Best of our wild blogs: 24 Dec 15

Nesting of a Long-tailed Shrike in a urban park
Singapore Bird Group

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Anglers spotted fishing in protected waters at Sisters' Island Marine Park

Chew Hui Min Straits Times 22 Dec 15;

A photo showing alleged anglers in small fishing boats near Sisters' Island.PHOTO: ST READER

SINGAPORE - Anglers have been spotted fishing in the waters near Sisters' Island, although the surrounding waters have been designated a marine park since July 2014.

A dive operator, who did not wish to be named, said that he has seen small fishing boats in the marine park three times this year.

The latest incident was on Sunday (Dec 20), when anglers in at least two boats were seen fishing near or in the marine park.

The operator sent photos and a video of the boats to The Straits Times.

He added that bad weather further out at sea may have caused them to sail closer to the islands.

The Sisters' Island Marine Park was created to be a refuge for the diverse marine wildlife in Singapore's southern waters.

When contacted , the National Parks Board (NParks) said that activities like the collection of flora or fauna and fishing, are not allowed within the marine park. Signs have been put up on the islands, NParks said.

They and their partners will be working with fishing interest groups "in a concerted effort" to conserve Singapore's marine biodiversity, the Board added.

"This is part of our continuing efforts to reach out to the public on the importance of not fishing within our marine park," said Dr Karenne Tun, coastal and marine deputy director at the National Biodiversity Centre.

"We will continue to work closely with agencies and our partners to monitor the situation."

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Kent Ridge mountain bike trail closed after landslide

Danson Cheong, The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Dec 15;

The 2km Kent Ridge Park mountain bike trail, with its narrow pathways, steep inclines capped by large rocks and tree roots, and sharp descents, is one of the more challenging trails here. Updates on investigation works and when the trail will re-open will be posted on NParks' website.

SINGAPORE - One of the four remaining mountain bike trails in Singapore has been shut because of a landslide.

The Kent Ridge trail was closed on Dec 11 by the National Parks Board (NParks) after it detected a "slope failure".

The hiking trail was also closed for safety reasons, said NParks' director for parks, Mr Chia Seng Jiang, in response to queries from The Straits Times.

He added that key entrances to both trails have been cordoned off and advisory notices put up.

NParks said it was still investigating the cause of the landslide.

But heavier than usual rainfall has been experienced so far this month because of the north-east monsoon. The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said last week that these rainy conditions are expected to continue for the rest of the month.

The heavy rainfall has caused flooding in some parts of Singapore. It has also been blamed for a blackout at Orchard Central and the collapse of a false ceiling at the Hilton Hotel, which both happened this month.

The Kent Ridge trail, located off South Buona Vista Road, is about 2km long and is known to the mountain biking community to be one of the more challenging trails here.

Mr Chia said repairs would have to be carried out before the trail can be re-opened. He added: "As the investigation works are ongoing, we can determine when the trails will re-open only after the investigation is complete."

Updates will be posted on NParks' website when they are available, he said.

Apart from Kent Ridge, the three other areas officially open to mountain bikers are in Bukit Timah, Mandai and Pulau Ubin.

Mountain bike skills instructor Wilson Low, 32, visited the trail after it was closed and said the landslide had affected a stretch of about 30m of the hill.

"Parts of the ground are like quicksand and there is water coming out of the ground," he said .

Mountain bike trail consultant Lim Hui Min, 37, said NParks contacted him after the incident to ask what could be done to rectify the damage.

He said that repair works would take time, and would have to wait until drier weather prevailed.

He said: "We can't really build in the rainy weather. But, anyway, fewer people would be riding because of the rain."

Meanwhile, the mountain biking community has its fingers crossed.

"We have to be patient as part of this community... It's better to be safe than sorry," said Mr Low.

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A smarter city? Try a bottom-up approach, says panel

For the future of sustainable cities such as Singapore, governments and businesses need to catch up with innovation and involve citizens.
Channel NewsAsia 24 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: Tomorrow’s smart city may not be one replete with driverless Google cars or The Jetsons’ robot toothbrushes or Back To The Future hoverboards.

Instead, it is simply one that will be able to sustainably provide basic reliable energy, clean water supply and basic sanitation, said Mr Martin Powell, Global Head of Urban Development at Siemens, during a live recording of Channel NewsAsia’s Perspectives panel discussion around The Future Of Cities on Nov 23.

But as cities grow in population, increase connectivity and expand urban spaces, they face greater challenges in providing those basic needs. The panel revealed that financial volatility, ageing populations, traffic congestion, pollution and a dwindling population workforce are just some of the challenges that countries like Singapore will face as they enter the next lap.

These are issues the island state is currently seeking to address with the assembly of its Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) as it tackles serious challenges facing its next lap of growth.

And two points crucial to addressing issues facing future cities are policymaking embracing innovation, and policymaking involving citizens and communities, said panellists.

Joining Mr Powell on the panel were Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones, Chair of Town Planning at Newcastle University in the (UK); Ynse de Boer, Managing Director for Strategy and Sustainability at Accenture; and Mr Peter Edwards, Centre Director at the Singapore-ETH Centre.


Panellists lamented that policymaking is still lagging behind innovative ideas that could play a part in mitigating the environmental and physical impact of population growth in cities.

“I think the pace of tech innovation is running far ahead of policy innovation,” said Mr Edwards, referring to how cities and businesses and not ready to implement many innovations, technological or otherwise. And instead, countries have a knee-jerk reaction to innovative inventions or ideas.

Agreeing, Mr De Boer said: “I would argue that technology is not the impediment of growth anymore. It is about the innovation that needs to happen at the same time of governance, in terms of business models and so on. Everything that is required to get something to work.”

Mr De Boer said while his company’s survey with 1,000 CEOs revealed that there is strong optimism among leaders that technology can address many of these issues, sustainable commercial business models are still not in sync with policymaking or addressing issues in a viable way.

“It’s not that technology innovation is lagging behind but it’s more about the business model of innovation that is lagging behind,” Mr De Boer argued.

“You need sustainable business models and commercial models to be able to get these new technologies that are being innovated, and to get them ready (to address many of these issues).”


Mr Peter Edwards (left) suggesting a bottom-up approach to urban planning with Mr Ynse De Boer (right). (Photo: Samantha Yap)

And to get everything that is required for things to work, the panel said that policymakers should do more to involve stakeholders such as businesses, innovators, communities and more importantly, citizens.

“The more we rely on digital technology, the more it is imperative that the public is part of this conversation,” said Prof Jones.

“We need to rethink what we need to do for the future of cities in a much more coordinated, synoptic way, where we identify innovation in those opportunities. We should look at bringing the different sectors and issues together to look for spaces of opportunities.”

And while Singapore’s CFE is currently underway to mine ideas and suggestions from businesses and communities, Mr Edwards said the country should develop its “bottom-up” approach to policymaking further.

Said Mr Edwards: “The thing which I appreciate most in Singapore is an interest in innovation. Good ideas that would make cities more liveable, more sustainable, and what I appreciate is that government agencies are interested in these ideas and they want to find out what’s new. If they think it’s good, then they will put it into practise.

“Perhaps where Singapore has to develop compared with some other countries is also listening to what citizens want, what different interest groups want, and taking a more bottom-up approach to their planning. I think that’s something they’ve very conscious about and considering now.”

Mr Edwards stressed that in a digital age and with technology, there should be no excuse why governments can’t involve citizens on a mass scale. And this collaborative approach, according to Mr Powell and Prof Jones, will open up fun and interesting opportunities in various spaces of development. Mr Powell added that this nation-wide discussion shouldn’t exclude the humanities sector, and should set up platforms to “foster creativity to get citizens involved”.

Added Prof Jones: “Cities need to be innovative and creative in addressing their prospects in the future, and to consider all sorts of scenarios based on their unique circumstances and their own assets.

Governments need to initiate city wide conversations that allow different groups of people to come together to interact with researchers and businesses about the future.

“The public can co-design some of these systems. So we can think about crowdsourcing as a way of getting people involved.”

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Indonesia: Fishermen jailed for bomb fishing

The Jakarta Post 23 Dec 15;

The Liwa District Court in West Lampung regency, Lampung, has sentenced 10 fishermen to five years in prison each for using bombs while fishing in the Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation (TWNC) reserve.

“The sentence is in line with the sentence demanded by the prosecutors. We are satisfied with the heavy punishment of the 10 defendants, destroyers of the maritime environment of Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation,” Ronni Sihombing, the president commissioner of PT Adhiniaga Kreasinusa, which manages TWNC, said as quoted by Antara on Tuesday.

TWNC is affiliated with Jakarta-based Artha Graha Group, which is owned by businessman and philanthropist Tomy Winata. In its ruling on Monday, the court also fined the defendants Rp 500 million (US$36,700) each, or an additional of three months in jail if they fail to pay. Ronni said the company’s security officers arrested the defendants on Oct. 27 this year while patroling in the area.

“We warned them [the defendants] at that time, they threw bombs and dumped evidence. One boat [carrying the men] was stopped while two other boats managed to escape,” he said.

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Indonesia: Report finds Wood Legality Verification System fails to stop illegal logging

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 23 Dec 15;

Indonesia’s timber legality system has not been able to stop pulp and paper giants from using illegally sourced timber, as the system is filled with loopholes, an investigation has found.

According to the investigation, pulp and paper companies PT Adindo Hutani Lestari (AHL) and PT Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) have not been compliant with the country’s timber legality system, called the Wood Legality Verification System (SVLK), even though both firms received legal certification and continued to supply timber to pulp and paper giants.

PT AHL supplies timber to PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), which is a subsidiary of Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), Indonesia’s second-largest pulp and paper producer. PT TPL, meanwhile, is an affiliate of the Royal Golden Eagle Group according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace. APRIL is also a part of the group.

“We found that PT AHL was still opening up peatland areas [for pulp plantations in North Kalimantan],” Muhammad Kosar from the Indonesian Independent Forest Monitoring Network (JPIK) said. “Some of the peatlands even had depths of more than 3 meters.”

The investigation, conducted jointly by the JPIK and Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), also found that PT AHL still harvest their wood from natural forests, outside of its own plantation.

Kosar said that PT AHL harvested their wood unsustainably in order to meet the pulp and paper demand from PT RAPP, frustrating APRIL’s mission to stop forests being cleared for new plantations.

He based his argument on an Environment and Forestry Ministry document called the Industrial Material Fulfillment Plan (RPBBI), which showed the usage of timber sourced from natural forests from September to November 2015.

The document showed an increasing volume of timber being cut by PT AHL in North Kalimantan, from 1.07 million cubic meters in September to 1.2 million in October and 1.3 million in November. Meanwhile, the volume of timber cut by PT RAPP itself was constant during that time, with 171,630 cubic meters in Kepulauan Meranti regency and 3,421 M3 in Pelalawan regency, Riau.

“These findings indicate a form of violation of these companies’ own commitments to their own internal Sustainable Forest Management Plan [SFMP] policies. This plan is only to boost their image so that their products sell well in the global market,” Kosar said.

Earlier this year, APRIL announced PT RAPP and its suppliers had stopped harvesting from any Indonesian natural forests, four years ahead of its commitment.

According to APRIL, starting next year the company will derive all of its pulp wood from its own plantations and those of its suppliers, which now total 480,000 hectares, for its 2.8-million-ton capacity pulp mills.

Besides PT AHL, the investigation also found that PT TPL’s operation in North Sumatra was mired with land disputes and the violation of locals’ human rights.

According to Kosar, the local community living in PT TPL’s operating area is still struggling to take over management of a 3,900-square-meter customary forest from the company.

For decades the local residents used to make ends meet by harvesting incense trees from the forest. The villagers, however, are now unable to rely on the forest for their livelihoods because PT TPL, which in 1992 was granted a concession to manage 269,000 hectares of forest in North Sumatra for 35 years, started felling trees on customary land in 2009.

“The conflict there has reached boiling point, with the case falling into the hands of the National Commission on Human Rights [Komnas HAM] in 2014 but until now no resolution has been achieved because of a lack of clear boundaries between the customary forest and the concession,” Kosar said.

Despite the problems, both PT AHL and PT TPL managed to obtain SVLK certificates, issued by PT Sarbi International Certification and PT Ayamaru Sertifikasi, respectively.

“PT AHL received a ‘good’ rating in its final performance assessment result, with a score of 91 percent,” said Kosar.

Therefore, he suspected that certification agencies had failed to assess either company properly as both clearly did not meet the criteria set by the SVLK system.

Commenting on the investigative report, APRIL spokesman Agung Laksamana said that neither company was part of APRIL.

“PT AHL is a third party and short-term supplier of fibre to APRIL Group/RAPP. It is not part of the APRIL Group/RAPP and we do not have any legal relationship with PT AHL beyond a supply chain relationship,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday. “PT TPL is a publicly listed company and not a subsidiary or an affiliate of the APRIL Group. Therefore, we cannot provide any comment on this issue.”

Agung also maintained that APRIL was fully committed to its Sustainable Forest Management Plan.

“We have instructed all our suppliers to fully comply with our SFMP2.0 and more importantly not to conduct any new developments in natural forests and forested peatland. We will continue to ensure that they comply with our strict policies. However, if our suppliers are proven to have committed any violation of this policy, APRIL/RAPP will suspend the relationship with that supplier until it has proven that it has taken the necessary actions to ensure that it fully complies with all laws and regulations and with APRIL’s/RAPP’s strict policies, to ensure that such violations do not reoccur,” he said.

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