Best of our wild blogs: 27 Nov 15

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk at TreeTop Walk (26 Dec 2015)
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Jokowi to oversee Indonesia peat restoration agency but details thin on the ground
Mongabay Environmental News

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L’Oréal Singapore Awards 2015 For Women In Science National Fellowships

BioTechinAsia 27 Nov 15;

L’Oréal Singapore has awarded national fellowships to two female scientists, Dr Neo Mei Lin and Assistant Professor Ling Xing Yi, as part of the 2015 L’Oréal Singapore For Women In Science National Fellowship programme.

Each receives a grant of SGD 30,000, which can be used for anything that they want; that is the beauty of this grant. The SGD 30,000 can be used for their research work, career development, travel expenses or even to support certain personal expenses, like hiring a nanny!

2015 Life Science Fellowship

The 2015 Life Science Fellowship was awarded to Dr Neo Mei Lin (梁玫霖), 29, Research Fellow at the Tropical Marine Science Institute, National University of Singapore. Dr Neo won this year’s Life Science Fellowship for her work in “A Trifecta Integrated Assessment for Prioritizing Conservation of the Giant Clams”.

Leveraging on the current conservation framework of EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered), Dr Neo intends to develop conservation priorities combining phylogeny, threat level and functional diversity to primarily target old and endangered species lineages. This accounts for unique traits and ecological functions that may affect future evolutionary potential. Giant clams make significant ecological contributions in the coral reefs, and Dr Neo’s study can help allocate conservation resources that are urgently needed to safeguard the future of giant clams.

She says, “I strongly believe in making a scientific contribution, no matter how small it may be, as that small effort will help make a big difference to the environment.”

When asked on how she is going to use the award money, Dr Neo said that she hopes to use it to travel across the world to meet fellow researchers in marine biology and share inspiring experiences with them and learn much more from their expertise.

2015 Physical and Engineering Science fellowship

The 2015 Physical and Engineering Science fellowship was awarded to Ling Xing Yi (林歆怡), 36, Assistant Professor, School of Physical and Mathematical Science, Nanyang Technological University. She was awarded the Fellowship for her research in “Plasmonic Colloidosomes Surface-enhanced Raman Scattering Sensors for Rapid and Sensitive On-site Detection of Environmental Pollutants”.

Prof Ling’s lab has introduced an ultrasensitive environmental sensing platform for quick on-site detection of the contamination of water and soil by environmental toxins. They develop “plasmonic colloidosome” SERS platforms, which are designed to achieve detection of environmental pollutants at trace level.

Prof Ling says of her work, “Women love to wonder, that is the seed of science. I wish to encourage women of tomorrow to plant these seeds, by showing that my research on fundamental nanomaterial chemistry is capable of solving real-world problems.”

When asked on how what she going to spend her grant money on, Dr Ling said that she wants to startup a company with it for tracking environmental pollutants using the method developed in her lab.

Commenting on L’Oréal Singapore’s commitment to encouraging women in science, Vincent Ong, General Manager of Professional Products Division and Corporate Affairs at L’Oréal Singapore said, “Today, only 30% of the world’s researchers are women. We are convinced that science brings hope and fosters discovery, innovation and excellence, and all the best talents must be called upon to accomplish this mission. The L’Oréal Singapore For Women in Science Fellowships hopes to encourage and support more women to join this mission towards scientific excellence and serve as role models for the future of science.”

The fellows are selected by an esteemed jury, consisting of members who are former L’Oréal Singapore national fellows; and professors from A*STAR, the National University of Singapore, and the Nanyang Technological University.

Not forgetting the finalists, here is the list of runners up (in no order of merit):

2015 Life Science finalists

Polly CHEN (陈蕾蕾, 36), Principal Investigator, Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, National University of Singapore; Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy, National University of Singapore

Research topic: Understanding RNA Editing Dysregulation in Human Cancers.

Lena HO (何慧敏, 34), Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Medical Biology, Agency for Science, Technology and Research

Research topic: Discovering Novel Peptides with Crucial Biological Functions.

WAN Yue (32), Junior Principal Investigator, Genome Institute Singapore, Agency for Science, Technology and Research

Research topic: Targeting Infectious Diseases through RNA.

2015 Physical & Engineering Science Finalists

CHEW Jia Wei (周佳维, 34), Assistant Professor, School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Nanyang Technological University; Cluster Leader, Singapore Membrane Technology Center, Nanyang Technological University

Research topic: Innovation and Improving Fluidization and Membrane Technologies.

QIU Anqi (仇安琪, 39), Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, National University of Singapore; Associate Professor, Clinical Imaging Research Center, National University of Singapore; Adjunct Principal Investigator, Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences

Research topic: Computational Modeling of Brain Anatomy and Function Using Multimodal Neuroimages

The jury members for 2015 included:

Professor Leo Tan, Advisor to theJury
Chairman, Science Sub-Commission Singapore National Commission for UNESCO
Director (Special Projects), Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore

Associate Professor Christina Chai, Jury Member
Assistant Dean, Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore;
Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore;
Principal Scientist, Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences, A*STAR

Associate Professor Gan Chee Lip, Jury Member
Director, Temasek Laboratories@NTU;
Associate Professor, School of Material Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University

Assistant Professor Melissa Fullwood, Jury Member
2009 L’Oréal Singapore For Women in Science Life Science Fellow;
Principal Investigator, Cancer Science Institute Singapore;
Nanyang Assistant Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University;
Joint Principal Investigator, Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology, A*STAR

Associate Professor Low Hong Yee, Jury MembeR
2010 L’Oréal Singapore For Women in Science Material Science Fellow;
Associate Professor, Engineering Product Development, Singapore University of Technology & Design

Dr Mark Phong, Jury Member
Director, Advanced Research, L’Oréal Singapore;
Director, Business Development & Scientific Foresight, L’Oréal Asia Pacific

About The L’Oréal Singapore For Women In Science National Fellowship

The L’Oréal Singapore For Women In Science National Fellowship programme was established in 2009, and is organized with the support of the Singapore National Commission for UNESCO and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). The programme recognizes talented women researchers in the scientific field, and aims to encourage women to not only pursue and maintain careers in science; but actively participate in Singapore’s research and development sector as well.

Since its inception in 2009, L’Oréal Singapore has consecutively awarded the fellowships over the past seven years; thus far, 16 women scientists have been honoured with fellowships. The fellows can use their grants with no restrictions.

17 Years of Supporting Women in Science

Created in 1998, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowships were established by the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation as the first international awards dedicated to women scientists around the world. 17 years later, the programme continues to be a benchmark of international scientific excellence and an invaluable source of motivation, support, as well as inspiration for women in the fields of science. Since it was founded in 1998, the program has honoured 87 Award Laureates (including two who went on to win the Nobel Prize), and supported more than 2170 Fellows – women who are making contributions in every field of research. By the end of 2015, more than 2250 women scientists from over 110 countries will have benefitted from the program.

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Climate change negotiations: Tiny Singapore called upon to be honest broker

ALBERT WAI Today Online 27 Nov 15;

The international community is seeking to create a post-2020 climate change regime to replace the Kyoto Protocol — the existing international framework for fighting global warming — at the climate change conference in Paris kicking off next week. In an email interview with TODAY’s Albert Wai, Singapore’s Chief Negotiator for Climate Change Ambassador Kwok Fook Seng touches on Singapore’s main concerns for the Paris conference, its overall role in the negotiations, and how the Republic has engaged international partners to address climate change.

What are the main outstanding issues for the Paris Conference of Parties? What issues will come right down to the wire?

The key outstanding issue we expect to go right down to the wire is differentiation (how countries are divided in the Kyoto Protocol as Annex One developed countries and Non-Annex One developing countries, with the former expected to take on greater responsibilities), particularly how it relates to climate finance. The negotiations on this remain heavily divided along North-South lines.

To date, more than 170 pledges have been made in conjunction with the prospective Paris agreement. The majority of these are by developing countries who, in good faith, pledge ambitious climate action. In many cases, these countries are seeking financial support in terms of the means to implement their new commitments. They note that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) obligates industrialised nations to assist them in this respect.

Developed countries, however, argue that economic circumstances have changed. They point out that a number of developing countries are among the large emitters today and that they are economically well off. Developed countries thus resist committing to provide predictable long-term climate finance in the post-2020 period when this agreement will go into force. Developing countries hold strongly to the view that industrialised nations have polluted the planet for far longer, and while economic conditions of some developing nations may have changed, the historical responsibility of industrialised nations does not go away.

The key is to find a pragmatic solution to these opposing views that gives adequate assurance to both sides. Unless the concerns of developing countries are adequately addressed, they will remain cautious about the obligations in other parts of the agreement that they must assume after 2020. A solution in the area of climate finance will go a long way to building trust for the rest of the agreement.

What outcomes does Singapore hope to see in the post-2020 agreement? And what scenarios do we want to avoid?

Singapore recognises that climate change is a global, transboundary problem. Any durable solution therefore has to be universal, involving all countries in the world, acting in unison within a rules-based multilateral framework.

The Paris agreement should put in place a robust mechanism for all countries to cooperate. No one will have any excuse not to act. This is the only way to succeed, over time, in our goal to limit temperature rise to as far below 2°C as possible.

Reaching a multilateral agreement by consensus is never easy, and trying to construct a balance among all the competing interests remains a challenge. We must avoid another Copenhagen situation where a perceived lack of transparency and inclusiveness led to a negotiated outcome being unacceptable. The only way to succeed is with the buy-in of all countries.

Climate negotiators are truly passionate in their work, and many view this as the last chance to secure certainty on every last issue they seek to resolve. This is why we are still seeing new ideas being introduced at the late stages of negotiations.

The truth is, we are building a durable framework under which we can tackle all relevant issues over time. The difference is whether we take a short-term maximalist view, or a longer-term pragmatic approach. For Singapore, we appreciate the fact that this window of opportunity to get all 195 parties under this Convention on board an agreement is a rare and limited one. We thus hope to see pragmatism and a spirit of cooperation prevail.

There has been some disagreement over whether the new agreement should be legally binding. Will it become a major issue in Paris? What is Singapore’s view on this?

The Paris agreement, as an instrument operating under the UNFCCC, will be a legally binding international agreement for all intents and purposes. The matter under discussion is whether the emission reduction targets need to be legally bound, given that all other rules and procedures will be fully legally binding.

For Singapore, we see the emissions reduction target as a nationally determined commitment that each country communicates formally. Whether this target itself is bound legally or not is not so critical. The meaningful aspect of this agreement is that all parties under this agreement have a legal requirement to submit and maintain a continuing series of such emissions reduction targets over time. Furthermore, each country’s achievement of such targets is subject to a measurement, reporting and verification system that is also legally binding. This is ultimately the mechanism that will lead to universal cooperation to lower global emissions.

Can you say a bit more about Singapore’s role in the climate change negotiations? How do we attempt to play a constructive role in bridging differences between developed and developing countries?

As a small country and a small island city state, Singapore is a strong supporter of the multilateral system embodied by the UNFCCC. Because we are small, we have to take a proactive approach at international negotiations. We also make it a point to speak to all negotiating partners to better understand their concerns, and to also explain our own unique circumstances. This is a time- and labour-intensive effort, but it gives us a good sense of the various competing aspirations and concerns that need to be accommodated in the final deal.

In the climate negotiations, the number of separate issues and concerns are very large, thus making solutions quite a complex matter. By being able to understand and relate to the concerns of more than one side, Singapore is sometimes called upon to be an honest broker between opposite partners in the negotiations. Where possible, we try to help out when approached to do this. After all, a good outcome is a win for the multilateral system, and this is another meaningful way for Singapore to express our support for it.

Singapore has been perceived by some as an advanced country that should do more to help other developing countries — especially some of our Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) brethren. How have we addressed this concern?

Singapore has been quietly helping other developing countries build their human resource capacity. We see no need to make a big deal or to extract returns for our efforts.

As a small country, we do not adopt the conventional approach of establishing donor-recipient relationships, but treat our development partners as equals. Our key focus is on the sharing of know-how and on building capacities in areas where we have relevant expertise; for instance, in sustainable urban development, water and sanitation.

On climate-change issues, we have done much capacity building in a South-South context to more than 170 countries from South-east Asia to the Pacific Islands, and from Africa to Latin America. Drawing from Singapore’s own development journey, we firmly believe this approach is more impactful than direct cash grants. To date, we have trained close to 11,000 officials from developing countries in climate-change programmes alone. There is also a range of related courses in sustainable development on offer. The overall participation rate of officials from fellow AOSIS or SIDS (Small Island Developing States) countries is very high in such courses, with correspondingly positive feedback. Singapore is committed to widening and deepening the scope of these courses; for example, by helping developing countries get ready to implement the Paris agreement in 2020.

How has our post-2020 pledge (cutting carbon dioxide per gross domestic product dollar by 36 per cent by 2030 from the levels in 2005) been received by the international community?

Among the parties to the UNFCCC, there is broad recognition that it is up to each party to nationally determine its pledge for climate actions based on its national circumstances and its domestic context. Parties have largely refrained from passing judgment on each other’s pledges, but to focus on improving the collective effort. The large number of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) tabled has helped move the process in this direction.

Singapore intends to achieve our INDC fully through domestic efforts. We have also committed to stabilising our emissions, with the aim of peaking in around 2030. Not many INDCs include a peaking target. This reflects our commitment to play our part to reduce global emissions.

Singapore’s INDC must be viewed proportionately to the small percentage of 0.11 per cent of global emissions that we account for. Our mitigation contributions should also be viewed within the context of our limited access to alternative/renewable energy sources and the early action we had taken since independence to ensure that our economic growth was not at the expense of the environment.

For instance, we switched early from fuel oil to natural gas for electricity generation to promote sustainable development. Natural gas now accounts for more than 90% of our electricity production. We do not use pollutive coal for power generation in Singapore, and we have no fossil-fuel subsidies. The high cost of private car ownership in Singapore also serves to reduce emissions from private road transport and promotes the use of public transport.

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Singapore quietly helping developing nations, says envoy

ALBERT WAI Today Online 27 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — Singapore has been “quietly helping” other developing countries to build up their human resource capacity to address climate change threats, said the Republic’s Chief Negotiator for Climate Change Ambassador Kwok Fook Seng, adding that the sharing of know-how is more impactful than direct cash grants.

In an email interview with TODAY, Ambassador Kwok said Singapore “sees no need to make a big deal or to extract returns for our efforts”.

“As a small country, we do not adopt the conventional approach of establishing donor-recipient relationships, but treat our development partners as equals,” he said, adding that Singapore has been sharing know-how and helping to build capacity in areas where it has relevant expertise, such as sustainable urban development, water and sanitation.

He pointed out that Singapore has helped more than 170 developing countries from Southeast Asia to the Pacific Islands, and from Africa to Latin America on capacity building and addressing climate change issues.

“Drawing from Singapore’s own development journey, we firmly believe this approach is more impactful than direct cash grants,” said Mr Kwok, adding that to date, Singapore has trained close to 11,000 officials from developing countries in climate change programmes alone.

A range of related courses in sustainable development is also on offer.

Mr Kwok said that the overall participation rate of officials from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) is very high in such courses. Feedback from the course participants has also been positive.

“Singapore is committed to widening and deepening the scope of these courses (on climate change and sustainable development), for example, by helping developing countries get ready to implement the Paris agreement in 2020,” he added.

In the ongoing negotiations for a new international climate change framework, Singapore is a member of the AOSIS as well as Group of 77 developing countries negotiating blocs.

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Solar power taking off as alternative energy source in Singapore

Currently, less than 1 per cent of electricity consumed in Singapore is powered by solar energy, but the aim is to raise the percentage to up to 20 per cent by 2050.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 26 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: Solar energy as an alternative source of power is taking off in Singapore, with the Government pushing to raise its adoption.

The vast majority of electricity consumed in Singapore currently comes from burning non-renewable fossil fuels. Only less than 1 per cent of it is contributed by solar energy. The aim is to raise this to up to 20 per cent by 2050, said to the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS).

However, land scarcity is an issue, and most solar panels are currently installed on rooftops.

National water agency PUB had announced on Monday (Nov 23) that it is studying the feasibility of harnessing the sun's energy at its reservoirs, as well as land-based facilities. This will be conducted by a consortium led by WEnergy Global.

"The aim is to reduce the fossil fuel dependency of the grid and replace that with the clean source, so that the carbon footprint of Singapore and the carbon footprint of an organisation, that is PUB, can be reduced," said Mr Atem Ramsundersingh, CEO of the consortium.

"We'll start with an inventory - a survey of all the sites, the buildings and the reservoirs of PUB,” he explained. “What we will do is to make sure that we understand the data, the technical aspects of both the buildings and the reservoirs to see what are the capacities of solar power systems that could be installed.

“Based on that, we will present a workplan on how we want to move in the coming months, furthering our technical analysis and financial economic analysis, and then we will make sure that we provide a timeline for PUB to implement the projects that meet PUB's criteria."


“Solar energy is the only source and option of renewable energy for Singapore,” added Dr Thomas Reindl, Deputy CEO of Seris. “Other forms like hydroelectric power, wind turbines and geothermal energy are not feasible because the country lacks the space and natural infrastructure like a major river system. Shifting from conventional power generation to a renewable-based energy system will have various advantages like cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions.”

Another push to switch to solar energy is cost.

"There's been dramatic reduction in the cost of solar modules and solar systems over the last five to eight years and now solar energy is cost competitive with conventional power, for the case of Singapore and in many other countries in the world,” said Dr Reindl. “This has led to the case that there are new business models coming up, so if you have a large rooftop, if you're the owner of a factory or a commercial facility and you want to become green, you don't have to use your own money and your own funds to install the system."

The business model is called solar leasing, where a solar company pays the installation and maintenance costs of solar panels. Building owners then pay the company for the electricity generated by the solar system.

One such company is Sunseap. It recently inked a deal with Apple to be the force behind the tech giant's move to go 100 per cent solar. In 2016, Apple's main campus and new retail store in Singapore will be powered by the surplus energy produced by Sunseap's solar panels.

The panels are installed on the roofs of about 800 buildings across Singapore, but the company acknowledged that even rooftops are becoming increasingly inaccessible.

Said the director of Sunseap Frank Phuan: "Solar is competing with other equipment on rooftops, so area is becoming more and more scarce. We are looking at other alternative areas, like for example, the facade of the building instead of rooftops and on water bodies. This is definitely something that the Government is proactively looking into. For us, it provides another channel of opportunities for solar companies like ours, to look at where we can generate this solar energy from."

PUB's study will span nine months. The agency said this puts it on track to diversify its energy options cut carbon footprints and promote sustainability.

- CNA/ek

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Singapore ranks 7th in liveable cities index

Singapore falls four places to seventh in the world, and second in Asia.
Nicole Tan Channel NewsAsia 26 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: Singapore dropped four positions to seventh place in the Global Liveable Cities Index, according to the results of a study released on Thursday (Nov 26).

The index is a ranking of the world's most liveable cities, compiled by the Asia Competitiveness Institute (ACI) at National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Singapore performed strongly in economic vibrancy and competitiveness, domestic security and stability, as well as political governance. The study conceptualises liveability under the following five dimensions - economic vibrancy and competitiveness, environmental friendliness and sustainability, domestic security and stability, socio-cultural conditions and political governance.

Switzerland’s Geneva and Zurich topped the list of 64 cities around the world. In Asia, Singapore was ranked second, after Hong Kong, which ranked sixth overall.

Singapore came in ahead of Hong Kong in areas such as domestic security and stability and political governance, but trailed it in areas such as economic vibrancy and competitiveness, and environmental friendliness and sustainability.

In the previous study in 2012, Singapore was ranked third.

The drop was attributed to a relatively weak showing in indicators such as social equity and environmental sustainability.

"Our conditions from 2011 to 2013 were worsening, including income disparity. But since 2013, the Government has come in to do a lot of public policy remedies, whether it's solving public housing shortage, or higher price in the property sectors, and also opening up infrastructure bottlenecks,” said Associate Professor Tan Khee Giap, co-director of ACI.

“But this kind of improvement probably will be reflected in our next update, because we don't do this every year. So unfortunately, rankings because of data constraints have some lagging effect. That’s why our liveability index has deteriorated from 3 to 7. But that reflects the situation of Singapore between 2011 and 2013. I'm confident as we move forward, when we update again, I foresee Singapore's liveability will improve again," he added.

Observers said the liveability of a city is crucial in enhancing its competitiveness and development so that it can attract good workers and businesses.

With growing economic integration in Asia, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said Singapore can play the role of a trusted home base for companies looking to capture new opportunities in the region.

"I hope that Singapore can play our modest role in creating an environment of mutual trust and cooperation amid this dynamic competitiveness of economies,” said Mr Heng. “And with this trust, we can weave stronger long-term bonds with our stakeholders to enable closer dialogue between our partners and reinforce the image of Asia as a trusted and sustainable economic entity and thereby attracting investments, creating jobs and playing our part in contributing to global growth."

For future research, the institute said it is looking to expand the study to cover 200 cities, including 100 Greater China cities, 30 Southeast Asian cities, 20 Middle Eastern cities and 50 cities from the Americas, Europe, Oceania and other parts of Asia.

It said it has also started research on intelligent and smart cities, as infocomm technology has been identified as having a significant impact on how people live, work and play.

- CNA/ek/xq

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Malaysia: Flood Alleviation Part of Johor Sustainability Policy

Bernama 26 Nov 15;

NUSAJAYA, Nov 26 (Bernama) - Flood alleviation is part of the RM1.3 million Johor Sustainability Policy study which when completed in six months, will be assessed by a panel of consultants comprising academicians and environmentalists.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the panel will be chaired by geologist Prof Datuk Dr Ibrahim Komoo, who is also head of Natural Resources and Environment cluster of the National Council of Professors.

"The study will cover various aspects of environmental sustainability and biodiversity," he told reporters during a break of the state assembly sitting at Kota Iskandar here, today.

A RM1.1 million allocation has been set aside for a Flood Action Plan to identify areas prone to flash floods and to draw up short term and long term solutions.

"It is one of the areas of focus of the Johor Sustainability Policy which also includes soil erosion, biodiversity, pollution, wildlife and flora and fauna," said Ayub.

He added that the state government plans to build a dugong (seacow) sanctuary at Pulau Sibu and has approved an allocation of RM1 million to conduct research and study.

"The dugong is fast becoming extinct. In 2011, only 17 dugong were found in Johor waters. The following year, four to five dugong were found dead."


New water treatment plants

NUSAJAYA: Three new water treatment plants will be built in Johor to overcome the water crisis using part of the RM430mil allocated by the state government to upgrade water facilities.

Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the water treatment plants in Buluh Kasap in Segamat, Pagoh in Muar and Kahang in Kluang were the main projects to be carried out by Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd.

He said the old pipes throughout the state would also be replaced to upgrade water facilities and services in Johor.

“We hope to improve the water supply services in Johor with these initiatives and overcome various water issues, especially in Pasir Gudang and Pengerang,” he said when announcing the state budget at the state assembly here recently.

Besides that, he said the Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) would also conduct research to focus on water regulatory methods and the implementation of buffer zones in catchment areas.

He added that the RM57mil allocated by the Federal Government under the 11th Malaysia Plan would also allow the state to conduct feasibility studies on water sources in Sungai Muar and environmental impact studies in Mersing.

“The fund would also include infrastructural developments such as building barrages and dams as well as upgrading dams in Johor,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state government plans to improve flood mitigation works, drainage system and sewerage maintenance projects by increasing the developer contribution collection rate by 150%.

He said developers would be required to pay RM10,000 per 0.4ha for areas under the local councils’ jurisdiction while those under municipal councils were required to pay RM5,000 per 0.4ha.

In similar developments, Mohamed Khaled said that RM1mil would be allocated to identify flash flood areas and draw up short and long-term plans to solve the matter.

Inclusive and sustainable
AHMAD FAIRUZ OTHMAN New Straits Times 26 Nov 15;

It was the most anticipated state budget in years as it was announced amidst the strongest performance in investments flowing into Johor.

Certainly, Johor folk were waiting for announcements that would address their needs in a significant way. They received all that and more, as the state government tabled a surplus budget for the fifth consecutive year.

Last Thursday, Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin tabled the highest amount ever allocated by the state government for development expenditure.

At more than RM500 million, the allocation for Johor’s development has gone up by almost 50 per cent compared with last year’s allocation for the same purpose.

Khaled said this was the highest amount dedicated to development in the history of the state’s budget.

To break it down in numbers, the state government tabled an estimated expenditure of RM541 million for development, which is an increase of 47.76 per cent from the RM366.20 million it set aside for development last year.

The RM541 million will be for physical, social and other projects of public importance under the Johor Menteri Besar’s Office (RM155 million); economic programmes (RM213 million); infrastructure and amenities (RM95 million); Islamic religious development (RM45 million); and drainage and irrigation projects (RM33 milion).

Johor Baru Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Datuk Loh Liam Hiang said the higher allocation for development was an impressive move by the state government.

“The world’s economy is not at its best right now, but the state government decided to allocate more for infrastructure to spur the local market.
“When a state government tables a higher budget than in previous years, even when the market is generally quiet, then you know it can only bring good things,” said Loh.

He said Johor was also a big contributor to the country’s economy, and a higher state budget would help the state hold on to its pole position in attracting foreign and domestic investments in the country.

A Johorean cabinet minister had much praise for the Johor budget, which was themed “Inclusive, Sustainable and for the Wellbeing of the People”.
Defence Minister and Sembrong member of parliament Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein described the budget as all-encompassing, adding that it would directly benefit the constituents in Sembrong.

“The Johor Economic Strategic Development Plan and Water Supply Project will give a lot of benefits to #Sembrong, thank you MB @KhaledNordin,” tweeted Hishammuddin.

He was referring to the RM3 million allocation to develop niche economic activities in each of the 10 districts in Johor, and the new water treatment plant in Kahang, Sembrong.

The state budget also mentioned that the Kluang district, which includes the Sembrong parliamentary constituency, would grow to become a hub for eco-tourism and agriculture.

The new water treatment plant in Kahang was among three plants to be built, along with repair works for pipes statewide, costing RM430 million.
Another new initiative was the introduction of the Johor Affordable Housing Financial Scheme in collaboration with AmBank Islamic Bhd. The RM300 million fund will help target groups to receive housing loans.

Johor Indian Business

Association president P. Sivakumar said the move would alleviate the burden faced by housebuyers, as some were finding it difficult to buy a house.

“A two-room apartment can exceed RM200,000 in major cities such as Johor Baru and throughout Iskandar Malaysia. The fund will give a chance for buyers to own comfortable homes,” he said.

Sivakumar was equally excited over the plan to rejuvenate Johor Baru’s downtown area through the Ibrahim International Business District project, which was announced in the state budget and officially launched by the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, last Sunday.

The tourism industry in Johor also received several allocations, including RM2 million to upgrade facilities at three national parks and one marine park, and another RM1 million to develop agro-tourism.

However, hotel and public relations consultant Yvonne Loh urged the state government to do more in attracting tourists who enter Johor via Singapore.

“We must remember that Johor is the gateway for many tourists entering Malaysia. There is still much to be done. We must tap into the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese expatriate communities in Singapore, who prefer to go somewhere closer such as Johor whenever they go on holiday,” said Loh.

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Malaysia: Rivers in five states reach worrying levels

JUSTIN ZACK The Star 27 Nov 15;

PETALING JAYA: Water levels in several rivers nationwide have reached worrying heights, sparking fears of flooding.

Warnings have been issued in five states after water exceeded normal levels, said the Drainage and Irrigation Department’s online flood information website (which provides up to date data on river water levels).

The rivers are in Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Johor and Sabah.

As of 6.30pm yesterday, the water level along Sungai Padas in Sabah exceeded dangerous levels.

At the station in Beaufort, the water level was 8.79m, well above the normal level of 4.5m for that area, according to the website.

On Wednesday, 468 people in the area were evacuated and placed in relief centres.

In Klang, the Kampung Jawa station along the Sungai Klang area recorded water level of 4.81m.

The normal water level is 3m. Anything above 4.7m constitutes “danger”, which comes with a warning of potential flooding in the area.

The water level of Sungai Muar in Negri Sembilan is 62.53m, above the normal level of 61.8m.

Sungai Perak is currently at 112.09m, just under a metre below its danger level.

Johor’s Sungai Sayong has hit 15.30m, one metre above its regular height of 14.3m.

For the latest statistics on river water levels, visit

Meanwhile, Bernama reported that as of 10am yesterday, 1,327 people nationwide were told to move to evacuation centres.

More evacuees in three of four flood-hit states
The Star 26 Nov 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: The number of people evacuated due to floods has risen in three of the four affected states, taking to 1,327 the people moved out as at 10am Thursday.

More people were moved out of their homes in Sabah (from 150 to 519); Perak (from 401 to 404) and Sarawak (from 315 to 361).

However, in Pahang, the number of evacuees dropped, from 67 to 43.

In Kota Kinabalu, state Department of Civil Defence director Col Mulliadi Al Hamdi Ladin said the number of evacuees in the Tenom district had risen from 150 to 519 overnight.

They were being housed at six relief centres, he said, adding that two of the relief centres were opened last night - at Rumah Kebudayaan Saga and Mandalom Lama.

On Wednesday, 468 people were moved of their homes to four relief centres.

Tenom district officer Madiyem Layapan said these were at Ponontomon, Labut 1 and 2 as well as Lalandang.

The level of the Padas River in Tenom is at the danger point of 176.47 metres at 7am today.

In Ipoh, Perak Fire and Rescue Department director Yahya Madif said the number of evacuees in the state had gone up to 404 at 8am from 401 overnight but several evacuees in Hilir Perak had returned to their homes.

The newly evacuated people numbered 15 from Kampung Ali Kalang in Bagan Serai, he said, adding that they were moved to the relief centre at Sekolah Kebangsaan Bukit Merah.

Yahya said the number of evacuees in Bagan Serai rose to 133, with the people coming from Kampung Changkat Lobak, Kampung Permatang Tengah and Parit Air Hitam. All of them were being housed at Sekolah Kebangsaan Changkat Lobak.

The 117 evacuees from Batu 38 and Batu 40, Kampung Beriah and Parit Abu Hassan in Bagan Serai were being accommodated at Sekolah Kebangsaan Bukit Merah, he said.

"The number of evacuees in Pantai Remis, from Kampung Padang Serai, Pengkalan Baru, remains at 83 and all of them are staying at Sekolah Agama Rakyat Kampung Padang Serai," he said when contacted.

Yahya said the number of evacuees in Hilir Perak had dropped to 56 from 73 overnight.

These villagers, from Kampung Mesra Batu 7, Changkat Jong, Teluk Intan, Kampung Lorong Mesra, Batu 9 and Kampung Lorong, were being housed at Sekolah Kebangsaan Changkat Jong, Teluk Intan, he said, adding that their villages were flooded to a depth of 3.05 metres following heavy rain.

In Miri, Limbang Department of Civil Defence officer Subuh Posa said the number of evacuees at the Medamit community hall in Limbang had risen to 303 Thursday morning from 258 overnight.

All these evacuees were from Kampung Hujung Medamit, he added.

He also said that the number of evacuees at the Trusan community hall in Lawas had gone by one to 58 Thursday.

These evacuees were from Kampung Gelapas, Kampung Seberang Kedai, Kampung Masjid, Kampung Tengah and Kampung Balai, he added.

Subuh said food, drinks and other essential aid had been provided to the evacuees by the Social Welfare Department and other agencies.

In Kuantan, Pahang Department of Civil Defence director Zainal Yusoff said the number of evacuees in the Lipis and Raub districts in the state had dropped to 43 from 67 overnight.

The 23 evacuees in Lipis are being housed at the relief centre at Sekolah Lubuk Kulit, he said, adding that they were from Kampung Barus Beletik and Kampung Keledek.

In Raub, only one relief centre, at the Kuala Semantan Jamek Mosque, remained open with 20 evacuees, he said, adding that the centre at the Kampung Tersang community hall had closed after all the 19 evacuees returned to their homes.

Zainal advised the people in flood-prone areas to keep their valuables in a safe place and to evacuate when instructed by the authorities. - Bernama

Coastal fishermen hope for a kinder weather
The Star 27 Nov 15;

KOTA BARU: Over 300 coastal fishermen here are praying for a kinder and calmer monsoon this year.

The fishermen of Kuala Besar near here are hoping that their catch throughout the monsoon season would not be as badly affected as last year.

“I was not able to go to sea for at least three months during the monsoon period from November last year.

“It was a difficult time for us because the sea was choppy. Even those who ventured out to sea during those months came back without much catch due to the high waves and strong undercurrents,” said 39-year-old Mohd Yunus Abdullah of Kuala Besar here.

He said, like many other fishermen, he had to find temporary employment and do odd jobs during those months just to make ends meet.

Mohd Yunus said since the monsoon season started early this month, his catch had dwindled to just a box of fish per day.

“I am praying hard that this monsoon season will not be as bad as last year,” said Mohd Yunus, who has been a fisherman for the past 10 years.

Another coastal fisherman, Nik Abdullah Nik Muhammad, 45, of Pantai Sabak here, said it was not worth the risk to go out to the sea during monsoon season as the waves were big and dangerous to small fishing boats.

“The harvest of good fish is also low, so it really is not worthwhile to go out to sea nowadays.

“I just hope that the monsoon season will end quickly and the flood will be less devastating,” he added.

Nik Abdullah said deep-sea fishermen had already stopped going out to the open sea since early this month.

Prices of all types of fish have been rising since the monsoon season started.

The price hike averaged between RM3 and RM5 per kilo, depending on the fish.

Read more!

Indonesia can avoid being 'global villain' at Paris climate talks: Activists

Environmental groups said it is time Indonesia paid more attention to the issue of climate change, and the United Nations climate conference in Paris next week can be a good starting point.
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 26 Nov 15;

JAKARTA: A group of environmental activists has urged the Indonesian government to work towards zero deforestation by 2020, and 100 per cent renewable energy use by 2050, in a briefing paper ahead of climate change talks in Paris.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he would attend the COP21 conference starting Dec 7, a move the Community & Ecologically Based Society for Law Reform has lauded.

"We feel it was a good decision, because Indonesia would like to see how serious the government is in tackling this issue or make a contribution to efforts to take care of this earth,” said the group's head of advocacy, Sisilia Nurmala Dewi.

“If the government continues to do what it does, it will become a global villain. Indonesia's attendance is also important because it not only has the potential to make a big contribution to combat climate change, but Indonesia's one of the countries susceptible to its effects,” she said.

Indonesia at one point this year topped the world's list of greenhouse gas emitters, a result of the forest fires in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua. But before the fires, the country was already sitting in fifth position.


Environmentalists said Indonesia has a chance to tell the international community how it plans to tackle forest fires, and significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

Kurniawan Sabar, a campaigner from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, said he believes the country can play a leadership role at the conference.

“It’s not only to talk about Indonesia's position, but how the Government can demand (that) all countries, delegations and annex 1 countries make a stronger commitment, and also how Indonesia can influence countries to mitigate climate change,” he said.

Indonesia has pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 29 per cent by 2030 from business as usual levels, or by as much as 41 per cent with international support.

Yet, activists have criticised the government for submitting a pledge that lacks clear baseline references, or a means to fulfil the targets.

But observers like Tomoyuki Uno from the United Nations Development Programme said it is a challenging and complex problem for Indonesia. “I think it’s quite difficult to come up with concrete targets," he said, "because for one thing do we have a common definition of forests, or land to be conserved?”

“So, immediately there is a problem of definition, there is a lack of maps, and there is the uncertainty of future events like El Nino and massive forests fires.”

The Paris talks are another chance for countries to agree on a long-term plan to tackle climate change. It could also give Indonesia an opportunity to become a role model, to clear the air and help the world to see beyond 2020, when the current commitments expire.

- CNA/jb

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Indonesia: President hopes for implementation of sustainable fire prevention efforts

Antara 26 Nov 15;

Banjar (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has expressed hope that several provincial administrations would undertake sustainable fire prevention efforts to avert fire disasters in the future.

"I have reminded the officers in the provincial and district administrations as well as military and police personnel to prevent the recurrence of forest fires in 2016," the president affirmed here on Thursday.

The president visited the Sultan Adam Forest Park in South Kalimantan Province to commemorate the National Tree Planting Day and the Flora-Fauna Day.

In spite of Indonesia being ranked third as the country with the richest natural resources, however, it has also become the sixth-largest producer of carbon emissions.

Jokowi affirmed that the forest fire disaster in 2015 would add to the total carbon emissions.

"It is not a positive achievement but rather a warning for us," he pointed out.

Indonesia is targeting to decrease its carbon emissions by up to 29 percent in 2030. The country has also urged other advanced and developed countries to stay committed to saving the environment.

"Forest fires can serve as a precious lesson for Indonesia after 18 cases of this natural disaster have occurred. It should be a learning experience for us," Jokowi noted.

Besides destroying forests, the fires have also damaged the natural ecosystem.

The provincial administration must prevent the occurrence of forest fires in 2016.

"We have several examples in some provinces that have wide forest areas but none of them were burnt. There are some provinces that undertook prevention efforts and some others that did not," the president remarked.

The head of state has urged the officers to focus on preventing peatland fires as the disaster is more difficult to handle.

"The administration should not become complacent after the fires have been extinguished as we must take preventive steps, such as creating partitioned canals," Jokowi pointed out.

The president said the celebration of the National Tree Planting Day is an effort to give back to the environment by planting 10 thousand trees.

He called for tree-planting activities to be carried out in particular areas to facilitate monitoring efforts.

Jokowi wants Indonesia to maintain function as lung of the world 26 Nov 15;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Thursday visited the Sultan Adam People Forest Park (Tahura) in South Kalimantan to attend the commemoration of Indonesian Tree Planting Day and kick off the month-long tree-plating campaign as parts of national efforts to maintain the country’s role as the lung of the world.

“Today, we are planting 2,000 trees. As total of 8,000 trees have been planted since Monday,” said the President while symbolically planting a tree in the forest in the company of First Lady Iriana Widodo, as stated in the Presidential Office’s press release.

About 105 hectares of the Sultan Adam People Forest, which covers a total area of 116,000 hectares, were recently ravaged by wildfires, along with thousands more hectares of forest land in Sumatra and Kalimantan in the country’s worst-ever forest fires.

The environmental catastrophe did not only destroy the forests, but also caused serious problems for people’s health and air transportation due to widespread haze.

The government has come under heavy criticism for what many saw as a sluggish effort to stop the forest and peatland fires, and particularly for its late decision to accept foreign help in extinguishing the fires.

Jokowi called on Indonesians to rehabilitate the forests and carry on the momentum of Tree Planting Day and the National Flora and Fauna Day to improve the country’s environment.

“We need to conserve flora and fauna to maintain the country’s biodiversity and the country’s function as the lung of the world,” said the President.

During the occasion, the President also handed over awards to the winners of the 2014 National Tree Planting Competition to governors, regents and mayors as well as businesspeople, universities, schools, cooperatives and individuals who played important roles in protecting trees.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said the government would rehabilitate more than 100 hectares of Sultan Adam People Forest Park that was on fire recently. (bbn)(+)

Fires damage 300-ha area in Lore Lindu
The Jakarta Post 26 Nov 15;

The Lore Lindu National Park (TNLL) in Central Sulawesi has reported that at least 300 hectares (ha) of the park were damaged by fires during this year’s prolonged dry season.

TNLL head Sudaryatna said that many of the fires in the past several months were started by local residents who intentionally burned grass fields to speed up the growth of new grass that they could feed to their livestock.

“According to our analysis and information collected by our officers, [many of] those fires were due to residents’ negligence,” he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

The 218,000-ha park is home to 117 mammal species, 29 reptile species and 14 amphibian species. Around a half of them are species native to Sulawesi.

Read more!

Indonesia: Thousands displaced after floods, quakes hit

Apriadi Gunawan and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 26 Nov 15;

Thousands of people have fled their homes after a series of natural disasters hit several regions in the country over the past several days.

In the North Sumatra provincial capital of Medan, floodwater reaching 1-meter-deep inundated thousands of homes in eight districts on Wednesday following heavy rain that poured over the region from Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning.

Among the affected districts were Medan Johor, Medan Baru, Maimun and Medan Marelan.

Floodwater also inundated a number of public facilities such as schools and universities, including the North Sumatra University (USU) compound.

The local authority was forced to temporarily shut down schools as floodwater had yet to subside at 10:30 a.m. local time. National Teachers Day celebrations scheduled be held at schools were also canceled.

“This is a special gift for us on Teachers Day. No ceremonies, no activities can be conducted because the whole school compound is inundated,” the principal of SMP 10 Medan state junior high school, Rajo Batubara, said.

Markus Sebayang of Medan Baru said water from the overflowing Babura River had begun entering his house shortly after midnight.

“We immediately moved to higher ground to avoid the flooding,” said Markus, who as of Wednesday afternoon remained at a nearby evacuation center with his family.

Medan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Hanna Lore Simanjuntak said that the agency had been distributing aid, including food and tents, and had set up health posts in all affected areas.

Floodwater also inundated on Wednesday thousands of houses in the neighboring Binjai municipality amid heavy downpours.

The 1-meter deep floods in Binjai resulted in a number of motorized vehicles getting submerged in water as the owners had no time to move them. The flooding also damaged home appliances and electronic devices.

In West Sumatra, heavy rain triggered a landslide on a road connecting Padang and Bukittinggi on the East Malalak section in Agam regency on Wednesday morning.

Agam BPBD head Bambang Warsito said that the landslide had caused traffic congestion on the road section for about six hours while debris was being cleared.

Jl. Malalak is an alternative Padang-Bukittinggi route operated to help manage traffic congestion on the main route, which passes through Lembah Anai. Parts of the alternative route, however, are prone to landslides during the rainy season.

Meanwhile, in North Maluku, thousands of residents of West Halmahera regency fled their homes following a series of earthquakes measuring less than 4.0 on the Richter scale that have rocked the region since last week.

More than 9,000 residents from 19 subdistricts in Jailolo, the regency’s capital, had been living in evacuation shelters since after the first quake hit the regency on Nov. 16, Kompas reported.

Almost 300 homes were severely damaged in Bobanehena subdistrict, one of the worst-hit areas. More than 1,500 villagers have also fled to a nearby hill in anticipation of more quakes.

Jakarta taking measures to mitigate impact of floods
The Indonesian capital is laying out plans to minimise the impact of chronic flooding.
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 26 Nov 15;

JAKARTA: Indonesia is the fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter due to deforestation, the degradation of peatland, and forest fires. The emissions have an impact on climate change, which in turn can lead to weather extremes of drought and heavy rainfall.

Reducing floods in Jakarta remains a challenge despite efforts to deal with the annual problem. Environmental groups say besides normalising rivers, more needs to be done to preserve green spaces in the capital.

Kampung Melayu in South Jakarta is one of many flood-prone areas in the capital. It was recently hit by floods triggered by intense rainfall in Bogor, around 60km away. The floods inundated Hasanah’s home just next to the Ciliwung river which flows from Bogor.

“This year it flooded twice already, the first was small, but the latest one was bigger,” she said. “The water was up to my head. We couldn’t go anywhere, except move up to the second floor. And if we wanted to eat, whoever could swim would go and buy food."

But by next year, Hasanah may not have to deal with the floods anymore. She expects to be evicted, as her home - built on the banks of the river - is illegal.

The illegal settlements are also part of the problem when it comes to flooding. They contribute to the pollution and clogging of the river, which has narrowed over the years due to the accumulation of rubbish.

The Jakarta administration is taking steps to carry out what is known as normalising of the river, and remove settlements around it. The local government plans to widen the river to about 10 metres, and when that happens the illegally built houses will have to make way.

However, environmentalists believe improving the river will not be enough to alleviate flooding in Jakarta. “There are no efforts to increase areas where water can be absorbed, like green spaces,” said Mukri Friatna, an ecology disaster campaigner for the Indonesian Forum for the Environment.

“In 2013 green spaces only formed 9.8 per cent of the total land area in Jakarta of 60,000 hectares. The law states that every province needs to have about 30 per cent green spaces.

“If there are more green spaces, then there will be larger area to absorb the water, and if there are few green spaces, the water will run off into the river.”

However, the Jakarta water management authority is optimistic that severe flooding can be avoided with the measures being taken. Besides normalising the river, local drainage is also being improved.

“We never talk about how we can eliminate floods, but we will mitigate floods in three ways,” said Tri Djoko Margianto, Head, Jakarta Water Management Services. “We will reduce the spread of the floods. Secondly, we will reduce the depth of the water, and we will improve the time for the water to recede - not to let the floods to continue for days.”

The Indonesian weather agency predicts the rainy season will peak in January or February 2016. With earlier preparations, the Jakarta administration is confident it can better manage any flooding, and if it does happen, officials have set a target to have the floodwaters recede within 12 hours.

- CNA/rw

Medan Govt Under Fire as Subdistricts Flood
Arnold H Sianturi Jakarta Globe 26 Nov 15;

Medan, North Sumatra. Heavy rain causing flooding in eight Medan subdistricts have left residents fuming, complaining the city government refuses to solve the issue.

“Every time the rains pour down heavily, our area is flooded,” Hermansyah of Medan Selayang subdistrict said on Thursday.

Flooding in Medan Selayan is due to poor drainage in the area, which the government continues to ignore, Hermansyah said. Flooding has reached up to 1 meter deep in some areas.

“The government relies on the simple fact that the floods will eventually recede, but they do nothing to anticipate more floods to come. They only fix and dredge the gutters — but not much,” he said.

Liliek, a resident of Medan Polonia, said that each heavy rain is seen as a “frightening natural terror and makes us stay alert all the time for any possibilities of evacuation.”

Godfried Efendi Lubis, a member of the Commission C at the Medan Legislative Council, also criticized the city's Bina Marga Agency — a state agency overseeing the road infrastructure — for not dredging the drainage on a routine basis contributing to the floods.

“There has been no achievement made by the government in flood management. We cannot keep the floods from recurring every time heavy rain happens. It is so humiliating. The government actually has a budget to fix and maintain the drainage as parts of flood management,” Godfried said.

The flooding has become a type of tourism to visiting foreign tourists, he said.

“I have told the related agencies to take preventive actions for the floods. But they always say that the floods will go away after a few hours. It is hard to talk to them."

Medan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) have established evacuation posts throughout the eight subdistricts, providing food, tents and health services.

“Even though the BPBD keeps running evacuation processes and other aid, Bina Marga Agency and other related agencies still need to do more. The drainage and the rivers have to be dredged on a routine basis. We cannot always dependent on the evacuations because those are not solutions,” Hannalore, Medan BPBD Chief, said on Wednesday, as quoted by

Thousands of people evacuated after Halmahera earthquakes
Antara 26 Nov 15;

Solo (ANTARA News) - The continuous earthquakes that rocked the West Halmahera district of the North Maluku Province from November 16 to 25 have resulted in the evacuation of 9,610 people from their residences.

"At least 611 earthquakes occurred between November 16 and 23," the Chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated in a press release on Thursday.

Thousands of people from 19 villages in the Jailolo sub-district of the West Halmahera District were evacuated. However, some of the evacuees still carried out their activities during the day.

The continuous earthquakes have led to 237 houses experiencing severe damage, 193 undergoing medium damage and 504 suffering from minor damages. The officers also found 11 public facility buildings that were damaged and the tremors, which also created 500 meter-long cracks in the Galala village.

The Head of the West Halmahera District has announced an emergency situation for 14 days and deployed 75 emergency joint personnel.

The North Maluku Province's administration has delivered 400 cartons of instant noodles and mineral water each. The regional disaster mitigation agency in West Halmahera has also distributed some aid to the evacuation post.

The government has created a team to verify the damaged houses discovered by the national and regional mitigation agency officers, the public works officers, as well as military and police personnel.

The mitigation agency has also asked people to be vigilant and calm while facing the tremors. The agency said the earthquake that occurred in West Halmahera was a continuous earthquake, with the strength of below 5 on the Richter scale.

Read more!

Australia: Marine scientists planning for 'one of the worst' coral bleaching events

Erin Parke ABC News 26 Nov 15;

Scientists across Australia are preparing for what could be the most damaging coral bleaching event in history.

It is feared rising sea temperatures, and this year's strong El Nino, could combine to damage delicate reef systems on both sides of the continent.

WA Department of Parks and Wildlife marine scientist Shaun Wilson said the signs were not good.

"At the moment what's building up, it looks like one of the strongest El Nino events on record, and previously when we've had those sorts of events, we've had extensive bleaching, so that's our concern," he said.

"It could be really bad, it could be one of the worst events we've seen, but it's hard to know yet."

Bleaching occurs when stress, such as heat, causes algae to be ejected from the coral in which it lives.

The loss of the food-finding algae strips the coral of its colour, and starves it of nutrients.

The result is albino reefs, and a loss of habitat for fish, with a trickle-down effect on tourism and fishing industries.

Water temperatures being monitored

Preparations are being made across Australia to monitor the water temperature and assess the damage as quickly as possible.

Marine scientists from several different institutions and agencies held a planning workshop in Perth this week.

Australian Institute of Marine Science research scientist James Gilmour said plans were being made to inspect some northern offshore reefs in January.

"We think the most important thing to do now is document how widespread and severe the bleaching is, and also understanding the physical conditions which have caused that bleaching events," Dr Gilmour said

"So we'll be mobilising teams together before the event in January, to try to do some surveys and deploy some oceanographic equipment.

"Then after the event, should it happen - probably in April - we'll be going back to the sites, to look at how much coral has or hasn't died, and also pulling the oceanographic instruments to understand the conditions that caused the mortality."

Coral can recover from bleaching, but it takes years for the algae to restore.

Dr Gilmour said there was concern that over the next decade, warming waters would increase the number of bleaching events and push the reefs to breaking point.

"What we've learned from work we've already done in places in north-western Australia is following a severe bleaching event, some reefs can recover, but it takes a takes a good 10 years to recover," he said.

"So the concern is that if we start to see multiple bleaching events happening within ten years, then the reefs just won't have the capacity to recover."

Read more!

Ecuador eco-tour shows positive effects of mangrove replanting in face of El Niño

Near the resort of Bahía de Caráquez, a community project has restored mangrove forests – and may help save it from one of the strongest ever El Niños
Aaron Kase The Guardian 26 Nov 15;

The canoe sliced through the water and along a quiet, narrow tunnel enclosed by mangrove trees. As the craft slid past the spindly tree trunks and roots sticking several feet out of the water, tour guides pointed out ibis, herons and small red crabs hidden among the foliage.

Leading this tour was Francisco Reyes Mera, a former fisherman who helped found a group to restore the ravaged mangrove forests in his community. The result is the expansion of Isla Corazón, a naturally heart-shaped mangrove island in the estuary of the Rio Chone on Ecuador’s Pacific coast. The island is just outside Bahía de Caráquez, a resort-city where visitors come to enjoy the beach, surf and fill up on seafood. The town declared itself an eco-city in 1999, and eco-tourism sites such as Isla Corazón are popular destinations.

The Rio Chone was once thick with mangroves, creating prime habitat for the fish, wild shrimp, crabs and molluscs that the fishermen relied on. In the 1970s and 80s the bulk of the forests were ripped out, however, and replaced by shrimp farms, precipitating an economic boom but eliminating the storm-buffering effects, erosion control and wildlife habitat provided by the mangroves. Various studies have reported that somewhere between 75% to 90% of the mangroves in the estuary were removed during the shrimp farm explosion.

The community paid the price in 1997-98, when El Niño brought months of heavy rain, provoking massive mudslides, filling the river with silt and sweeping away entire neighbourhoods. In the aftermath, a group of fishermen led by Reyes Mera began planting mangroves to protect their land and livelihood. “What choice did we have?” he says. “We just started planting.”

At the time, there were only 53 hectares of natural forest remaining at Isla Corazón. Since then, the community’s efforts have contributed to over 500 hectares more, and the group teamed up with Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment to make the island an officially protected wildlife refuge in 2002.

During the tour, the canoe emerged from the mangrove tunnel to the river on the south side of the island, where a strong smell of guano and muted squawking announced a large colony of frigate birds living in the trees. The black and white seabirds circled over the river looking for fish, and perched with their wings spread wide and hooked beaks agape. Other species, including brown pelicans and cormorants, also rested among the leaves.

The tour concluded with a short hike down a wooden platform built into the island, and back into the centre of the forest. Reyes Merea handed out mangrove seeds for the guests to launch into the mud, where they will start to root in about 45 days – and contribute to the ongoing restoration of the environment.

Today, with the region bracing itself for the first strong El Niño since the 1998 disaster, the mangroves are more important that ever. The forests are still nowhere near their historic levels, and nearby towns remain vulnerable, but hopefully the mangroves will absorb some of the damage. “We’re worried for the community,” Reyes Mera says, “but the forests will be fine.”

Read more!

As climate impacts hit, Pakistan faces migration surge - experts

AAMIR SAEED Reuters 26 Nov 15;

THATTA, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Fisherman Muhammad Yusuf's family has been living on the island of Hajamaro, just over three miles off the coast of southern Pakistan, for generations. But the island that was once a happy home has now become a prison.

Sea level rise and frequent cyclones are eroding Yusuf’s property. Decreasing fish stocks are threatening his livelihood. And relentless health problems are killing his children.

Some 60 families like Yusuf’s live on a cluster of more than a dozen islands off Keti Bunder, a port on the Arabian Sea in Thatta district. With too little money to move to the mainland, they feel trapped.

"If we had sufficient resources to relocate, we would have moved to Thatta city some five years ago and quit fishing,” said Yusuf, 62.

Across Pakistan, families are struggling against rising sea level, droughts, floods and other climate-change related pressures. Many of them – those luckier or richer than Yusuf’s family – move to safer ground in new areas. Others are trapped where they are.

But as the number of families forced from their homes – or threatened by staying in them – continues to rise, Pakistan’s resources are coming under increasing strain, experts say.

Without more work to help families adapt effectively to the changing conditions, they say, the country could see surging numbers of people migrating.


Life on Hajamaro island is becoming nearly impossible, Yusuf says. With each passing day, the rising sea claims someone else’s land, or another family’s shack, he said.

Fish stocks near the shore are falling, in part as a result of rising pollution from nearby Karachi, where large quantities of untreated industrial waste are discharged into the ocean, according to Hameed Ullah Jan, a former Pakistan environmental minister.

The pollution pushes fishermen into deeper waters to find a catch, despite not having the right boats or nets for the job, he said.

The drinking water that island families fetch by travelling to Thatta city also is becoming more saline, due to seawater intrusion in underground supplies. They have no choice but to drink it, however, because they can’t afford to buy clean water, Yusuf said.

With limited access to potable water and pollution tainting their staple food of fish, Yusuf’s children often suffer from diarrhoea and fever – and the family is too poor to take them to the doctor.

Yusuf and his wife, Parto Bhari, have already lost two daughters to diarrhoea this year.

Now their three sons - aged 4, 10 and 12 - are sick too. “I can do nothing but keep praying for better health for my ailing sons,” Bhari said quietly.


A 2012 report by Asian Development Bank estimates that by 2050 there will be more than 250 million people in Bangladesh and Pakistan living in “hot spots” threatened by negative climate change impacts, such as flooding or drought.

"While most people will adapt in situ, the potential for redistribution of population through migration is substantial,” the report said.

Environmentalists in Pakistan say rising numbers of people have fled Pakistan’s coastal region in recent years to escape rising sea levels and saltwater contamination, and their movement could be just the beginning.

Experts and activists are calling for the government to intervene.

According to Arif Ahmad Khan, secretary of the Ministry of Climate Change, Pakistan’s constitution obliges the government to provide the “basic necessities of life” such as food, housing and education.

But while officials often pay compensation to people affected by development projects such as roads or bridges, they do little to aid those who need resettling as a result of climate-related problems, he said.

Sarwar Bari, national coordinator of the Pattan Development Organization, an NGO based in Islamabad, said migration levels could surge in the next few years unless officials initiate measures to help people cope with problems such as erratic rainfall, droughts, and floods.

"The government should include climate-related migration in its national climate change policy and help people cope financially with the phenomenon,” he said.

It’s not as easy as moving families out of hot spots into urban areas, said Shafqat Aziz, a food security expert with Oxfam Novib, the Dutch affiliate of the development charity. That would only increase the pressure on the resources of already congested cities, he said.

"The government should first map all the vulnerable areas to collect authentic data at the national level and then come up with a cogent policy to deal with the issue,” he said.

Aziz believes the best way to handle a potential migration surge is to make sure people don’t need to leave their homes in the first place.

The government should educate those living in vulnerable areas on ways of adapting to the impacts of climate change, such as changing farming cultivation patterns, he said.

"Local adaptation plans can help people ensure their livelihoods and safety in the face of calamities like floods, droughts and earthquakes,” Aziz said.

On Hajamaro island, Yusuf is not sure help will come in time.

"The rising sea has started swallowing our home, our livelihood, and our children,” he said. “Perhaps it’s in our destiny to be destroyed by nature.”

(Reporting by Aamir Saeed; editing by Jumana Farouky and Laurie Goering :; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's rights, trafficking and corruption. Visit

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Surge in climate change-related disasters poses growing threat to food security

In developing countries the agriculture sector bears much of the economic impact
FAO 26 Nov 15;

26 November 2015, Rome - Droughts, floods, storms and other disasters triggered by climate change have risen in frequency and severity over the last three decades, increasing the damage caused to the agricultural sectors of many developing countries and putting them at risk of growing food insecurity, FAO warned in a new report released today ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris.

Worldwide, between 2003 and 2013 - the period analyzed in the study - the average annual number of disasters caused by all types of natural hazards, including climate-related events, almost doubled since the 1980s. The total economic damage caused is estimated at $1.5 trillion.

Focusing specifically on the impact of climate-related disasters in developing countries, some 25 percent of the negative economic impacts were borne by the crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry sectors alone. In the case of drought, over 80 percent of the damage and losses affected the agriculture sector, especially livestock and crop production.

The FAO report is based on a review of 78 on the ground post-disaster needs-assessments conducted in developing countries coupled with statistical analyses of production losses, changes in trade flows and agriculture sector growth associated with 140 medium and large scale disasters - defined as those affecting at least 250,000 people.

The report clearly demonstrates that natural hazards - particularly extreme weather events - regularly impact heavily on agriculture and hamper the eradication of hunger, poverty and the achievement of sustainable development.

The situation is likely to worsen unless measures are taken to strengthen the resilience of the agriculture sector and increase investments to boost food security and productivity and also curb the harmful effects of climate change.

"This year alone, small-scale farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists and foresters - from Myanmar to Guatemala and from Vanuatu to Malawi - have seen their livelihoods eroded or erased by cyclones, droughts, floods and earthquakes," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

He noted how the international community recently committed itself to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and is expected to reach a climate change agreement at the COP 21. Measuring progress made in meeting these global targets will require accurate, up-to-date information, including on the impact of disasters, Graziano da Silva stressed.

"National strategies for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation that support resilience must address the types of disasters with the greatest impact on the agriculture sector, the FAO Director-General said. He noted how sector-specific data on damage and losses are essential for effective policy and practice," and that the FAO study aims to contribute to national, regional and global efforts to develop comprehensive disaster data collection and monitoring systems.

Drought critical in sub-Saharan Africa, flooding and storms are a scourge in Asia

Drought has an especially detrimental impact - around 90 percent of production losses - on agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa where the sector on average contributes to a quarter of GDP, rising to a half when agribusiness is included. At a conservative estimate, total crop and livestock production losses after major droughts were equivalent to more than $30 billion between 1991 and 2013 in the region.

Drought often has a major cascading effect on national economies as shown in Kenya where between 2008 and 2011 it caused significant losses in the food processing industry, particularly grain milling and coffee and tea processing.

Many Asian countries are particularly vulnerable to the impact of floods and storms. For example, crop production losses caused by the 2010 floods in Pakistan directly affected cotton ginning, rice processing and flour and sugar milling, while cotton and rice imports surged. In this case, some 50 percent of the $10 billion in total damages and losses fell on the agriculture sector.

Different disasters require different responses

Understanding the impact of different types of disasters is crucial to ensure that the most appropriate policies and practices are implemented.

Floods cause more than half of the total damage and loss to crops which are also very vulnerable to storms and drought. Around 85 percent of the damage caused to livestock is due to drought, while fisheries are overwhelmingly affected by tsunamis and storms such as hurricanes and cyclones. Most of the negative economic impact to forestry is caused by storms and floods.

Beyond production losses, the study shows how disasters can cause unemployment and erode incomes especially for small scale family farmers, thus threatening rural livelihoods. For instance, the 2010 floods in Pakistan affected 4.5 million workers, two-thirds of whom were employed in agriculture and over 70 percent of farmers lost more than half of their expected income.

Directing more investments towards resilient and sustainable agriculture

Worldwide, the livelihoods of 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture, yet only 4.2 percent of total official development assistance was spent on agriculture between 2003 and 2012 - less than half the United Nations target of 10 percent. Investment in disaster risk reduction is extremely low: only around 0.4 percent of official development aid in 2010 and 2011.

FAO stresses that aid should better reflect the impact of disasters on the agriculture sector.

Investments into disaster response and recovery should also build resilience to future shocks through risk reduction and management measures, particularly in countries facing recurrent disasters and where agriculture is a critical source of livelihoods, food and nutrition security, as well as a key driver of the economy.

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Public support for tough climate deal 'declines'

Matt McGrath BBC News 27 Nov 15;

Public support for a strong global deal on climate change has declined, according to a poll carried out in 20 countries.

Only four now have majorities in favour of their governments setting ambitious targets at a global conference in Paris.

In a similar poll before the Copenhagen meeting in 2009, eight countries had majorities favouring tough action.

The poll has been provided to the BBC by research group GlobeScan.

Just under half of all those surveyed viewed climate change as a "very serious" problem this year, compared with 63% in 2009.

The findings will make sober reading for global political leaders, who will gather in Paris next week for the start of the United Nations climate conference, known as COP21.

It's being billed as the best opportunity in six years to achieve a significant advance on tackling rising temperatures.

In 2009, in Copenhagen, the leaders failed to deliver a strong outcome despite widespread public expectation that a deal was needed.

The BBC asked the GlobeScan research group what their long-term polling suggested about public opinion on climate negotiations

Around 1,000 people in each of 20 countries were questioned about their attitudes. The survey was carried out in January and February of 2015.
Declining support

The number rating climate change as a very serious issue in richer countries declined significantly from 2009, while support for strong action at the Paris conference has only grown in three of the 20 countries polled.

Canada, France, Spain and the UK are the only four with majorities in favour of their governments taking a leading role.

All told an average of 42% of those polled want their government to play a leadership role in setting ambitious targets, while another 41% want their government to take a more moderate approach and support only gradual action.

"The public are less concerned about climate change, and when you put that in the context of the climate conference in Paris, the findings show less support for an ambitious and binding agreement at a global level than there was ahead of COP15 in 2009 in Copenhagen," said Lionel Bellier, from GlobeScan.

"It's not an abrupt change of views, the trend seems to be now towards a softer approach."

Public support has also declined in developing countries including China and Indonesia. The pollsters believe that global economic recession has played a significant role in changing people's perspectives on rising temperatures.

"When we look at the broad range of environmental issues, they all have gone down in terms of concern, in all countries, since 2009, at the same time you see that concerns about the economy have risen, and what's capturing the agenda is terrorism, which has risen up the agenda over the last two years."

Commenting on the findings, former UN Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer, now with the Global Green Growth Institute, said he wasn't surprised there had been some fall-off in support since 2009 when he chaired the meeting in the Danish capital.

"It is certainly true that in the run-up to Copenhagen there was very broad international support and enthusiasm to see a strong outcome," he told BBC News.

"There was obviously very significant disappointment when that didn't happen and on top of that came the financial crisis, so I do think there is a pre-occupation with more direct economic concerns of today."

What may also cause concern for political leaders meeting in Paris is the growing sense among rich and poor countries that taking action on climate change could be costly and might destabilise fragile growth.

"The slowdown of the economy in China in the past 12 months has certainly impacted people's views, but also people are increasingly worried about the impact on their economies of curbing emissions, if we take major steps on climate change," said Lionel Bellier.

The pollsters suggest that citizens globally are becoming more informed about climate change. They also found more than twice as many people today blame rising levels of carbon dioxide from human activities for extreme weather events as compared to a similar poll carried out in January 2000.

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