Best of our wild blogs: 1 Nov 15

Two Skippers Added to the Singapore Checklist
Butterflies of Singapore

5 Nocturnal Creatures to know this Halloween!
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Night Walk At Pasir Ris Park (30 Oct 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Indonesia: The worst forest fires

Editorial The Jakarta Post 1 Nov 15;

The forest and peatland fires and smog, billed the worst in Indonesian history, still dominated media headlines this week, with thousands of hot spots covering Sumatra and Kalimantan.

At least 19 people in Sumatra and Kalimantan have died, and thousands, mostly children, have been hospitalized because of severe respiratory illnesses caused by the haze. According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the ongoing haze crisis has resulted in more than 500,000 people in six provinces — Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan —suffering from acute respiratory infections.

As evidence indicates that most hot spots are related to oil palm and pulp wood plantations, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has instructed the Forestry and Environment Ministry to stop issuing new permits for peatland cultivation for monoculture, restore damaged peatland and review all peatland licenses that have been issued.

Put bluntly, companies can no longer convert active forests and deep peat or any peat area into monoculture plantations, such as acacia for pulp and oil palm plantations.

Recent research by forest scientists at the Bogor, West Java-based Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) found that the main cause of haze in Riau came from dry and deforested peatland, and not just from the slashing-and-burning of forested areas, as commonly thought. The research found that peat swamps in their natural state are resistant to fire because they are wet underground, but they can be highly flammable when they dry out and are degraded.

Research by Greenpeace has discovered that left in its natural waterlogged condition, peatland rarely burns. An untouched tropical rain forest is similarly fire-resistant. However, two decades of forest and peatland destruction by the plantation sector has made parts of Indonesia into giant tinderboxes.

Peatland soil stores a massive amount of carbon. When peatland is cleared and drained for a plantation, it degrades and the carbon it stores starts to be released into the atmosphere as CO2 emissions. If peat soil catches fire, it can smolder below the soil surface and be exceedingly difficult to extinguish.

The reason people burn land is quite simple. It is a relatively easy, quick and incredibly effective way to remove unwanted vegetation. Land is cleared almost immediately and the time it takes for the ground and heavier fuels to cool is relatively short.

The fire problem is further exacerbated by a lack of centralized coordination, planning, control, containment or monitoring in the region. An absence of active and coordinated fire management and surveillance is the key reason why people and companies are able to burn as much forested land to remove unwanted vegetation.

Greenpeace studies show that forest fires are a threat to the health of millions. Smoke from the fires kills an estimated 110,000 people every year across Southeast Asia, mostly as a result of heart and lung problems, and weakens newborn babies.

The impact is even worse during El Niño years such as 2015, which the Australian Bureau of Meteorology estimates is turning out to be the worst El Niño in 20 years .

Indonesia’s annual forest and peatland fires are a man-made crisis, with devastating health impacts for Indonesia and its Southeast Asian neighbors as well as the global climate. Operating under weak and poorly enforced laws, plantation companies and other actors continue their reckless expansion — clearing forests and draining wet, carbon-rich peatland — that lays the foundations for these fires. The unwillingness of the government to put concession maps in the public domain makes it harder to identify those responsible for the fires or the destructive practices that cause them.

The destruction continues despite commitments from many of the larger traders and producers of Indonesian commodities, such as palm oil and pulp, to end deforestation and peatland degradation and impose strict no fire policies. Indeed, many fires are reportedly burning within the concessions of companies that have “no deforestation” policies.

Ultimately, these fires will continue until plantation companies stop deforestation and start restoring forests and peatland. Commodity traders and their customers must work together to deliver an industry-wide ban on trade with companies that continue to destroy forests and peatland, eliminating the economic incentive for forest clearance.

Companies that use, trade and produce Indonesian commodities must support massive programs to restore and protect forest and peatland and stop the fires before they start.

The government must support these initiatives, publish concession maps to allow those responsible for fires to be held to account and reform the plantation sector to halt the destruction and degradation of Indonesia’s forests and peatland.

The heavy haze should be the momentum for the government, the people and the business community to take firm and bold measures to prevent a similar disaster. Failure to do so will embolden the campaign launched in Singapore and Malaysia to encourage consumers to boycott Indonesian products such as pulp, paper and those containing palm oil. We will also become the ugly guy during the climate change summit in Paris in December.

— Vincent Lingga

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Indonesia: Four airports still closed; emergency status extended in Riau 31 Oct 15;

Four airports in Sumatra and Kalimantan are still closed on Saturday due to the thick haze. Meanwhile, authorities in Riau province have said that the haze emergency status will be extended for another month.

Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan said that his ministry had maintained the closure of four Sultan Mahmud Badarudin II Airport in Palembang, Syamsudin Noor Airport in Banjarmasin, Sutan Thaha Airport in Jambi and Gusti Syamsir Alam Airport in Kota Baru, South Kalimantan.

“From the 35 airports affected by the haze, four are not in operation,” said Jonan at Adisutjipto International Airport in Yogyakarta on Saturday.

According to the minister, many airlines have started to fly to and from Kalimantan and Sumatra airports due to the improved visibility.

Meanwhile, in Pekanbaru, Riau, the Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) decided to extend the haze emergency status for another month as there were still hotspots in South Sumatra and significant rainfall has yet to occur.

“All members of the forest firefighting team have agreed that the emergency status will be extended by 30 days to Nov. 30,” said Riau BPBD chairman Edward Sanger on Saturday as reported by, adding that the decision was made during a meeting on Friday.

The emergency status, which was set to expire on Nov. 1, was extended in anticipation of the possible emergence of new hotspots in Riau forests, considering that forest fires in South Sumatra have not been extinguished, while rainfall was still unpredictable.

“We coordinated with the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) before extending the emergency status,” Edward said. According to Edward, members of the team increase their efforts to prevent forest fires during the 30 days of extended emergency period. (bbn)(+)

Four killed in East Java forest fire; haze dissipates in Sumatra
Wahyoe Boediwardhana and Syofiardi Bachyul JB, The Jakarta Post 31 Oct 15;

Forest fires have claimed four lives in East Java while the haze that has blanketed Sumatra and Kalimantan has begun to dissipate.

“Four people were burned to death dousing out fires in the pine forest areas of Ponorogo regency, East Java,” National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Thursday.

Sutopo said the fire burned up a four-hectare forest belonging to state-owned forestry firm PT Perhutani in Ngilo-ilo village, Slahung district, at 10 a.m.

Sutopo reported that an officer from Perhutani named Suyitno, along with local residents, tried to extinguish the flare.

“At about 12 a.m., while extinguishing the blaze, strong winds suddenly blew in and made the fire bigger,” he said.

A fire-fighting team arrived at the location at 1 p.m. and found that four people were missing. The team then searched for the missing people and found that Suyitno and three other residents, Budianto, Paijun and Jaimun, had perished because of the fire.

“Probably, the victims fainted after inhaling thick black smoke,” said Sutopo.

This is the second time that people have died from a forest fire this month. Last week, climbers perished in a forest fire on Mount Lawu, located on the border region between East and Central Java.

Seven climbers died at the scene while another died three days later after receiving treatment at Dr. Soetomo General Hospital in Surabaya for burns injuries.

Fires have also destroyed protected forests on Mount Bawakaraeng and on Mount Lompobattang in Sulawesi. The prolonged dry season, exacerbated by the El Niño weather phenomenon, is thought by many to have amplified the strength and danger of the fires.

East Java Deputy Governor Saifullah Yusuf led a gathering in Malang to bring awareness to the danger of forest fires and established a forest brigade comprising officers from varied institutions including the police, the military, BNPB, SAR and forest park management.

Syaifullah said the forest brigade had the authority to ban people from clearing land by burning forests.

He said East Java had 1.36 million hectares of forested area, or 28.36 percent of the total size of the province, and that 4.1 percent, or 56,000 hectares, of the forested area had been damaged.

While East Java struggles to extinguish its forest fires, the haze in West Sumatra, Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra is predicted to dissipate after rain begun to pour down over the regions.

The Padang Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG Padang) observation division head Budi Iman Samiaji said rain could potentially cool the provinces over the next three days.

“The haze will slowly decrease although the rain is not pouring equally over the regions,” Budi said.

Small rain poured down on Padang on Friday and the visibility at Minangkabau International Airport increased from 2,000 meters to 3,000 meters.

The Bukit Koto Tabang branch of the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) recorded particulate matter (PM10) in many areas in West Sumatra at 77 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3), which is considered “moderate”.

Authorities consider air quality “good” if its PM10 concentration stands below 50 µg/m3 and “hazardous” when it surpasses 350 µg/m3.

The Dharmasraya regency, which borders with Riau and Jambi, saw its air quality reduce from “dangerous” to “unhealthy” with a PM10 of 166.67 µg/m3 on Friday.

Number of hotspots in Indonesia decrease significantly
Antara 31 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The number of hotspots in Indonesia has decreased significantly over the last few days.

"The number of hotspots has decreased significantly," a spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said here on Saturday.

According to him, the Terra and Aqua satellites on Saturday (October 31) detected 402 hotspots in the country.

"The number of hotspots has dropped to 402 from 2,218 last Saturday," he said.

In addition, thanks to the rain in the past couple of days, the air quality and visibility became better in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

"The visibility in Padang, West Sumatra was 4 kilometers while it was 7 kilometers in Pekanbaru, 2.8 kilometers in Jambi, 800 meters in Palembang, 2 kilometers in Pontianak, 1.5 kilometers in Palangkaraya and 6 kilometers in Banjarmasin," he said.

Meanwhile, the BNPB has seeded 284.9 tonnes of salt (NaCL) in the skies above Sumatra and Kalimantan islands to produce artificial rain as part of the efforts to extinguish forest and land fires in the two regions.

"According to the prediction of Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), the rain intensity had increased between Oct 26 and 31 in Sumatra and Kalimantan," he said.

To ensure even heavier rain, he noted, the government has intensified the operation to induce artificial rain.

Earlier, President Joko Widodo inspected a blocking canal development project in Pulang Pisau Saturday, which is intended to prevent peat land fires in the district.

President Jokowi, as he is also known, and his entourage arrived at the location at around 2 pm after flying in from Jambi, Sumatra, to inspect the handling and impact of forest and land fires in the region.

"A month ago, we had come here and the peat lands were on fire. There used to be no water, so peat lands were easy to burn. Now we have a blocking canal network. This will go right till the Kahiyang River. There will always be water here, infiltrating the peat lands on the left and right sides. This is what will prevent the fire from burning the peat land," he said.

Jokowi entered the peat lands that had been burned, and was accompanied by Forestry and Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya, coordinating ministers Luhut Panjaitan and Puan Maharani and Public Works Minister Basuki Hadimoeljono.

"The work has been carried out for a month. The canal and blocks can already be seen. Later, we will make a similar arrangement at all locations vulnerable to fire," he said.

The project would continue in all provinces in the country to minimize forest and peat land fires, he said.

"The first step is to build canals (to overcome the fire problem). The second one is prevention. So whenever a fire is detected in a district, it is the district that will put it out quickly. But if it has spread to five to ten locations, then it will be the provincial government that must extinguish them. It is the responsibility of the autonomous regions. Only after fires spread and are difficult to overcome will the central government take over," he said.(*)

Haze: Over 500,000 Indonesians Suffer Acute Respiratory Infection
Jakarta Globe 31 Oct 15;

Jakarta. More than 500,000 Indonesians are suffering from acute respiratory infection after having been exposed to fire-induced haze for months, the Natural Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has said.

“There are 529,527 residents living in Sumatra and Kalimantan who have been suffering from the disease. In Jambi, there are 129,229 people ... 115,484 in South Sumatera, 98,029 in South Kalimantan, 79,888 in Riau, 60,225 in Central Kalimantan, and lastly 46,672 in West Kalimantan,” BNPB's spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Friday, as quoted by

Those six provinces declared a state of emergency because of the haze months ago.

Sutopo said the number of people affected is actually much higher, as not everybody seeks professional help.

People in the hardest-hit parts of the country are being evacuated to shelters set up by the BNPB and its local branches, and the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), as efforts to quell the flames continue.

Adding to mounting pressure on the Indonesian government to step up its efforts, the BNPB has called the disaster a "crime against humanity of extraordinary proportions."

President Joko Widodo recently cut short his state visit to the United States to personally oversee haze mitigation efforts in the affected regions.

Minister hands over compensation to haze victims
Antara 31 Oct 15;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa handed over a compensation worth Rp15 million to the families of each of those who died from the haze in Riau Province Saturday.

The handing over of the compensation was carried out at the office of the Public Works and Public Housing Service of Riau.

There were four families who received the compensation.

On the occasion the minister stressed the importance of understanding the dangers of haze that came from forest and land fires.

All those who died in Riau passed away not because of direct impact from the haze but from certain diseases which worsened due to the haze.

Therefore, Minister Parawansa called on the local government to publicize the hazardous level of the air pollutant index (ISPU) when the haze became increasingly thick.

"The hazardous level of the ISPU needs to be publicized because each region has different ISPU levels," she said.

Some 529,527 people have suffered from upper respiratory tract infections due to the forest- and land fire-triggered haze that has plagued the country for the past several months, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

"The haze plaguing the country has caused upper respiratory tract infections in 529,527 people," Head of Data Information and Public Relations of the BNPB Sutopo Purwo Nugroho noted Friday morning.

The victims were from Sumatra and Kalimantan. There were 60,225 from Central Kalimantan, 79,888 from Riau, 129,229 from Jambi, and 115,484 from South Sumatra, in addition to 46,672 from West Kalimantan, and 98,029 from South Kalimantan.

"The haze victims totaled 529,527 people," he reported.

The data is based on the report received by the BNPB on October 29, 2016, Sutopo remarked.

However, there is a possibility that the actual count could be higher, he affirmed.

This is because some people ailing from diseases did not visit the doctors at the Community Health Care Centers (Puskesma) or the hospitals.

"They perhaps consulted the doctors independently, and were, therefore, not registered," he pointed out.

The government has been making efforts to overcome the haze problem caused by forest and plantation fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The government had also built several "rumah singgah," or shelter houses, at the evacuation sites for the residents exposed to haze, he stated.

The shelter houses are fully equipped with facilities, such as air purifiers and others, which were offered to haze victims for free.(*)

BNPB intensifies cloud seeding efforts to fight fires 31 Oct 15;

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency has used hundreds of tons of salt to intensify its cloud seeding operation to help stimulate rainfall in Sumatra and Kalimantan, an agency spokesman said on Saturday.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that 284.9 tons of salt had been utilized in the operation to help tackle the fires that have caused the worst haze in Indonesia's history.

"To speed up and increase the rain intensity, the government has intensified the artificial rain operation, especially this time where there are many clouds," he said as quoted by state news agency Antara. He added that the increased efforts were in accordance with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's wishes.

The toxic smog has covered parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan in the past three months, killing at least 16 people and severely affecting 500,000.

Sutopo added that the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) predicted that the rain intensity had increased between Oct 26 and 31 in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

BMKG also reported that based on Himawari Satellite images the haze distribution had become smaller.

Sutopo said that there were around 354,191 hectares of land burned in Papua, mostly in Merauke and Mappi regencies. (rin)(+)

Two Million Hectares of Indonesian Forests Lost to Fires Since June
Jakarta Globe 31 Oct 15;

Jakarta. More than two million hectares of forest area have been reduced to ashes in the past five months in Indonesia, according to the data published by the National Space and Aviation Agency (Lapan).

The agency said on Friday that based on satellite data collected from June 21 until Oct. 20, an estimated 2,089,911 hectares were gone.

The number is likely to grow, as a large number of forests -- as well as peat lands -- are still fire, causing the ongoing haze crisis, especially in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

“We have compared the data gathered from before and after the fires started,” Parwati Sofan, a senior official at Lapan, told a press conference on Friday at the Natural Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB)'s headquarters in Central Jakarta, as quoted by

Lapan estimates that 832,999 hectares of forests were burned in Sumatra, 806,817 hectares in Kalimantan, 353,191 hectares in Papua, 30,912 hectares in Sulawesi, 30,162 hectares in Bali and Nusa Tenggara, 18,768 in Java, and 17,063 in Maluku.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that 32 percent of hotspots in the country are currently found in non-concession forest areas, 20 percent in industrial forest areas (HTI), 20 percent in palm oil plantations, and the remainder was found in forest areas used for other purposes.

“Even though the satellite has helped us [collect the data], bear in mind that it cannot scan the forest areas that are covered in thick haze and clouds,” Parwati added. "We expect the number to increase as the data collecting is still underway. We will update the data every ten days."

The BNPB and its local branches have set up numerous shelters for residents of the affected regions.

The Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) on Thursday sent extra ambulances, water trucks, water purifiers, shelters, air purifiers and eye drops to Sumatra and Kalimantan. The PMI has extended its haze emergency response period to January, as the disaster still shows no signs of abating.

Air quality, visibility improve in Sumatra, Kalimantan
Francis Chan and Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Straits Times AsiaOne 31 Oct 15;

The sporadic but heavy rainfall since Tuesday, coupled with ramped-up cloud-seeding efforts by Indonesia to create more rain, has finally soothed the ground and cleared the air in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

Not only did air pollution levels fall substantially across the two islands yesterday, but visibility in the skies has also improved.

"With the rainfall over three consecutive days in Sumatra and Kalimantan, the hot spots have been significantly reduced," Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of data and information at Indonesia's national disaster management agency (BNPB), said at a press briefing yesterday.

Dr Sutopo said that as of 5am, only 156 hot spots remained in Sumatra. In Kalimantan, there were just four. "A week ago, South Sumatra had 703 hot spots and Kalimantan had 905," he added. Hot spots are technical terms for fires detected in forests or on peatland, typically started by farmers or errant plantation operators to clear land for cultivation.

At the height of the crisis, thousands of such fires, which produced the toxic haze, were spotted in Kalimantan and Sumatra by satellites.

The Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space said yesterday that the fires behind the smouldering thick haze, which has covered many parts of South-east Asia in recent weeks, have ravaged 2.1 million ha of land in Indonesia.

That is the equivalent of burning the entire island of Singapore almost 30 times over. It is also higher than an earlier estimate of 1.7 million ha revealed by President Joko Widodo.

Yesterday was the second day Mr Joko was back in Indonesia, after he cut short his visit to the United States to oversee the crisis at home.

The President and First Lady Iriana travelled to affected areas in Palembang and Jambi in Sumatra to inspect evacuation centres and other relief shelters. "I saw a good relief shelter where there are medical personnel, medical supplies, so it's complete," he said.

Visibility in Pekanbaru, Riau, reached 3,000m yesterday, while it was 1,400m in Jambi in Central Sumatra. Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan had visibility of 1,200m despite hazy conditions, while it was as far as 2,500m in Banjarmasin in the south, said Dr Sutopo.

The Sultan Thaha Airport in Jambi reopened yesterday after being closed for the last two months.

The improved visibility is a welcome development for local aviation players, after they suffered thousands of flight cancellations and delays due to the haze.

In the meantime, the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings continued to fall across Kalimantan and Sumatra. In Palembang in South Sumatra, the PSI hovered under 200 in the morning before peaking at 258 at noon yesterday. The index peaked at 430 on Thursday.

The PSI reading for Pekanbaru never rose above 77 and was as low as 38 at noon. In Jambi, the PSI peaked at 154, then fell to 20 at noon.

Palangkaraya, for most of yesterday, remained under the 116 level, in the moderate range of the PSI. It was a vast improvement from the four-digit readings that for weeks were the norm for the city.

BNPB has said that if the favourable weather persists, it expects to put out all hot spots by the end of next month or early December. "In the next four days, there will still be an abundant amount of rainfall, according to our forecast," said Dr Sutopo. "So this is our golden opportunity (for more cloud-seeding) because after this four-day window, there is a chance we are going back to drier conditions again."

Indonesian air force chief Agus Supriatna told Kompas news that the government plans to acquire four Beriev Be-200 water bombers. The Russian-made aircraft was found to be more effective in firefighting operations.

Meanwhile, people out and about yesterday at Pasar 26, a traditional market in Palembang, were relieved as conditions improved.

"The market is always open and sees crowds regardless of how bad the haze is," said 51-year-old Saiful, a fish-cracker hawker. "Only now people have more relaxed faces."

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Malaysia: Indonesia misjudged strength of El Nino -- Wan Junaidi

YU JI The Star 1 Nov 15;

KUCHING: South-East Asia’s haze crisis this year was partly due to the Indonesian authorities under-estimating the strength of the El Nino drought.

Not since 1997 and 1998 had the dry season been this severe, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said yesterday when asked about Indonesia’s pledge to end the annual haze occurrence by 2018.

“The Indonesian authorities have given me an assurance that next year and in 2017, open burning on such a large scale would not occur anymore; certainly not like what we have gone through this year,” he said.

“Among the reasons, they said, were weaknesses in their forecasts related to El Nino. Their forecast for El Nino in 2015 and 2016 was that it would not be as serious as 1997 and 1998.

“But what is happening now is that El Nino is as severe as in 1997,” Wan Junaidi told reporters after opening the state-level Envi­ronment Week.

In the years since 1998, when El Nino did not occur, the haze never got as bad, he said.

Only “natural intervention” could end the open burning in Indo­nesia, he said, adding that 1.7 million hectares of land was affected.

Junaidi said Indonesia would adopt Malaysia’s peat soil management, which included micro dams to ensure the presence of surface water, deep wells of over 100m as a water source and simple measures such as building more watch towers.

Satellites detected 53 hotspots in Sumatra yesterday. In Borneo, only one hotspot was detected.

Junaidi said stiffer penalties for Malaysian polluters, from those who burnt rubbish in their backyards to pollutants from factories, was being studied.

ASEAN should aim to be haze free by 2018: Wan Junaidi
New Straits Times 31 Oct 15;

KUCHING: Malaysia hopes ASEAN should aim to be a haze free region by 2018, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said here today.

He said he had attended the 11th Conference of Parties (COP) to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution held in Hanoi, Vietnam on Thursday and Friday where the haze problem was the main issue.

“Although this is not an official declaration yet Malaysia expresses the hope that the ASEAN region should aim to be haze free by then,” he told the media after launching the state annual Environmental Week celebration here today.

Wan Junaidi said ASEAN countries like Myanmar, Cambodia and Northern Thailand also suffered from the haze because of their forest fires.

“But the severity is less because they do not have huge areas of peat soil. “Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are badly affected when most of the 1.7 million hectares under peat in Indonesia catches fires,” he said.

On Indonesia ‘s commitment to fight future forest fires, Wan Junaidi said he had met with his Indonesian counterpart, Siti Nurbaya Bakar recently.

“Indonesia will send a delegation to study our peat soil management system in which we have drains and dams to help moisturise such soil. “They also want to learn about our tube well system while we have a very strong enforcement by the Department of Environment which they can learn from,” he added On the haze, Wan Junaidi said heavy rains, which occurred on October 17, had helped to douse forest fires in Riau and Jampi and reduced the haze problem considerably. -- Bernama

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Jusuf Kalla talks Jokowi, the haze, and Indonesian workers

New Straits Times 30 Oct 15;

JAKARTA: It has been a year since Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, who won the hearts of Indonesians with his common man image, won Indonesia’s presidential election, garnering 53 percent of the votes.

His leadership was regarded by many as a ‘revolutionary’ step forward for Indonesia, and the “People’s President” made headlines around the world.

Joko announced Jusuf Kalla as his vice presidential running mate at Gedung Juang, Jakarta, on May 19, 2014.

Jusuf assumed the office of Indonesian Vice-President on Oct 20, 2014.

The following is the full text of Bernama’s interview with Jusuf in conjunction with the one-year anniversary of the President in office:-

Q: In conjunction with your one-year in office with the new president, can you state what is the present government’s mission and vision and how much has been achieved?

JK: Yes, every government will have its mission and vision, we want to have more prosperity and betterment for the people in various economic matters, there should be growth, political and social stability, and justice. We have carried out various growth programmes and there is a target. This year, the target is 5.7 per cent, in the next two years, we can achieve seven per cent, but due to the economic and world crisis, including in Indonesia and Malaysia, there is a problem and we are facing a crisis. Politically, Indonesia is very stable, we want social stability, and peace, compared to other nations, the politics in Indonesia and Malaysia is very good.

Q: What is the strategy of the Indonesian government to tackle the current economic slowdown?

JK: The current economic slowdown is caused by external factors such as Indonesian commodities especially in mining, coal, nickel, rubber and oil palm industries, prices have all fallen, so the incomes of the people in certain areas have dropped, and the purchasing power of the people have also dropped. We in Asia are facing this because of the global factors, and we are constantly having new programmes to strengthen our economy other than politics and the law. The strategy is to strengthen the domestic market, Indonesia is fortunate to have a big population and we can strengthen by reducing imports, enhancing the infrastructure and government spending until purchasing power recovers, then beefing up the agriculture sector until our imports are reduced for two to three years more until we can provide more jobs (to the people).

Q: As a Vice-President and politician who has experience working with two different presidents, can you share your experience and what is the difference?

JK: Five years of working with SBY (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) and then now with Joko Widodo, I am just professional, not with any party and can work with anyone. What is most important is that I support the progress of the regime well and the people also support. Every leader has a different style, but the principles and objectives remain the same.

Q: Malaysia is the closest neighbour and only separated by land and sea borders. But there are always issues relating to the border, what is your view to overcome this issue so that it does not drag on?

JK: This problem between Indonesia-Malaysia is in the different ways we determine the border. Although there are international standards for it, sometimes there are problems, and differences in history and people. But with Malaysia, all can be resolved through discussions although these may take a long time, (our experience) there have been problems (like) Sipadan and Ligitan which have been taken to the International Court, which decided that both are part of Malaysia, and Indonesia respected that.

Q: Does Indonesia want the current border problem to be taken to the International Court?

JK: The Sipadan and Ligitan issue was taken to the International Court and (now) there is the border problem with Malaysia in the Straits of Melaka and in Kalimantan like Sarawak, and others, we resolve through talks, and if not, we settle it in court, and we respect each other. There are problems, but all can be solved. If we cannot talk, we will go on our discussions for years, if not, we will take it to court, as in the case of Sipadan and Ligitan, and Indonesia respects every decision.

Actually, culturally, we are one, many Malaysians are from Indonesia because previously, there was no Indonesia and Malaysia, so people were free to travel anywhere.

Some are from Bugis (group) such as Pak Najib (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak), some from Java, some Malays are from Sumatra because historically there were no countries. Indonesia and Malaysia have similarities in culture and are in constant contact and visit each other. Now there are already nations, so there are borders (but) these are just techniques of governance only) but the culture and language are still the same.

Except in the 60s, there was conflict (the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation) which was resolved well and (after the issue was settled) we could work together in the political, economic, and business arenas through mutual appreciation, helping each other in investments, and mutual respect.

Q: At present, the issue of the smoke or haze resulting from burnings in forest areas and plantations in Indonesia is a problem in Malaysia. How can this problem be overcome so that it does not happen again?

JK: The question of the smoke from Indonesia is very complicated. This is because many of the affected residents are in Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia. The problem is that we cannot control the wind, it is nature which controls the wind.

The wind took the smoke to Singapore and Malaysia. If we are neighbours, we enjoy the winds together, we enjoy the good, and we are both affected when it is bad. If the air is good, the clean energy, clean weather, Malaysia will enjoy it from the jungles of Indonesia, what can we do if there is smog. So we should work together during good times, and overcome the bad.

Indonesia is thankful to Pak Najib (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak) and the parties involved, formally, there is an agreement at the ASEAN level, on fires, and if needed to be jointly tackled, Indonesia is grateful for the joint effort.

Indonesia has done the best and is working with 20 aircraft and five armed forces battalions, and the people are also helping.

Q: But the problem of forest fires is caused by human actions?

JK: There is the human element but it is aided by dryness (drought season). There could be accidental acts, some are because of industries. Talking of industries, there are 30 per cent of estates owned by Malaysian companies. So all are responsible.

Indonesia has a long-term plan to resolve this problem and to stop the expansion of estates especially in peat soil areas.

Q: Why has the Indonesian government not taken stern action to ensure that nobody dares to burn the forests?

JK: Many people have been prosecuted, every year many people are imprisoned, many also have to pay fines, this is done by the people because they do not have heavy equipment, no bulldozers, no excavators, to work their land, so they burn, but that has been prohibited by the (government) policies.

They are also caused by nature, there is fire, there is wind which changes, so there are more accidental cases, because of nature.

Q: Sir, another issue between Malaysia and Indonesia is concerning the salary for housemaids which is quite high. It is reasonable to ask for higher salaries?

JK: Yes, previously many Indonesians went to Saudi Arabia and Malaysia to be housemaids because the salary was five times more than in Indonesia. Now, to be a maid in Indonesia, the salary has been increased to Rp2 million (about RM600), which is why it is reasonable that a housemaid in Malaysia get a salary of Rp3 million (almost RM1,000).

Q: Sir, there is still a problem with illegal workers who enter the country illegally through sea routes and they are willing to risk death just to get jobs in Malaysia. What is your view on this?

JK: Illegal workers mean they do not have the documents to enter Malaysia, and this happens because of both the employers and workers, and both are guilty. On that score, they are guilty. The Indonesian worker is guilty, the Malaysian employer is guilty, but often the Indonesian workers are punished but not the employers when under Malaysian law, clearly the employer must also be punished. If it is illegal, both parties must be punished.

Q: What is the best way to stop Indonesian workers from entering Malaysia illegally?

JK: Indonesia now is controlling it (permit to work in Malaysia), it is no longer easy. There must be regulations and Indonesians must have skills and be assured a minimum salary and insurance coverage. The problem is that Malaysians like to accept illegal immigrants to work in estates or homes. If there is no offer for employment, they will not go.

Q: What is your advice to them who want to seek employment in Malaysia?

JK: My advice is that (Indonesians) must have all the documents and skills and in Malaysia, there must be good agents and industries, clear jobs.
We also hope that Malaysia does not accept workers who do not have all the documents.

Q: Sir, we move on to international questions on Islamophobia. Western countries have labeled Islam as violent and terrorist. As the Vice-President of the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, what is your view on this issue?

JK: Yes, there are some Muslim groups which are radical and it happens anywhere, people are afraid, not just people in Europe, but even Muslims are afraid. They bomb Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, and other places.

We must work together to stop radicalism in Islam, so it is not all of Islam which is feared, only the radical groups. Actually, these radical groups exist because of the west. Al-Qaeda rose in Afghanistan which is a failed nation, was attacked by Russia and America and went to war (till today), was destroyed, so the Al-Qaeda rose to provide new protection, and became radical.

Terrorist groups such as the ISIS rose from Iraq and Syria because they (United States of America) destroyed Iraq only because America wanted to destroy Saddam Hussein (all because) of the western countries.

They helped the rebels in Syria and from that destruction, new ideologies came about which became radical. The west destroyed these countries and they created their own enemies.

(This does not happen) in Indonesia and Malaysia because we are peaceful nations, there is no radicalism because we are not failed nations. (We) have moderate views as introduced in Malaysia which is moderate Islam and in Indonesia Islam Nusantara.

Q: But there are Malaysians and Indonesians who are influenced by the radical groups?

JK: There are more westerners who have been recruited by the ISIS compared to those from Indonesia and Malaysia. We found that there were 250 Indonesians who were involved, but in the west, the number is 5,000. The Indonesians were influenced by the ideology through the internet. But we are more peaceful compared to the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan. We are thankful because although there were attempts to bring in the ideology, we are not a failed nation.

Q: What is your opinion on the role played by the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation)?

JK: The OIC is only a group of 54 nations and does not have the might, cannot make decisions, cannot take action, more to conferences and can only hope.

There are more Muslim nations in the Middle East, although Indonesia has the largest Muslim population, but in six Muslim nations in the Middle East, it is difficult to unite them because of differences in ideology, especially between the Sunni-Syiah which has been happening for thousands of years.

Q: Indonesia does not ban Syiah teaching?

JK: In Indonesia there is Syiah teaching but not many. We do not ban any thoughts. Indonesia practices freedom, but we only hope that the people avoid and it and stop it from spreading. If they want to promote Syiah thought, carry on...but for internally (within the country) only, we do not what the thought to spread.

Q: Sir, in conclusion, please send a message to the millions of Indonesians living in Malaysia.

JK: Yes, I want to send my congratulations to all communities and our people in Malaysia. Remember we are one family from Indonesia, let us build good relations (with Malaysians). We build good progress, in economics, culture, politics because we have a long history and thankfully, we can foster it in the best way, so let us work together for the good of our people. -- Bernama

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Indonesia now world’s No 4 CO2 emitter, says report

Today Online 31 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR — Indonesia is now the world’s fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2), surpassing Russia, global research organisation World Resources Institute (WRI) reported.

This comes a week after a report said Indonesian forest fires over the past two months have produced more greenhouse gases than the average daily emission from the entire American economy.

WRI said emissions from this year’s fires have reached 1.62 billion metric tonnes (Mt) of CO2 – bumping Indonesia from the sixth-largest emitter in the world up to No 4 in just six weeks.

The analysis by Dutch expert, Guido van der Werf, with the Global Fire Emissions Database also revealed that emissions from Indonesia’s fires alone are approaching the total annual emissions of Brazil.

According to the report, Indonesia’s current total emissions hover around 760 Mt CO2 (excluding land-use change), meaning the fires alone have tripled Indonesia’s entire annual emissions.

The WRI report also said Global Forest Watch Fires has detected more than 127,000 fires across Indonesia this year, the worst since 1997.

The fires, it said, were mainly from clearing of peatlands to make way for plantations of commodities, such as palm oil.

Peat, it added, stored some of the highest quantities of carbon on Earth and also emitted methane, resulting in up to 200 times more damage to the global climate than regular fires.

The report said while there was relief soon with the monsoon rains interrupting months of record-breaking fires and toxic smoke in South Sumatra and Kalimantan, the damage to human health, the economy and the global climate has already been done.

Smoke from this year’s fires caused more than 500,000 cases of respiratory illnesses in Southeast Asia and resulted in the deaths of at least 19 Indonesians, the report added.

And many more will die from the longer-term impact of breathing the foul air for weeks on end.

Experts from WRI and Global Forest Watch Fires have suggested three ways for Indonesia to respond to the crisis and reduce the risks of future fires:

* Adopting responsible financial incentives to commodity growers, so as to encourage more sustainable production of forest-based commodities;

* Focusing technical and mapping support on systems that harmonise land use management and reduce land conflicts; and,

* Streamlining the murky world of concession licences through innovative technologies that improve transparency and combat corruption in land use decision-making.

Smoke from land-clearing in Sumatra and Kalimantan has enveloped many parts of Singapore and Malaysia, and forced the closure of schools and airports.

Indonesian researchers recently said the smoke was expected to last until January 2016 as the scale of land-clearing was larger than before, coupled with dry weather. THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER

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Sustainable Singapore Blueprint on track to achieve vision: Masagos

Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 31 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Eco-friendly homes and an extensive cycling network are some examples of the progress made since the launch of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint (SSB) last year.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli presented the SSB's 1-year report card at the launch of the Clean and Green SG50 Carnival on Saturday (Oct 31), saying the SSB is on track to achieve its vision, but that it is too early to claim a victory.

"This is a journey, it is not a destination. In just one year, we cannot claim any victory at all," said Mr Masagos. He added that as the nation progresses, so too must the citizens' love and care for the environment.

"Therefore we then set the standard for anyone who comes to work here, who comes to visit here, this is how we live and this is how we want our environment to be,” he said.

Part of the blueprint is the aim to build "eco-smart" living spaces, and work is underway to embed smart technologies and eco-friendly features in towns and homes. For example, Punggol Northshore will be the first public housing estate to test-bed smart technologies when construction is completed in 2020. One of its features is a Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System.

The ministry is also making efforts to bring people closer to water. Four projects have been launched - Rochor Canal, Sungei Api Api, Sungei Tampines and Kallang River - and two more at Siglap Canal were completed this year.

In line with the SSB’s vision of a "Car-Lite" Singapore, enhancements have been made to rail and bus networks. By the end of this year, 750 buses will be added through the Bus Service Enhancement Programme.

Cycling paths too have been lengthened, from 233km in 2013, to 345km this year. The target is to build a network spanning 700km by 2030.

Efforts to build a Green Economy – a key thrust of the blueprint – have also seen results, with 30 per cent of all buildings in Singapore achieving the BCA Green Mark standards, up from 22 per cent in 2013. There are also moves to encourage the adoption of solar power.

And to promote an active and gracious society, enhancements to community spaces like the 24km Rail Corridor and the Ubin Project have been undertaken.


The SSB is also working towards a “zero waste” nation, which includes initiatives to improve the management of food waste. Singapore generated nearly 800,000 tonnes of food waste in Singapore, but only 13 per cent was recycled. Upcoming pilots like on-site recycling at Tiong Bahru and Ang Mo Kio hawker centers will be launched this year to boost this figure.

However, recycling rates dipped in 2014, compared with 2013.

"The one (aspect of recycling) that has contributed to the lower rate of recycling has been construction waste, and that is also largely because construction waste itself has reduced,” said Mr Masagos.

He called this reduction a good thing, but added that more can be done among citizens.

- CNA/av

All citizens have a part to play for a clean and green Singapore: PM Lee
"We plant these trees ... to encourage every one of us to play our part to make this a clean and green Singapore, and to build a better Singapore for our children": Mr Lee at the launch of the Clean and Green SG50 Carnival.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 31 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called on citizens to play their part and work together to build a clean and green Singapore.

He was speaking at the official launch of the Clean and Green SG50 Carnival on Saturday (Oct 31), which is jointly organised by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, National Environment Agency (NEA), North East CDC, PUB and the National Parks Board.

At the event, Mr Lee got his hands dirty planting a jelutong tree at Punggol Waterway Park. He was joined by some 600 residents, who planted around 200 trees as part of the Mass Tree Planting initiative launched in August.

By the end of this year, more than 5,000 trees will be planted across the island.

"We plant these trees not just because it makes a big difference to our living environment. But it's a symbolic act to remind us of our goal, to encourage every one of us to play our part to make this a clean and green Singapore, and to build a better Singapore for our children," said Mr Lee.

For the first time, the carnival has invited non-governmental organisations and community groups to get the crowd to sign up as volunteers with them, to maintain Singapore's reputation as one of the cleanest and most liveable cities in Asia. Organisers also hope this will build a common culture among citizens, where caring for the environment is second nature.

This year's event is also a tribute to Singapore's founding father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who started the vision of a clean and green Singapore through rigorous developments in areas such as waterways and sanitation.

The carnival will be held till Nov 1 at Punggol Eco Town, which is said to symbolise the future of Singapore's public housing. It will be home to Punggol Northshore, which will be Singapore's first public housing estate with smart technologies when it's built in 2020.

And in a bid to become an even more sustainable district, the North East CDC has enhanced its sustainability plan to build a clean and green environment. Now known as the Sustainable North East District Blueprint, the 10-year masterplan will include existing and new programmes. It will also serve to advocate the community on issues like public health and environmental protection.

- CNA/av

PM Lee plants tree, launches SG50 Clean and Green Carnival in Punggol
Walter Sim, Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Oct 31) joined some 600 residents from the North East District at Punggol Waterway Park to do their part for nature.

The 200 trees they planted will go some way towards achieving the target of more than 5,000 trees to be planted by more than 15,000 people from August to December as part of a mass tree planting exercise.

Tree planting has historical significance in greening Singapore, with the country's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew launching a tree planting campaign in 1963.

PM Lee said on Saturday: "We plant trees not just because it makes a big difference to our living environment.

"It's a symbolic act - it reminds us of our goal and encourages every one of us to play our part to build a clean and green Singapore, and to build a better Singapore for our children."

The late Mr Lee also started the Keep Singapore Clean campaign in 1968, which became Clean and Green Week in 1990, and then Clean and Green Singapore in 2007.

On Saturday morning, Mr Lee, too, launched the Clean and Green SG50 Carnival at the open field next to Punggol MRT station.

The two-day event, held in celebration of Singapore's Golden Jubilee, features an exhibition which traces Singapore's environment journey over the last 50 years such as the development of clean waterways and proper sanitation.

Besides archived photos, it also showcases a collection of 5,000 stories gathered through the Singapore Environment Story initiative.

With the theme "Cherishing Our Home, Safeguarding Our Future", the campaign aims to cultivate environment practices as second nature in Singaporeans.

It has also roped in non-government organisations and community groups, with the hope that visitors to the carnival will sign up as volunteers.

Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to each play their part, and work together to make the country cleaner and greener for each other.

He said: "If we nurture our trees, tend our gardens and protect our environment year after year, the trees and gardens will grow, blossom and bear fruit. We can enjoy the shade and their beauty. This place will be even more beautiful."

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said it was heartening that many Singaporeans have indicated they would like to contribute to a cleaner and greener environment.

He added: "Ultimately we must aim for caring for the environment and for each other to become second nature to us - to become our way of life."

The event also celebrated grassroots organisations and members of the public who have done their bid for the environment, including "Community In Bloom Ambassadors" who rally the community and help others to enjoy gardening.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) also said in a statement on Saturday that two community challenges that began in last year's carnival has seen progress.

There are more than 520 "Bright Spots", which are public areas where the public takes ownership of the cleanliness through activities such as litter picking. This is above the target of 500.

And the "No Waste Days" challenge, which aimed to gather pledges from members of the public to achieve 50,000 days of reduced or zero waste, garnered pledges from more than 15,500 people amounting to 850,000 "No Waste Days".

In Tampines, the tree-planting this year was a tribute to the late Mr Lee, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a Facebook post.

Volunteers planted five of Mr Lee's favourite trees last Sunday - the rain tree, jelutong, kapok tree, tembusu and madagascar almond. Mr Heng added that over the next five years, about 2,000 trees and shrubs will be planted in Tampines.

Singapore's green goals 'on track to being met by 2030'
Walter Sim AsiaOne 1 Nov 15;

Mr Masagos Zulkifli (in white), Minister for Environment and Water Resources, planting the tembusu tree, with Tampines residents as part of the Clean and Green Campaign on 25 October 2015. The town aims to plant close to 2,000 trees and shrubs over the next five years. When fully grown, these trees will provide shade for pedestrians walking to the train station.

Much progress has been made under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015, which contains a series of environmental goals that the country ought to work towards over the next 15 years, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said yesterday.

These achievements, he said, "can be credited to the collective interests of Singaporeans in caring for our environment".

Giving an update on the work that has been done to meet targets under the blueprint, which was launched last November, Mr Masagos said most of the targets that were set are on track to being met by 2030.

He was speaking to reporters at the Clean and Green SG50 Carnival in Punggol, launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Masagos noted that the length of nature ways - green corridors with biodiversity in urban areas - increased from 21km in 2013 to 61km as of Sept 30 this year. The target is 180km by 2030.

Also, the length of park connector networks increased from 216km in 2013 to 300km as of Sept 30. The target is 400km by 2030.

And to foster a society that is less reliant on cars, enhancements are being made to existing rail and bus networks. More cycling paths have also been built - there were 345km of cycling paths as of Sept 30, up from 233km in 2013. The goal is more than 700km by 2030.

Meanwhile, a pilot bicycle-sharing scheme will be launched in Jurong Lake District, Tampines, Pasir Ris and Marina Bay progressively from 2017.

Plans are also under way to raise the adoption of solar power, with the first solar leasing tender called in June.

"It is important that everyone gets involved," Mr Masagos said.

"This is not just a government effort - a large part of it is how members of the public buy in to a Singapore they are very proud of. If you don't do anything, a city like Singapore will become brown and grey."

The only blemish on the record was recycling rates, which dipped by one percentage point between 2013 and last year.

Non-domestic recycling went from 77 per cent in 2013 to 76 per cent last year. Domestic recycling fell from 20 per cent to 19 per cent. The respective targets are 81 per cent and 30 per cent by 2030.

Mr Masagos said that as Singapore progresses further, so should "our attitude, love and care for our environment".

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Bringing the haze into play

Omar Amir, The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Oct 15;

A climbing PSI is something most people would moan about under their N95 masks. That is, unless you are a fan of laser tag.

A Singapore company offering the game has implemented a hazelinked pricing system: the higher the three-hour PSI or Pollutant Standards Index on the National Environment Agency website, the higher a discount you get. The promotion is applicable only to walk-in customers and not prebooked guests.

For example, a PSI of 144 would mean 14.4 per cent off the bill. However, if the PSI drops below 100, signalling good to moderate air quality, normal prices return.

Tag Team Inc introduced the scheme three weeks ago to get people physically active without having to go out and battle the haze. The Escape The Haze promotion is available only at its new Downtown East branch. Opened in late September, the 10,000 sq ft facility is fully indoors. Its other branch, in East Coast Parkland, which also provides indoor archery, does not have air-conditioning.

Since the promotion started on Oct 10, the highest discount has been 24.4 per cent - on Oct 23, when the PSI peaked at 244 - says Tag Team director John Lim.

He adds that the company wanted to provide a "haze-proof and fully air-conditioned environment" for customers to exert themselves without worrying about health hazards.

"We also aim to give a twist on the current hot topic of the haze, showing some cheer in this time of gloom," adds Mr Lim, 32, pointing out that the school holidays next month and in December mean that families will be looking for things to do.

Laser tag uses infrared technology and is suitable for all ages. Playing individually or in teams, participants score points by "shooting" or "slicing" infrared-sensitive targets with an infrared-emitting device in the shape of a gun or sword. Tag Team Inc also provides a mobile service, setting up the game at your chosen venue.

Not everyone approves of the initiative, however.

One nightlife operator, who declined to be named, says it will not be doing promotions with haze-linked prices, deeming it a sensitive issue - people overseas who are closer to the haze hot spots have it much worse and the operator prefers not to turn the hazardous predicament into an opportunity for profit.

Similarly, a spokesman for Amped Singapore, which runs indoor trampoline parks here, says it will not be offering haze-pegged discounts.

"Our particular business is equal with or without the haze, so we have not thought about these discounts. Furthermore, this is a seasonal occurrence and is hard to predict," he adds.

However, Mr Lim believes that local businesses have to be bolder when faced with the haze.

Since the introduction of the haze-related promotion, he says, walk-in customers have increased by about 30 per cent, compared with the beginning of the hazy period last month. The branch now sees an average of more than 100 customers on weekends.

Mr Aditya Mirchandani Rodrigues, 20, a polytechnic student who used to play frisbee on weekends before the haze hit, has never played laser tag, but feels more inclined to try it now because of the promotion.

"It's an intuitive way of attracting customers and other companies should conduct their promotions in a similar way," he says. "The haze is the main reason I cannot play outdoors. This gives me a fun and fresh reason to get my exercise."

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Malaysia: As haze lifts, Terengganu braces for floods

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 31 Oct 15;

KUALA TERENGGANU: It has begun raining non-stop in the east coast of the peninsula, and every millimeter of rainfall recorded poses a danger to lives and to property here.

Nevertheless, the rain has brought welcome relief after months of choking and hazardous haze.

But the arrival of the monsoon thunderstorms offers a different safety perspective. Realising this, the Terengganu state government has established a coordinated plan with the various agencies to mitigate the annual monsoon flash -floods which are imminent.

Even the Army has been roped in along with the police, firemen, civil defence, Rela, paramedics and non-governmental organisations to ensure no effort is spared to safeguard the lives of the locals here.

Army chief Gen Tan Sri Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor said the monsoon floods was already in their text book of humanitarian relief effort under the military operations other than war (MOOTW).

“Out east coast camps in Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang are all up and ready for the (monsoon floods) mission.

“We are progressively upgrading existing camps not only to bolster security in the east coast but also to enhance humanitarian relief operations, as part of our duty to the country and its people,” he said.

Affandi said the Armed Forces was the lead agency in dispensing food supplies and other aid as it was well equipped and connected to handle the task.

The United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot, for example - is located at the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Subang, Selangor.

A senior UN spokesman said the depot was the fifth such hub in the UN’s World Food Programme’s global emergency response arsenal and was designed to provide storage, logistics support and services, and deliver humanitarian relief items within 48 hours of a crisis to the region.

He said the depot operated on a US$1 million annual budget, jointly supported by the UN, Malaysia and other countries like the United States, Japan, Australia and other Asean countries.

Meanwhile, Terengganu police chief Deputy Commissioner Datuk Rosli Ab Rahman said that they were prepared to mobilise 33 boats, ten four-wheel drive vehicles and eight three-tonne lorries at any one time.

"We have trained up to 500 men to respond to emergencies like floods and natural disasters during this period.

"All district police chiefs have been alerted to have manpower readily available, especially to handle rescue vehicles.

“Our men are undergoing intensive training to handle such crisis, including being trained for rescue missions, so that they complement other relevant agencies when the need arises," he said

Terengganu’s Civil Defence Department director Lt Col Che Adam Abdul Rahman said 3,000 personnel were on standby in each district and ready to be mobilized when called upon.

“While awaiting the floods, our personnel are constantly kept on their toes with regular training on saving lives of victims and carrying out other rescue drills.

“A majority are volunteers and it is a big challenge to all of us here,” he said.

Che Adam added the department had also offered village safety and welfare committees (J3K) and youth organisations training for survival skills.

Terengganu Civil Defence training chief, senior staff officer Mohd Nisu Husien said the J3K committees and youth organisations had been put through various drills and techniques during the practical and theoretical sessions.

“We want them to be knowledgeable in matters concerning confidence-building in water, survival, first-aid, cardio pulmonary resuscitation, saving victims, avoiding shocks from leaking electrical lines, using and handling capsized boats, and towing large objects.

“We teach them how to handle victims who are swept away by floods. If a rescuer himself cannot swim, we teach him how to handle a rope, pole, float or other object to reach out to the drifting victims,” he said.

Nisu added such emergency response programmes also groomed participants to become leaders during crisis situations.

“Someone has to take charge during a crisis to ensure the smooth rescue operations, while awaiting the authorities. Time is of the essence and crucial for survival,” said Nisu.

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Indonesia: More villagers forced to flee as displaced elephants invade

Hotli Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post 31 Oct 15;

Observers are urgently calling for a review of plantation activities that intrude on elephant habitats in Aceh after dozens of elephants again entered and occupied a residential area in the province, forcing villagers to flee.

“This is the fifth time this year that conflict has arisen between elephants and humans in this area. Since last year, it’s happening more and more frequently,” district head Muktar said on Friday after residents of Sejahtera hamlet, Bener Meriah regency, had to leave their homes after displaced elephants invaded.

According to Muktar, no such conflict had been known of before 2012.

“Most of the elephants come from Bireun regency, slowly making their way up to Bener Meriah and Central Aceh regencies,” he said.

In his opinion, he added, the elephants were migrating following the destruction of their habitats.

Genman Suhefti Hasibuan of the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA Aceh) admitted that his agency was struggling to control wild elephants in the province, since their habitats had been converted into plantations owned by local people as well as corporations.

“Land conversion and forest management should consider the existence of elephants. When such things aren’t well coordinated, it leads to human-animal conflict,” Genman said.

The latest incident in Sejahtera hamlet, he went on, could be resolved by deploying tame elephants, included in a team called the Conservation Response Unit (CRU) under the agency, to disperse the wild beasts back into the forest.

“However, it will be merely a short-term answer to an emergency situation. For long-term results, we need to overhaul forest management,” he stressed.

Separately, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia urged the Aceh administration to review the expansion of palm oil plantations in areas inhabited by elephants.

“The expansion of palm oil plantations has been shown to trigger conflict between humans and elephants, as elephants’ migratory range is not taken into account,” said WWF Indonesia Aceh project leader Dede Suhendra.

According to Dede, on top of plantation expansion, the development of roads crossing forests and transmigration areas also exacerbates the situation, as the roads constrict elephants’ migratory range.

“The administration should review all economic activity in elephant habitats to avoid the spread of conflict between residents and the animals,” he said.

The population of Sumatran elephants has fallen in the last four years, and the International Union of Conservation on Nature has raised the threat status of the species from “emergency” to “critical’, one step below “extinction”.

Based on WWF Indonesia data, India has around 8,000 individual wild elephants, followed by Malaysia (3,885), Myanmar (2,619), Indonesia (2,000), Thailand (1,000), Laos (700), Cambodia (425), China (285) and Vietnam with only around 97 individual animals.

The conservation organization reported that 28 elephants died in Aceh last year, with some of them the victims of poaching.

Others were reportedly electrocuted by electric fences surrounding plantations in Aceh Jaya, Pidie and Southeast Aceh.

Two weeks ago, two elephants were found dead in Aceh Jaya regency; they were believed to have been poisoned. The two females, 2 and 15 years of age, were estimated to have died two or three days before they were found.

There were no indications of violence or gunshot wounds on the carcasses.

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Thailand: Wild elephant kills two in rubber plantation rampage

AFP AsiaOne 30 Oct 15;

BANGKOK - A wild elephant killed two Thai men in separate pre-dawn attacks on Friday as they worked at a rubber plantation in eastern Thailand, police said.

The two rubber tappers, both in their forties and working some three kilometres (two miles) apart, were killed at the plantation in Kang Hang Maew district of Chanthaburi province.

"We believe that the same elephant killed both victims based on its path," Lieutenant Sawai Chinwong from the local police station told AFP.

A third rubber tapper, a woman, suffered two broken legs after she was also attacked by an elephant at the same site as of one of the fatalities.

According to Sawai, the elephant trampled on the men, using its trunk to fling them to the ground as well as goring them with its tusks.

Thailand -- where the pachyderm is a national symbol -- has an estimated 2,500 wild elephants, outnumbered by its roughly 4,000 domesticated ones.

Earlier this month a video went viral on social media of a biker being charged by a herd of wild elephants in Khao Yai national park, around 200 kilometres from Bangkok.

The man, who escaped unharmed, is shown pressing his palms together in a prayer-like gesture towards the animals.

Elephant-related deaths are not unheard of in Thailand.

In August an elephant killed his "mahout" keeper in the country's north before running off into the jungle with three terrified Chinese tourists still on his back. The tourists survived the incident.

And in June an elephant killed a Thai man and injured another as they were eating dinner at a beachside restaurant. The pair had been talking to the animal's mahout when it suddenly flipped.

- See more at:

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UN: Climate plans must go further to prevent dangerous warming

Matt McGrath BBC News 30 Oct 15;

The UN has released its assessment of national plans to limit climate change, submitted by 146 countries.

Officials say the submissions, in their current form, won't keep global temperatures from rising by more than the 2C danger threshold.

The global total of carbon emissions will continue to grow, although more slowly than over the past two decades.

However the UN report says the plans are a major step forward and the 2C goal is still "within reach".

The UN believes that these national climate plans, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) will form the cornerstone of a binding, global treaty on climate change that will be agreed at a conference in Paris in December.

Even much smaller countries like Ethiopia, Bhutan and Costa Rica are identifying absolute limits on the quantity of emissions. I think that signals a real evolution
Taryn Fransen, World Resources Institute

According to the UN, the submissions now cover around 86% of global emissions: about four times the amount covered by the Kyoto Protocol, the world's first carbon cutting treaty.

Their assessment is decidedly upbeat about the plans, despite acknowledging that taken together they point to rises in global temperatures of 2.7C above the pre-industrial level.

Scientists have determined that if temperature rises exceed 2C, this will lead to significant and dangerous climate impacts, which will especially hit the world's poor.

UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres, said the plans were an excellent first step: "The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7C by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs."

Observers say the 2.7C figure is a substantial improvement on 3.1C, which was the estimate when the plans were assessed last December.

A key finding of the UN reports is that the INDCs will bring down per capita emissions by 9% by 2030.

But while the rate of growth in CO2 may be declining, the overall amount of carbon in the atmosphere will continue to grow significantly over the next 15 years.

Compared to 2010 levels, the UN says that overall emissions could be up to 22% higher in 2030. The assessment says that, as they stand, the plans won't achieve the goal of peaking global emissions and then reducing them rapidly.

Another concern is that 25% of the total range of emissions reductions are conditional upon financial support from richer countries.

Despite these issues, the fact that so many countries, rich and poor, have submitted plans to cut carbon is giving environmental campaigners great hope that a new deal is imminent.

"The vast majority of the INDCs this time around, 105 of them, contain concrete greenhouse gas mitigation targets. That's in contrast to 27 for Copenhagen," said Taryn Fransen from the World Resources Institute, referring to the failed conference in the Danish capital in 2009.

"You have quite a few more countries that are now specifying absolute decreases in emissions levels. You have countries like China, South Africa and Singapore talking about peaking emissions through a hard cap.

"Even much smaller countries like Ethiopia, Bhutan and Costa Rica are identifying absolute limits on the quantity of emissions. I think that signals a real evolution."

The challenge for the UN is now to take these intentions and turn them into a coherent and legally binding deal when heads of government and negotiators meet in Paris in a month.

Analysis: David Shukman - BBC Science Editor

World's climate pledges not yet enough to avoid dangerous warming – UN
Analysis of plans put forward by nearly 150 countries suggests temperatures will reach just under 3C by the end of the century rather than 2C target
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 30 Oct 15;

Pledges by most of the world’s countries on climate change are likely to lead to less than 3C of global warming over the century, analysis of the data by the United Nations suggests.

The UN praised governments for coming forward with plans to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, to kick in from 2020 when current commitments expire.

The plans from 146 countries that cover nearly 90% of global emissions, known as INDCs or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions in the UN jargon, will form the centrepiece of the make-or-break Paris conference on climate change this December.

However, while the plans represent a significant advance on current trends, which would result in as much as 5C of warming if left unchecked, they are not enough in themselves to limit global warming to the 2C threshold that countries are preparing to agree on. This is widely regarded scientifically as the limit of safety, beyond which many of the effects of climate change - floods, droughts, heatwaves, sea level rises and more intense storms - are likely to become much more dangerous.

Christiana Figueres, executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: “These national climate action plans represent a clear and determined down-payment on a new era of climate ambition from the global community of nations. Governments from all corners of the earth have signalled through their INDCs that they are determined to play their part according to their national circumstances and capabilities.”

She added: “The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7C by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs.”

The French hosts of the conference, and the UN, are hoping that a regular review mechanism will also be agreed in Paris, by which the INDC pledges could be ratcheted up in further steps, probably every five years.

Publication of the UN’s assessment of the INDCs means another hurdle has been cleared on the road to an agreement in Paris, as checking the ambition and fairness of the plans was always intended to be a key step before a deal could be signed.

Other milestones have already been reached: a draft text is in preparation, much slimmed down from previous unwieldy versions, and evidence has been produced that current pledges from rich countries to provide financial assistance to the developing world will reach required levels by 2020.

However, there is still no guarantee of a deal in Paris and there was disquiet in some quarters over the UN analsysis. Campaigners called for more effort on the part of the world’s big emitters to bring down carbon further and faster.

Tim Gore, head of food and climate policy at Oxfam, said: “We welcome the fact that so many countries have made public pledges to cut their emissions – some by significant amounts, others less so. The UN’s verdict reveals that, while the world is making progress, much more needs to be done. While this round of pledges is a step in the right direction, they only take us from a 4 C catastrophe to a 3 C disaster .”

Stephen Cornelius, chief adviser on climate change at WWF-UK, said: “The more that we do now, the easier and cheaper it will be. The Paris climate deal must include ways to encourage countries to take on tougher emissions targets. These targets must be fair and fit the scientific evidence in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

Another key group expressing concern were the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) who play a major role in the UN talks, one of the few forums where their voices carry as much weight as those of the richest countries.

Some of the world’s poorest countries are unhappy with the 2C target, because they are likely to be most damaged by climate change - not least the small islands of the world, many of which may be swamped by sea level rises at 2C but have a chance of survival if emissions are cut further and warming limited to 1.5C by 2100.

Giza Gaspar-Martins, the Angolan diplomat who chairs the LDCs group, said: “Today’s analysis shows the urgent need to address the lack of ambition within the INDCs. Current plans will only slow emissions by a third, which is clearly not enough to keep us within safe limits. Governments must do more in Paris, but the work does not end there. For the INDCs to succeed they must be adjusted before 2020 and reviewed in five year cycles from 2020 to ensure national actions quickly and rapidly progresses, or we all face a grim and uncertain future.”

He added: “The current plans to mitigate emissions do not keep us even within a temperature rise of 2C. However from the LDCs’ perspective, it is far worse than that. For 48 of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, economic development, regional food security and ecosystems are at risk in this 2C ‘safe zone’. So we once again call on the world to grow its ambition for a 1.5C target.”

Arguments over whether to opt for a 2C target or toughen it to 1.5C were one of the factors that derailed the Copenhagen talks in 2009, when developed and developing countries jointly agreed for the first time to limit their emissions, to a 2020 deadline, but failed to sign a full treaty.

Another factor that could push forward the potential emissions reductions from the Paris talks is a new emphasis on sources of warming that have been largely sidelined in the carbon-focused UN arena.

Chief among these are hydrofluorocarbons - major contributors to warming and thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide. But HFCs are often neglected, because they are often substitutes for other, ozone-depleting gases which were phased out with great success in the Montreal protocol, the 1987 treaty aimed at restoring the earth’s protective ozone layer. At that time, before UN climate change negotiations had begun, the effect these substitutes would have on global warming was not appreciated.

At a meeting in Dubai in Friday, parties to the Montreal protocol agreed to launch new negotiations on phasing out some of these potentially harmful alternatives. Supporters of the move said this could bring down greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 100bn tonnes of carbon dioxide, or about half a degree of future warming.

“By beginning the amendment to phase down HFCs, parties to the Montreal Protocol have agreed to move forward on the biggest, piece of climate mitigation in the near term,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. “As the Paris climate negotiations at the end of the year will not be enough to avoid the 2C warming limit, a HFC phasedown is an important down payment prior to Paris.”

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