Best of our wild blogs: 4 Dec 15

Forum on Forest Fires – Mon Dec 7, 530pm @ Yale-NUS

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GBS bacteria may also affect saltwater fish: Expert

The Ministry of Health has not found any links between sashimi and Group B streptococcus infections, but an expert says raw saltwater fish are just as likely to carry the disease as freshwater fish.
Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 3 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: The Health Ministry has said it found no links between sashimi - which is usually made using saltwater fish, and Group B streptococcus (GBS) infections.

This has led to some people making the assumption that raw saltwater fish could be safe, but a former Director of Food Safety, Zoonosis, and Food-borne Diseases at the World Health Organization has cautioned that saltwater fish is just as likely to carry the disease as freshwater fish.

"These types of bacteria are found in many different animals - both mammals on land, including humans, and also mammals in the sea, and fish in seawater and fish in freshwater. It's not really correct to say that it's only related to freshwater fish,” said Professor Jorgen Schlundt from Nanyang Technological University’s School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering.

The professor said bacteria could be introduced if fish is not handled hygienically during transportation, or if the fish are kept under high temperature.

Farming methods could also be another factor, he said. For example, fish that are kept in small spaces should not be consumed raw.

He said: "If you're trying to put pressure on your production system by putting lots of fish in there, then you can create these problems. If the water is not clean enough, you can also create these problems. But we have to remind ourselves that these bacteria are out there, all the time, that basically it's not something totally new, and that this only happens in Singapore. These bacteria are out there - it's been documented in China, in a number of other countries also."

The National Healthcare Group said those at higher risk of infection include younger children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. It added that symptoms of infection include blood poisoning, pneumonia, severe headaches and stiff necks (meningitis).

- CNA/xq

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Work starts to transform Ang Mo Kio into model walking, cycling town

Phase 1 of the works, which includes a 4km cycling path looping around Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, 3 and 8, is expected to be completed by the first half of 2016.
Channel NewsAsia 3 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: Works to transform Ang Mo Kio into a model walking and cycling town have begun, with a 4km cycling path expected to be completed by the first half of next year.

Phase 1 of the works, which includes the cycling path looping around Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, 3 and 8, will allow residents to walk and cycle from Ang Mo Kio Swimming Complex to Ang Mo Kio MRT station, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said in a joint release on Thursday (Dec 3).

The remaining works such as a 16km-long cycling path network, which includes a 2.6km-long cycling and walking corridor connecting the MRT viaduct between Yio Chu Kang MRT station and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, are expected to be mostly completed by 2018.

When completed, Ang Mo Kio will have a 20km-long cycling path network - the longest in any residential town. Fitness stations and play equipment will also be built for residents’ use, and more greenery will be added beneath the MRT viaduct to showcase special orchids, uncommon and native forest plants.

Cycling paths in the town will be marked out in red to make them more distinguishable. Pedestrian priority zones will be created in areas where pedestrians and cyclists often come into contact with each other, such as behind bus stops.

These pedestrian priority zones will include rumble strips to slow cyclists down to a safe speed, and contrast markings to help pedestrians and cyclists keep to their side of the path, the joint release said.

Traffic junctions and informal crossings will also have enhanced safety features to alert motorists to the presence of pedestrians and cyclists.

New easy-to-read boards with maps of the town will be put up highlighting key amenities and transport nodes. Totem boards with speed check functions will also be installed at strategic locations to allow cyclists to check their speeds.

Plans to transform Ang Mo Kio into Singapore’s first model walking and cycling town were first unveiled in December last year. A series of community exhibitions and focus group discussions were conducted with Ang Mo Kio residents, whose ideas were incorporated in the design of the network.

“Ang Mo Kio will be the first model walking and cycling town in Singapore, where we will go beyond providing basic walking and cycling infrastructure and test out new concepts and ideas to make the town even more walkable and cyclist-friendly,” said LTA CEO Chew Men Leong.

"We would change the way people move around the town, and hope to encourage people to walk and cycle a bit more, not just as a means of commute, but also very much something that can be incorporated into their lifestyle, so that we can encourage people to be a bit more healthy and a bit more green," added LTA's director for active mobility and policy, Tan Shin Gee.

URA CEO Ng Lang noted that the aim is to encourage walking and cycling as alternative modes of “green mobility”.

Residents whom Channel NewsAsia spoke to welcomed the move.

"It's good to have separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians. If not, children may run into the cyclists," said resident Yan Oi Har, a 70-year-old retiree.

LTA said it has held focus group sessions with the community to find out their needs, as part of planning and designing infrastructure for Ang Mo Kio.

"A lot of them told us that it would be good to have dedicated cycling paths, and this is where we are having quite an extensive network in Ang Mo Kio," said Ms Tan.

LTA said it will work with URA, NParks and HDB to explore how these features can be extended to other towns.

- CNA/cy/xq

Ang Mo Kio to have 20km cycling network by 2018
Christopher Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Dec 15;

Work to transform Ang Mo Kio into a model walking and cycling town has begun.

In a joint statement yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the first phase of the project, which includes a 4km cycling path looping around Ang Mo Kio Avenues 1, 3 and 8, is expected to be completed by next June.

By then, cyclists and pedestrians will be able to travel seamlessly from the swimming complex along Avenue 1 to the Ang Mo Kio MRT Station.

The remaining work, which features a 16km cycling path network, including a 2.6km cycling and walking corridor connecting the MRT viaduct between Yio Chu Kang MRT Station and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, is expected to be mostly completed by 2018.

The network will also link up with Mayflower and Lentor stations along the future Thomson line.

URA chief executive Ng Lang yesterday described the project as "an important pilot" that aims to "encourage walking and cycling as alternative modes of green mobility".

LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong added: "We will go beyond providing basic walking and cycling infrastructure and test out new concepts and ideas to make the town even more walkable and cyclist-friendly."

For instance, a large terrarium housing special orchids, as well as uncommon and native forest plants, will be built below the viaduct.

Fitness stations and play equipment will also be erected.

When completed, Ang Mo Kio will have a 20km cycling path network - the longest in any residential town. The network will be marked out in red and pedestrian-priority zones will be created in areas where pedestrians and cyclists often come into contact with each other, such as behind bus stops.

These priority zones will include rumble strips to slow cyclists down and markings to help pedestrians and cyclists keep to their side of the path. Mapboards highlighting key amenities and transport nodes will help users to navigate the network. Totem poles with speed-check functions will also be set up.

LTA said the safety of traffic junctions and crossings will be enhanced with features to slow motorists down. Motorists will be also alerted to the presence of pedestrians and cyclists.

Cycling advocate Han Jok Kwang said: "It's important to get one model town done and done well, so that it can be a benchmark."

He added that Ang Mo Kio, being relatively compact and with MRT and park connector access, allows for benefits of such a network to be felt more immediately.

LTA would not say how much the project is likely to cost, as tenders for the second phase have not been called.

But in 2013, the authority said it was working on building cycling paths in nine neighbourhoods, which would cost up to $43 million. The Marina Bay network alone is estimated to cost $23 million.

By 2020, cyclists can expect around 190km of paths.

Work starts on cycling path network in Ang Mo Kio
KELLY NG Today Online 3 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — Work to transform Ang Mo Kio into the model town for being cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly has begun, with a 4km cycling path expected to be completed by the first half of next year, the authorities said today (Dec 3).

The cycling path forms one section of a 20km route that will loop through the whole neighbourhood, making it the longest in any residential town.

But beyond providing the infrastructure, the authorities are also testing out new ideas, such as making walking a more pleasant option by featuring large terrariums with special orchids along walking corridors.

Details of some of these plans were announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in a news release today.

LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong said: “We have actively involved the community in our planning ... We hope that this will support a more active lifestyle and truly change the way people move around in
their neighbourhood.”

When most of the enhancements are complete by 2018, parts of the walking/cycling network will be elevated, such as that at the busy junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenues 3 and 8, so that residents can bypass Ang Mo Kio MRT station safety and easily.

To enhance safety, cycling paths will be marked out in red while pedestrian priority zones will be created in areas where pedestrians and cyclists often come into contact with each other, such as behind bus stops. These zones will include rumble strips to slow cyclists down to a safe speed, and markings to help pedestrians and cyclists keep to their side of the path.

Safety features will be added near traffic junctions and informal crossings to slow motorists down. Where feasible, the use of slip roads will be reduced.

Features to make walking a more pleasant option will also be added. Apart from installing large terrariums, which are a relaxing sight to pedestrians, there are also plans to place uncommon and native forest plants under a viaduct that will serve as a walking corridor linking Yio Chu Kang MRT Station and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

Fitness stations and play equipment will also be built for residents’ use. Mapboards highlighting key amenities and transport nodes, and totem boards with speed-check functions will also be installed.

The blueprint to transform Ang Mo Kio was first unveiled in December last year, following which a series of focus group discussions were held with Ang Mo Kio residents, whose ideas were incorporated in the design of the network.

Residents will also be roped in to develop a code of conduct, and roll out educational programmes to shape gracious and safe walking and cycling, the LTA and URA said last year.

Ang Mo Kio is the authorities’ second cycling town after Tampines, which has been criticised over the years over some features, such as the lack of separate and clearly delineated paths for cyclists and pedestrians.

Conflicts that arose from reckless driving and cycling had in the past also pushed Tampines to enact by-laws empowering town council officers to act against impetuous cyclists.

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Yishun residents know who serial cat killer is, but ...

Yishun residents on alert for notorious cat killer, MP asks residents to check CCTVS and in-car cameras but ...
JUDITH TAN The New Paper 4 Dec 15;

News that a familiar stray cat in Yishun had gone missing on Wednesday evening threw cat feeders there into a tizzy.

Yet, it was not surprising. After all, someone had gone on a cat-killing spree over the last three months, with 13 stray cats found dead in the housing estate.

The fear for the felines' safety has driven cat owners to keep their pets indoors, especially at night. Some cat feeders even take strays home and release them only in the morning.

A group of cat feeders now patrol the estate till as late as 4am to make sure that strays are not harmed.

"We know who it is. The man usually emerges after 2am to harm the cats. That's when feeders finish feeding all the community cats under their care," a resident and cat feeder, Ms Janet Sum, 53, told The New Paper on Wednesday.

The feeders believe that the deaths are caused by the same man because of the way the cats were killed - blunt force trauma on the spine or lower back, thrown from height or strangled.

The suspect was described as a man in his mid-30s who lives in Block 661.

Another cat feeder, who declined to be named for fear of reprisal from the man "since I do patrolling alone up till 3am", described him as "a violent type".

"We saw him approach a cat once with a knife in his hand and we called the police. When the police arrived, he had disposed of the knife and said he was playing with the cat. The police could do nothing," she said.

Nee Soon Member of Parliament Louis Ng, who is alarmed by the spate of cat deaths, said he wanted the man to be caught and dealt with.

"But catching him involves catching him red-handed and that is a difficult and uphill task," he told TNP.

"Forensic investigations can only tell us how the animal died but not who did it. Fingerprints cannot be gathered from that."

Mr Ng, who founded animal welfare group Acres, said there has to be active citizenry to help nab the man while he is carrying out the abuse.

"As the abused cats were found near open-air carparks, lift landings and void decks, we can engage residents who have in-car cameras and CCTV cameras outside their main doors," he said.

"We want to list out where and when the bodies of the abused cats were found, so that people can remember if they were there and review footage of their CCTV or in-car cameras."

Mr Ng said he has called for a meeting with the police and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) to find out what their investigations have turned up.

Cat Welfare Society president Thenuga Vijakumar told TNP that the track record for animal abuse investigations "has been very disappointing".

She said: "While the community plays a part in coming forward with pertinent information, there is a lack of follow-through with investigations and prosecutions. It is time to apply the sophistication and dedication of police investigations to animal cruelty cases."


The incident of the stray going missing on Wednesday evening happened just before the cat feeders were due to meet TNP to discuss their concerns.

The subsequent search for the feline had a happy ending - it was found unharmed - but animal lovers remain concerned that the cat killer will strike again.

TNP sent queries to AVA on Tuesday but it did not reply by press time last night.



Thirteen cats have been killed in Yishun in about three months, with the latest death just three days ago.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) have turned to the Internet to appeal for witnesses to step forward with information on the killings.

Both organisations posted the appeal on their Facebook pages on Tuesday, after the 13th cat was found dead at the foot of Block 715, Yishun Street 71.

A community group called Yishun 326 Tabby cat, set up by four volunteers who rescue, rehome, sterilise and feed cats in Yishun, has also posted alerts on Facebook.

Under the Animals and Birds Act, anyone found guilty of cruelty to animals, including abandonment, can be jailed up to 18 months, fined up to $15,000, or both.

Anyone with information on the cat deaths in Yishun can call SPCA's 24-hour hotline at 6287-5355 ext 9 or e-mail

They can also call the AVA hotline at 1800-476-1600 or write to Information provided will be kept strictly confidential.

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Keepers of the lighthouse

Ong Wee Jin, The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Dec 15;

The ferry approaches the small island lined with coconut trees on a sandy beach, a jetty with clear water and corals beneath it, and overhead, a circular glass room atop a tall white tower. It looks like a beach holiday getaway but it is the unconventional workplace of lighthouse keeper V. Uthrapathi, 52, and assistant lighthouse keeper Lee Kwang Liang, 62.

At the jetty, they unload several suitcases full of their belongings from the ferry. Taking over the duties from their colleagues on the previous shift, Mr Uthrapathi and Mr Lee start theirs and become the island's only occupants for the next 10 days.

Mr Lee recalls being impressed by the surroundings when he took on the job to be assistant lighthouse keeper about a year ago. "The island, reclaimed to be about two football fields in size, has a nice beach. Sometimes turtles come to lay their eggs. There is the wind and the sound of the waves. When the sky is clear, sunrise and sunset are really beautiful. At night, it is quiet and we can see many stars."

The Raffles Lighthouse sits on Pulau Satumu, Singapore's southernmost island about a 45-minute ride away by ferry. It is one of five lighthouses managed by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). Three of them are unmanned: the Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra Branca, Sultan Shoal Lighthouse near Jurong Island, and Bedok Lighthouse.

Raffles Lighthouse and Pulau Pisang Lighthouse, which is in Malaysia, are manned by a rotating team of eight keepers who go in turns as a pair to take 10-day shifts. Their main tasks are to make sure the beacon lights are working, attend to the upkeep of the island, as well as maintain its security. Pulau Satumu is a restricted area and is off limits to the public.

In the daytime, the duo go about their work independently, covering different aspects of the job.

While Mr Uthrapathi would be at the foot of the lighthouse monitoring the waters for illegal entry, communicating with headquarters or checking documentation of authorised personnel entering the island, Mr Lee would be cutting the grass near the beach or polishing the brass fittings at the top of the lighthouse.

Their most important job is to ensure the lights are working. "I help to keep a lookout even at night or when we get out of the room, first thing, we look at the tower and make sure the light is on and rotating," says Mr Lee.

Depending on their tasks and if their timing permits, they sit down and have meals together. Far away from the conveniences of coffee shops and supermarkets, they have to bring enough food to last the entire duration of their stay.

"After working a long day, to sit down and eat the food that he (Mr Uthrapathi) cooks is a very lucky thing because he knows how to prepare many styles of food and he does it really well," says Mr Lee.

Mr Uthrapathi, who has been at this job for 21 years, enjoys working on the island as it is very quiet and has large open spaces. He also relishes the freedom of planing his own work routine.

However, Mr Uthrapathi, who has a wife and a six-year-old daughter, admits there are drawbacks to being far away from the hustle and bustle of life on the mainland. "It is common to miss important dates like birthdays, weddings and public holidays because I have to come to work, but... I am already used to it.My wife is also understanding."

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Indonesia to 'transform' way it fights peatland fires

David Fogarty, Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Dec 15;

Indonesia's Minister for the Environment and Forestry said yesterday there would be a major transformation in the way the country fights fires, and that a presidential decree creating a special agency managing the nation's fire-prone peatlands would be finalised in the next two weeks.

Speaking on the sidelines of United Nations-led climate talks in Paris, Ms Siti Nurbaya Bakar also said investigations into who caused this year's fires that burned more than two million hectares were continuing but did not elaborate on whether the government would formally release the names of companies, directors and others implicated.

"There are going to be big steps from the government of Indonesia, a big transformation to control these fires through peatland management. I could say even a new paradigm with measures on prevention, and also the recovery, rehabilitation and control of peatlands," she said during a media briefing.

This year's fires affected millions of people and cost the Indonesian economy billions of dollars in lost business and health costs, with total losses estimated at up to $47 billion (S$66 billion). They were also the second worst in terms of greenhouse emissions, and helped make Indonesia the third-largest emitter after the United States and China.

Large areas of Indonesia's fragile peatlands have been cleared and drained for agriculture, priming them for annual fires. Once set alight, dried-out deep peatlands can burn for weeks. Nearly 900,000ha of peatlands went up in smoke this year, Ms Siti said.

While the fires have died out with the wet season, there is concern they will flare up again by February or March, with the current El Nino weather pattern set to last well into next year. El Nino typically causes drought in Indonesia and greatly increases fire risks.

Ms Siti said the new agency would be directly controlled by the president. It would direct management and blocking of peatland drainage canals that criss-cross millions of hectares, as well as rewetting, or flooding, large areas of dried-out peatlands. She said the target area for peatland management was two million hectares.

Ms Siti pointed to peat rewetting and canal blocking programmes being trialled in Sumatra and West Kalimantan, and said these had led to a sharp drop in hot spots locally.

She told The Straits Times that pulp and paper and palm oil firms would be affected by the new peatland management rules, some of which have already been released in recent weeks. She said companies would not be able to expand on peatlands within their concessions. Issues around compensation were still being decided.

She also said burnt plantations on peatlands could not be replanted with oil palms or acacias for pulp wood. The areas had to be restored under the new rules. But who pays for this would be decided later.

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Malaysia: Less severe floods this year


KUALA TERENGGANU: Tereng­ganu, one of the east coast states most vulnerable to massive floods, was spared serious devastation from the first wave.

The state was put on high alert between Nov 24 and Nov 29, following an earlier forecast by the Meteorological Department of heavy rainfall and high tides.

Department deputy director-general Dr Mohd Rosaidi Che Abas said, however, the state was expected to be hit with up to three more waves between December and early January, resulting in certain rural and low-lying areas to be flooded.

Dr Mohd Rosaidi said that during the first wave, there was heavy rain on Nov 27 and 28, but it happened near the coast.

“The next round, Terengganu is expected to experience heavier rainfall compared to the first wave and this time it will include many rural areas.

“Serious floods are expected to hit the state if there is continuous rainfall for more than two days with over 100mm a day,” he told The Star.

However, Terengganu folks could expect some consolation.

According to Dr Mohd Rosaidi, the floods this year would not be as bad as last year due to the El Nino weather phenomenon which might last until March.

Despite the news of lesser magnitude floods this year, the state government and rescue agencies are not taking the situation lightly.

Last year’s ravaging floods saw some 100,000 people being displaced, causing losses amounting to RM304,000.

This year, all agencies have been put on standby for any possibility.

Leave has been frozen for over 700 firemen in the state and ­simulation exercises have been carried out by the Fire and Rescue Department and the Civil Defence Department.

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Indonesia: Police bust illegal wildlife trader, confiscate Rp 3b in animal goods

Fedina S. Sundaryani, The Jakarta Post 2 Dec 15;

The National Police have called on the public to increase their concern about wildlife preservation following the recent arrest of a man who amassed wild animal goods worth up to Rp 3 billion (US$217,079) to sell abroad.

The National Police’s detective division chief, Comr. Gen. Anang Iskandar, said that the illegal wildlife trade had recently become a pressing concern of countries in Southeast Asia.

In 2005, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) had been established in order catch transnational poachers faster.

“[Combating illegal wildlife traders] would be difficult without public support and civil society groups […] We in Indonesia already have several laws to protect our wildlife, but in reality many wild animals are not being treated as they should be according to the law; many are traded. Even now you can see ivory, antlers and furs being sold everywhere,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“We will campaign to raise awareness [among the public] that wild animals must be protected.”

The National Police’s director for specific crimes, Brig. Gen. Yazid Fanani, said that the 61-year-old suspect, only known as AA, had been arrested on Oct. 21 in Surabaya, East Java for allegedly trading wildlife goods for nearly two years.

During his arrest, investigators managed to confiscate 79 kilograms of sea turtle meat, hundreds of sea turtle shells weighing up to 350 kilograms and antlers of the sambar deer weighing up to 85 kilograms, all of which came from an estimated 270 sea turtles and 34 deer.

The investigators also managed to confiscate 90 dried sea horses.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, leatherback sea turtles and sambar deer are both categorized as vulnerable, which means that there was a high risk of endangerment in the wild.

The evidence was completely destroyed by investigators during an event on Tuesday at the National Police headquarters in South Jakarta as a warning against other illegal wildlife traders.

“We believe that [AA] absolutely did not work on his own and that he was part of a larger network. We are currently working with the Environment and Forestry Ministry, various civil society groups and also members of the public who care about the preservation of our wildlife [to further our investigation]. Based on our initial interrogation, [the suspect] sold the items both in person and through online channels,” Yazid said.

Furthermore, he added that AA had admitted that many of his customers had been traders from China and the Middle East, where sea turtles are often used for food or medicine.

If found guilty, AA could face a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of Rp 100 million under Law No. 5/1990 on conservation.

During the event, the US Embassy to Indonesia’s deputy chief of mission, Brian McFeeters, expressed his appreciation of the National Police’s firm hand against illegal wildlife traders. Furthermore, he pointed out that Indonesia had become “one of the largest suppliers” of rare animals.

In July, the United Nations adopted a resolution that upgraded the seriousness of wildlife crimes and put them on par with the trafficking of people and arms. Although the resolution is not legally binding, it showed the growing global opposition against the poaching and trafficking of endangered wildlife.

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Asean nations vow to be haze-free by 2020

PARITTA WANGKIAT Bangkok Post 4 Dec 15;

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PARIS -- The Asean region is looking to become haze-free by 2020, but reducing forest fires and fossil-fuel use will take time, said Southeast Asian officials meeting on the sidelines of the international climate conference in Paris.

Speaking to the media at the 21st Conference on Climate Change in Paris, Asean Secretariat representative Ampai Harakunarak said Southeast Asian countries have been under pressure since the 1990s to solve their transborder haze problem, which includes large volumes of carbon dioxide. This year's haze crisis, originating with forest fires in Indonesia's Sumatra and Borneo Islands, was reported to be one of the worst air-pollution disasters experienced by several Asean countries -- particularly Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

Ms Ampai said the Asean Programme for Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystems for the year 2014-2020 was drafted to establish long-term controls on burning peatland, which store 70 billion tonnes of carbon in Asean.

"Without stopping peatland fires and degradation, Asean will continue to be a major emitter of greenhouse gases," said Faizal Parish, director of the Global Environment Centre.

Meanwhile, Asean is implementing the Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which encourages Asean member countries to collaborate on tracking haze and sharing information.

But Asean also depends heavily on fossil fuels. According to Global Coal Plant Tracker, 119 coal plants of 45 gigawatts are planned in Indonesia alone. Two more coal-fired power plants are planned for Krabi and Songkhla provinces.

Gary William Theseira, deputy undersecretary of climate change at Malaysia's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said an immediate reduction in the region's dependency on coal is unlikely. The potential for renewable energy sources such as solar and wind in Asean may not be comparable to developed countries, he said.

"We've been talking about [renewable energy]. But there are many conditions that slow the transition and we have to gradually solve them," said Ms Ampai.

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Migratory birds 'lack world protection'

Helen Briggs BBC News 4 Dec 15;

More than 90% of migratory birds are poorly protected on their marathon journeys around the world, according to research.

Many birds are at risk when they stop to feed, rest or breed en route, say scientists.

They are calling for new reserves around the world to protect migratory species.

Most migratory birds have declined in past decades, from threats such as habitat loss and hunting.

Migrant birds are the endurance fliers of the bird kingdom, making remarkable journeys across land and sea.

The arctic tern, for example, flies the equivalent of the distance to the Moon and back three times in its lifetime.

And the bar-tailed godwit may fly for more than 10,000km (6,000 miles) in a single stint, the longest continuous journey that has ever been recorded for a land bird.

Dr Claire Runge, of the University of Queensland, the lead researcher of the study, said more than half of migratory bird species travelling the world's main flyways had suffered serious population declines in the past 30 years.

"This is due mainly to unequal and ineffective protection across their migratory range and the places they stop to refuel along their routes," she said.

"A typical migratory bird relies on many different geographic locations throughout its annual cycle for food, rest and breeding.

"So even if we protect most of their breeding grounds, it's still not enough - threats somewhere else can affect the entire population."

Filling the gaps

In the study, published in Science, researchers from Australia, the US and the UK looked at protected areas within the global routes of almost 1,500 types of migratory bird.

They found only 9% of species were fully protected across their range, compared with 45% for bird species that did not migrate.

"Migratory birds have a particular set of conservation needs and we found that these are not being adequately met compared with resident species," Dr Stuart Butchart, of BirdLife International, in Cambridge, told BBC News.

The research found that countries such as France and Venezuela meet targets for protected area coverage for more than 80% of migratory bird species whereas others such as China and India meet targets for less than 10%.

But it is not just developing nations losing their birds due to a lack of protection.

Many Central American countries meet the targets for more than 75% of their migratory species, but the same species have lower levels of protection in Canada and the US.

Prof Richard Fuller, of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, in Australia, said there was an urgent need to coordinate protected areas across the birds' full migration route.

"We need to work together far more effectively round the world if we want our migratory birds to survive into the future," he said.

Habitat loss seen as rising threat to world's migratory birds
Will Dunham PlanetArk 4 Dec 15;

Habitat destruction along routes taken by the world's migratory birds poses an increasing peril to these long-distance fliers, with a vast majority crossing terrain that nations are inadequately protecting, according to scientists.

The researchers said on Thursday they tracked the migratory routes, stopover locations, breeding grounds and wintering locations of 1,451 migratory species and assessed about 450,000 protected areas like national parks and other reserves.

They found 1,324 species, about 91 percent, journeyed through locales that were not safeguarded from threats like development.

"This is important because migratory species cover vast distances and rely on an intact series of habitats in which they can rest and feed on their long journeys," said conservation scientist Richard Fuller of the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and the University of Queensland.

"If even a single link in this chain of sites is lost for a species, it could lead to major declines or even its extinction."

The birds traverse many different countries where conservation efforts vary.

The problem was most acute in North Africa, Central Asia and along the coasts of East Asia. Countries in these regions maintain relatively few protected areas, and existing ones do not overlap sufficiently with the routes of migratory birds.

For small birds, the opportunity to feed and build up energy reserves for the next leg of their journeys is essential for survival, said conservation scientist Claire Runge of CEED, the University of Queensland and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"Loss of these critical sites means they no longer have the energy needed to make the journeys, and they simply perish along the way," Runge said.

The bar-tailed godwit is a bird that migrates from Arctic breeding grounds to Australia and New Zealand. Along the way, the birds stop to rest and feed at Yellow Sea mudflats in China, North Korea and South Korea.

"Many of these critical sites have been lost to land reclamation owing to urban, industrial and agricultural expansion, and the species is undergoing a rapid decline," Runge said.

Runge called for creating new protected areas in key locations, improving management of existing protected areas and coordinating conservation actions across international borders.

"Common migratory species have been lost in the past, for example the Eskimo curlew, and our world gets poorer every time we lose a species," Fuller said.

The research was published in the journal Science.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

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UN climate talks turn hostile over money

At stake is hundreds of billions of dollars that would need to start flowing from rich to developing nations from 2020. However the developed nations have yet to fully commit to the financing deal.
Channel NewsAsia 4 Dec 15;

LE BOURGET, France: Angry developing nations warned on Thursday (Dec 3) that increasingly tense UN talks aimed at averting catastrophic climate change would fail unless a bitter feud over hundreds of billions of dollars was resolved.

Negotiators from 195 nations are haggling in Paris over a planned universal accord to slash greenhouse-gas emissions that trap the Sun's heat, warming Earth's surface and oceans and disrupting its delicate climate system.

Taking effect from 2020, the pact would target emissions from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas - the backbone of the world's energy supply today - as well as from the cutting down of rainforests.

The question of finance to help developing countries make the shift to cleaner energy sources is "make or break", said South African negotiator Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, who spoke on behalf of the G77 group of 134 developing and emerging countries, plus China.

"It has to be clearly understood that finance is critical," she told a news conference.

At stake is hundreds of billions of dollars that would need to start flowing from rich to developing nations from 2020. However the developed nations have yet to fully commit to the financing deal.

With frustrations at the conference mounting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the world's leading economies to honour the financing pledge they made at the last major climate summit six years ago.

"I have been urging the developed world leaders that this must be delivered," Ban told reporters at UN headquarters in New York. "This is one very important promise."

Of the US$100 billion to be mobilised by 2020, US$62 billion has been raised so far, he added.

More than 150 world leaders including President Barack Obama launched the talks Monday, seeking to build momentum for the tough negotiations ahead with lofty rhetoric about the urgency of the task.

But after three days of grinding discussions over a hugely complex 54-page draft pact, bureaucrats unveiled a document just four pages shorter and with vast stretches of text yet to be agreed.


By the end of a day of frustratingly slow negotiations, tempers frayed.

"I am deeply concerned. I'm out of words. I have been doing this for many years, and this is just not right," Bolivia's Juan Hoffmaister, representing the G77 and China, told fellow negotiators at an evening session.

At the heart of the dispute is a demand by developing nations that the rich shoulder the most responsibility for fighting global warming because they have emitted most of the greenhouse gases since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

But some rich nations point out that developing nations, particularly China and India, are now big polluters.

Norwegian negotiator Aslak Brun said they were grappling with "very hard lines on all sides".

"Pointing fingers at this point in time saying: 'you are to blame and we are the good guys', it doesn't help us. Collectively, we just have to really speed up," he said.

Ministers from around the globe will descend on Paris Monday to try to transform the draft prepared by diplomats into a universal accord to avert planetary overheating. The conference is scheduled to end on Dec 11.


French Environment Minister Segolene Royal said she was still confident warring sides would come together by Dec 11. "It is normal for it to take a day or two for negotiations to get into gear," she told AFP. "It is unthinkable to imagine failure."

At the core of the talks is the goal of limiting average warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Scientists warn time for action is running out, issuing ever-louder warnings that steadily growing carbon emissions will doom future generations to rising seas and worsening floods, storms and drought - a recipe for hunger, disease and homelessness for many millions.

James Hansen, one of the world's foremost climate scientists, warned in an interview with AFP that even capping warming to 2°C was a massive risk.

"2°C warming above pre-Industrial would put us at least at the temperature of the last inter-glacial period. Sea level was six to nine metres (20-30 feet) higher then," he said. "If we let ice sheets become unstable, the world may become ungovernable because the economic consequence would be so great."

- AFP/ec

Rich nations' fossil fuel subsidies exceed climate aid 40 to 1: researchers
Chris Arsenault PlanetArk 4 Dec 15;

Wealthy nations spend 40 times as much money subsidizing fossil fuel production as they contribute to the Green Climate Fund to help poor countries adapt to global warming, a research group said in a study released on Thursday.

Eight industrialized nations - Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States - spend a combined $80 billion a year on public support for fossil fuel production, but have pledged only about $2 billion a year to the Green Climate Fund, Oil Change International said.

"Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies could be a massive double win," Alex Doukas, the group's senior campaigner, said in a statement on the research analysis.

"It would stop a huge waste of public money that's driving the climate crisis, while at the same time freeing up money that can help poor countries adapt to the impacts of climate change and make the shift to renewable energy."

The research was released during negotiations between 195 nations in Paris over a new climate deal, expected to lead to an agreement next week.

Developing nations have been calling for more support from wealthy countries so that they can produce clean energy, accelerate their economic growth and reduce poverty while keeping carbon emissions in check.

(Editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

Backchannel climate meetings in Paris could decide the fate of the world
Meetings of climate negotiators in ‘informal informals’ – small ad hoc groups talking outside of official sessions – could be key to reaching Paris agreement
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 2 Dec 15;

In huddles in corners, sitting on the floor in corridors, crowded around smartphones at cafe tables around the sprawling conference centre in Paris where crunch climate change talks are ongoing, a new form of meeting is taking place.

These are the “informal informals” - groups of negotiators meeting outside the conventional apparatus of plenary sessions in large halls in order to facilitate a deal.

These meetings are intended to tease out and resolve the remaining differences over the detailed wording of the text of a possible Paris agreement. Often, they will work on a single paragraph at a time, reworking the wording and attempting to forge consensus in small groups that they can then feed into the larger process of negotiations.

The informal informals are seen as a key - and novel - strand of the talks. In previous UN negotiations, proceedings have been hampered by the cumbersome process of presenting all 195 countries with long texts - sometimes scores or even hundreds of pages - every word of which must be approved by consensus.

By allowing for these smaller, ad hoc meetings, the French hosts and the UN are hoping to lubricate the process of reaching an agreement.

While these informal meetings are taking place, another strand of negotiators have broad oversight of the whole package of details that will make up any agreement, attempting to steer it through to a deal, and a third strand are working on some of the important issues that will make up the package, such as financial assistance for poor countries, commitments on greenhouse gas emissions, and mechanisms for ensuring countries are accountable for meeting their targets in a transparent way.

Negotiators say that the French, who have put a massive diplomatic effort into the last year of preparations, are acutely aware of the risk that any agreement will be foiled not by a lack of political will to forge a deal, but by being bogged down in the unwieldy details of the text. That was a key problem at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, and the hosts are determined not to repeat the mistakes made there.

The two weeks of talks, aimed at drawing up a new global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions that would kick in from 2020 when current commitments run out, kicked off formally on Monday. Negotiators met in back rooms while an unprecedented 150 world leaders took to the stage to emphasise their commitment to tackling global warming. In a sign of things to come, their initial meetings carried on late into the night, with some ending only at midnight.

By this Thursday, they are expected to come up with a draft text that will be further refined on Friday, then examined by the French team over the weekend. On Monday, that text should be released again for the negotiations to continue - hopefully, with the removal many of the notorious “square brackets” which denote phrases or issues over which agreement has not been reached.

At that point, the French will decide whether to entrust the ministers of each country with the task of coming to an agreement immediately, or demand further work from the facilitators before doing so.

The process of UN talks was first developed in 1992, when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed, and the emphasis is on consensus and transparency. This process can seem arcane and unwieldy, but the task of forging a lasting treaty on the climate among all world governments is so complex that little can be done to change it.

Among the remaining unresolved issues at the talks are the proposed mechanism of five-yearly reviews after Paris, at which countries would be expected to take stock of their progress towards their emissions targets, and potentially ratchet up those targets if circumstances permit.

Some countries which have set emissions targets for 2030 have reservations about the latter, though most are happy with the notion of a stock-taking exercise.

This, and mechanisms for ensuring transparency and accountability in reaching emissions targets, along with the target of providing finance from the rich world to poor countries that will be most affected by climate change, are likely to be the subject of many formal meetings and “informal informals” in the coming days.

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