Best of our wild blogs: 7 Nov 15

Jokowi pushes universities to innovate to fight haze as respiratory diseases rise
Mongabay Environmental News

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Illegally planted palm oil already growing on burnt land in Indonesia

Saplings growing on slash and burn land in central Kalimantan in an area public maps suggest has no palm oil concession, say Greenpeace
Kate Lamb The Guardian 6 Nov 15;

Indonesian police designates a crime scene: Burned peatland and forest remains, planted with oil palm seedlings, near the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary west of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan. Photograph: Ardiles Rante/Greenpeace

Freshly burned land in Indonesia has already been illegally planted with oil palm, new evidence suggests, following the loss of two million hectares of forest and peatland since July to fires.

Planted in charred earth, the oil palm saplings were identified near the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary in central Kalimantan, by Greenpeace Indonesia.

According to public maps, no oil palm concession has been granted in the area.

During a dry season exacerbated by El Niño, thousands of fires have ripped through Indonesian forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan over recent months, sparking a region-wide haze crisis and releasing alarming levels of carbon emissions.

With half of the hotspots on carbon-rich peatland, over the past month carbon emissions from the fires have surpassed the average daily emissions of the entire US economy.

Predominately lit by smallholder farmers who use slash and burn techniques to clear the land – the fires are the fastest and cheapest way to clear land for new plantations.

In the wake of the destruction, environmentalists are calling on the forest areas to be fully restored and for the palm oil industry’s role in the fires to be thoroughly examined.

Under the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) made in September 2014, major producers that operate in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, commited to sustainable palm oil practices and zero-deforestation.

The signatories to IPOP – Wilmar, Asian Agri, Cargill, GAR and Musim Mas– account for 80% of the palm oil industry in Indonesia.

To live up to their commitments, conservation scientist Eric Meijaard says these leading producers have to address the fire crisis in a tangible way.

“With these fires all the burn scars need to be mapped and any oil that is subsequently grown on these burnt lands should just stay out of the responsible market,” Meijaard told the Guardian, “They have to somehow develop the tracing systems that allow them to confidently say that none of this came from lands that were burned in 2015.”

But in the complicated web that forms the Indonesian palm oil sector, palm oil giants operate their own plantations and mills, but also source a sizeable amount of oil palm from independent smallholders, in some cases up to 40%.

The problem is that, with brokers and middlemen and an estimated 4 million smallholder farmers, fresh bunches of oil palm fruit might change hands several times before reaching the mill.

While on paper the IPOP commitments extend to third-party suppliers, including the smallholder farmers blamed for lighting the fires, in reality opaque supply chains mean palm oil producers don’t always know who all of their suppliers are, nor what practices they are engaged in.

It makes for a complicated accountability trail, says Tomoyuki Uno, Asia manager of the UN Development Programme’s green commodities programme.

“Palm oil might be coming from the national parks but as long as you don’t know about it, or they are three or four different supply chains removed from you, you might not be implicated,” he says.

More official supply chains, he argued, will facilitate better protection of forests as well as better governance and productivity.

In the past week rains have helped to dampen the hotspots and lift the toxic haze, but the fires are an annual problem in Indonesia and this year they are among the worst on record.

In an email to the Guardian, a representative from the palm oil giant Wilmar said the company was strictly committed to a no burning policy, but cutting off smallholders who slash and burn was not the answer.

“Cutting off these smallholders from our supply chain may sound like an easy solution but it does not help address the fire and haze issue, and is not one that Wilmar encourages,” they wrote, “Such a move may have a devastating impact on livelihoods of smallholders and may potentially even lead to more deforestation.”

The Indonesian government has recently been pushing the same message, arguing that smallholders aren’t yet ready to entirely live up to the to zero-deforestation pledges.

The government has targeted certifying 70% of palm oil producers under its ISPO standards (Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil) by 2020, but so far these efforts have not been focused on smallholders.

In a sector riddled with grey areas, traceability is just one problem but an issue that needs to be addressed to ensure greater accountability before the fires come around, says Greenpeace’s Maitar.

“Of course they say it is complicated, it takes time, but you know, there is no time. They should move quickly, otherwise the time will pass again,” he says, “The rainy season is coming and then everyone will forget about these fires again.”

Haze-Hit Beringin Airport In Kalimantan Reopens After Two Months
Azeman Ariffin Bernama 6 Nov 15;

JAKARTA, Nov 6 (Bernama) -- The Beringin airport in Muara Teweh in Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province reopened today after having been closed for more than two months due to the haze triggered by land and forest fires.

The first flight to land at the reopened airport was a Susi Air domestic flight that arrived from Palangka Raya, capital city of Central Kalimantan, at 8.45 am, but it had no passengers, according to Antara news agency.

The Susi Air flight from Muara Teweh to Palangka Raya carried a woman passenger and her baby, it said.

An employee at the airport was quoted as attributing the absence or lack of passengers to the people being unaware of the resumption of flights following haze-free skies over the past three to four days.

Susi Air operates thrice-weekly flights between Muara Teweh and Palangka Raya, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Palangka Raya was among the areas worst-hit by the haze, with the air pollutant index exceeding 2,000 units much of the time during the past three months.

The website of Indonesia's Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics Agency said the air quality in the hitherto haze-hit areas, including Palangka Raya, had improved, with the index dipping below 150.


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Philippines: Skies clear, haze-free in Cebu

Michelle Joy L. Padayhag Cebu Daily News 7 Nov 15;

There’s no need to wear N95 masks anymore.

The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-7) yesterday declared Cebu as totally haze free.

Bohol was also cleared. Dumaguete city’s air quality was also found within standards, although an EMB team will have to verify the reading at one of its six monitoring stations in Negros Oriental.

EMB 7 Regional Director William Cuñado said the rains in the past few days helped clear up suspended dust particles that reduced visibility in Metro Cebu last month. The EMB said the haze was caused by forest fires in Indonesia.

As of yesterday, the average concentration of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in Metro Cebu was down to 16 micrograms per normal cubic meter (µg/Nm³), which was way below the tolerable limit of 75µg/Nm³ (See table).

PM2.5, which are fine particles of dust, dirt, soot or smoke, were measured using the Environmental Beta Attenuation Monitor (EBAM) set up at the roof deck of Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu City.

In Bohol and Negros Oriental, EMB used a high volume air quality sampler to assess total suspended particulates.

Engineer Cindylyn Pepito, chief of EMB ambient air quality monitoring section, said all readings taken at 10 air quality monitoring stations in Bohol from Oct. 27 to 28 averaged only 36.8 µg/Nm³, which was way below the tolerable limit of 300 µg/Nm³ for total suspended particulates.

In Dumaguete, the average was only 128.74 µg/Nm³, also below the standard, except at the Provincial Engineering building, where a very high value of 321 µg/Nm³ was recorded on Oct. 27.
Cuñado said a team will be sent to Dumaguete to conduct another test.

“We also need to identify other factors of the high concentration (of total suspended particulates) in the area,” he said.

Cuñado said they will continue to monitor air quality, especially since November is being celebrated as Clear Air Month.

EMB 7 and the Land Transportation Office (LTO-7) will conduct road side emission tests in line with the Clean Air Month’s theme of “Perwisyong Usok! Pigilan, Konting Abala, Laking Ginhawa.”

About 58 percent of air pollutants come from vehicle emissions.

The agency will also hold a Greenfest Concert on Nov. 20 at the Ayala Terraces.

The concert will will feature bands, songs, interpretative dances and theatrical presentations promoting clean air.

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Projects lauded for growing S'pore's rooftop greenery

Seow Bei Yi, Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Nov 15;

Singapore now has about 72ha of rooftop greenery - enough to cover over 100 football fields - up from about 64ha last year, according to the National Parks Board (NParks).

This will increase almost three- fold by 2030, in line with the latest Sustainable Singapore Blueprint.

Contributing to this landscape are buildings that retrofit greenery on their roofs and walls, and new developments that incorporate greenery from the planning stages.

Yesterday, 22 such developments received awards and certifications from Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong at the opening ceremony of the GreenUrbanScape Asia exhibition, held at the Singapore Expo.

Twelve developments won Skyrise Greenery Awards, which recognise innovative greenery designs. There were a record 123 entries this year, up from 77 in 2013.

Eleven developments were certified under the Landscape Excellence Assessment Framework (Leaf), which recognises excellence in landscape design, particularly by developers who incorporate it at the very start of the development process.

The winners include a mall lined with green walls leading from its exterior to the atrium, a public housing development as well as historic buildings refurbished with a roof garden and 5m-tall green wall.

Westgate, comprising a shopping mall and office tower beside Jurong East MRT station, won the Outstanding Award under the Skyrise Greenery Awards.

Besides having gardens that are interspersed throughout the upper floors of its office tower, the development has about 1,350 sq m of vertical greenery and a semi-outdoor street sheltered by glass canopies.

Receiving both a Skyrise Greenery Award and Leaf certification this year is the Housing Board project SkyTerrace @ Dawson.

Six sky terraces, or elevated walkways landscaped with small trees and shrubs, link the six residential blocks and serve as communal gathering spaces. The estate's multi-storey carpark also has greenery on its facade and a roof garden.

It is one of five HDB projects that won a total of six landscaping and greenery awards by NParks this year.

The National Gallery Singapore, opening on Nov 24, won an Excellence Award under the Skyrise Greenery Awards. Its 3,000 sq m roof garden on the former City Hall building has plants like the orange jasmine (Murraya paniculata) and bauhinia trees, and it has 5m-tall vertical gardens on the fourth-level mezzanine of the former Supreme Court and the roof garden.

"Because Singapore is land- scarce, we recognise that greenery can easily be displaced by urban development," said Mr Wong. "To maintain our green environment, we have been innovating and greening skywards."

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Surbana Jurong aims to 'export Singapore'

TOMOMI KIKUCHI, Nikkei Asian Review 6 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE -- State-owned infrastructure consultancy Surbana Jurong has a plan to become the world's top urban development company. Basically, it aims to build a bunch of "mini-Singapores" in emerging countries.

Jointly-owned by city-state's sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings and government agency JTC Corporation, Surbana Jurong envisions creating Singapore-like cities around the globe by exporting packages of infrastructure, including industrial parks and residential dwellings. In doing so, it would help lay foundations for replicating Singaporean economic development.

One seed of this strategy is the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park, or VSIP, in Hai Phong -- a flagship project between the two governments. It was planned and developed by Surbana Jurong on a huge lot across a river from the heart of the northern Vietnamese city. Opened in 2012, the park is currently home to printer and apparel factories among others, but the plan is to develop it into a "mini Singapore" complete with high-rise condominiums and shopping malls.

Machinery and greenery

Surbana Jurong was established earlier this year through a merger between Surbana International Consultants, a developer of public housing, and Jurong International, which had focused on designing industrial facilities and infrastructure. The former built more than 1 million housing units in Singapore, while the latter designed urban developments and industrial parks in more than 150 locations worldwide.

Now that they have pooled their expertise, the new entity is thinking big. Wong Heang Fine, the company's chief executive, said the Hai Phong project will eventually have industrial, residential, financial and other districts, all based on expertise accumulated over the 50 years since Singapore gained independence.

Hai Phong is an increasingly popular production base for foreign manufacturers thanks to its proximity to port infrastructure, but housing is in short supply as the population grows. To continue developing, the city needs to accommodate both the growing volume of companies and residents. Singapore faced a similar challenge in its early days.

For the VSIP project, Surbana Jurong plans to create a strip of forested area between the residences and factories. The idea is to allow industrialization to move ahead without compromising residents' quality of life.

Other plans are aimed at making the place as convenient as possible for foreign businesses. The shopping and financial districts are to be easily accessible from Hai Phong's existing urban core. To woo multinationals, the financial district is to feature luxury condos and a large convention center.

Surbana Jurong will develop housing according to the labor market trends from the industrial park. "We can plan the development of township and industrial areas together," said Wong. "For example, if the industry is a labor-intensive one like garments, we can build more one and two bedrooms, since many workers are likely to be single."

Singapore urban planning consultancy expands overseas investment
Reuters 10 Nov 15;

Surbana Jurong Private Ltd, a Singapore-based urban planning consultancy, said it had signed two deals valued at $69.2 million in total to increase its exposure outside the city-state and capitalise on growing urbanisation in emerging markets.

Surbana Jurong, one of Asia's largest consultancies for urbanisation and infrastructure developments, said it had agreed to take a 20 percent stake in CITICC (Africa) Holdings Ltd.

CITICC (Africa) is a $300 million platform set up by the World Bank's International Financial Company

and China's CITIC Construction Co to develop affordable housing in Africa.

Emerging economies led by China and India have seen rapid urbanisation, giving opportunities for companies to provide planning and building services for projects such as business

parks, residences and hospitals.

Surbana Jurong said it is aiming to grow its annual fee-based income to S$1 billion-to-S$1.5 billion over the next three to five years from about S$500 million ($352 million), currently.

Currently, 54 percent of the world's population lives in urban areas, and that is predicted to increase to 66 percent by 2050, with much of the growth in developing countries, U.N. figures show.

Global infrastructure spending will grow from an annual $4 trillion in 2012 to more than $9 trillion per year by 2025, according to consultancy PwC, while the Asia-Pacific market, will represent nearly 60 percent of that spending by 2025.

Separately, Surbana Jurong, jointly owned by state investor Temasek Holdings and state-owned industrial property developer and planner JTC Corp, decided to invest $9.25 million in FLUX Factory Inc, a San Francisco-based software firm dedicated to eco-friendly building design. ($1 = 1.4218 Singapore dollars) (Reporting by Rujun Shen and Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Ryan Woo)

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Malaysia: A national ban on turtle egg sales and consumption needed

WWF-Malaysia 6 Nov 15;

5 Nov 2015, Kuala Lumpur: WWF-Malaysia urgently calls for a national ban on turtle egg sales and consumption to be established immediately. A recommendation for this national ban was sent to the Office of the Science Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office earlier this year.

WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma, is reiterating this call in relation to the issue of government officials being served turtle eggs during a dinner function recently (Pictures of Ismail Sabri served turtle eggs rile up conservationists, NST, 4 November 2015).

Dato’ Dr Sharma stresses, “Turtle egg sales and consumption need to stop immediately. Marine turtles are endangered and we cannot allow threats from human actions to continue.”

In Peninsular Malaysia states, turtle protection laws are inadequate. Under the Federal Constitution, each respective state has the authority in making its own laws on turtles. State laws vary from each state and are inadequate in combating human practices of consuming turtle eggs.

Only Sabah and Sarawak have legislation that totally protects marine turtles under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 (Sabah) and the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 (Sarawak). The Malaysian Government needs to quickly standardise legislation on ban of turtle egg consumption and trade. A national ban will ensure full protection of all marine turtle species throughout Malaysia.

“It is very disheartening to find that turtle eggs were served in Sandakan, where Sabah’s state legislation lists all marine turtles as totally protected animals. Our government officials and leaders should set the example by not only refusing to eat but also condemning the sale of turtle eggs,” says Dato’ Dr Sharma.

There is already a recommendation for a national ban on turtle eggs trade and consumption, which is part of five key recommendations for turtle protection in Malaysia. These recommendations were developed as a result of a workshop to review the Sea Turtle Malaysia National Plan of Action organised by Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and United Nations Environment Programme in September 2015, and were submitted to the Office of the Science Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office. For full recommendations from the Sea Turtle Seminar and Workshop, visit the IOSEA Marine Turtle Website (

WWF-Malaysia commends the Sabah Wildlife Department’s prompt launch of an investigation into the restaurant serving the turtle eggs. Prosecution of any wrong-doing under Section 41 of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 will a send clear and strong message to future offenders. Turtle eggs poaching remains a challenge as evidenced by recurring cases of eggs being smuggled into Sabah and confiscated by the authorities.

WWF-Malaysia strongly calls for the law on turtle egg sales and consumption to be amended nationally, and for additional resources and enforcement on the ground to better protect and manage key nesting and feeding habitats of green and hawksbill turtles before they become functionally extinct, as in the case of leatherbacks in Terengganu.

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Indonesia second biggest marine pollutant, after China 6 Nov 15;

Indonesia produced 3.2 million tons of plastic waste in 2010, with around 1.29 million tons of that ending up in the ocean, according to a study published in the journal Science. The figure places Indonesia second only to China, with its 8.8 million tons of waste, or 27 percent of global plastic waste.

About 1.3 million to 3.5 million tons of China’s plastic waste ends up in the ocean. reported that the study found that around 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans every year, or, as the report mentions, enough plastic to cover an area 34 times the size of Manhattan with an ankle-deep layer. It is also the total amount of plastic waste produced globally in 1961.

Researchers said that there could be even more waste in the ocean, since the estimated 8 tons only came from coastal populations in 192 countries.

The research team, led by Jenna Jamback from the University of Georgia, estimated that people who lived within about 50 kilometers of the coast produced around 275 million tons of plastic in the year 2010. Approximately 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of that ended up in the ocean.

Jambeck and colleagues composed a list of 20 countries that dumped the most plastic waste into the ocean. The US ranked 20th, dumping 300,000 tons of plastic in the ocean.

Experts say without any improvement in waste management, the amount of plastic waste could increase tenfold by 2025. Increasing waste processing by up to 50 percent in the 20 worst offending countries could reportedly reduce ocean waste by 41 percent within 10 years. Improvements in waste processing in the 10 worst offending countries could reportedly reduce plastic waste dumped in the ocean each year by up to 6.4 tons by 2025.

Plastic garbage heaped at the bottom of the sea has been studied by researchers from the Natural History Museum in London. In December 2014, a team led by Lucy Woodall found micro plastic waste accumulated in deep-sea sediments at depths of 3,000 meters.

“Waste in the ocean is a serious problem. There are many pollutants and many more dangers than ever imagined,” said Woodall. “We must start managing it by reducing, recycling and re-using plastic products.” (liz/bbn)

The 10 biggest marine polluters are:

(By millions of tons of plastic waste dumped in the ocean each year)

1. China 8.8 million tons
2. Indonesia 3.2
3. Philippines 1.9
4. Vietnam 1.8
5. Sri Lanka 1.6
6. Thailand 1.0
7. Egypt 1.0
8. Nigeria 0.9
9. Malaysia 0.9
10. Bangladesh 0.8

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Indonesia: Arguments for, against Jakarta Bay reclamation

The Jakarta Post 6 Nov 15;

Since it was initiated in 1995, the reclamation project of building 17 artificial islets in Jakarta Bay has been receiving mixed reactions from the public. Residents who are against the project argue that it will bring no benefit for the greater public, while Jakarta will have to pay a big environmental cost. However, reclamation proponents, the Jakarta administration and Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama have their own arguments. Here are five reasons and five comments:

Food supply

Ahok has told the press that land reclamation is must around the world in order to maintain the global food supply. “If we do not reclaim the land, around 45 million people will be starving thousands of years later as our land cannot produce enough food,” he said, as quoted by

However, according to the Jakarta Development Planning Board (Bappeda), the 17 islets will be divided into three designations: residential and recreational, centers of international service, trading and tourism, and centers of ports and logistics.

Bappeda head Tuty Kusumawati has said that the city administration would decrease the quota of open green space (RTH) on three islets dedicated for ports from an initial 30 percent to only 5 percent.

Water purification

According to the governor, the environmental condition of Jakarta Bay is already so poor that it needs reclamation.

He said the city would later plant trees on the islands to rehabilitate the environment.

“After reclaiming the land, we will plant trees. The pollution will be sucked up by the trees. There is no other way to clean the sea besides reclamation,” he said.

Bandung Technology Institute’s (ITB) Coastal Technical Expertise Group leader Muslim Muin said that there was no reclamation project in the world that was used to clean polluted water.

“It does not make sense. The right way to clean polluted water is by cleaning the source of the pollution,” he said.

Muslim said that to clean the pollutants that had become sediment, they should be dredged and treated. “We cannot just layer it with dirt,” he said.

Boosting economy

Looking at the grand plan of the reclamation project, the ultimate reason for the project is to boost the economy as it creates new spaces for commercial activities in decaying North Jakarta.

The city administration said that it can create thousands of job opportunities for Jakartans. A water specialist who initiated the project years ago, Firdaus Ali, said that the commercial activities on the islets would generate a large tax income for the city administration. “The money can be used to revitalize the areas around the islets,” he said.

Aside from the plan to create new business hubs and jobs, the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen’s Union (KNTI) estimated that 16,000 families of fishermen who currently live in Jakarta Bay will potentially lose their incomes because they will not have the financial capacity to sail further north to get fish.

Waterfront city

The bylaw draft of the spatial planning of the North Jakarta coastal area says that the construction of 17 islets is to develop a “waterfront city” because the capital has been abandoning development in the coastal area, which has been environmentally degraded.

The chairman of the Association of Regional and Urban Planners (IAP), Bernardus Djonoputro, said that reclamation has to be an extension of the entire city, meaning it cannot be a separate, exclusive entity that serves only its own existence.

“It has to have green areas and public transportation must have a route to the islets. It has to be an inclusive area and the area has to provide housing for all walks of life,” Bernie said. He said that the planning for the reclaimed islets has to be transparent and the state has to be present in the process. “The reclamation has to give benefits to the whole of Jakarta, including to the vulnerable residents now residing along the northern coastal areas,” he said.

But what happens now, he said, with private developers controlling the planning and zoning, the islets would likely become another gated, exclusive community like the Pantai Mutiara and Pantai Indah Kapuk housing complexes.

Land shortage

The city administration has said that land shortage is one of the problems the reclamation would solve. Urban planning expert Suryono Herlambang of Tarumanagara University said that the essential question was: Land shortage for whom?

“It is like the argument of the ‘new city’ 25 years ago. The government opened a new suburbia to provide affordable housing, but it did not happen, right?” Herlambang said.

A price list document of Islet D of PT Kapuk Naga Indah shows that the lowest marketing price of a property there is more than Rp 30 million (US$2,100) per square meter.

“Affordable housing right now should be between Rp 5 million to Rp 10 million per square meter,” Herlambang said.

Herlambang said there was no indication that Jakarta suffered a land shortage for high-income housing.

Besides, he said, if Jakarta wants to open a new area, it has to halt the speed of development on the mainland. “But it is not happening. The latest detailed planning for Jakarta shows that the city is raising the density of the buildings, which will put more burden on the city and worsen land subsidence,” Herlambang said.

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"Conservation province" could produce sea change in Indonesia

Bruno Vander Velde, Conservation InternationalThomson Reuters 5 Nov 15;

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The world watched as wildfires raged in parts of Indonesia last month, filling the skies with smoke and even causing the country’s president to cut short a trip to Washington.

Not making headlines, however, is a recent bit of good news from the Southeast Asian country.

In October, West Papua declared itself a “conservation province,” establishing a legal framework for conservation efforts in one of Indonesia’s most picturesque regions — and a potential model for more effective conservation throughout the archipelago.

“It’s a bold vision from the government,” said Ketut Putra of Conservation International (CI), which has worked in West Papua for a decade and which consulted with the provincial governor, Abraham Atururi, on the plan.

The move, Putra said, aims to ensure that increased economic development in the province doesn’t damage the environment — specifically critical forest ecosystems — while safeguarding the region’s numerous marine protected areas, home to some of the most dazzling collections of sea life on Earth.

How it began

For more than 10 years, CI researchers have toiled to protect the reefs in an area called the Bird’s Head Seascape — named for the distinctly shaped peninsula jutting from the island of Papua in eastern Indonesia. About three-fourths of all known hard coral species can be found in these waters, which are also home to globally important populations of sharks and manta rays that draw valuable income through tourism.

“When we first came to West Papua, the main threats were from [unsustainable] fishing,” Putra said. “After a few years working with the communities and government there, we’ve been able to largely stop those problems.”

But progress in the sea was not reflected on land, as a surge in development spurred changes in land use in West Papua. Notably, the conversion of forested land in the province for agriculture and other purposes led to soil erosion, causing sediment to flow into the rivers and out to the sea, fouling the reefs.

“We spent years building this capacity for people to take care of the ocean, then we see threats coming from the land,” he said.

“If those concessions for land uses are not well-managed or well-regulated, I really worry that what we have been investing in the ocean will be undone by the sedimentation coming from those lands,” he said. “The reef system is going to be polluted, and then there will be no more reefs.”

Politics made it possible

Throughout modern times, economic development has often come at the expense of the environment — a dynamic that West Papua seeks to avoid.

Under this new framework, the province’s development “has conservation rooted as a core principle within it, with clear regulations and targets built in,” said Laure Katz, director of CI’s seascapes program.

If this sounds easier said than done, it is. With technical support from CI, the regulations are in the process of being written, and how they are written and implemented “will dictate actually how this is played out on the ground,” Katz said. “The next several months will be critical.”

The initiative owes its existence to a major political shift that went largely unnoticed outside Indonesia: a 2014 law transferring control of Indonesia’s natural resources from the country’s myriad small local governments to its 27 provincial governments. In Indonesia, where political power was famously decentralized in the late 1990s, this represented a noteworthy reversal that Katz says could strengthen conservation efforts in the country.

This matters — conservation policy can’t be effective or sustainable without political support from governments.

“Until this year, the [local] regency level was the most important level of governance,” Katz said. “And so a year ago, the [conservation province] would have meant nothing, because the provincial government would have had less authority.”

How West Papua manages its land — including important mining and palm oil concessions — under the new framework remains to be seen, but Katz points to one positive sign: The conservation initiative has the backing of the province’s local leaders, with all the local regency heads standing behind the governor when he made his announcement last month. This support will be crucial for the unheralded hard work that goes in to make effective conservation policy: writing regulations, establishing budgets and directing implementation and oversight.

Good for climate, too

Fighting climate change, while not an explicit goal of the initiative, is nonetheless an ancillary benefit, as preserving West Papua’s prominent natural features — such as mangrove forests that absorb carbon dioxide — also provides an effective defense against the effects of climate change.

“West Papua and the neighboring Papua Province have by far the greatest untouched marine and terrestrial carbon sinks left in Indonesia,” Katz said.

Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, will announce the conservation province at this year’s climate talks in Paris as a sign of the country’s climate commitments, according to Putra. It is hoped that the high-profile announcement will ensure that Indonesia is held accountable for the initiative’s long-term prospects.

‘A model for Indonesia’

A conservation effort of this scale is uncharted territory for Indonesia, but it’s badly needed, Putra said.

“This is a model for Indonesia,” he said.

“I’m dreaming of an effective example [of conservation] in Indonesia — I don’t want the recent Sumatra experience on forest fires to be experienced in West Papua. If this works, we can show how Indonesia can replicate this in other provinces.”

The world will be watching.

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Cayman: Temperature dip halts serious coral damage

Cayman News Service 6 Nov 15;

(CNS) The Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI), which has been monitoring coral bleaching around Cayman since June, has found that a potential devastation to local coral reefs due to the rise in ocean temperatures this summer was averted by a drop in sea temperature at the end of last month. In September sea temperatures passed 87 degrees F, the point at which coral bleaching begins.

Assistant Director of Research at CCMI, Dr Kristi Foster, said the Caribbean has experienced prolonged high temperatures since 2009, causing bleaching around the region.

“Unexpected but welcome relief arrived in Little Cayman during early October in the form of storms and high winds that churned the water, cooling it down. This has halted the bleaching progress and we are hopeful that anything that has survived to this point will recover,” she said.

Different species have handled the event differently; lettuce corals, for example, are more susceptible and were most affected. Scientists have been particularly concerned about staghorn and elkhorn corals, which are already endangered, but research so far shows that they appear, around Little Cayman at least, to be stable at this point, with as many as 90% appearing to be still healthy.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists have been predicting this phenomenon for more than a year. They had warmed that El Nino would bring steadily increasing temperatures, attributed to climate change, that would result in the third global coral bleaching event on record. This scenario has now been confirmed, with coral bleaching reported across the Caribbean, the North and South Pacific and the Indian Oceans since the summer of 2014.

CCMI, which is based at the Little Cayman research Centre, started to monitor coral bleaching with data loggers deployed at various depths around Little Cayman. Surveys will be conducted through next summer to gauge the extent of the bleaching event and recovery, CCMI said in a release Friday.

Coral bleaching is one of many threats and pressures on reefs the world over. Coral colonies are made up of thousands of genetically identical individuals called polyps. Polyps have microscopic, colourful algae, called zooxanthellae, living in their tissues that carry out photosynthesis and provide energy to their coral hosts, which helps reef-building corals create reef structures. Bleaching occurs when these symbiotic algae are expelled by the coral due to changes in water temperature, light or nutrients.

The pressure local reefs are under from bleaching is intensified by local fishing and coastal development. The combination of factors threatening the reefs is a major motivating factor in the Save Cayman campaign opposing government’s plans to dredge and destroy many acres of ancient coral reef in George Town.

With the coral already battling climate change, a decline in reef cleaning and supporting fish, as well as the destruction directly and indirectly from smaller scale coastal development, the potential loss of some 35-acres of ancient reef in and around George Town Harbour is devastating for the local reef system. With almost no hope of any meaningful relocation and the time it takes for new coral to form, the future survival of the reefs in Cayman, and in turn its tourism product, remain under serious threat.

Coral bleaching in Cayman passes 'mass event' threshold
Charles Duncan Compass Cayman 6 Nov 15;

Corals as deep as 100 feet along White Stroke Canyon have suffered bleaching in recent weeks. Corals as deep as 100 feet along White Stroke Canyon have suffered bleaching in recent weeks.

The waters around the Cayman Islands hit the threshold in recent weeks that could cause mass coral bleaching around the islands, part of a global event this year caused by warmer than usual water temperatures throughout the world’s oceans.

Coral bleaching occurs when the water temperatures get too warm and the algae living on the corals leave, taking with it the coral’s primary food source. The corals do not always die from bleaching, but those that survive are much more susceptible to disease.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared this year’s bleaching to be the third global bleaching event on record, and predicted that warm water will cause problems for almost 40 percent of the world’s corals.

“Right now we are experiencing quite a significant bleaching event,” Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said earlier this week.

The DOE has seen bleaching on corals down to 150 feet below the surface, she said.

DOE Deputy Director Tim Austin said Thursday, “It looks like it’s been getting progressively worse.” He said the worst bleaching has been around Grand Cayman, but corals around the Brac and Little Cayman still have significant bleaching, but not as bad.

“Hopefully it’s stabilized,” Mr. Austin said.

The warm waters throughout the world’s oceans have caused major problems for corals from Hawaii to Australia and around to the Caribbean. Marine scientists agree that El Nino, a swath of warm water in the Pacific, is to blame for the warming oceans, along with a number of other major weather events like the drought in the western U.S. and a less severe hurricane season.

The DOE director said this week that Cayman and Jamaica are experiencing among the warmest waters and most bleaching, made worse by sunlight contributing to the warming.

Mr. Austin said recently that his department expected bleaching this year with the warming oceans. “This will happen more and more every year,” he said.

The cloudy, cooler weather has helped cool water temperatures and hopefully will help give the corals a break so they can recover from the bleaching that started to become a problem in August.

Scientists measure coral bleaching risks by counting the days the water temperature is over 87.2 F (31 C). For every week, and every degree Celsius above the temperature threshold, serious bleaching is more likely. This is measured in “degree weeks” and the threshold is eight degree weeks, which the Cayman Islands hit in the last two weeks.

Waters have since cooled, and DOE officials continue to monitor the corals, officials said.

“It’s been a gradual event this year rather than a sudden thing like the 1998 event,” Mr. Austin said. Cayman experienced a previous mass bleaching event in 1998, another severe El Nino year.

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Dog adoption in Singapore: The rules for dogs in HDB flats

Nicholas Yong Yahoo Newsroom 6 Nov 15;

With the popularity of pets and an increasing awareness of animal rights, why aren’t more dogs getting adopted?

Animal welfare groups tell Yahoo Singapore one of the biggest deterrents is the rules governing the breed, size and weight of dogs that can be kept in HDB flats, where more than 80 per cent of Singaporeans reside.

Currently, only 62 toy breeds of dogs – or their crosses – are allowed in flats, including Yorkshire terriers, dachshunds and Pomeranians. Only one dog, standing at 40cm at the shoulders and weighing 10kg or less, is allowed per flat.

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) executive director Corinne Fong, calls the current rules “archaic” and in need of review. She notes, “The size of the dog belies the fact that even small dogs bark and can make a din, bite, or cause dis-amenities if the owner is not prepared to train the dog.”

But since June 2011, animal welfare groups have collaborated with authorities on a scheme that allows HDB flat dwellers to adopt larger dogs. Under the auspices of Project ADORE (Adoption and Rehoming of Dogs), residents can adopt a mixed breed dog up to 50cm in height, and as heavy as 15kg.

Ida, a female mixed breed, is now in her 10th year with the SPCA, where she is a favourite with the staff. She has been re-homed twice, but was returned both times as she and the respective families could not adapt to each other.

Among other conditions, adopters must undergo a screening process, and agree to take the dog for basic obedience training. The dogs must also come from any of three participating groups: SPCA, Save Our Singapore Dogs (SOSD) and Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD).

SOSD has a particularly stringent adopter vetting process, including email and phone screenings, home visits and an initial home stay with the dog before the adoption is formalised. SOSD president Siew Tuck Wah says this effectively weeds out adopters who are not ready. He notes, “We would rather this, because we want the dog to have a good home. And we also don’t want the dog to be returned to the shelter, because that’s very detrimental to the dog’s health.”

As of July 2015, some 227 dogs have been re-homed under Project ADORE, which is managed by three agencies – the Ministry of National Development (MND), the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the Housing Development Board (HDB). Project ADORE, which began life as a pilot programme, became a permanent scheme in 2014.
[Related: Dog adoption in Singapore: The adopters speak]

But groups like SOSD are calling on authorities to extend the parameters of Project ADORE. Siew says that if the size limit was increased by 10cm to 60cm, it would allow three times more rescued dogs into HDB flats. He adds, “Because most (rescue) dogs fall within the 50 to 60cm range… it’s going to help adoption rates increase tremendously. And that will help to solve the overcrowding and stray problems.”

But meeting the height and weight requirements is not all - the dogs’ temperament, as well as their ability to be trained, must also be assessed.

In response to queries from Yahoo Singapore, an MND spokesman says the weight and size limits for the dogs were set in consultation with animal welfare groups. The Ministry plans to include more groups in ADORE, “gradually and incrementally”, in order to ensure the scheme’s acceptance by residents and the public.

She added, “We are currently reviewing the conditions of adoption and will consider the public feedback that we have received on ADORE. Any policy adjustments will have to be done sensitively so that we can continue to be an inclusive society, and ensure the long term success of the programme.”

Dog adoption in Singapore: The adopters speak
Nicholas Yong Yahoo Newsroom 6 Nov 15;

Of all the issues to consider when adopting a dog, from the financial cost to the lifetime commitment, the most important factor is that of behavioural issues.

Co-founder of Causes For Animals Singapore (CAS) Christine Bernadette says that some rescue dogs have not been properly socialised, as they have only lived on the street.

“They need to be taught how to eat from a dish, to be toilet-trained, how to walk on a leash. Sometimes, when the dogs are fed, they will pour out the food from the dish onto the floor before they eat,” says Bernadette.

Last July, teacher Jasmine Lim, 29, encountered such behavioural issues firsthand when she adopted Merry, a Singapore mongrel. “She is not an easy dog to take care of,” says Lim, who lives in a four-room flat in Ang Mo Kio. “She’s very shy and she doesn’t walk well – she’s scared of the roads, the car, the noise and people. She’s very fussy, and only eats chicken and porridge.”

But 15 months on, Lim has no regrets. “She’s still very slim and more or less the same, just that we have got used to her habits. But she is much better with the family. She will roam around, and let my mom pat her. She likes me.”

Executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Corinne Fong notes that some adopters, unable to cope, have previously returned animals to the shelter. For example, a dog was returned because it bit the domestic helper when she inadvertently moved the food bowl while the dog was eating.
But she adds, “I dare say that there have been more happy adoptions than returns.”

One such happy adopter is Sharon Phua, 34, who adopted Kendall, one of four surviving puppies in a litter of 10. Phua, who works in business development, first met the mongrel at an adoption drive in Bishan last year. Given that she and her husband Andrew spend much of their time at work, she was looking for a dog that could be left alone for at least eight hours per day.

“Unlike the other dogs who were very active, she was just very chill. She was just lying on the floor,” recalls Phua. “We did know that she’s a bit fearful of strangers, but we know that she can be very independent and can be left alone in the house.”

Nevertheless, there were initial teething problems. Even though Kendall was named for one of the Kardashian sisters, she was hardly an attention seeker. Phua says, “She was very fearful. In the beginning, when we bring her out for walks, she panics and she will crouch down, or she will walk faster than usual, just to avoid small kids.

"Even certain movements, like if the wind blows, she will get a bit concerned and she will fidget. She was particularly afraid of skate scooters.”
Today, Kendall is still somewhat “skittish” and doesn’t really warm up to strangers. But Phua adds, “Initially, she doesn’t warm up to us that much, but now when we come home, she wags her tail.”

Phua’s advice to potential adopters: first, consider your lifestyle and priorities. She notes, “If you have a very active social life, you have to sacrifice some of that time to devote to the dog. You have to really be patient with them, and must choose the dog that suits you, rather than go for things like the specific breed or a specific look.”

Dog adoption in Singapore: Elvis is alive, and he needs a home
Nicholas Yong Yahoo Newsroom 6 Nov 15;

Elvis, a Singapore special, has been waiting eight years at the Causes For Animals Singapore shelter to be adopted. His size, which makes him ineligible for an HDB flat, is one of the main reasons he has not been adopted.

Meet Elvis, a brown mongrel rescued as a puppy from a heavy vehicle car park in Pasir Ris in 2007. A Singapore special, or local cross breed, he was part of a litter of five. His mother and three of the puppies were taken in by Causes For Animals Singapore (CAS). The rest had been poisoned.

Eight years later, Elvis, now weighing 35kg, is still waiting to be adopted. Other than being slightly overweight, he has no health issues and is “excellent with people”, says CAS co-founder Christine Bernadette. “He’s like a big polar bear. He will just bulldoze his way through and cuddle. He loves cuddles.”

So why has Elvis waited so long to find, in the parlance of animal adopters, his forever home? Bernadette explains, “A dog that is Elvis’ size cannot be adopted into a HDB flat. People are also generally reluctant to welcome an older dog into their home.”

And while Elvis is in good hands at the CAS shelter, the passage of time has not helped either. “He has grown so used to shelter life and loves the long-term volunteers that it has been difficult getting him to love other people as well,” says Bernadette.

She laments, “At his age, there’s probably zero chance of him being adopted.”

Elvis is just one of many dogs residing in shelters all over the island that are waiting for adoption. “There is actually a growing demand for dogs in Singapore, just that most people still prefer to buy. Every year, the number of licensed dogs increases and increases,” says Siew Tuck Wah, president of Save Our Singapore Dogs (SOSD).
Many owners are even prepared to import their pets. According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the past three years has seen an increase in the imports of cats and dogs, with popular breeds including Labrador retrievers and malteses. In fact, last year saw around 200 commercial and personal consignments of dogs and cats imported into Singapore. Commercial consignments usually hold as many as 30 animals, while personal ones hold between one and five animals.

Aesthetic preferences, which often drive the preference for pure breeds, are also a determining factor in an animal’s chances of being adopted. Bernadette notes, “If they have spots or longer coats, or they look a bit different, they tend to get adopted faster.”

Save Our Singapore Dogs (SOSD) provides refuge for up to 150 dogs, divided almost evenly between fosterers and a shelter. It sees an average of 12 to 14 adoptions a month. On bad months, this can drop to between six and eight. Noting that the SOSD takes in between 20 and 30 dogs a month, its president Siew Tuck Wah says, “(Our adoption rate) is not good enough, because there are so many more dogs out that need help.”

Alongside other animal welfare groups such as Noah’s Ark Cares and Action for Singapore Dogs, SOSD regularly carries out rescue and sterilization campaigns in areas such as Jurong Island, Pulau Ubin, Bukit Brown cemetery and Jurong Island.

Puppies at SOSD are typically adopted within two to six months, while adult dogs can wait up to 18 months. There are even dogs that have been with SOSD since its inception in 2011. Over at CAS, its shelter currently houses 35 dogs, and between five and eight dogs are adopted each month. It has also taken care of dogs till their dying days.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) houses approximately 140 animals, many of which are pets surrendered by their owners. Executive Director Corinne Fong says the breed and size of its dogs may well be the biggest obstacle to their finding a new home.

Fong says, “Pure bred regular-sized or toy breeds - or their crosses - stand a better chance of being adopted than a mongrel mutt, even if the pure bred - or its cross - is older than a mongrel mutt. That said, a puppy mongrel stands a better chance at being adopted than the older mongrels.”

From July to September this year, an average of about 90 animals were adopted at the SPCA each month, 17 of them dogs. But while the adoption rates for cats, rabbits and small animals have remained fairly consistent, those for dogs have gone down in the last 10 months. Besides the size of the dogs, Fong attributes this to competition from breeders and pet shops, as well as rescued dogs from other shelters vying for the same adopters.

She says, "If the dogs aren’t adopted out fast enough , there is a choke at adoption and this presents a problem as other dogs are currently waiting to be featured in the adoption area. This leads to our inability to accept more surrenders if our capacity is full."

Behavioural issues are another possible deterrent. Bernadette of the CAS says there have been cases of adopters returning dogs as they are unable to manage their behaviour. “Some families expect the dogs to warm up immediately and sadly this does not always happen,” says Bernadette.

SOSD president Siew advises potential adopters to take into account factors such as the cost of taking care of a dog, your family members' needs and how much time you can commit to the dog. "Be ready to take care of it for life," he says.

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