Best of our wild blogs: 11 Nov 15

Here’s a YouTube channel you otter follow
Otters in Singapore

Bird migratory season in Singapore (08112015 & 10112015)
Psychedelic Nature

Birdwatching in Bukit Brown (November, 2015)
Rojak Librarian

Macro Photography Outings – October 2015
Bugs & Insects of Singapore

Singapore media has held companies to account for the haze with help from social media: MP Louis Ng

Many Indonesia fires smoulder but danger is far from over
Mongabay Environmental News

Read more!

A dive site closer to home at Sisters’ Island


Scuba divers itching to get underwater without leaving Singapore can now consider Sisters’ Island Marine Park, which opened to divers on Sunday.

Home to a variety of marine life such as sea stars, hard and soft corals, giant clams and clown fishes, the dive site is located at Pulau Subar Laut, or the Big Sister’s Island, which is a 20-minute boat ride out.

Signboards that serve as station markers underwater will guide divers around the two 100m loops about 6m and 15m below the surface. Divers are given underwater educational resources, which they use in simple biodiversity or water visibility surveys. Visibility underwater ranges from 1m to 5m depending on weather conditions — when TODAY visited, visibility was about 2m to 3m and there were strong currents.

Dive windows will be regulated by the National Parks Board (NParks) and interested divers can sign up for limited slots by contacting any of the approved dive operators listed on the Sisters’ Island Marine Park website.

Ms Magdaline Yeo, a recreational diver for 15 years who was part of the first group of divers to visit the dive trail on Sunday, said her dive was “surprisingly enjoyable”.

“I didn’t think there was going to be such biodiversity around and about in Singapore ... And I’m actually quite happy NParks put in such stringent requirements because you can see that it’s quite delicate and definitely needing people who have a bit more experience, with buoyancy especially,” said the 37-year-old architect. LAURA PHILOMIN

Read more!

Indonesia: Riau power plant serving Malaysia to be built in 2017

The Jakarta Post 10 Nov 15;

PT Bukit Asam Tbk is eyeing permits from the Indonesian and Malaysian governments for a power plant project with 800 to 1,200 megawatt (MW) capacity, intended to serve consumers in both countries.

The coal power plant, planned for Riau, across the Malaka Strait from Malaysia, is a three-way cooperation between Bukit Asam, Indonesia’s state-owned electricity firm PT PLN and Malaysia’s National Energy Company (TNB), the country’s main energy provider.

Bukit Asam’s CEO Milawarma said the project was now undergoing a feasibility study, and would be subject to both governments’ agreement before progressing. He predicted the project would need an investment of US$1.8 billion to $2.2 billion.

"After the feasibility study, both governments must approve transmission connections. Estimating a six-month approval process, and a year of raising funds, we should see the project begin in 2017," he said during a public announcement at the ‘Investor Summit and Capital Market Expo 2015’ on Monday.

The power plant – initiated in 2012 – if all goes to plan, will be connected to the ASEAN power grid which serves Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. Milawarma declined to comment on the plant’s electricity selling prices, saying they were yet be negotiated with the TNB.

The cooperation will consider the balance of peak demand in the two countries. Peak demand in Indonesia was usually at night, explained Milawarma, while in Malaysia it usually happened during the day – allowing the grid to support both countries’ demands. (ags)(+)

Read more!

Malaysia: Sanctuary needs more protection

The Star 11 Nov 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Illegal logging and poaching continue to threaten the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary with at least two animals – the Sumatran rhino and tambadau wild buffalo – disappearing from the area.

Other animals such as orang utan, proboscis monkeys and clouded leopards were also disappearing, said Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goosens.

He said illegal logging and poaching had persisted in the sanctuary even 10 years after it had been gazetted as a totally protected area.

“In the last six months, wildlife wardens patrolling the Lower Kinabatangan area have reported several acts of illegal logging and poaching,” he said.

The Danau Girang Field Centre is a research organisation on tropical biodiversity managed by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department.

Dr Goosens said the signs of illegal logging had been recorded within Lots 5 and 6 of the sanctuary near the field centre.

“Evidence of illegal logging, namely tree stumps and poaching, are continuously found in the Kinabatangan.

“What is needed to save Kinabatangan is a contiguous corridor of forest along the river.

“We need to increase the size and protection of forest corridors to protect wildlife in Sabah,” he added.

Dr Goosens also spoke on the need to deal with the illegal wildlife trade to ensure the survival of wild animals.

Dr Marc Ancrenaz, who is scientific director of a French NGO called Hutan, said tourists’ interest in the Kinabatangan region would cease if the area lost its wildlife.

“On one hand, we have to applaud the efforts of the Government and like-minded organisations that are supporting forest restoration efforts.

“But these efforts are pointless if illegal logging goes rampant and if more forest is converted to agriculture,” Dr Ancrenaz said.

Read more!

Indonesia orangutans attacked by villagers after fleeing fires

Many apes have recently fled their forest homes which have been engulfed by fires set to clear land and headed to villages to find food, but are viewed by locals as pests.
Channel NewsAsia 10 Nov 15;

JAKARTA: An endangered Borneo orangutan and her baby escaped from raging fires in Indonesia that destroyed their forest habitat - only to be attacked by angry villagers, an animal rights group said Tuesday (Nov 11).

The malnourished mother and her youngster were found distressed and clinging to one another when they were saved by International Animal Rescue as locals hurled rocks at them and tried to tie them up.

Many apes have recently fled their forest homes which have been engulfed by fires set to clear land and headed to villages to find food, but locals view them as pests and there has been an increase in human-animal conflict.

"It was very fortunate our rescue team got there in time, otherwise the orangutans would have been killed," Karmele Llano Sanchez, the group's program director told AFP. "The mother was quite skinny because she had not been eating for at least a month since the fires started."

The pair, who were rescued last month in West Kalimantan province, have been released into the wild following medical check-ups, and International Animal Rescue is continuing to monitor their health.

The UK-headquartered group has conducted more than a dozen operations in the past two months to save orangutans who have strayed out of their natural habitats.

Illegal forest and agricultural fires set to cheaply clear land for Indonesian plantations have for months cloaked Southeast Asia in thick haze, fouling air across the region, causing many to fall ill, and sending diplomatic tensions soaring.

The fires and resulting region-wide pollution occur to varying degrees each year during the dry season, although in recent days persistent rains have doused many blazes and cleared the air across vast stretches of Southeast Asia.

- AFP/yt

Read more!

Indonesia: Community firefighters tackle forest fire from grassroots

Lawrence Lilley Jakarta Post 10 Nov 15;

The dawn still sheltered beneath the tropical forest-lined horizon in Kalimantan, as 24-year-old Maryadi Dayak Sanjaya yanked the throttle on a motorized canoe, angling its prow toward furtive trails of smoke that threatened to gather in the distance.

In the previous four months, Sanjaya had gone from being a fresh graduate from the University of Palangkaraya to coordinating the nascent fire prevention and suppression program within the Katingan Project, an effort to conserve one of the largest intact peat swamp forests remaining in Indonesia.

This was in late August 2014, as forest conservation groups braced themselves for an oncoming year that would witness the return of El Niño, a periodic weather phenomenon now in the throes of a particularly extreme episode.

The 1997-1998 El Niño resulted in the world’s then warmest year on record, with heightened dry conditions in Indonesia facilitating fires over an estimated 5 million hectares.

The current episode is set to make 2015 another record year, with the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) reporting nearly half of the country’s provinces suffering a water deficit by the end of July. Reduced rainfall fosters conditions conducive to the spread of forest fires, a critical threat to peat land conservation efforts.

Based in Central Kalimantan, the Katingan Project focuses on conserving a 149,800 hectare site that straddles the boundary between the districts of Katingan and Kotawaringin Timur, and flanked by the Mentaya and Katingan rivers; vast, twisting waterways that historically channeled countless rope-bound spoils of commercial logging to Kalimantan’s south coast, and along which reside 34 villages affected by the project.

To cross between the two main rivers, local communities utilize the South Canal, a 29-kilometer creek created in the 1990s by the local government, and in which a 6-kilometer stretch passes directly through the project concession area.

The project has been hugely threatened by the current forest fire crisis, which has blanketed large swathes of Indonesia in haze, bringing air pollution to hazardous levels and disrupting daily life locally and in neighboring countries, with the haze drifting as far as Thailand.

Last August in Katingan, Sanjaya’s burgeoning efforts to coordinate the project’s standby fire squads (RSA) were already challenged by an average of two to three hot spots per month.

As he pulled up to the side of the canal, several kilometers west of the concession area boundary, thick continuous shrubbery had become scorched earth.

However, the flames had been prevented from spreading further by local villagers and former farmers, who had organized into a network of forest-fire prevention teams.

“We created a perimeter around the burning area using hoses connected to pump machines, so the fire didn’t widen further, then the flames were extinguished in one or two hours,” Sanjaya explained.

“But the smoldering continues below the surface, within the peat. We drench the smoldering earth until there is no more burning.”

With limited water in the canal, it can take up to a day to extinguish the largest flames, with subsurface burning remaining for up to three days.

Palm oil companies are deforestation’s most notorious culprits, but Sanjaya’s greatest concern going into an exceptionally dry season was fire from local residential areas, where people use burning to open fields for planting rice.

“Burning isn’t allowed in the concession area, but in community areas, we can’t stop them. The danger is that fire can spread with the wind, extending to forests within our concession. If we know where fires will start, we can look out for this and minimize their spread.”

The rapidity of fires spreading through the vegetation was evidenced in the burned patch at hand, which had spread from villages 2 to 3 kilometers away.

Sanjaya claimed his biggest challenge was managing a cohort varying in age and skills.

Fire squads previously existed within two villages, but Sanjaya explained, “Only if a big fire occurred would they take action. With the RSA, every day, rain or no rain, when there’s no fire, we are on standby. In my view, the RSAs’ task isn’t about extinguishing. We’re about building the mindset within the communities, the building of community understanding.”

Over 60 villagers now participate, patrolling daily and monitoring the area 24/7 for smoke from posts around the canal, communicating via walkie-talkies.

Teams coordinate with heads of villages to help control fires, so before a farmer burns, they can ask the RSA to be on the look-out for fire spreading.

“We still don’t fully understand the importance of the RSA, but we participate,” said one of the team commanders, Asdi Nur Irawan. He formerly made his livelihood harvesting the sap of jelutong (gum) trees.

Working within the RSA provides ecologically beneficial economic livelihoods for villagers, but this approach recognizes the deeper result of the fire prevention program: lifting the collective knowledge base by increasing awareness of forest-fire prevention and engaging constructively with the surrounding peatland ecosystem.

Further plans include organizing teams within other villages in the region.

“We see how the process is here and develop the model. We anticipate, so if there’s a fire, the team is ready. We must remain vigilant each day,” Sanjaya said.

The project will be sustained in the long term through the carbon credit market, conserving carbon stocks within the concession area.

With 41 percent of Indonesia’s 2005 greenhouse gas emissions originating from peatlands, which are highly rich carbon stores, protecting them against fire outbreaks and conversion to agriculture will be vital for meeting Indonesia’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent by 2030.

Dharsono Hartono, the CEO of PT Rimba Makmur Utama, which manages the Katingan Project, said proudly that during this El Niño season, as of Oct. 15, zero hot spots had been detected within the high-risk area around the South Canal.

The government has spent over Rp 500 billion (US$37 million) and deployed over 20,000 police, military personnel and volunteers to combat the crisis.

However, the success of Sanjaya and local villagers’ pioneering efforts in the RSA demonstrate that community-based partnerships have a much larger part to play in combating the country’s forest fire crises during the ongoing El Niño and other episodes to come.

Read more!

Philippines: Davao Health official warns haze remains a threat to public health

DAVAO TODAY 10 Nov 15;

DAVAO CITY – An officer of the Department of Health in Davao Region warned the public to be wary of the impact of the haze to the health even if it is already gone.

Speaking in the quarterly meeting of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Dr. Paulo Fantojan, spokesperson of the Department of Health 11 explained that current haze which started in June in Indonesia was caused by forest fires.

He said the transboundary haze had been existent in the past but its impact is more felt nowadays.

Fantojan recalled that in October 28, the weather bureau declared the Philippines as haze free.

“We are not actually easing our guards because the forest fire is still going on in Indonesia, which might be aggravated by the entry of three more typhoons this year that can once again bring the haze from Indonesia,” he said.

Fantojan said haze is clearly air pollution with different gases and particles, causing light transparency of the air and was initially experienced in Davao City in October 17 and other areas in Mindanao like the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, General Santos and Zamboanga.

He said the haze phenomenon already caused 5,000 cases of respiratory illness in Southeast Asia and the haze might last up to January of 2016.

He said manifestations may show from mild, to moderate and to severe.

“The public might experience only mild symptoms such as sneezing, running nose, eye irritation, dry cough, dry throat from pollutants,” Fantojan said.

He said persons with medical problems like asthma, chronic lung diseases. Chronic sinusitis and allergic skin conditions are likely to be more severely affected.

“These illnesses might be aggravated because of these irritants,” Fantojan said. (

Read more!

Indonesia: Health Minister speaks about response to haze

Nila Djuwita Moeloek: Don't blame the doctors
TEMPO 10 Nov 15;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The thick haze blanketing parts of Indonesia compelled Health Minister Nila Djuwita Moeloek to fly back and forth between Jakarta, Sumatra and Kalimantan these past two weeks. She did this to ensure that health services in the provinces affected by the haze were being provided effectively. "I went to Palangkaraya three times these past two weeks," said Nila, last week.

It has been more than four months since the haze engulfed Sumatra and Kalimantan, yet the problem is far from under control. There have been victims, many had to be hospitalized, a few died. Among the fatalities was a baby. Understandably, some of the public anger was directed at her ministry, which was criticized for being slow in anticipating this human disaster.

Nila, 66, denies that the health units in the provinces were slow to react to the haze crisis. She maintained that a series of action had been deployed, from alerting local health posts, setting isolation tents to dropping medication in remote areas.

Tempo reporters Stefanus Pramono, Cheta Nilawaty, Mitra Tarigan, Nur Alfiyah, Raymundus Rikang and Rusman Paraqbueq, met the health minister twice for interviews. She was open to questions on the haze but somewhat reluctant to respond to queries on the recent scandal over doctors receiving gratuities from pharmaceutical companies in exchange for prescribing them to patients. "Don't create a polemic," Nila cautioned them.

During both interviews, the health minister was accompanied by her expert staff advisor in charge of primary health services, Diah Saminarsih. At the second interview, Yudhi Prayudha Ishak, an expert staff on governance issues, was also present.

So far, what has the health ministry done to manage the impact of the haze crisis?

I made sure that all health posts were ready to treat patients suffering from respiratory infections. They had the necessary equipment and the hospitals were also good at ministering to people who came. I went to look at public areas in Palangkaraya, run by the social affairs ministry, which took in many of the haze-affected residents. We provided them with and set up isolation tents.

What were they for?

The tents have pure, clean air. The materials were made doubly strong to prevent haze from penetrating. Doctors checked the patients to see who needed to be placed in the tents.

How many were set up by the health ministry?

Nine in all, but they are temporary and can be dismantled when they are no longer needed. The ministry also made use of the houses reserved for haj pilgrims about to leave on their trip, and turned them into a kind of safe-houses. In those buildings, there are many rooms with bedding facilities. We just needed to provide a space for small children.

How about medication?

We supplied them with 48.2 tons of medication and masks. In April, we sent letters to all health posts advising them to anticipate the haze. The national disaster management board had also set up units in Sumatra and Kalimantan. We also provided them with basic necessities like supplement food, medicine and oxygen. We also distributed over seven million face masks. Yet people still said the ministry didn't do much. We even ran out of masks.

The government has deployed warships to evacuate residents. What do you think of this?

This caused quite a stir at our meeting because the TNI (Indonesian Military) had deployed ships, as if every resident wanted to be evacuated. I told them that was unlikely because of the risks involved. Their reluctance to leave would be for the distance (from their homes). If a patient dies on the way, I would be blamed. My medical staff would be accountable.

So, you disagreed with this policy?

Yes, I didn't agree with it. Just how many people could have been evacuated?

So what does the health ministry suggest?

If necessary, start with ensuring treatment at the health posts (puskesmas). They are the frontline people. If people's infection spreads to their lungs, only then should patients be directed to hospitals, where the treatment will be done in phases. We also asked that air-conditioned areas be used as evacuation centers and as safe-houses. Yet those areas remained empty.

How many infants have died because of the haze?

I won't deny there have been infants who died as a result of the haze. One was a-month old baby born prematurely, because its lungs hadn't healed from the strain and its lungs were still weak. My notes show 20 infants (below 5 years of age) have died. Figures may differ according to sources. The coordinating minister for human development and culture asked that my data be validated.

What will be the long-term impact of the haze on victims, especially on infants?

I don't dare to give you an answer yet. But the types of fires differ (from place to place). Forest fires in Indonesia must be looked at from the soil, whether it contains pesticides or not. Fires in the United States or Australia mostly affect weeds and reeds. That factor determines the kind of particles in the smoke or haze. So far, there is no link between fires and chronic diseases.

* * * *

IN its November 2-8, 2015 edition, Tempo featured an investigative report on the soaring medicinal prices and the collusion between pharmaceutical companies with doctors. Why is medicine so expensive in Indonesia?

Medicine in this country is expensive because pharmaceutical companies must still import their raw material, and the cost depends very much on the exchange rate. So, when the dollar rate goes up, so does the raw material and the price of medicine.

The analogy is that the pharmaceutical companies buy the flour, which they process, package and ultimately sell. But they forgot how to make that flour domestically. They've become complacent and that's been acknowledged by the industry. After the price of raw materials soared, they were shocked.

Are there other factors?

Companies buy imported raw material and they must pay import taxes. They produce the drugs and they still must pay taxes on their production, and sales tax when they sell the drugs. So, they are taxed three times from production to distribution.

What can be done to deter those factors?

I've asked the Pharmaceutical Companies Association to try and produce the raw materials domestically. I challenged them to do so because Indonesia is rich in flora that can be turned into medicinal material, although they are so many varieties that we are unlikely to process them all ourselves.

Why can't domestic companies produce their own raw material?

Plants and medicinal raw material needs to be researched further, and they need to be clinically tested. This is a difficult process because the drugs must be proven to be safe for human consumption. Certain countries will never skip this clinical trial process. They seek the evidence base to prove that the drugs they produce are safe and cures illnesses. In Indonesia, one example is the jamu (herbal medication). But not all medicine is comparable to jamu, because they need to undergo a long process of testing.

Tempo's investigation found that doctors accept commissions after they prescribed certain medication.

No, that's not always the case. For example, maybe I would be compensated for using their products, but not all doctors do it. Don't accuse all doctors of accepting gratuities.

Do you approve of giving doctors commission for the drugs they prescribe?

I approve so long as it is tightly regulated and it is not given on an individual basis, because then it can be chaotic. For example, I'm a doctor who's also a professor about to present a paper overseas. I could ask a pharmaceutical company to pay for my family to travel with me. That would be very arbitrary.

How would you regulate that?

The gratuities should not go straight to the doctors, but could be given to associations, hospitals or campuses. The institution concerned can then evaluate the doctor responsible for dispensing the drugs and determine that he is indeed the right person to present his paper at an international forum, which would enhance Indonesia's reputation. In the process, the association could help the doctor with his expenses because he can't afford it.

Has the ministry drafted regulations to cover such issues?

I haven't decided yet. I think, if the factories have promotional money, the funds must be carefully regulated. Nothing should be given on an individual basis, and certainly not to be used for pleasure but to complement knowledge and appreciate doctors and other medical personnel who have contributed significantly in their areas. (*)

Read more!

Indonesian Conservation, Going Beyond Environmental Pacifiers -- Erik Meijaard

Indonesia needs a new system that actually allows and facilitates the enforcement of conservation laws
Erik Meijaard Jakarta Globe 10 Nov 15;

Conservation in Indonesia and life vests on airplanes have a lot more in common than you might think. I will explain.

“When landing on water, put on the life vest, and tighten the straps. To inflate the life vest pull the tag; never do this inside the airplane. To further inflate, blow into the red tube. The light will automatically illuminate on contact with water. To attract attention, blow the whistle.”

This announcement rarely fails to amuse me. Every day, one hundred thousand flights take off around the world. Every day, someone will recite the above text, almost like a magic spell or prayer. And we all sit there and stare, with probably quite a few people believing that life vest could actually save their life.

But really, how many people have been saved in the history of commercial aviation by the fact that airplanes have life vests on board? How often do planes make emergency landings on water from which people actually emerge alive with enough sense to put on their life jackets, and blow that whistle? Can we have some stats please?

And even more importantly, aren’t there any more effective measures airlines could take that would significantly reduce the number air crash fatalities? Helmets or air bags for all passengers would certainly prevent injuries in the case of very rough or crash landings. Or maybe giant parachutes could be built into planes, in case they break up in mid-air, so each airplane bit can float back to earth with its own share of the passengers. I guess ejector seats may be a bit fanciful, just in case they go off accidentally and the plane spurts out 300 passengers at an altitude of 10 kilometers.

Anyway, my point is that for over 40 years we have had pretty much unchanged safety instructions and measures in planes. They are like pacifiers, the ones that babies suck on, which lull us into a sense of safety.

Have really all options for increasing the likelihood of survival in a crash been explored, and if so, why were they rejected? Too cumbersome maybe? Or too expensive? Or too likely to worry passengers? -- "Surely if they ask us to wear a crash helmet, something actually could go wrong."

To get back to the main topic of this article, in environmental conservation in Indonesia, we have our own pacifiers. They are called “conservation authorities,” “conservation laws,” “protected areas,” and the like. These are mostly paper concepts that are issued or established to give the impression that all is well and under control.

Indonesia’s rates of deforestation, dewilding of forests and seas, and also its recent spate of fires, clearly show that nothing is under control, and that, in fact, everything in conservation is utterly out of control. Like the life vests, the protected areas, conservation laws, and those that are supposed to enforce them are largely ineffective. They provide the public with a sense that the government has really done its best to protect Indonesia’s extraordinary biodiversity riches.

To illustrate this point, we recently published a study on the rates of deforestation in Kalimantan’s protected areas, timber concessions and plantations. As it turns out, the presence of degraded lands perfectly suited to the development of oil palm is a major driver of deforestation, irrespective of whether a piece of land is called protected or not. You have suitable land for oil palm in a national park, and chances are high someone will actually claim it and plant palms.

If the Indonesian government is ever going to live up to its promises on Green Development and protection of its biodiversity, it needs to move beyond the conservation life vest parable. Like the airline industry needs to think harder about how to save lives, there is an urgent need in Indonesian conservation to reassess what measures could be taken that would really save wildlife, or forests, or seas.

We don’t need more laws, new laws, or changed laws, if the old ones never worked because no one bothered, or felt entitled or empowered to enforce them. We need a new system that actually allows and facilitates the enforcement of conservation laws.

To understand what that new system would be, the government will need to dig deep into its swampy underbelly. Why are laws ignored. Is it corruption within the government? Financial interests within or outside the government that overrule the laws? A total disinterest among government and public in environmental conservation? Or all of them?

To give an example, considering that all previous environmental bans and moratoria have been largely disregarded, calling for a fire ban or a moratorium on peat development is not going to achieve anything unless it is accompanied by: 1) a clear strategy at national and local level on how to enforce those bans; 2) identification of the institutions which will be responsible for enforcement; 3) a clear understanding what will happen to those institutions if they fail in their enforcement task; and last but not least 4) clarity about where those peatlands actually are, so that no one can say, “well, we didn’t know.”

More broadly, we, as the conservation movement, need to urgently rethink our conservation strategies. Why are things not working at all. How can we, for example, lose 3,000 orangutans per year in Indonesia, while we have all those political action plans, Presidential Decrees, donor commitments and the rest of the bla bla disguised as orangutan conservation?

It is increasingly clear that the whole environmental conservation mission in Indonesia is failing in its objectives, year in, year out. Do we want to keep sitting there, staring at the demonstration of the same conservation life vests again and again, or are we going to do something about it?

I call upon the Indonesia conservation community to get together once again to seriously rethink what can realistically be done to stop the rot. We are all so busy running our own shows but we are all together failing in our joint objective to protect Indonesia’s wildlife and environment.

Erik Meijaard coordinates the Borneo Futures initiative.

Read more!

Indonesia: Govt to revitalize watersheds to overcome floods

Indra Budiari The Jakarta Post 10 Nov 15;

In a bid to better manage water catchment areas in Jakarta, the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) is currently rehabilitating two major watersheds in the capital: Ciliwung and Cisadane, which are in poor condition.

Nur Hygiawati Rahayu, Bappenas deputy director for conservation and ecosystem development, said during a recent discussion held by the Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI) that the efforts included soil and water conservation engineering, integrated wastewater management and the provision of technical assistance and training to local residents.

“Managing the Cisadane and Ciliwung watersheds should be of the highest priority. Both are listed on the watershed priority list for the current national development plan from 2015 to 2019,” Nur said during the discussion titled Sustainable Urban Water Management.

Based on Bappenas data, the Cisadane and Ciliwung watersheds cover an area of 154,000 and 38,000 hectares, respectively, stretching across various administrative regions of Bogor and Jakarta. However, the performance of the watersheds is poor due to high levels of erosion.

“We will also rehabilitate forests and critical lands to improve the watersheds. However, those efforts require commitment from all stakeholders, including the private sector, NGOs and local people,” she said.

There have been calls for the government to revitalize the watersheds for years, because a higher water retention capacity would help reduce floods in downstream areas, like Jakarta.

The rivers were once clean enough to be used for drinking water but, over time, have become polluted by mainly liquid waste from both industry and households.

University of Indonesia researcher Chusnul Mariyah said overcoming the flood issue had to begin with individual habits.

“Every year we always blame the river, watersheds or heavy rain for the flood, but we forget, or maybe refuse, to blame ourselves,” she said.

Chusnul also emphasized the importance of Jakarta authorities working together with neighboring regional administrations in tackling the flood issue, as it was impossible for Jakarta to handle it on its own.

“For example, Jakarta has a waste issue as it produces tons of garbage every day, but on the other hand it has plenty of money in its city budget. The city can use the money to find places that can contain its waste,” she said.

Jakarta City Development Planning Board (Bappeda) head Tuty Kusumawaty said that the city administration would seek to increase green and blue open space and increase canal and river capacity with a target to achieve a water body ratio of 5 percent for the city.

Tuty also said that the city was planning to establish an integrated water management system to make sure that instead of ejecting it to the sea, the water could be saved and utilized.

“Whether it is in the form of rain, rivers, canals, ground water or even waste water, we can use it, as long as it is still on the land,” she said.

Jakarta’s insufficient and shrinking green areas give the capital a high runoff rate, regularly causing flooding in the rainy season and a scarcity of groundwater during prolonged dry seasons.

Read more!

Study: Dispersants did not help oil degrade in BP spill

SETH BORENSTEIN Associated Press Yahoo News 9 Nov 15;

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chemical sprayed on the 2010 BP oil spill may not have helped crucial petroleum-munching microbes get rid of the slick, a new study suggests.

And that leads to more questions about where much of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill went. If the new results are true, up to half the oil can't be accounted for, said the author of a new study on the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

After the 172 million gallon spill, the chemical dispersant Corexit 9500 was applied by airplane on the slick to help it go away and help natural microbes in the water eat the oil faster. The oil appeared to dissipate, but scientists and government officials didn't really monitor the microbes and chemicals, said University of Georgia marine scientist Samantha Joye.

So Joye and colleagues recreated the application in a lab, with the dispersant, BP oil and water from the gulf, and found that it didn't help the microbes at all and even hurt one key oil-munching bug, according to a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The dispersants did a great job in that they got the oil off the surface," Joye said. "What you see is the dispersants didn't ramp up biodegradation."

In fact, she found the oil with no dispersant "degraded a heckuva lot faster than the oil with dispersants," Joye said.

Joye's team chronicled nearly 50,000 species of bacteria in the Gulf and what they did to the water with oil, and water with oil and dispersant.

One of the main groups of oil munchers are fat little sausage-shaped bacteria called marinobacters, Joye said. They eat oil all the time and comprise about 3 percent of the bacteria in normal water. But when there's oil, they eat and multiply like crazy until they are as much as 42 percent of the bacteria, Joye said.

But when the dispersant was applied, they didn't grow. They stayed around 3 percent, Joye said.

Instead, a different family of bugs called colwellia multiplied more, and they don't do nearly as good a job at munching the oil, Joye said. She theorized that for some reason the dispersant and marinobacters just don't work together.

So if the oil wasn't degraded by the bacteria, the question remains: Where did it go? Joye guesses it might still be on the floor of the gulf.

Outside scientists Jeff Chanton and Ian MacDonald of Florida State University said the study seemed to make sense. Chanton called the results important and surprising.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration welcomed the study and will evaluate to determine how well dispersants work in the future, said agency spokeswoman Keeley Belva.

Read more!

Renewable energy made up half of world's new power plants in 2014: IEA

International Energy Agency says figures are a “clear sign” of a transition from coal to clean energy
Damian Carrington The Guardian 10 Nov 15;

Renewable energy accounted for almost half of all new power plants in 2014, representing a “clear sign that an energy transition is underway”, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Green energy is now the second-largest generator of electricity in the world, after coal, and is set to overtake the dirtiest fossil fuel in the early 2030s, said the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2015 report, published on Tuesday.

“The biggest story is in the case of renewables,” said IEA executive director, Fatih Birol. “It is no longer a niche. Renewable energy has become a mainstream fuel, as of now.” He said 60% of all new investment was going into renewables but warned that the $490bn of fossil fuel subsidies in 2014 meant there was not a “fair competition”.

Amid the energy transition, the IEA said the price of oil, currently under $50 a barrel, was likely to recover only to $80 by 2020 and see modest growth beyond.

The IEA said investment in oil exploration and production was set to fall by 20% in 2015, as high cost projects in the US, Canada, Russia and Brazil continue to be shelved. But it said US shale oil producers could move back into profit with prices of $60-$70 a barrel.

The IEA, which was founded in response to the oil shocks of the 1970s, also warned that if the oil price remained at $50 for a decade or more, cheaper oil from the Middle East would come to dominate exports, with 75% market share.

Birol said that the scenario was “unlikely”, but that if it came to pass, “reliance on a very few number of countries in a region that is in turmoil may not be the best news for oil security.”

“Now is not the time to relax,” he said. “Quite the opposite: a period of low oil prices is the moment to reinforce our capacity to deal with future energy security threats.”

The rapid rise of renewables charted in the new IEA report will lead to a dramatic slowdown in the growth of carbon emissions, the agency said. But, just weeks ahead of a crunch UN climate change summit in Paris, the IEA calculated that the world was still on course for 2.7C of global warming, significantly above the 2C considered to be the threshold of dangerous warming. “A major course correction is still required,” said the report.

“World leaders meeting in Paris must set a clear direction for the accelerated transformation of the global energy sector,” said Birol. “The difference between 2.7C and 2C is not something meaning you can take your jacket off and adapt to life - it will have major implications for all of us.”

The IEA projects “turbulent times” ahead for coal: “Coal has increased its share of the global energy mix from 23% in 2000 to 29% today, but the momentum behind coal’s surge is ebbing away and the fuel faces a reversal of fortune.” It projects a 15% share by 2040.

Huge changes in China are a major factor in coal’s decline, said Birol: “The era of the China boom in terms of energy demand growth is coming to an end. This is a major story and has implications for the entire world.” He said China had the biggest energy efficiency programme in the world and that “China is the champion of renewables”, as well having a major nuclear programme and likely growth in unconventional gas.

But the IEA expects coal demand is set to triple in India and in south-east Asia by 2040. “South-east Asia is amazingly important and not getting much attention,” said Birol. “It is the only region in the world where the coal demand is increasing its share.” He said, in the absence of climate policies, cheap coal and renewables would squeeze out gas in the region.

“India is moving to the centre stage of energy,” said Birol, becoming the main global driver of coal consumption and oil demand in the world by 2040 as well as accounting for 20% of the globe’s solar power installations. “The choices India makes will be important for all of us, and therefore there is a need for supporting India’s push for clean and efficient technologies.”

Benjamin Sporton, chief executive of the World Coal Association, said: “This IEA report is a reminder of the continuing role of coal and the need to ensure it is used as cleanly as possible through the use of low-emission coal technologies.”

The IEA has been criticised in the past for underestimating the speed of solar energy deployment. “The global breakthrough of renewable energy has happened much faster than anticipated,” said Emily Rochon, global energy strategist at Greenpeace International. “The IEA is catching up on renewable energy trends, but it is still failing to see the full potential of change. We believe that with the right level of policy support, the world can deliver 100% renewable energy for all by 2050.”

Birol said the IEA’s previous forecasts for hydropower and wind power had been correct and that solar projections were based on the government support existing at the time. “If the policies change, the numbers will change as well,” he said. “They may need to be revised [upwards] next year. I hope so.”

Read more!

CO2 levels hit record high for 30th year in a row: WMO

Tom Miles PlanetArk 10 Nov 15;

Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2014 and the relentless fuelling of climate change is endangering the planet for future generations, the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday.

"Every year we say that time is running out. We have to act NOW to slash greenhouse gas emissions if we are to have a chance to keep the increase in temperatures to manageable levels," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement.

His annual plea for the world to do whatever it can to cut greenhouse gas emissions - which come mainly from burning fossil fuels and from agriculture, cement production and deforestation - comes weeks before negotiators from over 190 states convene in Paris to try to agree a new U.N. climate deal.

Graphs issued by the WMO, a U.N. agency, showed levels of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, climbing steadily towards the 400-parts-per-million (ppm) level, having hit a new record every year since reliable records began in 1984.

Carbon dioxide levels averaged 397.7 ppm in 2014 but briefly breached the 400-ppm threshold in the northern hemisphere in early 2014, and again globally in early 2015.

"Next year we will be reporting much higher concentrations because of El Nino," WMO atmospheric research chief Oksana Tarasova told Reuters, referring to the Pacific Ocean warming phenomenon.

Soon 400 ppm will be a permanent reality, Jarraud said.

"It means hotter global temperatures, more extreme weather events like heat waves and floods, melting ice, rising sea levels and increased acidity of the oceans. This is happening now and we are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed."

The rise in carbon dioxide levels is being amplified by higher levels of water vapor, which are in turn rising because of carbon dioxide emissions, the WMO said.

Levels of the other two major man-made greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide, also continued a unrelenting annual rise in 2014, reaching 1,833 parts per billion (ppb) and 327.1 ppb, respectively. Both rose at the fastest rate for a decade.

For the Paris conference later this month, more than 150 countries, led by top greenhouse gas emitters China and the United States, have issued plans to limit emissions beyond 2020.

But the plans revealed so far will not curb emissions enough to meet a target agreed in 2010 to limit global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial levels.

"Two degrees will be bad enough but it will be better than three degrees," said Jarraud. "Of course it would have been better to have 1 degree... But 1 degree is not possible any longer. It's just not feasible. Too late."

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Carbon emissions fall in 11 of G20 members, in turning point
Alister Doyle PlanetArk 11 Nov 15;

Greenhouse gas emissions per capita are falling in 11 of the Group of 20 major economies, a turning point for tackling climate change, a study showed on Tuesday.

The report, by a new organization of scientists and other experts called Climate Transparency, also said 15 of the G20 members has seen strong growth in renewable energy in recent years.

"Climate action by the G20 has reached a turning point, with per capita emissions falling in 11 members, and renewable energy growing strongly," the group said in a statement. The G20 accounts for about three-quarters of world greenhouse gases.

It said G20 members "must all urgently decarbonize their economies" to meet a U.N. goal to limit average temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels to limit heat waves, floods and rising seas.

Leaders of the G20, led by the United States and China, will meet in Turkey on Nov. 15-16. And France will host talks among almost 200 nations from Nov. 30-Dec. 11 to agree a plan to limit climate change beyond 2030.

The report said the trend in per capita carbon emissions over the five years to 2012 was down in Australia, the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Britain, the European Union, South Africa, Italy, France and Mexico.

Per capita emissions were still rising in the most populous G20 nations, China and India. They were also up in Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Russia, Argentina, Turkey, Brazil and Indonesia.

Still, that marked a shift in long-term trends. Over the past quarter century, G20 carbon dioxide emissions had risen by almost 50 percent while per capita emissions had gained by about 18 percent, reflecting population growth, it said.

Alvaro Umana, a former Costa Rican environment minister and co-chair of Climate Transparency, said greater G20 cooperation on climate change was a "diplomatic landmark" after years of divisions between developing and developed nations on the issue.

"But G20 countries need to do more," he told Reuters. Overall G20 greenhouse gas emissions averaged 11 tonnes per person per year, against what the report said was a goal of one to three tonnes by 2050 to get warming under control.

Promised actions "are still far way from what's necessary for the 2C goal," said Niklas Höhne, of NewClimate Institute, one of the groups behind the initiative.

(Editing by Larry King)

Read more!