Best of our wild blogs: 27 Nov 15

NParks Pulau Ubin and Chek Jawa webpage – the improved new map (2015) and tide tables
Otterman speaks

Slugs explosion at Cyrene Reef
wonderful creation

Christmas with full moon at Terumbu Semakau
wonderful creation

Terumbu Semakau: no coral bleaching
wild shores of singapore

Why do people want to learn about wastewater treatment?
Water Quality in Singapore

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Asia Pulp & Paper: Suspended suppliers independently owned

Joyce Lim Straits Times 25 Dec 15;

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) said the two suppliers that have had their business licences suspended by the Indonesian government over accusations of illegal forest fires are independently owned.

APP also noted on Wednesday that it had suspended contracts with the firms - PT Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH) and PT Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries (SWI) - last month while investigations remained ongoing. In response to a Straits Times query, its spokesman said: "Both suppliers are independently owned and operated entities which have entered into supply contracts with APP. APP has engaged with both suppliers to clarify reports as a matter of urgency and will ensure all suppliers concerned respect this process."

APP, BMH and SWI are reportedly under the Sinar Mas Group, one of Indonesia's largest conglomerates, which has separately denied any links or affiliations with these companies.

On Monday, the Indonesian authorities released the initials - but not the full names - of 16 plantation companies it said were responsible for illegal fires that caused the haze. Their business licences have been suspended and the authorities are considering legal proceedings.

APP said as part of its zero burning policy introduced in 1996, "any supplier found to have breached this policy will be disengaged".

Two months ago, senior executives of APP and Sinar Mas told the Singapore media they did not start the fires behind the haze crisis.

Sinar Mas agribusiness and food chairman and chief executive Franky Widjaja said in a press conference that APP and its suppliers did not start the fires in South Sumatra, which have been identified as the chief source of the haze.

The region's largest manufacturer of tissue, stationery and other paper products, APP was thrust into the spotlight in September when the National Environment Agency (NEA) demanded information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as what its suppliers were doing to fight fires. NEA said that it has received information from APP following its earlier request and has sent the company another set of questions to clarify the information it has submitted.

Meanwhile, major retailers like Watsons Singapore and FairPrice are working with their suppliers to ensure they do not have links with firms that have been identified by the Indonesian government.

During the three-month-long haze, FairPrice and Watsons Singapore signed a Singapore Environment Council (SEC) declaration saying they procure their wood, paper and/or pulp materials from sustainable sources.

In response to queries from The Straits Times on Tuesday, the SEC said the council and the Consumers Association of Singapore are glad that the Indonesian government has released the initials of the companies involved in slash and burn activities which have caused the haze.

"We are monitoring the situation very closely and are waiting for the full names of the companies to be made known publicly before deciding on the next course of action," a spokesman said.

Additional reporting by Jalelah Abu Baker

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Malaysia: Sporadic flooding so far this year

RAZAK AHMAD The Star 27 Dec 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Exactly a year ago, the number of flood evacuees hit the 100,000 mark in one of the country’s worst monsoon floods on record.

This year’s north-east monsoon season is, however, turning out to be much milder, with only sporadic flooding incidents recorded so far.

The presence of a strong, dry and hot El Nino weather phenomenon that is bringing less rainfall is one reason.

“Our forecasts had predicted that the extent of possible floods during the north-east monsoon this year would not be as severe as last year.

“The occurrence of El Nino this year is one reason why,” said Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment (MetMalaysia) deputy director-general Alui Bahari.

El Nino is an irregular weather phenomenon that causes sea temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean to rise, leading to unusually heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere.

The last extreme El Nino took place in 1997-98. This had caused the hottest year on record as well as floods, cyclones, droughts and huge damage to world food production.

This year’s El Nino started in March and is expected to last for 12 months.

MetMalaysia, in a Dec 15 El Nino status update, categorised the phenomenon as “strong”.

It is expected to bring hotter and drier weather in the coming months. Temperatures in parts of the country may go up by between 0.5°C and 2°C. Less rainfall is also expected, especially in Sabah and north Sarawak.

The department, in its November update, said several incidents of heavy rain that can cause floods in the east coast peninsula states are still expected until the end of this month.

This is due to the current north-east monsoon which will only end in March.

The monsoon may also cause floods in west Sarawak in the next two months.

Coastal areas in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Johor and Negri Sembilan, however, received less-than-average rainfall last month. Kedah, Perlis, Penang and northern Perak are set to receive less-than-average rainfall next month.

Meanwhile, February next year is predicted to be slightly drier throughout the country.

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Scenes of bushfire-razed homes as Australia braces for more heatwaves

Around 116 homes southwest of Melbourne in the wooded coastal area along the Great Ocean Road tourist drive were razed as about 500 firefighters battled to put out the inferno.
Channel NewsAsia 27 Dec 15;

MELBOURNE: Residents returned Sunday (Dec 27) to charred homes after a Christmas Day bushfire in southern Australia destroyed more than 100 properties, with firefighters bracing for a new heatwave forecast in the lead-up to the new year.

Around 116 homes southwest of Melbourne in the wooded coastal area along the Great Ocean Road tourist drive were razed as about 500 firefighters battled to put out the inferno.

Scenes of burnt-out homes, blackened cars, fallen trees and downed power lines greeted residents allowed back into the zone to inspect their properties.

One of the lucky survivors was a koala bear, which was found unconscious by firefighters along a road as they fought the flames at the seaside towns.

It was nursed back to health and hand-fed water and gum leaves by Victoria Police officers, and has since reportedly been nicknamed Constable K. Bear.

Despite relief that no lives were lost and the end of the immediate fire threat to the towns, Victoria state authorities warned that some blazes -- while no longer an immediate threat -- would continue to burn for weeks.

"It's like a sleeping giant. The fire is still uncontrolled," incident controller Peter West told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of the bushfires in one of the affected seaside towns, Lorne.

"You won't see flame and lots of smoke in the air but as it heats up over the next couple of days, you will start to see that occur again."

Temperatures were also set to soar again in the lead-up to the new year, rising to as high as 38 degree Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) in some parts of the state, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

One resident, Tony Maly, recalled his horror as he watched his home and those around it go up in flames on Christmas Day.

"It was like the apocalypse," he told Melbourne's The Age newspaper late Saturday. "It was something I can't describe. It was like the world had come to an end. The colour of the sun itself was a bright orange.

"The first house that went up was right next to mine. Thirty minutes, it was gone... then the other house next to mine lit up, and I knew mine was gone."

Victoria endured devastating "Black Saturday" bushfires in 2009 that claimed the lives of 173 people.

Bushfires are a common feature of the Australian summer, with several people perishing so far this year from blazes across the country.

- AFP/rw

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