Best of our wild blogs: 27 Oct 15

Saltwater Crocodile basking
Go Wild Now!

Under-fire Jokowi prepares biggest shift yet in Indonesian haze
Mongabay Environmental News

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Indonesia: President Cuts Short US Trip to Deal With Fire, Haze Crisis

Basten Gokkon Jakarta Globe 27 Oct 15;

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has decided to cut short his first official visit to the United States as a forest fire crisis blazes out of control back home.

“The president has received recent updates from the minister for politics, legal and security affairs minister regarding the haze that has affected more Indonesian people,” Arrmanatha Nasir, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told the Jakarta Globe late on Monday.

He said Joko and part of his delegation would immediately return home on Tuesday after attending scheduled events in Washington, D.C., where the president met with President Barack Obama, congressmen and US executives on Monday.

Joko’s return means he will not attend much-anticipated meetings with technology executives from Apple, Google and Microsoft, among others. Representing him in Silicon Valley instead, Arrmanatha said, will be the communications and trade ministers, as well as the head of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM).

Arrmanatha said the president would fly to either South Sumatra or Central Kalimantan once he arrives back in the country. Both provinces are among the hardest hit by forest fires generating intense volumes of health-threatening haze.

A top legislator earlier on Monday lashed out at the president for going abroad just as the fire and haze crisis worsens. Up to three-quarters of Indonesia is affected to varying degrees by the haze.

President Jokowi Shortens His Visit in United States
Antara 26 Oct 15;

Washington DC (Antara News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has decided to shorten his visit in the United States and will immediately return home and directly head to the ongoing forest and land fires locations.

While in the Blair House Washington DC, Monday (Oct 26), about 10:30 a.m. local time, the president rang up the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security affairs (Menkopolhukan) Luhut Binsar Panjaitan (monitoring the countrys situation).

"Just now, I rang up Menkopolhukan regarding the smog condition especially in Central Kalimantan and South Sumatra provinces as I received information that most hotspots occur in South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan," Jokowi said.

The number of hotspots in South Sumatra reached 146 points and in Central Kalimantan amounting to 366 points.

Therefore, the president added, he decided to cancel his trip to the West Coast.

"Due to many complaints from the public relating to health impacts and social impacts caused by smog, I decided to cancel my trip to the West Coast," he said.

President admitted that from time to time he monitored the development of smog disaster management as well in terms of health services that should run well.

"From here (U.S. we will) directly go to Central Kalimantan and South Sumatra, while the planned visit to the West Coast with regard to cooperation in information technology and the creative economy, I assigned the relevant ministers to continue to the West Coast to meet with CEOs," the president state.

Before leaving for the U.S. on Saturday (Oct 24) President Jokowi said he would continue monitoring the countrys situation while on an official visit to the United States over the next five days.

"I will monitor the social, political, law and security related conditions from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day," Jokowi said at a press conference at the Halim Perdanakusumah Air Force base here, before departing for the United States on Saturday.

Reported by Hanni Sofia Soepardi

US Gives $2.75m for Indonesia to Fight Forest Fires
Basten Gokkon Jakarta Globe 26 Oct 15;

Jakarta. The United States will donate $2.75 million to assist Indonesian authorities combatting the most severe forest fires in living memory.

“This assistance is part of the United States’ wider effort to support Indonesian activities to suppress forest fires and to mitigate their effects on human health, as well as to support Indonesian government efforts to prevent future forest fires,” US Ambassador Robert O. Blake, Jr., said in a statement obtained by the Jakarta Globe on Monday.

Blake said the package, which includes funding from the US Agency for International Development, will provide equipment and protective gear to ground-based firefighting crews in Central Kalimantan and other provinces worst hit by the fires.

He added that a team of technical advisers from the US Forest Service would arrive in Indonesia this week to provide support, including additional shipment of protective clothing for firefighters, and assist with the operational coordination, remote sensing and imagery efforts of the Indonesian government.

Nearly two million hectares of forest and peat have been razed so far this year to make way for plantations serving the oil palm and pulp industries, with six provinces in Kalimantan and Sumatra reported as hardest-struck by the consequential haze, including Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.

Indonesia has recorded its second-worst haze crisis which has emitted more than 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide as of last week, according to data from the Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI), using finding from the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED).

The report said that the staggering figure had surpassed the 2006 records, but was still far below the 1997 when the country produced almost 4.5 billion tons of the greenhouse gas.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has labeled the haze crisis a crime against humanity.

US, RI partner to address forest fires, haze 26 Oct 15;

US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert O. Blake, Jr. announced on Monday that the US would contribute an initial US$2.75 million in assistance to support Indonesia’s efforts to address the effects of forest fires and haze.

“This assistance is part of the US' wider effort to support Indonesia’s activities to suppress forest fires and to mitigate their effects on human health, as well as to support the Indonesian government’s efforts to prevent forest fires in the future,” he said in Jakarta on Monday.

Ambassador Blake said the US-Indonesia partnership would provide immediate assistance to populations affected by smoke, improve the effectiveness of current fire extinguishing efforts and address the impact of the fires on vulnerable populations.

The $2.75 million assistance package from the US includes United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) funding to help the Indonesian government to expand their health care centers' ability to respond to haze-related respiratory illnesses. The funding will also be used to support Indonesia’s efforts to raise public awareness of hazards associated with haze in the country.

“The funds will be provided through USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance [OFDA] through the American Red Cross to the Indonesian Red Cross,” said the US Embassy in Jakarta in a statement on Monday.

The embassy further said the funding would also be used to provide equipment and protective gear to firefighting crews located in provinces worst hit by forest fires, especially Central Kalimantan.

“It also will be used to support a team of US Forest Service technical advisers arriving in Indonesia this week to provide wildfire support,” the embassy said.

“The team will bring an additional shipment of protective clothing for firefighters, and assist the Indonesian government in carrying out operational coordination, remote sensing, and imagery efforts.” (ebf)

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo cuts short US visit due to worsening haze
Francis Chan, The Straits Times/ANN Jakarta Post 26 Oct 15;

Indonesia President Joko Widodo is cutting short his visit to the United States and will return to Indonesia, possibly flying directly to South Sumatra or Central Kalimantan.

He made the decision after he received news that conditions in the two regions affected by the haze, have worsened over the last two days.

"I decided to cancel my trip to the West Coast and I may fly directly to Kalteng (Central Kalimantan) or Sumsel (South Sumatra)," said Mr Joko, after a telephone conversation on the haze situation with Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Luhut Pandjaitan on Monday.

A member of the presidential communications team told The Straits Times that Mr Joko had made the decision after receiving updates on ground conditions.

The Indonesian government is preparing for a massive operation, both on land and at sea, for what appears to be an imminent evacuation of thousands of babies and children from their homes in parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

This comes as the forest fires, which produce the toxic haze, continue to burn unabated despite the extensive firefighting resources dedicated to putting them out.

Three navy warships have arrived in Kalimantan with relief supplies, with more put on high alert to deploy to affected areas soon.

In total, 27 ships, including 16 civilian vessels, are involved in the rescue operation.

This was Mr Joko's maiden visit to the US, and he was due to travel to San Francisco on Wednesday, where he would meet, among others, representatives from Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, as well as fund managers and venture capitalists to pitch Indonesia "as the largest digital economy in South-east Asia".

Those meetings will now be handed over to the relevant ministers, who will remain in the US for the remainder of the trip.

Mr Joko, however, will still meet with his American counterpart, President Barack Obama before he leaves Washington DC.

The president and First Lady Iriana are expected to arrive in Indonesia on Thursday. (kes)

Indonesia president to leave US early to deal with haze crisis
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo will cut short his trip to the United States on Tuesday to help deal with clouds of smoke over large areas of his country.
Channel NewsAsia 27 Oct 15;

WASHINGTON: Indonesia's President Joko Widodo will cut short his trip to the United States on Tuesday (Oct 27) to help deal with clouds of smoke large areas of his country.

Thousands of fires caused by slash-and-burn agriculture in Indonesia's forests have forced schools and offices to close and airlines to cancel flights.

Indonesia's disaster agency says fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra have left 10 dead, some burned while fighting the blazes and others overcome by pollution.

"President Joko Widodo has decided to hasten his visit in the US to return home," said presidential spokesman Ari Dwipayana.

Widodo is now due to leave Washington late Tuesday, by which time he will have completed planned meetings in the capital, including with President Barack Obama.

But he will not head to America's West Coast as planned to meet with US tech sector executives and will instead dispatch ministers in his stead.

Indonesia has deployed 30 aircraft to fight the fires and for cloud seeding, with 22,000 troops on the ground and a flotilla of warships on their way.

At least half a million people have suffered from respiratory illness since the fires started in July and 43 million people live in the affected area.

- AFP/de

U.S. to give Indonesia S$3.83m aid for haze
Today Online 27 Oct 15;

The United States will contribute an initial US$2.75 million (S$3.83 million) to help Indonesia cope with the country’s worst haze crisis in years, said its ambassador to Indonesia yesterday.

“This assistance is part of the United States’ wider effort to support Indonesian activities to suppress forest fires and to mitigate their effects on human health, as well as to support Indonesian government efforts to prevent future forest fires,” said ambassador Robert O Blake, Jr.

The package will provide immediate assistance to populations affected by haze and smoke, improve the effectiveness of current fire suppression efforts and address the impact of the fires on vulnerable populations, said the embassy in the statement.

The assistance package includes funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to help Indonesia expand the ability of healthcare centres to respond to haze-related respiratory illnesses and support efforts to raise awareness of the hazards associated with haze in the region.

The funds will also provide equipment and protective gear to ground-based firefighters and will support a team of US Forest Service technical advisers arriving in Indonesia to provide wildfire support.

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Indonesia: Indonesia's forest fires threaten a third of world's wild orangutans

Fires have spread beyond plantations deep into primary forests and national parks, the last strongholds of the endanger
ed apes
John Vidal The Guardian 26 Oct 15;

Raging Indonesian forest fires have advanced into dense forest on Borneo and now threaten one third of the world’s remaining wild orangutans, say conservationists.

Satellite photography shows that around 100,000 fires have burned in Indonesia’s carbon-rich peatlands since July. But instead of being mostly confined to farmland and plantations, as they are in most years, several thousand fires have now penetrated deep into primary forests and national parks, the strongholds of the remaining wild apes and other endangered animals.

Alarmingly, 358 fire “hotspots” have been detected inside the Sabangau Forest in Borneo which has the world’s largest population of nearly 7,000 wild orangutans. Elsewhere, fires are raging in the Tanjung Puting national park, home to 6,000 wild apes, the Katingan forest with 3,000 and the Mawas reserve where there are an estimated 3,500 .

“I dread to think what it will mean for orangutans. For them and other species, like the secretive clouded leopard and the iconic hornbill, the situation is dire and deteriorating by the day,” said Mark Harrison, director of the UK-based research and conservation organisation Orangutan tropical peatland project (OuTrop), which has been studying the tropical peat swamp forest of Sabangau since 1999.

“In their undisturbed, flooded state, peatland forests are naturally fire-resistant. But decades of poor peatland management practices, including extensive forest clearance and canal construction, has drained the peat, putting the whole region at high fire risk when the inevitable droughts occur,” Harrison said.

Prof Susan Page, a geographer at the University of Leicester and an expert on peatland conservation, said: “Dry peat ignites very easily and can burn for days or weeks, even smouldering underground and re-emerging away from the initial source. This makes them incredibly difficult to extinguish. Smouldering fires produce high levels of harmful gases and particulates.”

Little is known about the precise effects of smoke inhalation on animals but the lungs of animals are similar to those of humans, so it is expected to make them sick and unable to feed.

Teams of volunteers have been trying to put the fires out but many are out of control. In Sabangau forest one fire has already burned over 500 hectares and is threatening the renowned research station managed by the Centre for International Cooperation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatland (CIMTROP) at the University of Palangka Raya, according to OuTrop director of conservation, Simon Husson.

The wildfires across Indonesia are now thought to be responsible for up to 500,000 cases of respiratory infections, and six provinces have declared a state of emergency.

“People are choking in the smoke and one of the world’s last great rainforests is burning down,” Husson said. “The only way to tackle this is with huge manpower on the ground, supported by intensive and sustained aerial water-bombing. Mobilising these resources requires raising international awareness of the catastrophe unfolding in Sabangau.”

With two warships positioned off the island of Borneo to evacuate children and some of the most affected families, and no rain expected for at least one month, the pollution threatens to overwhelm the region’s already stretched health services.

In Palangkaraya, capital of Central Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo, where many of the most serious fires are raging, the office of Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG) reported that minute PM10 particles had reached the “very dangerous” level of 2,483 milligrams per cubic metre with visibility under 30m in 350 locations.

The city’s chief medical officer stated that its health services had diagnosed 5,931 people with acute respiratory infections since July – around 3% of the population. Schools have been closed in the city for five of the last seven weeks.

“We have days we call ‘Hari Kuning’ (‘yellow days’). This is when the dense, sound-deadening smog somehow absorbs the light from the invisible sun turning everything a surreal sepia colour,” one Palangkaraya resident told the Guardian.

“Masks available locally are ridiculously inadequate – and some people don’t bother to wear anything at all,” she said. “Not everybody here seems to be aware of the health risks. There are already reports of miscarriages and premature deaths among babies, the elderly and infirm directly attributable to the smoke.”

The smoke drifts across the region at heights of between 3000m-5000m and varies in intensity from day to day and island to island. “It’s been two months since people in Kerinci [central Sumatra], have seen blue skies.,” said Luke Mackin who works with ecotourism company

“The government has closed schools so that students can be safe at home – except people’s homes are not sealed at all, and are no safer than being at school. So, millions of children are missing out on their education. All of the tourism in the region is pretty much dead, which is devastating for the families in this rural area who rely on it,” said Mackin.

The pollution will cost the Indonesian economy billions of dollars and has led to demonstrations. In Sumatra, hundreds of teachers rallied at the weekend in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau province. “People are getting angry. They used to accept a certain amount of smog but this year it’s much worse,” said one protester.

Endangered orangutans lose their homes to Indonesia forest fires
Deborah Wong AsiaOne 26 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE - Forest fires in Indonesia have raged for close to two months now and the economic costs are staggering to the archipelago. The Joko Widodo administration estimated the cost of haze and forest fires at 75 trillion rupiah (S$47 billion), while Indonesia's reputation is expected to take a huge hit.

Reuters reported in October that Indonesia is home to the world's third-largest tropical forests but is also the world's fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases mainly due to their destruction of these forests.

The problems caused by these forest fires extend beyond air pollution and widespread haze in the Southeast Asian region. Reports show that animals native to these destroyed territories are also being affected badly. According to Orangutan Conservancy, there are only about 40,000 orangutans remaining in Borneo and Sumatra in 2015 - two main areas where the forest fires are said to have started. The number was about 60,000 as recent as 10 years ago.

The slash and burn practices of palm oil plantations have chased many of these endangered animals which are arboreal in nature, out of the forests.

Now when did we forget that men are not the sole inhabitants of this earth

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) said in a post on Oct 22 that the fires have reached their centres with devastating impacts: "We now face another serious challenge with fire outbreaks occurring across our Mawas Conservation Program in Central Kalimantan. The area engulfed by fire is already estimated to have reached 15,442 hectares in Block A (12,009 ha) and Block E (3,433 ha)."

Indonesia has faced mounting pressure to curb this perennial problem that has affected its Southeast Asian neighbours such as Singapore, Malaysia and even the Philippines.

According to AFP, tens of thousands of people in Indonesia and Malaysia have sought medical treatment for respiratory problems while scientists say the pollution could surpass 1997 levels, when the haze created an environmental disaster that cost an estimated US$9 billion (S$12.57 billion) in damage.

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Indonesia to evacuate Kalimantan haze victims soon: Official

The evacuation process will prioritise infants and children due to their vulnerability to lung disease.
Channel NewsAsia 26 Oct 15;

JAKARTA: As the air quality worsened in Kalimantan island due to forest fires, the government of Indonesia will soon evacuate haze victims in Central Kalimantan to its neighbouring province, South Kalimantan.

"Compared to Central Kalimantan, the air quality in South Kalimantan is better," Inspectorate General at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Tamizi A Karim, told reporters on Monday (Oct 26).

For nearly two months, thousands of fires caused by slash-and-burn farming in Indonesia have choked vast expanses of Southeast Asia, forcing schools to close and scores of flights and some international events to be cancelled.

Karim also said the evacuation process will prioritise infants and children due to their vulnerability to lung disease.

He said that there are seven places that have been prepared to accommodate haze refugees. Among of them is a haj boarding house that can accommodate around 700 people.


Indonesia has deployed three warships, with more on standby, to deliver face masks, tents and medical supplies to thousands of people affected by acrid haze from forest fires, an official.

Three warships have arrived in Kalimantan - Indonesia's half of Borneo and one of the worst affected regions - bringing much needed medical staff, shelters, cooking stoves and protective masks.

Indonesian military spokesman Tatang Sulaiman said the plan was to build temporary shelters with air purifiers and beds away from haze-plagued cities, but the ships could also act as evacuation centres if needed.

"Our warships are ready to evacuate residents, whether to these temporary shelters or even on board. We are prepared for that," he told AFP. "Those who will be evacuated first will be children and those suffering from chronic respiratory illnesses."

Three more ships are stocked and ready to leave for either Kalimantan or South Sumatra, while another five could be pressed into service later if needed, he added.

The government has deployed around 30 aircraft to fight the fires and for cloud seeding, with 22,000 troops on the ground to combat the blazes, which are among the worst in decades.

Indonesia's disaster agency say the fires from slash-and-burn farming in Kalimantan and neighbouring Sumatra have killed 10 people so far, some of whom died while fighting the blazes and others from the pollution.

The agency estimated at least half a million people have suffered from respiratory illness since the fires started in July and 43 million people have been affected in the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.


Increased cloud cover forecast over Sumatra, Kalimantan
Antara 26 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesias National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) has forecast an increase in cloud cover over Sumatra and Kalimantan on Oct. 28-30.

"If the forecast comes true, it would have a positive impact on the efforts to extinguish land and forest fires," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the BNPB spokesman, stated here, on Monday.

The upcoming situation will be used to maximize the efforts by utilizing weather modification technology to create artificial rain, he explained.

The forecast is based on a report released by the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics (BMKG).

"Moreover, based on the same data provided by the BMKG, there will be an increase in cloud cover over North of Equator on Oct. 25-27 ," he noted.

According to the forecast, rains will occur in North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, West Sumatra, and the northern part of South Sumatra, he added.

In addition, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, and the northern part of South Kalimantan are also expected to receive rainfall.

"Earlier, on Sunday (Oct. 25), Medan in North Sumatra as well as Bengkalis and Pelalawan in Riau also received rainfall," Sutopo stated.

Sutopo had earlier noted that the atmospheric conditions over sea in Indonesia were very dry.

"Moreover, a tropical cyclone in the Philippines has absorbed water vapor in Indonesia that has prevented the formation of clouds," he explained.

The condition has also been exacerbated by suspended smoke particles in the atmosphere, which absorb the water vapor and prevent cloud formation.

As a result, the forecast of increased cloud cover will have a positive impact on the efforts to extinguish land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which continue to spread.

Yesterday, Sutopo had said the haze emanating from the forest fires, which had hit the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, had also affected Jakarta.

"Parts of Jakarta have been shrouded by thin haze arising from Sumatra and Kalimantan," Sutopo remarked here, Sunday.

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

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 had affected the neighboring countries, mainly Singapore, and parts of Malaysia and Thailand.(*)

Desperation in the epicentre of Southeast Asia's haze crisis
AFP 26 Oct 15;

When the smoke from forest fires turned a thick, acrid yellow, casting an apocalyptic glow over Palangkaraya, Kartika Sari decided to grab her child and flee the Indonesian city at the epicentre of the haze crisis smothering Southeast Asia.

The 32-year-old pharmacist and her three-year-old daughter have for weeks been inhaling toxic air in Palangkaraya, a city of 240,000 that has been engulfed in poisonous darkness by smoke from peat land set alight to clear land for palm oil plantations.

"The smoke was no longer white, it was yellow," she told AFP from an evacuation centre in Banjarmasin, a six-hour drive from Palangkaraya.

"Usually we just endured it, even though we had headaches and felt nauseous. But it has got so bad lately, that I can't take it anymore. I can't even breathe fresh air."

Now she waits in limbo in a basic shelter with nine other evacuees, mostly children, including a one-year-old boy suffering from a severe cough and diarrhoea.

Authorities say the fires from slash-and-burn farming in Borneo and neighbouring Sumatra have killed 10 people so far, some of whom died while fighting the blazes and others from the pollution.

Respiratory illnesses in Palangkaraya have soared as the choking smog has worsened in recent weeks.

-- "No escape" --

While many have relocated to safety elsewhere with friends and relatives, others have no choice but to stay behind despite the risks posed by the noxious haze.

39-year-old Rahmah, a street vendor in Palangkaraya, said she needed to keep doing her job to pay her children's school fees, despite the toll on her health from working outdoors.

"I have to stay whether I like it or not. My livelihood is here so how can I leave?" Rahmah, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP on the porch of her riverfront wooden house in Palangkaraya.

"You get light headed after a while, but I just try my best to cure myself with simple medication."

Her neighbour Nurjanah, who shares a small house with seven other family members, including her five-month-old granddaughter, echoed the sense of desperation felt in the blighted city, where visibility is sometimes as low as a few dozen metres (yards).

"Leave? Where to?" Nurjanah said, when asked why she doesn't evacuate.

"The smoke gets everywhere, so what's the point of evacuating when there's no escape?"

-- "Can't go on like this" --

At a nearby health clinic, hundreds of people queue for hours for a chance to use one of the 10 oxygen tanks available to get a breath of fresh air.

Even there the haze finds its way in, swarming around 23-year-old English teacher Ayu Dwitasari, who has suffered from bronchitis for days and is having trouble breathing.

"It's got especially bad today, that is why I came here," Dwitasari told AFP.

Mass evacuations -- especially of children and those suffering chronic respiratory illnesses -- were not out of the question, said Indonesian military spokesman Tatang Sulaiman.

Three warships carrying medical teams, tents, cooking stoves and protective masks were on their way to the worst-affected regions in Kalimantan -- Indonesia's half of Borneo -- and Sumatra, he said, to help build temporary shelters away from the haze-plagued cities.

"Our warships are ready to evacuate residents, whether to these temporary shelters, or even to take them on board. We are prepared for that," he told AFP.

But for those fighting the fires, a lack of equipment and tinder-dry conditions are hampering their best efforts to curb the thousands of blazes smouldering on carbon-rich peat lands.

In Kuala Kapuas, not far from Palangkaraya, 33-year-old volunteer Rahmat Muhamad Noor and around 20 others toil around the clock fighting the fires, struggling with limited water and poor equipment.

Wearing thin rubber boots and a cotton face mask, Noor tried desperately to stamp out a fire with a wooden stick after the machine pumping water through the hose broke down.

"Please tell the government we need more help," he told AFP. "We need masks. We can't go on like this."

Three Warships Dock in Banjarmasin to Evacuate Haze Victims
Tempo 26 Oct 15;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Three Indonesian warships have docked in Banjarmasin's Port of Trisakti in South Kalimantan. Banjarmasin's Navy Base Commander, Col. Haris Bima Bayuseto, said that KRI Banda Aceh-593, KRI Teluk Jakarta-541 and KRI Dr. Soeharso, had docked on Sunday evening, October 25.

According to Haris Bima, only KRI Dr. Soeharso is still anchored at the estuary of Barito River, and that he has no knowledge whether the ships are carrying the 1,000 units of air purifier that the government has promised to distributed in Banjarmasin. "I don't know because we have yet to unload the ships," said Bima after he welcomed the ships on Sunday.

The Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) have previously said that nine warships will be stationed to evacuated the haze victims across Sumatra and Kalimantan - each with different functions and use. KRI Banda Aceh and Dr. Soeharso are landing platform docks which will be used as floating hospitals - both of which have be designated to be used to help haze victims in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

TNI AL will also deploy Marine Corps to fight existing fire spots on fields and forests across affected areas. Currently, Marines are known to have been stationed in Sumatra and Kalimantan.


Read more!

Malaysia: South-easterly wind brings relief from haze

Borneo Post 27 Oct 15;

SIBU: The south-easterly wind has started, bringing some relief from the haze that recently forced thousands of schools in the country to close.

While there had been rain, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said it was inconsequential to stop the haze as the forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra were still razing.

What he feared was the prolonged El-Nino that might cause dryness throughout South-East Asia.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) at 3pm yesterday in most parts of the country recorded moderate air quality with some areas having good air quality.

Only two places in Johor recorded unhealthy air quality – Larkin Lama (140) and Pasir Gudang (105).

“It (improved situation) is not due to the rain but the wind direction because the south-easterly wind starts blowing now without interference from the cyclones or typhoons.

“As a result, the wind is blowing quite strongly from the South China Sea towards the Peninsula and also towards Sarawak.

“So that resulted in the smoke from Kalimantan not reaching Sarawak and the smoke from Sumatra is actually because of the cycle of the wind going through the Straits of Malacca, sending the smoke to west coast of Peninsula.

“The forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra are still not being stopped. Therefore, it is because of the wind direction and nothing else.

“The rain has not affected it very much,” Wan Junaidi told The Borneo Post yesterday.

He was asked if the improved condition in the country was due to the onset of the wet season.

However, the Santubong MP said rain was expected by the end of the month.

“But what I fear is the prolonged El-Nino effect may cause dryness in the whole of South-East Asia.

“Anyway, we expect some rain in October and November, which will be able to help a little bit towards the problem of forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra.”

Asked if the situation was expected to improve further, he said it all depended on wind direction but added that the haze was slowly blown away.

He was quick to point out that unlike normal smoke, haze contained floating particles which could not be just blown away.

Meanwhile, Assistant Minister of Local Government Datuk John Sikie Tayai urged the public to refrain from backyard burning to clear their rubbish such as dried leaves.

“Due to the current hot and dry weather, it is important that local councils in the state ensure that people do not burn their garden waste,” he said.

The API guide from Department of Environment (DOE) indicates reading from 0-50 as healthy; 51-100 is moderate; 101-200 (unhealthy); 201-300 (very unhealthy) and 301 and above as hazardous).

The guide also indicates when reading touches 101, outdoor activities should be restricted.

Only Pasir Gudang records unhealthy API as of 1pm
The Star 26 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Air quality nationwide has improved as of 1pm today with only Pasir Gudang in Johor still recording an unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of 106 compared to 105 this morning.

According to the Department of Environment (DoE)'s portal, 31 areas recorded moderate API readings including Larkin Lama (89); Kota Tinggi (87); Port Klang (80); Bukit Rambai (74); Bandaraya Malacca (72); Shah Alam (69); Petaling Jaya and Cheras, Kuala Lumpur (each recorded 67).

An API reading of 0 to 50 indicates good air quality; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 300 and above, hazardous.

The public can access for updates. - Bernama

Read more!

Malaysia: More help to fight Indonesian forest fires

The Star 27 Oct 15;

CYBERJAYA: Malaysia wants to send even more help to Indonesia to fight the republic’s forest fires.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he would be meeting officials from the Indonesian government today in Jakarta to see what assistance they required.

“We have already sent an aircraft to Indonesia to help extinguish the forest fires, and the Indonesian government told us it had helped a bit.

“But as we only have one such aircraft that could load water to put out the fires, the plane needs to be returned to Malaysia to undergo maintenance and service.

“In the meantime, we would like to see what other sort of assistance we can provide. We are willing to send more, including our own firemen,” said Dr Wan Junaidi to reporters on the sidelines of a luncheon with Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) board members here.

Winds from the north-east coming here since Sunday are expected to clear the skies over Malaysia from now on.

Malaysia ready to help Indonesia battle more fire
AZURA ABAS New Straits Times 26 Oct 15;

CYBERJAYA: Malaysia will discuss with Indonesia tomorrow on what more can be done to address the current haze situation.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he would leave for Indonesia tomorrow to hold a meeting with his counterpart in Jakarta.

"Malaysia is ready to continue helping Indonesia in battling the fire that raze some 1.7 million hectare swath of land as what has been reported two days ago," he told reporters after meeting the Malaysia Forestry Development and Research Board Members Session 2015-2017 today.

Also present was Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) director-general Datuk Dr Abd Latif Mohmod.

Wan Junaidi added Malaysia would resend its Bombardier CL 415 MP aircraft after its maintenance. The aircraft is capable to collect about 6,000 litres of water enough to put out fires the size of football field each round.

He had also instructed the ministry's legal team to look into amending the existing laws so that FRIM could set up its own company and commercialise its findings.

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Improvement in air quality nationwide
The Star 26 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Air quality nationwide has improved as of 9am Monday with only Pasir Gudang, Johor recording an air pollutant index (API) reading of 105 (unhealthy).

The Department of Environment in its portal stated that 33 areas recorded moderate API readings including Larkin Lama and Port Klang (85); Kota Tinggi (84); Shah Alam (75); Banting and Bandaraya Malacca (74); Samarahan (73); Bukit Rambai (72); Batu Muda Kuala Lumpur (71); and Putrajaya (70).

Meanwhile, 15 other areas recorded good API readings.

An API reading of 0 to 50 indicates good air quality; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 300 and above, hazardous.

The public can access for updates. - Bernama

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How to stop Indonesia’s devastating forest fires from happening again

Today Online 27 Oct 15;

Indonesia’s forest and land fires have reached a new level of global severity.

New analysis published over the weekend by Dr Guido van der Werf, lead scientist with the Global Fire Emissions Database, indicates that since last month, greenhouse gas emissions from the fires exceeded the average daily emissions from all United States economic activity. Extrapolating from Dr Van der Werf’s estimates, these emissions are likely to add about 3 per cent to total global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities for the year. The emissions from fires so far this year 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 US$14 billion (S$19.6 billion). Firefighting costs are currently heading towards US$50 million (S$69.8 million) per week, paid for by Indonesian taxpayers at a time of slowing growth and severe stress on the national economy. The health impact of the smog has reached epidemic proportions both in Indonesia and neighbouring countries, with more than 300,000 people seeking medical help for respiratory complaints. Tragically, a number of children have died as a result of acute breathing difficulties.

Indonesia’s neighbours 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 Joko Widodo administration has accepted responsibility and apologised to the country’s neighbours 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 past 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 Mr Widodo 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 prioritised 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.


The strengthening and enforcement of regulations that protect peatlands, which generate the most potent emissions when burned, are 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 scrutinised 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, require 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 fertilisers 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 DC, 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. THE JAKARTA GLOBE


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

Indonesia may take up to a decade to curb annual land fires
Today Online 27 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — Indonesia may take as long as a decade to permanently curb the plantation land-burning that sends choking smog across swathes of Southeast Asia each year, according to a research fellow at Nanyang Technological University.

Although Indonesia has ratified a regional agreement committing it to act to reduce the smoke “haze” caused by the land fires, the law has yet to enacted locally in its districts, said Mr Jonatan Anderias Lassa, a research fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies at the Singapore university.

“They need to bring down that law into local legislative processes,” Mr Lassa told reporters in Singapore on Monday, adding that a division of resources between central and local governments was also required. “It hasn’t been done, and it takes five to 10 years to do that.”

Exacerbated by dry conditions from the El Nino weather phenomenon, this year’shaze is among the worst on record. Stinging smoke from the illegal burning to clear land for palm oil and paper plantations have blanketed Singapore, parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand for over a month. Besides prompting school closures and disrupting sea and air travel in the region, the smog has also forced some in Indonesia to flee their homes.

Mr Lassa estimates that an initial investment of US$10 million (S$13.9 million) to US$20 million could help the Indonesian government kick start the enactment of locally relevant legislation in the 211 affected districts on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The three-hourly air pollution index in Singapore was 136 at 6am local time. Readings exceeding 100 are classified as “unhealthy,” as the government advises people to reduce prolonged outdoor activities.

Singapore’sthe National Environment Agency said it detected at least 11 so-called hotspots in Sumatra and 84 in Kalimantan on Monday. “Moderate to dense haze is still persisting in parts of central and southern Sumatra and Kalimantan,” it said. BLOOMBERG

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Indonesia: Smear campaign against Indonesian palm oil underway -- GAPKI Jakarta Post 26 Oct 15;

A smear campaign against the national palm-oil industry is underway, the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) has claimed, as pictures went viral on social media showing young palm trees planted on the newly burned forest.

GAPKI’s head of land and spatial division Eddy Martono said that the smear campaign had been launched against the palm oil industry as it was the most profitable and economical vegetable-oil, with productivity level of six tons per hectare, far beyond the soy bean's productivity at one ton per hectare.

"The smoke is still rising, but the palm trees have already been planted. This is very strange. Based on cultivation techniques, it is not possible to plant the young palm trees [on such land], as they would wither. Something is hidden, and I have no idea what it is," he said as quoted by on Sunday.

The palm-oil association, he further said, would investigate whether the campaign was aimed to fuel the haze crisis, or to strike Indonesia’s efficient palm oil industry.

The cost of clearing one hectare of soybean plantation was enough to open up to 10 hectares of palm oil plantation In Indonesia, Eddy said.

Eddy speculated the smear campaign would be followed by a call to boycott Indonesian palm oil and its derivative products. Besides soybean, the palm oil industry competes with other vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil, and rapeseed oil.

"Do not consume palm oil products, buy other vegetable oils instead. That is the objective. If we’re not cautious, the government may follow the drum they beat," he said.

Based on GAPKI’s data, there were 1,000 palm oil refineries in Indonesia producing 30 million tons of CPO per year. Olein is CPO’s derivative product, which has the biggest market; five million to six million tons sold to the local market per annum, and 15 million to 20 million tons exported per year.

Olein is popularly known as a raw material of margarine, cosmetics and many pharmaceutical drugs.

According to GAPKI, Indonesian CPO production is expected to reach 40 million metric tons this year, compared with 32 million tons in 2014. Malaysia produced 19.8 million tons of CPO in 2014.

Indonesia and Malaysia control 85 percent of the global supply of palm oil. (ags/dan)

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Philippines: ‘Light haze’ in Metro Manila possibly from Indonesia fires, says Pagasa

Frances Mangosing 26 Oct 15;

The state weather bureau has monitored “light haze” in Metro Manila on Monday, possibly caused by the Indonesian forest fires that have reached Mindanao and parts of Visayas.

Obet Badrina, weather specialist of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), said their stations in Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Science Garden in Quezon City and port area in Manila have monitored “light haze” covering the sky of the city as of 11 a.m.

Badrina could not say whether it was the haze from Indonesia that has reached Visayas and Mindanao.

Other causes of haze are pollution and volcanic eruption, he noted.

The light haze may worsen depending on the source of the haze. It will take another weather system or rains to suppress it, Badrina said.

In a separate statement, Pagasa said that “thick smaze” (smoke-haze) has been observed in Mindanao and parts of Visayas recently.

This has resulted to “some inconveniences ranging from reduced visibility to cancelled flights.”

“Wind analysis using the Haze Information Portal of the Asean Specialized Meteorological Center based in Singapore suggests that equatorial winds enhanced by Typhoon Lando have reached the Philippines,” Pagasa said.

Lando may have aggravated the situation, Pagasa noted, as the smaze from Indonesia peatland fires drifted over Mindanao and Palawan-Visayas area.

“Thick smaze began to manifest late September particularly during occurrence of tropical cyclones in North Western Pacific areas,” Pagasa said.

The weather bureau noted that during El Nino, countries in the Western Pacific such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Singapore and the Philippines and others experienced hot and dry climate, which resulted to forest and peatland fires similar to the 1997 to 1998 El Nino.

Pagasa advised the public to take appropriate precautionary actions to avoid hazards brought by this thick smaze.

DOH issues advisory amid haze in Mindanao
The Philippine Star 27 Oct 15;

HAZE OR SMOG? Visibility is poor at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in this photo taken early Sunday. In Mindanao, a dense haze, believed to be from Indonesia’s forest fires, is wreaking havoc on air traffic. RUDY SANTO
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) issued yesterday a health advisory in the wake of reports that haze from Indonesia has reached Mindanao.

The DOH said the haze, caused by forest fires, could trigger respiratory tract infections and heart ailments.

Health experts advised people, particularly the elderly, children and those with asthma or other pulmonary diseases, to stay indoors and wear dust masks when going outside their houses.

“Refrain from physical activities in heavily polluted areas. Exercise extreme caution when on the road to prevent accident (due to low driving visibility) and use headlights or fog lights. Motorists should follow the required minimum speed level,” the DOH said.

It also asked the public to stay away from low-lying areas where smoke and suspended particles might settle.

The department advised the people to consult a doctor if they experience difficulty in breathing, cough, chest pain, rheumy eyes and nose or throat irritation.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) confirmed that several provinces in Mindanao have a high level of air pollutants due to haze.

Joselito Ventura, DENR Environment Management Bureau monitoring chief, said residents of Barangay Lanzones in Zamboanga City have complained of respiratory illnesses.

City health officer Rodelyn Agbulos said they have yet to determine if the respiratory ailments were due to the haze.

Economic losses

Meanwhile, the government is still quantifying the economic losses brought about by the haze.

Mindanao Development Authority investment promotions and public affairs chief Romeo Montenegro told The STAR that there has been no official costing yet on the likely impact of the haze in Mindanao.

“But aggregate cost assumption is being determined for cancelled flights, slowing down of production and reduced business activities in certain areas in Mindanao where haze prevents people from going out,” Montenegro said.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) earlier said that haze has affected a large part of Mindanao, even causing the cancellation of flights in the region.

The DENR, Department of Science and Technology, DOH and Department of Transportation and Communications, and local disaster risk reduction management councils are now working together to deal with the situation.

The DENR is reportedly monitoring its stations in Davao, Cotabato, Zamboanga and other strategic locations to check the air there.

The local PAGASA office said that the haze has been noted to have reached Mindanao three weeks ago.

Compensation from Indonesia
The government was urged to seek compensation from Indonesia for the ill effects of haze on Filipinos.

Rep. Rodel Batocabe of party-list group Ako Bicol, who chairs the House committee on climate change, said the Department of Foreign Affairs should invoke an agreement among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on trans-boundary haze pollution.

He said the DFA should initiate discussions “on a possible loss and damage mechanism that can cover the worsening hazardous effects of the 2015 Southeast Asian haze which first hit the Philippines through its southern islands early last month.”

“An erring state, in this case Indonesia, should compensate states adversely affected by the pollution,” he said.

He added that the effects have included the cancellation of several flights to Visayas and Mindanao “due to the thickening smog, compromising commuters and business activities.”

“The air pollution crisis, which is currently affecting Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, southern Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, poses a huge health risk to the country. It makes the already compromised quality of air much worse, exposing our citizens to diseases such as dizziness, fatigue bronchitis, asthmas, pneumonia, and cardiovascular ailments,” Batocabe said.

Weathermen have warned that the smog could reach Metro Manila, depending on wind direction.

He said this is also the opportune time for Congress to consider the passage of a bill similar to Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, which imposes a fine of $100,000 to $2 million on those guilty of conduct that causes or contributes to any haze pollution in their country.

He added that the issue should be brought for consideration in the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. – Sheila Crisostomo, Roel PareƱo, Edith Regalado, Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero.

Government asked to conduct cloud seeding to fight ill effects of haze in Mindanao
Jovee Marie de la Cruz Business Mirror 26 Oct 15;

A LAWMAKER on Monday asked the national government to conduct cloud seeding to fight the haze in Davao City and other areas in Mindanao.

Liberal Party Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said cloud seeding is needed to protect the public from bad effect of the haze, mostly caused by the burning of forests in Indonesia.

Besides the Philippines, other countries affected by this haze are Malaysia and Singapore.

The Philippines, particularly Mindanao, has been affected by the haze since October 17.

“I am urging the government to conduct cloud seeding. Hopefully the rains can help neutralize the haze,” Ungab said in a text message.

Cloud seeding is the induction of rain by introducing silver iodide or dry ice into clouds through the use of airplane flares, rocket or generator.

“However, business is still usual in Davao. But the long-term effect of it might lead to respiratory problems. The health of our children must be protected,” the lawmaker said.

Meanwhile, in a CNN Philippines report, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) health officials advised the public to stay indoors to avoid suffering from respiratory diseases due to the haze now covering some areas in Mindanao.

In the report, Dr. Kadil Sinolinding Jr., regional secretary for Department of Health (DOH)-ARMM, asked the public to “don’t underestimate the ill effects of haze. It’s worsening the already compromised quality of air that we breathe imposing health risks to everybody.”

Meanwhile, the DOH said haze due to forest fire can cause air pollution, which can bring about increased risks for respiratory tract infections and cardiac ailments.

The DOH advised the elderly, children and those with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases to stay indoors with good ventilation, wear appropriate dust masks when going outside the house and refrain from physical activities in heavily polluted areas.

The health department also asked motorists to exercise extreme caution whenever on the road to prevent accidents, such as use headlights or foglights, follow the required minimum speed level and extreme caution in low, visibility driving, and ensure that vehicle is in good running condition.

The DOH added that public should consult a doctor if there is difficulty in breathing, cough, chest pain, increased tearing of the eyes and nose or throat irritation.

Will haze reach Metro Manila?
JC Ansis, CNN Philippines 26 Oct 15;

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Recent Typhoon Lando (international name: Koppu) enhanced the equatorial winds which carried the haze coming from the peat and forest fires in Indonesia to the Philippines, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

The haze has affected people living in Mindanao and in Metro Cebu. But will it reach Metro Manila?

PAGASA senior weather forecaster Chris Perez told CNN Philippines on Monday (October 26) that there was a small chance the haze would reach Metro Manila.

"The forecast wind speed and direction is coming from the east to northeast and this particular wind direction is not expected to bring the haze from Indonesia towards Metro Manila," said Perez.

"Unless there will be a gradual shift of the wind, from the east to northeast to south to southwest, then there's a little chance that this particular phenomenon will reach Metro Manila."

Perez said he had no idea yet how long the haze would stay in the country, but PAGASA WOULD continue to monitor the prevailing wind for the next two to three days.

"It will depend largely on the prevailing wind direction," said Perez.

"If within the next two to three days, the prevailing wind will be coming from the east to northeast, then likely we are expecting at least minimal effects or this particular phenomenon to gradually disappear from some provinces over the central and southern part of the country."

How to cope with haze
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) released an advisory on Monday to guide residents in areas affected by the haze.

The DOH advised people to:

stay indoors
wear appropriate dust masks
refrain from physical activity in heavily polluted areas
be cautious when on the road
use fog lights
respect speed levels
stay away from low lying areas where smoke and particles may settle
monitor TV and radio advisories
People were told to visit a doctor if they would experience any of the following:

difficulty in breathing
chest pain
excessive tearing of eyes
nose or throat irritation

The Environmental Management Bureau also advised the public in affected areas to stay indoors or wear N95 masks and eye goggles.

CNN Philippines' Isabella Montano contributed to this report.

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Malaysia: Be ready for floods, Johor folk told

The Star 27 Oct 15;

JOHOR BARU: The public, especially in flood-prone areas, have been advised to be alert during the monsoon season.

Johor Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayob Rahmat said the monsoon would bring heavy rain and thunderstorms.

“I urge the people to be prepared and ready to be evacuated.

“I also urge them to follow the directions of the rescuers,” he said.

He said the state has been through several major floods in the past and the people must be ready.

Flood contingency measures were already in place in all districts, he added.

Meanwhile in Ipoh, the Perak Fire and Rescue Department said it was prepared for any disaster.

Department director Yahaya Madis said its officers are well trained and sufficiently equipped.

“If a situation calls for more equipment, we have formed partnerships with neighbouring states like Penang, Kedah and Selangor,” he said.

He said the department was keeping an eye on the Hulu Perak, Larut, Matang, Selama, Perak Tengah, Kinta and Hilir Perak districts now that the monsoon season is here.

Be prepared for monsoon, village heads urged
The Star 26 Oct 15;

KUALA TERENGGANU: All village heads must be prepared for possible disasters brought by the monsoon season, said the Terengganu Civil Defence Department (JPAM).

Its director Lt-Kol Che Adam A. Rahman said the chiefs must have up-to-date and thorough information on their villages and villagers.

This would help avoid any miscommunication and improve efficiency should a disaster happen, particularly during flood relief operations, he said.

“During the massive floods last year, there was no up-to-date information which made rescue work difficult for our team,” said Che Adam.

He said village heads and community representatives had an important role in ensuring that such information was made available to rescue agencies during disasters.

“We urge them to be ready and not wait till the last minute,” he said.

Among the information that would be needed is, for example, how many pregnant women, elderly and disabled people are there in the village, he said.

Che Adam also said that villagers were sometimes reluctant to follow the orders of rescue teams, or were slow to react.

He said they must evacuate their homes immediately if ordered to.

“They must not delay because water levels can rise very fast and put lives at risk,” he said.

He also advised people to prepare a “ready to go” bag filled with their important documents, diapers and milk formula if there are infants, and any vital medication.

Detailed flood risk map being drawn up
The Star 27 Oct 15;

PETALING JAYA: A comprehensive map detailing every flood-prone district and housing area in the country is being drawn up.

The map will be able to identify not only areas prone to floods but also provide detailed information on the type of human activities that take place there, as well as the number of people and homes.

“The country needs a flood risk map,” said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Prof Datuk Dr Ibrahim Komoo, who proposed it.

“Right now, the Drainage and Irrigation Department has a flood map but not a flood risk map,” he said.

He is a member of a special task force looking at scientific and technological responses to large floods and other natural disasters in the country.

Dr Ibrahim said the task force, along with the newly set up National Disaster Management Agency, were under the Prime Minister’s Department.

Dr Ibrahim, chairman of the South-East Asia Disaster Prevention Research Initiative at UKM, said the task force was a forensic study group formed several months ago.

“Many are unaware that Malaysia is categorised as a country that has low to mid-level risk when it comes to natural disasters.

“This why it is crucial to formulate policies by taking into account the level of natural disaster risks the country is facing,” he said.

New equipment needed for disaster relief
The Star 27 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: High-powered boats and all-weather helicopters will be among the new equipment used in future disaster relief operations.

The newly-formed Natural Disaster Management Agency’s deputy chairman Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the equipment was needed to better manage evacuation of victims.

“The acquisition of the helicopters is separate from the RM170mil allocated to the agency.

“These must be able to ferry 20 passengers and remain airborne for between five and six hours at a stretch,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

At present, helicopters used for such operations come from various departments and agencies, including the private sector, he said.

The agency, headed by the Prime Minister, was formed on Oct 1 to integrate rescue and relief operations by all relevant agencies such as police, fire and rescue, Rela, the army and civil defence.

“Emphasis will be on local involvement in the operations, by forming committees at community level,” he said.

For example, the previous practice of having food storage at district level would be scrapped, he added.

“Instead, food stores will be set up by communities in their respective areas to ensure victims get aid as quickly as possible,” he said.

He noted that the agency would also have specific divisions, such as those comprising doctors and engineers.

Pre-flood warning notices would also be issued and these alerts would include dos and don’ts in the event of flooding, as well as contact numbers of rescue personnel, he said.

In the Dewan Rakyat earlier, Shahidan told lawmakers the agency’s standard operating procedure would be announced this week.

“We now have a specific agency to manage disaster relief operations that covers land, sea and rivers,” he said.

Govt ready to relocate livestock and resources from flood-prone areas
ALLISON LAI The Star 28 Oct 15;

KLANG: The Government is prepared to help farmers to relocate livestock, moveable agricultural produce, machinery and other resources to secure centres if the monsoon floods were to hit farms in the country.

Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said assets such as machinery in every district would be identified and relocated to a suitable relocation centre to avoid any damage by the floods.

“Same goes to all movable agricultural produce like livestock.”

“This is necessary to reduce the losses and it will help our farmers to resume operation fast once the situation permits, he said.

He said that a set of standard operating procedures for flood management has been developed to help farmers avoid another major loss following last year’s floods.

Ahmad Shabery said that the ministry’s officers, their families and movable assets would be taken care of before the start of the monsoon season.

“This is to ensure that our officials will be able to concentrate fully on helping the agriculture community in need after learning from last year’s incident.”

In 2014, the floods affected 1,560 officers and it crippled operations in flood-hit states, he added.

Besides accommodating food supply to the affected areas, he said that the government would also focus on recovery measures for the entire industry.

“We will provide incentives to the affected farmers from our dedicated fund, as well as provide consideration for loan rescheduling should the need arise,” he said.

Ahmad Shabery also noted that the government has a ready stockpile during the impending year-end monsoon season.

“If necessary, more food will be imported to meet demand,” he said.

Last year, Malaysia was struck by the largest floods in the nation’s history and the agriculture sector was amongst the most affected.

Among the worst-affected flood hit states last year were Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perak and Perlis.

Based on the ministry’s record, Shabery said that the total agriculture damage was RM297.83mil, with RM106.8mil loss from damaged assets and infrastructure and RM152.97mil in damaged agriculture produce.

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Efforts made to address Singapore’s future energy needs

Today Online 27 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — The Energy Market Authority (EMA) intends to provide more detailed information on Singapore’s long-term energy outlook, and also plans to seek feedback on a proposed land allocation framework for new power plants, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran yesterday.

This will form part of government efforts to support energy investments in Singapore and address most of the country’s future energy needs, the minister said in a speech at the opening of Singapore International Energy Week. The Government also plans to establish a Secondary Gas Trading Market (SGTM) in Singapore, where gas buyers and sellers can trade gas domestically on a short-term basis, to “enhance Singapore’s position as a hub for LNG and gas trading activities”.

A consultation paper to seek industry feedback on the design for a domestic SGTM was issued yesterday. EMA intends to put out more information on the projected growth of the longer-term energy market outlook in Singapore, which would include information on the projected growth of electricity system demand, as well as a mix of sources coming from gas plants, solar power and electricity imports by 2030. Francis Law

More choices for all electricity users in 2018
FRANCIS MICAH LAW Today Online 27 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — In three years, households and more commercial consumers can choose from whom they wish to buy electricity to power their homes and businesses, under a fully liberalised electricity market.

Consumers could choose whether to buy from electricity retailers under customised price plans, or from wholesale electricity markets where prices change at fixed intervals.

The Government plans to fully liberalise the electricity market in the second half of 2018, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran today (Oct 26), at the Singapore International Energy Week 2015 at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

This will allow another 1.3 million consumers, mainly households, to have flexibility and choice in their electricity consumption, he said.

The Government has gradually liberalised the electricity market over the years by lowering the contestability threshold in phases, but households have not been brought on board until now. The contestability threshold — how much electricity a consumer must use monthly to be eligible — was lowered from 10MWh to 8MWh in 2004, to 4MWh last year, and to 2MWh in July. This has allowed 33,000 commercial and industrial consumers — from large users such as petrochemical companies to smaller users such as coffee shops and kindergartens — to participate in the contestable market, instead of remaining on the regulated tariff with Singapore Power (SP), he said.

A spokesperson from SP told ­­TODAY that the organisation supports the move. The organisation has been “steadily working behind the scenes” to deploy technology and refine processes to support this initiative, such as with the installation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure meters and the enhancement of current IT systems to provide reliable and accurate back-end support. “These steps will allow customers to better monitor and manage their usage and will help to facilitate the development of a competitive market,” he said.

Nanyang Technological University Assistant Professor of Economics Chang Youngho said with the full retail competition, consumers would benefit as they would be able to respond to the prices and reduce their consumption of electricity, which should lead to a reduction in expenditure.

But for this to work, the costs of preparing consumers here for the new model — such as the installation of new meters — must be low enough for there to be gains, he said, adding the Government has likely taken this into account before making the announcement.

There are currently 14 retail electricity licensees authorised by EMA to retail electricity to contestable customers. PacificLight general manager of Retail Geraldine Tan said the company sees full retail contestability as a “logical market development”, and that they look forward to delivering value-added services to all consumers when the retail market is fully opened up to competition in 2018.

A Keppel Electric spokesperson told TODAY: “Keppel Electric takes an interest in this development, as it potentially allows Keppel to grow its business and offer household consumers more choices.”

The EMA said it will release more details on plans for full retail competition soon.

Speaking to reporters after his speech, Mr Iswaran said: “As you can imagine, given the scale of such an undertaking, it needs time, especially from a back-end perspective, to ensure that the key service providers have the infrastructure and capability to fulfil the requirements, and EMA is working with the stakeholders on this.”

Electricity market to be fully liberalised in 2018
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Oct 15;

In the second half of 2018, everyone who consumes electricity in Singapore will be free to shop around for the best deals in the market.

That is because the Energy Market Authority (EMA) plans to fully open up the electricity retail market to competition, Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), said yesterday at the opening of the Singapore International Energy Week.

This means consumers will have the choice to buy electricity from electricity retailers under customised price plans, similar to the way customers choose mobile-phone plans from telcos. This will allow these customers to get the best deal based on their usage patterns.

Currently, only some 33,000 commercial and industrial consumers with an average monthly electricity consumption of at least 2MWh - which amounts to a monthly electricity bill of about $450 - benefit from this flexibility. This threshold was last lowered from 4MWh to 2MWh in July. The remaining 1.3 million consumers, mainly households, are on the regulated tariff with SP Services. But that is set to change.

Dr Shi Xunpeng, deputy head of energy economics at the National University of Singapore's Energy Studies Institute, said: "This free choice and competition among retailers will give consumers more customised electricity supply, better services and probably lower prices."

He pointed out that with full liberalisation in Texas in the United States, the average electricity tariff with retail competition is 5.5 per cent lower than the national average. But Dr Shi noted that it is not yet possible to quantify the benefits for Singapore customers.

This would make Singapore the first liberalised energy market in East Asia, he said.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of Nanyang Technological University's Energy Research Institute, said data from places such as Europe or the US shows that households could enjoy savings of between 5 and 15 per cent due to competitive pricing by multiple utility providers.

But he added that additional savings may be possible if there is a shift in consumer behaviour, by running heavy-duty appliances like clothes dryers or ovens at night to benefit from lower, off-peak electricity prices, for example.

Madam June Tan, a nurse in her 50s, said more choices could benefit consumers if they translate into lower electricity prices. "I hope the price plans will not tie us down for years, but instead leave us free to choose again after a short period, for example, one year."

She added: "It's pay-per-use now, so electricity providers must give us ample notice before they roll out the price plans."

Yesterday, Mr Iswaran also gave out the EMA's biennial Singapore Energy Awards to the Housing and Development Board for its use of solar panels and to Mr Neil McGregor, former chief executive of the Singapore LNG Corporation, who oversaw the building of Singapore's first LNG terminal.

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NEA inks deal for largest waste-to-energy plant in Singapore

Singapore’s sixth waste-to-energy plant will be able to incinerate 3,600 tonnes of waste and generate 120 megawatts of electricity per day.
Channel NewsAsia 26 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) signed an agreement on Monday (Oct 26) with a consortium to develop Singapore’s sixth waste-to-energy plant.

The consortium, which comprises Hyflux and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, will develop the plant through its project company, TuasOne.

Slated to be Singapore's largest, the plant will have the capacity to incinerate 3,600 tonnes of waste and generate 120 megawatts of electricity per day.

To help meet the country’s increasing waste disposal needs, it will also provide waste-to-energy services to NEA over a 25-year period, from 2019 to 2044.

Construction work is expected to commence in early 2016 and end in 2019.

- CNA/ww

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Bleaching and disease are devastating the biggest coral reef in the continental U.S.

Chelsea Harvey Washington Post 26 Oct 15;

Coral along the Florida reef tract that’s afflicted with “white plague disease.” A widespread bleaching event on the Florida reef tract has left coral vulnerable to disease. (Image credit: Brian Walker)
The world’s coral reefs are currently in the grip of a massive global bleaching event — only the third such event in recorded history. Thanks to unusually warm water brought on by the effects of climate change, a particularly strong El Nino event and a persistent warm “blob” in the Pacific Ocean, corals throughout the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans are at risk of bleaching and possible death.

One of the places most recently affected is the Florida coral reef tract, which spans from the Florida Keys up to Martin County and is the only coral reef tract found off the coast of one of the continental U.S. states. Indeed, at close to 150 miles in extent, it’s the “third largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world,” according to NOAA. And while bleaching is already a big enough problem for coral, the Florida reefs are being hit with a double whammy this year in the form of a widespread disease outbreak, which scientists say could be difficult to recover from.

Bleaching occurs when warm water causes corals to become stressed. Healthy coral contain a type of symbiotic algae known as zooxanthellae, which provide essential nutrients and give the coral its color. But coral often expel their zooxanthellae when they’re stressed, turning white (or “bleaching”) in the process. Bleaching is not an automatic death sentence for coral, but the process does deprive them of important nutrients and leaves them weakened. This weakened state also makes them more susceptible to disease.

[Scientists say a dramatic worldwide coral bleaching event is now underway]

Toward the end of the summer, scientists in Florida started to notice the beginnings of a bleaching event, said Sean Morton, superintendent of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

“We start to really look out when the water temperature gets about 30 degrees Celsius, or 86 degrees Fahrenheit,” Morton said. “When it hits that level, the corals get stressed.”

The bleaching, itself, isn’t exactly unusual, said Meaghan Johnson, marine science coordinator for The Nature Conservancy in Florida. Every year for at least the past 10 years, some bleaching has occurred on the reef tract. However, the bleaching was particularly severe both last year and this year — and this year’s bleaching event has been compounded by a potentially even more serious threat: an unusually widespread outbreak of disease that eats away at live coral tissue and can cause parts of the reef to die.

The disease outbreaks have been especially severe in the area off the coast of Miami, where bleaching was particularly heavy, Morton said. While several different types of coral disease have been observed, a disease known as “white plague” has been the most prevalent.

“Coral disease can be either viral or bacteria, or have both components, and their origins aren’t very well understood” said Brian Walker, a research scientist at the National Coral Reef Institute at Nova Southeastern University. “We believe the microbes are…naturally occurring in the background levels of all corals, even ones that aren’t showing disease responses.”

But as corals become stressed and weaken, it’s easier for bacteria or viruses to get out of control and take over. Many coral diseases actually eat away at live coral tissue, making them even more dangerous than bleaching.

“A lot of times you’ll find disease outbreaks with particularly large bleaching events, and this year we’re having a really bad one,” Walker said. This is bad news because disease outbreaks are much harder for coral to recover from than just a bleaching event.

If warm water conditions subside and coral are given enough time, their zooxanthellae will return, and they’ll be able to recover from a bleaching event. Disease, on the other hand, destroys coral tissue and causes reefs to diminish in size. And while coral can slowly grow back over time, sometimes plants and other organisms will move in first and take over the space the coral used to occupy, meaning the reef is permanently disrupted.

How much damage this year’s outbreak will cause remains to be seen. Water temperatures in the region have finally begun to cool down, according to Morton, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently evaluated the risk for mass coral bleaching as “low.” However, the corals that have already bleached will need time to recover, and disease outbreaks are still being observed, Walker said.

[How we are all contributing to the destruction of coral reefs: Sunscreen]

Throughout the past several months, the Florida Reef Resilience Program’s Disturbance Response Monitoring system has led teams from universities, nonprofits and government agencies in monitoring the bleaching event. Results from these surveys will be available in early November, but until then it’s unclear exactly how much of the reef tract has been affected or how difficult its recovery will be.

However, Walker said it’s the worst he’s seen the reef — at least the part of it in the region north of the Keys — in the 18 years he’s been working there. He and his colleagues have been examining a cluster of “large corals” (between six and 25 feet in diameter) in the northern extension of the Florida reef tract, some of which are up to 400 years old. They found that about half the living corals were affected by either bleaching or disease, and in some cases had lost up to 60 percent of their live tissue.

And Johnson, from The Nature Conservancy, added that some of the corals affected by disease are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. These species include the boulder star coral and the pillar coral. “The fact that they were being affected by the disease was alarming because there’s not many of them left,” she said.

And while improvement is expected in the coming months, there’s not much scientists can do for the corals in the meantime other than discourage divers from touching them and trying to prevent as few additional disturbances as possible, Morton said. Scientists will also be closely monitoring the water temperature through the winter, as unusually cold water can also stress the corals and cause additional bleaching. As recently as 2010, there was a cold-water bleaching event, Morton said.

He also added that, even if temperatures return to normal and the corals get a break through the winter, scientists are already predicting that 2016 will be another bad year for the reef tract. The Disturbance Response Monitoring program already has preliminary plans to continue monitoring through the winter.

Meanwhile, scientists believe that the larger global bleaching event could also continue on in 2016, a prediction that’s worrying for marine ecologists. Coral reefs, in Florida and throughout the rest of the world, are vital parts of the marine ecosystem, providing habitat for thousands of of organisms. So continued monitoring will be vital for scientists hoping to understand how the environment could change in response to these bleaching events in the future.

“I think in the long run it’s in everyone’s best interest to want to maintain a healthy reef ecosystem,” Walker said.

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Rubbish haul found in stomach of dead whale in Taiwan

Taiwanese marine biologists have discovered a mass of plastic bags and fishing net in the stomach of a dead whale, underlying the dangers posed by floating ocean trash.
Channel NewsAsia 26 Oct 15;

TAIPEI: Taiwanese marine biologists have discovered a mass of plastic bags and fishing net in the stomach of a dead whale, underlying the dangers posed by floating ocean trash.

The 15-metre (49-foot) mature sperm whale was spotted stranded off the southern town of Tongshi on Oct 15.

Coastguards and scientists returned it to the ocean but three days later it was found dead around 20 kilometres (12 miles) away.

Marine biologists from a local university who conducted an autopsy over the weekend found a mass of plastic bags and fishing net sizeable enough to fill an excavator bucket.

Professor Wang Chien-ping, head of the whale research centre at National Cheng-Kung University, said the garbage was probably a major factor in the death. Wang told AFP the whale could have suffered heart or lung disease and multiple infections.

"But... the large amount of man-made garbage in the stomach could reduce its appetite and cause malnutrition. It was likely a critical cause of death."

The Society of Wilderness said the case highlighted the growing threat from ocean trash.

"We frequently heard of marine animals killed after swallowing lots of garbage, but this one was the biggest in size for many years," said He Chih-ying, spokeswoman for the conservation group.

- AFP/ec

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As oil industry bleeds jobs, Asia's green energy drive offers bright spot

Gronholt-Pedersen PlanetArk 27 Oct 15;

Renewables are powering a rare bright spot in the energy industry, with record job hiring in solar, wind and hydro partly offsetting the biggest round of job losses in the oil and gas sector in almost two decades.

The boom in new green jobs is being led by Asia where governments in countries such as China and India are embarking on massive programs to use more renewable energy.

The fresh opportunities come as the oil sector is suffering its worst downturn since the late 1990s, encouraging engineering students to rethink their options and even mid-career switches for some who have spent more than a decade in the oil sector.

"It's a matter of time for me personally before I make the move," said a Singapore-based project manager for offshore construction at an oil and gas firm, who is considering shifting into solar after 15 years in the oil sector.

"For me, it's not a question about running out of oil, but that the industry is losing popularity on the consumer end," said the manager, declining to be named due to his current employment status.

Direct and indirect employment in renewable energy jumped 18 percent, or by about 1.2 million, last year to 7.7 million globally, with most of the new jobs being created in Asia, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Some of the biggest gains have come in countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Bangladesh and the overall figure could top 16 million globally by 2030, IRENA said.

That stands in contrast to oil and gas, where more than 200,000 jobs have been cut worldwide since oil prices collapsed last year, according to recruiter Swift Worldwide Resources.

The petroleum sector employs nearly 6 million, with more than ten times that number indirectly employed, according to International Labor Organization estimates. The latest job losses mark the biggest drop since the last big oil price slump of 1997-98.

"The employment situation is a complete disaster," said Didier Le Hech, who until recently headed operations in Gabon, West Africa, for Weatherford International (WFT.N).

Le Hech, who was one of 11,000 staff laid off at the oil field service provider this year, said he was looking for work in Southeast Asia, but given the tough market was prepared tocast his net widely.


The layoffs are being nervously watched on campuses around the world by trainees in the oil and gas industry.

"We're keeping our options open," said Faizzin Khafidz, a mechanical engineering student at the National University of Singapore, who is doing an internship at Keppel Corp (KPLM.SI), one of the world's largest offshore rig builders.

"Personally I am open to opportunities to join the renewables sector especially if it is going to grow as it should," he added.

Singapore is a major oil trading hub and servicing port, but the pain of the downturn is being felt with many oil servicing ships and drilling platforms idled off the island city-state.

Interest in green energy jobs is playing out at colleges.

New Delhi's Teri University has 139 students enrolled in its renewable energy programs this year, up from 97 in 2014 and 69 in 2013.


"There are huge amounts of western money flowing into renewable energy in Asia," says David Russell, chief executive of Equis Funds Group, which has invested $2.4 billion in Asian projects over the last two years.

In order to keep up with demand for green jobs, recruiters have been forced to develop placement expertise in renewables.

"Because the oil and gas sector has been so hard hit, we've seen lots of people attempting to transfer their skills across to renewable energy," said Adam Carabetta, a recruiter at Drake in Singapore.

The shift comes as many governments have vowed to curb carbon emissions by using more renewables.

China, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, already employs 3.4 million people in renewable energy and this raised its solar installation target for 2015 by 30 percent.

In India, IRENA expects 1 million new jobs to be created after the government pledged to triple installed wind capacity and raise solar power capacity 33 fold by 2022.

This leaves some embarking on oil sector careers worried.

"Most of my classmates picked petroleum engineering because of the pay. But now we can't even get a job," said Michelle Robinson, a third-year petroleum engineering undergraduate at Australia's University of Adelaide. "I sure hope prices recover before I graduate."

(Editing by Gavin Maguire and Ed Davies)

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