Best of our wild blogs: 29 Nov 15

New Walk At Venus Drive (27 Nov 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Butterfly of the Month - November 2015
Butterflies of Singapore

2015 L’Oreal Singapore For Women in Science National Fellowships Award Ceremony
Neo Mei Lin

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Plans to ensure ethical nature photography

Recent incidents prompt Nature Photographic Society to hold sessions on practices that harm animals and habitats
Audrey Tan Straits Times 29 Nov 15; Also on AsiaOne

Some bird photographers in Singapore are making a name for themselves, but not for their pictures.

Instead, they were recently pointed out on social media for practices that harm animals and their habitats, highlighting the thorny ethical issues of nature photography.

The Nature Photographic Society (Singapore) is now taking steps to minimise harmful photography practices. It is working with hobby group Birds, Insects N Creatures of Asia (Bica) to hold activities, such as photography workshops, and talks on topics such as appreciating nature subjects, to reach out to the growing number of nature photographers here, said society president Fong Chee Wai.

The first workshop will bring together members of the nature and scientific communities, photographers and bird watchers, and is being planned for January next year.

Dr Fong said only "a handful" carry out unethical photography practices. "Some of them are new and could have picked up the wrong tips, which is why workshops and talks can help by providing an alternative perspective," he added.

Last month, a post on website alleged that three photographers had baited grey-headed fish eagles in Bukit Batok using live fish which were injected with air and styrofoam so that they would remain afloat. They allegedly did this to try to get a shot of an eagle swooping down on its prey near the water surface.

It followed another incident in August last year, when a photographer was caught tethering a little tern chick's legs to a bush so it could be posed for a photograph.

Both incidents drew the ire of the nature community and prompted the authorities to take action.

The National Parks Board (NParks) is investigating the Bukit Batok case and the photographer in the little tern incident was fined $500 by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority for animal cruelty.

If the photographers in the Bukit Batok case are found guilty, both incidents would be clear examples of unethical photography.

But other practices, such as the use of bait or recorded calls to lure birds closer, or clearing vegetation for cleaner shots, are in more of a grey area. National University of Singapore bird researcher David Tan said a common defence from photographers is that these practices do not cause direct harm to the birds.

"But they are in no position to ascertain this, as these are issues that generally require some level of understanding of the species' biology," Mr Tan said. "Baiting causes birds to divert foraging time away from more nutritious food in the wild to unhealthy store-bought bait like mealworms."

He has observed such practices while doing fieldwork since 2012, and has come across people who played recorded calls or went off the boardwalk to photograph birds. Venturing off the boardwalk may cause habitats to be trampled upon.

A spokesman for bird conservation group BirdLife International said the use of playback is generally not recommended, especially during the breeding season when it can divert a bird's energy.

NParks director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah urged the public to avoid manipulating any plant or animal in the process of photography. "This includes not feeding or using artificial lures and calls to attract the animals as this might harm or cause discomfort to them."

For offences relating to the unauthorised capture, disturbance and manipulation of any plant or animal, penalties range from a maximum fine of $5,000 (if committed in public parks) to $50,000 (if committed in national parks or nature reserves).

Despite the controversy surrounding nature photography, ethical photographers can help scientists to understand bird behaviour, said Dr Wee Yeow Chin, who heads the Bird Ecology Study Group.

In August, the group formalised an agreement with Bica, which allows it to use the latter's photos and videos on its website. The study group provides scientific background and interpretations, "adding value to Bica's images of birds and their activities", Dr Wee said.

He said he was also happy to see the collaboration between the Nature Photographic Society and

Bica. "As newcomers get more involved in nature activities, experiencing the care taken by more experienced photographers will hopefully inspire them to also care for the plants and animals around them."

3 common disruptive practices
Audrey Tan Straits Times 29 Nov 15;

One of the most widespread practices in nature photography, it involves putting out food to attract birds, so that photographers can capture "food in mouth" shots. Common bait includes mealworms or crickets to attract birds that feed on insects, and fish for piscivores.

National University of Singapore bird researcher David Tan said the practice poses problems: store-bought bait tends to lack the nutrients needed for a balanced diet, and feeding can modify the birds' behaviour and make them more susceptible to poaching.


The use of recorded bird calls to get birds to come closer is controversial. Scientists also do this to study bird behaviour, but when playback is used excessively, such as when large groups of photographers do so continuously, there could be negative impact.

A paper in science journal PLOS One in 2013 noted that "playback could negatively affect species if they become stressed, expend energy, or take time away from other activities to respond to playback".


Photographers sometimes venture off boardwalks or they clear vegetation around a perch to get better pictures. The latter is sometimes known as setting up a "studio", which usually involves the use of bait. Litter is also prevalent in such set-ups.

Photographers venturing off the boardwalk at the mangrove area in Pasir Ris Park to take photographs of a juvenile common flameback woodpecker earlier this year.

It's more than just taking pretty pictures
Audrey Tan Straits Times 29 Nov 15; Also on AsiaOne

For Mr Francis Yap, 46, the joy of photographing birds lies in more than just getting great shots.

He also enjoys being out in nature, and the challenge of getting a close-up photo of the birds without using bait or recorded bird calls, or modifying the environment.

Last December, Mr Yap's photo of a male crimson horned pheasant was featured in BirdingASIA as an example of ethical photography.

The magazine had lauded his image as one that was taken "without any special aids, inducements or effects; his main tools were exceptional care and patience".

Mr Yap, who picked up the hobby in 2010, told The Sunday Times: "For me, there are stories to be told about the birds we see, and the photos that we take.

"A lot of my pictures are not worthy of publication, but I keep them because they remind me of the moment in the field."

Mr Yap, who works in the biomedical industry, recalled how it took him 30 trips over two months early last year to get a shot of a lanceolated warbler, a migratory bird which had stopped over in Punggol.

He said: "It is a bird that is hard to see when it is migrating, but easy to photograph during the breeding season in Japan, when it sings its heart out for a mate."

He struck the jackpot on his birthday last February, and finally got a shot of the elusive bird.

It was far from a perfect photo as the body of the bird was blocked by branches, Mr Yap said.

"But I'm happy - I tried very hard and I got the shot."

He shared some tips with The Sunday Times.

Look for fruiting trees: Fruits and flowers naturally attract a variety of colourful bird species, including fairy blue-birds, doves, green pigeons and bulbuls.

Explore: Instead of visiting birding hot spots, photographers can take a walk in their own backyard and discover treasures of their own.

Understanding the subject: This means learning things about a bird, such as its habitat or diet, or recognising the sound of its call.

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PM Lee launches SGfuture engagement series

The initiative is led by ministers Chan Chun Sing and Grace Fu and builds on the Our Singapore Conversation completed two years ago.
Justin Ong Channel NewsAsia 29 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Nov 29) announced the launch of the SGfuture engagement series, two years after the conclusion of Our Singapore Conversation, the largest feedback-gathering exercise in the nation’s history.

The SGfuture project will be led by ministers Grace Fu and Chan Chun Sing and builds on the Our Singapore Conversation, which involved more than 660 dialogue sessions where Singaporeans discussed their views on Government policies.

Making the announcement at the opening of the Future of Us exhibition, Mr Lee said he hoped Singaporeans will help shape their collective future through the engagement series.

"I hope you will step forward to work with fellow Singaporeans to shape our future – the Future of Us," said Mr Lee. "So that by SG 100, we will have another celebration as happy and satisfying as this."

He added: "And 50 years from now, our children can come back and tell their grandchildren: It was here they caught a glimpse of what they could create for the future, and we were moved to turn dreams into reality and to write the next chapter of the Singapore story, and that is why after SG 50, Singapore continued to be an endearing and shining little red dot for many more years to come."

Mr Lee then toured the exhibition, which serves as the last major event to round up the SG50 year of celebrations.

The Future of Us exhibition invites visitors to glimpse the possible future scenarios in Singapore in the year 2030, and encourages Singaporeans to explore their role in shaping a collective future.

- CNA/cy

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Extension of Zhenghua Nature Park officially opened

The extension is also part of the National Parks Board's efforts to expand the green buffer of Singapore's nature reserves, as well as make parks more attractive to biodiversity.
Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia 29 Nov 15

SINGAPORE: A 3.8-hectare extension of Zhenghua Nature Park in Bukit Panjang has officially been opened.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee graced the event on Saturday (Nov 28) and planted a tree to mark the occasion.

Besides providing more amenities to park-goers, the extension is also part of the National Parks Board's (NParks) efforts to expand the green buffer of Singapore's nature reserves, as well as make parks more attractive to biodiversity.

For example, at the Zhenghua Nature Park Extension, NParks has planted more than 30 species of plants, including those that produce fleshy fruits, to attract various types of birds. To date, 16 species of birds have been sighted in the new extension.

Moving forward, such habitat enhancement work will be extended to 18 other parks - including East Coast Park and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

Mr Lee said: "Under our Nature Conservation Masterplan, NParks has also been carrying out habitat enhancement efforts in parks all across the island to support biodiversity conservation efforts. These include the strategic planting of native species to restore the forest habitat, as well as planting a diverse species of plants.

“These efforts have paid off as we are seeing greater variety of birds, insects and butterflies in our parks, right in the middle of a bustling city. So, if we keep our eyes opened, our ears peeled, we can see a side of Singapore that we seldom see right in the heart of our city.”

- CNA/xk

New extension to Zhenghua Nature Park opened
AsiaOne 29 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE - The new 3.8 hectare extension to the Zhenghua Nature Park near Bukit Panjang New Town was opened on Saturday.

The new extension's amenities include outdoor fitness equipment and public toilets.

The development of the extension is part of efforts by the National Parks Board (NParks) to enhance habitats in parks.

The Nature Park's extension will open up opportunities for the community to cultivate a greater appreciation of our biodiversity, NParks said.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee planted a Jelutong tree at the park to mark the opening of the extension on Saturday.

He said: "Together with Springleaf Nature Park, Zhenghua Nature Park serves as a green buffer for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and forms part of an islandwide ecological network for biodiversity."

"Under the Nature Conservation Masterplan, NParks has also been carrying out habitat enhancement efforts in parks across the island to support biodiversity conservation efforts. Our future generations of Singaporeans need to understand the value of conserving our natural biodiversity. I hope that with our habitat enhancement efforts, these green spaces will become outdoor classrooms for our students to observe the various plant and animal species and gain deeper knowledge of them," Mr Lee added.

Like other nature parks, Zhenghua Nature Park will help to reduce visitorship pressure on the nature reserves by providing alternative venues for the public to enjoy nature-related activities, NParks said in a statement.

NParks also said: "Zhenghua Nature Park skirts the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and forms a green buffer for the reserve. By forming a vital ecological linkage between nature reserves and forested areas in the west like the Western Catchment, it facilitates the safe passage of fauna among green spaces. Such buffers thus function as extensions of the Reserve."

According to the authority, there are about 37 species of birds at Zhenghua Nature Park. Besides birds such as the Olive-backed Sunbird, Flameback Woodpecker and Pink-necked Green Pigeon which are often spotted in parks and gardens, birds which are typically found in forests have also been sighted like the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and Long-tailed Parakeet. The nature park is also a stopover for migratory birds like the Arctic Warbler.

Sixteen species of birds have been seen at the extension since May this year when habitat enhancements first began, including the Blue-throated bee-eater and the Oriental Dollarbird, both of which are forest-edge species.

More than 30 species of plants were added to the park's extension including bird attracting species like Tembusu, Syzigium polyanthum, Ficus microcarpa, Leea indica, Rhodomrytus tomentosa and Ixora javanica.

With the extension, the total area of Zhenghua Nature Park is brought to 17.3 hectares.

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Malaysia: Preparing for floods is more than just putting the TV up on a high shelf

SHAHANAAZ HABIB The Star 29 Nov 15;

Preparing for floods is more than just putting the TV up on a high shelf. It’s also about learning to be resilient enough to get back to normal as soon as possible after an emergency.

AZMI Seman’s T-shirt says it all: “Kalau Bukan Kita, Siapa Lagi?”, which translates as “If Not Us, Then Who?”

The 49-year-old from Kampong Laloh in Kuala Krai, Kelantan, knows what it is like for villagers to have to rely on each other.

Last December, flood water rose to dizzying heights in Kampong Laloh, sweeping away houses, vehicles and motorbikes, and it was tough getting any help in.

Azmi was one of the “heroes” in his village who went around helping people to safety.

He says up till last year, villagers used to think of floods as something normal, a pesta air (water festival) of sorts even.

But after last year’s experience, when water rose to historic levels, they are a lot more wary.

It has been almost a year but it is still fresh in the minds of Azmi and the other villagers how dire the ­situation became and how desperate the 2,000 villagers were, huddled together on the top floor of the village school, hungry and afraid, as the water continued to rise around the building.

“We were unprepared because we have never had this type of flooding here before,” says Azmi, during a break at the Mercy Malaysia-organised Disaster Risk Reduction workshop in his kampung that aims to build resilience and community preparedness.

The workshop is very practical and encourages the villagers themselves to brainstorm and come up with ideas and solutions.

Experiential learning

The first session had villagers sharing stories of their flood experience and those they have heard from their parents, grandparents, and others about the four major floods – in the years 1926, 1967, 2004 and 2014 – in Kelantan.

In another session, villagers divided themselves up into teams, with each team having to list down in different categories all the people and organisations that helped them “before, during, and after” the floods.

“These details, including the contact numbers, will be compiled and given to the villagers so that they know exactly where and whom to reach out to for help should there be another emergency.

“Having such information in their hands is empowering,” says Mercy Malaysia’s (non-medical) vice-president Nor Azam Abu Samah, who is in Kampong Laloh for the workshop.

As part of their training exercise, villagers set out in teams on a recce to identify and pick a number of high ground areas in their village that could be potential evacuation sites if it floods again, and where they could go should the water rise even higher this time than last year.

One of the areas they picked was the village cemetery!

At each of these areas, they identified strengths and weaknesses.

They looked at weaknesses such as having no access road in, the land belonging to someone else or that the land is planted with rubber trees; the villagers then tried to figure out solutions themselves, be it to meet with the land owner to get permission to use the land during an emergency or to think of making a dirt road or track to access the currently inaccessible area.

They scouted areas that could be cleared for a helipad so that helicopters could bring in much needed supplies if the situation continued longer than expected.

Nor Azam says this form of experiential learning, where villagers assess for themselves the strengths and vulnerabilities of their village, gets the villagers directly involved in planning and preparing for themselves.

“It is not rocket science. But if it is not done like this, they probably will not get to feel it. This way, they will be more confident because they can see it for themselves. It is not just in theory.

“After all, the villagers are the ones who are most familiar with their area, and they know where the biggest risks are and where the safest places are,” he says.

The villagers are also given a simulation exercise in which an announcement from the meteorological department says there will be heavy rains in 23 days, giving the villagers 15 minutes to decide how to prepare for what is to come. But before their 15 minutes is up, the scenario changes drastically, and they are told it is already raining and they have to evacuate.

So there and then, they have to think on their feet and plan.

Then each of the teams presents its plans, following which, the villagers have to decide on priorities, what they think should be step one, two, three and so on, for their preparations.

At the end of it, their actions are evaluated and they’re told how they can improve.

The training also makes them very aware of the importance of having a “grab bag” ready so that when they evacuate, they will have basic supplies with them, such as easy-to-eat food, water, and essentials that would keep them going for a few days if they are stranded without supplies.

Nor Azam also says villagers should protect important documents in a plastic bag so that they aren’t damaged by the water when they take them along when they evacuate.

And he recommends that people in flood-prone areas should keep a supply of plastic bags on hand.

“They can put clothes in plastic bags and put them in their cupboards if they have to evacuate, so that when they come home after the floods, it is very possible that the clothes will still be dry and clean.”

In Kampong Tualang, which Mercy Malaysia also helped train, he says villagers have already put their TV sets up at an elevated level in their homes.

“They said it’s okay not to watch TV for the next month or two as long as they won’t have to buy a new TV again after the floods,” he says.

Training local heroes

During the training, villagers will also set up their own Flood Response Committee. They will pick a chairman, deputy and committee members, and then decide who heads the logistics planning, who is in charge of shelter, who takes charge of preparing food for the evacuees, etc.

Nor Azam says shortly after completing the training, Mercy Malaysia will meet with the Flood Response Committee to find out what the village needs.

“We have allocated RM50,000 for them to decide what they need to buy. We have already done this training in three other villages in Kelantan – and villagers mostly ask for boats!

“We let them do the planning themselves because it helps the community bond and take charge. Assuming a leadership role also helps build resilience in the village.

“Previously it was up to individuals to decide what to do and where to go if it floods. Some would go to a relative’s house or a friend’s, etc, but now they will have a community response.

“People will care and look out for each other. They know those staying near the river are most vulnerable when it floods, so they will get them out first,” he says.

Nor Azam says there were actual­ly many kampung heroes during the last flood. But many of these stories did not get told because the flood was so extensive and overwhelming.

“There were 300,000 evacuees but official reports show there were only four deaths. Compare this with the tsunami (of 2004) where over 146,000 died. How come the number of deaths from last year’s flood is so low? It is because the ones who were the first respondents and who saved lives were the kampung folks themselves. They were the heroes,” he says.

Mercy Malaysia gives reflective vests, hygiene kits and 10 walkie-­talkies to every village they train so that the community is able to better respond and manage the situation during natural disasters and emergencies like floods.

Kampong Laloh, though, has an extra edge.

Last month, nine of their village heroes were taken to Tanjung Malim, Perak, by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris where they were trained at the rapids in Sungai Sungkai how to handle a boat in fast-moving water, how to free themselves if they get sucked into a whirlpool, and how to lift people into the boat.

Azmi was one of the villagers who went for the training, and he says that when the group came back, its members trained others in the village. Now, they have set up their own village rescue team of 30 people.

Building resilience

As for Mercy Malaysia, they have ambitious plans.

Nor Azam says their target for next year is to hold disaster risk reduction training sessions in 60 kampungs in six different states: Johor, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Sabah, Sarawak and Selangor.

Not only that, the organisation also goes into schools and work with students to teach them to take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others.

Nor Azam says Mercy Malaysia is also training hospitals to be resi­lient and hopes to train at least three hospitals in each state.

The private sector too plays a big role in helping victims, he says, but “the thing is they don’t get much coverage compared to politicians who come bringing the press and cameramen”.

For him, for risk reduction to be sustainable, every segment of socie­ty needs to be involved, from government agencies, the private sector and institutions of higher learning to civil society, community-based organisations, and the general public.

The United Nation’s Office for Disaster Risk Reduction is running a campaign for resilient cities where whatever shock or stresses come up – be they natural disasters, disease outbreaks or terrorists attack – the city and its systems, businesses, institutions and community are able to survive, adapt quickly and bounce back.

Nor Azam hopes that cities in Malaysia will ready themselves that way and join the club of resi­lient cities.

Residents undergo training and set up their flood emergency team
SHAHANAAZ HABIB The Star 29 Nov 15;

KUALA KRAI: When people go through a devastating experience like a massive flood that leaves them trapped, frightened and hungry for days, sometimes, something positive emerges as a result.

Villagers in Kampung Laloh in Kuala Krai have come together and set up their own rescue team comprising 30 villagers.

They have two new 14-foot boats (in addition to the three small personal boats owned by villagers) and 30 life jackets for rescue missions.

Team members have been trained on how to manoeuvre a boat during strong currents and rescue people from the water.

They have also been given basic emergency first aid skills.

For the coming flood season, they are readying “grab bags” with easy-to-eat food and essential supplies that will last them a few days.

They have put in place their own kampung-style early warning system to inform villagers to evacuate if it starts to flood, and where to go.

Last December, most of Kampung Laloh was under floodwaters.

Their usual evacuation centres got flooded and panicky villagers needed to be evacuated again.

In the end, almost all of the 2,000 villagers were crammed into one school.

Of the 530 houses in the village, 433 were either damaged or washed away. Some 150 cars and 300 motorbikes were wrecked, too.

Now, thanks to practical training and resources from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) and Mercy Malaysia to build resilience and preparedness in local communities, the villagers have boats, walkie talkies, “grab bags” and more importantly, survival skills.

Between Oct 15 and 18, nine kampung heroes from Kampung Laloh and 21 others from nearby Kampung Manjur, Kampung Pemberian and Kampung Karangan were brought to Tanjung Malim by UPSI for training.

“We took them whitewater rafting at the rapids in Sungai Sungkai.

“We made them jump into the water so that they know what it is like to be in swirling strong waters and we trained them on how to save themselves and how to rescue people,” said Mohamad Hairi Abu Hasan, who is one of the trainers from UPSI.

UPSI director Dr Mastura Muhammad said the villagers also learnt how to treat minor injuries.

The nine villagers from Kampung Laloh then returned to their village and passed their knowledge on to another 21 fellow residents.

Kampung Laloh Rescue Team chairman Nazari Jusoh said they had a simulation training on Nov 14 in a river on how to save people who were floating away and how to lift people onto the boat.

“We’ve adapted what we learnt to suit our kampung. We use a sarong to carry the injured onto the boat,” said Nazari, 41.

Last weekend, Mercy Malaysia was at Kampung Laloh to conduct a Disaster Risk Reduction workshop.

“Villagers are the first responders in any emergency. So, what we are doing is to build resilience and preparedness within the community itself so that they can help themselves first,” said Mercy Malaysia’s (non-medical) vice-president Nor Azam Abu Samah.

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Malaysia: We need to increase our food production -- Prime Minister

The Star 29 Nov 15;

KOTA SAMARAHAN: Malaysia needs to increase its food production as the country is importing more than it produces, says the Prime Minister.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Malaysia was facing a deficit of RM17bil a year in food production.

“In other words, we import more food than we export by RM17bil. Imagine what will happen if far­mers stop planting padi or fishermen stop going out to sea.

“The contribution of farmers and fishermen to our food security is therefore very significant. It would not be wrong to see them as the heroes of the nation,” he said when launching Farmers, Fishermen and Livestock Breeders’ Day yesterday.

Najib noted that food security was a major challenge faced not only by Malaysia but the world.

He said a report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Orga­nisation (FAO) showed that global population was expected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050 from the current 7.2 billion.

“If the level of food production is not increased by 60% of its current production, the world will face a famine. Even now, 800 million people in the world go to bed hungry.

“I consider food security a major challenge that needs to be addressed, apart from terrorism, extremism and climate change.”

Najib called on farmers to utilise technology in increasing their production and transforming the sector to a dynamic, innovative and competitive industry.

“We have to change and learn from how a small country like the Netherlands, for example, can export agriculture products to the world.”

He said the Government had allocated RM5.3bil in Budget 2016 for the agriculture sector.

Among others, it will set up 50 more farmers’ markets and 100 agro bazaars next year.

Other incentives include RM70mil to provide subsidy on fertilisers and pesticides for hill padi farmers in Sarawak.

Najib said Sarawak should expand its specialty products such as Bario rice and the prized empurau fish.

He also said he had allocated funds for research on breeding empurau, which could fetch about RM500 per kg.

Najib: 150 farmers' markets and agro bazaars to be set up in 2016
SHARON LING and YU JI The Star 28 Nov 15;

KOTA SAMARAHAN: A total of 150 farmers' markets and agro bazaars are to be set up in 2016, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Najib announced plans to set up 50 more farmers' markets and 100 agro bazaars next year, including four farmers' markets and 10 agro bazaars in Sarawak, saying that food security is a major challenge faced by the world.

"If the level of food production is not increased by 60%, the world will face a famine.

Even now about 800 million people in the world go to bed hungry," he said at the Farmers, Fishermen and Livestock Breeders Day here on Saturday.

As such, Najib said he considered food security a challenge that needed to be given serious attention, adding that Malaysia should increase its food production to reduce the existing deficit of RM17bil a year.

Najib said that the Government had allocated RM5.3bil for agriculture in Budget 2016.

"We want the agriculture sector to achieve a growth rate of 3.5% and contribute 7% to GDP by 2020," he added.

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Malaysia committed to cutting CO2 emissions intensity of its GDP by 40 per cent by 2020

Malaysia says it will submit a plan with specific targets to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change before the Paris conference next week.
Melissa Goh, Malaysia Bureau Chief, Channel NewsAsia 28 Nov 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Minister of National Resources and Environment Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the country is committed to cutting the carbon emissions intensity of its GDP by 40 per cent by the year 2020.

The minister also said Kuala Lumpur will submit its game plan with specific targets to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change before the Paris conference next week.

More than 160 countries have already submitted their plans on the actions they will take for a low-carbon, climate-resilient future, ahead of the UN Climate Conference in Paris, where an ambitious plan to tackle climate change will be negotiated.

Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, Minister Wan Junaidi said he will be presenting Malaysia's game plan on climate change in early December. A key point in the plan is the pledge to conserve the Malaysian rainforest, which is one of the oldest in the world.

"We are going to conserve millions of hectares of land across Borneo from the Indonesian border to Sarawak and from across Brunei to Sabah,” said Mr Wan Junaidi.

Measures will be put in place for this to happen. Under a new bio-diversity policy, existing laws will be tightened to curb illegal logging. Tougher penalties too, have been proposed.

Carbon dioxide emissions is another area to be tackled. Car ownership in Malaysia is the third highest in the world at a whopping 93 per cent with 54 per cent of households having more than one car.

To cut greenhouse gas emissions, Malaysia is phasing out Ron 95, which is a lower grade petrol but widely used by motorists here because it is much cheaper than the higher-grade Ron 97. Ron 97 also carries a Euro 4 standard, which means reduced emissions.

"Ron 97 is already Euro 4, but Ron 95 is still Euro 2, and so we are determined that by 2018, that we will introduce Euro 4 for both,” said Mr Wan Junaidi.

But critics say the government needs to do more to improve the energy mix in its power supply. Malaysia still relies heavily on coal, with renewable sources accounting for less than 3 per cent.

"The devil is in the details, so for example one of main areas of generation of greenhouse gases in any country would be how we generate power,” said Ong Kian Meng, Member of Parliament for Seri Kembangan. “By 2023, 65 per cent of our power in Peninsular Malaysia will be from coal-fired plants, up from 48 per cent in 2015 - so we’ll have more coal-fired generation, plants which will emit more CO2 into the atmosphere."

This reliance on coal, he added, runs contrary to US President Barack Obama message on climate change, while he was in Malaysia recently for the ASEAN and related summits.

"The key is to make sure everybody is doing their part, what we all agreed is a finance mechanism to help these countries leapfrog old technology so instead of building old dirty power plants, here is some smart clean energy plants, and we'll help you through technology transfer and financing so that you can achieve your development goals but not add to the carbon problem,” said President Obama.

The issue is how development and environmentally friendly practices can co-exist. Next year, Malaysia is chasing economic growth of between 4 and 5 per cent. It is confident however that growth will not hinder its ability to meet emission reduction targets.

Kuala Lumpur is also set to launch its mass rapid transit system in 2016 and it hopes that this, and the expansion of the city's light rail system, will encourage Malaysians to use public transport and leave their vehicles at home.

- CNA/rw

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Indonesia: President encourages people to eat locally grown fruit 28 Nov 15;

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has urged people to participate in a movement to boost local fruit consumption to lower import needs.

Jokowi made the remarks while officiating the opening of the Archipelago Fruit and Flower Festival in Bogor on Saturday.

"We must boost production and at the same time, there must be campaign to consume local fruits. It takes a revolutionary movement to increase the production and quality of local fruit and flowers," he said in a press statement.

Jokowi said that the promotion must start with educating the youth on locally grown fruits, which would gradually increase the consumption of fruit in households.

Such a movement would not only beneficial for people's health but fruit growers as well.

Jokowi said in his speech that when visiting Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, he went to a hypermarket with more than 180 chains across the globe.

He was impressed that the fruits from Indonesia were nicely packaged and priced competitively. They were also put on displays which he said, escalated the image of Indonesia's fruits.

The hypermarket sold mangoes from Cirebon, pineapple from Lampung, watermelon from Sragen, papaya from Boyolali and mangoosteen from West Java.

"Imported goods must be replaced with domestic products to improve our trade balance," he said as quoted by

In order to reach the goal, Jokowi asked district chiefs to prepare five to 50 hectares of land in every district to produce fruit and flowers to meet the domestic demand. The government also asked state-owned plantation company PTPN to start considering the fruit business and to prepare 10,000 hectares of land to produce fruits.

"We have always planted rubber, coffee, palm and tea, but no one really thought about fruits," he said.

At the event, Jokowi also called on the Bogor Institute of Agriculture to hold bigger fruit and flowers festivals to attract international buyers next year. (rin)

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Vietnam: Mangrove forests protect Mekong crops

Vietnam News 28 Nov 15;

KIEN GIANG (VNS) — Crops and farms would be protected by a mass of mangrove forests in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces, thanks to a restoration project.

The region is home of millions people and is the country's most important agricultural region, but climate change is leading the rising sea levels, and some areas of the coast are already being eroded.

The mangrove forests along the coast, which protect the hinterland from floods and storms, are in dramatic decline.

A project under the Integrated Coastal Management Programme, co-funded by Germany and Australia, which was implemented in Hon Dat District's Vam Ray hamlet, first gained success in Kien Giang province.

The project has worked with the local community and relevant authorities to establish a coastal protection model in Hon Dat District.

It has helped farmers here to make plans to adapt to climate change, including activities such as mangrove rehabilitation and coastal forest protection measures, promotion of alternative income opportunities for communities dependent on coastal forests and improved dyke construction and management.

Huynh Huu To, one of the project's staff, said technical staff supported farmers in applying new techniques in restoring mangrove to prevent erosion.

"In the six years since 2009, in implementing the pilot project, such forests provide the best protection against floods and storms," To said.

To added that the cost for building a dyke to prevent waves reached VND30 billion (US$1.3 million) per kilometre, but it is often destroyed yearly.

The provincial authorities also urged residents to plant forests in previous years, but failed to prevent saline water from spreading, he said.

"In previous years, many local residents gave up their farms to find another job or work for other region's farms because plants and fisheries could not live in saline water," Tong Van Anh, a local resident said.

"Dykes are breached each year with the saltwater intrusion, destroying crops and fish production", Anh said.

But now the coastal dyke is no longer directly affected by waves, he said.

"Income from fisheries is not high yet but the benefits which come from mangrove forests have been recognised by local residents here", said Nguyen Tin, deputy director of Hon Dat forest management department.

In 2014, her family had invested capital from a loan from a women's association to build ponds for fish farming, and benefited from it, Anh's wife said.

Mangroves had helped to safeguard several kilometres of sea dykes, houses, roads and agriculture lands and residents could keep their mind on their work, said Tin.

The project had addressed ways to improve the production and even led to their expansion, Tin said.

Mangrove forests play a vital role in the mitigation of threats presented by climate change, and in particular sea level rise and storm surge.

Local communities have also become increasingly aware of the great risks involved, according to Tin.

Under the programme, the province will further implement planting mangrove forests in An Bien and An Minh districts. — VNS

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Climate agreement must recognise nature’s solutions – IUCN

IUCN International news release 28 Nov 15;

Ahead of the UN climate conference, IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature – is calling for an agreement that recognises the role of nature in reducing carbon emissions and helping nations adapt to a changing climate.

While biodiversity and ecosystems are threatened by climate change, their conservation, restoration and sustainable management generate significant and practical nature-based solutions to climate change.

“As we desperately strive to find a viable response to climate change, we tend to overlook the fact that healthy nature can be a goldmine of cost-effective solutions to this challenge,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General. “Far from being merely a victim of climate change, healthy ecosystems can be a powerful ally, boosting our climate resilience, and helping us adapt to and mitigate the effects of a changing climate.

“Investing in nature-based solutions must be at the core of our fight against climate change, which is one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced.”

Natural ecosystems such as forests, river basins and wetlands absorb and store carbon. Terrestrial ecosystems store almost three times the amount of carbon found in the atmosphere while healthy oceans absorb over 25% of annual carbon dioxide emissions.

Conserving, restoring and sustainably managing these ecosystems can generate nature-based solutions to climate change while providing other important economic, social and environmental benefits. Healthy ecosystems provide food and clean water and protect vulnerable communities against climate-related disasters. In the United States, for example, coastal wetlands offer US$ 23 billion worth of storm protection each year.

IUCN urges governments to adopt an agreement that is comprehensive in its coverage of greenhouse gas sources and sinks, that maintains the highest possible level of environmental integrity, respects gender equality and human rights, and catalyses more ambitious action on climate change by all actors across all sectors, particularly from the business community.

IUCN stresses the need to boost efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to invest in renewable technologies – including research and development – to decarbonise energy systems. It also emphasises the urgency to expand the use of renewable and other low-carbon sources of energy in a manner that improves human and ecosystem well-being.

Watch our video which explaines nature-based solutions to climate change.

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Thousands join climate change marches across Asia

About 3,000 people marched through Manila demanding curbs on emissions to mute the impact of climate change, which is blamed for a spike in disastrous extreme weather.
Channel NewsAsia 28 Nov 15;

MANILA: Thousands turned out for climate change marches across the Asia-Pacific region on Saturday (Nov 28), as part of a weekend of action across the globe to demand results from next week's historic Paris summit.

Rallies in Australia, Bangladesh, Japan, New Zealand and the Philippines illustrated the broad array of concerns over the impact of climate change, from calls for renewable energy to the plight of Pacific islanders as sea levels rise.

About 3,000 people including religious clergy, students and activists marched through the Philippine capital of Manila demanding curbs on emissions to mute the impact of climate change, which is blamed for a spike in disastrous extreme weather.

"Protect our common home," and "climate justice," were written on the placards held aloft by the surging crowd. "We want to send a message to the rest of the world, especially the world leaders at the climate talks, to say that our survival is not negotiable," said Denise Fontanilla, spokeswoman for the Asian People's Movement on Debt and Development.

Under tight security two weeks after France's worst terror attack, about 150 heads of state and government will on Monday launch a highly anticipated UN conference tasked with inking a post-2020 195-nation climate rescue pact.

In Australia, where Melbourne on Friday kicked off the weekend rallies, some 5,000 people gathered in the northeastern city of Brisbane for a march led by Aboriginal and Pacific islander representatives and youth groups.

Senator Larissa Waters from the Greens party said the turnout, after tens of thousands marched in Melbourne, also showed the strength of opposition to plans to develop more of Australia's vast coal deposits.

"They don't want new coal mines, they don't want massive land clearing, they actually want the environmental protection and job opportunities that comes from embracing clean energy," Waters told national television.

Thousands also rallied across New Zealand, in the main city of Auckland and at the parliament in Wellington. Speaking outside parliament, Anglican bishop Justin Duckworth said all citizens had a responsibility to protect the planet.

"I don't want my future generation to clean up my mess. It is my responsibility," he said according to the NZ Herald.

Around 300 people gathered in Tokyo for a rally urging the adoption of clean, renewable energy - a call that has grown since a tsunami swamped the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011, sending three reactors into meltdown.

"Japan must take the lead in the summit to promote renewable energy because Japan is a rare country that has experienced such a big disaster," rally organiser Daigo Ichikawa told AFP.

And in Bangladesh, more than 5,000 people took part in climate marches across 30 different locations in the impoverished country which is exposed to rising seas, superstorms and expanding deserts.


Organisers in Paris were expecting hundreds of thousands to take to the streets Saturday in Asian cities along with Johannesburg and Edinburgh, while similar events were set for Sunday in Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, New York and Mexico City.

In Paris, French authorities cancelled two rallies following the onslaught by gunmen and suicide bombers which killed 130 people at restaurant terraces, a concert hall and the national stadium on November 13.

Activists now plan to create a two-kilometre human chain along the original march route on Sunday. They will break the chain as they pass the Bataclan concert hall, where the worst violence claimed 90 lives, as a mark of respect to the victims.

The goal of the Paris talks is to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by curbing fossil fuel emissions blamed for climate change. This week, the UN's weather body said the average global temperature for the year 2015 is set to touch the halfway mark at 1°C.

The Paris conference will gather approximately 40,000 people, including 10,000 delegates from 195 countries, plus journalists, observers, scientists, exhibitors and visitors.

- AFP/xk

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