Best of our wild blogs: 29 Feb 16

The Kopi Luwak Campaign
Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

The Jubilee Whale Charity Gala Dinner
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Green Chromide (Etroplus suratensis) @ Sengkang
Monday Morgue

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S$200 fine for homes found breeding mosquitoes from Mar 14

The fine, which is currently imposed only when the home is within a dengue cluster, will be expanded to include all places of residence.
Nadia Jansen Hassan Channel NewsAsia 28 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: Starting Mar 14, the owners of homes found to be breeding mosquitoes will be fined S$200, regardless whether the home is within a dengue cluster.

Currently, enforcement action is taken only against homes within dengue clusters. The stepping up of enforcement efforts follows projections by the National Environment Agency (NEA) that the number of dengue cases could hit a record 30,000 this year.

This is due to factors such as warmer conditions brought about by the El Nino weather phenomenon, as well as faster breeding and maturation cycles of the Aedes mosquito population.

The move was announced on Sunday (Feb 28) by Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli. He was speaking at the launch of the Do the Mozzie Wipeout campaign, which took place at the Tampines West Community Club.

"Worse than dengue, there is the threat of Zika among us," said Mr Masagos. "If we can bring down the mosquito population, we will not only mitigate the problem of dengue, but we will at the same time prevent the spread of Zika."

Organised annually by the NEA, the campaign is aimed at rallying the public to take active steps to prevent mosquito breeding over a 14-day period, the equivalent of two breeding cycles.

As part of the campaign, more than 5,000 grassroots leaders and volunteers have been trained to conduct house visits, particularly in areas where there is a higher risk of dengue spreading.

These volunteers will be checking for potential breeding sites, as well as giving residents tips on dengue prevention.

NEA will be training another 5,000 volunteers to carry out such house visits.

- CNA/cy

S$200 fine for all homes found breeding mosquitoes
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 29 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — Less than two weeks after it warned that Singapore could experience its worst dengue spell this year amid the looming threat of the Zika virus landing here, the Government is taking the fight against the mosquito-borne disease up another notch. From March 14, all homes found to be breeding mosquitoes, instead of only culprits in active dengue clusters, face a S$200 fine, announced Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Sunday (Feb 28).

Speaking at the launch of the nationwide Do the Mozzie Wipeout Campaign — brought forward from the typical launch closer to the peak dengue season between June and October — Mr Masagos noted that the majority of mosquito breeding grounds are still found in homes and urged all homeowners to “take this matter seriously”.

“I ... urge all homeowners to take this matter seriously (and) take immediate steps to remove and prevent mosquito breeding. Don’t fall on the wrong side of the law,” he said, adding that the fine quantum could be increased if the latest move has “no effect”, although the current sum was enough as a deterrent from what has been observed.

“From the current enforcement that we’ve been making in the red dengue clusters, we’ve found that for most cases, when we come again the second time, the place is very clean,” said Mr Masagos. The extension of the fine, which comes under the Control of Vectors and Pesticides Act, will stay in place until any review.

The fine was introduced in February 2005 and doubled to the current S$200 in April 2008.

On Feb 18, the authorities had forecast a historic high of 30,000 dengue cases this year, nearly a third higher than the previous record of 22,170 cases in 2013, citing warmer temperatures and a change in the type of dengue virus in circulation as among the factors for the expected surge.

At the same time, Mr Masagos warned that it is “not improbable” that the Zika virus, which has been linked to thousands of cases of a birth defect in Brazil where babies are born with unusually small heads, causing brain damage, could hit Singapore. The virus is also spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits dengue fever.

As of last Friday, there have been more than 400 dengue clusters reported, with 142 of them still active — defined as those that have seen two or more cases within 14 days and are located within 150m of each other.

In total, more than 4,400 dengue cases have been reported this year, an anomalous surge for this time of the year. Last month, Mr Masagos told Parliament more than 1,000 households in dengue clusters were fined for breeding mosquitoes last year.

The latest move comes after the National Environment Agency (NEA) started the Do the Mozzie Wipeout Campaign in 2013, when Singapore had a record number of dengue cases. The authorities have also increased the number of inspections and enforcement checks, as well as introduced stiffer action on construction sites last year.

Last month alone, more than 10 notices to attend court, as well as over 10 stop-work orders, were issued against errant contractors, the NEA said. Since last year, more than 900 notices to attend court and over 100 stop-work orders have been served.

Members of Parliament lauded the move to crack down on mosquito breeding, pointing out that fighting dengue is everyone’s responsibility.

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) said residents could become more vigilant as a result. “It is a step in the right direction, because ... it should be part of our psyche and DNA to want to play a role in (fighting dengue),” he said.

Calling it a “necessary” step, Dr Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) said about three-fifths of mosquito breeding sites in Nee Soon South were found in homes.

“The fine will increase the motivation for everyone to check their homes, whether they’re in a cluster or not,” she said.

While a combination of both fines and outreach efforts is crucial, MPs said more can be done to counter the virus.

Mr Baey said house visits could go further by having volunteers point out potential problem areas, because some residents, especially the elderly, may overlook possible breeding spots and may not fully understand the precautions they must take.

Dr Lee said litter, when not cleaned up, can collect water and breed mosquitoes. “Even though we have cleaners, they cannot clean up every piece of litter ... I hope every Singaporean will pick up litter when they see it, for the safety of themselves and their loved ones,” she said.

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Malaysia: Sabah to declare three marine parks as shark sanctuaries

RUBEN SARIO The Star 28 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is set to declare three of its marine parks as shark sanctuaries by mid-2016 in a bid protect the endangered marine creatures, state Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said.

He said the Tun Sakaran marine park in Semporna district, Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park here and the proposed Tun Mustapha marine park in Kudat would be declared shark sanctuaries.

“These marine parks cover a total area of some 2mil hectares and is home to about 80% of our shark population,” said Masidi after launching the My Fin My Life campaign to reduce shark fin consumption and promote sustainable seafood here on Sunday.

He said the move to ban shark fishing at the marine parks would hopefully increase the shark population.

Masidi said his ministry’s officers were finalising documents to be tabled during the state Cabinet meeting for the three marine parks to be gazetted as shark sanctuaries.

He said the announcement would coincide with the declaration of the Tun Mustapha marine park in the middle of the year.

He said the state had no choice but to use state laws to protect Sabah’s shark population when a request to the Federal government to amend the Fisheries Act to protect marine creature was rejected.

“We only asked for shark hunting to be banned in Sabah, not in other states,” said Masidi, adding he was not afraid of being “politically incorrect” in the name of protecting the state’s natural heritage.

Last September Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that the Sabah government’s request for a ban on shark hunting and finning in the state was unnecessary.

He said sharks, unlike tuna, were accidentally caught by fishermen in Malaysian waters. This indicated that shark hunting and the finning industry did not exist in Malaysia.

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Malaysia: State govt mulls cloud seeding to combat drought in Tawau

The Star 28 Feb 16;

TAWAU: Cloud seeding will be carried out in Tawau if all other efforts cannot solve the water supply problem in the district due to drought.

State Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said the state government would discuss the move if the situation warrants it.

"The state government is aware of the problem of water shortage being faced by the residents of Tawau due to the el-Nino phenomenon," he said.

He said this after representing Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman to open the Umno Kalabakan Silver Jubilee celebration in the compound of the Umno Kalabakan office Sunday.

He urged the people of Tawau to be patient in facing the situation.

He said the government had deployed tanker lorries to ensure water supply was delivered to the residents in the district.

Meanwhile, Tawau MP Datuk Abdul Ghapur Salleh said the construction of a RM400mil dam in Kampung Cinta Mata, which would begin this year, was a long-term solution to the problem. - Bernama

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Indonesia: Dozens of hot spots already being detected around the country

Ina Parlina, The Jakarta Post 28 Feb 16;

While a substantial part of Indonesia is still in the wet season, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has recorded that a total of 69 hot spots have been detected in numerous areas in the country on Saturday — a telltale sign of a possible haze crisis.

Of the 69 hot spots, the Terra and Aqua satellites detected 14 in Riau, six in North Sumatra, three in South Aceh, 38 in East Kalimantan, one in North Kalimantan, two in Papua and four in South Sulawesi.

Although work has been carried out to contain some of the 69 hot spots, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho warned that forest and land fires “will continue as they are related to people’s habits and their way of living [through slash-and-burn practices for clearing land], poor law enforcement measures, local politics and other social issues”.

Last year, fires spread across a total of 2.61 million hectares of forest and peatland, resulting in choking haze blanketing numerous areas for about five months, including also some parts of neighboring countries. The haze left at least 21 people dead and caused respiratory problems for more than half a million people.

The fires also cost the economy Rp 221 trillion (US$16.5 billion), or around 1.9 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the BNPB. While the World Bank has estimated that Indonesia’s economy lost $16 billion due to the fires, more than double what was spent on rebuilding Aceh after the 2004 tsunami.

Efforts to extinguish the fires cost the BNPB alone around Rp 734.5 billion.

A number of efforts to anticipate potential fires this year have been taken following President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s instructions, including the formation of a special body tasked with restoring the peatland ecosystem.

Many have called on the government to step up its efforts to stop illegal logging, as well as changing the routine use of slash-and-burn, if the country is serious about ending forest and peatland fires.

“We can’t stop the [slash-and-burn] method simply by imposing a ban since the reason behind it is economic. We have to find a practical solution,” he said.

The government will continue efforts to anticipate forest fires despite predictions that this year’s dry season will not be as dry as last year, as the El Niño weather phenomenon is expected to end in April, while the onset of La Nina is thought to be able to mitigate the effects of the dry season.

“The rainy season is expected to come earlier and bring a higher intensity of rain. Such conditions will help us in dealing with forest and land fires,” Sutopo said.

The number of hot spots in Sumatra, where most of the hot spots have been reported, has fluctuated in the past couple of days.

The Pekanbaru office of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) confirmed that satellites found 23 hot spots in three provinces in Sumatra, Aceh, Riau and North Sumatra, on Saturday morning, with Riau having the most hot spots with 14.

Around 13 hotspots found in Riau’s Bengkalis regency indicated forest and land fires, said BMKG Pekanbaru head Sugarin.

Antara news wire also reported that about 163 villages out of a total of 1,800 villages and subdistricts were vulnerable to forest fires this year.

On Friday, the Terra and Aqua satellites detected 47 hot spots across Sumatra, up from 45 on Thursday afternoon, despite a downpour over the past few days.

Citing past patterns, the BNPB predicted that hot spots in Sumatra might occur mostly between June and October and in Kalimantan from July to October. As for Riau, potential fires might occur between February and April due to dry weather there.

BMKG Pekanbaru would intensify coordination with the local disaster mitigation office to anticipate any potential fires, said Sugarin.

Terra and Aqua Satellites detects 68 hotspots over Sumatra Island
Antara 28 Feb 16;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) of Pekanbaru detected 68 hotspots that dotted Sumatra Island on Sunday.

"The Terra and Aqua Satellites sensors identified 68 hotspots today, the highest number identified in this week," Head of Data and Information Center of Pekanbaru BMKG Slamet Riyadi said here on Sunday.

Two provinces which have the most hotspots were Riau with 28 and North Sumatra with 17 hotspots.

Meanwhile, Bengkulu was dotted with nine hotspots, Aceh with seven hotspots, West Sumatra with six hotspots, and Riau Island with only one of them.

The satellite imagery showed that the 28 hotspots in Riau spread in some districts namely Bengkalis (19), Pelalawan (5), Siak (3), and Indragiri Hilir (1) with a confidence level above 70 percent.

Meanwhile, Head of Pekanbarus BMKG Sugarin said the number of hotspots in Riau Province follow the trend of increasing occurrence especially in its coastal of southern region.

"The southern coast of Riau tend to have a faster arrival of the dry season compared to those of the north," Sugarin said.

Previously, local Regional Military Command (Korem) has stated 164 out of around 1,800 villages in Riau are prone to forest and land fires following the incoming dry season.

(Reporting by Muhammad Said/Uu.A059/A014)

Minister orders early containment of fires in Kalimantan, Sumatra
Haeril Halim, Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 29 Feb 16;

The Home Ministry has ordered local administrations in Kalimantan and Sumatra to launch preventive measures to contain forest fire after the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) discovered a growing number of hot spots in the two provinces.

In Sumatra, small fires were detected in 68 locations on Sunday, which, if not tackled immediately could grow bigger to become forest fires in the near future. Satellite data also showed 38 hot spots in East Kalimantan and one in North Kalimantan on the same day.

The ministry said on Sunday that local administrations in the two provinces had followed up on its instructions by launching a joint operation with local branches of the BNPB, the police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) to contain the growing hot spots.

Failures to contain hot spots last year resulted in the burning of 2.61 million hectares of forest and peatlands in Sumatra and Kalimantan, causing a choking haze for about five months and leaving 21 people dead and more than a half-a-million people suffering from respiratory problems.

“Local administrations [must also] map areas prone to fires in their jurisdictions. They are cooperating with all related parties including the police, the TNI, social and health agencies and the Indonesian Red Cross [PMI],” Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo told The Jakarta Post.

A problem with the instruction is that failure to comply with it carries no punishment or sanctions for local officers, but Tjahjo said that tight monitoring would be carried out by the ministry to ensure that local leaders did their best to prevent forest fires.

“If they cannot afford preventative action [...] they should make a report to the central government,” Tjahjo added.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho confirmed on Sunday that local efforts had been made in Sumatra and Kalimantan to put out the growing small fires, and had already decreased the number of hot spots from 69 in Sumatra and 24 in East Kalimantan on Saturday.

However, the number of fires in North Kalimantan increased to four on Sunday due to intensive land clearing by local farmers.

“Kutai Kartanegara and East Kutai [regencies] started to see fires 2 weeks ago. Our satellite always detects new fires there. It means that new land clearing keeps happening,” Sutopo added.

Last year’s fire crisis cost the economy Rp 221 trillion (US$16.5 billion), or around 1.9 percent of the country’s GDP, or more than double what was spent on rebuilding Aceh after the 2004 tsunami.

In addition, efforts to extinguish the fires cost the BNPB alone around Rp 734.5 billion. That amount does not include the hundreds of billions of rupiah spent by related ministries and government agencies on fire-containment efforts last year.

Fire-containment efforts in Kalimantan and Sumatra this year include the establishment of canal separators in a number places, Sutopo explained, adding that “any emergence of new fires will be automatically dealt with by local officers”.

Although it is difficult to imagine no fires at all in Kalimantan and Sumatra due to the huge area of peatlands and forests prone to fires there, this year’s fires are expected to be far less serious than last year’s because 2016 has seen a relatively wet dry season compared with 2015.

“The El Niño weather phenomenon is expected to end in April, then the onset of La Niña will be stronger which will make this year’s dry season relatively wet across Indonesia. This situation will assist fire containment efforts for the whole year,” Sutopo added.

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Indonesia: Jakarta Suburbs Report Heavy Flooding, Landslide

Vento Saudale Jakarta Globe 28 Feb 16;

Jakarta. While Jakarta suffered relatively minor inundations after hours of rain on Sunday (28/02) morning, its suburbs reported massive flooding and a landslide.

The overflowing Cimanceuri river in Tangerang, just west of the capital, forced hundreds of residents from 10 nearby villages to evacuate their homes as water levels reached up to 80 centimeters in height. There have been no injuries so far.

“We are trying to get the central government to dredge the river , because it is their responsibility,” said district head Ahmed s Zaki Iskandar.

Meanwhile, five housing complexes in Depok, on the southern outskirts of Jakarta, have been inundated by rainwater reaching nearly one meter in height.

Heavy rain also triggered a landslide in Bogor, where mud from a 30-meter cliffside collapsed onto a house in the village of Bubulak. No casualty was reported.

Floods inundate 10 villages in Tangerang
Antara 28 Feb 16;

Tangerang (ANTARA News) - Floods inundated thousands of houses in 10 villages in Tangerang District of Banten Province on Sunday.

Head of Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency of Tangerang Teteng Jumara said here Sunday that the high intensity rain over the last two days had caused the local Cimanceuri River to overflow its banks and and sent floods to the region.

Water reaching 40 until 80 cm has inundated ten villages in the region namely Gelam, Kadu Agung, Pasir Nangka, Cibadak, Jengkol, Gelam Jaya, Mekar Sari, Klebet, Pagedangan Ilir, and the Permata Housing.

The villages spread to several subdistricts such as Tigarakasa, Kresek, Rajeg, Kemiri and Kronjo.

"Residents whose houses are inundated have been evacuated to some secure locations such as religious buildings and schools," Jumara said.

Some villagers have also evacuated themselves to the houses of their relatives which are not affected by the floods.

Local authority has established emergency tents and public kitchens to help the victims and some disaster mitigation posts in Tigaraksa, Pasar Kemis, Rajeg , Kronjo and Cikupa to monitor the disaster mitigation and coordination.

Some logistics have been distributed to the victims such as rice, blankets, instant noodles, baby food, mineral water and biscuits.

(Reporting by Adityawarman/Uu.A059/A014)

Bogor's Katulampa Dam at Level Four Alert, Jakarta Braces for Floods
Jakarta Globe 28 Feb 16;

Bogor. The Greater Jakarta area faces a high risk of floods as hours of rain on Sunday (28/02) morning raised the water level at Bogor's Katulampa dam, raising the alert level to four.

Rain of medium intensity started at about 5 a.m. on Sunday in Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Bekasi, as well as the West Java districts of Karawang, Subang, Purwakarta, Cianjur and Sukabumi, lasting approximately six hours. By 8.15 a.m., however, the water level of Ciliwing River at Katulampa dam had jumped from 20 centimeters to 70 centimeters.

“And by 8:39 a.m., [the water level] had reached 80 centimeters, which is a level four alert. We predict that it would increase as rain continues to fall in [the hilly resort area of] Puncak,” Katulampa monitoring chief Andi told state-run news agency Antara.

According to Bogor's Weather, Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency, the rain will continue to pour through the evening, warning Jakarta of flooding within the next 12 hours.

The Duri Kepa church in West Jakarta is already inundated by waters of up to 30 centimeters in height. Similar flooding have been reported in the Tangerang neighborhoods of Kosambi, Periuk Damai and Prima, on the western outskirts of the capital.

Meanwhile, flooding on Jalan AMD X Kreo in Ciledug, Tangerang, and Pondok Labu in South Jakarta has reached 1.5 meters.

Officials are also urging drivers to exercise caution when passing through the Kebon Jeruk toll gate in West Jakarta, due to water levels of up to 20 centimeters in height.

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Indonesia: Traditional markets to join pay-per-plastic bag program

Ni Komang Erviani, The Jakarta Post 29 Feb 16;

As modern retailers begin to implement the plastic reduction policy, traditional markets in Bali are following suit.

At Agung Peninjoan traditional market in Denpasar, vendors have stopped using plastic bags and now use paper bags instead.

One seller, Kadek Sariasih, said she was more than happy to support the plastic reduction policy by using paper bags, which are provided by the market’s operator.

“I feel happy giving paper bags to customers instead of plastic bags. I used to use plastic to pack the things in,” said 29-year-old Sariasih while putting a big load of chilis into a paper bag for a customer.

Recently, the market’s management launched a program that required sellers to change to paper bags, making it one of two traditional markets — the other being Sindu market in Sanur — to participate in the plastic diet.

Head of Agung Peninjoan market’s management, Nyoman Suwarta, said the program was aimed at educating vendors and customers about the danger of plastic for the environment.

As a start, the operator made the paper bags by themselves and distributed 300 to each vendor during the program’s launch.

But with a total of around 350 vendors, Suwarta admitted that the first lot was far from enough to replace plastic bags altogether. “The paper bags are only part of our attempt to raise awareness. We hope that vendors will make paper bags by themselves in the future,” Suwarta said.

A few modern retailers in Bali have implemented the plastic bag policy, such as Alfamart and Hardy’s, and some will start implementing it in the near future.

Denpasar Environment Agency head Anak Agung Bagus Sudharsana said the plastic bag payment program would be implemented in several phases. “Our target is for all modern retailers and traditional market in Denpasar to have implemented the plastic bag policy by June on World Environment Day,” he said.

He said the policy was expected to reduce plastic garbage in the city by around 30 percent. Denpasar produces at least 3,200 cubic meters of garbage every day, 30 percent of which is plastic.

Bali Environment Education Center (PPLH) stated that the policy should be accompanied by other programs to make it more effective.

PPLH director Catur Yudha Haryani said the policy would be useless if the price of plastic bags was too cheap, adding it should be set at Rp 3,000 (22 US cents) per bag in traditional markets and Rp 5,000 in modern supermarket.

Plastic bag charge levied on customers too low: Bandung mayor
Antara 29 Feb 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Mayor of Bandung Ridwan Kamil believes that the price of a plastic bag at Rp200, or less than two cents, being charged to customers is too low.

"For metropolitan cities, it is too cheap," the mayor stated here, Sunday.

The price will be evaluated in June 2016, and he hopes that it would be increased to more than Rp two thousand per bag.

"It should be higher than the charge for using public toilets at Rp two thousand, I think," he noted.

As the mayor of Bandung, which is a shopping tourism destination, Kamil has expressed his support to the governments policy to charge shoppers who ask for plastic bags.

Most of the waste in the capital of West Java comprises plastic, according to a survey conducted by the citys urban planning unit.

"A study conducted by the urban planning unit revealed that floods in Bandung were caused by wastes blocking the sewage system, and 70 percent of the waste was plastic," Kamil remarked.

It is time to encourage the people to carry their own shopping bags to markets, he added.

Effective from February 21, customers in 23 cities have to pay for the plastic bags they use to take home their purchases.(*)

Ambon Legislator Laments 'Flawed' Implementation of Paid Plastic Bag Policy
Vonny Litamahuputty & Jeis Montesori Jakarta Globe 1 Mar 16;

Ambon. A legislator in Ambon, Maluku province, has criticized the central government's implementation of the new policy that requires businesses to charge for plastic shopping bags, saying that it has led to confusion and discrepancies.

Ambon is one of 20 cities nationwide to adopt the policy, initiated by the Ministry for the Environment in an effort to reduce pollution caused by plastic bags. The ministry has however provided provincial and local governments with the discretion to formulate how much customers would have to pay for plastic bags.

"Some [retailers in Ambon] charge anything between Rp 500 and Rp 5,000 [4 cents to 40 cents] per bag, with no regulations to refer to. This disadvantages customers," Ambon Legislative Council member Jusuf Latumeten said on Tuesday (01/03).

Jusuf urged the city administration to reconsider the program, saying that it is placing a heavy burden on local residents amid the poor economic conditions in the city.

City secretary A.G. Latuheru said his office would evaluate the situation and formulate the best price customers should pay for plastic shopping bags.

"We will fix every flaw so that the policy will bring good to the people instead of burdening them," he said.

Indonesia ranks second to China as the world's largest producers of plastic waste, generating an estimated 187.2 million tons per year, according to a study published in the journal Science last year.

Education crucial to success of plastic bag charge policy: Observer
Antara 3 Mar 16;

Padang (ANTARA News) - Education and public awareness campaigns are crucial for the success of the governments plastic bag charge policy aimed at reducing the volume of plastic wastes, according to an environmental expert.

If the objective of levying a charge on the use of plastic bags is intended to conserve the environment, then it should be made known to the public through education and public awareness campaigns, Fadjar Goembira of the University of Andalas stated here.

Goembira observed that some customers were still bewildered on being asked to pay for plastic bags that they will take home. They thought it was based on economic consideration, he added.

"The objective and goal of applying the plastic bag charge policy should be explained in detail," he remarked.

The government should offer a detailed explanation to the public that the policy is aimed at reducing plastic wastes that have serious impacts on the environment.

Once the people become aware of the impacts of plastic wastes on the environment, they would voluntarily bring their own shopping bags from home, he pointed out.

Goembira suggested that the government should regularly evaluate and monitor the implementation of its policy to gauge the extent of its success or failure.

Plastic bag charge too low to have any impact, sniffs mayor
Ganug Nugroho Adi and Andi Hajramurni, The Jakarta Post 8 Mar 16;

The administration of Surakarta, Central Java, has withdrawn from a national policy that requires modern retailers to charge customers for plastic bags, deeming the initiative unlikely to cut plastic bag consumption.

Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi Rudyatmo said that the charge, at Rp 200 (15 US cents) per bag, was too low to serve as a deterrent, as is intended.

“The plastic bag policy will not change people’s habits, especially because plastic bags are sold for only Rp 200. If the price were set at Rp 20,000 per bag, people would choose to bring their own bags,” Rudy said at Surakarta city hall on Monday.

The Jakarta administration has also withdrawn from the program, and will instead enforce a 2013 bylaw on waste management, which Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja said was sufficient to reduce plastic waste.

The policy was issued by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya on National Waste Awareness Day through a circular, and stipulates that retailers must not give plastic bags to customers for free, but must charge at least Rp 200 for each bag.

An agreement between the Indonesian Retailers Association (Aprindo) and city administrations was recently signed in Makassar, South Sulawesi, also on National Waste Awareness Day.

When the initiative was launched, the Surakarta administration said it had been encouraging people to take their own non-plastic bags when shopping. If modern shops still provided paid plastic bags, Rudy said, the plastic reduction policy would be meaningless.

He went on that the administration would cooperate with the Surakarta branch of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), as well as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to produce shopping bags from non-plastic and recycled materials such as recyclable paper, rattan, natural fibers and coconut leaves.

The mayor is also considering asking private companies, through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, to participate in the plan.

“We will sit down and discuss programs to produce recycled shopping bags,” Rudy said.

Separately, Surakarta Kadin chair Sri Haryanto said that businesspeople in the city would support the efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags, adding that Kadin was engaged in discussions with a number of MSMEs to produce environmentally friendly shopping bags.

“I think such programs could benefit MSMEs. We hope they will come up with creative products to increase the choices available,” Sri said.

Meanwhile, modern retailers in Surakarta are ready to comply with Rudi’s instructions.

Alfamart regional spokesperson Firly Firlandia said the company had applied the policy according to the circular issued by the environment ministry.

Responding to the mayor’s instruction to ignore the policy, however, Firly said that Alfamart would fully support the instruction, but added that the management would first wait for an official letter from the city administration regarding the matter.

“We are in support of reducing plastic waste. Doing so is in the interests of everyone. However, before implementing the [mayor’s] instruction, we first need a legal basis, for example a mayoral regulation or a circular from the city administration. We need something official,” Firly said.

Surakarta produces 260 tons of garbage every day, 20 percent of which is plastic, and only 10 percent recyclable.

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As sea levels rise, economic damage piles up even faster: study

Alister Doyle Reuters Yahoo News 29 Feb 16;

OSLO (Reuters) - As sea levels rise, threatening cities from New York to Shanghai, the economic damage will increase even faster, scientists said on Monday.

Extreme floods whipped up by storms will become ever more costly for cities as ocean levels edge up around the world's coasts in coming decades, they wrote in a study that could help guide governments budgeting to protect everything from buildings and basements to metro systems.

"The damage from sea level rise rises faster than sea level rise itself," co-author Juergen Kropp, part of a team at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told Reuters of the findings.

For the Danish capital Copenhagen, for instance, a moderate sea level rise of 11 cm (4 inches) by 2050 from 2010 levels would cause about a billion euros ($1.1 billion) a year in extra damage if no protective action is taken, the study estimated.

But the costs would quadruple to 4 billion euros if the rate of sea level rise roughly doubles to 25 cm by 2050, in line with the worst scenarios projected by a U.N. scientific panel, they wrote in the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences.

World sea levels are creeping higher, the U.N. panel says, partly because global warming is adding water to the oceans by melting glaciers from the Andes to the Alps and parts of vast ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica.

The Potsdam scientists said that mathematical models they developed to estimate rising costs would work around the world. "You can apply it in Tokyo, New York or Mumbai," Kropp said.

The exact costs of sea level rise, which could in the worst case reach about a metre by 2100, are extremely uncertain.

One study in 2014 estimated it could cost anywhere from 0.3 percent to 9 percent of world gross domestic product a year by 2100.

Jochen Hinkel of the Global Climate Forum in Berlin, the lead author of that study, said it illustrated vast risks but was based on the implausible assumption that governments would take no protective action.

Building coastal barriers would be far cheaper, Hinkel said.

"People have adapted to sea-level rise in the past and will do so in the future," he said, noting protective measures for cities such as Tokyo or Jakarta, which have been sinking relative to sea level because of local subsidence.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Mark Heinrich

When sea levels rise, damage costs rise even faster
EurkAlert 28 Feb 16;

Damages from extreme events like floods are even more relevant than the mean sea level itself when it comes to the costs of climate impacts for coastal regions. However, while it is now rather well understood how sea-levels will rise in the future, only small progress has been made estimating how the implied damage for cities at the coasts will increase during the next decades. A team of scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now provides a method to quantify monetary losses from coastal floods under sea-level rise. For the first time, the scientists show that the damage costs consistently increase at a higher rate than the sea-level rise itself.

"When sea levels rise, damage costs rise even faster, our analyses show," explains Markus Boettle, lead author of the study published in the journal Natural Hazards and the Earth System. Rising sea levels as a major impact of climate change pose a risk for coastal regions - the mean regional sea level rise takes effect by more frequent and more intense coastal flood events. "At the same time, the severity of flood impacts is not only determined by environmental factors, but also to a significant extent by human decisions: flood defense measures can counteract the increasing flood risk," says Boettle. "Our study illustrates that the complexity of climate change, adaptation, and flood damage can be disentangled by surprisingly simple mathematical functions to provide estimates of the average annual costs of sea-level rise over a longer time period."

The scientists developed a method that translates the occurrence probability of flood events into the probability of inundation damage. Expected regional sea level rise is taken into account by separating two components, namely the increasing number of events and the increasing severity of each one. Moreover, potential flood defense measures like dikes or sea walls can be included into the calculations as they prevent or mitigate damages from storm surges.

Flood risks, damages, adaptation

Although coastal cities are different around the world and also flood-related threats have their own characteristics at different coasts, the scientists found general results. "Our equations basically work in Mumbai, New York, Hamburg - Pacific, Atlantic, or North Sea. In any location worldwide the same simple and universal expressions hold true," says co-author Jürgen Kropp, deputy chair of PIK research domain Climate Impacts & Vulnerabilities. For an exemplary implementation of their method, the scientists applied it to the city of Copenhagen in Denmark: They found that a moderate mean sea level rise of 11 centimeters until mid-century would in the same period double economic losses in this city, given no action is taken.

"A concise assessment of potential economic consequences is indispensable for appraising the efficiency of adaptation measures," explains co-author Diego Rybski. "Even when temperatures stabilize, sea levels will continue to rise and shape our coastlines for future generations. So, additional preventive measures need to be considered in addition to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, to help coastal regions especially in transition and developing countries to adapt and to limit damage costs."

A large share of the world population lives in coastal regions

Nevertheless, some constraints of the methodology remain, which was developed in the broader context of the European-funded RAMSES project. For instance, extreme events and attributed damages are not evenly distributed in time - there are years without any damage at all and others when quite unlikely floods may occur. The approach cannot forecast single events and associated damages, but estimates damage expectations over longer time-spans. Despite of the lack of knowledge regarding the timing of the extreme events, the statistical spreading of damage over years has been quantified by the researchers.

"A large share of the world population lives in coastal regions," says Jürgen Kropp, director of the RAMSES project. "In the light of limited funds for adaptation it is an asset to provide comparable cost assessments. While mitigation remains of vital importance to keep climate impacts on a still manageable scale, an adaptation perspective can help to limit damage costs in the right places."


Article: Boettle, M., Rybski, D., Kropp, J.P. (2016): Quantifying the effect of sea level rise and flood defence - a point process perspective on coastal flood damage. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences.

Weblink to the article once it is published:

Weblink to RAMSES project:

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 28 Feb 16

Keeping hopes high -valuing Singapore’s nature reserves over more infrastructure
Nature rambles

Towards A Zero-Impact Cross Island Line
IPS Commons

Launch of the Ubin Living Lab at the former Celestial Resort
The Long and Winding Road

Larval Host Plant for Butterflies: Yellow Cow Wood
Butterflies of Singapore

A Cinnamon Ang Pow
Singapore Bird Group

Nesting of the White-breasted Waterhen
Singapore Bird Group

Read more!

First car-free Sunday launched

SIAU MING EN Today Online 28 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — The roads around the Civic District and parts of the Central Business District were taken over by cyclists, joggers and pedestrians on Singapore’s first car-free Sunday (Feb 28).

The morning event was flagged off by the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong outside the National Gallery Singapore slightly past 7am.

This also kicks off a six-month pilot by the Urban Redevelopment Authority to promote a “car-lite” lifestyle. Such car-free days will be held on the last Sunday of each month.

Roads around the Padang, together with Fullerton Road, were fully closed to vehicles from 7am to 9am.

St Andrew’s Road and part of Stamford Road will remain closed until 12pm while Connaught Drive will be closed until 7pm. Shenton Way and Robinson Road will also be partially closed, creating a car-free walking, running and cycling route of approximately 4.7km.

Bicycles are available for rent at Connaught Drive, for people to cycle along the car-free route.

Various activities are also organised along the 4.7km route, including an outdoor yoga session at the Esplanade Park and an area for members to try their hand at various sports such as three-a-side basketball and mini tennis at the Padang.

Food trucks will also be parked along Connaught Drive till 7pm and some people were seen having a picnic at the Empress Lawn.

The National Gallery Singapore, Asian Civilisations Museum and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall also adjusted their opening hours to open at 9am.

Car-free in the city
Benson Ang THE STRAITS TIMES AsiaOne 27 Feb 16;

On Sunday evening, Ms Cheong Mei Yan, 24, will be doing yoga in a mass outdoor session at the Esplanade Park.

And, unlike on a typical weekday, she will not see busy executives hurrying through the park or hear the noise of traffic.

Sunday is the first Car-Free Sunday SG, where the Civic District and parts of the Central Business District (CBD) will be closed to traffic. The initiative is part of a move towards a car-lite Singapore.

The car-free day will take place on the last Sunday of every month till July. The roads that will be closed include a stretch of Fullerton Road - from Connaught Drive to Maxwell Road - Robinson Road and Connaught Drive.

The roads will be given over to walkers, joggers and cyclists.

The mass yoga session is among a slew of activities - most are free - lined up for that day to liven up the Civic District and parts of the CBD, which is usually deserted on weekends.

Ms Cheong, an assistant e-marketing manager, says: "I like doing yoga outdoors because the air is fresh. With the noisy cars gone, I'm sure it will be easier to relax and focus.

"Doing yoga in an iconic park, surrounded by many of Singapore's historical landmarks, will also be an experience. Going car-free is beneficial to the environment and I'm sure the activities will be fun."

Her mother, a 58-year-old freelance personal trainer, will join her at the free session.

Mr Woon Taiwoon, 40, co-founder of cycling group Love Cycling SG, will lead a group of cyclists in a mass walking, jogging and cycling session from 7 to 9am.

More than 60 people have signed up, but he is open to others joining them during the event.

He says: "We will be cycling at a leisurely pace, so those on rollerblades and skateboards, as well as those cycling with family members or have pets with them, can join us.

"This meaningful event makes the city more liveable and is a pleasant way to experience the city."

Other activities include walking tours, street performances and concerts.

There will be a breakfast picnic and night stalls selling local fare. Several eateries will also open earlier to cater to the morning crowd.



This will take place along a 4.7km route, including stretches along Shenton Way and Robinson Road. It will be flagged off by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, and National Development minister Lawrence Wong.

Where: Flag-off in front of National Gallery Singapore

When: 7 to 9am

Admission: Free, no registration needed



The Health Promotion Board and Sport Singapore will jointly organise free sessions in the morning for zumba (11/2 hours), piloxing (45 minutes) and KpopX fitness (45 minutes) at the Empress Lawn, in front of the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.

The health board will also organise hour-long zumba and Bollyrobics sessions in the evening at Connaught Drive.

Where: Empress Lawn (morning sessions); Connaught Drive (evening sessions)

When:7.30am (zumba), 9am (piloxing) and 9.45am (KpopX fitness); 5pm (zumba) and 6pm (Bollyrobics)

Admission: Free,no registration needed



Yoga company Yoga Seeds will hold two hour-long sessions - in the morning and in the evening.

Where: Esplanade Park

When: 7.30am (hatha yoga) and 5.30pm (sunset yoga flow)

Admission: Free, registration is encouraged

Info: To register, go to


You can play basketball, football, mini tennis and traditional sports such as chaptek for free.

Ex-national football stars Aleksandar Duric and T. Pathmanathan will be present to conduct football activities for children.

Where: Esplanade Park, the Padang and Empress Lawn

When: 7am to noon

Admission: Free, no registration needed



Cycling group Love Cycling SG is organising a bike-to-work buddy initiative to encourage experienced riders to cycle from three heartland locations - Kembangan, Clementi and Bishan-to the event.

The Bishan group is starting at the McDonald's outlet in Bishan Park. It will not accept any more participants.

The other two groups will start at Kembangan and Clementi MRT stations.

All three groups hope to reach the Padang by 8.10am.

Bicycles can be rented from bike rental companies listed on

Rollerblades, unicycles, wheelchairs, prams and kateboards are also allowed on the roads, but not motorised transportation devices, such as hoverboards, e-bikes and Segways.

Where: Kembangan and Clementi MRTstations

When: 7am

Admission: Free with registration

Info:To register, go to

Family-friendly fun


Children can enjoy origami, sketching and plant propagation activities.

Where: Esplanade Park

When: 7am to 7pm

Admission: Free



Organised by the Land Transport Authority, participants are encouraged to look out for five posters along the route around the Padang and within the CBD.

They are asked to take photos with these posters and share the photos on Instagram with the hashtag #walkcyclerideCBD.

After they have found all the posters, they can go to the organiser's booth in Connaught Drive to claim a prize.

Participants do not need to form groups, but are welcome to take part in the activity with their families and friends.

Where: Throughout the CBD

When: 7am to noon

Admission: Free, no registration required


Pamper yourself


The Fullerton Spa in The Fullerton Hotel has introduced two new spa packages to coincide with Car-Free Sunday .

Its Back To Mile Zero treatment refreshes and supports tired feet with a specially selected combination of essential oils.

The 45-minute session costs $80, which is the usual price for a 30-minute treatment.

There is also the Post Office treatment to relieve stress in the back, shoulders, arms and head, using de-stress muscle gel and de-stress massage oil infused with rosemary, lavender, black pepper and ginger. The 60-minute treatment costs $128.

The packages will still be available at the spa after Sunday.

Where: The Fullerton Spa, 1 Fullerton Square, The Fullerton Hotel

When: 10am to 10pm

Prices: $80 (Back ToMile Zero) and $128 (Post Office)

Info: To book, call 6877-8182 or e-mail



Stalls set up at the Empress Lawn will sell local delights such as roti prata, nasi lemak and mee rebus.

Where: Empress Lawn

When: 7am to noon

Admission: Free, pay for food



A truck from The Travelling C.O.W., which has a cafe at CT Hub in Kallang Avenue, will sell seafood laksa pasta ($8), chilli crab nachos ($6) and mini burgers ($6).

Another truck from Coffee Bandits will sell its speciality coffees ($4.50 to $6), coney dogs ($6) and nachos with cheese sauce ($5).

This truck can be found at SLF Building in Thomson Road on Thursdays and at Fusionopolis 1 near One-North MRT station on Fridays.

Where: Connaught Drive

When: 8am to 7pm

Admission: Free, pay for food



Two of its eateries will open earlier. Padang Cafe, which opened three weeks ago, serves dishes such as rendang chicken-spiced sandwiches and veggie quiches. It will open 11/2 hours earlier at 8am.

The Gallery & Co museum store, which houses a cafeteria and bar, will open an hour earlier at 9am. It will have two promotions on Sunday. Customers get a free non-alcoholic drink if they spend $25 or more at the store and those who buy a beef brisket and kimchi burger can top up $5 for a bottle of Asahi beer (usual price $10) or $10 for a bottle of craft beer (usual price $16).

The store's marketing manager, Ms Cheryl Ho, 31, says: "We are introducing these promotions to catch some of the crowd on Car-Free Sunday. Hopefully, they will join us for lunch and maybe stay on after that. This area is usually a little quiet on Sunday mornings, but we hope many more will show up this Sunday."

Padang Cafe

Where: 1 Saint Andrew's Road, National Gallery Singapore

When: 8am to 5pm

Gallery & Co

Where: 1 Saint Andrew's Road, National Gallery Singapore, City Hall Wing, 01-05

When: 9am to 10pm

Info: see-do/shopping-and-dining


The Prive cafe, which serves items such as eggs Benedict, home-style buttermilk pancakes and its signature wagyu beef burger, will open an hour earlier at 8am. The cafe offers a 10 per cent discount to museumv isitors.

Empress restaurant, which serves Chinese cuisine such as its triple roast platter of char siew, crackling roast pork and sweet and sticky pork ribs, will open as usual.

Prive ACM

Where: 1 Empress Place, 01-02

When: 8am to 10.30pm



Where: 1 Empress Place, 01-03

When: 11.30am to 3pm, 6 to 11pm



The Clifford Pier restaurant will serve a heritage dim sum brunch, with classics such as steamed siew mai with tobiko roe, steamed pork ribs in fermented black bean sauce and steamed custard buns.

The brunch spread also consists of hearty local delights such as Nonya popiah, kueh pie tee, laksa with tiger prawns, fried carrot cake, Hainanese chicken rice, soup kambing and rickshaw noodles with braised pork belly.

Where: 80 Collyer Quay

When: 11.30am to 2.30pm

Admission: $48 (adult), $24 (child)



Its outlets in the Central Business District will open on Sunday as usual.

Where: 30 Raffles Place, Chevron House, 01-37; 252 North Bridge Road, Raffles City, 01-45; 35 Robinson Road, Sofitel So, 01-05

When: Various timings, go to


This is the only pre-event activity and takes place tomorrow instead of on Sunday.

Feast on satay and other local fare while enjoying performances by home-grown live bands Jack & Rai and Jive Talkin'.

A song request station will take requests from the audience.

Where: Empress Lawn

When: Tomorrow, 6 to 10.30pm

Admission: Performances are free, pay for food


Cultural activities


It will open at 7am, three hours earlier than usual. Performances on Sunday include a play by Pangdemonium, The Effect, a psycho-romantic comedy-drama about a beautiful psychology student and a charming slacker who are "guinea pigs" in an experiment.

Classical music concert Dohanyi & Shostakovich will also take place at the Victoria Concert Hall.

The Effect

Where: 9 Empress Place, Victoria Theatre

When: 3pm

Admission: Tickets at $40, $50 and $60from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to

Dohanyi & Shostakovich

Where: Victoria Concert Hall

When: 4pm

Admission: Tickets at $20 from Sistic


It will open an hour earlier at 9am. Do not miss two new exhibitions, A Fact Has No Appearance: Art Beyond The Object, which opened last month and investigates the impact of new ideas on South-east Asian art in the 1970s; and Earth Work 1979, which recreates an original 1980 exhibition by Singapore artist Tang Da Wu.

Where: 1 Saint Andrew's Road, 01-01

When: 9am to 7pm

Admission: Free for Singaporeans and permanent residents, $20 for non-Singaporeans



The one-hour tour is conducted by docents from the National Gallery Singapore and covers highlights of the building's facade, including stories of the friezes and tympanum. There is also a brief introduction of the Civil District and the gallery.

Where: Meet outside the gallery's Padang Atrium entrance

When: 9.30 and 9.45am (English); 10am(Mandarin)

Admission: Free, no registration required

Info: about/news/press-room/ car-free-sunday-2016


It will open at 9am, an hour earlier than usual. Check out the museum's new galleries, which opened in November.

The Khoo Teck Puat Gallery, for example, houses the famous Tang Shipwreck Collection - a virtual time capsule of treasures from 9th century China that was discovered in 1998.

The new Kwek Hong Png Wing has a Scholar in Chinese Culture Gallery, which focuses on objects associated with revered Chinese scholars, as well as the courts of emperors and merchants who sought to emulate them.

Where: 1 Empress Place

When: 9am to 7pm

Admission: Free for Singaporeans, permanent residents and children aged six and younger; $8 for others



Performers such as lion dancers, stilt walkers, martial arts performers, Chinese drummers, instrumentalists, mime artists and balloon sculptors will take to the streets.

Where: Connaught Drive, Esplanade Park and Empress Place

When: 9am to 6pm

Admission: Free



Conducted by NParks, this 11/2-hour guided tour features historical landmarks as well as heritage and interesting trees in the Civic District. The tour starts at Cavenagh Bridge, near the mouth of the Singapore River, which was once the heart of Singapore's commercial activity and entrepot trade. It goes through Empress Place and Esplanade Park before ending at the War Memorial Park.

Where: Meet at the entrance of Cavenagh Bridge on the side of the Asian Civilisations Museum

When: 10 and 11.30am and 4pm

Admission: Free, no registration needed



Organised by The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, this hour-long tour takes participants to discover the history of the former Fullerton building, now The Fullerton Hotel, which has been gazetted as Singapore's 71st national monument.

Limited to 20 people, the tour ends with a local breakfast experience, which includes kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs, soya bean milk and local coffee, at the hotel's Post Bar.

Where: Meet at The Fullerton Hotel's concierge

When: 8 to 11am

Admission: $18 (adult), $9 (child); registration is required


Car-free Sundays a hit, could be expanded
SIAU MING EN Today Online 29 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — Car-free events could get bigger and be set up more frequently or in more places — even in the heartlands — said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Sunday (Feb 28), as he urged for attitudes to shift towards viewing such initiatives as a way of creating public spaces for people to enjoy.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the first car-free Sunday held in the Civic District and parts of the Central Business District yesterday, the largest such event to date, which attracted thousands who turned up to exercise, feast and relax with friends and family.

It was the first in a six-month pilot to drive a “car-lite” culture here, in which traffic is shut out to create a walking, running and cycling route of approximately 4.7km in the city centre and where various activities such as an arts zone for children, food trucks and historical walking trails are held. The event is scheduled for the last Sunday of each month.

Mr Wong said if response in subsequent editions “gets even better” than the encouraging turnout on Sunday, the event could be expanded to a larger area or be held more regularly. He added that some places could even be converted into permanent car-free zones eventually, provided the public buys into the idea.

“It’s a conversation that needs to be done with the different stakeholders, we can’t just close off the road without support from the different stakeholders,” he said.

“Once people get used to the idea that closing off roads is not just preventing cars from using the roads, but creating more public spaces for Singaporeans and for people to enjoy, they (will) see the positive side of it. I hope that then it will bring about a change of mindset that being car-lite is not just a negative thing, it’s not just reducing car usage; but it’s a positive thing, we are gaining something from it.”

Over the years, the number of streets that are periodically closed to traffic has grown. Club Street, Circular Road and Haji Lane are among the locations holding such events.

Those who attended Sunday’s event praised it for standing out, noting that there was a wide variety of activities to keep them occupied and gave families a chance to come together on a Sunday morning.

Cyclists, in-line skaters and those on kick-scooters zipped along several closed roads, including St Andrew’s Road, Fullerton Road and Shenton Way; yogis gathered for an outdoor workout at Esplanade Park, and young and old partook in aerobic and dance workouts at Empress Lawn. Nearby, sports enthusiasts tried their hand at games, including mini-tennis and touch rugby.

Others tucked into breakfast fare served up from two food trucks parked along Connaught Drive or sold by vendors near Empress Lawn. The Kids’ Zone at Esplanade Park was also packed with young families, as children flocked to the bouncing castles and participated in the origami and sketching activities.

“I always like to come for such carnivals and this one has quite a nice ambience for everybody to enjoy on a Sunday morning. And it’s a good (event) to get people out (of their houses),” said pre-school educator Iris Lim, 42.

Cyclists were also particularly supportive of the event, as co-founder of interest group Love Cycling SG, Woon Tai Woon, pointed out that nearly 400 members from their group turned up. Most of them started their journey from Bishan, Kembangan and Clementi MRT stations. “There has been an awesome (turnout) ... it shows the possibilities of (having) a car-free area,” said the 41-year-old, adding that he hopes to see such car-free areas being extended into the heartlands.

Student Reno Tan, 16, who volunteered as a road marshall for the event, said everyone was considerate, whether they were cyclists, joggers or in-line skaters using the car-free routes.

Some participants, however, suggested for the event to start later than the 7am flag-off yesterday so that they would not have to start making their way to the area so early. Others hoped the event could be extended to a full day.

To create a more vibrant atmosphere for these car-free Sundays, Mr Wong said there needs to be a “good combination” of an exciting line-up of programmes and space for ground-up activities.

The next car-free Sunday will be on March 27, with activities yet to be announced. But an Urban Redevelopment Authority spokesperson said the focus will continue to be on community and family-friendly activities.

Car-Free Sundays may be expanded depending on response: Lawrence Wong
Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia 28 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: The Car-Free Sunday initiative could expand to a bigger area and potentially continue beyond its six-month pilot, if response from the public gets "even better", said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

Such car-free days could also possibly be organised more regularly – more than once a month, Mr Wong added.

On Sunday (Feb 28), a few thousand cyclists, joggers and walkers took over the roads in the Civic District and the Central Business District on the first Car-Free Sunday.

Speaking to the media after a bicycle ride around the 4.7-km car-free route, Mr Wong said this was a "very encouraging start".

The pilot initiative will see roads in the Civic District closed to vehicles every last Sunday of the month for six months.

From 7am to 9am, the roads around the Padang – St Andrew's Road, Stamford Road and Connaught Drive – together with Fullerton Road will be fully closed to vehicles, while Shenton Way and Robinson Road will be partially closed.

St Andrew's Road and part of Stamford Road will be closed until 12pm while Connaught Drive will remain closed until 7pm.

Activities ranging from fitness group exercises to a breakfast picnic session were held at various public spaces in the vicinity.

"It's really to get people used to the mindset that streets and the roads can be free of cars. It's not just about closing off the roads, but the streets can be full of programming we can enjoy. We can walk, we can cycle, we can come together," said Mr Wong.

"I think once people get used to the idea that closing off roads is not just preventing cars from using the roads but creating more public spaces for Singaporeans and for people to enjoy, they see the positive side of it. I hope it will bring about a change of mindset that being car-lite is not just a negative thing. It's not just reducing car usage, but it's a positive thing – we are gaining something from it."

But Mr Wong stressed that for the car-free initiative to expand, there will be certain trade-offs and inconveniences, and will require support from stakeholders.

"If there are stakeholders, for example, that run businesses along a particular street and all of them are supportive of closing that street on a weekend, we will be very happy to facilitate (the closing of) any street in Singapore. So that's something that's progressing," said Mr Wong.

Read more!

Malaysia: Kota Kinabalu Wetlands to get Ramsar site status

RUBEN SARIO The Star 27 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A mangrove area here, one of only two wetlands in the world located within a city, is due to get an international recognition by mid 2016.

The Kota Kinabalu Wetlands is expected to be accorded the Ramsar site status in about three to four months, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said.

He said the ministry was in the final stages of getting the 24ha conservation area at Likas listed as the country’s seventh Ramsar site.

(Since 2013, the Sabah government had approved a bid for the Kota Kinabalu Wetlands to be listed as a Ramsar site - wetlands deemed important for their economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational values based on the Ramsar Convention.)

Wan Junaidi said the Kota Kinabalu Wetlands was unique as it is the only one in the world apart from the one in Tokyo that was located within city limits.

“I am amazed that the mangrove is just 15 minute's drive from the downtown area,” he said after launching the World Wetlands Day celebrations at the Kota Kinabalu Wetlands on Saturday.

The other Ramsar sites in the country are located in Tasek Bera in Pahang, Tanjung Piai, Pulau Kukup and Sungai Pulai in Johor, the Kuching Wetland National Park in Sarawak and the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands in Sabah.

Due to the area’s importance, Wan Junaidi said his ministry would provide RM750,000 for development and repairs of facilities at the Kota Kinabalu Wetlands in addition to the RM500,000 funding from the Sabah government.

Govt to declare Kota Kinabalu Wetlands as country's 7th Ramsar site
BERNAMA New Straits Times 27 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The government will declare Kota Kinabalu Wetlands that is located in the heart of the city centre as the country's seventh Ramsar Site.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said his ministry was now looking into the matter before the 24-hectare mangrove forest conservation area be accorded the Ramsar site status.

"The Kota Kinabalu Wetlands meets all the criteria to be listed as the Ramsar Site.

God willing, in the near future, the government will declare this area as the country's seventh Ramsar site.

Maybe in the next three to four months," he said. He said this to reporters after officiating the national-level World Wetlands Day 2016 and the 'A Guide to the Plants of Kota Kinabalu Wetlands' book launch, here today.

Present were Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun and Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society (SWCS) president Datuk Zainie Abd Aucasa.

Wan Junaidi said the other Ramsar sites in the country are located at Tasek Bera in Pahang; Tanjung Piai, Pulau Kukup and Sungai Pulai in Johor; Kuching Wetland National Park, Sarawak; and Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands, Sabah.

In the meantime, Wan Junaidi urged all state governments to preserve and conserve their mangrove swamps, as the area was the habitat and breeding ground for various marine life.

At the event, Wan Junaidi also announced an allocation of RM750,000 to SWCS for the purpose of conservation activities in the Kota Kinabalu Wetlands.

The Sabah state government also contributed RM500,000 to SWCS. --Bernama

Read more!

Malaysia: High number of orphaned elephants cause for worry

RUBEN SARIO The Star 28 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The increasing number of orphaned baby Borneo elephants being rescued at plantations near forest reserves is worrying the Sabah Wildlife Department.

These baby elephants were found wandering alone, an indication that the adult animals including their mothers, had been killed.

Department director William Baya said that feeding these baby elephants was a financial burden because the cost of feeding one per day was between RM200 and RM250 for the milk formula.

The total cost of feeding them with milk formula amounted to at least RM500,000 annually, he said.

“I would like to call on corporate bodies to help us fund the daily care and feeding of these baby elephants,” he said.

“They could even adopt these baby elephants, similar to the way UK-based non-governmental organisation Orangutan Appeal UK does it for the orang utan in Sepilok.”

William said that Wildlife Rescue Unit rangers had been working round-the-clock for the past three years, rescuing 15 orphaned baby elephants, all below a year old, and caring for them.

He said the rangers rescued two orphans in 2013, adding that another three were found the next year.

There were eight rescued elephant calves last year and just this month alone, rangers saved another two more orphans.

“All these babies were rescued throughout the east coast of Sabah in human-elephant conflict areas in Tawau, Lahad Datu, Telupid, Kinabatangan and Sandakan,” William said.

He attributed this to an increasing loss and further fragmentation of elephant habitat.

William said the translocation of problematic elephants to other areas used to work well about 10 years ago.

Except for a few cases, he said many translocated elephants caused conflict with humans at their new locations or returned to their earlier area.

“The villagers are getting frustrated, shooting and even poisoning elephant herds,” William said.

Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said the killing of adult elephants or complete herds was a another hurdle in the survival of Sabah’s Bornean elephants.

Wildlife researchers have been concerned about the low genetic differentiation among the elephant population due to inbreeding caused by the fragmented habitat, he said.

“This could spell a deadly cocktail that would lead the Bornean elephant on the same trail of extinction like our rhinos, now considered extinct in the wild,” Dr Sen said.

Sabah Wildlife concerned over rising number of orphaned baby elephants
RUBEN SARIO The Star 27 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The increasing number of orphaned baby Bornean elephants being rescued from plantations near forest reserves is worrying the Sabah Wildlife Department.
The fact that the baby elephants were found wandering alone was an indication that the adult animals including their mothers had been killed.

Department director William Baya said the rescued baby elephants were a financial burden as the cost of feeding one per day was between RM200 and RM250.

For the past three years, the department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) rangers have been working around the clock rescuing and caring for 15 orphaned baby elephants all below one-year-old.

William said WRU rangers rescued two orphans in 2013 and the figure increased to three the following year.

The number of rescued elephant calves jumped to eight last year and just this month alone, Wildlife Rangers saved another two more orphans.

“All these babies were rescued throughout the east coast of Sabah in human-elephant conflict areas in Tawau, Lahad Datu , Telupid, Kinabatangan and Sandakan,” William said.

With the increasing loss of their habitat, reports of human-elephant conflict has skyrocketed to the point where efforts to reduce the problem has become extremely challenging.

He said the translocation of problematic elephants to other areas used to work well about 10 years ago.

However, many of the translocated elephants continued to come into conflict with humans at their new locations or they returned to the area where they had been removed from.

“Villagers are getting frustrated and taking the law into their own hands, shooting and even poisoning elephant herds,” William said.

According to William, the cost of feeding an elephant calf with milk formula amounted to more than RM500,000 annually excluding the cost for round-the-clock care for these orphans.

“I would sincerely like to call upon corporate bodies in Sabah or even throughout Malaysia to help us by funding the daily care and feeding of these baby elephants,” he said.

“They could even adopt these baby elephants in a similar way as UK-based NGO Orangutan Appeal UK does for the orang utan in Sepilok,” William said.

Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said the killing of adult elephants or herds was another hurdle in the survival of Sabah’s Bornean elephants.

He noted that wildlife researchers had voiced their worry over the low genetic differentiation among populations due to inbreeding caused by fragmented habitat.

“This could spell a deadly cocktail that would lead the Bornean elephant to extinction like our rhinos that are now considered extinct in the wild,” Dr Sen said.

“Steps must be taken right now and not 20 years later to save our elephants,” he added.

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Malaysia: Dry season sparks fires


PETALING JAYA: The dry season is smouldering on with forest fires raging in various parts of the country – from the limestone hills in Batu Caves to vast tracts in Sarawak.

The fires have ravaged at least 404ha - an area about the size of 1,000 football fields in the Kuala Baram district.

About 80ha of oil palm plantations in the Marudi district have also been razed and 242 ha are now under threat, according to the Marudi Fire and Rescue Depart­ment.

In Kuala Baram, firemen have put out fires in an area of about 35sq/km.

The department carried out 100 rounds of water bombing using two Bombardier aircraft of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

A smoke can be seen from the other side of Batu Caves.SAMUEL ONG / THE STAR, 27TH FEBRUARY 2016.
Smoke seen at the jungle from the other side of Batu Caves in Selangor.
The two aircraft have since been redeployed to Kedah to fight fires in Baling.

“So we only have the firefighters on the ground to deal with the fires,” Miri Fire chief Supt Law Poh Kiong said yesterday.

In Kuala Lumpur, the bush fires at Bukit Batu Caves, which started Friday morning, was still burning yesterday.

About 160 firemen are working to put out the reduced number of smaller fires along the hillside.

Selangor Fire and Rescue assistant operations director Mohd Sani Harul said the dry weather was also making the task more difficult.

“However, the fires are under control,” he said yesterday.

Residents of Taman Industri Bolton also woke up to see thick smoke covering the hillside near their homes yesterday.

Fire fighters managed to put out the fires, which had crept up to about 60m from the slopes.

In Alor Setar, the fire on Gunung Pulai which had been burning for the past four days, were finally put out on Friday. but firemen were still on standby in case it flared up again.

Kedah Fire and Rescue Department Supt Mohamed Yunus Abu said 50 firemen were assisted by about 40 forest guides and 15 volunteers from the state Civil Defence Department, the Malaysian Maritime Enfor­cement Agency (MMEA), state Forestry Department and the Baling District Council.

“The MMEA’s water bomber was a great help,” he said.

Hikers who had cooked on the mountain were believed to have started the fire.

Red-alert – drop a match or ciggy and a fire will start
ADRIAN CHAN The Star 28 Feb 16;

PETALING JAYA: It seems to be the burning season for the country with the fire alert map covered almost entirely in red – the highest warning – for the coming days.

The worse is, this is only the beginning.

A map of the Malaysia Fire Danger Rating System, under the “Fine Fuel Moisture Code”, has nearly all parts of the peninsula in red, with the exception of a few places, including Kuching, which ironically, is currently hit by floods.

Although there may be occasional rains, they are not heavy enough in the dry season.

Red represents “extreme” – the highest in the scale – which indicates ease of ignition and flammability of grasslands and bushes.

Large portions of Sarawak and Sabah are now also covered in red in the map.

Only a few parts of the peninsula’s east coast, south of Sarawak and northern Sabah are spared.

A Meteorological Department officer said the fire danger rating system map was modelled on meteorological parameters including wind speeds, temperature, relative humidity and rainfall.

“It explains the availability of fine fuels in the soil,” she said, urging those living in the “red” areas to be extremely careful and avoid burning.

“It is so dangerous to even drop matches or cigarettes because firescan spread very fast in these areas,” she said.

The officer said the map was not always red throughout the year.

Asked if this could be due to the El Nino phenomenon, she said: “The country is experiencing the end of the North-East Monsoon season now, which usually brings drier weather and less rain in the peninsula, especially the northern part.

“When it comes to the end of March, we can expect wetter weather again.”

Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wira Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said more fires were expected and that this would usually last until mid-year.

“This is just the beginning,” he said, referring to the recent forest fire at Batu Caves. “The dry spell has not reached its peak yet.”

Wan Mohd Nor gave his assurance that the department was on alert and ready to face any fires in the coming months.

However, he said most fires were not started naturally but were man-made.

“In such weather, we advise the public to stop open burning and simply discarding cigarette butts. These will help prevent fires.”

Batu Caves fire still burning
M KUMAR The Star 27 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Firefighters are continuing to put out a bush fire which has been burning on a hillslope since Friday at Batu Caves.

The blaze has, however, reduced to small pockets of fires on the hill.

Selangor Fire and Rescue assistant operations director Mohd Sani Harul said the dry weather has not helped the situation.

"However, the situation is under control," Mohd Sani said.

Residents of Taman Industri Bolton woke up to thick smoke from the fires on Friday.

The fire has been burning from about 60 metres above ground of the hillside.

Forest fire breaks out near Batu Caves
The Star 27 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: A forest fire set the hillside of Bukit Batu Caves ablaze, covering the area in smoke.

The fire was spotted by Taman Industri Bolton residents at around 10.30am yesterday.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department assistant operations director Mohd Sani Harul said the department received a distress call some 12 minutes later.

“The first fire engine arrived at the scene about seven minutes later,” he said yesterday.

“The fire was about 60m above the ground. So we also sent a water tanker.”

It is believed that the fire might have been sparked due to the recent dry and hot ­weather.

A check with the department later showed that the fire was under control with no report of injuries or casualties.

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Indonesia: Sumatran elephants poisoned, electrocuted

Apriadi Gunawan and Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post 28 Feb 16;

Sumatran elephant populations have been continuing to decrease mainly due to illegal hunting, which uses various methods to kill the protected giant mammal, from poisoning to electrocution.

“Recently, we found many elephants dead from poisoning and electrocution. The illegal hunters consider those ways not too risky,” Doni Gunaryadi of the Indonesia Elephant Conservation Forum (FKGI) told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

Doni said almost every month an elephant was found dead in Sumatra due to illegal hunting that takes place in eight of the island’s nine provinces.

He said that today there was no elephant hunting in West Sumatra because there had been no elephants in the province since 2007 when their habitat in Kota Panjang was used for the construction of a hydro power plant.

According to the FKGI’s data, the elephant population across Sumatra is estimated to have reached 2,400 in 2007, but had decreased to 1,700 elephants in 2014.

Doni said there had been an increase in illegal hunting recently due to high prices being paid for the animal’s tusks.

For a super quality tusk, he said, the price could reach tens of millions of rupiah per kilogram while the price of a small tusk could reach millions of rupiah per kilogram.

He said tusks of Sumatran elephants were sold in and outside of Sumatra, reaching Bali and East Nusa Tenggara where foreign buyers were waiting. “The buyers are mostly foreigners. They love Sumatran elephant tusks because they’re beautifully shaped and strong,” he said.

Besides illegal hunting, Doni said, the decreasing population of the elephants was also caused by the expansion of plantations, including massive palm-oil plantations.

He said the elephants that lost their habitats entered residential areas to seek food and were getting into trouble with villagers.

“Conflicts between elephants and residents are happening, especially in Riau, Jambi and Aceh. In those three regions, the mortality rate of elephants is dozens every year,” he said.

FKGI chairman Krismanko Padang said police were currently detaining two illegal hunters for killing two elephants in Tebo regency in Jambi recently. Police are also searching for the hunters’ accomplices.

Krismanko said the hunters, who were arrested in Riau, would be charged under the Conservation Law for crimes that carried a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a fine of Rp 100 million (US$7,100).

On Jan. 21 the Pangkalan Kerinci District Court in Riau sentenced four men to two-and-a-half years in prison each for hunting and killing elephants in Tesso Nilo National Park (TNTN) in Pelalawan regency. The court also fined them Rp 20 million each.

Way Kambas National Park home to 247 elephants
Antara 29 Feb 16;

E Lampung, Lampung (ANTARA News) - The Wildlife Conservation Societies Indonesia (WCSI) has estimated that there are 247 elephants in the Way Kambas National Park (TNWK) in Lampung Province.

The number might be lower following the findings of two dead elephants lately due to poaching activities, Sugiyo of the WCSI stated here, Sunday.

The elephants were killed by poachers for their ivory and teeth.

Based on surveys conducted by the NGO, the population of elephants in the park was 220 in 2002 and 247 in 2010.

A DNA test in 2015 revealed that the number of female elephants in the park was six times higher than male elephants.

"It is possible that the population may or may not have decreased since we have not conducted a new survey," he said.

TNWKs spokesman Sukatmoko stated that the park managements estimation of the elephant population was similar to that of the WCSI.

"We also conducted surveys. It was recorded that the elephant population was 250 in 2010 and 225 in 2002," he noted.

A new survey is needed to find the exact population of elephants in the TNWK.(*)

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Feb 16

Rail Corridor Roving Exhibitions & Community Workshops
The Long and Winding Road

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Sand wars: Singapore's growth comes at the environmental expense of its neighbours

Lindsay Murdoch Sydney Morning Herald 26 Feb 16;

Phnom Penh: Just two years ago a small sandbar could be seen jutting out of the narrow straits separating Singapore and Malaysia's Johor.
Then the barges came, disgorging tonnes of sand, the beginning of a $60 billion, 20-year Malaysian development of four man-made islands designed for 700,000 residents and 25,000 workers, called Forest City.

Singapore's leaders were not happy to see the rapidly expanding mound moving ever closer to its shores, despite the fact that their own city-state is one of the world's largest importers of sand for land reclamation.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong requested that the Malaysian government order the developers to halt the work, even though most of the sand was coming from a shoal in Malaysia's waters, pending the resolution of sovereignty and environmental issues.

Singapore, already more than 22 per cent bigger in land size than it was as a British colonial backwater in the 1950s, is meanwhile pushing ahead with plans to import titanic amounts of sand to artificially expand its territory by 6200 hectares by 2030, prompting fears of environmental disaster on a swathe of tropical islands.

In a region with ubiquitous white sand beaches, entire islands and coastlines are disappearing, and sovereign borders shifting, while urban developments are emerging where there was once just water.

Most of Singapore's neighbours have bans on exporting sand but they have opened up a thriving smuggling trade.

Spanish environmental activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson says he is willing to go to jail in Cambodia to stand up against indiscriminate and illegal sand dredging that environmental reports show has caused massive damage to coastal areas of the south-western Cambodian province of Koh Kong.

"They are stealing other people's sand, which is causing widespread social and environmental damage," he says. "The Cambodian people see no economic benefit from this practice, only devastation and misery."

Environmentalists estimate that more than 500 million tonnes of sand has been removed from Koh Kong's estuaries to Singapore over the past seven years, decimating a pristine mangrove eco-system and small village fishing communities.

Hundreds of dredging cranes have scooped sand from estuaries in remote areas protected by allegedly corrupt navy and police while government ministries responsible for the mining turned a blind eye, activists say.

There are now few fish or crabs and the fishermen have lost their livelihoods. Thefishing families receive no royalties.

Years after the dredging began Cambodia's Ministry of Mines and Energy announced this month that it would soon release details of an environmental impact study of the area.

Where hundreds of millions of dollars being paid for the sand goes is publicly unknown, despite demands by Cambodia's opposition MPs to reveal it.

The sand is hauled by smaller ships to huge mother ships anchored further out to sea.

Most of it is believed to end in the waters around Singapore, which keeps details of its sand sourcing confidential and considers the issue to be a matter of national security.

Protests by Gonzalez-Davidson's small non-government organisation Mother Nature have upset powerful vested interests in Cambodia, who are allegedly linked to syndicates that have been allowed to dredge Koh Kong's estuaries, despite a supposed national ban on the trade.

Three of Mother Nature's activists have been held in jail since last August on charges that they threatened the miners, an allegation they strenuously deny.

In February last year, after having lived in Cambodia for 13 years, Gonzalez-Davidson was denied a visa extension and thrown out of the country.

He has now been charged in absentia along with two monks with the crime of "threatening to commit destruction followed by an order," which carries a possible two-year jail sentence.

Gonzalez-Davidson is demanding that Cambodia grant him a visa so that he can stand alongside the other activists in court to defend the charges, bringing the world's attention to sand mining.

"I am concentrating all my efforts on ensuring that my fundamental rights will be respected in regards to these charges and the upcoming trial," he said.

"This includes the right to be present, physically in court proceedings, so that I can defend myself, as well as the other accused, against these fabricated and baseless charges."

Mother Nature last month filed a complaint with a Koh Kong court accusing employees of a sand dredging company of briefly detaining seven of their activists during a boat trip.

The Cambodia Daily cited Commerce Ministry records showing the company is partially owned by two daughters of Cambodia's strongman prime minister, Hun Sen.

Hun Sen's regime announced a ban on sand dredging in 2009 after 1500 fishermen filed a joint complaint.

But the ban was only for river sand and not the sea, and never disrupted the mining at Koh Kong.

Hun Sen recently told Cambodia's parliament that the mining is needed to facilitate navigation, reduce flooding and decrease river bank collapses.

But Gonzalez-Davidson said "All the experts we asked said that this makes no sense."

The world's legal trade in sand is worth an estimated $US70 billion a year and involves at least 15 billion tonnes with the illegal trade worth billions more.

Battles among sand mafias in India have killed hundreds of people. Gangsters have stolen beaches in numerous countries.

Dozens of Malaysian officials were charged in 2010 with accepting bribes and sexual favours in exchange for allowing sand to be smuggled into Singapore, where land expansion is seen as crucial to the city state's economic and social future.

Singapore's hills were decades ago carved out and dumped into the sea to create more land, and the state's hunger for sand has become a regional sore point.

Malaysia banned sand exports to Singapore as early as 1997, Indonesia imposed a similar ban after several of its Riau islands had vanished and Vietnam suspended dredging in 2009.

The principal source of Singapore's sand in recent years has been Myanmar, the Philippines and Cambodia. The area of land Singapore has taken from the sea is dwarfed by sand reclamation in countries like Japan, Dubai and China.

But, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, Singapore is by far the largest importer of sand worldwide and, per person, the world's biggest user.

Government policy stipulates that care for the environment is a core value and environmentalists agree the state has advanced policies for environmental sustainability.

But the government contracts private companies to import the sand.

Oliver Ching, a diplomat in Singapore's embassy in Phnom Penh, told activists in a letter last month that the "import of Cambodian sand to Singapore is done on a commercial basis … the Singapore government is not involved in these commercial transactions".

Gonzalez-Davidson has called for a moratorium on sand dredging in Cambodia to allow for independent scientific studies into the social and environmental impacts of sand mining.

"Fingers should be pointed at who is buying and using this sand," he said.

"Just like Singapore is unhappy at Indonesian forest fires, we need to tell them that Cambodia is also not happy with seeing how Singapore is directly responsible for the destruction of one of our most precious assets."

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