Best of our wild blogs: 6 Nov 15

Photos confirm Indonesia being burned for palm oil
Mongabay Environmental News

Singapore Bird Report – October 2015
Singapore Bird Group

Read more!

Indonesia: As haze clears, govt finally acts

Ina Parlina, The Jakarta Post 5 Nov 15;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo ordered on Wednesday all relevant government institutions to start working on preventive measures that could prevent the annual forest and peatland fires, with only eight months left before the next dry season starts.

Jokowi told a limited Cabinet meeting that now was the perfect time to start focusing on preventive efforts given that the number of hot spots had declined from more than 1,000 to around 53 in Sumatra and 124 in Kalimantan.

“We will use this moment to focus on preventive measures, particularly in anticipation of future [fires]. Therefore, we will review regulations — whether they are laws, government regulations or gubernatorial regulations — which allow the burning of forests and peatland,” Jokowi said in his opening remarks to the meeting on Wednesday.

The thick haze that has enveloped Sumatra and Kalimantan for the past three months started to ease last week after rains fell in the two worst-affected regions.

However, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has warned that the rainy season is not expected to start until early December and that the effects of the El Niño weather phenomenon will continue.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry previously considered restricting slash-and-burn practices by drafting a ministerial regulation — which would also put more emphasis on sustainable land clearance and management practices.

Officials in the Jokowi administration have also said it is mulling the issuance of a government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) to repeal Article 69 of the 2009 Environment Law, which allows smallholders of 2 hectares of land or less to clear their land by burning.

The provision has often been abused by local farmers, as well as major plantation firms, to engage in slash-and-burn practices, a major cause of forest fires in the country.

The government has also considered imposing economic sanctions, including banning those firms involved in forest fires from obtaining bank loans or selling land cleared using the slash-and-burn method.

In the meeting, Jokowi also instructed that all concession licenses, particularly those related to peatland, must be subject to reviews and that there would be no more new licenses for peatland concessions.

The President also ordered the completion of all fire-break projects in peatland areas.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Willem Rampangilei said existing BNPB standard operating procedures in preventing forest fires — which also cover early warning mechanisms — should be adopted into a government regulation given that such preventive measures involved other related institutions and ministries.

“Further discussion is needed to adopt them into a government regulation,” Willem said, adding that, following Jokowi’s Wednesday instructions, all relevant government institutions and ministries would work in unison to prevent forest and peatland fires. “[Jokowi’s instruction] will be followed up by organizing ministerial coordination meetings to draft future preventive measures,” Willem said.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said, however, that issuing a Perppu would only be a last resort.

National Police Chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti, meanwhile, said that several of the investigations into individuals allegedly involved in the forest burning had been wrapped up and would soon be taken to court.

Badrodin, however, declined to identify the individuals.

The police are currently working on 238 cases related to forest and peatland fires. Of the 238 cases, 191 involved individual perpetrators while 47 involved corporations, including a number of foreign companies.

The police have named 205 suspects in individual cases, and 11 suspects in the corporate cases. At least 72 people have been detained.

During the meeting, the President also urged Siti to involve peatland experts in drafting a blueprint for future peatland management. Jokowi met with a number of peatland management and environment experts at the Gadjah Mada University (UGM) on Tuesday, which produced what he described as comprehensive input.

Jokowi received his undergraduate degree in forestry from UGM.

In the meeting, the UGM team highlighted the importance of conserving the natural function of the peat domes — located under the peat areas — in restoring the underground water, and suggested that a comprehensive topographic mapping of peatland should be the first step in implementing better peatland management.

Prolonged haze kills baby
The Jakarta Post 5 Nov 15;

A 1-and-a-half-year-old baby girl in Palembang has passed away in an accident believed to have been caused by an acute respiratory infection (ISPA) brought about by prolonged haze. It is estimated that six children have now died because of the suffocating smoke that has engulfed Sumatra and other parts of the country.

The baby, Fadilah Rahma, died on Tuesday after being treated for 15 days at the Siti Khodijah and Mohammad Hoesin hospitals in the capital city of South Sumatra.

“The doctor said that [my daughter died because of the] haze. The X-ray results showed that my daughter suffered from an ISPA. There have been no other health problems since she was born,” the baby’s mother, Ria Susanti, said on Wednesday. reported that the baby was a resident of a low-cost apartment complex in the city. She was buried in the Sekuning public cemetery in Palembang.

Separately, a spokesperson from Siti Khodijah hospital, Nala Rosmini, confirmed that Fadilah had been treated at the hospital from Oct. 8 to Oct. 16. The baby was then transferred to the Mohammad Hoesin hospital for further intensive treatment.

“But for now, we cannot give any further statement [on the disease],” Nala said.

Besides Fadilah, it is believed that another baby from Palembang has also died because of the prolonged haze in the province, often thought to be among the provinces most affected by haze because of its sizable land and forest fires.

The 28-day-old baby passed away on Oct. 3 at Muhammadiyah hospital after suffering from an ISPA. The baby was the child of Hendra Saputra and Mursida, a couple from Baten Seberang Ulu, Palembang.

According to the data from the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), at least five children have died because of haze-related illnesses in Sumatra and Kalimantan as of October.

Besides the deaths, KPAI reported that 19 babies had received intensive treatment in Sumatran hospitals after suffering from an ISPA.

With the death of Fadilah, at least 11 people, including the babies, have passed away from across the country due to the prolonged haze.

The government has called on hospitals to pay more attention to people in distress, particularly babies, children, pregnant women and asthma sufferers who were more susceptible to haze-related health problems.

Hundreds of thousands of residents have suffered from haze-related illnesses.

In an effort to show his seriousness in dealing with the haze crisis, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo cut short his trip to the US and flew directly to Palembang.

After holding a meeting to discuss mitigation efforts with a number of ministers on Thursday in Ogan Komering Ilir regency — the temporary base of his administration — Jokowi paid a visit to a community health center (Puskesmas) and a shelter at the Kayuagung General Hospital to inspect the services there.

According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the ongoing haze crisis had caused more than 500,000 people in six provinces — Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan — to suffer from an ISPA.

Earlier in October, the Health Ministry revealed that in addition to four fatalities, 45,666 people in the Riau Islands suffered from illnesses. Furthermore, 69,734 Jambi residents are believed to have suffered illnesses related to the haze in addition to one fatality. Meanwhile in South Sumatra, 83,276 residents have suffered from illnesses and have two people died.

Over the past few months, Indonesia has struggled to minimize the impact of air pollution originating from fires on plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Forestry sector experiences negative growth amid fires
Ayomi Amindoni, 5 Nov 15;

Amid the persistent land and forest fires, the forestry and logging sectors experienced contraction in the third quarter.

The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) recorded negative growth of -2.72 percent compared to last year's third quarter.

"Forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan have reduced timber production of industrial forests in Riau and Kalimantan," BPS deputy head of balance and statistics analysis Kecuk Suharyanto told a press conference on Thursday.

Although the agency had yet to conduct a specific study on the impact of the fires on the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), Suharyanto said that impacts could be seen in the agriculture sector's slowdown.

He added that the fishery subsector recorded 8.27 percent growth in the third quarter, owing to an increase in seaweed production. Overall, the agriculture sector grew 3.21 percent, lower than the same period last year, which stood at 3.63 percent. This sector alone contributed 14.57 percent to the total GDP.

Meanwhile, the trade sector suffered from a drop in vehicle sales. Imported goods reported negative growth as well at -7 percent.

In the mining and excavation sector, negative growth of -5.64 percent was recorded.

"There has been a steep drop in the coal-mining sector from -3.12 percent in the third quarter of 2014 to -19.51 in this year's third quarter," he explained.

Suharyanto also said that the construction sector slightly grew by 6.82 percent on the significant increase of government capital spending. (kes)

Read more!

Malaysia: Johor embarks on biodiversity masterplan

CHUAH BEE KIM New Straits Times 5 Nov 15;

GELANG PATAH: A biodiversity masterplan for Johor is in the pipeline and it will be spearheaded by the Johor Biotechnology and Biodiversity Corporation (J-Biotech).

The masterplan, a Johor government initiative, will ensure sustainable development in the state while making sure conservation and preservation efforts are implemented.

J-Biotech chief executive officer Wan Amir Jeffrey Wan Abdul Majid said the masterplan will likely take two years to be completed.

One of the masterplan's highlights is the setting up of an eco-marine research centre, which will be built in either Pulau Sibu in Mersing, or the upcoming Forest City off Gelang Patah.

"The eco-marine research centre which will carry out research work, data collection, and for researchers to come together, is part of the masterplan," Wan Amir said.

"It is aimed at spreading awareness on the importance of sustainable development among the local and international community, and we will also focus on research education.," said Wan Amir Jeffrey.

He said the eco-marine centre would become a meeting point for researchers to undertake studies on marine species, to focus on increasing the number of marine species whether threatened or otherwise, understand the eco-system better and monitor the marine species.

He said J-Biotech is in the process of conducting talks with several parties, such as the State Economic Planning Unit and private corporations on the development of the eco-marine centre.

Yesterday, the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar launched a seahorse sanctuary and hatchery in Sungai Pulai Ramsar site.

The sanctuary located in a 14.86 square metre area, was jointly developed by J-Biotech and Universiti Malaysia Terengganu.

The project received support from Country Garden Pacificview Sdn Bhd as part of the company's corporate social responsibility in conservation research and marine ecosystem development.

Sultan Ibrahim launched the seahorse sanctuary by releasing 200 seahorses into the area, which earned a mention in the Malaysia Book of Records.

Johor waters are home to three out of the eight seahorse species found in Malaysia.

Read more!

Trial underway to control pigeon population

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is piloting a new trial to control the pigeon population at Palmer Road.
Nadia Jansen Hassan Channel NewsAsia 5 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is piloting a new trial to control the pigeon population at Palmer Road.

The trial, which started in October and which will take a year to complete, involves feeding the pigeons a corn-based feed containing nicarbazin, a drug which functions as an oral contraceptive for birds. It can stop female birds from producing eggs, but even if they are laid, they may not hatch.

The feed will be just another form of consumption for male birds, as they do not produce eggs. According to the AVA, it will not harm other animals or humans if accidentally consumed in small doses. It would take 40kg of the feed to see toxic effects in dogs and cats, and 60kg for a child.

The pigeon population at Palmer Road has grown in recent years. Today it stands at around 400, compared to 200 in 2013. This has caused hygiene and environmental issues in the area.

"It's very challenging for us to deal it with very quickly," said Mr Mohamed Idris, secretary of the management board of Masjid Haji Muhammad Salleh mosque, which is located in the area. "We have to mobilise our volunteers to deal with it immediately, and this is especially a problem on Fridays when we have prayers at about one o'clock."

Volunteers from the mosque will assist the AVA during the trial, and they will give the pigeons the feed once a day.

The main reason for this population increase is members of the public feeding the pigeons. The AVA has been taking enforcement action against feeders, and 13 feeders were caught at Palmer Road between January to October this year.

If the results are successful, the AVA said it may use the feed to control the pigeon population in other parts of Singapore.

This method has been trialled overseas, in countries including Italy.

"They have seen 30-40 per cent reduction in the pigeon population size over four years,” said Ms Janet Chia, executive manager of operations, wild animals section, at AVA. “Even if other birds accidentally eat them, the effects will be rid off in one week, because the product will be eliminated from their system. Most importantly, it doesn't cause any ill effects to the birds in the long-term."

The number of bird-related complaints across Singapore has gone up in the last three years. There were 4,400 in 2013, as compared to around 6,100 so far this year. As for pigeons, there were 2,100 cases in 2013, 2,500 in 2014 and 3,400 from January to October this year.

The AVA has also been piloting a bird deterrent gel in Choa Chu Kang. It also said it may use either of these methods in other parts of Singapore if results are successful.

- CNA/dl

Pigeons fed 'birth control' drug in trial
Samantha Boh, My Paper AsiaOne 6 Nov 15;

PIGEONS that congregate outside Masjid Haji Muhammad Salleh mosque have been getting an extra ingredient in their breakfast.

Every day, pigeons that flock to the area are served a corn-based feed containing a drug called nicarbazin, which stops the female birds from developing eggs or causes them to lay eggs that do not hatch.

This is a new "birth control" method to limit pigeon numbers tested by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), at a field outside the mosque at Palmer Road near Shenton Way.

The trial, which started on Oct 13 and will last a year, comes on the back of soaring complaints about the nuisance caused by pigeons.

AVA has already received about 3,400 pieces of pigeon-related feedback from Jan to Oct this year, more than the 2,500 they received in the whole of last year and the 2,100 in 2013.

It has also seen a growth in feedback about all kinds of birds, including pigeons, from some 4,400 messages in 2013 to 6,100 in the first 10 months of this year alone.

Mohamed Idris, secretary of the management board of the mosque at Palmer Road, said pigeons have always been around, but the problem worsened over the last 10 years.

The field outside the mosque has an estimated 400 pigeons, twice as many as two years ago. The birds would fly into the mosque compounds, making them a nuisance to staff and people who go to the mosque to pray.

"They leave their droppings on the floor and you walk on it... They congregate at the food areas as well," he said.

This has led AVA to choose the mosque as the first area to try out the new method.

During a demonstration yesterday, Janet Chia, executive manager of the Operations (Wild Animals) section at AVA, said it will take about a year to see a drop in the pigeon population there.

Around five mosque volunteers will be in charge of feeding the laced feed to the pigeons. The method could be rolled out to other areas in Singapore if the trial succeeds.

When tested in Italy, the method was found to reduce the pigeon population there by 30 to 40 per cent over four years.

The drug does not harm the birds and is not toxic to animals or humans if taken in small amounts. It would take 40kg of the feed to see toxic effects in dogs and cats, and 60kg for a child, said Ms Chia.

She also urged the public not to feed birds, as this "would encourage their population size to grow and encourage them to congregate and cause nuisance".

Feeding pigeons is illegal and those found to flout the rules face a fine of up to $500. AVA has caught 113 bird feeders so far this year, including 13 who did so outside the mosque.

Read more!

Cities need architects and artists to make them sustainable

Today Online 6 Nov 15;

Technology offers tremendous opportunities to improve urban life by reducing energy consumption and making transport more efficient, but good design is also important to translate scientifically sound solutions into plans that are socially and economically viable, says Professor Peter Edwards, the director of the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability, who will be a panellist at the Julius Baer Next Generation Summit today. The centre was established in Singapore in 2010 and has two research programmes — the Future Cities Laboratory and Future Resilient Systems. Here, Prof Edwards talks to TODAY’s Sue-Ann Chia about the future of cities of South-east Asia and how science, technology and design can help improve liveability.

Can you share your vision on the future of cities in South-east Asia? What are the strengths and weaknesses in each major city, such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta?

The major cities of South-east Asia are at different stages in their economic development and face different challenges for that reason. Prosperous, well-organised cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong, where the process of urbanisation is essentially complete, face problems related to a high population density, limited land, and very high consumption of energy and resources.

The challenge for these cities will be to ensure liveability while improving sustainability. Increasingly, these cities will also be confronted with new challenges because of their rapidly ageing populations. Given the political will, however, these cities have the financial resources and institutional structures to tackle these problems.

In contrast, many cities in Southeast Asia, for example, Jakarta and Bangkok, are still urbanising rapidly, and have to cope with rapid population growth through rural-urban migration, growing income inequality, inadequate infrastructure and poor public transport. Issues of governance such as poorly defined division of responsibilities between central and city governments make some of these problems very intractable.

How can each city — which is typically densely populated with heavy traffic and have mixed use — improve on its sustainability and liveability?

Cities such as Singapore must find ways of increasing liveability while reducing their environmental footprint. Fortunately, there is a wide range of technology, which — if applied at scale — could greatly reduce the consumption of natural resources.

For example, the Future Cities Laboratory has developed new systems for air cooling that can reduce electricity consumption by up to 40 per cent. When installed in new buildings, these technologies could also reduce space needed for ducting and therefore reduce the quantities of building materials needed for construction.

Using a similar approach, centralised air-cooling systems can also be installed in existing shophouses, thereby eliminating the multitude of air conditioner condensers that at present emit heat and noise into the back lanes.

Not only would this bring potentially great gains for the local environment by reducing the urban heat island effect, but these rejuvenated back lanes could well make way for al fresco dining and become areas of leisure.

Similarly, there are exciting opportunities to revolutionise transport using autonomous and electrically powered vehicles. Suitably applied, these technologies could lead to a dramatic reduction in the number of vehicles in the streets of Singapore, with significant gains not only for mobility, but also for urban comfort, liveability and sustainability.

These opportunities, while also available for the fast-growing, sprawling cities such as Jakarta, are arguably of lower priority in these cities. Of greater urgency are housing the burgeoning population, reducing the contamination in urban rivers, preventing flooding of low-lying areas, and upgrading the transport infrastructure.

What are the main obstacles standing in the way of making these cities sustainable and liveable?

Perhaps surprisingly, the main obstacles are not of a scientific or technical nature. With the knowledge and technologies we have today, we could — in theory — build cities that are in balance with their environment, produce little or no pollution, and eliminate problems such as the urban heat island effect.

Far more often, the main obstacles relate to individual lifestyles, public awareness and political will on the one hand; and to institutional structures and governance on the other.

For example, as long as a primary measure of success is wealth and possessions, citizens will continue to consume high levels of resources and drive large motor vehicles.

And as we see in international attempts to reduce carbon emissions, the best attempts to improve sustainability are often frustrated by problems of weak governance.

What are the key characteristics of each city that ought to be preserved and/or improved?

First and foremost, cities should be places where people can live alongside one another in peace and harmony, and have the opportunity to develop their potential and talents. Urban areas need to be liveable at the personal level, as places where people feel safe and comfortable, and can move around freely.

So, however cities need to change to meet the challenges I have described, we must preserve the sense of community. People attach social and cultural meaning to their surroundings, so as we replace older buildings with modern, more efficient structures, we need to preserve the qualities of the urban environment that give it a distinctive character and that shape the personal identity of citizens.

How can science, technology and design help cities improve the quality of the urban environment?

All three have a major role to play in improving the quality of the urban environment. From a historical perspective, large cities are a very new invention, and we have only a limited understanding of how they develop and function. The rates of urbanisation in South-east Asia, in particular, have far outpaced those in the developed world, much to the detriment of the inhabitants and the environment. We urgently need better scientific theories to guide our efforts to improve urban life.

As I have indicated, technology offers tremendous opportunities to improve urban life by reducing energy consumption, recycling materials, making transport more efficient and so on. But good design is also important to translate these scientifically sound solutions into plans that are socially and economically viable. The architect and artist are essential to provide us with a positive vision of what our cities could become.

With Singapore’s smart nation initiative, how can the city-state tap the power of modern information technology for more effective planning and management, and give residents a voice in the development of their cities?

Thanks to the huge amounts of data becoming available through sensors and broadband-enabled technologies, we are on the verge of a revolution in how cities are designed and managed. By harnessing these data, urban planners and policymakers will have access to powerful new tools that will improve decision-making.

We already know that such data can greatly increase the efficiency of urban transport, for example, by providing motorists with real-time information about best routes, optimising traffic lights, and allowing passengers to benefit from shared taxi or bus rides.

Big data can also be used for smart metering of gas and electricity, tracking stolen goods, signalling when leaks in water mains occur, and so on. The same technologies will also allow planners to interact and obtain the opinion of citizens at all stages of the planning and construction cycles.

These are just a few of the possibilities, but I am convinced that we have scarcely scratched the surface of what can be done. In the future, we will see many more applications, some of them surprising, based upon the new streams of data. Many of these innovations will be co-created by individuals or groups of citizens who spot an opportunity to use publicly available data for some novel purposes.

Read more!

Record number of schools commended for environmentally-friendly programmes

Participation in the annual Singapore Environment Council-StarHub School Green Awards has increased more than ten-fold over the past 15 years.
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 5 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: A record 376 schools have been commended for their outstanding effort in protecting the environment, as well as educating students on green issues, such as recycling and minimising waste.

The schools received the Singapore Environment Council-StarHub School Green Awards on Thursday (Nov 5).

Now into its fifteenth year, participation in the awards has increased more than tenfold, from 28 in 2000, to 376 educational institutions this year.

The bulk of the increase comes from pre-schools and schools for students with special needs.

This year, the participating schools achieved reductions in electricity, water and paper consumption. According to the Singapore Environment Council, the total savings in electricity can power 18,450 four-room public housing flats for a month, while the savings in water and paper is equivalent to 149 Olympic-sized swimming pools and 3,519 trees respectively.

A total of 45,254.22kg of e-waste was also collected - an increase of 9 per cent from the previous year.

The awards are administered by the Singapore Environment Council and sponsored by Singapore telco StarHub.

- CNA/ww

Read more!

APP deploys fire management teams to enhance firefighting efforts

APP says the addition of international fire management teams into APP and its pulpwood suppliers' firefighting management teams will improve fire suppression strategies and implementation.
Channel NewsAsia 5 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP), which has been in the spotlight recently over alleged links to Indonesian forest fires causing haze, announced on Thursday (Nov 5) that it has deployed fire management teams and firefighters from Working on Fire (WoF) to assist with national firefighting efforts in South Sumatra, Indonesia.

According to APP, WoF has 30 years of experience in wildland firefighting, and supply integrated fire management services to forestry and other land users around the world.

The addition of WoF specialists would mean that APP pulpwood suppliers’ firefighting resources now include more than 2,900 trained fire fighters, fire suppression helicopters, two firefighting air-tankers, satellite monitoring and surveillance drones, APP said.

In a media release, APP said the addition of WoF teams into APP and its pulpwood suppliers' firefighting management teams will improve fire suppression strategies and implementation.

"WoF will also provide tactical air support for APP’s fleet of helicopters and the operation of two Beriev Be-200 firefighting air-tankers. This air-ground coordination will increase the effectiveness of fire suppression efforts," APP said, adding that WoF will deploy firefighters to work directly with the ground crews of APP's pulpwood suppliers.

WoF Asia Pacific Managing Director Leon Conradie said their teams from South Africa and Australia arrived in South Sumatra this week and started looking at the affected regions to review suppression measures taken so far.

"We found extreme rates of spread and long distance spotting, with embers being carried more than 500 meters by strong winds. Conventional suppression tactics do not work in these conditions. Our Incident Command teams and firefighters are trained for these conditions and will apply a combination of proven techniques to contain the spread of fires," he said, adding that WoF is confident of containing the fires on APP suppliers' concessions in days.

APP said as experts have forecasted El Nino to last until May 2016, it is taking preventative steps to ensure its pulpwood suppliers are better prepared next year - such as blocking canals to raise water levels in plantations on peatland.

- CNA/dl

Read more!

New use for ex-Changi Motorsports Hub site

Christopher Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Nov 15;

The site of the Changi Motorsports Hub, a project that ground to a halt two years ago. Construction for the new airport terminal has begun.

Photo: The Straits Times

A 41ha site in Changi, once set aside for a motor racing circuit, is reserved for industries to support the upcoming Changi Airport Terminal 5.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said: "The land originally intended for the Changi Motorsports Hub is zoned 'Reserve' in Master Plan 2014.

"It has been identified for the development of aviation-related industries to support the growth of the airport."

A URA spokesman added that "the timeline for its development is dependent on the pace of the airport expansion".

Construction work for the sprawling new terminal - slated to open around 2025 with an initial capacity of up to 50 million passengers a year - has already started.

But the site was boarded up and overgrown when The Straits Times visited early this week, although the metal piles that were sunk into the ground before its former project ground to a halt two years ago have been removed.

While aviation industry players welcomed plans to set aside the land for aviation-related activities, they noted that attractiveness of the site depends on several factors.

Said Aviation & Electronics Support (AES) chief executive Y.T. Low: "Firstly, it depends on what the government wants to do in terms of concentration."

The higher the concentration of companies, the more attractive it becomes, he explained.

"Secondly, cost. And thirdly, the kind of incentives and the level of infrastructural support available."

AES is based in Loyang, and Mr Low said he has no plans to move.

A Rolls-Royce spokesman said: "We're supportive of growth and expansion of the industry, but we have sunk our roots in Seletar. We invested $700 million here."

Meanwhile, the saga revolving around the Changi Motorsports Hub - a plan that was hatched in 2009, but had crashed and burned in 2013 - seems to be in its final chapter.

Sport Singapore said it has refunded some of developer SG Changi's paid-up capital (estimated to be around $36 million), after deducting the cost of reinstating the land and other administrative charges.

The police said yesterday that investigations into alleged irregularities have concluded, and that "a 55-year-old man has been administered with a warning".

The Straits Times understands that the man is Japanese temple builder Fuminori Murahashi, who was SG Changi's executive chairman.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau is believed to have interviewed a number of people related to the project, including former senior executives of Singapore Sports Council (Sport Singapore's former name).

Read more!

Philippines: Tubbataha Reef declared Asean Heritage Park

Rhodina Villanueva The Philippine Star 6 Nov 15;

MANILA, Philippines - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has formally declared Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) as an ASEAN Heritage Park (AHP).

“A piece of heaven on Earth,” was how Roberto Oliva, ASEAN Center for Biodiversity’s executive director described the park.

The environment ministers of the 10 ASEAN member states approved the nomination at the 15th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held in October last year.

Known as an “ultimate diving destination,” the park is home to almost 80 percent of all coral species in the Philippines and to at least half of all coral species in the world.

The newly declared AHP has 10,000 hectares of coral reef and at least 86,000 hectares of waters at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the center of global marine biodiversity.

Tubbataha reef was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.

“We hope we can serve as a role model to other marine natural parks,” Angelique Songco, protected area superintendent of the TRNP, said of the declaration.

Nelson Devanadera, director of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, said the recognition is a welcome development.

“There is a need to highlight Tubbataha not just as a diving site, but as a biodiversity haven that is worth exploring for a total unique experience,” Devanadera said.

He said the declaration is an opportunity to replicate the good practices of Tubbataha in other protected areas in the country.

Mundita Lim – director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau, an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – said the recognition is proof of the country’s rich marine biodiversity.

“This means we need to continue or even intensify protection of the TRNP. Stricter rules should be followed as to activities being undertaken near Tubbataha. Utmost care should be observed,” Lim said.

She expressed optimism more funds would come in for Tubbataha’s protection and conservation. “This just shows that our country is indeed rich in marine resources given the recognition for the TRNP at the regional level,” she said.

The TRNP is the seventh AHP in the country.

Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve in Laguna, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental, Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park in Mindoro, Mt. Apo Natural Park in Davao, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon and Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park in Misamis Occidental are the other AHPs.

Tubbataha Reefs now an Asean Heritage Park
Jonathan L. Mayuga Business Mirror 5 Nov 15;

THE Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) is now officially an Asean Heritage Park (AHP).

The Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) handed over the certificate to the TRNP management on Thursday during the ceremony held at the Provincial Capitol of Palawan in Puerto Princesa City.

The TRNP, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) World Heritage site, is the fifth location in the Philippines to earn the recognition as AHP. It is the 35th AHP and the country’s seventh. It is the first of its kind in the Philippines, it being a marine-based park.

The nomination of the TRNP was approved by the environment ministers of the 10 Asean member-states at the 15th Informal Asean Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held in October last year.

The TRNP boasts of a wide array of marine biodiversity. It is home to almost 80 percent of all coral species in the Philippines and to at least half of all coral species in the world.

The TRNP has 10,000 hectares of coral reef and at least 86,000 hectares of surrounding waters. It sits at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the center of global marine biodiversity in the world.

In 1993 TRNP was declared a Unesco World Heritage site.

In a statement, Angelique Songco, Protected Area superintendent of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, said: “We hope we can serve as a role model to other marine natural parks.” She noted the need to be more vigilant in protecting the richness and beauty of Tubbataha.

Nelson Devanadera, director of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, said the declaration of the TRNP as an AHP is a welcome development, underscoring the need to highlight Tubbataha, not just as a diving site, but as “a biodiversity haven that is worth exploring for a total unique experience.”

Devanadera said the declaration also opens an opportunity to replicate the good practices of Tubbataha in other protected areas in the Philippines.

“Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is the Seventh AHP in the Philippines, and this is a testament of this country’s rich natural resources and biological diversity. This also underscores the need to conserve the park as it benefits the entire Southeast Asian region,” said lawyer Roberto V. Oliva, ACB executive director.

The AHP Program supports the management of a regional network of national protected areas of high conservation importance that provides a complete spectrum of respective ecosystems to generate greater awareness, pride, appreciation, enjoyment and conservation of Asean’s rich biodiversity. ACB serves as the secretariat of the AHP Program.

The other AHPs in the Philippines are Mount Makiling Forest Reserve in Laguna; Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental; Mount Iglit-Baco National Park in Mindoro; Mount Apo Natural Park in Davao; Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon; and Mount Malindang Range Natural Park in Misamis Occidental.

Tubbataha now ASEAN Heritage Park
Ellalyn De Vera Manila Bulletin 6 Nov 15;

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formally declared on Thursday the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) in Palawan as an ASEAN Heritage Park (AHP), making it the 35th AHP in the region and seventh in the Philippines.

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) handed the certificate of AHP Declaration to the Tubbataha Management Office during a ceremony held at the Provincial Capitol of Puerto Princesa City yesterday.

TRNP also serves as the first marine-based AHP in the Philippines.

Park superintendent Angelique Songco said the declaration assured the management team that they have been doing the right thing.

“We hope we can serve as a role model to other marine natural parks,” she said, noting the need to be more vigilant in protecting the richness and beauty of Tubbataha.

Meanwhile, Nelson Devanadera, Director of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development said the declaration is a welcome development, adding that there is a “need to highlight Tubbataha not just as a diving site, but as a biodiversity haven that is worth exploring for a total unique experience.”

He stressed that this also opens an opportunity to replicate the good practices of Tubbataha in other protected areas in the Philippines.

“Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is the 7th AHP in the Philippines, and this is a testament of this country’s rich natural resources and biological diversity. This also underscores the need to conserve the park as it benefits the entire Southeast Asian region,” ACB Executive Director Roberto Oliva said.

He explained that the AHP Programme supports the management of a regional network of national protected areas of high conservation importance that provides a complete spectrum of respective ecosystems to generate greater awareness, pride, appreciation, enjoyment, and conservation of ASEAN’s rich biodiversity.

ACB serves as the secretariat of the AHP Programme.

The nomination of the TRNP was approved by the environment ministers of the 10 ASEAN member-states at the 15th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held in October last year.

Known as an “ultimate diving destination” in the Philippines, the park boasts of a wide array of marine biodiversity. The newest AHP is home to almost 80 percent of all coral species in the Philippines and to at least half of all coral species in the world.

It has 10,000 hectares of coral reef and at least 86,000 hectares of surrounding waters right at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the center of global marine biodiversity. In 1993, TRNP was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

TRNP joined the ranks of six other AHPs in the Philippines namely: Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve in Laguna, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental, Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park in Mindoro, Mt. Apo Natural Park in Davao, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon, and Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park in Misamis Occidental.

Read more!

Thailand: Recent Hua Hin oil spill 10 times larger than one in 2013

Huge damage to marine ecology feared
Pratch Rujivanarom The Nation 6 Nov 15;

THE LATEST oil spill in Prachuap Khirikhan's Hua Hin district and nearby areas has affected a larger area than the spill that hit Rayong's Koh Samet in 2013, causing incalculable damage to marine ecology.

The Marine and Coastal Resources Research and Development Institute said that oil spills happen often in Thai seawaters, as 13 were reported between September 2014 and last month. Seven of the oil spills occurred in Rayong, where a major industrial port is situated.

Institute director Pinsak Suraswadi said the affected area from the oil spill this time was more than 100 square kilometres.

It is 10 times larger than the severe oil spill in Rayong in 2013, which covered around 11 square kilometres.

"The winds and currents are the main factors that spread the oil over a wide area, but luckily the amount of oil spilled was not as much as in the Rayong incident," he said.

However, he said the ecological impact of the oil spill was certain, as the oil contaminated both the sandy beaches and the mangrove forest ecosystem of the inner Gulf of Thailand, an important breeding and nourishing place for marine life.

"It is very hard to calculate the damage to the ecosystem because we cannot accurately estimate the cost of ecological service that the healthy ecosystem provides. We cannot evaluate the ability of the sandy-beach ecosystem to provide a breeding site, or the importance of mangrove forests as nurseries for marine animals," he explained.

On the bright side, he said the Bryde's whale population living in the area was not directly affected and there was still no uncommon or mass death of marine life.

"The whales are intelligent and quick. They can sense the pollution in the sea and avoid the oil-spill area.

"However, as we still do not know which type of oil leaked, we cannot pinpoint whether there is any chemical contamination of the ecosystem," Pinsak said.

"What we can do now is to clean up the oil slick as soon as possible."

Technology to be used

Regarding prevention of oil spills in future, Kritpetch Chaichuay, director of the Marine Safety and Environment Bureau, said technology would be brought in to enhance sea surveillance.

"The Marine Department is working with relevant agencies to tighten sea inspections, and we are planning to introduce radar technology," Kritpetch said.

"We are also using satellite images provided by the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency to keep an eye on the oil spill in the sea, so that we can clean up the mess before it reaches the shore."

He warned that discharging oil into the sea was illegal and those who did so would be punished with three years' imprisonment and a Bt60,000 fine. They also have to pay for damage caused by the contamination.

Read more!

New report finds human-caused climate change increased the severity of many extreme events in 2014

NOAA 5 Nov 15;

Human activities, such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use, influenced specific extreme weather and climate events in 2014, including tropical cyclones in the central Pacific, heavy rainfall in Europe, drought in East Africa, and stifling heat waves in Australia, Asia, and South America, according to a new report released today. The report, “Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 from a Climate Perspective” published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, addresses the natural and human causes of individual extreme events from around the world in 2014, including Antarctica. NOAA scientists served as three of the five lead editors on the report.

"For each of the past four years, this report has demonstrated that individual events, like temperature extremes, have often been shown to be linked to additional atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by human activities, while other extremes, such as those that are precipitation related, are less likely to be convincingly linked to human activities,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “As the science of event attribution continues to advance, so too will our ability to detect and distinguish the effects of long-term climate change and natural variability on individual extreme events. Until this is fully realized, communities would be well-served to look beyond the range of past extreme events to guide future resiliency efforts."

In this year’s report, 32 groups of scientists from around the world investigate 28 individual extreme events in 2014 and break out various factors that led to the extreme events, including the degree to which natural variability and human-induced climate change played a role. When human influence for an event cannot be conclusively identified with the scientific tools available today, this means that if there is a human contribution, it cannot be distinguished from natural climate variability.

The report this year added analysis on new types of events including wildfires and Antarctic sea ice extent, and in one case looked at how land use patterns may influence the impacts and severity from precipitation.

Key findings for each of the assessed events include:

North America:

Overall probability of California wildfires has increased due to human-induced climate change, however, no specific link could be made for the 2014 fire event.

Though cold winters still occur in the upper Midwest, they are less likely due to climate change.

Cold temperatures along the eastern U.S. were not influenced by climate change, and eastern U.S. winter temperatures are becoming less variable.

Tropical cyclones that hit Hawaii were substantially more likely because of human-induced climate change.

Extreme 2013-14 winter storm season over much of North America was driven mainly by natural variability and not human caused climate change.

Human-induced climate change and land-use both played a role in the flooding that occurred in the southeastern Canadian Prairies.
Around the World:

South America

The Argentinean heat wave of December 2013 was made five times more likely because of human-induced climate change.

Water shortages in Southeast Brazil were not found to be largely influenced by climate change, but increasing population and water consumption raised vulnerability.

All-time record number of storms over the British Isles in winter 2013-14 cannot be linked directly to human-induced warming of the tropical west Pacific.

Extreme rainfall in the United Kingdom during the winter of 2013-2014 was not linked to human-caused climate change.

Hurricane Gonzolo was within historical range of strength for hurricanes transitioning to extratropical storms over Europe.

Extreme rainfall in the Cévennes Mountains in southern France was three times more likely than in 1950 due to climate change.

Human influence increased the probability of record annual mean warmth over Europe, NE Pacific, and NW Atlantic.
Middle East and Africa

Two studies showed that the drought in East Africa was made more severe because of climate change.

The role of climate change in the Middle East drought of 2014 remains unclear. One study showed a role in the southern Levant region of Syria, while another study, which looked more broadly at the Middle East, did not find a climate change influence.

Extreme heat events in Korea and China were linked to human-caused climate change.

Drought in northeastern Asia, China and Singapore could not conclusively be linked to climate change.

The high west Pacific tropical cyclone activity in 2014 was largely driven by natural variability.

Devastating 2014 floods in Jakarta are becoming more likely due to climate change and other human influences.

Meteorological drivers that led to the extreme Himalayan snowstorm of 2014 have increased in likelihood due to climate change.

Human influence increased the probability of regional high sea surface temperature extremes over the western tropical and northeast Pacific Ocean during 2014.

Four independent studies all pointed toward human influence causing a substantial increase in the likelihood and severity of heat waves across Australia in 2014.

It is likely that human influences on climate increased the odds of the extreme high pressure anomalies south of Australia in August 2014 that were associated with frosts, lowland snowfalls and reduced rainfall.

The risk of an extreme five-day July rainfall event over Northland, New Zealand, such as was observed in early July 2014, has likely increased due to human influences on climate.

All-time maximum of Antarctic sea ice in 2014 resulted chiefly from anomalous winds that transported cold air masses away from the Antarctic continent, enhancing thermodynamic sea ice production far offshore. This type of event is becoming less likely because of climate change.

“Understanding our influence on specific extreme weather events is ground-breaking science that will help us adapt to climate change,” said Stephanie C. Herring, Ph.D., lead editor for the report at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “As the field of climate attribution science grows, resource managers, the insurance industry, and many others can use the information more effectively for improved decision making and to help communities better prepare for future extreme events.”

The report was edited by Herring, along with Martin P. Hoerling, NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory; James Kossin, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information; Thomas Peterson, World Meteorological Organization’s Commission for Climatology and formerly with NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information; and Peter A. Stott, UK Met Office Hadley Centre. The report includes a global authorship from 21 countries. View the full report online.

"AMS is pleased to collaborate with NOAA on providing the public with an accessible, peer-reviewed basis for understanding our changing world," said AMS Executive Director Keith Seitter. "Between the State of the Climate report earlier this year and now this annual Explaining Extremes collection, an ever clearer picture emerges of our advancing scientific capabilities to identify how climate change is affecting us."

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.

Read more!

Adverse weather pushes food prices up in October

Concerns over sugar and palm oil supply are behind the increase, grain prices also firmed
FAO 5 Nov 15;

5 November 2015, Rome - Major food commodity prices rose in October, spurred by weather-driven concerns about sugar and palm oil supplies.

The FAO Food Price Index averaged nearly 162 points in October, up 3.9 percent from September, while still down 16 percent from a year earlier.

FAO's latest Cereal Supply and Demand Brief slightly trimmed its October 2015 forecast for global cereal production and now projects production at 2.53 billion tonnes, 1.1 percent below last year's record output.

Half of the forecast cut reflected dimmer expectations about maize crops in India and Ukraine, mostly due to adverse weather. Drought in Thailand prompted a reduction in the seasonal rice harvest projection.

At the same time, the forecast for global wheat production has been raised, largely reflecting a bigger harvest in the European Union than earlier anticipated.

World cereal stocks are expected to remain at a comfortable level, with global wheat inventories rising further, reaching their highest level in 15 years.

Drought and rain trigger a sugar high

FAO's Sugar Price Index led the overall rise, surging 17.2 percent from September, amid fears that excessive rains in the main growing regions in Brazil would impact the sugarcane harvest and also reports of drought in India and Thailand. The sharp jump reversed the sub-index's decline since February.

Intensifying concerns that El Niño may hamper next year's palm oil supply in Indonesia, coupled with slow progress in soybean plantings in Brazil, due also to unfavourable weather, spurred a 6.2 increase in the FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index.

The Dairy Price Index rose 9.4 percent from September on concerns that milk output in New Zealand would decline. The Meat Price Index was stable.

The Cereal Price Index also rose, albeit by a modest 1.7 percent, pushed up in part by growing concerns over dry weather conditions affecting wheat crops in Ukraine and southern parts of the Russian Federation.

The FAO Food Price Index is a trade-weighted index that tracks prices on international markets of five major food commodity groups: cereals, meat, dairy products, vegetable oils and sugar.

Read more!