Best of our wild blogs: 6 Dec 15

Larval Host Plant for Butterflies: Turn-in-the-Wind
Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (04 Dec 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

A look at the One Historical Map app
The Long and Winding Road

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Malaysian, Singapore law groups plan haze study

K. C. Vijayan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Dec 15;

National law groups from both sides of the Causeway have pledged to look into a cross-border study of the legal aspects of the haze issue.

The move comes in the wake of the first summit between the Malaysian Bar Council and the Law Society of Singapore held in Kuala Lumpur in October.

"The Bar Council observed that both our countries had a common grievance, a common health and environmental hazard, namely the haze.

"It was a clear and present health hazard...," said the Law Society's president, Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi, in an article in the latest issue of the society's publication, The Law Gazette.

"While we have not finalised the terms of reference or the composition of the group, I envisage that it will analyse how existing laws could be better enforced or made more effective, or suggest new or modified laws or regulations which may give the authorities, corporations or even private citizens in both our countries more weapons and options," he added.

Lauding the initiative and commitment of both Bars to work on an area of common interest, he said it underscored the already strong relationship between the lawyers.

Indonesian forest fires, caused by slash-and-burn agricultural practices largely in Sumatra and Kalimantan, have led to thick smoke drifting across South-east Asia, and this has turned into an annual haze crisis.

It has drawn increased cross-border notice and efforts from governments in the region to address the issue and combat the problem.

A survey released yesterday by Hong Kong-based YouGov Asia-Pacific showed that about 20 per cent of people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore suffered health problems due to the haze and needed to see a doctor.

"It is a subject which impacts all of us and I look forward to the output of the joint committee," said Mr Thio.

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Immigration in Singapore: Govt will engage on key issues

Chong Zi Liang, Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Dec 15;

Immigration remains an issue that the Government is keeping a close eye on and it will continue to engage the public to hear different views, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday.

He noted that there were a range of concerns on the subject.

While some Singaporeans are uncomfortable with the number of foreigners in their midst, others feel a need for more foreign workers to keep their companies running.

The Government therefore has the responsibility to understand these perspectives as best as it can, address them, and explain why certain decisions have to be made even if they are not to the liking of some, he said.

This process must carry on "especially in between general election", when discussions can take place "without the dynamics of different (political) parties jostling for influence".

Mr Tan was speaking to reporters after a dialogue on perspectives of outsiders on the challenges Singapore faces in the future, and its role on the global stage.

Organised by the Singapore International Foundation, the event wrapped up a series of seminars held throughout the year in Washington DC, London, Kuala Lumpur and Bandung.

The issue of immigration was raised during the dialogue by American Association of Singapore president Glenn van Zutphen, who said he noticed that Singaporeans were becoming less welcoming of foreigners over the 11 years he has lived here.

Mr Tan replied that Singapore, by and large, remains an open society. But it must avoid becoming inward-looking, as it will slowly lose relevance to the world if this happens.

He added that unease over immigration was an issue that is being faced globally today, leading politicians in different countries to play a "very nationalistic card" as this is "popular and easy".

Governments around the world are also grappling with rising political pressure to meet short-term needs without necessarily having a plan to pay for policy changes.

For instance, it is always popular for the state to provide more subsidies and provisions, but ever-increasing spending is untenable, he said.

That is why as Singapore prepares for an ageing society, the Government and the people must come to an understanding, and adopt measures that are prudent and benefit the country in the long term.

Mr Tan said it is important to get this right because by the time policies become unsustainable, the political cost of reforming them is often too great to bear.

"You would have made a lot of commitments that you cannot undo without losing the next elections," he said.

"A lot of governments know what the right solutions ought to be, what ought to be changed, what ought to be tweaked.

"But politically, it's just not possible."

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Freshwater fish banned in ready-to-eat raw fish dishes

AVA and NEA tests found freshwater fish to contain higher bacterial contamination than saltwater fish. All retail food establishments that wish to sell ready-to-eat raw fish dishes are to use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption, says NEA.
Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 5 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Agri-Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Saturday (Dec 5) announced that the use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes will be banned with immediate effect.

NEA said tests by AVA and NEA showed that freshwater fish have "significantly higher" bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and are likely to present higher risks of infection when consumed raw.

It added that effective immediately, all retail food establishments that wish to sell ready-to-eat raw fish dishes are to use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption.

According to the authorities, such fish are usually bred or harvested from cleaner waters and stored and distributed according to "appropriate cold chain management practices".

MOH, AVA and NEA said the ban is in place to help protect consumers and "give greater peace of mind" to the public, ahead of Chinese New Year.

This comes after a spike in Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections reported in June, where some patients fell ill after consuming yusheng, a raw fish dish typically eaten with congee.

NEA on Nov 27 also issued an advisory for the sale and consumption of raw fish dishes after further investigations into the increase of infections.


MOH, AVA and NEA added that food stalls in hawker centres, coffeeshops, canteens and food courts, as well as food establishments providing catering services are required to stop the sale of all ready-to-eat raw fish fishes using saltwater fish until they can comply with the practices required for such dishes.

NEA said it would issue notices to retail food establishments to inform them of the ban on the use of freshwater fish for ready-to-eat raw fish dishes.

AVA and NEA added that it would conduct engagement sessions "over the next few weeks" to help fish suppliers and retail food establishments understand the requirements for the sale of fish intended for raw consumption.

Restaurant operators, on the other hand, can sell ready-to-eat raw saltwater fish dishes, if they comply with the practices required for such dishes, NEA said. It noted that restaurant operators "generally observe proper cold chain and food handling management in their food preparation, and the fish used in their ready-to-eat raw fish dishes is also typically sourced from suppliers of fish intended for raw consumption."

"NEA's surveillance data indicate that such fish sampled from restaurants have low levels of overall bacterial contamination," it said.


NEA emphasised that members of the public should not consume raw freshwater fish. If they wish to eat raw fish, they should only consume saltwater fish intended for raw consumption.

It added that most fish sold at Singapore's wet markets, fresh produce section of supermarkets and fishery ports do not meet the appropriate cold chain management practices and should not be eaten raw.

Vulnerable groups of people, including young children, pregnant women, the elderly or people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes should avoid consuming all types of raw fish as well, NEA, AVA and MOH cautioned, adding that cooking fish is still the most effective way to kill bacteria.

In the first half of the year, the number of GBS cases at hospitals rose from an average of 150 a year in the past four years to 238 a year. In July, with some samples of raw fish found to contain GBS bacteria, the NEA advised stallholders to temporarily stop selling raw fish dishes using Song and Toman fish.

- CNA/dl

NEA bans freshwater fish from ready-to-eat raw fish dishes
AsiaOne 5 Dec 15;

Raw fish porridge falls out of favour after GBS cases
SINGAPORE - The use of freshwater fish has been banned with immediate effect in all ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes sold by retail food establishments.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a statement on Dec 5 that tests conducted by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and NEA found that such fish had significantly higher bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and are likely to present higher risks of infection when consumed raw.

"The ban will help protect consumers and give greater peace of mind to the public, especially during the upcoming Chinese New Year season when consumption of raw fish in yusheng dishes is expected to increase", NEA added.

All retail food establishments that wish to sell RTE raw fish dishes, such as yusheng dishes, can use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption which are typically bred or harvested from cleaner waters, and stored and distributed according to appropriate cold chain management practices.

These fish must also be handled hygienically throughout the supply chain and kept separate from other fish intended for cooking, to avoid cross contamination.

Most fish sold at Singapore's wet markets, fresh produce section of supermarkets, and fishery ports do not meet these conditions, and should not be eaten raw, said the NEA statement.

NEA will be issuing notices to retail food establishments to inform them of the ban. Food stalls such as hawker centres, coffeeshops, canteens, food courts, and food establishments providing catering services are required to stop the sale of all RTE raw fish dishes using saltwater fish until they can comply with the practices required for RTE raw fish dishes.

AVA and NEA will conduct engagement sessions over the next few weeks to help fish suppliers and retail food establishments understand the requirements for sale of fish intended for raw consumption.

Restaurant operators can sell RTE raw fish dishes provided they comply with the practices required for RTE raw fish dishes.

In addition, NEA's surveillance data indicate that such fish sampled from restaurants have low levels of overall bacterial contamination.

NEA will tighten surveillance of all restaurants, and continue to enforce against errant food operators.

While investigations did not detect Type III GBS ST283 - the strain of GBS associated with the recent spike in human cases - in sashimi sold at retail food establishments, members of the public should note that there are always risks involved in consuming raw fish as harmful bacteria and parasites may be present, said NEA
Vulnerable groups of people, such as young children, pregnant women, elderly persons, or people with chronic illness, such as diabetes, should avoid the consumption of raw fish.

NEA bans use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes
Today Online 5 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — The National Environment Agency (NEA) has banned the use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes with immediate effect.

Tests conducted by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the NEA have found such fish to have significantly higher bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and are likely to present higher risks of infection when consumed raw, said a joint press release by the NEA, AVA and Ministry of Health today (Dec 5).

All retail food establishments that wish to sell raw fish dishes, such as yusheng dishes, must only use saltwater fish intended for raw consumption. This refers to fish that are typically bred or harvested from cleaner waters, and stored and distributed according to appropriate cold chain management practices.

These fish must also be handled hygienically throughout the supply chain and kept separate from other fish intended for cooking, to avoid cross contamination.

The statement noted that most fish sold in Singapore’s wet markets, fresh produce section of supermarkets, and fishery ports do not meet these conditions, and should not be eaten raw.

The NEA will be issuing notices to retail food establishments to inform them of the ban.

However, food stalls — hawker centres, coffeeshops, canteens, food courts — and food establishments providing catering services are also required to stop the sale of all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes using saltwater fish until they can comply with the practices required.

Authorities had earlier announced this after investigations found a definite link between eating these dishes and Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection, which can potentially cause permanent disability and even death in severe cases.

The AVA and NEA will conduct engagement sessions over the next few weeks to help fish suppliers and retail food establishments understand the requirements.

Restaurant operators can still continue to sell raw fish dishes provided they comply with the practices required, while the NEA will tighten surveillance and continue to enforce against errant food operators, the statement said.

The AVA and NEA will also work with the industry to meet the expected increased demand for yusheng dishes during the coming Chinese New Year season.

The agency has also advised that vulnerable groups of people, such as young children, pregnant women, elderly persons, or people with chronic illness, such as diabetes, should avoid the consumption of raw fish.

To date, two persons have died from GBS infections this year. One of the cases was not linked to the ongoing outbreak, and the other is being investigated.

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Flash floods seen across several areas in Singapore

Heavy rain on Saturday afternoon saw flash floods at Lorong Buangkok, Hougang Avenue 8 and Ang Mo Kio.
Channel NewsAsia 5 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: Several areas across the Republic saw flash floods on Saturday afternoon (Dec 5) following heavy thunderstorms.

At about 4pm, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Twitter to expect thunderstorms over northern, eastern and central Singapore between 4.05pm and 5pm. At around 4.40pm, the PUB issued an alert to flash floods at Lorong Buangkok.

PUB also warned of the high water levels in areas such as Tampines Road, Cactus Road and Chin Bee Avenue.

According to Facebook user Lyrrel Tan, the junction of Hougang Avenue 6 and Hougang Avenue 8 was flooded to about ankle high. He said he saw several cars stranded and buses were also delayed due to rain. He added that some buses had to skip certain bus stops because of the amount of the flood at the stop. Commuters were seen standing on seats at the bus stop to avoid the rain water.

Tan added that the bus he was on also had water seeping through the door.

Over at Ang Mo Kio, MediaCorp viewer Gary said the carpark at Block 613A, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 was flooded.

Heavy rain causes floods in several areas in Singapore
AsiaOne 5 Dec 15;

Cars stranded by flooding along Yio Chu Kang Road outside the Church of St Vincent de Paul.

Photo: The Straits Times

Heavy rain on Saturday, Dec 5, has caused floods in several areas around Singapore.

Both the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Public Utilities Board (PUB) sent out warnings about thundery showers and floods on their Twitter accounts.

Since about 2pm on Saturday, PUB had warned about the high risks of floods occurring in many places including Tampines Road, Cactus Road, Seletar Road and central areas such as Exeter Road and Somerset Road.

The Straits Times reported that two cars were stranded outside Church of St Vincent de Paul along Yio Chu Kang Road.

Flash floods had occurred at about 4pm at Lorong Buangkok. PUB said traffic condition in the area was "impassable". The floods subsided an hour later.

Social media users also took to Twitter to post photos of the floods around the island with the hashtag #sgfloods.

Heavy showers, floods hit parts of Singapore
Adrian Lim, The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Dec 15;

Cars stranded in floodwaters along Yio Chu Kang Road, just outside the Church of St Vincent de Paul. Yesterday's downpours pushed water levels in drains and canals close to the brink, with flooding reported in areas such as Ang Mo Kio, Buangkok, Hougang and Yio Chu Kang.

Heavy, thundery showers pounded the northern, eastern and central parts of Singapore yesterday afternoon.

Accompanied by gusty winds, the downpours pushed water levels in drains and canals close to the brink, with flooding reported in towns, including Ang Mo Kio, Buangkok, Hougang and Yio Chu Kang.

Between 4pm and 5pm, the PUB issued alerts of high flood risk in six areas: Seletar Road/Neram Road; Cactus Road; Tampines Road/Jalan Teliti; Exeter Road/Somerset Road; Chin Bee Avenue/Third Chin Bee Road; and Lorong Buangkok.

At around 4.30pm, the agency also tweeted that traffic was "impassable" in Lorong Buangkok, with an alert about 30 minutes later saying that the water had subsided.

Sunday Times readers also sent in photos and reports of flooding from various parts of Singapore.

Two cars were stranded for about an hour outside the Church of St Vincent de Paul, as floodwaters rose to knee-high levels along a stretch of Yio Chu Kang Road.

Said housewife Elaine Chow, 33: "The water level was up to the wheels, and I think the cars' engines may have stalled."

Several bystanders tried to push the cars out of the flooded stretch of road but were unsuccessful, she said, adding that a tow truck appeared later to help one of the cars.

A community plaza in Ang Mo Kio Street 31, near Block 312, had floodwaters up to a metre high, said Mr Choy Weng Meng, 34, a contract administrator. "This is the first time I've seen such bad ponding. Maybe the drainage could not handle so much rain," he said.

December is typically the wettest month of the year. In its fortnightly forecast given at the start of the month, the National Environment Agency said the north-east monsoon season will result in more rain and cooler temperatures. The public can expect short, thundery showers in the afternoons and early evenings, with moderate to heavy rain on one or two days.

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Revamped Siglap Canal officially opens as a community space

The makeover is part of an initiative called the Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters Programme to take advantage of the potential of Singapore's water bodies
Channel NewsAsia 5 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: There is now a deck covering a section of the Siglap Canal.

The makeover is part of an initiative called the Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters Programme, under the PUB, to take advantage of the potential of Singapore's water bodies. The canal, which runs between Bedok Reservoir Road and the sea, passes through estates like Kembangan and Marine Parade.

The revamp is meant to give residents an ideal space for community activities such as line dancing.

Social and Family Development Minister and MP for Marine Parade GRC Tan Chuan-Jin, who was at the official opening of the project on Saturday (Dec 5), also sealed a special SG50 Time Capsule.

The capsule is an initiative by the Kampong Chai Chee Citizens' Consultative Committee and contains items from key events this year, such as a Southeast Asian (SEA) Games medal. It will be opened in 25 years’ time in 2040.

- CNA/ek

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Malaysia: Elephant population growth needs to be addressed

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 5 Dec 15;

LAHAD DATU: There is a need to have better management of the growing elephant population and its limited habitat size, said Sabah Wildlife director William Baya.

He was commenting on the department’s largest translocation operation involving 24 elephants back to Tabin Wildlife Reserve here today.

“Translocating the herd (that comes into conflict with humans) does not serve as a permanent solution.

“It has been proven that the same translocated elephants made their way back to the conflict area,” he explained.

In 2013, the department had a similar translocation operation involving 10 Borneo elephants that were introduced into Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

The department had spent about a month to conduct the elephant control by herding them back to the forest reserve but decided to translocate them to prevent further damage and ensure the safety of people. The cost of translocation is between RM20,000 and RM30,000 per animal.

The herd, comprising of 22 females and two males pachyderms, were first reported in a village area located less than 10-kilometres away from the town which stretched from Kampung Sri Putatan up to Jalan Sin Hwa.

Four of the elephants were captured from Kampung Sri Putatan, 15 from Jalan Sin Hwa, three from Layung and two from Kampung Binuang.

Two elephants are also fixed with satellite collars sponsored by Danau Girang Field Centre for future movement monitoring to better understand the human-elephant conflict in Sabah.

Meanwhile, the department also announced a statewide elephant population survey would also be conducted next year to look into the increasing human-elephant conflict in Sabah.

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Indonesia a Top Player in SEA's Illegal Wildlife Trade: Bareskrimi

Jakarta Globe 5 Dec 15;

Jakarta. Indonesia is Southeast Asia's largest market for the illegal trade of exotic animals, catering to both domestic and international clients, according to the National Police's criminal investigation unit Bareskrim.

“Indonesia is the number one market for rare species due largely to its sheer size,” Bareskrim director Brig. Gen. Yazid Fanani said in Jakarta on Saturday, as quoted by Antara news.

As most transaction are conducted online, he added, the police's cyber crimes division will conduct its own investigation while Bareskrim detectives coordinate with foreign embassies, the International Police, foreign law enforcement agencies and environmental organizations.

US Deputy Ambassador to Indonesia Brian McFeeters praised the country's increased efforts in combating the illegal sale of endangered species, saying he "personally and institutionally supports Indonesia in its fight."

The country has seen an alarming increase in the trade of animals and animal parts in recent months, with almost weekly reports of raids on warehouses, ships and ports thwarting the efforts of smugglers.

Last month, Jakarta Police arrested six people, including a Libyan national, caught in possession of several protected species, including a clouded leopard, a sun bear, four birds of paradise and a siamang, a species of gibbon. The animals were destined for the exotic pet trade in the Middle East, with the Libyan man acting as a buyer for clients in Dubai and Kuwait.

The Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) last week raided a ship docked at Surabaya's Tanjung Perak port carrying 2,711 rare birds bound for illegal trade in Jakarta.

The precious cargo included 557 mynahs, 1,411 greater green leafbirds and 712 white-rumped shamas.

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Why is India's Chennai flooded?

Nityanand Jayaraman BBC 4 Dec 15;

The severe flooding in Chennai again proves that India's cities are unprepared for extreme weather events like rains, droughts and cyclonic storms which are becoming more frequent and intense.

Many parts of India suffer flooding every year during the annual monsoon rains from June to September. The northeast monsoon has been particularly vigorous over southern India and more so in Tamil Nadu state, of which Chennai is the capital.

Last month was the wettest November in a century in the city of 4.3 million people. And, at 490 mm, rainfall on 1 December was the highest in 100 years.

The floods are a wake up call for India's teeming cities that were built with the expectation that the environment would adjust itself to accommodate the need for the city to grow.


The disconnect with nature is also manifest in the failure of planners, builders, administrators and even common people to fathom the sheer power of natural events.

The Corporation of Chennai and Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority are responsible for approving building plans and town planning, and for enforcing urban planning. A masterplan was prepared in 2008.

But much of the city has grown without a plan and with no regard to water flows, and without anticipating extreme weather events.

Then there's illegal construction.

As The Indian Express newspaper reports, "What may have been a tank, lake, canal or river 20 years ago is today the site of multi-storey residential and industrial structures."

There are more than 150,000 illegal structures in the city, according to the city's municipality. More than 300 tanks, canals and lakes have disappeared.

An information technology park in Chennai is flooded because it is located at a place where waters from two separate lakes converge and flow to a neighbouring creek. Many of the city's info-tech facilities are built on marshlands, water-bodies and water courses. The city's famous automobile manufacturing hubs are located in the catchment area of lakes.

No clearance

The premier engineering school IIT Madras has been accused of clearing more than 52 acres of forests, including 8,000 trees between 2001 and 2013 as part of a major construction spree that saw 39 renovation projects and new constructions in its campus adjoining a national park. Reports say none of the projects have local body approval or environmental clearance.

Plastics are another culprit. After the first intense downpour in mid-November, plastic trash washed into rivers by rainwater was pushed to sea by the swollen rivers.

At high-tide, the trash was thrown right back onto the city's beaches by the sea. The large quantity of plastics visible in the city's beach trash exposed another chink in the city's defences.

Plastics are virtually indestructible. What doesn't get washed out to sea tends to accumulate in water channels and storm water and sewage networks, impeding and even blocking flows.

Clearly, indiscriminate development and shoddy urban planning have led to the floods in India's fourth most populous city.

Nityanand Jayaraman is a Chennai-based writer and social activist

Man-made disaster: Look how Chennai built its way to floods
Chennai in 2000 to Chennai in 2015. Google Earth shows us what went wrong and resulted in the Chennai floods. 2 Dec 15;

If there are trees, plants and open areas around, rain water will be absorbed by the Earth, but if we continue to build concrete jungles, flooding should not surprise you. Chennai floods is not a natural disaster, it is solely man-made!

Chennai claimed to be Monsoon ready even before it set in. The Corporation of Chennai ensured more than 6,200 metric tonnes of silt from the 1,860 km-long water drain network was removed. But all the apparent efforts by the corporation seems to have been flooded with the city being in a state of disaster. The problem not only lies with the inefficiency of the civic body but also the unplanned and improper development of the city.

Chennai's original terrain consists of many lakes and marshes which now is covered with innumerous buildings. Over 5,550 hectares of wetlands in the IT Corridor of Velachery, Pallikaranai and Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) have been developed into commercial real-estate because of which the rain water has nowhere to go and thus, settles instead on the road. There are areas in Chennai which are flooded even during normal Monsoon season.

The capital city of Tamil Nadu is going through inevitable growth and the situation will remain the same. The only way to stop the flooding is to cut on the construction process which has made Chennai populated and which acts as a hindrance to settling down of water. A cautionary plan that goes well with the original geography of the city needs to implemented by the state government when the officially recognized 'disaster zone' is to saved from the doom.

What resulted in the Chennai floods?

Filling up lowlands without proper planning, little space for stormwater to drain and heavy encroachment of the river banks was one major reason for Chennai floods.
Illegal constructions, mostly multistorey apartments and huge industries, played the next big part in making way to the floods.
Over 300 water bodies disappeared due to this.

Read more!

India: State records 20% growth in mangrove cover in two years

Clara Lewis The Times of India 5 Dec 15;

MUMBAI: Ten years after the Bombay high court directed the state government to declare mangroves as a reserved forest, the results are showing. The mangrove cover in Maharashtra has increased by around 20% since 2013.

The biennial survey conducted by the Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, shows the state's mangrove cover, which had remained static at 186 sq km between 2005 to 2013, has now gone up to 222 sq km. This is the highest increase in mangrove cover recorded by any state in the country during the two-year period from 2013 to 2015. Odisha, with an increase of 18 sq km (up from 213 sq kms to 231 sq km) is a distant second. The overall mangrove cover in the country has gone up by 112 sq km, from 4,628 sq km in 2013 to 4,740 sq km in 2015.

Mumbai's suburbs have shown an increase of 5 sq km, which is nearly 12% more than the previous level of 43 sq km. The increase has been highest in Raigad district, where the cover has increased by 15 sq km from 62 sq km to 77 sq km. Thane district, which includes the newly carved Palghar district, and Ratnagiri have shown an increase of 6 sq km, whereas the increase in Sindhudurg is 4 sq km.

"The declaration of mangroves as reserved forests has been one of the most significant steps in mangrove conservation in the country in recent times," said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests (mangrove cell).

D Stalin, director NGO Vanashakti said the entire credit to the increase in mangrove cover goes to the Mangrove Conservation Cell set up by the state government in 2012. "Whatever area was handed over to them they have ensured the mangroves survived, rejuvenated the mangroves in degraded areas and where there is encroachment they are engaged in removing these encroachments," he said.

Increased awareness among citizens who have played a proactive role by complaining and following up on mangrove destruction, and support from the conservation cell, have ensured the natural barriers regain ground in the city.

While the tag of 'forest' applies to mangroves both on government and private lands, the state has been successful in protecting these trees on its land. Enforcement on private lands has not been very effective, evident from the recent debris dumping incidents at Versova in Andheri West. In Dahisar, the New Link Road Residents' Association successfully fought and ensured the restoration of 400 acres of mangrove land. In 2013, in another public interest litigation, the high court banned all development on wetlands. Wetlands comprise mangroves, mudflats and inter-tidal areas.

"Better protection given to the mangroves and the mangrove rehabilitation work initiated by the mangrove cell are responsible for this welcome change. The naysayers are proved wrong," said Vasudevan.

The Forest Survey of India has made biennial assessments of the forest cover of the country since 1987. The report published on December 4, 2015, by the FSI is its 14th assessment of the country's forest cover, on the basis of satellite data.

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Facing the reality of mass migrations in Asia-Pacific

ANDREW BRUCE Bangkok Post 5 Dec 15;

The numbers don’t lie. Disasters are on the rise in Asia and the Pacific and they are affecting more and more people. In 2014, about 16.7 million people had to leave their homes due to sudden onset disasters like floods, typhoons, earthquakes and other phenomena.

That’s a staggering 30 people every minute.

Not only are disasters affecting more people, they are also more frequent and severe. Rising sea levels, coastal erosion, desertification and storm surges tend to hit the poor and vulnerable hardest. They live on the ragged edges of society, pushed to where land is cheapest and less fertile, effectively trapped in unsafe, often illegal or semi-legal dwellings, without the skills or the finance to make the simple improvements needed to make their homes safer.

Examples are everywhere, from the South Asian cities spilling into the sea to the shanty towns clinging to the sides of mountains in disaster-prone regions all over the Pacific Ring of Fire. The effects of disasters, and the fragility of the human populations that live in their thrall, can perhaps best been seen on the low-lying islands of the Pacific, where unique, ancient cultures live the reality of climate change.

Some weeks ago I had the privilege to visit the remote and lovely nation of Kiribati, attending the High Level Dialogue on Climate Induced Migration, hosted by the country’s President Anote Tong and Prince Albert II of Monaco on behalf of the Coalition of Atoll Nations against Climate Change.

As the plane flew over Tarawa, I looked at the tiny horseshoe island, baffled by the idea that the entire country lies only a few feet above water.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific authority on climate change issues, has already expressed concern on rising sea levels submerging the island, which may displace thousands. The reality of the threat struck me as we landed, and I watched people rushing to place sandbags by the curb to prevent the waves from eroding the main road.

Though small islands have been the most vocal in advocating for strong mitigation and adaptation measures, it isn’t only these countries that risk losing lives and livelihoods — and acres of habitable land — because of climate change. Asia and the Pacific represent topographical diversity at its best, and with this comes vulnerability to a range of slow and sudden onset events. As the climate changes, these natural hazards will increase in frequency and intensity, consequentially affecting migration flows.

Nobody wants to see entire nations uprooted but we have to face the unpleasant truth: relocation has to be part of our adaptation strategies, backstopped by compassion and kindness.

Despite the far-reaching impact that climate change has on human mobility, the nexus between migration, environment and climate change has taken time to come to the fore. A negative tendency when reflecting on this topic is to emphasise forced migration. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has however, advocated strongly to ensure that mobility should be viewed from a wider perspective. Allowing the option of migration implies that those living in vulnerable areas can move away from risks and become more resilient. Relocation of communities in outer islands in the Pacific to central atolls is evidence of this.

The inclusion of the terms “climate induced migration, displacement and planned relocation” in the sixteenth United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties (Cancun) decision in 2010 was instrumental in bridging human mobility and climate change adaptation. More research has since been conducted on how migration acts as a means to livelihood diversification; and how the facilitated transfer of remittances, skills and knowledge from diaspora and migrant communities benefit countries vulnerable to climate change.

Many have now begun to see the thousands of migrants from the region who send back remittances as potential resources that could be leveraged in addressing this gigantic challenge. The contributions of this community following natural disasters in the Philippines and more recently in Nepal have also proven that we should work hard to engage migrant communities in climate change adaptation. Kiribati, through its migration with dignity programme, is aiming at exactly that.

As negotiations on the outcome document of the 21st Conference of Parties proceed, a few champion countries such as Bangladesh and the Small Island Developing States have tried hard to keep human mobility in the text.

Since the UNFCCC decisions have thus far formed the framework for climate change from which national and regional policies stem, the IOM firmly believes that to ensure that humans remain at the centre of the climate change debate, we need to strive for the inclusion of mobility in the legally binding agreement forged in Paris. This will then form an important basis for discussions on how to effectively address the migration challenges arising out of climate change.

Andrew Bruce is regional director of the International Organisation for Migration’s Asia-Pacific Office, based in Bangkok.

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COP21: Climate delegates agree draft deal text

Matt McGrath BBC News 5 Dec 15;

Delegates at a UN climate conference in Paris have approved a draft text they hope will form the basis of an agreement to curb global carbon emissions.
The 48-page document will be discussed by ministers on Monday.

They will try to arrive at a comprehensive settlement by the end of next week.

The French climate ambassador warned that major political differences still needed to be resolved.

Delegates from 195 countries worked through the night at the conference centre in Le Bourget, conscious of a midday Saturday deadline imposed by the French presidency of this meeting.

The weighty document will now go forward to ministers who will have to take the many political decisions still required, if the text is to be turned into a long-term agreement.

"Nothing has been decided and nothing will be left behind," said French climate ambassador Laurence Tubiana.

"This text marks the will of all to reach an agreement. We are not at the end of the route. Major political issues are yet to be resolved," she warned.

Tricky decisions

Many delegates were relieved that they had at least reached this point, as it marks a critical point after four years of negotiations.

The document lays out a range of options for ministers on what the long-term goal of the deal should be, as well as the scale and the methods of raising climate finance for poorer nations.

Among the many tricky issues they will have to deal with is differentiation: many countries are reluctant to change the way that nations are divided into developed and developing, based on where they were in 1992, when the UN Convention was signed.

Many richer countries want this to change, and want a greater number of emerging economies to take on emissions reduction targets and become climate finance donors.
South Africa's climate ambassador struck a note of warning on this issue.

"The Paris outcome must be under the convention and in accordance with its principles and provisions and must not rewrite or re-interpret its decisions," said Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, who speaks on behalf of more than 130 developing nations.

Negotiators had hoped to be much further forward at the end of the week. They started out with a 50-page document and by Friday had reduced it to 36 pages of text.

"We now need to summon the political will needed to make the hard decisions required for an effective and durable agreement that protects the most vulnerable among us," said Thoriq Ibrahim of the Maldives and Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States.

Many countries had reservations about the Friday document, so what has now been agreed contains these concerns added as an annex - pushing the document to 48 pages.

There are worries that far too much has been left to ministers to agree, and that in an effort to reach a deal, too many compromises will be made.

"We're hoping that in the rush to the end, ministers do not trade ambition for expediency, and remain true to the science," warned Tasneem Essop from WWF.

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