions".

Mr Farid Wajdi, an official with the Social Affairs Department, said that as of yesterday, six shelters equipped with air purifiers and air-conditioners had been set up.

One of them is located in a 350 sq m facility that used to house the department's Trauma and Protection Centre in Palangkaraya. The centre has the capacity to accommodate up to 40 people, and an additional 20 in a tent put up in its front yard, said Mr Farid.

Two other shelters are at the Palangkaraya State Hospital and the Palangkaraya Christian University.

"The number will increase in the days ahead," he said.

At a shelter in Rimbawan, a town in Palangkaraya, 184 people were given 15 minutes to breathe with an oxygen tank on Saturday - more than double the number of people the previous day.

The building is owned by the Central Kalimantan Forestry Department, and the oxygen treatment is conducted by volunteers from the local Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups.

Dr Susilo Sumitro, who helps at a shelter in Rajawali, also in Palangkaraya, said he treated 18 patients on Saturday, and expects the number to increase as more people become aware of the shelters.

Jakarta has said priority for the evacuation and shelters will go to babies and children, but Dr Susilo said he will treat anyone in need.

"We allow babies to stay for up to three days but, for special cases, they can stay longer," he added. "And while we tell people we are supposed to focus on infants and kids under five years old, if adults come, we cannot reject them."

The government had earlier announced that it will evacuate babies and children from their homes in parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan, if the haze worsens. On Friday, six navy ships were on high alert off the waters of the two regions to receive the evacuees.

A problem emergency workers will have to deal with during the operation would be convincing people to leave their homes for shelters farther south in Banjarmasin, or for the ships to live at sea till the haze clears. Some do not want to leave their loved ones behind, while others were worried about losing their jobs.

When asked what she thought about being evacuated to South Kalimantan, which is a five-hour drive from Palangkaraya, 55-year-old Evina Trikapatini, who works for the Palangkaraya land agency, said: "I would want to, but my boss would have to give permission first."

Ms Ratu Yulidia, a 21-year-old travel agent, said: "I would want to be evacuated, but my boss has to give me permission, which is impossible because I am now very busy."

Some like 18-year-old Zaini told The Straits Times yesterday that he prefers not to leave Palangkaraya despite the toxic air.

The high school student's school was closed - like many others across Kalimantan and Sumatra to keep students indoors - but Zaini was out playing football with his friends at Bundaran Besar.

He said: "I would not want to go to Banjarmasin. I still like it here."

Haze from forest fires arrives in Jakarta
Corry Elyda, The Jakarta Post 26 Oct 15;

The severe and prolonged haze from fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan has reached the capital city with thin smoke covering the sky above Jakarta, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has reported.

BPNP spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a press release on Sunday that the haze originating from fires in peat land and plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan had been spreading widely.

“According to monitoring by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s [BMKG] Himawari satellite on Sunday morning, the haze has covered three-quarters of Indonesia,” he said.

Sutopo said the thin haze had actually been covering Jakarta skies since Friday. “Soft particles of haze floated around at the height of 1,000 to 3,000 meters,” he said.

He added that the haze looked thicker in the morning because it was mixed with fog and water vapor.

“However, residents do not need to worry about the thin haze because it is temporary, and [its presence in Jakarta] depends on the direction and the speed of wind, which changes rapidly,” he said.

Sutopo emphasized that air quality in Jakarta is still normal. “The pollution from motorized vehicles is actually more dangerous for residents’ health,” he said.

Muhammad Tahir, a 45-year-old fisherman in Kalibaru, North Jakarta, said that he felt that the weather out on the ocean had been changing in the last few days. “The fog in the morning is thicker and visibility is lower at night,” he said.

Tahir said he thought that it was because of haze from Riau. “However, none of my colleagues complain about it as we usually look for fish not far from the land, only two to three miles from the shore,” he said.

Tahir said, however, that he was afraid that the conditions could get worse. “We are already afraid to sail at night, as many of us have been hit by ships,” he said.

He added that it was because visibility was low, while traditional fishermen only used torches to signal big ships. “They usually cannot see us. It will get worse if we are covered with haze like our fishermen friends in Riau who have stopped sailing,” he said.

Tahir said he hoped the central government could take immediate steps to stop the fires, so casualties could be minimized.

Suryanto, a 33-year-old participant in the Mandiri Jakarta Marathon on Sunday, said he did not realize that the haze from Kalimantan and Sumatra could travel to Jakarta.

“I thought it was only cloudy. I did not know it could reach this city,” he said, as quoted by

Suryanto, who brought his child to the competition, said that he did not feel out of the ordinary while he was running.

According to Sutopo of the BNPB, visibility in particular places such as Padang in West Sumatra, Palembang in South Sumatra and Ketapang in West Kalimantan is only 200 meters.

He said that haze from hot spots was still high. The Terra and Aqua satellites recorded that there were still 1,187 hot spots in Indonesia on Sunday morning.

“It has been almost two months now that residents in Riau, Jambi and Palangkaraya have been trapped in hazardous haze,” he said.

The central government is now preparing to evacuate residents in the worst hit provinces including Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan.

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Malaysia: Schools to open as usual nationwide on Monday

DINA MURAD The Star 25 Oct 15;

PETALING JAYA: Schools nationwide will open as usual on Monday (Oct 26) after the haze situation improved, says Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

"School sessions throughout the country will carry on as usual tomorrow (Monday), 26 October 2015. No schools in any state or area will be closed. This is due to the improving Air Pollutant Index (API) and haze situation," the Education Minister said in a Facebook posting Sunday.

Schools in affected areas have been closed the past week due to the haze.

Wet season likely to bring relief from haze

PETALING JAYA, Oct 26 — The haze plaguing the country is expected to dissipate in the coming weeks if prevailing weather conditions stabilise, said the Malaysian Meteorological Department.

Senior meteorologist Dr Mohd Hisham Anip said the north-east monsoon season or the wet Landas season begun on Saturday.

“This would cause winds to blow from the east and we do not expect the haze to return to the country until March, unless a typhoon forms over the Philippines,” he said.

The haze is expected to be carried further east, away from Malaysia.”

Hisham said typhoons from the Philippines were usually caused by pockets of low pressure areas, but weather conditions indicated that such atmospheric conditions had not been observed.

“Our data shows that the conditions are not favourable for a typhoon for at least the next 10 days,” he said.

The level of humidity is expected to rise significantly, increasing the potential for rainfall which will help alleviate the haze problem.

“There would be heavy rain and thunderstorms nationwide mostly during late evenings.”

Hisham also said the monsoon season was expected to bring floods but it was predicted that the intensity of the floods would be limited.

The haze choking Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia since last month has now spread to parts of Thailand and the Philippines.

Indonesia has attributed at least 10 deaths and half a million cases of respiratory illnesses directly to the haze. They have also prepared to evacuate thousands affected by the haze.

The rate of upper respiratory illnesses in Malaysia has gone up by 20 per cent but no deaths have been directly linked to it.

At 8am yesterday, 13 areas recorded unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings, with Port Klang, Selangor topping the list at 136.

By 6pm, unhealthy API readings were recorded at Pasir Gudang (106), Banting (101), Port Klang (117), and Shah Alam (108).

Kuala Lumpur (94) and Petaling Jaya (98) recorded moderate API readings.

An API reading of zero to 50 is good, 51 to 100 moderate, 101 to 200 unhealthy, 201 to 300 very unhealthy and 301 and above is hazardous.

According to the Asean Specialised Meteorological website yesterday, 65 hotspots were detected in Kalimantan, 136 in Sumatera and eight in Java.

Three hotspots were detected locally, all in Pahang.

The highest overall API reading so far was recorded on Oct 4 at Shah Alam, with an API recording of 308 at 9am.

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Thailand: Haze crisis in the South improving

The Nation 26 Oct 15;

The haze crisis in southern Thailand continued to improve on Sunday but people have been urged not to do anything that might worsen it.

The director of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, Chatchai Promlert, said the amount of particulate matter (PM) of the air in southern Thailand had decreased to a range of 58-87 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

Chatchai said the main reason for this might be rains and a northeast wind change.

The Pollution Control Department's PM statistics on Sunday showed that the amount of PM10 had fallen in many provinces.

Songkhla recorded PM10 of 87 micrograms; Phuket recorded PM10 of 81 micrograms; Phang Nga 77 micrograms; Satun 60 micrograms; Pattani 59 micrograms; and Narathiwat 58 micrograms.

The safe standard is 120 micrograms.

Relevant authorities in the South have been ordered control any burn activities and using machines to spray water into the air.

Anuchit Trakulmututa, the head of the Songkhla Prevention and Solution of Haze Air Pollution Centre, on Sunday said the centre would be temporally closed due to the haze level in the area getting better by the average of 87 micrograms in 24 hours.

Anuchit added that 340,000 protective masks were handed to people in the area and two flights were used to make artificial rain in a bid to help alleviate the haze.

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Nature to the fore at Jurong Lake Gardens

NG JING YNG Today Online 26 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s third national garden is shaping up to be a distinct green lung in the west, with hues of pink from tropical cherry blossom trees, water features and even an island for native herons.

Construction of the western part of the Jurong Lake Gardens will begin next year and is slated for completion in 2018, a year later than originally scheduled in order to incorporate public feedback.

The entire gardens is 90ha in area, or about 144 football fields, and the western part, which is mainly the area surrounding the lake, is the largest portion at 60ha. In comparison, Singapore’s first two national gardens, the Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay, are 74ha and 101ha, respectively.

Speaking at a tree-planting event in Jurong Lake Gardens today (Oct 25), Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratam announced the findings from the public engagement exercise for the gardens’ development. Some 17,700 suggestions were collected between April and May.

“The common theme ... is to retain the natural ambience of the park,” he said. “What the National Parks Board (NParks) is going to do is to have a lot more nature than what we already have today.”

To this end, trees such as the Malayan Crepe Myrtle that were planted today, known as tropical versions of the pink cherry blossom trees, “will add a very nice tinge to the western side of the park in a few years’ time”, he noted.

NParks has also been doing hydrological studies to better tap the natural feature of the lake. It will work with national water agency PUB to prevent the lake from being dirtied by silt during heavy rain, and will look into providing for sporting activities.

And a “heron island” will be created to retain these birds, Mr Tharman added. Commenting on how Jurong Lake Gardens will be unique, he said: “It’s a combination of the heritage of the Chinese and Japanese gardens, the lake and distinctive trees all along the lake.”

Today, NParks also announced that there will be a community garden and split pedestrian-cyclist tracks in Jurong Lake Gardens, while activities like the Mid-Autumn Festival will continue alongside new features such as “affordable” eateries.

The western part of the gardens will be kept closed over the next two years. More work is required for its design and to ensure the public’s views are considered fully, said Mr Tharman. The Chinese and Japanese gardens, however, will remain open with special pathways for people to get there, he added. Among other suggestions that might be seen in Jurong Lake Gardens, depending on the final design, are robotic plants for educational purposes, solar phone chargers and vertical greenery. About half of the respondents wanted Wi-Fi hotspots. Others proposed bike rental stations and also hope to be involved in conducting guided tours.

The other portions of the gardens — the central parts that include the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, and the eastern parts that consist of the new Science Centre — will be progressively completed from 2020.

Tenders for the construction of the western part of the gardens will be called at year end so work can begin on amenities such as shelters and play areas. The tender for the design of the entire gardens will be called in the next phase of development to consider inputs such as F&B outlets.

Said Mr Tharman: “(Jurong Lake Gardens) is really going to be a beautiful place ... a large and beautiful park in Singapore located in the west.”

Jurong Lake Gardens to be a 'people's garden'
Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Oct 15;

The upcoming Jurong Lake Gardens will have features such as cycling tracks, a community gardening area and food-and-beverage outlets - ideas gathered during public consultations earlier this year.

Other suggestions to be implemented include the preserving of biodiversity hot spots, the planting of seasonal flowering trees that resemble sakura blossoms and the provision of play and fitness areas.

Existing heritage structures such as pagodas and bridges in the Chinese and Japanese Gardens will also be retained, the National Parks Board (NParks) said yesterday.

More than 17,700 ideas were received from April to May during public engagements such as focus groups, townhalls and online surveys.

As a result of including the most recent public feedback, construction for the west side of the 90ha gardens, which will start next year, is expected to be completed by 2018 instead of 2017 as previously announced, said NParks.

"There's more work required both in design and ensuring that the residents' views and feedback are taken into account fully," said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a tree-planting event at Jurong Lake Park yesterday.

"This is going to be a people's garden, so it is really great that we got so many views from the public," added Mr Tharman, who is also an MP for Jurong GRC. "It's our third national gardens - it's very important that it reflects what people want, what they like to see, what they like to feel in the gardens."

The two other national gardens are the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay.

The Jurong Lake Gardens, about the size of 144 football fields, will comprise three parts: Jurong Lake Gardens West, Central and East.

The west side is currently Jurong Lake Park, while the central area will consist of the Chinese and Japanese Gardens. The east side will house the new Science Centre.

Parts of the west side will remain open to the public during its construction and special pathways will let the public continue accessing the Chinese and Japanese Gardens before development works there begin. The central and east parts of the gardens will be progressively ready from 2020.

A design consultancy tender for the gardens will be called and NParks will include the public feedback received in the tender brief.

Other ideas that may be implemented include robotic plants, vertical greenery, Wi-Fi hot spots and solar phone chargers.

Mr Tharman noted that there was a very strong public preference to retain the area's natural ambience, and that the new gardens will have "a lot more nature" such as distinctive trees and a heron island.

Plans for the Jurong Lake Gardens are part of a larger transformation of the Jurong Lake District - the largest regional hub outside the city centre. Public transport systems such as road and rail will be enhanced to support the area's development.

Lakeside resident and childcare teacher Jaslyn Goh, 43, said she is looking forward to the fitness and play corners. Said the avid jogger and mother of three: "It's good to have a playground for kids while their parents exercise, so the children won't be bored."

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Malaysia: Proboscis monkeys fitted with satellite tags released

STEPHANIE LEE The Star 26 Oct 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Two male proboscis monkeys were released after being fitted with satellite tags in a bid to understand the movements and living condition of the species.

The project was conducted by the Sabah Wildlife Department’s (SWD) Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) at the Tempasuk River area of Kota Belud, some 65km from the state capital.

The effort was to ensure a sustainable and viable proboscis monkey population in Sabah, said director of DGFC Dr Benoit Goossens.

“Therefore, it is vital to understand the ranging patterns of the species and the factors impacting their movements, as well as the density in the main habitats used by these highly endangered primates,” he said.

He added that they had previously collared 11 proboscis monkeys in the Kinabatangan between 2011 and 2014, and it was time to set up satellite collars in an area domina­ted by dense and high-quality ripa­rian forest in Kota Belud on the west coast of Sabah.

“Proboscis monkeys live mostly in mangroves and along large ri­ver habitats that are under huge anthropogenic pressure (example, shrimp farming, housing, etc) and require total protection if we want the species to strive in our state,” said Goossens.

Most of the tourism activities around proboscis monkeys are concentrated in the Kinabatangan, with the exception of Klias Bay.

“It is therefore important that we also concentrate our conservation efforts on the west coast, and increase mangrove protection along the coast, especially around Kota Belud and Pitas,” added Goossens.

Likewise, SWD director William Baya said the project was extremely important for the conservation of the proboscis monkey in Sabah.

The project is funded by Sime Darby Foundation (Malaysia) and Margot Marsh Biodiversity Founda­tion (United States).

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Report reveals plunder of Lao forests

Nirmal Ghosh, Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Oct 15;

A leaked report has revealed near epic-scale illegal logging in Laos, with virtually no law enforcement.

In 2013 for instance, Laos exported 1.4 million cubic metres of timber to Vietnam and China, or more than 10 times its official harvest.

Last year, China and Vietnam were responsible for 96 per cent of Lao wood exports in value terms - almost all of it generated by natural timber as Lao plantations produce very limited volumes of high-value hardwood, the report says.

The 106-page report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) marked "final draft for internal use only" has caused a stir in the scientific and activist community but has been relatively little reported in the wider media.

But its findings are startling, indicating that Lao forests are being plundered and illegal logging is out of control.

Titled Assessment Of Scope Of Illegal Logging In Laos And Associated Trans-Boundary Timber Trade, the report appeared online more than a week ago. It was taken down apparently at WWF's request - but reappeared at another location on the Internet.

"The situation with timber harvesting in Laos is evolving under a worst-case scenario exactly opposite to what was envisaged by (the country's official) Forest Strategy to the Year 2020," the report says.

"The total value of Lao wood products as reported by importing countries exceeds the value of exported wood products by analysis of data from Lao state Customs statistics many-fold."

Laos' state forest inspection and other enforcement agencies have little impact on the industry, in rare cases targeting small players when the scale of the illegal logging is such that only big companies with fleets of heavy equipment could possibly be doing it, the report says.

"Such large fleets of heavy equipment are usually only assembled to convert forest lands for plantations, roads, transmission lines, reservoirs, mining, or geologic prospecting."

There is a clear association with the dramatic increase in Chinese and Vietnamese investments in mining, agriculture, forestry and hydropower in Laos - with the majority of the associated projects' concessions located in forested areas.

The Britain-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said the report was credible and "echoed the findings of a series of field investigations undertaken in the region" since 2007.

The EIA's senior forest campaigner Jago Wadley said: "The prognosis for the forests of Laos is bleak. Industrial-scale illegal logging under the guise of special projects is routine and conducted by untouchable companies, abetted by corruption."

Laos must urgently crack down and implement its laws, the WWF report urges.

"Business as usual" logging practices will "undoubtedly lead to the severe depletion of commercial timber stocks in its natural forests - as has already taken place in other South-east Asian countries", it warns.

"Avoidance of a similar scenario requires that the Lao government take immediate actions to ensure that logging quotas for conversion timber meet fundamental legal requirements," the report adds.

Laos is a relatively opaque one-party communist state, positioning itself as the "battery" of ASEAN based on its hydropower potential. But it is worrying neighbours which share the waters of the Mekong with its dam projects on the river. And its economy and landscape is increasingly dominated by China.

Asked for comment, the WWF was cautious. In an e-mail, WWF-Greater Mekong's communications director Lee Poston wrote: "This report is currently in the draft stage and is undergoing a review process with a variety of stakeholders and is not ready to be formally published at the moment."

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