Best of our wild blogs: 4 Nov 15

flagged redshanks II @ SBWR - 01Nov2015

Nature Society (Singapore) hosting the 6th Asian Bird Fair
Singapore Bird Group

Indonesia breathes easier for now as haze recedes and rain falls
Mongabay Environmental News

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Indonesia: Students back to school as rains clear the air

Rizal Harahap and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 3 Nov 15;

After weeks of forced school closures, students in many parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan returned to school this week, thanks to rains that have helped clear haze and end severe air pollution in their respective areas.

In Indragiri Hulu regency, Riau, the local education agency reopened schools on Monday after shutting them down for almost two months on account of thick haze produced by forest and peatland fires that enveloped the area.

“There has been no haze for the past few days. The weather is improving. We can see the sun again from morning to the afternoon,” the education agency’s secretary, Winaldi, said on Monday.

To help students catch up missing schoolwork, Winaldi said that all schools in the regency must effectively use the remaining school days before the semester exam, which has been scheduled for mid-December.

“They can do so by providing additional school hours or additional courses held after school,” he said.

In Pekanbaru, schools resumed activities on Wednesday as heavy rains fell over the provincial capital.

FA Jabbar, a student at SMP 8 Pekanbaru state junior high school, said he was glad to return to school.

“I get to see my friends again at school. We weren’t able to see each other because of the haze,” he said.

Apart from Riau, the country’s largest oil-producing region, West Sumatra, Jambi, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan were among the provinces hardest hit by the air pollution originating from fires in peatland and plantations over the past few months.

The ongoing disaster has also been exacerbated by this year’s long dry season triggered by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

The same excitement was also expressed by teachers and students in Padang, West Sumatra, as they went back to school on Monday after a week of closures.

“We have subjects to catch up,” said Eldawati, an English teacher at SMP 24 Padang state junior high school.

Alberth Nahas, a researcher with the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) station in Bukit Kototabang, Agam regency, said that it was possible for haze to return but at the same time the chance of rain over the West Sumatra region was high enough to reduce the impacts of haze.

In Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, Antara news agency reported that local students had also returned last week after five weeks off.

In Papua, heavy downpours helped reduce the number of hot spots in the southern part of the province from 164 last month to only four on Monday.

Meanwhile, in East Kalimantan, some 1,200 hectares of forest within the Wain River Protected Forest (HLSW), located to the north of Balikpapan, have reportedly been razed by fires in the area over the last week.

Balikpapan Environmental Agency head Suryanto said the fires had also razed two hectares of untouched primary forest in the area, forcing hundreds of wild animals to flee the forest.

“We also found many of them dead,” HLSW’s ecotourism and environmental education coordinator, Agusdin, said.

Among the affected protected animals included a mouse-deer, deer, hedgehog, pangolin and enggang birds.

In Boyolali, Central Java, the forest on the slopes of Mount Merapi caught fire on Sunday night, forcing officers from the Boyolali Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) to evacuate hundreds of climbers from the volcano.

“We have finished evacuations. The peak of Mt. Merapi is clear of climbers now. We are now focusing on extinguishing the fire,” Boyolali BPBD’s emergency section head, Kurniawan Fajar Prasetyo, said on Monday.

Nethy Dharma Somba in Jayapura, N. Adri in Balikpapan and Ganug Nugroho Adi in Boyolali contributed to this story.

Hotspots in Sumatra Rapidly Spike After Rainfall
Tempo 3 Nov 15;

TEMPO.CO, Padang-Rainfall occurring in most regions in Sumatra for the past few days were not sufficient to reduce forest fire in the area. The number of hotspots previously reduced were up again this morning.

According to Global Atmosphere Monitor Station (GAW) of Bukit Kototabang to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) on Tuesday, November 3, 200-hotspots have occurred, where it only had 7-hotspots a day before.

The most hotspots occurred in South Sumatra with 165-hotspots, followed by Bangka Belitung Island with 16-hotspots. “This is based on today’s hotpots and haze recorded at 6am,” Observation and Information Station GAW BMKG staff Albert Nahas.

Seven hotspots have also occurred in Jambi and 12 in Lampung. Luckily, the increase number of hotspots were followed by an increase in rain in Sumatra, particularly in the northern and central region thus causing to reduce haze.

In West Sumatra, said Albert, hotspots are still seen in the southern area, including South Solok and Dharmasraya, that are predicted to still be affected by haze, although not as significant as the previous week,” said Albert.


President of PT Dyera named suspect in Jambi forest fire
Antara 2 Nov 15;

Jambi (ANTARA News) - Police have named the president director of PT Dyera Hutan Lestari, with concessions in Muaro Jambi and Tanjung Jabung Timur, a suspect in forest fire case in Jambi.

Jambi police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr Kuswahyudi Tresnadi said here on Monday the president director of PT Dyera Hutan Lestari (DHL) was named a suspect on Friday last week.

Altogether, police have named four suspects among leaders of plantations companies responsible for the forest fire disaster in Jambi,Kuswahyudi Tresnadi.

The other three are Darmawan Satya Eka Pulungan, an operating manager of PT Argo Tumbuh Gemilang Abadi (ATGA) with land concession in the regency of Muaro Jambi, Munadi, the operating manager of PT RKK Muarojambi and S Purba the operating manager of PT TAL in the regency of Tebo.

Their dossiers have been handed over to the prosecution office, Kuswahyudi Tresnadi.

Police are waiting if the dossiers are not yet complete or if anything still needs to be completed.

Meanwhile, the Jambi high prosecution office said a number of forest fire cases have been reported to attorney general office in Jakarta.

The Jambi high prosecution office has received order to start investigation of two of the suspects among the company leaders.

Prosecutor F Amri from the Jambi high prosecution office said the dossier on Munadi had been sent back to police as it needs more data to back up the charges.

The dossier on Darmawan Eka Satya Pulungan is still in the process of investigation by the high prosecution office.

Indonesia can learn from Finland`s peatland handling experience
Antara 3 Nov 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia could learn from Finlands experience in handling peatlands as they cover about one-third of Finlands territory.

"Peatlands cover about one-third of Finlands territory. We should manage the peatland areas properly," Secretary of State Pratikno stated here on Tuesday.

Pratikno noted that Finland and Canada have managed to utilize the peatland areas as a source of renewable energy.

"We must improve the management of peatlands," he emphasized.

"The peatland areas are not just an Indonesian problem. Other countries too faced similar problems, and they managed to deal with them. We too have to succeed," he affirmed.

In response to an image depicting Jokowi with the indigenous tribe, Pratikno claimed that the Ministry of Social Affairs knew more about the meeting.

"Jambis indigenous tribe Suku Anak Dalam has several groups. Some of them live in houses, while others lead a nomadic life," he remarked.

Pratikno emphasized that the meeting was intended to address the aspirations of the indigenous people and remote tribes in Indonesia.

Earlier, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi and her Finnish counterpart Timo Soini had held a bilateral meeting on Monday, during which both sides agreed to explore cooperation in the field of renewable energy.

"Indonesia and Finland agreed to explore cooperation in the fields of renewable energy and information technology. In terms of renewable energy, we will utilize the peatland areas," Marsudi stated here on Monday.

According to Marsudi, peatlands cover about one-third of Finlands territory. The peatlands are utilized by the state as a source of renewable energy through the use of technology.

"The country has utilized peatlands as a source of renewable energy through the use of technology. About five to seven percent of energy is sourced from peatlands," she pointed out.

Therefore, Indonesia is keen to explore cooperation in the field of renewable energy in order to benefit from Finlands technology.

"Indonesia has numerous peatlands in several provinces," she remarked.

Therefore, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Sudirman Said will hold a meeting with Soini on Tuesday (November 3).

Meanwhile, Soini expressed concern over the land and forest fires in several provinces across Sumatra and Kalimantan islands.

"I would like to express deep sorrow over the haze crisis in Indonesia," Soini affirmed.

During the bilateral meeting, the two ministers also discussed several bilateral issues, especially cooperation in the fields of renewable energy and information technology.

"During the visit, the foreign minister of Finland is accompanied by 11 companies representing the sectors of clean and efficient energy, infrastructure, and port management, as well as information and communication technology," Soini stated.(*)

Air pollution in Indonesia falls to its lowest levels
Francis Chan, Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Nov 15;

Air pollution levels in Kalimantan and Sumatra fell to their lowest yesterday, prompting many to wonder if this year's transboundary haze crisis has finally come to an end.

For the first time in three months, Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings from Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency showed none of the 10 cities it monitors for pollutants hit "unhealthy" levels.

Consecutive days of rain, which started a week ago today, have managed to put out most of the fires raging over forest and peatland since August this year.

At 8am local time yesterday, the PSI in the South Sumatra capital of Palembang peaked at 237, which is considered "unhealthy", but fell quickly to 129 later in the afternoon.

Other cities on Sumatra island such as Medan, Pekanbaru and Jambi, fared even better. Most did not see the PSI rise past 150 - the "moderate" zone - for most of the day.

It was the same in Kalimantan, which together with Sumatra were the two worst-hit regions in the haze crisis this year.

The PSI in the Central Kalimantan capital Palangkaraya was just four at 3pm yesterday - almost unimaginable for a city which on Oct 24 made the news for recording four- digit PSI levels of up to 2,400.

The authorities have attributed the significant improvements to the sporadic but heavy downpours that started early last week. To take advantage of the increased cloud cover over the two islands, the government has ramped up cloud-seeding operations to create artificial rain in a bid to put out the lingering fires.

Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of data and information at Indonesia's national disaster management agency, said there were only 402 hot spots spread over Kalimantan and Sumatra as of last Saturday, down from 2,218 the week before.

The significant improvements yesterday also prompted the Riau Environment Agency to cancel the province's haze emergency status that it had just extended on Sunday.

The central government, however, remained hesitant to call this the end of the crisis, as Indonesia is still within a dry season cycle which poses a risk of hot spots re-emerging when the rain stops.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry's director of forest fire control, Mr Raffles Panjaitan, said the weather is in a transitionary period.

"We could have roughly five days of wet weather and five days of dry weather back and forth until we have a long period of wet weather," he told The Straits Times.

"So we should not be complacent until we are in the later part of November (when the rainy season starts). Even then, we may still see a dry spell ahead, but hopefully not."

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, agrees, saying: "Maintain a tight patrol. They may burn again when a dry spell comes back in the coming days."

Meanwhile, police in Jambi province have identified five men and four plantation firms suspected of involvement in illegal forest fires, reported Tempo news yesterday.

The four firms are PT Ricky Kurniawan Kartapersada, PT Agro Tumbuh Gemilang Abadi, PT Sari Aditya Loka and PT Dyera Hutan Lestari.

This year's haze crisis, which affected millions across South-east Asia, has been statistically proven to be the worst to date. So far, 19 have died from haze-related illnesses, with over 500,000 Indonesians treated for severe lung infections.

More than 2 million ha of forests and peatland have been destroyed by the fires, believed to have been started by errant plantation firms using the outlawed slash-and-burn method to clear land for cultivation.

The authorities have started investigating several individuals and firms in connection with the crime. But some have not been named.

Singapore is hoping Indonesia will share information on the errant companies so that it too can act against the firms under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act.

Several members of the Indonesian Cabinet, however, have explained that it will not do so until the cases against the companies have been taken to court.

Read more!

Businesses Take Heat From Haze in Indonesia

The economic cost of the fires will likely run into billions of dollars
BEN OTTO Wall Street Journal 3 Nov 15;

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Producers of palm oil, rubber and paper are bracing for a financial hit from months of fires and choking haze smothering Indonesia.

The biggest outbreak of fires since 1997 has devastated 3 million hectares of land and polluted the air, damaging agricultural regions that supply companies from palm-oil producer Cargill Inc. to paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper Co.

Indonesia’s monthslong forest fires have destroyed agricultural lands in the country and spread a hazardous smoke over the Asia-Pacific region. WSJ’s Ben Otto reports on the haze’s widespread impact.

The fires, an annual hazard, are often set illegally by farmers on Sumatra and Borneo islands to clear land. The haze—extending across Malaysia and Singapore and as far as the Philippines and Vietnam—can lower crop yields and complicate logistics for companies, besides damaging the health of workers and residents.

This year the fires are worse than usual, exacerbated by the El Niño weather effect that has extended the country’s dry season. The economic cost of the fires will likely run into billions of dollars, according to the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research.

Cargill said oil palms on its plantations are already showing signs of damage from poor sunlight and drought that presage smaller crops yields in one-to-two years.

“Historically, El Niño events have an impact of anywhere between 4% to 20%” on crop yields, said John Hartmann, chief executive of Cargill Tropical Palm Holdings Pte. Ltd.

Indonesia’s rubber association told Antara state-news agency on Sunday that the haze would cut output by up to 300,000 metric tons from September through February, a decline of more than 20%.

Trees for pulp and paper, one of the main industries in Southeast Asia’s most populous country, are less sensitive to drought conditions, but companies expect to be hit by the fires.

Aida Greenbury of Asia Pulp & Paper, one of the world’s biggest paper companies, said she expects its pulp production to be hurt by a shortage of pulpwood supply.

Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd., Indonesia’s second-largest paper company, has redeployed 750 employees to tackle the fires and support communities in the area, likely lowering productivity, according to a company spokesman.

In Papua province, fire and smoke set off alarms at BP’s Tangguh liquefied-natural-gas facility, leading to a temporary stoppage that lost production of about 15,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, said Indonesia’s upstream oil-and-gas regulator SKK Migas.

BP country head Dharmawan Samsu confirmed work had stopped for three days to replace air filters, but said its LNG shipping schedule wasn’t affected.

Rain in Sumatra and Borneo in recent days has brought temporary relief, but the national weather agency has forecast the dry season will last until December.

—Deden Sudrajat and I Made Sentana contributed to this article.

Blame Western companies for Southeast Asia’s toxic haze
Global demand for palm oil has led to massive fires in Indonesia and air pollution throughout the region
Heidi Pilloud Aljazeera 3 Nov 15;

I arrived in Singapore two weeks ago, landing in a cloud of haze. For the last two months, my business school classmates in Southeast Asia’s leading financial center have not seen the blue sky and have been warned not to spend time outside, as the haze can get so heavy that breathing becomes dangerous. When they do go outside, they wear masks. The same haze hangs over Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and an ever-growing swath of the region — and it has been happening annually. This year, it has reached record levels of pollution because of El Niño and the resulting delay in the rainy season.

This crisis has received too little attention in the Western media. How could something that has been affecting the health and well-being of such a large portion of the world’s population every year not have made international news until just this week? Especially given that this is an environmental catastrophe to which Western companies have contributed?

Palm oil lies at the root of the problem. Palm oil is in so many products we consume and use that it is nearly unavoidable. Western companies such as Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and Unilever are part of a supply chain of producers growing, harvesting and processing palm oil into toiletries, food products and fuel used daily in the United States and other countries. This palm oil comes primarily from Indonesia, where over half the world’s oil palm fruit is grown.

Plantations in Indonesia use controversial slash-and-burn techniques to clear land to grow palm for oil. The forest being cleared, however, is not typical forestland with underbrush. Plantations are setting fire to Indonesian peatlands, creating fires that grow out of control and release so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that on some days, Indonesia exceeds the U.S. in its output of greenhouse gases.

Senior officials in Jakarta have reacted to the haze with surprising indifference. In response to complaints from Singapore, Indonesia’s vice president has been quoted as saying, “For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us.” Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has initiated investigations into companies responsible for the slash-and-burn practices, suspending four Indonesian companies, but remains tight lipped about the identities of the other companies being investigated. President Joko Widodo cut short his visit to the U.S. last week to deal with the increasingly disastrous effects of the haze. But for the most part, Indonesia has ceded power to companies to do as they please in the peatlands.

This unprecedented release of carbon dioxide isn’t just dangerously contributing to climate change. The toxic gases released as the peatlands burn cause immediate and long-term health problems for those living under the haze, including permanent scarring of lung tissue, conjunctivitis, bronchitis, asthma and cardiovascular disease, not to mention stunted lung development in children. The immediate effects of the haze have caused 19 deaths in Indonesia as of the end of October. The Indonesian government has had to arrange for military ships to evacuate children from villages in some of the worst-affected areas because of the major health hazard.

Read more!

‘Brutally-frank’ Vivian says haze a deliberate, man-made tragedy, crime

FRANCIS MICAH LAW Today Online 4 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — He may be the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister, but Dr Vivian Balakrishnan put aside diplomatic niceties when talking about how the transboundary haze had blighted the region during a forum today (Nov 3).

“I know foreign ministers are supposed to be nice, smiley, diplomatic people. But since I used to be the Environment Minister, I can be frank. Brutally frank,” he said during his plenary address at the 4th Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development held at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Without mincing his words, Dr Balakrishnan described the transboundary haze, caused by forest fires in Indonesia, as “a deliberate, man-made tragedy” and “a crime”.

“It would be bad enough if this was a natural disaster. We would all shake our heads, huddle together, reach out, help one another.

“But this is not a natural disaster. This is ... vandalism against society, against the environment, and ultimately, against ourselves,” he said.

“It has impaired the health of millions of people, compromised the safety of aircraft, and damaged our regional economy.”

Dr Balakrishnan also hit out at the “handful of big companies” that are “profiting from this entire exercise at the expense of the environment and of the rest of society”. “This is a classic example of privatising the gain and socialising the pain,” he added.

Saying that a “multi-faceted solution” is needed to solve the perennial haze problem, the Foreign Minister called on neighbouring countries to “intensify regional and international cooperation in order to apply effective legal and commercial pressure on these few errant companies so that they will stop their unsustainable and irresponsible land and forest clearing”.

Two Indonesian ministers, including Forestry and Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, said last week the government will not disclose the names of companies identified as suspects in forest and land fires.

Dr Balakrishnan noted that the Singapore Environment Council and Consumers Association of Singapore had been stepping up their efforts to get leading retailers to declare their products and supply chains are from sustainable sources. This had caused retailers to withdraw some products from their shelves.

“These may be symbolic, it may not cost the companies a lot of money at this point in time, but I think it sends a very clear signal that enough is enough, and that people are going to vote with their wallets and their feet,” Dr Balakrishnan said.

The minister will be representing Singapore at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will be held in Paris from Nov 30 to Dec 11, where over 190 countries will be working towards a universal agreement on climate change.

Transboundary haze 'a man-made tragedy and crime': Vivian Balakrishnan
Citing growing consumer awareness on sustainable business practices and companies' supply chains, Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs says firms should be more transparent in their dealings and policies.
Patrick John Lim, Channel NewsAsia 3 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: The ongoing transboundary haze is "a man-made tragedy and a crime", said Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

Speaking at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development on Tuesday (Nov 3), Dr Balakrishnan reiterated the need for "effective legal and commercial pressure" on the handful of companies responsible for the haze.

He said more pressure must be put on firms responsible for the pollution. He added: “It would be bad enough if this was a natural disaster. We would all shake our heads, huddle together, reach out and help one another.

“But this is not a natural disaster. This is a deliberate man-made tragedy, vandalism against society, the environment and ultimately against ourselves. It has impaired the health of millions of people, compromised the safety of aircraft and damaged our regional economy."

Citing growing consumer awareness on sustainable business practices and companies' supply chains, he said firms should be more transparent in their dealings and policies.

"We also need to intensify regional and international cooperation in order to apply effective legal and commercial pressure on these few errant companies, so that they will stop their unsustainable and irresponsible forest clearing," said Dr Balakrishnan.

In 2014, Singapore passed a bill that would let the Government impose fines on companies that cause or contribute to transboundary haze pollution. Dr Balakrishnan was Minister for the Environment and Water Resources at that time.

Meanwhile, the fight against the haze continued on Tuesday, with the Singapore Hotels Association (SHA) saying it will get members to obtain their paper and pulp materials from sustainable sources.

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) and Consumer Association of Singapore said the move to encourage industry partners to commit to green procurement will send a strong signal to firms that contribute to the haze.

SEC's executive director, Edwin Seah, said: "It’s significant because the SHA is one of the key business associations. So for them to come out on their own accord that they want to be part of this, it's very helpful and helps continue the momentum that was started in the early part of October."

Singapore supermarket chains such as NTUC FairPrice and Sheng Siong last month removed products from firms linked to the forest fires.

Satya Tripathi, director and executive head of the UN Office for REDD+ and Coordination in Indonesia, said: "People are not just an element of the conversation but the most significant part of the conversation.

“So, people need to demand these things and I think it’s very appropriate that if some products went off the shelves in Singapore at the demand of the people. It’s actually people who decide these things. That puts pressure on all other actors for their behaviour, for their activities to be much more sustainable on the planet."

According to SEC, 126 companies - not including SHA members - have declared that they are getting their wood, paper and/or pulp materials from sustainable sources.

The Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development saw more than 500 business leaders, investors, NGOs and policymakers around the world discussing solutions for climate action and delivering on sustainable development goals.

- CNA/ek/xk

Haze is a crime, says Balakrishnan
Wong Siew Ying, My Paper AsiaOne 4 Nov 15;

THE haze problem has been described as a man-made tragedy, a crime and an act of vandalism in some of the strongest remarks yet by Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

The Singapore Government was reviewing its procurement practices to see how it can support companies that have instituted sustainable practices, he told a forum yesterday.

"This will take into account the practices not just of that particular company, but of your suppliers in your chain," Dr Balakrishnan said.

The Government expects firms to be transparent about supply chains, particularly those in the oil, palm oil and the forestry sectors, he added.

Other companies in the private sector are urged to likewise practise "sustainable procurement", he said.

Speaking at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development, he emphasised the need to intensify regional and international co-operation to exert "effective legal and commercial pressure" on a handful of companies involved in starting fires to clear land and forest in Indonesia.

Calling the haze "a crime", he said: "This is not a natural disaster. This is a deliberate, man-made tragedy, vandalism against society, against the environment, and ultimately, against ourselves." The forum was held at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.

The thick haze, carried by winds from Indonesia, blanketed Singapore, Malaysia and even southern Thailand in recent months, forcing school closures as air quality deteriorated to hazardous levels.

Dr Balakrishnan, a former Environment and Water Resources Minister, said the haze has also sparked growing demand for responsible and sustainable business practices.

In September, Singapore wielded the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, serving "preventive measure notices" on four Indonesian firms: PT Rimba Hutani Mas, PT Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, PT Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa and PT Wachyuni Mandira.

Investigations indicated the haze may have been contributed to by fires in lands held via concessions under the firms.

A notice was also served on Asia Pulp and Paper seeking information on its units in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.

Indonesia has also been investigating companies. In September, it took four plantation firms to task for alleged illegal land clearing, by suspending or revoking their licences.

Multi-faceted solution needed to tackle transboundary haze: Vivian Balakrishnan
Angela Tan Business Times 3 Nov 15;

A multi-faceted solution is needed to tackle transboundary haze, Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan, said.

Speaking at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development on Tuesday, he noted that countries are individually trying to tackle transboundary haze. Within Asean, there is also the Transboundary Haze Agreement, where members have taken a multilateral approach to attempting to put out the recent fires. There is also a growing demand for responsible and sustainable business practices.

"But we also need to intensify regional and international cooperation in order to apply effective legal and commercial pressure on these few errant companies so that they will stop their unsustainable and irresponsible land and forest clearing," Dr Balakrishnan said.

"Ultimately we also need to ensure that there is a price to be paid for damaging our health, damaging our environment and damaging the economy."

He said the transboundary haze that has afflicted South-east Asia is "a man-made tragedy and a crime".

"This is a deliberate, man-made tragedy. Vandalism against society, against the environment, and ultimately, against ourselves. It has impaired the health of millions of people, compromised the safety of aircraft, and damaged our regional economy," he said.

According to figures cited, more than two million hectares of forests - a lot of which was growing on peatland or millennia-worth of carbon captured in the ground - have been burnt this year. An estimated 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide has been released.

Dr Balakrishnan said all this is happening because of a handful of people, a handful of big companies, which are profiting at the expense of the environment and of the rest of society.

"This is a classic example of privatising the gain and socialising the pain," the minister said.

"So we need political will, we need the ability to investigate thoroughly, we need the willingness to enforce effectively, we need responsible business behaviour, we need ethical investors and we need vigilant consumers to pledge our common commitment towards a sustainable future...," he said.

Read more!

Singapore Hotel Association joins battle against haze

AsiaOne 3 Nov 15;

Joining in the anti-haze campaign, the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) has made a commitment to obtain supplies of paper and/or pulp materials from sustainable sources.

SHA will send letters and declaration forms to hotel members to encourage them to abide by the commitment.

Said a media statment by SHA: "The step taken by SHA to encourage its industry partners to commit to green procurement will send out a strong signal to errant companies to adopt environmentally-sustainable business models, and help resolve the recurring haze issue."

The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) and Singapore Environment Council (SEC) have applauded the move.

To-date, there are 114 companies which have stepped forward to declare that they are procuring their wood, paper and/or pulp materials from sustainable sources.

SEC and CASE are encouraging more companies to participate in the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme (SGLS) For more information on the SGLS, visit:

SHA encourages hotel industry partners to commit to sustainable sources
Nisha Ramchandani Business Times 2 Nov 15;
THE Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) is inviting its hotel members to commit to green procurement in the battle against the haze.

Letters and declaration forms will be sent out to hotels encouraging them to source paper and/or pulp materials from sustainable sources.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) welcome this move by SHA, they said in a joint release.

"The SHA is fully supportive of environmentally sustainable practices for the hotel industry simply because it is the right thing to do - for Mother Earth and for our business as well," said SHA president Albert Teo. "By advocating and practising responsible procurement, hotels not only contribute to a cleaner world but will also win the trust of our guests, employees and business partners."

To date, 114 companies across different industries have come forward to declare that they procure their wood, paper and/or pulp materials from sustainable sources.

Read more!

Malaysia: Two-day advance warning for East Coast floods with new system

THARANYA ARUMUGAM New Straits Times 3 Nov 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) is in the midst of upgrading the early flood warning system at three rivers in Pahang,Terengganu and Kelantan.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said this would see the information dissemination to police, fire department and the National Security Council in flood prone areas between six hours to two days in advance.

"The department is currently upgrading the flood detection and warning system at Sungai Pahang, Sungai Kelantan and Sungai Terengganu, in which information will be updated every 15 minutes as compared to one hour previously.

"Alerts will be issued to the relevant department automatically via text messages the moment the river water level reaches warning level (above two metres from the normal level).

"This will allow enough time for evacuation," he told reporters after launching the flood mitigation programme here today.

Wan Junaidi said previously, the relevant departments were only alerted of possible flooding between six hours and one day.

Meanwhile, an official from the DID said with the early flood detection and warning system that is expected to be fully implemented at the three rivers by the end of 2017, the department is mulling to disseminate information directly to the public via text message.

"The department is currently looking to address some of the challenges, among others, biling cost for the text messages and poor mobile coverage in the outskirts."

Meanwhile, Wan Junaidi said the Smart Tunnel has prevented 182 floods in Kuala Lumpur since 2007.

He added that the ministry is studying possibilities of having a similar tunnel in another part of Kuala Lumpur to prevent flooding in the city.

Close watch on three major rivers
RAHIMY RAHIM The Star 4 Nov 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Three major rivers are under close watch by the authorities, with a two-day flood advance warning system being put in place to alert the public.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said they had identified parts of Sg Kelantan, Sg Terengganu and Sg Pahang that were prone to flooding.

They were also upgrading the flood detection and warning system at the rivers, and the data would be updated every 15 minutes instead of every hour, he said.

“Our early warning system will alert the relevant agencies before sending an alert via text message to give the public time to evacuate to safer ground,” he said.

Dr Wan Junaidi was speaking at the launch of the Preparation for Monsoon Season programme at the Smart Control Centre of the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID), near Kampung Berem­bang, yesterday.

He said the preparation was important because some 460,000 victims were forced to relocate during last year’s floods in the east coast.

It was the worst floods in the nation’s history and the agriculture sector was severely affected.

Kelantan, Pahang, Terengganu, Perak, Sabah and Sarawak were the worst hit and more than 20 people died in the disaster.

In Kelantan, the floods caused an estimated RM200mil in damages while losses in the agricultural sector nationwide amounted to RM297.83mil.

“Although it may not be as bad as the previous year, we are on standby due to our terrible experience,” said Dr Wan Junaidi.

He said the intensity this year may not be as severe due to the El Nino and La Nina phenomena which lower the risk of massive floods.

He said the DID was inspecting its assets, drains, communications equipment and water pumps to ensure all were in good working order.

“We hope developers and stakeholders in the agriculture sector will give us their full cooperation during the inspections, we do not want any debris in the drainage systems,” he said.

Dr Wan Junaidi noted that the Government has allocated RM730mil under the 11th Malaysia Plan for flood mitigation and post-flood operations.

More than 450 rainfall and water data centres across the country are monitoring the flood situation 24 hours a day.

Some 440 warning sirens are being set up at flood-prone areas.

For details, go to or call the DID Careline, 1300 801 010.

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Malaysia: Northern states finally rabies-free

AZURA ABAS New Straits Times 3 Nov 15;

PUTRAJAYA: The Veterinary Department today declared that the rabies outbreak in the northern states has been officially quelled.

Its director-general Datuk Dr Kamarudin Md Isa said the last case was reported on Sept 21 and there have been no new cases reported since.

"For us to declare the outbreak as being resolved, we took into account the zoonotic disease incubation period of 14 days and factored in the date of the last cast reported.

"Since Sept 21 until today, there have been no new cases," he told reporters at his office.

Dr Kamarudin, however, said, it would take two years for Malaysia to be officially declared free of rabies.

Malaysia had to provide evidence that it was free from rabies in accordance with the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the World Organisation for Animal Health's standards, he said.

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Thailand: ASEAN steps up efforts to counter haze

Pratch Rujivanarom, The Nation AsiaOne 3 Nov 15;

ASEAN countries have agreed to draw up a plan to eliminate haze in the region by 2020.

A top official at the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry disclosed the results yesterday of a recent meeting in Hanoi that led to the 11th ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. ASEAN countries have agreed to work in both bilateral and multilateral forums to reduce the haze problem as much as possible over the next five years.

Permanent-secretary Kasemsant Jinnawaso said Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Kanchanarat had addressed the meeting on collaboration among ASEAN countries to tackle with the chronic haze problem by setting up a Haze-Free ASEAN Roadmap. Thailand will host a meeting on this next year.

"ASEAN countries representatives approved the decision to work on the roadmap, as it will be integrative plan to address the haze problem together," Kasemsant said.

He said member countries would be required to review their ability to control the burning and reduce haze. Annual meetings would be held to see what measures can be devised to solve the problem.

"I understand that making ASEAN a haze-free region by 2020 is quite challenging or unrealistic. However, we need collaboration from the top international framework to the local level in order to reduce the haze as much as possible," he said.

He said the meeting backed funding for restoration of peat swamp forests and conservation projects in Indonesia by using money from an ASEAN Haze Fund- because the burning of peat swamp forests to prepare land for palm oil plantations was the main cause of the haze crisis in that country.

In regard to preparations for the haze 'season' in northern Thailand, Pollution Control Department director Wijarn Simachaya revealed that the department has been working with local authorities to get a better understanding with farm communities so they refrain from burning fields in the upcoming dry season.

"The next dry season will be a harsh one because the strong 'El Nino' [weather phenomenon] still has effect on Thailand and it will result in more arid conditions than normal in the North. So, countries within the Mekong River region have agreed to work together on the haze prevention plan," Wijarn said.

Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar had sent officials to Thailand to observe Thailand's haze control mission, he said. And they had asked the Pollution Control Department to send mobile devices to measure air quality, so they can monitor the haze situation and address the problem based on the accurate information [on air pollution].

But, Kasemsant admitted that haze control in the North was a tough task because locals regard field burning in the dry season as the part of their agricultural lifestyle. So, it would be hard to change.

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Indonesia: Prolonged drought drains dams, halts electricity supplies

Ganug Nugroho Adi and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 3 Nov 15;

A prolonged dry season that began earlier this year has triggered an electricity crisis in several regions across Java and Sumatra, as some hydroelectric power plants (PLTA) have had to stop operating due to the lack of water supply available to move the turbines.

In Wonogiri, Central Java, the absence of rain over the past several months has severely decreased the water volume of Gajah Mungkur Dam, preventing the nearby PLTA from operating properly.

According to data from Perum Jasa Tirta I’s Bengawan Solo region, the dam’s operator, the water surface at Gajah Mungkur is currently resting at 127 meters above the sea level, far below the normal dry season height of 129.12 m above sea level.

“We only have 7.5 cubic meters [m3] per second [of water debit] at the moment. This is only sufficient for maintenance purposes,” the company’s water resource and service division head, Winarno Susiladi, said on Monday.

According to Winarno, Gajah Mungkur PLTA needs a water debit of 118 m3 to move each of its two
turbines. Thus, the PLTA needs at least 236 m3 of water debit to run full throttle.

Winarno also explained that four of the dam gates had been closed since October, because that water had mainly been channeled to a local tap water company.

During normal days the PLTA produces 12.4 megawatts (MW) of electricity to meet the power demand in the southern Wonogiri area.

To fulfill the power demand amid limited water supply, the Gajah Mungkur PLTA has connected to the electricity network in the neighboring Surakarta municipality.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has warned that the dry season this year would last longer than that of previous years due to the weather phenomenon known as El Niño.

The BMKG predicts that the El Niño effect will extend the dry season, which normally takes place between April and September, until November, and affect at least 18 out of the country’s 34 provinces.

In West Sumatra, local residents have also been complaining due to recurrent rolling blackouts over the last two months, also predominantly triggered by limited water volume in some of the province’s major lakes and dams. Last month, several PLTAs in the province reportedly experienced losses in power capacity of up to 200 MW due to the same reason.

In Solok regency, a regent candidate debate on Saturday was stopped for 45 minutes due to a sudden blackout, switching off the loud speakers and leaving the venue in darkness.

“We understand [state-owned power company] PLN’s difficulties and that is why we sent a letter asking them not to apply a blackout in the region during the debate program. But, the blackout was applied,” chairman of Solok General Elections Commission (KPUD), Elwiza, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Spokesperson of PLN’s West Sumatra region, Ridwan, said that the rolling blackout policy had to be implemented for several reasons, inclusive of the water crisis, machine damage in some power plants, and also ongoing maintenance.

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Indonesia: Last Sumatran Rhino in US Arrives in Indonesia

Jakarta Globe 3 Nov 15;

Jakarta. The last US-born Sumatran rhinoceros arrived in Indonesia on Monday at the Way Kambas National Park in Lampung, and will be quarantined at the park's conservation facility.

Eight-year-old Harapan weighs over 816 kilograms and is one of three Sumatran rhinos born at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Harapan arrived at the 1,300-square kilometers national park in Lampung after a 60-hour journey traveling by plane, ferry and truck from Ohio, which he left on Friday.

Nevertheless, he arrived in a healthy condition, Sukatmoko a spokesman for the national park, was quoted as saying by newspaper Kompas on Monday.

Harapan will be placed at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, a 100-hectare breeding center, where his older brother Andalas, the Cincinnati zoo's firstborn Sumatran rhino, lived after relocating to Indonesia in 2007, Sukatmoko said.

Once Harapan has adapted to his new habitat, he will have a chance to mate with one of three female Sumatran rhinos at the park.

In 2012, Andalas fathered a male calf called Andatu and will have more offspring in May.

While Javan rhinos are considered the world's rarest rhinos, the two-horned Sumatran rhinos are also under increasing threat of extinction.

In Indonesia, fewer than 100 of the critically endangered Sumatran rhinos remain.

Cincinnati Zoo rhino arrives safely in Sumatra

Harapan, who was born at the Cincinnati Zoo, was the last Sumatran rhino living outside of Indonesia. He made a 50-plus hour trip to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary over the weekend. Provided

Cincinnati Zoo rhino arrives safely in Sumatra
Carrie Blackmore Smith 2 Nov 15;

He made it!

Eight-year-old Harapan was born at the Cincinnati Zoo and had become a beloved member of the zoo family.

It took 53 hours, but Harapan, the last Sumatran rhinoceros living outside of his species' homeland of Indonesia, is once again with others of his kind.

But his keepers decided it best to send Harry, as they called him, to Sumatra. There they hope he will breed and increase the number of these endangered animals. Scientists believe there are only about 100 left on the planet.

Harry departed Friday afternoon. The 1,800-pound animal had been trained over the last several months to spend countless hours inside a wooden crate.

He made stops in Columbus, Chicago and Anchorage, Alaska, then he was sent onto Hong Kong and the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

Harry was then trucked and ferried to his final destination at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary. He arrived there on Sunday.

Cincinnati Zoo keeper Paul Reinhart, veterinarian Jenny Nollman, and videographer Pat Story went along to keep an eye on Harapan and to document his trip.

Terri Roth, the zoo's director of the Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife, flew to Jakarta to travel the final leg with Harry.

Roth led the zoo's Sumatran rhino breeding program, which produced three calves, making it the most successful captive breeding program in history. They had hoped to continue the program, but the Indonesian government declined to send any females to Cincinnati. So the move was the best opportunity for Harry.

"We were all shocked at how well he rebounded the minute he was out," Roth said, referring to his crate. "We thought he would wobble a bit, but he came out looking his perky self and immediately started eating (the local food) that was waiting for him."

Harry will need to stay in quarantine for two weeks before he has access to the forested areas at the sanctuary. There, he will be reunited with his brother, Andalas, who was also born at the Cincinnati Zoo. Andalas has sired one calf with 12-year-old female, Ratu, who is now pregnant with a second calf, expected to be born in May.

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From Libya to El Nino, U.N. experts warn: there's worse to come

Tom Miles PlanetArk 4 Nov 15;

A group of U.N. experts tasked with forecasting the next disasters likely to require billions of dollars in humanitarian aid has warned of deepening crises in global hotspots from Burundi to Afghanistan over the next six months.

In an unusually frank assessment for a U.N. publication, the six-monthly "Alert, Early Warning and Readiness Report" said Libya could fall apart, Burundi could see another coup, Islamist militants would gain territory in Afghanistan and Mali, and Ethiopia would not have enough food to cope with its drought.

In Libya, the United Nations is trying to finalize a political agreement to unite two rival governments. The report said failing to do so would be likely to cause a split between Libya's internationally recognized government and the army, opening the way for a military takeover.

"In the absence of a legitimate government, Libya is likely to face a rapidly deteriorating civil war, losing any chance of achieving stability or a political solution in the foreseeable future," it said.

Elsewhere in Africa, Nigeria and its neighbors will struggle to stop more massacres by Boko Haram militants, while their armies will continue to commit abuses, it said.

"Apart from Boko Haram, the regional armies similarly perpetrate human rights violations against civilians, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, acts of torture and rape," the report said.

There is too little peacekeeping muscle to defend government territory in Mali and to ensure security in Central African Republic, where armies on both sides of the sectarian divide are trying to unseat President Catherine Samba-Panza, it said.

Humanitarian work around the globe will remain underfunded, constrained or under attack, including in Afghanistan, where a U.S. airstrike hit a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital last month.

"As the attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz highlights, the humanitarian access for aid workers is worsening," it said.

In a rare case of easing tensions, the report said the conflict in Ukraine would de-escalate or remain frozen, partly because Russia's military involvement in Syria would reduce its involvement in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have been battling Kiev's forces.

The political risks the report lists are likely to increase the number of people globally needing humanitarian aid by as much as 1.9 million, it said. But that is still far fewer than those likely to need help coping with natural disasters, especially the El Nino weather phenomenon, the report added.

El Nino is forecast to force 500,000 people in the Horn of Africa to seek international food aid, while a further 4.1 million are at risk in the South Pacific Islands as well as several million more in southern Africa.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

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The path to carbon pricing

Today Online 3 Nov 15;

In a few weeks, world leaders will meet in Paris to negotiate a new global climate-change agreement. To date, 150 countries have submitted plans detailing how they will move their economies along a more resilient low-carbon trajectory.

These plans represent the first generation of investments to be made in order to build a competitive future without the dangerous levels of carbon-dioxide emissions that are now driving global warming.

The transition to a cleaner future will require both government action and the right incentives for the private sector. At the centre should be a strong public policy that puts a price on carbon pollution.

Placing a higher price on carbon-based fuels, electricity, and industrial activities will create incentives for the use of cleaner fuels, save energy and promote a shift to greener investments.

Measures such as carbon taxes and fees, emissions-trading programmes and other pricing mechanisms, and the removal of inefficient subsidies can give businesses and households the certainty and predictability they need to make long-term investments in climate-smart development.

At the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the focus is on reforming its member countries’ fiscal systems in order to raise more revenue from taxes on carbon-intensive fuels and less revenue from other taxes that are detrimental to economic performance, such as taxes on labour and capital.

Pricing carbon can be about smarter, more efficient tax systems rather than higher taxes.

Carbon taxes should be applied comprehensively to emissions from fossil fuels.

The price must be high enough to achieve ambitious environmental goals, in alignment with national circumstances, and it must be stable in order to encourage businesses and households to invest in clean technologies.

Administering carbon taxes is straightforward and can build on existing road-fuel taxes, which are well established in most countries.

Carbon pricing will be in many countries’ best interests, owing to the many domestic environmental benefits.

For example, burning cleaner fuels helps to reduce outdoor air pollution, which, according to the World Health Organization, currently causes about 3.7 million premature deaths a year.

It is vitally important to address the impact of energy-price reforms on vulnerable groups in every society. So, these reforms will need to be accompanied by adjustments to fiscal systems and safety nets, among other things, to ensure that the poor are not harmed.


The World Bank Group is supporting countries and businesses as they develop climate-friendly public policies, invest in carbon markets, and explore financial innovations to ease into low-carbon transitions. The Group is leveraging its experience and global reach for learning and knowledge exchange through programmes such as Partnership for Market Readiness.

From that experience, we have developed, alongside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), initial principles to help guide and inspire future carbon-pricing schemes. By drawing on these principles, countries, regions, states, and businesses can move faster to tackle the climate challenge confronting us all. The principles are based on fairness; alignment of policies and objectives; stability and predictability; transparency; efficiency and cost-effectiveness; and reliability and environmental integrity.

We need to promote dialogue about the necessary policy measures before and beyond the climate-change conference in Paris. That is why we are announcing a Carbon Pricing Panel, which will bring together heads of state, city and state leaders, and representatives of top companies to urge countries and businesses around the world to put a price on carbon.

These leaders have taken steps to price carbon pollution and catalyse greener investment in their own countries and regions. They include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, French President Francois Hollande, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Governor Jerry Brown of California, and Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro.

Carbon-pricing policies are already being implemented by some 40 national governments, including that of China, the world’s largest emitter, and 23 cities, states and regions that are putting a price on carbon.

Many other governments also are reforming energy prices, and more than 400 companies report using a voluntary, internal carbon price. That makes sense. Top companies must effectively manage exposure to climate risk in order to generate higher profits and ensure more stable earnings.

All of these actions are welcome; but we view them as being only initial steps. Together with the leaders of the Carbon Pricing Panel, we call on governments to seize the moment — for the sake of the planet and future generations — to put a price on carbon pollution that reflects the environmental damage it causes. We stand ready to support governments that act. The longer we wait, the costlier and more difficult it will be for us — and our children and grandchildren — to protect the planet. PROJECT SYNDICATE


Jim Yong Kim is President of the World Bank Group. Christine Lagarde is Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

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