Best of our wild blogs: 10 Nov 15

Wild fun for kids during the December school holidays!
wild shores of singapore

FREE Guided Herp Walks @ Lower Peirce!
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Ju’rong To Take Pitta On Me
Winging It

The Rail Corridor, what will be
The Long and Winding Road

Indonesian NGO takes aim at government for failure to handle haze
Mongabay Environmental News

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Scientists warn of health damage from Indonesia's haze fires

Alisa Tang Reuters 10 Nov 15;

BANGKOK, Nov 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Toxic fumes from the Indonesian fires that have spread a choking haze across Southeast Asia may be doing more harm to human and plant health than officials have indicated, scientists measuring the pollution say.

Farmers are expecting a poor harvest because plants have too little sunlight for normal photosynthesis, while government figures of half a million sickened by the smoke are only the "tip of the iceberg", said Louis Verchot, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Meanwhile, the fires are converting carbon stored in burning peatlands into greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.

"When the sun goes up, the whole world is yellow. On the worst day, the visibility was less than 100 metres (328 ft)," said Verchot, who led a workshop on the crisis in Central Kalimantan province last month with about 20 scientists from Indonesia, the United States and Britain.

While taking measurements on a burning 5,000-hectare (12,000-acre) plot, the scientists - equipped with gas masks and a drone - trod carefully across the ash-covered peatland to avoid calf-deep holes, hot from the smouldering underground.

They are still analysing their data, but Verchot said they had found harmful gases in the air including ozone, carbon monoxide, cyanide, ammonia, formaldehyde, nitric oxide and methane.

"It irritates your eyes, it irritates your throat. Without a mask, I don't know how people live in this stuff," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Jakarta.

Many people wear simple masks that are ineffective at filtering the dangerous compounds, or no masks at all, he added.

The smoke from the fires on Borneo, Sumatra and elsewhere in Indonesia has spread to neighbouring Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Local media reported that schools in Central Kalimantan had closed for almost five weeks over the past two months, while the haze killed at least 10 people and sickened 504,000 on Borneo and Sumatra - though Verchot believes the figure is much higher.

"People in rural areas seek medical attention when it's really bad. I'm pretty sure it's an underestimate. This must be the people who are seriously affected," he said.


Daytime flights to Central Kalimantan have been postponed to night when winds blow the all-permeating smoke in a direction that improves visibility for landing, Verchot said.

Martin Wooster, a professor at King's College London who joined Verchot on the trip, tested his equipment in his hotel room, several kilometres from the fires, and found 30 molecules of carbon monoxide per million molecules of air - enough to trigger a household carbon monoxide detector.

Outside near the burning peatlands, Wooster's preliminary data indicates more than 1,000 microgrammes of particulate matter per cubic metre of air, and sometimes up to 2,000.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers any amount over 300 microgrammes per cubic metre hazardous.

"I'd never seen anything like that ... I thought it was catastrophic for the local population, having to live with that level of air pollution for such an extended period of time," said Wooster, who has studied burning biomass in Mexico, Canada, South Africa and Britain.

"The geographic coverage of the smoke was enormous. You could drive for many tens of kilometres and still be in thick smoke. And it is persisting for weeks, even months," he said by telephone from London.


The smokiest burn sites in Indonesia are the tropical peatlands that large companies and small-scale farmers have deforested and drained for agriculture, palm oil and wood products such as pulp and paper. Lacking a forest canopy, the dried-out peatlands are prone to fire.

Once considered a problem mainly in drought years, the smouldering fires on these "forest cemeteries" of dried peat and wood debris are now occurring annually.

This year has been particularly bad due to lower rainfall linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon, although recent downpours have doused some of the fires and reduced the haze.

While the Indonesian government is struggling to control the crisis, Verchot described the haze as "totally preventable".

"This was predicted. The solution is not reacting to the crisis, it's preventing the crisis," he said. "It requires serious effort. It's something the government could do if they wanted to."

CIFOR has urged a reduction in forest conversion and peatland cultivation, better income opportunities in rural areas, and restoration of degraded peatlands.

Greenpeace has called on the pulp and palm oil industries to implement an immediate ban on forest and peatland development, and for peatlands to be reflooded to mitigate fire risks.

To discourage palm oil-related forest destruction, the Union of Concerned Scientists and other green groups have lobbied for companies to trade and use palm oil that is not produced in a way that causes deforestation. (Reporting by Alisa Tang, editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption and climate change. Visit

The human and environmental cost of Indonesia's haze fires
Alisa Tang Thomson Reuters Foundation 10 Nov 15;

BANGKOK, Nov 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thousands of fires in forests and on degraded, treeless peatland in Indonesia in September and October have spread a blinding, sickening haze across the archipelago nation, as well as neighbouring Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Widespread deforestation by small farmers and large companies for agriculture, palm oil and wood products such as paper has left peatlands exposed to the sun. The dried peat and wood debris on these "forest cemeteries" are highly flammable.

Researchers say the fires are no longer limited to drought years, and are now an annual event, usually peaking in around September or October.

This year has been particularly bad because of lower rainfall linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon, although recent downpours have doused some of the fires and dramatically reduced the haze and smoke.

Here are some facts about Indonesia's haze fires:

* By early November, scientists had tallied almost 121,000 fires across much of Indonesia, concentrated in Riau and Jambi provinces on the island of Sumatra, and Central and West Kalimantan on Borneo.

* 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) of forests and plantations have been razed by fires on Sumatra and Borneo islands, according to government data.

* Fire is a cheap, easy way for farmers and companies to clear land for crops, but fires on peatland are difficult to put out, often smouldering underground for days or weeks. Only heavy downpours in the wet season can extinguish them.

* The Indonesian fires have emitted an estimated 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent so far this year.

* On many days in September and October, the CO2 emissions from the Indonesia fires exceeded the average daily emissions from all economic activity in the United States, researchers estimated.

* Scientists conducting research in Central Kalimantan found harmful compounds in the air including ozone, carbon monoxide, cyanide, ammonia, formaldehyde, nitric oxide and methane.

* Between July 1 and Oct. 23, the haze killed 10 people and sickened more than 500,000 in six provinces: Jambi, South Sumatra, South Kalimantan, Riau, Central Kalimantan and West Kalimantan.

* On many days near the burning peatlands, preliminary data indicated levels of particulate matter at more than 1,000 microgrammes per cubic metre of air, over three times the level considered hazardous by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

* 20 percent of fires occur on oil palm concessions.

* Indonesia is the world's largest palm oil producer, supplying half of the world's palm oil in 2014. Sources: World Resources Institute, Global Fire Emissions Database, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and media reports (Reporting by Alisa Tang, editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption and climate change. Visit

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Indonesia: Govt aims for strict liability but lighter punishments for forest burning

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 9 Nov 15;

The government is mulling whether to implement strict liability in its legal action against individuals or companies whose forest concessions are burning, in a bid to provide more of a deterrent effect, though at the same time, aiming to stop prosecution of offenders.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry said that the strict liability concept could be applied in the future, to more easily hold offending individuals or companies responsible.

“We are studying this concept of absolute responsibility at the moment. If a concession is burning, we could implement [this concept] and impose administrative sanctions, but not in front of the courts,” the ministry’s law enforcement director general Rasio Ridho Sani said.

He was responding to suggestions made by law experts regarding how to stop individuals or companies conducting the slash-and-burn practices that caused annual land and forest fires in Indonesia.

Dewi Pelitawati from Padjadjaran University law community said that Indonesia already recognized the concept in the Law No. 32/2009 on environment.

“Our environmental law already contains the strict liability concept. So the tools are there, the regulations are there, we just have to do it,” she said on Friday.

Article 88 of the law states that any person whose actions, businesses and/or activities use hazardous or toxic waste (B3), produce and/or manage toxic waste and/or pose a serious threat to the environment is fully responsible for any damage done without their offences having to be proven.

Firyamanzuri, also from Padjadjaran University law community, said that the article could be used to immediately put the responsibility for fires on the shoulders of the culprits, even though there was no proof that the fires on their concessions were caused by themselves or their negligence.

“But from past cases, the justice system here still uses the practice of burden-of-proof, meaning that the victims are the ones forced to prove that the polluters are guilty,” he said.

However, Rasio said that the interpretation of Article 88 might prevent the government from implementing the strict liability concept in forest fire cases.

“Proving a company guilty is not easy. First, we have to go to the location where the concession is burning. If the concession is vast, then it will be difficult to know the exact position of the fire and only the local people know how to get to the location. Second, it is hard to produce evidence, once the incident has passed, with which to prove who did the burning,” said Rasio.

APP's bottom line takes a hit from Indonesia plantation fires
David Fogarty, The Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Nov 15;

Facing consumer boycotts and prosecution over fires, Indonesian pulpwood giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) is also suffering economic losses from the fires damaging its plantations, say the company and a report by a green group.

The fires in Indonesia have burned more than two million hectares, the government says, destroying forests, farmland as well as damaging oil palm and pulpwood plantations. The haze and drought will also likely reduce yields for oil palm and rubber crops, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. For APP, the fires could prove costly and affect supplies of pulpwood to its mills, particularly a US$2.6 billion (S$3.7 billion) pulp mill under construction in South Sumatra.

Eyes on the Forest (EoF), a coalition of Indonesian non-governmental organisations (NGOs), released a report last Thursday showing satellite imagery of recent fires in three large APP supplier concessions in South Sumatra, one of the areas worst affected by fires. The time series imagery shows the before and after shots of fires, some of which appear to have burned both forest and acacia plantations on a large scale.

The concessions, belonging to Bumi Andalas Permai, Bumi Mekar Hijau and Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, cover about 530,000ha, EoF says - or more than seven times the size of Singapore.

All three firms received "Preventative Measures Notices" from Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) for possible transgressions of the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act.

"Some of the areas burned were originally acacia plantations, visible as light to dark green with grids of peat canals. Intense fire flames and many high-confidence fire hot spots in the area up to now seem to suggest that some of the acacia trees were burned," said EoF, which specialises in monitoring oil palm and pulpwood companies in Sumatra.

The NGO alliance said it was not yet possible to determine the size of the areas burned but said the damage could be significant.

In a response to e-mailed questions, Ms Aniela Maria, APP's deputy director for Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement, confirmed the fires had affected its plantations. "However, we have not yet completed verifications and do not want to speculate. The verifications of areas affected will be done together with the government of Indonesia," she said.

"As for business impact, availability of pulpwood plantation will directly impact our pulp production. How much of this will be impacted will need to be reviewed once verifications are completed."

She said APP would restore natural forest areas affected by fire.

The company, Indonesia's largest pulp and paper firm and which controls 2.6 million hectares of concessions, has come under pressure because of the large number of fires on land both it and its supplier companies own. EoF says 39 per cent of all high-confidence hot spots in Sumatra and 53 per cent of all high-confidence hot spots on Sumatra's peatlands were on APP concessions. Bumi Mekar Hijau is being sued by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry for 7.8 trillion rupiah (S$780 million) for fires on its concessions last year and has been named again by the Indonesian police as a suspect for the recent fires.

Last Thursday, APP announced it was stepping up fire-fighting and prevention efforts and boosting its preparedness for next year.

Misinformation? He clears the air with openness
Francis Chan and Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja AsiaOne 10 Nov 15;

An earthquake of magnitude 6.3 strikes the eastern Indonesian island of Aloron on Wednesday.

Two days later, a Boeing 737 passenger jet skids off a runway in Yogyakarta's Adisucipto Airport.

Thousands of people remain stranded at other terminals across the eastern part of Indonesia, after hundreds of flights were delayed over the weekend due ash clouds from a volcanic eruption in Lombok last month.

All that even as relief operations continue in Kalimantan and Sumatra, as millions in South-east Asia wait with bated breath, wondering if the haze crisis is finally over.

That in a nutshell is Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho's week. Want proof? Follow him on Twitter, where he is usually first with an alert in the event of a disaster, followed by an analysis of the situation.

As head of data and information at Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), it is his job to be on top of such incidents so that the Indonesian government can make informed decisions as it coordinates relief or rescue efforts.

"When disaster strikes, I immediately need to know 'who, when, what, why and how', so that we can plan what next," said Dr Sutopo.

The 46-year-old is arguably the single most quoted official in the media during this year's haze crisis.

This after he developed a reputation for being a straight-shooter when it comes to sharing information with the media and public - instead of allowing bureaucracy to dilute or, worse, bury the facts.

"I choose to tell the public what is really happening on the ground because people should know the truth," he said during an interview with The Straits Times at the BNPB headquarters on Friday. "Also, in this age of transparency, where there are so many media outlets, we would look funny if we try to cover things up."

His weapon of choice as the de facto spokesman for the agency is social media because the battleground for information is the Internet, where he said facts can often be misconstrued, leaving people with more questions than answers.

That is why he regularly shares raw information - from air pollution levels to satellite images of wind and weather patterns, to photos and videos of relief operations - via platforms such as Twitter, Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and WhatsApp.

But to remain credible, he makes it a point not to self-censor and avoids delivering only sanitised versions of the truth, said Dr Sutopo.

An example of him walking the talk is a photo he tweeted recently. It showed oil palm seedlings lining up neatly over an orang utan sanctuary in Central Kalimantan, which had just been cleared by fire.

The photo, shared by users of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, went viral. It was also picked up by Greenpeace, but it was quickly refuted by Indonesia's palm oil trade association, which claimed it was a victim of a smear campaign.

"When we broadcast to the public, it assures people that the government is aware and on top of things," added Dr Sutopo.

An alumnus of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta and Bogor Agriculture Institute, where he completed his PhD in natural resources and environment management, he became the voice of BNPB by chance.

"In my first year at BNPB, there were three disasters, but we had no one who understood disaster management and could handle the media at the same time," he said.

"And we really felt that it was important for BNPB to disclose information on the incidents to the public in a more timely manner."

In the early days, Dr Sutopo would call for briefings at BNPB, but his openness made him the first phone call for journalists whenever a crisis breaks, he said. "Disasters in Indonesia have a habit of happening on weekends, when offices are closed, but I'm not closed and my friends in the media know that and, very often, a TV crew will appear outside my house with their (mobile satellite vehicle) waiting for me to say something," said Dr Sutopo.

"The roads in my neighbourhood are narrow, so I felt guilty that my neighbours are disturbed, but they now understand."

He quickly recognised that, instead of being a threat, social media can be a "force multiplier" and as BBM was the communique of choice for most people in Indonesia, why not use it to broadcast updates, he thought.

Dr Sutopo has since evolved his communications operations and, as the agency's spokesman, now manages several chat groups on WhatsApp and BBM, comprising colleagues from BNPB and others from the police, military and ministries, as well as hundreds of journalists.

Carrying multiple mobile phones is also now par for the course for him and his team of 28, comprising many young graduates who he mentors. "I won't be here in this position forever," he said.

"My staff are the future leaders, so I have to share knowledge and whatever I know with them."

Although he is now at the peak of his career in the civil service, he wants junior officers to remember that their obligation is still to the people and he has a story on how no task is too small, even for a senior official such as himself.

"One day, an elderly woman in Yogyakarta called me to say her cat had climbed up a tree and would not come back down, and asked for help," he quipped. "So I sent a team in to help her and the cat was rescued. We do these things too."

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Singapore sectors making money from the haze: out-bound travel and pharmacies

This sector is enjoying a haze-related boost in Singapore
Leslie Shaffer 8 Nov 15;

Air pollution from the forest fires in Indonesia may have cast a pall over the region, but one business sector has gotten a boost: travel out of Singapore.

A solid chunk of Singapore's residents looked to escape the worst of the air pollution, colloquially called the haze, in September and October. Travel search website Skyscanner said that searches for outbound travel from Singapore climbed gradually from September 4 - when the city-state's air quality levels started approaching an unhealthy level - and by October 23 were more than 50 percent higher. saw a similar boost. "From September onwards we've seen an increase in outbound travel in Singapore and Indonesia of over 20 percent month-on-month," Abhiram Chowdhry, managing director for Asia-Pacific for the brand, said via email.

Local travel agency Dynasty Travel also said it saw a boost of about 20 percent year-on-year in September and October in number of travelers heading from Singapore to Europe, Australia, New Zealand and China.

That's even though school exams in October may have kept many Singaporeans at home, noted Alicia Seah, a representative for Dynasty Travel. In 2013, when the worst of the haze coincided with school holidays, the haze-related boost to outbound travel was larger, she said.

Even though the haze is an annual event - Indonesians deliberately set rainforests ablaze to clear land, generally to produce palm oil and paper products - a lack of rain and the El Nino weather system has meant the air pollution caused by the fires has been particularly severe and long-lived this year, covering Southeast Asia in air pollution.

The fires have covered around 2.1 million hectares from June 21-October 20, Indonesia's National Space and Aviation Agency calculated, according to a Nasional newspaper report. By comparison, Singapore itself is only about 70,000 hectares in size.

Singapore was among the hardest-hit in Southeast Asia by the haze and it's also the region's wealthiest country, giving many of its residents greater ability to escape toxic air.

The Pollutant Standards Index, a global gauge of air quality, climbed over 400 in parts of Singapore over the September-to-October period, although so far in November, it's fallen to less-gritty levels, mostely hovering between 50 and 100, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA). A level between 100 and 200 indicates unhealthy air quality, while levels above 300 are considered hazardous.

Lisa Clayton, a director of OzFit/UFit Bootcamps, was among those who headed for the exits in October after about two months of hazy conditions, taking two weeks' holiday on the Indonesian island of Bali, which is less than two hours away from Singapore by air.

"It was a last-minute decision to have a bit of a haze-free break. I can work remotely as well, so it meant I was able to do that," she said, adding that she was concerned about the haze's health effects on both her family and her hired helper.

"It was just becoming extremely difficult with my three young children (under the age of four). Having to occupy them in a tiny space in our condominium was frustrating … They weren't able to run outside and burn off steam."

The areas of Indonesia where the fires are still burning have seen far worse air quality than Singapore. PSI has been over 2,000 in Kalimantan and Sumatra, according to reports.

The emissions from the fires exceed those from fossil fuel emissions in the U.S. on a daily basis, data from the Global Fire Emissions Database showed. The fires have bumped Indonesia up to the fourth-largest emitter globally, up from sixth, over the past six weeks, according to researchers at the World Resources Institute.

Global Forest Watch Fires says there have been more than 127,000 fires in Indonesia so far this year.

The fires, mainly on Kalimantan and Sumatra islands, have killed at least 10 people and more than 500,000 there have suffered respiratory infections, the country's national disaster agency, Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB), said in a release on its website in late October. The agency's spokesperson called it "an extraordinary crime against humanity."

In mid-October, after weeks of waffling over the decision, Indonesia accepted Singapore's offer of personnel and equipment to help fight the forest fires. Much of the effort focuses on dropping "water bombs" on burning areas, but because fires are burning through peat land -- or areas with a large, sometimes deep, accumulation of decaying vegetation -- they're unusually difficult to extinguish. Many of these areas have also been drained of water to promote agriculture, making them vulnerable to long-burning fires.

Haze a real money-spinner for pharmacies in Singapore
The volume and variety of medication is on the rise, in response to greater demand
RUMI HARDASMALANI Today Online 10 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — After more than three months of choking haze, life has pretty much returned to normal for Singaporeans, but for the pharmaceutical companies it is time to augment their therapeutic arsenals as the smoky skies are turning out to be an annual crisis that is causing more people to suffer from respiratory problems.

Multinational pharmaceutical firms are strengthening their respiratory drugs portfolio in the Republic, beefing up new launch plans on top of aggressively pushing existing drugs and other related products for respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). “Seldom do we see over five companies pushing the same class of medicines at the same time so aggressively. Due to the annual haze episode, the demand for respiratory medication is increasing every passing year as we see more patients turning up at clinics with such conditions,” said Dr Ong Kian Chung, a respiratory medicine specialist who is also the president of COPD Association Singapore.

British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) launched the asthma and COPD medication Relvar in Singapore last month and plans to unveil another inhaler here for COPD named Anoro — already available in several other countries — besides skincare products from its consumer healthcare portfolio.

“GSK is planning to launch other medicines to treat respiratory ailments in Singapore over the next 12 months. We are exploring how we can step-up our outreach to GPs to help ensure they get the most up-to-date guidance on asthma and COPD management. Further, there are derma-products in the consumer healthcare category, which GSK will launch in Singapore for dry and sensitive skin conditions,” said Ms Dipal Patel, general manager, GSK Pharmaceuticals Singapore.

Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim, which launched the inhaler Striverdi late last year, is understood to be in the process of bringing a new dual-bronchodilator to Singapore.

AstraZeneca, which sells Symbicort inhalers, is also planning to unleash its British-Swedish parents’ respiratory drugs in Singapore soon.

“Among South-east Asian countries, Singapore has the highest number of deaths from asthma. The burden of respiratory disease in Singapore is an ongoing cause for concern, and not just when the haze comes around. Unfortunately, many patients are not being diagnosed or they are not optimally treated. To address the current disease burden in Singapore, AstraZeneca is also enhancing patient and physician education about treating asthma optimally,” said Dr Viraj Rajadhyaksha, medical director of AstraZeneca Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.

Two other smaller pharmaceutical companies — MundiPharma and Europharma — have stepped up their marketing strategies for inhalers, doctors said. MundiPharma markets Flutiform and Orient, while Europharma sells Foster inhalers. Apart from respiratory medications, products such as skin creams, eye drops and nasal sprays are seeing a surge in demand as environmental disruptions cause heat and dust irritation.

Local MundiPharma and Europharma said they have stocked up on medications to manage increased demand from consumers for symptoms such as sneezing, runny and blocked noses, itchy or sore throats and coughing that become aggravated as the skies get smoky.

“We do see a growth in demand for respiratory products as compared to last year. Retail pharmacists have seen an increased number of customers coming in for respiratory symptoms related to the haze. Individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as rhinitis and asthma have also presented themselves at pharmacies with exacerbating symptoms,” said Mr Dominic Wong, CEO of Watsons Singapore.

The average increase in demand during the haze period this year was about 10 per cent compared with the same period last year, said Mr Ezekiel Chin, marketing and branding director for Guardian Health & Beauty. Pharmacy chain Unity indicated a 5 per cent increase in sales of such products.

According to the latest Epic Asia COPD survey, the prevalence of COPD in Singapore is 5.9 per cent of the population.

“Our observational studies done recently by the COPD Association suggest higher prevalence of COPD in the elderly population and that the prevalence rate of COPD among females may be higher than previously thought,” said Dr Ong.

However, Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority noted that there are already a considerable range of medicines for the management of haze-related symptoms.

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Malaysia: Water rationing exercise in Johor extended

CHUAH BEE KIM New Straits Times 9 Nov 15;

JOHOR BARU: The water rationing exercise in parts of Johor Baru and Kota Tinggi will be extended to December 15, according to SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Its corporate communications head Jamaluddin Jamil said the decision was made after findings revealed the water levels of the Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi and Sungai Layang dam, Masai have grown more critical.

"The state Water Services Commission (SPAN) approved the decision as the move would prolong the storage of water in both dams especially Sungai Lebam which recorded a reading of 8.19m.

"The new schedule for water rationing exercise will be from November 16 to December 15," he said. This is will be the fourth month of water rationing for the affected consumers.

Jamaluddin said the rain in the past few days had not increased the water levels of both dams.

For further enquiries, call the SAJ Info Centre via hotline 1 800 88 7474 or SMS 019-7727474 or email

Water rationing extended in JB, Kota Tinggi
YEE XIANG YUN The Star 10 Nov 15;

JOHOR BARU: The prolonged water woes here and Kota Tinggi are far from over as the scheduled water rationing will continue until December.

Water concessionaire SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd (SAJ) said it has the approval of the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) to extend the exercise from Nov 16 until Dec 15 in view of the critical levels of two dams here.

SAJ corporate communications head Jamaluddin Jamil said that they were forced to take such steps especially due to the worsening state of the Sungai Lebam dam, which recorded water level of only 8.19m.

The other affected dam in Sungai Layang supplies water to 580,000 consumers in Pasir Gudang and Masai, mostly industrial users and several parts of Johor Baru.

The Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi channels water to about 66,496 users in Mukim Tanjung Surat, Mukim Pantai Timur, Mukim Pengerang and parts of Kota Tinggi.

Jamaluddin noted that rainfall in the past few days failed to restore the water levels at the two dams, forcing the extension in the scheduled water exercise.

“However, if the water levels at the dams were able to return to normal and non-critical levels, the scheduled water exercise will be called off.

“We will keep monitoring the situation and keep consumers up-to-date on the latest developments,” he said.

Jamaluddin said that among the steps taken by SAJ to increase the water levels at the two dams were cloud seeing and transferring raw water from Sungai Papan to the Sungai Lebam dam as well as from Sungai Tiram to the Sungai Layang dam.

The scheduled water exercise began on Aug 16 until Sept 15 before it was extended twice until November due to the worsening water levels at the two dams.

For details, call 1 800 88 7474 (SAJ Info Centre), SMS to 019-772 7474 or email

Water rationing in Kota Tinggi, JB extended till Dec 15
The Star 11 Nov 15;

JOHOR BARU: Water woes in parts of Kota Tinggi and Johor Baru are far from over as the state water concessionaire has made it known that the scheduled water exercise will continue until next month.

SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd (SAJ) corporate communications head Jamaluddin Jamil said the water company was forced to take such steps especially due to the worsening state at the Sungai Lebam dam, which recorded a water level of only 8.19m.

Rainfall in the past few days failed to push up the water levels at the two dams, forcing the extension in the scheduled water exercise, he said in a statement on Monday.

Jamaluddin said the announcement came after SAJ obtained the National Water Services Comm­ission’s approval to extend the exercise from Nov 16 until Dec 15.

“The other affected dam is in Sungai Layang which supplies water to 580,000 consumers in Pasir Gud­ang and Masai, mostly industrial users, and several parts of Johor Baru. The Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Ti­­nggi channels water to about 66,496 users in Mukim Tanjung Sur­at, Mukim Pantai Timur, Mukim Pen­­g­e­rang and parts of Kota Tinggi,” he sa­­id.

He added that they had taken steps to increase the water levels at the two dams such as cloud-seeding and transferring raw water from Sungai Papan to the Sungai Lebam dam as well as from Sungai Tiram to the Sungai Layang dam.

For details, call 1 800 88 7474 (SAJ Info Centre), SMS to 019-772 7474 or email

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Plans to redevelop Rail Corridor unveiled

A Japanese-Singapore team that was awarded the Concept Master Plan proposes enhancing natural vegetation along the Rail Corridor to enhance its greenery and to set up activity nodes along the way for recreation, art and community events.
Nur Afifah Ariffin, Channel NewsAsia 9 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: The Concept Master Plan for the 24-kilometre Rail Corridor has been awarded to a design team comprising Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei and local landscape firm Tierra Design.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority on Monday (Nov 9) announced the winners of the Rail Corridor Request for Proposal (RFP) awards.

The winning Concept Master Plan is themed “Lines of Life”. It plans to create community-centric spaces and experiences throughout the length of the Corridor. The concept proposals include enhancing the natural vegetation among most stretches of the Rail Corridor to create places of respite and enrich the ‘green corridor’ experience. At the same time, activity nodes are proposed all along the Rail Corridor where the public can enjoy various activities ranging from nature-based recreation, arts and cultural events, to community activities.

"The URA from the start saw an opportunity for us to work closely with the community to develop this into a very special community space. But above that, we also see enormous opportunity for us to use the Rail Corridor to enhance land around the route in a way for us to support future growth in Singapore," said Mr Ng Lang, URA CEO and chairperson of the RFP evaluation panel.

The Singapore-Japanese team plans to have 122 access points throughout, within a five-minute walk from the nearest housing estate or workplace.

"If the corridor is well connected to the neighbourhood, maybe people will use the space more. And many people's lines of life will be aggregated in that corridor. So that's the image of our design idea," said Mr Wataru Tanaka, executive officer of Nikken Sekkei.


The Concept Designs for an urban-green-blue-tapestry at Choa Chu Kang as well as the interim reuse of the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station were awarded to the team from MKPL Architects and Turenscape International.

It was announced on Monday that a 16-hectare site will be turned into housing units, surrounded by nature.

At Choa Chu Kang, the proposal was to create an attractive and ecologically-richer environment along the Rail Corridor. This would mean widening a part of the Rail Corridor and transforming it into a 50 metre-wide linear forest and ecological corridor by introducing new landscapes and planting. The linear forest will also be seamlessly integrated with existing greenery, water bodies and future housing.


There are also plans to turn the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station as a multi-functional community building over the next 20 years. This includes creating a new green community space in front of the building, named Station Green, as well as other amenities such as a heritage gallery, auditorium and commercial spaces.

URA also launched an exhibition of the awarded proposals, which will be held at the URA Centre Atrium from Nov 9 to 28. Throughout this period, the public is invited to give their feedback on the proposals.

Speaking at the launch of the exhibition, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said: "Next month, we'll be launching the 'Future of Us' exhibition to launch the next chapter of the Singapore story. As part of this exhibition, we will be having a series of converations on how we can build our future together."

"One of the conversations is on the Future of Greening, and the Rail Corridor project will be one of many projects which will be the topic of conversation so that we can again discuss and co create together a more liveable environment for Singaporeans. So there will be more opportunities for Singaporeans to continue this dialogue on your aspirations for the Rail Corridor, and also on other green, community spaces in Singapore," he added.

URA also announced the proposed conservation of the two steel truss bridges along the Rail Corridor in Bukit Timah. The bridge across Bukit Timah/Dunearn Road spans 45 metres, and is the only Baltimore truss bridge in Singapore. It is a popular spot for photo-taking and is widely used by Rail Corridor users. The bridge across Upper Bukit Timah Road spans 60 meters and is the only Pratt truss bridge in Singapore.

- CNA/ly/dl

Rail corridor plans a good balance of greenery, development, say analysts
FRANCIS LAW Today Online 10 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — Keeping as much greenery intact as possible for the housing concept at a Choa Chu Kang site along the Rail Corridor is a winning idea, said heritage experts and property analysts.

The green theme would be a major draw, regardless of the housing type for the 16ha site, but convenience, in the form of amenities such as schools, will also be important for prospective buyers, property analysts added.

The winning idea for the Rail Corridor Request for Proposal for the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station — a multifunctional community building for the next 20 years — was also hailed as a “pleasant surprise” by heritage experts.

Commenting on the plans for the Choa Chu Kang site, Assistant Professor Yeo Kang Shua, who teaches architectural history, theory and criticism at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, felt such a development would introduce a “catchment” population that would “enliven that particular stretch of the corridor” by using it as a recreation area.

“Of course, this doesn’t mean that we need to intensify every spot of the corridor and introduce ‘catchment’ populations,” he added. “The key word is to be selective. Intensify at selective areas and leave the remaining rustic.”

Mr Nicholas Mak, executive director of research and consultancy at SLP International Property Consultants, felt that with some groups wanting to conserve the land and others wanting to develop it, the current concept proposal strikes a good balance between the two.

Despite the land’s appeal as a green neighbourhood, Mr Mak described the living environment as “a bit of a sweetener”, emphasising that location and accessibility would be among home buyers’ top considerations.

Heritage experts were also mostly pleased with the winning concept for the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, which includes integrating the old station with the new Cantonment MRT Station — part of the Circle Line extension — to be built underneath. The additional exit to the MRT station will connect the two stations via an escalator.

The concept design includes plans to transform the railway station into a multifunctional community use building, which would include suggested options such as art clubs, a railway gallery, and cafes.

Singapore Heritage Society and Rail Corridor Partnership member Ho Weng Hin felt that, from a historical point of view, the concept brings back the original use of the railway station as a transit hub for the community to use.

He added that it is important for developers to consider the “design language” of the iconic site in order to ensure that the new designs “respect the scale of the old architecture”.

Asked about the Nature Society Singapore wanting the Rail Corridor to be a continuous green corridor, society president and evaluation panel member Shawn Lum noted that some stretches, such as Buona Vista, will be more developed.

“But none of these then intrude on the sensitive parts of the (nature) reserve and there is still a corridor for certain kinds of wildlife to move, in addition to people and so on,” said Dr Lum. “That balance was struck, I think, because of the long engagement process.”

The Rail Corridor Partnership that included the nature community was part of the engagement process early on, and protection of nature and the need to link nature areas formed part of the design brief, he said.

Rail corridor to offer recreation nodes, connectivity
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 9 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — From community farms and fishing ponds near Stagmont Ring and Pang Sua Canal, to a yoga spot and climbing wall near a Pan Island Expressway viaduct near Mayfair Park, the future Rail Corridor will offer a variety of recreation options to the estimated one million people living nearby, as well as other leisure seekers.

As for a 16ha site in Choa Chu Kang that falls along the stretch of former Keretapi Tanah Melayu railway line, it will be the testbed for a future housing concept — providing 3,000 units — that is integrated with a forest-type environment. The former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, meanwhile, will be a multi-functional community building for the next 20 years.

These are the winning ideas of the two design teams that were awarded the Rail Corridor Request for Proposals today (Nov 9), as Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong also announced the proposed conservation of two steel bridges along the Rail Corridor.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) awarded the overall concept master plan to the team comprising Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei and local landscape firm Tierra Design for its ability to strengthen the Rail Corridor’s identity, connectivity, landscape and heritage. Another design team, from MKPL Architects and Turenscape International, is behind the concept designs for the Choa Chu Kang site and the former railway station.

URA chief executive Ng Lang, who chaired the panel evaluating design proposals, said the winning teams collectively presented a “compelling vision” and captured what the community wants for the Rail Corridor — an inclusive space providing seamless connectivity, offering a range of creatively designed nodes for recreation. They also offered ideas on sensitively integrating future developments with the Rail Corridor.

The winning overall concept master plan proposed creating 122 access points along the Rail Corridor that are within a five-minute walk from the nearest housing estate or workplace.

To create a comfortable experience for users, the team proposed 21 “platforms” along the corridor that will house amenities, such as toilets, water points, shower facilities and bicycle-rental vending machines. These spots will resemble train platforms, in a nod to the corridor’s history.

The team also proposed eight distinctively-themed stretches, with design strategies aiming to integrate existing water bodies and greenery to create an ecologically richer environment.

Four of these will be community nodes, located near Stagmont Ring, Mayfair Park, Queensway Viaduct and a brick drain about 650m from the Bukit Timah Railway Station, near the defunct Jurong Railway Line.

The other four, which will be key activity nodes, are at Kranji (near the canal opposite Kranji MRT station), the former Bukit Timah Fire Station, the Bukit Timah Railway Station and Buona Vista.

A gathering space is envisioned at Buona Vista, for instance, catering to one-north workers and the Queenstown community. The former Bukit Timah Fire Station could feature a “forest walk” and offer activities such as camping.

Mr Shoji Kaneko, an urban designer and landscape architect from Nikken Sekkei, said they wanted to keep the “very peaceful and quiet” nature of the Rail Corridor, which is very different from the surrounding urban environment.

As part of its plans for the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, the MKPL Architects and Turenscape International team proposed an additional entrance and exit for the future Circle Line MRT station that is located between the former railway platforms, to create a “distinctive sense of arrival” for commuters. The carpark near the station could become a community green space that will allow more people to appreciate the station’s architecture. Within the station building, heritage galleries and an auditorium could be found.

MKPL Architects director Siew Man Kok said his team advocated a “light touch” approach in developing the site, so as to retain the place’s original charm. Its proposed intervention for Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is “very subtle” and strove to bring back memories of the train platforms, and of travelling and arrival, he added.

The awarded proposals will be exhibited at the URA Centre Atrium until Nov 28, and the exhibition will travel to various neighbourhoods in the first quarter of next year, until which the public may provide feedback.

The URA said plans presented in the Request for Proposals exhibition are not finalised plans for the Rail Corridor. It will seek views of the community and stakeholders on the awarded proposals before refining them. The refinement of the master plan and concept designs will be refined in the second quarter of next year, and preliminary design and feasibility studies will be done in the third quarter of next year.

Implementation on various stretches of the corridor will be studied carefully and could be paced. “Implementation could be timed with other future developments on the Rail Corridor and its adjacent land parcels,” said a URA spokesperson. “We will also work with the community to look into whether certain basic elements of the Rail Corridor may be implemented first to improve the Corridor’s user-friendliness and connectivity. The implementation of certain stretches can also be dovetailed with future infrastructural works along the Rail Corridor, such as after the laying of PUB’s Murnane pipeline under the southern-half of the Corridor.”

Iconic steel bridges along Rail Corridor up for conservation
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 10 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — Two iconic steel bridges along the Rail Corridor are up for conservation and could be gazetted by the end of the year or early next year.

One bridge is located near the Rail Mall at Upper Bukit Timah Road, and the other is near the Bukit Timah Railway Station on Bukit Timah and Dunearn Road. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has proposed that the two bridges be conserved.

“They are endearing local landmarks and identity markers that capture Singapore’s railway history and heritage, and provide seamless connectivity for Rail Corridor users today,” the URA said in its press release, after Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong made the announcement today (Nov 9).

Members of the public may provide their comments on the proposal for a month, with the bridges to be gazetted as conserved structures thereafter.

The two steel truss bridges were opened in 1932 and were built as part of the re-aligned former Keretapi Tanah Melayu railway line south of Bukit Panjang in 1930, the URA said.

A truss is a structure of elements that form triangular units. The bridges are two of the four remaining steel truss bridges in Singapore, and are widely photographed by users of the Rail Corridor. They were designed by United Engineers, one of Singapore’s pioneer engineering companies. The bridge in Bukit Timah is 45m long, while the one on Upper Bukit Timah Road is 60m long.

Design teams participating in the Rail Corridor concept master plan were also required to consider design solutions for the two bridges to facilitate safer crossings for different users, and recapture the Rail Corridor’s sense of place and memory.

Rail Corridor takes shape as winning plan is picked
Janice Heng, Straits Times AsiaOne 10 Nov 15;

Proposals for 24km stretch include paved cycling paths, shelters, event spaces and rainforest viewing platforms

The proposal to guide the development of the 24km Rail Corridor plans to make room for a variety of uses, creating paved cycling paths, rest shelters and active event spaces as well as quiet rainforest viewing platforms.

In coming up with its winning concept master plan for the former KTM railway land, Japanese architecture firm Nikken Sekkei and local landscape firm Tierra Design said they wanted the corridor to harmonise with the surroundings it runs through.

But the plans, which were yesterday named the winner of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) design competition, are far from set in stone, and will be shaped and refined in response to feedback.

"What we want to do now is to hear the views of Singaporeans on these proposals," said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong yesterday at the launch of an exhibition on the winning proposals that runs until Nov 28 at The URA Centre in Maxwell Road. "We would like all residents to work closely with us to study the stretches of the Rail Corridor near your community."

In the first quarter of next year, a roving exhibition will take the plans to the communities along the corridor, which runs from Kranji to Tanjong Pagar, with one million people living within 1km of it.

The public is invited to give feedback at the exhibition and online at from now until the end of next March.

URA chief executive officer Ng Lang said public feedback will also shape when the plans for various stretches are implemented.

"The plan for the Rail Corridor has always been not to rush in developing it," said Mr Ng, who chaired the 12-member evaluation panel. He noted that one point of consensus, which arose in the pre-competition public consultation, was that the Rail Corridor should be "an inclusive space" accessible to all. To that end, the winning proposal features 122 access points to the corridor, up from 30 currently. There are 21 planned "platforms" with amenities such as toilets and rest areas.

A paved cycling path will run its full length. Some stretches of the pedestrian path may be paved to be wheelchair-accessible. Others will remain "wild" underfoot, with the use of natural materials such as gravel or woodchips. And alongside the physical infrastructure, natural greenery along most stretches will be extended and increased as well.

"The greenery and biodiversity are very special," said Nikken Sekkei landscape architect Kaneko Shoji. "It's very peaceful and quiet."

"We wanted to keep that kind of feel, so we don't completely transform it into something different," he added.

The concept master plan also includes proposals for eight "activity nodes" along the Rail Corridor.

For instance, near the one-north business park in Buona Vista will be a space for people to enjoy activities like outdoor film screenings. In contrast, the Rail Corridor at the former Bukit Timah Fire Station runs close to a part of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve that Nature Society Singapore president Shawn Lum identified as a "diversity hot spot".

There, a forest walk and observation tower will offer a chance to view nature unobtrusively.

Dr Lum, who was a member of the evaluation panel, said it was important to find "the right combination of accessibility and tranquillity" in public enjoyment of nature.

Separately, winning concept proposals were chosen for two spots along the Rail Corridor: the historic former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and an area at Choa Chu Kang to be merged with future residential developments.

Nikken Sekkei and Tierra Design will also work on a preliminary design and feasibility study for a 4km stretch from the former Bukit Timah Railway Station to the Hillview area. This involves looking at details such as the materials and plants to be used, and estimating costs.

The URA also said two steel truss bridges, near the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station and Rail Mall, will be gazetted as "conserved structures", with the same legal status and protection as various bridges in the Central Business District and the bandstand in the Botanic Gardens.

Additional reporting by Tiffany Fumiko Tay

Multi-function building and linear forest at two sites
Zhaki Abdullah, Straits Times AsiaOne 10 Nov 15;

The former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station will become a multi-function community building while a linear forest will be created in Choa Chu Kang, as part of plans to develop two sites along the 24km rail corridor.

Plans for the sites were unveiled yesterday, at the launch of an exhibition on the winning proposals that runs until Nov 28 at The URA Centre.

Both sites were awarded to a team made up of Chinese company Turenscape International and local firm MKPL Architects, based on the strength of their concept designs.

An "urban green-blue tapestry" is planned for a stretch of the corridor near Pang Sua Canal in Choa Chu Kang. This includes widening the Rail Corridor to create a 50m-wide linear forest.

"What we want to bring back is the rusticity of the Rail Corridor, which everybody loves," said Mr Siew Man Kok, director of MKPL Architects.

The linear forest will be integrated with the existing environment as well as three upcoming housing developments, which have not been confirmed as private or public housing.

Said architect Raymond Woo, who was part of a 12-member panel that evaluated the proposals: "It is a daring scheme that allows residents at all blocks and levels to enjoy the linear forest, with sky bridges for those on the higher floors and communal farming decks for the lower floors."

A deck will also be built over part of the Pang Sua Canal, to link the Rail Corridor with existing developments in the Choa Chu Kang area.

The deck will also allow the waterway to be used for recreational purposes.

Farther south, the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station will be repurposed as a multi-function community building, and is expected to include facilities such as a heritage gallery and space for pop-up retail outlets.

The plans also call for a new public park where community events can be held, to be located where the railway station's carpark was.

The team also proposed an additional entrance and exit for the future Cantonment MRT station on the Circle Line, which will incorporate the existing railway platforms.

The team said it was mindful of the history of the station when coming up with the concept designs.

"The proposal is sensitive and befitting to the station's stature as a national monument and icon of our railway history," said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.

The former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is slated for community use for the next 20 years, and will be re-evaluated taking into account development plans for the area.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is seeking feedback on the submitted design concepts from stakeholders as well as the public through the first quarter of next year.

URA chief executive officer Ng Lang has said public feedback will also shape when the plans for various stretches are implemented.

Read more!

5 pet farms, 1 pet shop still flouting welfare guidelines, ACRES finds

FRANCIS LAW Today Online 10 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — Several months after they were found to be flouting guidelines on basic animal welfare, five pet farms and one pet shop are still failing to provide their animals with adequate living conditions, an investigation by Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) showed.

Four other pet shops that complied with providing their animals with adequate living conditions in the first probe failed to do so the second time.

The latest undercover operation was conducted by the non-governmental organisation between October and early this month, as a follow-up to a similar investigation in May, to determine if errant pet shops and farms had mended their ways.

Following the May investigations, 11 of 29 pet shops and 10 of 12 pet farms were found to have failed to follow the basic animal welfare guidelines laid out in the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s (AVA) Pet Shop Licence Conditions. These include giving the animals sufficient space in enclosures and making sure no pregnant or nursing animals are on display.

Among the findings of the follow-up probe, one pet shop was found to have flouted the guidelines despite being given the top grade under the AVA Pet Shop Grading Scheme. At the shop, six cages with animals did not contain any drinking water, while two cages were too narrow.

Two of the 10 errant pet farms have closed down.

In response to TODAY’s queries on the positive grading for the pet shop that had flouted the guidelines, an AVA spokesperson said it reviews grades at the point of licence renewal and when a pet shop is compounded for non-compliance of conditions, “with the severity of the non-compliance and its immediate and direct impact on animal welfare taken into consideration”.

He added: “In general, pet shops with poorer grades are inspected more frequently as compared to pet shops with better grades. Additional inspections are also carried out in response to public feedback on animal welfare issues. All inspections of pet shops are unannounced.”

The spokesperson also said that AVA will follow up with its investigation on ACRES’ latest findings.

“Enforcement actions will be taken against pet shops/pet farms that do not comply with licensing conditions, which can range from warning letters to fines to suspension of licences to revocation of licences,” he added.

The latest investigation showed that there have been improvements in the overall situation, ACRES said. It added that the improvements were due to the public’s constant pressure on the pet shop industry, as well as the actions that AVA took in response to the May probe. The AVA had conducted unannounced inspections of 31 errant pet shops and farms identified by ACRES, and found that most of them had satisfactory conditions, save for some “minor lapses”.

Mr Tan En, ACRES director of advocacy, said: “There is still room for improvement as a few businesses continue to fail the animals and (the) trust of their potential owners. With the public’s support, we will continue to engage with pet shops and farms to (improve) the welfare of animals.”

More pet shops, farms providing basic welfare for animals: ACRES
The improvement comes after the animal welfare group found in an undercover investigation that several pet shops and farms did not provide enough cage space or flooring support for pets.
Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 9 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: There has been an “overall improvement” in animal welfare standards at pet shops and farms in Singapore compared to six months ago, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) Animal Crime Investigation Unit announced on Monday (Nov 9).

Between October and early November, ACRES conducted an undercover investigation into 11 pet shops and 10 farms that had previously failed to provide basic animal welfare, according to an earlier investigation conducted between March to May. Since then, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has conducted its own probe into these pet shops and farms.

ACRES' probe was based on seven conditions listed under the Pet Shop License Conditions Display and Sale of Dogs and Cats, such as providing adequate cage or enclosure dimensions for animals, firm and comfortable flooring support, and providing clean drinking water at all times.

Its investigators found that as of November this year, out of the 11 pet shops that were flagged in May, three stopped selling cats and dogs, and and all but one out of the remaining seven provide basic animal welfare. That offending shop has an 'A' grade, ACRES said.

Also, out of 10 pet farms that failed to provide proper care for animals, two have since closed down and five still fail to meet the basic conditions. Just three made the cut.

ACRES said the pet shops and farms that earned bad marks most commonly did not provide adequate space and flooring support for animals. Cages should be at least one-and-a-half times the length of the animal.

ACRES attributed the improvements to "media publicity, public awareness and positive consumer forces on the pet industry.” It encouraged the public to continue playing a proactive role in the pet industry by making consumer decisions wisely.

"At the end of the day, businesses respond to consumers," said ACRES' director of Advocacy Tan En. "If they can feel that potential pet owners would like them to treat the animals better, they will respond."

"Of course this will also be in conjunction with AVA’s enforcement efforts (and) our undercover investigations, but really I think in the Singapore context ... a big part of this is due to the general public’s awareness about the pet shops and welfare for the animals," he added.

ACRES said it has shared its findings with AVA to follow up on enforcement.

- CNA/ww

Animal welfare in pet shops and farms improves, but room to do more
Yahoo Newsroom 9 Nov 15;

The standards of animal welfare in pet shops have improved in recent months, but there is still room for more to be done, the Animals Concern and Research Education Society (ACRES) said on Monday (9 November).

In May, an ACRES investigation found 11 out of 29 pet shops and 10 out 12 farms failed to provide basic welfare for animals like adequate space and comfortable flooring, as well as clean water.

Results of a follow-up undercover investigation from October to November found seven of the 11 pet shops that had failed earlier now provided basic animal welfare, as did three of the 10 pet farms.

However, one shop and five pet farms still did not meet the requirements, though three of the farms did show “marginal improvements”.

In images provided by ACRES, larger breed dogs like a border collie and a golden retriever could be seen being kept in small enclosures.

Under the requirements under the Pet Shop Licence Conditions Display and Sale of Dogs and Cats, the length of enclosures need to be at least two times the length of the animal from its nose to the base of its tail, while the width and depth need to be at least one and a half times.

Animals also need to be provided with comfortable flooring, and no pregnant or nursing animals are supposed to be displayed.

Two farms which failed the May investigation appeared to have closed down, ACRES said, while three of the pet shops had stopped selling dogs and cats.
In a statement, ACRES thanked the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore for following-up on its May investigation, as well as mindful members of the public who raised awareness about substandard animal welfare.

“ACRES is glad to find that there is significant improvement in the display conditions of the pets that are sold since our last investigation. This is in no small part due to the media and general public’s constant vigilance,” said Tan En, ACRES’ Director of Advocacy.

“However, there is still room for improvement as a few businesses continue to fail the animals and trust of their potential owners. With the public's support, we will continue to engage with pet shops and farms to increase the welfare of the animals,” Tan said.

Read more!

Indonesia: Riau Police foil illegal baby orangutan trade 9 Nov 15;

Investigators at the criminal detective unit of the Riau Police arrested three people on Saturday, foiling an illegal trade of endangered orangutans in Pekanbaru.

Riau police spokesman Adj. Sr. Cmr. Guntur Aryo Tejo said on Monday that police arrested three people from Aceh who were trying to sell three baby orangutans aged between 6 and 9 months.

"We have named them suspects. One of the suspects is a civil servant from Aceh," he said as quoted by news agency Antara.

The suspects are Ali Ahmad, 53; Awaluddin, 38; and Khairi Roza, 20.

Police received information from locals who reported that there was illegal trading of orangutans in the Palas area of Pekanbaru.

Guntur said after investigating, that police identified the sellers and arrested them on Saturday while they waited for buyers in their minibus.

Two of the suspects tried to flee but were later arrested after their car got into an accident.

Police found three baby orangutans in the car, in white plastic cages.

"[The orangutans] were in weak condition after a long trip from Aceh," he said.

The suspects told police they had bought two female baby orangutans and one male baby for Rp 5 million each in Lokoh village, Tamiang sub-district.

"They planned to sell the baby orangutans for Rp 25 million each. We are currently chasing the original seller in Aceh and the person who ordered them in Pekanbaru," he said.

Police handed over the babies to the Center for Natural Resource Conservation (BKSDA). The Medan-based Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) reported that Sumatran orangutans are categorized as highly endangered, with only 6,600 left in the wild along the North Sumatra-Aceh border. (rin)(+)

Read more!

Nothing can compete with renewable energy, says top climate scientist

Prof John Schellnhuber says that if countries implement their pledges made for Paris climate summit it will give huge boost to wind, tidal and solar power
Damian Carrington The Guardian 9 Nov 15;

Catastrophic global warming can be avoided with a deal at a crunch UN climate change summit in Paris this December because “ultimately nothing can compete with renewables”, according to one of the world’s most influential climate scientists.

Most countries have already made voluntary pledges to roll out clean energy and cut carbon emissions, and Prof John Schellnhuber said the best hope of making nations keep their promises was moral pressure.

Schellnhuber is a key member of the German delegation attending the Paris summit and has advised Angela Merkel and Pope Francis on climate change.

He said there was reason for optimism about the Paris talks, where at least 80 heads of state are expected. “That is a very telling thing - a sign of hope - because people at the top level do not want to be tainted by failure,” he said.

If a critical mass of big countries implement their pledges, he said in an interview with the Guardian, the move towards a global low-carbon economy would gain unstoppable momentum.

“If some countries really honour their pledges, including China, Brazil, South Africa, US and Europe, I think we will get a dynamic that will transform the development of the century. This is not sheer optimism – it is based on analysis of how incumbent systems implode.”

In July, Schellnhuber told a science conference in Paris that the world needed “an induced implosion of the carbon economy over the next 20-30 years. Otherwise we have no chance of avoiding dangerous, perhaps disastrous, climate change.”

“The avalanche will start because ultimately nothing can compete with renewables,” he told the Guardian. “If you invest at [large] scale, inevitably we will end up with much cheaper, much more reliable, much safer technologies in the energy system: wind, solar, biomass, tidal, hydropower. It is really a no-brainer, if you take away all the ideological debris and lobbying.”

India, for example, aims to deliver 350GW of renewable energy in the next 10 years, the equivalent to 300 nuclear power stations, he said. “That is mind boggling and would be the final nail in the coffin of coal-fired power stations,” Schellnhuber said. “If India delivers on that pledge, it will be a tipping point for that country.”

He said the approach taken for the Paris talks, asking each nation to put forward a pledge, had resulted in half the emissions cuts needed to avoid more than 2C in warming, the level widely considered as dangerous. “These are pledges only, but nevertheless this bottom-up approach is driving change, and that is amazing as it is the weakest approach,” Schellnhuber said.

The key, he said, was that these pledges are honoured and future reviews deliver the rest of the cuts needed. But he warned there will be no international force to check and enforce carbon cuts, as nations would not allow such a challenge to their sovereignty.

“The verification will not be delivered by an international scheme,” he said. “You will not send in emissions inspectors like people wanted to send to Iran [for nuclear technology inspections].” Instead, he said: “It is prestige, it is image, it is a moral issue, it is how you appear to the world. If the Chinese, for example, make a pledge, they want to keep it. They do not want to lose face.”

Public pressure is “really holding the key to this”, said Schellnhuber, who has attended most of the 20 previous UN climate summits. “The last, best hope we have is moral argument.” He said that Germany’s aim to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 was a tall order, because dealing with its lignite coal-fired power stations will be “very expensive and difficult”. But he said: “Merkel will do everything to achieve this or it will be seen as a national failure.”

The biggest danger for the Paris summit, he said, was the $100bn a year from 2020 promised by rich nations help poorer countries cope with climate change, which has yet to be delivered. He said the sum was “peanuts” in the context of global investment flows, but that a failure to deliver would “make countries in the global south very angry”.

“We can afford $100bn across the world, but it seems the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries are still very reluctant,” Schellnhuber said. “It will divert attention from the serious work – making sure the pledges are honoured.”

Read more!

World's climate about to enter 'uncharted territory' as it passes 1C of warming

Global warming milestone is one of three climate records set to be broken in 2015, says UK Met Office
Damian Carrington The Guardian 9 Nov 15;

Climate change is set to pass the milestone of 1C of warming since pre-industrial times by the end of 2015, representing “uncharted territory” according to scientists at the UK’s Met Office.

2015 is also set to be the hottest on record, as the temperatures are so far beating past records “by a country mile”, they said. The World Meteorological Organization further announced on Monday that 2016 would be the first year in which the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is over 400ppm on average, due to the continued burning of fossil fuels.

The trio of landmarks comes just three weeks ahead of a crunch UN summit in Paris where world leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping and David Cameron meet in Paris in a bid to reach a new deal on cutting emissions.

The Met Office’s data from January to September 2015 already shows global average temperatures have risen by 1C for the first time compared to pre-industrial times. The rise is due to the “unequivocal” influence of increasing carbon emissions combined with the El Niño climate phenomenon currently under way. The Met Office expects the full-year temperature for 2015 to remain above 1C. It was below 0.9C in 2014, marking a sharp rise in climate terms.

“This is the first time we’re set to reach the 1C marker and it’s clear that it is human influence driving our modern climate into uncharted territory,” said Stephen Belcher, director of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, said. “We have passed the halfway mark to the 2C target.”

The announcement of symbolic milestones in the run up to the Paris summit will increase pressure on negotiators to deliver a strong deal to avert the catastrophic global warming expected beyond 2C of warming.

“Mother Nature has been kind to the French, but it should not be that way,” said Prof Myles Allen, at the University of Oxford, referring to the impetus the milestones should give to the conference hosted in Paris. “International negotiations on climate change should not be in hoc to what happens ... in the preceding nine months.” In any case, he said: “The last three months of 2015 would have to be really odd to change [projections of unprecedented warming for 2015] as we are beating the records by a country mile.”

Amber Rudd, the UK’s energy and climate change secretary, said: “Climate change is one of the most serious threats we face, not just to the environment, but to our economic prosperity, poverty eradication and global security. That’s why I want an agreement on a global deal in Paris. Pledges to reduce emissions made by countries [are] just the beginning. We need to ensure that as the costs of clean energy fall, countries can be more ambitious with their climate targets.”

Climate change is clear in the Central England Temperature record, which is the longest in the world and stretches back to 1772, said Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading. “We can see the fingerprint of global warming in our own backyard. Central England has warmed 20% more than the global average [as land warms faster than oceans] and we expect that to continue.”

The impacts of climate change are analysed in other research presented on Monday by the UK’s Avoid project. It found that, compared to unchecked global warming, keeping the temperature rise below 2C would reduce heatwaves by 89%, flooding by 76%, cropland decline by 41% and water stress by 26%.

Prof Joanna Haigh, at Imperial College London and part of the Avoid team, said the last major UN climate summit in Denmark in 2009 failed, making Paris crucial in preventing widespread damage: “Copenhagen was generally considered a complete disaster, so it is very important that countries get together at Paris.”

Belcher said 4C of warming would be much more harmful than simply doubling the impacts expected with 2C. He said the European heatwave of 2003, which led to 70,000 deaths, would be “a rather mild summer” in a 4C world.

The Met Office report also showed that the world’s “carbon budget” – the maximum CO2 that can be emitted over time to keep below 2C – was already two-thirds used up by the end of 2014. But only one-third of the sea-level rise expected from 2C of warming – 60cm by 2100 – has so far occurred, because of the time it takes for large ice sheets to melt.

Prof Andrew Shepherd, at the University of Leeds, said a recent Nasa study indicating that ice mass grew in Antarctica from 2003-2008 was contradicted by 57 other studies and had just a 5-10% chance of being a correct prediction.

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