Best of our wild blogs: 24 Nov 15

Jellyfish and Otters at Chek Jawa on 21 Nov 2015
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

28 November – Green Is The New Black: The Conscious Festival
Green Drinks Singapore

Haze compensation to poor stalls as Indonesia spends on new palm oil cartel
Mongabay Environmental News

Read more!

Malaysia: Sungai Johor Barrage To Resolve Water Issue In The State - Exco

Bernama 23 Nov 15;

NUSAJAYA, Nov 23 (Bernama) -- The construction of Sungai Johor Barrage which is scheduled to be completed in late May next year, is expected to reduce water rationing in the state.

Johor Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Ir Hasni Mohammad said the project was the state government's current initiative to tackle the water supply and rationing problems in Pasir Gudang and Pengerang, Kota Tinggi.

"When it is completed, the barrage is expected to reduce the sea water from coming into Sungai Johor and to increase the reservoir's clean water up to 550 million litres per day.

"This also allows the Sungai Johor to supply water to Sungai Layang Dam and at the same time solving the water rationing issue in Pasir Gudang and Pengerang," he said at the lobby of the Johor Legislative Assembly here today.

Earlier, Hasni simultaneously answered seven questions on the water issues from the opposition and Barisan Nasional representatives during the question-and-answer session.

According to Hasni, the government had received a RM57 million allocation in the 11th Malaysia Plan to undertake various measures, including to build a Sungai Johor barrage and upgrading dams across the state.

He said at the moment, Johor recorded a total water consumption of 220 litres per day compared with Singapore with 155 litres, United Kingdom (150 litres) and Hong Kong (130 litres).

"High water consumption was driven by several factors, including the rapid development in Iskandar Malaysia and Refinery and Petrochemicals Integrated Development project in Pengerang and also climate changes," he said.


Johor records high water usage

NUSAJAYA: Johor recorded the highest number of water usage compared to developed nations including Singapore, the United Kingdom and even Hong Kong.

State Works, Regional and Rural Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said water usage here is much higher than in those countries due to development taking place.

He pointed out that Johor has an average usage of water amounting to 220l, which is higher than Singapore at 155l, United Kingdom (150l) and Hong Kong (130l).

“This together with change of climate as well as intrusion of catchment area for agricultural work caused water levels in several dams, in particular Sultan Iskandar dam and Sungai Lebam dam, to decrease.

“The Johor government is looking at several ways to improve the situation and hopefully will resolve water problems in Pasir Gudang, Kota Tinggi and several parts within Johor Baru,” he said.

He added that the increase is due to the massive developments taking place within Iskandar Malaysia and the Rapid project in Pengerang.

Hasni said this in his reply to Ayub Jamil (BN-Rengit), Mohd Azahar Ibrahim (BN-Tenang), Datuk Syed Sis Syed A. Rahman (BN-Tanjung Surat), Chee Peck Choo (DAP-Yong Peng), Tan Chen Choon (DAP-Jementah), Aminolhuda Hassan (Amanah-Parit Yaani) and Liow Cai Tung (DAP-Johor Jaya) at the state assembly sitting in Kota Iskandar here yesterday.

Hasni pointed out that the state government received allocation under the 11th Malaysian Plan to develop water sources in Johor.

“We received an allocation of RM57mil which allows us to conduct studies including building a barrage in Sungai Johor.

“This barrage will help stop sea water from entering the river and increase the water at its catchment area to 550 million litres that would be channelled to Sungai Layang dam,” he said.

He also added that besides the barrage, which would be completed within the next five months, the government will also build and improve dams located throughout Johor.

“We will also build new water treatment plants in Pagoh, Kahang and Buloh Kasap, and we are optimistic that our steps would help resolve water issues here,” he said.

Read more!

EcoFriend Awards recognises 8 people for environmental efforts

Among those who received the award is a 16-year-old student from Nan Chiau High and a manager at South East CDC.
Liyana Othman and Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 23 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: Eight individuals who have contributed to environmental efforts were honoured with EcoFriend Awards on Monday (Nov 23).

“Today, our clean, green and liveable environment has become synonymous with Singapore,” said Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources. “Such an achievement would not have been possible without the support and collaboration of the community, businesses, schools as well as civil society.

“Such collaborations exemplify the selfless contributions of environmentally proactive individuals who went the extra mile to care for and protect the environment. This is even more so today, as the citizenry becomes more active in championing various causes, including for the environment, and many individuals championing for the environment.”

A total of 237 nominations were received this year, 23 per cent more than in 2014. This points to greater involvement by Singaporeans in championing the environment. Among the winners, what stood out was a common passion in encouraging the youth to do their part for the earth.


Among the winners is Foo Yong Li, a student at Nan Chiau High who has made an impact in growing the school's green spirit.

"This is something I hold dear to me actually,” he said. “My personal motto is 'just do it', because there should be no reservations in saving the world."

Yong Li is the president of the school's green club. At 16, he is also the youngest recipient of this year's EcoFriend Award. In his four years at the school, he has planned camps and carnivals to raise awareness of green issues, both in school and among the wider community.

He also took part in last year's Global Youth Summit in Singapore to discuss environment issues with young leaders from around the world.

His teacher says Yong Li is not afraid to speak up for what he believes in.

"A lot of the students, although they may have ideas, but they may not have the courage to speak up on what is right and what is wrong. But he is able to actually do that,” said his teacher, Mdm Leow Shie Hui.

Like Yong Li, South East Community Development Council's (CDC) manager Mr Kia Siang Wei has also made a impact on his community. He is the first CDC representative to win the EcoFriend Award in its nine-year history, which he described as "rather surprising".

"I did tell them that I might not be the best person to receive such an award because I'm still a public servant, and I thought this is just my duty," he said.

Mr Kia was recognised this year for driving South East CDC's green programme over the past few years and promoting awareness of environmental issues among thousands of residents. He also led Singapore’s first e-waste recycling programme in 2013.

Since 2013, the programme has reached an estimated 7,000 households, with more than 10,000kg of e-waste collected.

"I think this award means a lot not just to me, but also for the whole community that I serve,” said Mr Kia. “Which means that we have been doing the right thing, and that the community is supportive of the type of environment programme we are doing here."

Mr Kia wants to get more schools involved in his programmes. He also hopes to create more materials for children to spread the green message.

- CNA/ek

Read more!

Singapore, Indonesia will work together to tackle terrorism, haze

The two countries have to work closely in confronting security challenges and fighting transboundary haze, said Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean and his Indonesian counterpart.
Channel NewsAsia 24 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: It is important for Singapore and Indonesia to work closely to confront terrorism and to fight transboundary haze, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean and his Indonesian counterpart said after a meeting on Monday (Nov 23).

Mr Teo, who is on a working visit to Jakarta, was hosted to dinner on Monday by Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.

During the dinner, both ministers reaffirmed the excellent bilateral relations between the two countries and discussed a broad range of bilateral and international defence and security issues, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement issued early Tuesday.

On the issue of transboundary haze, both ministers agreed on the importance of implementing preventive measures early to deal with the fires and the resultant haze.

DPM Teo reiterated Singapore’s readiness to assist Indonesia in its preventive efforts, MFA said. Mr Luhut expressed appreciation for Singapore’s recent assistance to combat land and forest fires in Singapore, and said that the Indonesian government was committed to putting in place additional measures to prevent a recurrence of the fires and haze from next year onwards.

Both ministers also discussed the Flight Information Region (FIR). Singapore has been in control of the airspace above some areas in Riau - such as Batam, Tanjung Pinang, Bintan and the Natuna islands - since 1946.

MFA said Mr Teo reiterated that the FIR issue was a technical one based on aviation safety, and was not an issue of sovereignty. Singapore’s main concern is to ensure the safety and security of aircraft passing through the very busy airspace covered by the FIR, the ministry said.

The delegation of FIR management is considered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) based on technical and operational considerations related to aviation safety and efficiency, it added.

Mr Teo and Mr Luhut also acknowledged the longstanding ties and close cooperation between the Indonesian National Armed Forces and the Singapore Armed Forces. Both ministers said they hoped the close cooperation between the two armed forces would strengthen further, MFA said.

They also discussed the bilateral economic relationship between the two countries, noting that Singapore is once again the top investor in Indonesia so far this year, the ministry said. The ministers agreed that Singapore and Indonesia should explore additional ways to broaden and deepen the existing economic ties.

DPM Teo is expected to meet President Joko Widodo on Tuesday. He returns to Singapore on Wednesday.

- CNA/cy

Singapore, Indonesia must work closely to tackle issues like terrorism, haze: Ministers
Francis Chan, The Straits Times/ANN, Jakarta Post 24 Nov 15;

It is important for Singapore and Indonesia to continue to work closely when confronting issues such as terrorism or the transboundary haze, said the security czars of the two countries following a meeting on Monday.

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, who is in Jakarta on a working visit, was hosted to dinner on Monday by Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.

During dinner, both ministers reaffirmed the excellent bilateral relations between Singapore and Indonesia as they discussed a broad range of bilateral and international defense and security issues, said Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement on Tuesday.

On the issue of the transboundary haze, which had hogged the headlines in recent months, Mr Teo and Mr Luhut agreed that it was important to implement preventive measures early so that the forest fires and the resultant haze can be prevented, said the ministry.

This year's haze crisis, caused by forest fires suspected to have been started illegally to clear land for cultivation, lasted for more than three months, affecting millions across South-east Asia. There have been 19 haze-related deaths in Indonesia and over half a million people there have been treated for severe lung infections.

The fires have also razed around 2.1 million ha of forests and peatland, and released large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In October, Singapore sent a fire-fighting assistance team to Indonesia's Jambi province to help put out the fires.

The MFA said Mr Teo reiterated Singapore's readiness to assist Indonesia in its efforts to prevent a repeat of this year's crisis, said to be the worst on record.

Mr Luhut expressed appreciation for Singapore's recent assistance to help combat the land and forest fires that resulted in the haze and told Mr Teo that the Indonesian government was committed to putting in place additional measures to prevent a recurrence of the fires and haze from next year onwards, said the MFA.

When discussions moved to the countries' bilateral economic relationship, both ministers noted that Singapore was once again the top investor in Indonesia so far this year. They agreed that Singapore and Indonesia should explore additional ways to broaden and deepen the existing economic ties, said the ministry.

On defence, the two ministers - both of whom have military backgrounds - acknowledged the longstanding ties and close cooperation between the Indonesian National Armed Forces and the Singapore Armed Forces, which had been built upon decades of mutual trust, benefitting both countries. This they hope would strengthen further in the coming years.

Mr Teo also took the opportunity during the meeting to address the matter of the Flight Information Region (FIR) and reiterated that the issue was a technical one based on aviation safety, and not one of sovereignty.

The FIR, which Singapore controls for take-off, landing and over-flights in the region, became a prickly issue after the Indonesian Air Force complained in recent months about Singapore's military activities in the airspace above the Riau Islands.

It said a bilateral defence agreement that allows such activities had expired in 2001 and was never renewed due to objections by Indonesian lawmakers and concerns over national sovereignty.

However, Singapore has been in control of flights in the airspace above some areas in Riau since 1946, and the current set of agreements was approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Singapore's main concern is to ensure the safety and security of aircraft passing through the very busy airspace covered by the FIR, said the MFA.

The ministry added that the delegation of FIR management is considered by ICAO based on technical and operational considerations related to aviation safety and efficiency.

Mr Teo will be meeting President Joko Widodo on Tuesday, as he continues his three-day visit in Jakarta. (kes)

Read more!

Experts from Indonesia call for early preparation against haze in future

FRANCIS LAW Today Online 24 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — The worst of the haze crisis may be over for now thanks to rain, but experts from Indonesia said pre-emptive measures must be taken to prevent such calamities from happening again, such as by declaring a state emergency for the whole of Indonesia, and preparing peat land so that they do not catch fire.

Delegates from the worst-hit provinces in Indonesia shared their stories of how Indonesians suffered on the ground at a seminar organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) yesterday (Nov 23).

According to the SIIA, the amount of haze-related deaths in Indonesia reportedly stands at 19, and over half a million people have been treated for acute lung infections. Panellists agreed that the Indonesian government needed to step up their efforts against parties responsible for the forest fires.

Singapore suffered one of its most severe and prolonged periods of haze this year, stemming from forest fires in Indonesia which were made worse by an absence of rain from the El Nino effect.

Mr Feri Irawan, an activist from Sawit Watch Jambi, said that his group had been pressuring the local government to be stricter and to have more concrete plans to deal with the problem.

Country Director for World Resources Institution Indonesia Koni Samadhi said that the Indonesian government has a standard operating procedure in the case of forest fires, but a state of national emergency must to be declared, to allow the government to fully mobilise the resources needed to manage fires. This year, only selected provinces declared states of emergency.

Mr Koni also said the Indonesian government must to work more systematically to “improve land use governance”. “We do need to have a more coordinated action across the ministers to improve the governance,” he added.

The delegates also expressed concern for infants and pregnant women living in the affected areas. According to Mr Irawan, over 200 infants from the affected areas are still suffering from respiratory problems and many pregnant women have been hospitalised due to haze-related issues. His team is currently pushing for free healthcare for these two groups.

Peat fires were another matter of concern for the panellists as such fires are almost impossible to put out, and can burn for long periods of time. Furthermore, Indonesia currently lacks the technology to put out such fires.

Mr Maturidi, a journalist with Kalteng Pos, a local newspaper in Central Kalimantan, said that the fires this year were only put out by rain. It is common for farmers to use peat land for plantations due to its fertility. But dry peats are highly flammable and plantations are prone to catching fire if peats are not kept moist.

While there is still no solution to putting out peat fires in Indonesia, Mr Irawan said he was glad that the government had stopped giving out permits for plantations on peat land.

Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the SIIA, who moderated the discussion, said that canals or dams would be able to provide peats with a constant supply of water to keep the peats moist and prevent fires. He said: “Once the fire does start, then you’re talking about pouring an endless supply of water into the peat.”

He also said he found Indonesian president Joko Widodo’s efforts, including his three-year target to combat the haze problem, commendable. He said: “I think President Jokowi truly is of the attitude to deal with this problem. Everything I have seen of him, and his team around him, convinces me that he will really try.”

Reforms Must Persist To Prevent Repeat Of Haze Crisis
Bernama 25 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE, Nov 25 (Bernama) -- While clear skies have returned, the impact of the recent haze lingers, and for many Indonesian families in the country's worst-hit provinces, the damage is irreversible, according to the panellists at a public seminar, here.

"Two deaths were reported in Jambi, while 200 infants suffered from respiratory problems. Many pregnant women were hospitalised during the haze, and their newborns might also be affected," said Feri Irawan, an activist from Indonesian non-governmental organisation, Sawit Watch Jambi.

Titled "Fighting the Haze: Insights from Indonesia's Worst-hit Provinces", the seminar organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) on Monday drew about 120 participants.

Besides damage to public health, education has also suffered. "The haze is very dangerous, so for two months, the schools in Central Kalimantan were closed," said Maturidi, senior editor with the Kalteng Pos newspaper.

The frequent disruption was simply not good for the students' learning progress, added Prayoto, a former section head in the Forest Management Unit of the Provincial Forestry Service of Riau.

Further, many villagers whose crops had gone up in smoke were also struggling for their livelihoods now, they said.

"We hope this seminar will bring the plight of the most-affected Indonesians closer to Singaporeans. It is also crucial that we include their perspectives and suggestions in the policy-making process," said SIIA chairman Simon Tay, who moderated the session.

Many attendees found the seminar useful in shaping their understanding of the haze issue, including Dr Charles Lee, a lecturer from Australia's University of Newcastle.

"It is important that we learn the true costs and realities faced by those on the ground before we work towards solving the issue together," he said.

While the Indonesian government under President Joko Widodo had shown serious attempts at stopping the fires, "steps must be taken to deal with the issue more systematically and structurally," said Tjokorda Nirarta "Koni" Samadhi, Indonesia's director for American think tank, World Resources Institute.

He called for more data transparency and better land use policies as Indonesia works towards preventing another haze crisis.

More coordinated action between governments at the federal, provincial and district levels was also needed, he said.

On the same day, the SIIA also hosted a closed-door working group meeting to gather experts' input on issues including the accuracy of concession maps which are currently publicly available, the usefulness of community maps and the legality of publishing unofficial maps.

Earlier in May, the SIIA launched the Haze Tracker, a web portal that aims to inform the public and interested stakeholders on the latest developments of the issue.

The institute has also convened two editions of the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SWR), which features best practices in green production, procurement and financing in ASEAN's resource sector.


Read more!

Indonesia: Environment-destroying firms will find obtaining loans difficult

Antara 24 Nov 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Companies which frequently destroy the environment while carrying out their businesses will find it hard to obtain bank loans.

This was said by the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Financial Service Authority (OJK), Muliaman Hadad.

Speaking at a seminar on sustainable financing to support Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) here on Monday, Muliaman urged banks to select any company applying for loans on the basis of principles of environmental destruction mitigation.

"Dont expect that companies which destroy the environment can obtain bank loans in the future," he said.

"Banks must also exercise caution to extend credits to companies polluting the environment," he said.

Companies applying for bank loans must at least have obtained environmental impact analysis certification as set forth in the roadmap for sustainable finance, he said.

He further said the OJK will provide manuals to entrepreneurs so that they can increase their role as an intermediary in the economic fields, such as infrastructure, manufacturing and agriculture, while at the same time maintaining the principles of sustainable finance.

"So companies must be smart in managing environmental, social and good governance aspects in making their business decisions," he said.

Right now, the OJK has teamed up with eight banks to serve as a pioneer of sustainable financial industry. The eight banks are Bank Mandiri, BRI, BCA, BNI, Bank Muamalat, BRI Syariah, BJB and Bank Artha Graha Internasional.

"The eight banks control 46 percent of the national banks assets," he said.(*)

Indonesia to Make Green Financing Compulsory for Banks by 2018
Chanyaporn Chanjaroen Yudith Ho Bloomberg 23 Nov 15;
* Regulator to draft Green finance regulations by next year
* Eight banks to take part in pilot project for palm oil finance

Indonesia’s financial regulator will introduce rules to restrict banks’ lending to environmentally-damaging projects by 2018, which may eventually help the nation curb the forest fires that choke parts of Southeast Asia with thick haze for months each year.

The Financial Services Authority, known locally as OJK, is aiming to draft regulations by next year to target agriculture, energy, fishery and microfinance companies, Edi Setijawan, the regulator’s deputy director for banking architecture, said by phone on Monday. The rules would build on guidelines for sustainable financing in the palm oil industry that the nation’s eight largest banks will test starting in January, he said.

While not specifically directed at the forest fires, policing the environmental impact of projects and activities of companies that borrow funds from its banks will help Indonesia curb the burning that this year covered an area four times the size of Bali island. Lit to clear land for plantations, the fires caused a smoky haze that spread as far as southern Thailand and the Philippines, and turned Indonesia into the world’s worst greenhouse gas polluter.

“We can’t ban banks from lending to any non-sustainable projects as the economy would grind to a halt, but that’s something we’re moving towards,” Setijawan said. “Later on, banking can also be used to prevent what happened a few months ago, the terrible haze.”

The regulator in the next two to three years may ask banks to invest in companies and projects deemed sustainable, to offset any funds given to non-environmentally friendly activities, he said.

The eight largest Indonesian banks including PT Bank Central Asia and PT Bank Mandiri will work with the World Wildlife Fund in integrating sustainable financing criteria for the palm oil industry in a pilot project from January, the Swiss-based WWF said earlier on Monday in an e-mailed release.

The 18-month project aims to help Indonesian banks’ take into account environmental, social and governance issues when they make lending decisions, according to the WWF. Participating banks will also look to direct more funding to businesses that implement sustainable practices, the organization said.

Only four major banks in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have embedded environmental factors as part of their credit-decision process, the WWF said in a May report. The Association of Banks in Singapore on October 8 introduced guidelines on responsible financing targeting sectors including agriculture, energy, forestry and minerals and said its 158 members will start the implementation in 2017.

Banks pledge to support green finance
Grace D. Amianti, The Jakarta Post 24 Nov 15;

The nation’s eight largest banks, representing 46 percent of national banking assets, have committed to implementing sustainable financing as part of global environment goals.

Bank Mandiri, Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), Bank Central Asia (BCA), Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI), Bank Muamalat, BRI Syariah, Bank Jabar Banten (BJB) and Bank Artha Graha Internasional signed the commitment with the Financial Services Authority (OJK) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia on Monday.

The commitment was manifested in a pilot project called “first step to becoming a sustainable bank”, marking a big move taken by the banks less than a year after the OJK launched the 2014-2019 Sustainable Financial Roadmap, according to OJK head Muliaman D. Hadad.

“I hope these eight banks, which are the prime movers in this project, can encourage other banks and financial institutions to join the country’s implementation of sustainable finance,” Muliaman said in his speech.

Through the green banking pilot project, Muliaman said participating banks were expected to balance their pursuit of profits with willingness to conserve the environment, serving as examples to their peers.

WWF Indonesia CEO Efransjah said the commitment would increase banks’ power to encourage their clients to enact environmental, social and governance aspects in their business processes.

Efransjah said the pilot project would run for a year and a half starting in January 2016, with the first phase taking place in the palm oil sector, adding that the sector was selected because it was frequently associated with environmental issues.

The pilot project was also based on the OJKs roadmap, part of a partnership with the government through the Environment and Forestry Ministry. The roadmap is hoped to help the country meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals next year.

The OJK and the environment ministry, Muliaman said, were partnering in a task force identifying companies that implemented environmentally friendly principals and fully complied with the government’s Environmental Impact Analysis (Amdal) regulations.

“Through investigation and monitoring efforts, we can ensure it is difficult for companies that damage the environment to obtain loans and financing,” he said, adding that banks’ credit quality would automatically decrease if the banks lent funds to environmentally damaging companies. “We are in the process of following up the results of sustainability reports,” he said.

According to BRI president director Asmawi Syam, the project would allow the bank to gradually build sustainability partnerships with major companies, while also spreading awareness of green activities in the lower segments of the market.

Bank Mandiri president director Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the lender had started green finance projects in micro-hydro power plants and biomass and sustainable palm oil. As of September, Mandiri’s loans to palm oil plantations stood at Rp 49 trillion (US$3.57 billion), up by 8.8 percent year-on-year.

Read more!

Malaysia: Fishermen in Manjung suffering, no thanks to pollution

SYLVIA LOOI New Straits Times 23 Nov 15;

IPOH: The livelihood of some 500 fishermen at Lekir, Manjung have been affected following worsening pollution there.

Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) president S. M. Mohamed Idris said the problem has been ongoing for the past 10 years.

"The pollution originates from factory waste and waste from prawn-breeding ponds," he claimed.

Idris said a check by CAP found that fisheries located between one nautical to eight nautical miles were in danger of being extinct due to pollution.

"Besides low supply of fishes and prawns, it is also becoming increasingly difficult to get crab, seashells and clams," he said in a statement here today.

He claimed that the dwindling supply of sea food was due to the deforestation of mangrove forests. "The mangrove forests have been removed for the prawn-breeding project," he said.

Idris said that in the past, before pollution had set in, fishermen could get between 50kg and 60kg of seafood daily.

"Now, they are lucky to get between 4kg and 5kg daily," he said.

CAP, said Idris, urged Department of Environment and Fisheries Department to take immediate action to arrest the slide in seafood production.

"The state government and Fisheries Department should also carry out a detailed study on seafood produce from Sungai Teluk Tiga to Koyan which had seen thousands of hectares of mangrove forest destroyed for prawn-breeding projects," he added.

Read more!

Malaysia: RM3.2bil in imported veggies and fruits eaten a year


MALAYSIANS consume almost RM3.2bil worth of imported vegetables and fruits a year although homegrown supplies are at a self-sufficient level.

“We imported RM884mil worth of tropical vegetables and fruits and RM2.34bil worth from countries with temperate climates,” said Deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman.

This was the case despite the nation being at a safe and secure level where homegrown agriculture produce is concerned, he said.

“Although we continue to import vegetables and fruits, we are at 89.9% self-sufficient,” he noted.

Tajuddin acknowledged that the country was forced to import certain vegetables, such as large onions from China, dry chillies from India and sawi from Indonesia.

“These vegetables cannot be grown locally due to our soil condition and climate,” he explained in his answer to Datuk Norah Abd Rahman (BN-Tanjung Manis).

The Government, said Tajuddin, was looking at utilising some 120,000ha of idle land to further boost cultivation of local vegetables.

Meanwhile, Deputy Higher Education Minister Mary Yap in reply to M. Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat), said an image of the electronic greeting for US President Barack Obama on the highway gantry last Friday, which went viral online, did not reflect a declining state of English in the country.

She said there were success stories in regards to the language, including when the Malaysian teams emerged as champions in one of the world’s most competitive tournaments, the Cambridge inter-varsity debating competition.

The electronic message was: “Welcome to the President of USA Barack Obama”.

Read more!

How to save Indonesia’s life-supporting forests

Edi Purwanto and Soren Moestrup, Jakarta Post 23 Nov 15;

Once again, catastrophic forest and land fires in Indonesia have become a hot issue in the national and international press. Haze from Sumatra to Papua has been creating massive problems in Indonesia and in its neighboring countries.

While billions of US dollars have been spent to mitigate the calamity, it was proven that the only effective way of curbing these disasters was natural rainfall. Rainfall has once again acted as the solution to the haze problem.

However, during other seasons of the year, rainfall creates massive problems. The consistently predictable disasters that occur during the dry and wet seasons have exhausted the Indonesian government. It is becoming more difficult for the government to develop the nation and make its people prosperous.

Pristine tropical rainforest is normally only possible to be set alight during extreme dry seasons because tropical rainforests are the wettest terrestrial ecosystem in the world. Peat forest ecosystems comprise 80 to 90 percent water. Rivers originating from forested catchment areas can maintain their stream flow during long dry seasons.

Tropical forest is known as the best soil cover for maintaining mineral soil integrity against highly kinetic tropical rain. Due to its multilayer cover, tropical forests can infiltrate rain water reaching the forest floor.

Tropical forests can stimulate water recharge processes and control soil erosion, sedimentation, landslides and flood hazards. Furthermore, forests act as homes for biodiversity, carbon stock and sequestration and for the production of commodities to support the livelihood of local people living in and around the forest. Due to its multi-ecosystem function, forests in the tropics are often referred to as “life supporting systems”.

The fire, haze and flood disasters that occur regularly in Indonesia are symptoms of poor natural resource governance, especially forest governance. The only way to curb these annual and predictable disasters is by improving forest and natural resource governance.

One might ask: Is this impossible? The answer is no as long as natural forests are seen as commodities and the forestry sector is treated in the same way as other sectors that contribute to state revenues.

It is unrealistic when the ministry still claims that state forest areas cover 128.3 million hectares.

It is the time to redefine the role of the Indonesian forestry sector. The forestry sector must be seen as one that contributes to national development. Often, economic contributions are simply translated into cash contributions in terms of Rupiah or US dollars, while intangible benefits that work to prevent economic and opportunity loss, public service failure and health problems resulting from environmental disasters, are often neglected.

The forestry sector should not only be judged solely by the cash contribution it makes to the state budget. The forestry sector should focus on protecting forests as an environmental safeguard or natural form of infrastructure against fire, haze, flood, landslides and other manmade disasters. While fulfilling all of these functions, forests can also support sustainable livelihoods for people living within and around the forest.

We are in a state of crisis. Time is running out and there is no more time to play games. The commitment to protecting the remaining forest ecosystems in Indonesia should be rooted in an honest and sincere spirit. It’s not just about improving the nation’s image or gaining international recognition. Saving the forest is no longer a choice. It is a necessity. We absolutely must save the country’s natural resources for the life and prosperity of current and future generations.

Three actions need to take place.

First, the Environment and Forestry Ministry needs to revise the realm of state forest areas that reflects real and actual forest cover. It is unrealistic when the ministry still claims that state forest areas cover 128.3 million hectares. In 2013, Forest Watch Indonesia reported that out of 128.3 million ha, only 82 million Ha were actually covered with forest. The ministry should focus on the remaining 82 million ha. It is unreasonable to claim that forests cover more than 70 percent of the country’s terrestrial area. First, it does not correspond to reality and second, it will expand the responsibility of the ministrybeyond its capabilities.

During fire and haze disaster, the ministry was always the only ministry held responsible for tackling the problem. The underlining causes meanwhile, are multi-faceted. To help combat this problem, the ministry should remove non-forested landscapes from state forest areas. By limiting the size of state forests to areas that still hold forest cover, the tasks and responsibilities of the ministry will be much reduced. It is hoped that with this reduction in workload, the quality of forest governance can be enhanced. The key duty of the ministry is to safeguard the remaining forested landscapes.

Second, all primary forests and peatlands presently under moratorium (Presidential Instruction No. 8/2015) should be turned into conservation areas.

Third, the ministry should transform the existing cultural system operating in the country by returning the working areas of most of its officials to the field. Foresters should be back in the forest. The focus of their work should be on restoring the degraded forest and safeguarding the remaining forests as life-supporting systems.

Edi Purwanto is Tropenbos International Indonesia program director and Soren Moestrup is a senior adviser at department of geosciences and natural resource management, forest, nature and biomass at the University of Copenhagen.

Read more!

Indonesia urged to conserve 10 endangered bird species 23 Nov 15;

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed ten Indonesian birds as endangered species on Sunday, adding that immediate conservation efforts are urgently needed.

The endangered species are Nias hill myna (Gracula robusta), black-winged starling (Acridotheres melanopterus), pied myna (Gracupica contra), Bali myna (Leucopsar rothschildi), Medan white-rumped shama (Copsychus malabaricus), straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus), Javan green magpie (Cissa thalassina), Rufous-fronted laughingthrush (garrulax rufifrons), Sumatran Laughingthrush (Garrulax bicolor) and Anis (Crotophaga ani).

"There are only two to three Nias myna birds in the wild of Nias Island and there are only four to five of them in captivity. They are very rare," Tony Sumampau, director of privately owned zoo Taman Safari Indonesia said as quoted by

Tony said the decline in the bird population was caused by the widespread capturing of the birds that gradually hampered the species' ability to reproduce, and would, in the long run, lead them to extinction.

Tony said birds captured in the wild were sold at bird markets, where 60 percent of them died before being sold. He said that no more than 20 percent of birds survived the market.

"Many of the birds die after 1 to 2 days at the buyer's place. Transporting them to the bird markets causes them [to suffer from] stress," he said.

He suggested that in order to prevent the birds from going extinct, conservation efforts should be carried out near the birds' natural habitat. An example of conservation activities, he said, was a local breeder of Anis birds in a regency in Denpasar, Bali. The facility was located in the birds' natural habitat, he added, which allowed the breeder to breed and sell specimens, although only in limited numbers.

Such attempts would help maintain Anis bird populations in their own habitat, he said, while the breeder may also sell the birds. (afr/rin)(+)

Read more!

Philippines wrestles with climate dilemma

David Shukman BBC 23 Nov 15;

A developing country dubbed one of the most vulnerable to climate change has confirmed controversial plans for more coal-fired power stations.
The president of the Philippines has told the BBC the new coal plants are needed to meet demands for energy.

This comes despite environmental groups and some leading Filipino politicians arguing that coal is one of the biggest contributors to global warming.
Coal emits more greenhouse gas than any other fossil fuel.

And climate scientists have long concluded that burning more coal will undermine efforts to limit the rise in temperatures.

But many developing countries, facing rapid increases in population and surging economic growth, see coal as a relatively cheap option, which is why the Philippines is planning a total of 23 new coal plants.

China, India and other fast-growing Asian economies also have plans for hundreds of new coal power stations.

The dilemma of how developing countries should generate electricity - and whether they should follow the path of the nations which industrialised first and became rich using coal - will loom large at the UN summit on climate change in Paris starting next week.

For the Philippines, coal currently generates about 42% of the country's electricity, with the rest coming from locally-sourced natural gas and renewables, but coal's share could potentially rise to about 70% in a few decades, according to some projections.

Speaking to the BBC, President Benigno Aquino said that reducing the use of coal in favour of gas, a popular choice for many, was not an option because of a lack of gas-importing facilities.

And he said that while the Philippines had increased the share of renewables, costs had limited their appeal until recently.

With solar, he said, "the price was considered too high so that it would bring up all of the electricity rates which would make us not competitive and will hamper the growth."

His concern is that higher power prices would "raise a hue and cry from our people about very high electricity rates which are at points in time the highest in the region".

The costs of solar had now fallen, Mr Aquino said, but that still left the problem of the intermittent nature of renewables, which he then chose to spell out.

"For instance, if we go to wind, are the wind turbines really working or not? Solar will get affected by cloudy conditions like this."
He was speaking under the dark clouds of Typhoon Koppu, known as Lando in the Philippines, which struck last month killing dozens of people and causing widespread flooding.

The president added: "Wave action is not yet developed sufficiently to be viable for the product mix.

"So what we're trying to do is ensure that we have the most modern coal plants that are in existence."

The push for more coal, in the face of strenuous objections, has dismayed many leading figures who say that there are many less-polluting alternatives.

Senator Loren Legarda, who chairs the country's Senate Finance Committee and has pushed through new legislation on climate change and energy, told me that "doing coal is a crime".

"It's a crime against humanity, it's just bad. It pollutes the already vulnerable environment, and coal kills - it kills our air, it kills our biodiversity.

"Coal is never an option, coal is not cheap. We must put in the negative effect of the health of the people, the negative effect on biodiversity, the bad effect on the environment , the bad effect on business."

Senator Legarda does not advocate closing down existing coal-burning power stations but says the global trend is to move away from coal and that her country should be part of that movement, particularly since its 98 million people are particularly vulnerable to a potential scenario of higher temperatures and more violent typhoons.

"Europe is downscaling on coal, many countries are downscaling on coal so why are we approving coal? It does not make sense. We are victims of climate change and we want to exacerbate it? We want to worsen the situation by doing more coal? It does not make sense."

Meanwhile, amid the debate over energy in the Philippines, there are efforts to help people cope with the kind of future disasters that may become more intense with climate change.

The charity Save the Children is providing advice to schools on how to teach children to be more aware of the possible dangers.

At the school in the village of San Augustin, in the flood-prone province of Bulacan on the central island of Luzon, pupils are given regular training drills in how to stay safe in situations such as flash floods.

According to one of the charity's organisers, Lourdes Pambid: "People are really getting to see the effects of these changes in the climate and they're also paying attention to these things."

She said the worry was that the next generation would grow up into a very different world.

"For children, it's losing their homes and even the type of their livelihoods.

"In Bulacan, it used to be a farming area and then the floods came in and some have shifted to fish farming but then conditions became worse and they had to give that up, they had to leave fishing.

"It could get worse if nobody does anything to address this situation so that's why the kids, the local government units, the government officials should be doing something about it."

Read more!

Weather disasters occur almost daily, becoming more frequent: U.N.

TOM MILES Reuters 23 Nov 15;

Weather-related disasters such as floods and heatwaves have occurred almost daily in the past decade, almost twice as often as two decades ago, with Asia being the hardest hit region, a U.N. report said on Monday.

While the report authors could not pin the increase wholly on climate change, they did say that the upward trend was likely to continue as extreme weather events increased.

Since 1995, weather disasters have killed 606,000 people, left 4.1 billion injured, homeless or in need of aid, and accounted for 90 percent of all disasters, it said.

A recent peak year was 2002, when drought in India hit 200 million and a sandstorm in China affected 100 million. But the standout mega-disaster was Cyclone Nargis, which killed 138,000 in Myanmar in 2008.

While geophysical causes such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis often grab the headlines, they only make up one in 10 of the disasters trawled from a database defined by the impact.

The report, called "The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters", found there were an average of 335 weather-related disasters annually between 2005 and August this year, up 14 percent from 1995-2004 and almost twice as many as in the years from 1985 to 1994.

"While scientists cannot calculate what percentage of this rise is due to climate change, predictions of more extreme weather in future almost certainly mean that we will witness a continued upward trend in weather-related disasters in the decades ahead," the report said.

The release of the report comes a week before world leaders gather in Paris to discuss plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions and prevent world temperatures rising.

The United Nations says atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas that causes global warming, have risen to a new record every year for the past 30 years.

"All we can say is that certain disaster types are increasing. Floods are definitely increasing," said Debarati Guha-Sapir, professor at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at UCL University in Louvain, Belgium, which co-authored the report.

"Whether it's increasing due to global warming, I think it's safe to say the jury's out on that. But rather than focus on the ifs, whys and wherefores, I think we should focus on how to manage floods."

Margareta Wahlstrom, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), said floods were not just caused by heavy rain but also by poorly planned construction.

UNISDR estimates natural disasters of all types cause losses of $250 billion-$300 billion globally each year.

The report drew on a database of weather events that defines an event as a disaster if 10 or more people are killed, 100 or more are affected, a state of emergency is declared, or if there is a call for international assistance.

The countries hit by the highest number of weather-related disasters over the past decade were the United States, with 472, China with 441, India with 288, the Philippines with 274 and Indonesia with 163.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Alison Williams)

Read more!

More than 2,000 academics call on world heads to do more to limit global warming

Emma Howard The Guardian 23 Nov 15;

More than 2,000 academics from over 80 countries – including linguist Noam Chomsky, climate scientist Michael E Mann, philosopher Peter Singer, and historian Naomi Oreskes – have called on world leaders to do more to limit global warming to a 1.5C rise.

In an open letter, they write that leaders meeting in Paris at a crunch UN climate summit next week should “be mustering planet-wide mobilisation, at all societal levels” and call for citizens around the world to hold their leaders to account on the issue.

The world has already warmed by 1C above pre-industrial levels. Holding warming to 1.5C would be a far greater challenge than the 2C that leaders at previous climate talks have agreed to limit rises to. Current emissions pledges tabled ahead of the Paris summit would see warming of around 2.7-3C.

They say that such a rise is: “profoundly shocking, given that any sacrifice involved in making those reductions is far overshadowed by the catastrophes we are likely to face if we do not.”

Separately, the CEOs from 78 companies collectively worth over $2tn – among them NestlĂ©, Accenture, HSBC, Lloyd’s, Microsoft, BT Group, PepsiCo, Siemens, SOHO China, UniLever, PwC, Marks & Spencer and the Mahindra Group – have pledged their support to governments to implement ambitious targets.

The companies, which operate in more than 150 countries, call for support for alternative energy sources, a carbon price to bolster investment, “consistent policies and robust monitoring” and for greater disclosure on investments related to fossil fuels and alternative energies.

In a letter co-ordinated by the World Economic Forum, the corporations recognise the internationally agreed target to limit global warming to 2C.

They write: “climate change is one of the biggest global challenges that will shape the way we do business now and in the coming decades. This coalition ... believes the private sector has a responsibility to actively engage in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and to help lead the global transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy.”

It also extends an “open offer” to governments to “co-design tangible actions”, reduce their emissions and energy consumption and incorporate climate risk into their business strategies.

Read more!