Best of our wild blogs: 12 Nov 15

NO 'Blue Trees' please. We are Singapore.
wild shores of singapore

Deepavali Dive
Hantu Blog

The quest for 300 Singapore birds
Francis Yap Nature Photography

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Malaysia: Triggers in Johor water crisis

YEE XIANG YUN The Star 12 Nov 15;

JOHOR BARU: The failure in triggering rainfall by cloud seeding at the depleting Sungai Lebam and Sungai Layang dams as well as climate change are among the factors for the current water crisis in Johor.

While parts of Johor enjoyed rainfall in the past few weeks, there was no rain at the Sungai Layang dam in Pasir Gudang and Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi, said SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd corporate communications head Jamaluddin Jamil.

He said the rainfall trend in Johor has been on the downward trend since last year, adding that the rainfall data recorded this year did not show any improvement.

“The lack of clouds in the area also caused the state government’s efforts to perform cloud seeding to be unsuccessful,” he said at a dialogue session with residents organised by the Pasir Gudang MCA division yesterday.

Jamaluddin hopes the water levels at the Sungai Layang and Sungai Lebam dams will see improvements once the ongoing RM4mil water transfer projects to pump water from nearby Sungai Tiram and Sungai Papan rivers are completed next month.

Pasir Gudang MCA division chief Tan Cher Puk proposed the formation of a committee consisting of SAJ, the Johor Water Regulatory Body and the Water Services Commission, to come up with a long-term solution to tackle the water issues in the state for the next 50 years.

“There is no point in playing the blame game because the people want to see results and solutions to the problem,” he said, adding that he had received more than 300 complaints from residents and businesses in the past week.

SAJ announced on Monday that scheduled water rationing would continue until Dec 15.

The exercise began in August where consumers would get water for a day after two days of dry taps.

SAJ Holdings hopes water levels improve with RM4m raw water transfer project
HAIRUL ANUAR ABD RAHIM New Straits Times 12 Nov 15;

JOHOR BARU: Johor water utility company, SAJ Holdings is hoping for a positive affect from the RM4 million raw water transfer project that is expected to boost water levels in the two dams that are faced with depleting water levels.

SAJ Holdings corporate communications manager Jamaluddin Jamil said if the water levels at the affected Sungai Lebam and Sungai Layang dams could be restored to their normal levels, the SAJ could review the schedule for its water rationing.

He said the situation at both dams would be better once the pumps stations at Sungai Papan and Sungai Tiram starts operating when the raw water transfer project begins at the end of next month.

"The project is expected to provide up to 30 million litres per day (MLD) of additional raw water to Sungai Layang and Sungai Lebam dams.

"Raw water from Sungai Papan in Bandar Penawar will be pumped into the Sungai Lebam dam, while raw water from Sungai Tiram will be pumped into the Sungai Layang dam in Masai," said Jamaluddin after a dialogue between Pasir Gudang residents and Pasir Gudang MCA chairman Tan Cher Puk, here yesterday.
On Monday, SAJ Holdings announced that the water rationing exercise affecting part of Johor Baru and Kota Tinggi would be extended until Dec 15, which is the fourth cycle of rationing.

The move was needed as it would help prolong the storage of water in both dams especially Sungai Lebam, which recorded a reading of 8.19m, which is below the 12.27m critical level.

The water rationing is affecting 575,000 users in Pasir Gudang, Masai and part of Johor Baru, and more than 66,000 users in the Tanjung Surat, Pantai Timur and Pengerang subdistricts in Kota Tinggi.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin had recently announced the RM4 milllion project to transfer raw water into the two dams, which will be done through a network of pipes that are being built.

Meanwhile, Tan urged the state government to identify other sources where raw water or rainwater could be gathered to supplement the water levels at Sungai Layang and Sungai Lebam dams.

"A study should be carried out to identify areas in the city with high amount of rainfall, and have equipment to harvest rainwater to be channeled into the two critical dams," said Tan.

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Malaysia: Heavy rains cause flash floods in KL, over 600 relief centres identified in Johor

Jastin Ahmad Tarmizi, Danial Albakri, Mohd Farhaan Shah and Oh Chin Eng, The Star/ANN AsiaOne 12 Nov 15

Kuala Lumpur - An afternoon downpour caused flash floods in several areas in the city.

Among the areas affected were Kampung Datuk Keramat, Jalan Semarak, Jalan Sentul, Jalan Kampung Pandan, Jalan Ampang, Jalan Tun Razak, Sultan Iskandar Highway, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Jalan Pahang, Jalan Gombak and Jalan Genting Klang.

A spokesman from the Fire and Rescue Department said a stretch along Jalan Duta heading into Jalan Semantan, Damansara was also flooded.

However, the flood waters resided about half an hour later.

In Johor Baru, a total of 628 relief centres had been identified as part of its preparations for possible floods during the coming rainy spell.

State secretary Datuk Ismail Karim said most of the centres were schools and public halls.

Ismail, who is also the Johor Disaster Management Committee chairman, said preparations were carried out since last month to ensure assets, food and medical supplies were adequate at each centre.

He said food supply had been distributed to nine orang asli villages as well as several islands within Johor waters such as Pulau Pemanggil, Pulau Aur, Pulau Besar, Pulau Tinggi and Pulau Sibu.

In Baling, continuous rain over the past few days forced more than 150 people from several villages to be evacuated.

"The flood waters has reached about two feet," said Baling Social Welfare Department officer Syamsul Izrin Isahak, adding that food, mats and blankets had been given out to the victims.

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Indonesia: Forests burn for lack of law enforcement

David Fogarty, Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Nov 15;

This is the second of a two-parter on solutions to the haze crisis. The first, on Indonesia's land-use crisis, ran last week.

Fires across large parts of Indonesia this year for agricultural expansion have proved a very bad investment. Initial government estimates say the fires will cost the country about $47 billion.

That is about twice Indonesia's palm oil exports last year, which totalled US$17.5 billion (S$25 billion).

Agriculture, particularly to plant oil palms, is a major cause of natural forest loss and annual fires, which are used to clear the land for new plantations by companies and smallholders.

The palm oil sector contributes about 3 per cent of gross domestic product and directly employs about three million people. But no commodity is so important as to justify huge losses right across the economy, such as the health costs of half a million Indonesians who suffered acute respiratory problems, flight and local trade disruptions and economic losses to Indonesia's neighbours.

The fires have further tarnished Indonesia's image and international standing and reinforced just how poorly managed its agricultural sector is.

Shocked by the scale of this year's crisis, and their own level of unpreparedness, the administration of President Joko Widodo has pledged to put an end to the annual fires within three to five years.

To ensure the government succeeds, here are some solutions the administration needs to put into action and by which its action plans should be measured:


Illegality is rife in the agriculture sector, researchers say, yet there are very few prosecutions, providing little incentive for companies and government officials to obey the law.

Late last month, the National Police said they had declared 247 entities as suspects in the fires, comprising 230 individuals and 17 companies. Sixty-two cases were awaiting trial. In the coming weeks, more cases are likely.

The government must ensure all cases are fully prosecuted and those found guilty are punished with fines or jail time, or both. In the past, many cases failed to make it to court or mysteriously never reached a verdict. Non-governmental organisations and the media should monitor all fire-related cases in the coming months to hold the judiciary and the national and local governments fully accountable.

Illegal deforestation and land grabs should also be prosecuted as such cases are often linked to fires.


Indonesia has plenty of laws governing agriculture, land use and the environment. What it lacks is active law enforcement. Cases of illegal encroachment on forest lands, illegal granting of plantation permits, illegal fires, illegal forest clearance on concessions are routinely reported by NGOs but rarely acted on in any vigorous manner by the authorities.

Over the years, millions of hectares of forest land that belong to the national forest estate, which covers about 70 per cent of the country, have been illegally granted plantation permits by local authorities. Many of these areas have also been cleared of trees, with the central government losing billions of dollars in lost timber revenue.

A report last year published by the Washington-based NGO Forest Trends cites the findings of a survey by the former ministry of forestry. The survey, released in 2011, found local governments had issued permits to 537 plantation units in forests totalling 6.9 million hectares in three provinces of Kalimantan, without approval from the ministry.

The ministry estimated losses to the state at 158.5 trillion rupiah, or US$17.54 billion at the time.

For Indonesia to fight fires, illegal land grabs and deforestation, it needs to both investigate corruption in the police force and hold the police accountable for failure to investigate illegal acts.


Indonesia lacks a near real-time satellite monitoring system that can detect illegal forest clearance.

Brazil has two systems and backs this up with armed police to raid illegal logging camps or tackle farmers who illegally clear forests on their landholdings.


Indonesia's anti-corruption commission (KPK) has been successful in snaring former governors and district chiefs involved in illegal land deals. But their work represents a fraction of what could be uncovered.

The KPK, in collaboration with the mining ministry and other agencies, last year conducted an audit of mining permits in 12 provinces. More than 300 permits were suspended because of irregularities.

A similar review is needed for the agriculture sector to formally uncover and name companies and officials involved in illegal land acquisition and illegal land-use practices. The environment and forestry ministry has a long history of corruption in granting plantation concessions. The KPK needs extra resources to bring current and former officials involved in shady land deals to court.


This vital initiative, started under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono but is now largely stalled, needs to be completed. Indonesia's agriculture sector is a maze of overlapping land claims, contradictory concession maps and unclear land use plans, all of which conspire against tougher regulation and enforcement - but drives a huge trade in illegal land sales and burning.

One Map aims to create a single up-to-date, transparent and publicly available database overseen by the Office of the President. One Map has wide support from business and civil society, but is limping along because Mr Joko and his ministers have prioritised other development objectives, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

The map would make clear what land is available and for what use and the areas that are off limits.


According to WRI, a significant portion of the fires start as legal small fires set by farmers to clear their land because it is a cheap, time-tested method. Alternative land-clearing practices could prevent thousands of fires. Mechanical equipment is one alternative but it is expensive. Low-cost financing through local microfinance schemes could bridge the cost gap.

The government should also encourage farmers to grow different crops to further diversify the agricultural sector to reduce reliance on some food imports and boost rural incomes.

All of these solutions would help the government craft a long-term plan to tackle the causes of fires and rein in poorly regulated land use. The government faces tough and costly choices, particularly on banning development in flammable peatlands and restoring large areas of peat already cleared and drained.

But these are necessary if Indonesia is going to ensure a sustainable, climate-friendly agricultural sector for its growing population.

In a couple of weeks' time, Indonesia will attend major climate talks in Paris.

With the world's third-largest extent of tropical forests, Indonesia should be a climate hero, using its carbon-capturing forests to help flight climate change. Instead, the Joko administration goes to Paris as part of the problem, not the solution.

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Taking early action a key lesson learnt from this year's haze crisis: Indonesian Minister

Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan says coordination among various agencies is another lesson learnt to ensure this year's haze crisis, the worst ever on record, does not repeat itself next year.
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 11 Nov 15;

JAKARTA: Taking early action has been one of the key lessons learnt from the forest fires and haze crisis this year, according to Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs.

Speaking to foreign media, Luhut Pandjaitan said that coordination among various agencies was another takeaway in ensuring this year's haze crisis, the worst ever on record, does not repeat itself next year.

"We have to extinguish the fires as early as possible, we cannot wait. If we wait, then we have to wait for the rain, the hands of God,” said Mr Luhut.

He added that the main challenge in tackling the forest fires was the worse-than-expected El Nino phenomenon. The Indonesian weather agency has been blamed for wrongly predicting the extent of the dry season this year, with the prolonged dry spell making it much more difficult to put out the forest fires.

“If we don't have rain, then we cannot control the fire. We really apologise for what happened in the last two months, we have learnt from this and we will not take any more risks. So, although they are predicting that next year there will be a small El Nino, we will still prepare for the worst El Nino," said Mr Luhut.

There is still haze caused by forest fires in Ogan Kemering Ilir in south Sumatra due to dry weather, but in general, the worst seems to be over.

Mr Luhut also highlighted the need for strong leadership as another key lesson learnt.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has visited hotspot areas and those affected by the haze several times. He also cut short his visit to the United States to fly home and oversee efforts to deal with the crisis.

- CNA/yt

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Indonesia: BMKG warns about storm, landslide risk

Slamet Susanto and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 11 Nov 15;

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has warned people to remain cautious about storms and possible landslides as the country enters the rainy season.

The BMKG Yogyakarta office predicted that parts of Yogyakarta would be prone to thunder and strong winds as the province entered a transitional season this month.

Quoting satellite data, the agency’s climatology station operations coordinator Joko Budiono said on Tuesday that during the transitional period, marked with uneven rains, there would be many convective clouds or rain clouds known as cumulonimbus.

“This has the potential of causing thunder and bringing in strong winds,” Budiono said.

Separately, state-owned electricity company PT PLN’s Central Java-Yogyakarta distribution manager Andreas Heru Sumaryanto said that strong winds during the transition were feared to cause disruptions to the electricity supply.

“This can happen because there are many branches and trees growing near the lines that pose a danger to the network. But we already have a map of it,” Andreas said.

The challenge was, he added, that many of the trees belonged to residents who did not want to prune branches. In other cases, people deliberately planted trees under electricity lines to get compensation.

Meanwhile, in West Sumatra, heavy rain over Agam regency on Monday afternoon caused a landslide in Palupuh, covering a 30-meter section of the Trans-Sumatra highway with muddy debris, some 19 kilometers from Bukittinggi city heading to Medan in North Sumatra.

The landslide caused a line of vehicles over a kilometer long to wait for about four hours.

It also hit a local resident’s house. However, no fatalities were reported in the landslide, estimated to have caused losses of Rp 80 million.

Agam Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Bambang Warsito said on Tuesday that a landslide had hit Baso district, also in Agam, damaging a house, destroying the fence of state elementary school SDN 21 Simarasok and inundating an irrigation facility with debris.

Separately, Solok BPBD estimated that financial losses caused by a flash flood on Saturday night reached Rp 5.8 billion, mostly due to damage to roads, irrigation facilities, agricultural fields, fish ponds and three homes. No fatalities were reported in the flood.

The West Sumatra BPBD earlier warned people in the province to be cautious about the threat of flood and landslide in a number of regions as the rainy season approaches.

The agency’s logistics and emergency division head R. Pagar Negara said on Monday that rain had been falling over most parts of West Sumatra and had the potential to cause landslides and flash floods.

The Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center (PVMBG) noted that 94 districts in the province’s 13 regencies had the potential to experience middle- to high-category land movement. Of the districts, 16 were named vulnerable to flash flooding.

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Indonesia uses trained elephants to control forest fires

Associated Press Yahoo News 11 Nov 15;

SIAK, Indonesia (AP) — Forest fires difficult to control? Call in the pachyderm patrol.

Officials in Indonesia are using trained elephants outfitted with water pumps and hoses to help control fires that have claimed vast amounts of forest while sending thick haze into neighboring countries.

For nearly three months, Riau province in East Sumatra has been blanketed by smoke from forest fires and land clearing, especially in peat-rich areas where flames are difficult to contain.

At the elephant conservation center in Siak district, 23 trained elephants are being used as "forest watchdogs."

Carrying water pumps and other equipment, elephants and their crews patrol burned areas in the national forest to ensure that fires don't reappear after smoldering beneath the peat lands.

Supartono, the head of the Riau Forestry Division, who uses one name, said the elephants had earlier been trained to help patrol forests to find people encroaching illegally, as well as to resolve frequent conflicts between wild elephants and people by driving the wild elephants that enter human settlements back to their habitats.

So far, Indonesia has been unable to put out the raging fires this year because of intentional burning and a rain shortage.

Much of the forest land that was burned in the past 17 years was converted into oil palm and pulp plantations. Data from the Riau Forest Fire Prevention Taskforce show more than 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of forests and land have been burned in the province.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya says about 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) of forests and plantation land have been razed by fires throughout Sumatra and Borneo.

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Indonesia: Phase One of Jakarta's Giant Sea Wall Project on Track

Lenny Tristia Tambun Jakarta Globe 11 Nov 15;

Jakarta. Construction of the first stage of Jakarta's Giant Sea Wall project is on track to be completed by 2017, a representative of the Jakarta Development Planning Agency has said.

The construction, included in the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD) project, takes place over three phases with phase A currently underway.

Phase A focuses on straightening the wall, slowing down the lowering of ground level, accelerating water sanitation and improving drainage pumps.

Construction of external sea walls will be completed during phase B, with phase C involving the construction of ports and improving the local economy. The two final phases are targeted for completion by 2050.

“We are now working on the phase A, while phase B on the west and phase C on the east still require research. We have to learn about the environmental impact assessment of both phases first,” Tuty Kusumawati, head of the Jakarta Development Planning Agency (Bappeda), said on Tuesday.

The Jakarta provincial government will build eight of the total 32 kilometer length of the sea wall during the first phase, with the remainder the responsibility of developers Kapuk Naga Indah, Agung Podomoro, Jaya Ancol Development and Intiland Development.

The Ministry of Public Works and the Jakarta provincial government have allocated Rp 1.6 trillion ($117 million) over three years to the project.

“The city-run agency for Ciliwung–Cisadane Rivers Area [BBWSCC] is currently working on the Detail Engineering Design needed for phase A as a reference in dividing the construction tasks: how many kilometers each responsible party is assigned to work on,” Tuty said.

While awaiting completion of the engineering report, the agency is strengthening existing sea walls which are leaking. Phase A is expected to be completed by 2017.

The sea walls are designed to protect the capital from possible tidal flood as Jakarta's ground level continues to sink lower each year and global warming prompts rising sea levels.

Jakarta Governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, visited the Netherlands in September to learn first-hand about urban flood management.

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