Best of our wild blogs: 31 Mar 16

16 Apr (Sat) - Free guided walk at Chek Jawa Boardwalk
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

The rail corridor at the halt at Tanglin
The Long and Winding Road

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Air quality worsens as haze wafts in

Pollution likely from Malaysia, Borneo or local fires, say experts; 24-hour PSI in north hits 84
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 31 Mar 16;

After months of clear skies and fresh air, air quality in Singapore deteriorated over the past two days, with a strong burning smell hanging over many areas.

Although the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index, a measure of air quality here, continued to hover in the moderate range, it reached a high of 84 in northern Singapore at 8pm yesterday.

This is the highest 24-hour PSI reading registered this year.

Hunters add to haze problem in Indochina

The culprit this time may not be Sumatra in Indonesia, where most of the haze-causing fires that affected Singapore in September and October last year were located.

This time, the pollution is likely to have come from Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo or even Singapore's own backyard, experts say.

Winds blowing from the north-east and east could be carrying the haze to Singapore.

Local vegetation fires reported on Tuesday could also be a contributing factor, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said the largest fire it responded to on Tuesday was near the junction of Tampines Avenues 1 and 10, and it, too, was relatively minor.

Associate Professor Koh Tieh Yong, a weather researcher from SIM University, said there was a spike in the number of hot spots in Peninsular Malaysia, particularly in Pahang, over the weekend.

"In the late afternoon on Tuesday, moderate hazy conditions reached Singapore. The time lapse is consistent with our distance from the hot spot sources," he said.

Mr Chris Cheng, strategic development and research director at volunteer group People's Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze), suspects the haze may be coming from peat fires around an oil palm plantation located at eastern Sedili Kechil in Johor, Malaysia.

"We checked the wind direction, hot spot, peat and plantation data, but we need an image of a local fire, and on-the-ground investigations there to verify the data," he said.

The current monsoon season, when winds blow mainly from the north-east, is transitioning to the inter-monsoon season, when winds are more variable.

Over the past few days, they have been blowing from the north-east and east, said Dr Erik Velasco, a research scientist from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology. "It is probable that winds blowing from the east brought plumes from fires in Borneo to Singapore," he said.

While only a small number of fires were reported there over the past week, cloudy conditions could be preventing satellites from picking up more hot spots, he added.

Singapore could still be badly hit when the usual haze season rolls in around June.

Dr Velasco said: "We are still experiencing the effects of a monster El Nino that started last year. In the region, El Nino enhances dryness, and therefore fires.

"Because of the magnitude of El Nino this year, we must be prepared for a new period of intense haze similar to last year's, once the winds start blowing from the south and south-west, bringing plumes from Sumatra and Kalimantan."

Today, however, the NEA says the air quality is expected to stay in the moderate range, and normal activities can be carried out.

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‘Sale’ of panda meat, koala sausages part of endangered animals awareness campaign: honestbee

HUTOSH RAVIKRISHNAN Today Online 30 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — Online grocery retailer honestbee’s offer on exotic meat, which has drawn flak online, has turned out to be part of the retailer’s campaign to raise awareness on the plight of endangered animals.

The grocer on Tuesday (March 29) started advertising the sale of exotic meats such as koala sausage, tiger’s tail and komodo dragon eggs on its website and social media pages. Users who placed orders were told that they would receive their orders on April 1.

The meats were supposedly from Explorer Joe Exotic Meats, which has its own website, with a fake company address and customer reviews.

Reaction on social media to the sale of such meats was swift and harsh, with some threatening to boycott the retailer and others criticising it as distasteful. Some others, such as Facebook user Jie Ling, guessed correctly that it was a joke. “What are the chances of them really selling (this) kind of meat in Singapore?” she said in a post.

As of Wednesday night, the group’s two posts about the "sale" of exotic meat had received 61 shares and more than 80 comments.

When contacted, an honestbee spokesman said the company had come up with the campaign “on the backdrop of April Fool’s Day, and rather (than) another meaningless prank or joke, we wanted to create something that is meaningful”. The campaign seeks to raise awareness on illegal wildlife trade, with specific focus on mink whales, snow tigers, sun bears and koala bears.

The retailer had been prepared for the backlash, and had, in fact, hoped that the campaign would be “controversial enough” to kickstart a conversation. “We knew it had to evoke attention, emotions and reactions from the concerned public to these endangered species. And it is also to bring awareness to the larger issues, like how sustainably responsible we are with our environment,” he said in a statement, noting that the company is not actually selling any of these meats.

Those who ordered the meats will not be charged. They will instead get a package of snacks resembling exotic wildlife and a card with information on illegal wildlife trade and what they can do to support the preservation of these animals. When asked about the number of orders placed, the spokesman declined to comment.

“When honestbee customers were able to order fake “curated selections” from the honestbee online stores, we received many concerned emails about what we are doing. Some thought it was a prank while others were completed angry with us, well who wouldn’t be, I would too,” he said.

“The emotions we evoked was real and raw, we hope this conversation can be taken further to drive that serious awareness to support these endangered species,” he added.

“I think we’ve been successful, because if you look at some of the forums discussing our campaign, (there are) users posting articles and information about endangered species,” said the spokesman. “(Conservation) is something all of us at honestbee are very passionate about, which is why we (went) ahead with the campaign, despite the negative reaction.”

Still, some customers remain unconvinced.

When told about the actual campaign, business development manager Kristy Wu, 28, said she still “found it quite distasteful” and that the campaign “didn’t make sense”. The animal-lover, who has been using the service twice a month, spending around S$100 each time, says she will boycott honestbee “for the time being”.

honestbee’s spokesman hopes that users such as Ms Wu will reconsider their decision. “We are just as passionate as they are about saving endangered animals and we hope that they can see that.”

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OBS to triple capacity with Coney Island campus

The MCCY minister also said youths can expect facilities and programmes at the upcoming S$250 million Coney Island campus to be ramped up - both in terms of capacity and level of complexity.
Faris Mokhtar Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) will be able to serve up to 45,000 youths every year - triple its current capacity - once the new campus on Coney Island is completed in 2020, said Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu on Wednesday (Mar 30).

The S$250 million new campus will occupy 12 hectares, or about 10 per cent of Coney Island, making it larger than the premises at Pulau Ubin which measures around 9 hectares.

"There will be enough space for everyone. We want OBS to be a common experience for all young Singaporeans," she added.

Ms Fu, who was on a visit to the Pulau Ubin OBS campus, highlighted that youths can expect facilities and programmes at the upcoming Coney Island campus to be ramped up - both in terms of capacity and level of complexity.

For instance, the traditional challenge ropes course at the Pulau Ubin premises can currently accommodate a maximum of two people. The improved version of it at the Coney Island campus can accommodate up to eight people at a time.

Said Ms Fu: "So, if you think that OBS already challenges your mental and physical endurance now, the new OBS campus will ramp that up another notch."


The Government, Ms Fu added, is also scouting ideas from other countries to set up the most advanced facilities and programmes at the new campus. For example, introducing outdoor activities not commonly found in Singapore, such as mountaineering.

"The challenge for OBS is, as we expand, how do we create new exciting activities that will also challenge our students," said Mr Nicholas Conceicao, executive director of OBS. "So, we are looking at simulating outdoor experiences which are found overseas. In some cases, students don't have the chance to go for these activities."

With Coney Island linked to mainland Singapore, Ms Fu noted that youths will be able to experience sea and land expeditions across Pulau Ubin, Coney Island and the mainland.

The campus is located at the south-eastern end of the island and is linked to mainland Singapore via a bridge that connects to Pasir Ris. This provides the opportunity to create programmes that take students to various places.

"For a youth that goes through an expedition, he may not just necessarily stay at Coney Island. He can also be at Pulau Ubin and then move back to Coney Island, and then maybe end up at the East Coast or do another expedition around Tekong and end up at Sembawang," said Mr David Chua Chief Executive of the National Youth Council.

To support more youths, OBS said it will boost its manpower - including instructors - from 110 currently to more than 300 by 2020.

Apart from undergoing outdoor activities, nature appreciation will also be an integral part of the learning experience.

The Coney Island campus is part of the National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan, which aims to help students develop attributes like resilience.

"We want all OBS participants to develop a keen sense of how the environment supports us and what we can do to keep it lush and thriving," said Ms Fu, adding that the campus will be designed in a way that is nature-friendly.


In his Budget speech last week, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the second OBS campus will be built as part of the National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan which aims to help students develop attributes such as resilience.

Building on this, Ms Fu pointed out OBS plays an important role in helping youths develop "ruggedness" - a trait that remains essential today as it was back in the early years of independence, she said.

"We need to continue to build up our youths - people like you - to work as a team, to have the ruggedness in our minds and in our bodies. So that when the going gets tough, we will be resilient and hardy enough to overcome it together, to bounce back," said Ms Fu.

She noted the changing social landscape and looming terrorism threats that Singapore faces. Said Ms Fu: "What happened in Brussels or Jakarta or Pakistan recently could well happen here. We need to continue to build up our youths ... to work as a team, to have the ruggedness in our minds and in our bodies. So that when the going gets tough, we will be resilient and hardy enough to overcome it together, to bounce back."

Meanwhile, a group of 10 outdoor learning firms have banded together to form an association called the Outdoor Learning and Adventure Education Association (OLAE).

Its president said the group was legally recognised in February this year and its objective is to standardise some of the industry's practices, which include safety, operational and marketing practices.

- CNA/xk/ek

Every student to experience OBS camp by 2020
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 30 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — Come 2020, every Singaporean youth will have the opportunity to attend an Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) camp at least once in their schooling years, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said on Wednesday (March 30), as she revealed details about the upcoming second OBS campus on Coney Island.

Announced as part of the new National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan, the 12ha OBS@Coney is part of the Government’s push to develop the “steel, resolve and teamwork” that the nation’s youth will need to take Singapore forward in the next 50 years, said Ms Fu.

“It is no secret that Singapore’s next 50 years may not be easy. To see a happier, stronger Singapore at SG100, we will need citizens who can band together, and stand together for Singapore.”

This vision of building up rugged youths — which OBS plays an important role in — is pertinent amid the threat of terrorism and an increasingly diverse society, added Ms Fu.

“What happened in Brussels or Jakarta or Pakistan recently could well happen here. We need to continue to build up our youths ... to work as a team, to have the ruggedness in our minds and in our bodies, so that when the going gets tough, we will be resilient and hardy enough to overcome it together, to bounce back,” she said.

OBS’ new S$250 million campus — to be sited on the south-eastern end of Coney Island — will triple its total capacity to 45,000 each year. Currently, OBS hosts about 14,000 youths at its outdoor adventure training programmes annually at its 9ha Ubin campus.

A different programme, with new activities and facilities, is in the works, said National Youth Council (NYC) chief executive David Chua.

Ms Fu said participants would be immersed in “rich natural heritage”, getting a taste of land activities such as trekking or cycling through park connectors and nature reserves, and water expeditions including sailing at sea. “That means you could be cycling or hiking around the Central Catchment one day, and kayaking around East Coast, Ubin or the Tekong islands the next day,” she said.

Students from different schools will also be mixed, as part of efforts to make the new campus “inclusive”, said NYC deputy chief executive Ng Chun Pin. The OBS programme would also be made more accessible to special-needs students, who currently participate only in specially catered courses on an ad-hoc basis.

In terms of facilities, OBS has been studying overseas examples. Outdoor activities that are not available here yet, including cave and tunnel experiences, could be offered.

Facilities that fuse different elements such as a Challenge Tower, a ropes course and a Flying Fox rolled into one are being explored, as are rustic camping facilities.

Students who are undergoing OBS said they felt more prepared to meet challenges head-on.

Reiko Tang, 15, from Edgefield Secondary, felt she was more willing to try new things and persevere. “I used to give up easily, but when I saw that my teammates were trying really hard, I (didn’t want to) pull them down.”

Tan Joy Lily, 15, from Kranji Secondary, said the programme, particularly the trekking activities, burnished her mental willpower. “We had to walk long distances with a very heavy backpack ... The encouragement we got from our groupmates really helped us to push our limits.”

The parents interviewed also welcomed the move to expose all youths to an OBS experience. Ms Leraine Leow, 35, said she would encourage her primary school-going children to attend OBS, as she feels the programme can build up the resilience and teamwork that is lacking among Singaporean youths. “(It’s) about working together; the teamwork. I think children nowadays don’t have that ... They are very self-centred.”

Madam Cindy Liau, a general manager in her 50s, said the safety of their children is every parent’s concern, but welcomed the opportunity to train more youths to deal with hardship and build up their perseverance.

OBS set to be rugged new melting pot
Yuen Sin, Straits Times AsiaOne 31 Mar 16;

As Singapore moves into the next 50 years of its development, Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) is set to play a critical role in toughening up its young people and providing them with a common experience in its rugged environment.

By 2020, all young Singaporeans will have the opportunity to go through an OBS camp at least once in their schooling years, announced Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the OBS campus on Pulau Ubin yesterday.

Noting how the path ahead for Singapore may not be an easy one, she said that OBS - originally mooted in 1967 by then Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee to "develop youth with a spirit of derring-do" - can be a "common experience for all young Singaporeans".

"Our future remains uncertain. We live in a more diverse society. We face the threats of terrorism... We need to continue to build up our youth... so that when the going gets tough, we will be resilient and hardy enough to overcome it together, to bounce back," said Ms Fu.

With the $250 million expansion of OBS to Coney Island in Punggol, announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat last week, the capacity of OBS will be tripled by 2020. Some 45,000 young people will be able to attend an OBS camp every year, up from the current 14,000. This includes students at the secondary and tertiary levels, as well as young working adults.

The area occupied by OBS @ Coney is equivalent to 12ha, or about 14½ football pitches. It will be situated on the south-eastern end of Coney Island, close to the bridge that connects the island to Pasir Ris. The rest of the island will remain open to the public.

Mr Ng Chun Pin, deputy chief executive of the National Youth Council (NYC), which OBS is part of, said the new site on Coney Island was picked because of its proximity to the mainland, serving as a gateway for new activities. For example, participants may be able to go on multi-element expeditions on customised bicycles, with kayaks or canoes attached, to explore Singapore's coastal waterways and park connectors.

While the structure of the typical five-day camp has not changed, programmes will now have a greater focus on problem-solving as a team, and pay attention to social integration and diversity. OBS will work with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to ensure that there will be more "deliberate mixing" of students from various types of schools in the camps, and also craft different expeditions to cater to those with different physical abilities.

MOE said it will announce more details about making OBS available for more students soon. NYC and OBS also said they may hold public consultations, given that OBS may pan out to become "more like a national institution" in the future.

Said Mr Ng: "Today, you have your national service, which benefits only the guys... (OBS can be) a rich and meaningful programme for all our youth to take Singapore to the next level."

Ms Denise Phua, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, applauded OBS' emphasis on inclusivity.

"Students with special needs can also partake in all or part of the OBS with the right needs assessment, training and support. (They) must be included in the main chapter of the Singapore education story," she said.

Mr Chan Wei Guan, 44, who has two sons and a daughter, said attending OBS should be made compulsory. "OBS is a good place to build up physical and mental resilience, even if it's for only a few days."

Sociologist Paulin Straughan, however, cautioned against making the OBS programme compulsory. "Social integration needs to be done by choice. If they feel that it needs to be done out of compulsion, this misses the point completely."

Additional reporting by Ng Keng Gene

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Malaysia: Kedah, Perlis schools closed today due to heatwave

The Star 31 Mar 16;

GEORGE TOWN: Schools in Kedah will be closed today and in Perlis until tomorrow due to the heatwave.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said the decision was made after the temperature rose to above 37°C in both states.

“We will make a decision if the closure needs to be extended after assessing the weather next week,” said Mahdzir after meeting northern region education officials here yesterday.

On the weather in Penang, he said it was within acceptable levels and schools would be open as normal in the state.

Meanwhile, commenting on the case of the eight-year-old boy who was forced to cut his own tongue, he said schools had standard operating procedures on such issues.

“We could expel the students who were involved in the bullying but rehabilitation could help them repent,” said Mahdzir.

He said whatever decision taken must be for the good of all, including the bullies and the victim.

He said a decision on the action to be taken would be made only after investigations were completed.

In the incident last Thursday, the Year Two boy claimed he was forced by five Year Three pupils from the same school to cut the tip of his tongue with a pair of scissors.

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Malaysia: Selangor has enough water

VICTORIA BROWN The Star 30 Mar 16;

PETALING JAYA: Selangor has enough water and can weather the current dry spell, said state executive councillor Elizabeth Wong (pic).

Wong, who is in charge of tourism, environment, green technology and consumer affairs, said Selangor’s dams are at a “comfortable” level.

According to the Lembaga Urus Air Selangor (Luas) website, the dams in Selangor are all above 55% capacity.

As of Wednesday morning, the Sungai Labu reservoir had the lowest volume, at 55.75% capacity, while Subang lake had the highest at 94.6% capacity.

Wong said Selangor learnt its lesson after the hot and dry weather in 2014 that led to water rationing in many parts of the state.

“We learnt a bitter lesson then, and since 2014, we have been looking at alternatives to ensure that it does not occur again,” said Wong.

She said Selangor has also been performing cloud-seeding operations “all year round” for the past two years.

“Usually, people only think about cloud seeding when it is dry, but when it is dry season there are no good clouds to seed,” said Wong.

She said cloud seeding is carried out in desirable wind conditions and cloud type.

“If those conditions are met, then there is a 60% to 70% chance of rain falling in the right place,” said Wong.

“Every time we see the right cloud, it doesn’t matter what time of the year, we seed that cloud and hopefully the rain will fall at the right place,” she said.

Wong said that Selangor needs to be prepared for “any eventuality”.

“We thought El Nino would come last year, but it didn’t, so we still continued our efforts and now it’s here, and we are in an okay situation.

“But we don’t know how long this El Nino will last. We are not sure what is going to happen, but at least we are prepared,” she said.

Wong also said that Selangor is currently building a Hybrid Off River Augmentation System (Horas) that can supply 350 million litres of water per day. Horas will be completed by 2017.

“Horas is additional water storage which is not in the (Sungai Selangor) river, but near the river,” said Wong.

Water quality specialist Dr Zaki Zainudin said Selangor seems to be in a "good position".

“As long as they are prepared from now to face any uncertainties it is a step in a right direction,” said Dr Zaki.

However, he said that with the lower rainfall during El Nino, it can lead to lower water levels in rivers which may lead to an increase in pollutants.

“Water treatment plants could be affected if pollutant levels are too high.

"Sungai Langat is more susceptible to this problem at the moment, based on its track record of previous closures and pollution sources upstream,” said Dr Zaki.

The closure of the Cheras Batu 11 and Bukit Tampoi treatment plants in the past were due to high ammonia levels in Sungai Langat, rendering the water unsuitable for consumption.

Dr Zaki said that although there are limits that dictate pollutant levels released into rivers, it does not take into account the quantity or load of the waste being discharged.

“There’s only so much pollution that our rivers can dilute,” he said.

However, Dr Zaki said that agencies are aware of the problem and are “taking steps in the right direction”.

Wong agreed that discharge and emission standards "can be improved”.

“We can’t have standards that probably worked 20 years ago,” she said.

Wong also said that there is an ongoing project to have an integrated sewage treatment plant.

“We are planning to pipe all the sewage into one integrated treatment plant. That is one solution, but it takes time,” said Wong.

However, Dr Zaki said treatment technology should be applied at pollution sources rather than treatment plants.

“If we use the technology at pollution sources, the water will be clear and we will have a good aquatic ecosystem. It is a more sustainable solution,” said Dr Zaki.

“If we invest in treatment technology at water treatment plants, does that mean that it is okay for rivers to be polluted?

“If you don’t control the pollution and allow it to continue, how long can that technology treat the water?

“We should instead invest money in tertiary level treatment; the water will be clean and can be discharged into the river to cause minimum impact on the environment,” he said.

Negri mulls construction of its eighth dam
The Star 31 Mar 16;

SEREMBAN: Negri Sembilan is considering building its eighth dam, in the Sg Jerang Valley in Jelebu, to meet the increasing demand for treated water.

Another option is for the state to buy raw water from Pahang, to be piped via a tunnel through the Titiwangsa mountain range.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said although the state has sufficient supply of treated water for the next 10 years, demand was expected to increase with new townships and industrial areas.

The state recently started mulling over the massive Malaysian Vision Valley (MVV) project which would be carried out over the next 30 years.

“We need to start planning from now because we can’t build a dam and water treatment facilities overnight. A feasibility study will be conducted in the next six months and we will decide on the better option,” he told reporters yesterday.

The state’s other dams are at Sg Terip, Kelinchi, Talang, Teriang, Sg Beringin, Ulu Sepri and Gemencheh.

The proposed 108,000ha MVV project would cover the Seremban-Nilai-Port Dickson area.

Mohamad said his administration hopes to provide an additional 500 million litres of water a day once the project was completed.

“If we decide not to build the dam, then we will have water chanelled from Pahang into our network of rivers.

“We will then build water treatment plants along the rivers,” he said adding that if the dam was built, it could mean that several villages would have to be submerged.

Mohamad said the state would discuss with the Federal Government and National Water Services Commission before making its decision.

In Petaling Jaya, Selangor Tourism, Environment, Green Technology and Consumer Affairs chairman Elizabeth Wong said the dams in the state were all above 50% capacity.

She said Selangor had learnt its lesson after the hot and dry weather in 2014 led to water rationing.

She said the state has been running cloud seeding operations “all year round” for the past two years.

Too costly to treat mining pool
RUBEN SARIO The Star 31 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A proposal to tap millions of litres of water from a disused mining pool at Mamut, near Mount Kinabalu, is not feasible.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah geologist Dr Felix Tongkul said the estimated 20.6 million litres of water at the disused copper mine open pit was acidic, and treating it for human consumption would be costly.

Although the water can be treated with limestone to neutralise the acidity, it will be too expensive to be practical, he told The Star.

He said the pH level of water in mining pits was about “3”, similar to some types of vinegar.

The pH is a scale showing the acidity or alkalinity of a liquid – “7” is neutral, the lower values are more acidic, and higher values more alkaline.

Felix said even if the acidity was neutralised, there would still be other minerals and heavy metals in the water.

Last week, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said authorities were looking at the possibility of treating water from the mining pit as one of the strategies to overcome water shortage in the area.

Pairin said the state Infrastructure Development ministry was looking at cloud seeding, which was expensive and unreliable, as well as desalination of plants.

Over the long term, he said the construction of a RM400mil dam would begin in Tawau district later this year.

In a related development, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili said the El Nino phenomenon has affected the water supply in several districts in Sabah, including Tawau and Lahad Datu.

He said water supply was still sufficient for the northern district of Kudat and the sub district of Matunggong, thanks to the Milau dam.

Due to the prolonged dry spell, the water level in Milau dam, which has a capacity of 55mld (millions litres daily), has dropped by 25% but it was still enough for now, he said.

Mada releases water for padi planting
G.C. TAN The Star 31 Mar 16;

ALOR SETAR: The Muda Agriculture Development Authority (Mada) has started releasing water from three dams into padi fields under its jurisdiction for the first planting season this year.

Mada general manager Fouzi Ali said the Phase One release of water from yesterday from the Pedu, Ahning and Muda dams were for Mada’s Region I to Region IV covering 35,456 hectares of padi fields in various places in Perlis and Kedah and involving 16,724 farmers.

“This is to allow the farmers to carry out padi planting after a long period of dry and hot weather,” he told a group of journalists yesterday after bringing them to visit a padi field at Permatang Kaka in Megat Dewa, Kodiang near here.

He said among the areas receiving the water under the first phase were Arau, Kangar and Tambun Tualang in Perlis, and Kodiang, Sanglang, Tunjang and Pendang in Kedah.

“The last day for seeding for this phase is May 4 and last day of water supply is July 26,” Fouzi added.

He said the release of water under Phase Two for 43,321ha and Phase Three for 21,908ha would start on April 9 and 19 respectively.

The last days for seeding is May 14 and 24 while the last days of water supply is Aug 5 and 15 for the two phases, he said.

Fouzi said the storage in the Pedu, Ahning and Muda dams were sufficient to supply water for all three phases covering 100,685ha of padi fields with 55,130 farmers.

Permatang Kaka farmer Jaafar Ahmad, 62, said he felt relieved after Mada released water to the padi fields.

“It had been a long wait since the dry season began and now the padi planting activities can be carried out as usual by all the padi farmers in the area,” said Jaafar who is the supervisor of A-II Kodiang Area Farmers Organisation.

Meanwhile, Bernama reported that Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah has urged all mosques in the state to hold sunat Istiqa prayers for rain.

Ahmad Bashah was among about 1,500 Muslims who took part in such a prayer at the Masjid Zahir grounds here yesterday.

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Malaysia: Sabah repeats call to end shark hunting

The Star 31 Mar 16;

PETALING JAYA: Sabah has repeated its call to the Federal Government to end shark hunting there, as a tourism group here called for a boycott on shark fin.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said his office asked for an amendment to the law that would stop shark hunting in Sabah five years ago.

“The federal authority responded to say that it was not agreeable to the proposal.

“Their excuse is that there is no shark hunting or finning industry,” he said, calling it a “rather lame excuse”.

Masidi said sharks were essential in Sabah’s tourism industry, adding that most of the state’s 55,000 diving visitors each year wanted to see sharks.

He said 80% of the shark population in Sabah has been killed for their fins and the authority was worried that they would become extinct.

On Tuesday, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents said it would not work with restaurant that served shark fin soup.

Opting against shark fin soup
NURBAITI HAMDAN The Star 31 Mar 16;

PETALING JAYA: Being more aware that sharks are in danger of being over-fished, the younger generation is opting not to have shark fin soup served at weddings.

This awareness made it easier for a five-star hotel chain to drop the dish from its menu.

Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur area director of communications Datuk Rosemarie Wee said the chain removed shark fin soup from its menu in December 2010, throughout its 91 hotel worldwide.

Currently, there are 10 Shangri-La hotels in Malaysia.

“We decided to do away with shark fin soup in accordance with our corporate social responsibility initiative. We have also removed blue fin tuna and Chilean sea bass as these are very rare creatures as well,” Wee said when contacted.

Shark fins are highly popular and are used in soups. In Chinese culture, it symbolises wealth, power, prestige and honour.

After the removal, Shangri-La introduced other alternatives for Chinese weddings such as bamboo fungus, lily bulbs, American ginseng and snow fungus.

“With the younger generation’s awareness and the substitutes that we have, it’s proving to be very good (for business). So there is no issue about not having shark fin soup at weddings nowadays. It does not affect our sales,” she added.

During the first year, Wee said the hotel still served shark fins to honour commitments made to weddings booked a year earlier.

“We couldn’t go back on our word despite announcing our new policy. It took us six to eight months to phase out everything after the announcement. The transition to being shark fin-free was smooth,” she said.

Unlike other establishments which resort to using synthetic shark fins made from gelatine, Wee said the hotel was firm in its policy.

“If we want to do away with the shark fins, why would we want to ignite their taste buds (with synthetics). There is no point to that. We feel that once we commit, we must commit all the way,” she added.

On Tuesday, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents inbound vice-president Datuk Tan Kok Liang issued an advisory to association members and partners to boycott restaurants serving shark fins.

Tan said shark fin consumption was no longer in vogue and leading hotel chains such as the Hilton, Hyatt, JW Marriott, Le Meridien, Peninsula, Shangri-La, Waldorf Astoria and Westin had stopped serving the dish.

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Malaysia: Protecting mangroves at Kuala Selangor Nature Park

Sowing seeds of conservation to protect Kuala Selangor Nature Park
YVONNE T. NATHAN The Star 31 Mar 16;

THE diminishing mangrove forest across Selangor’s coastal areas is worrying fishermen who have seen their income drop because of lower catch of fish and cockles.

Jamaluddin Jafar, 49, and Nasarudin Kamaruzzaman, 45, who live in Kampung Tanjung Keramat, Kuala Selangor, said their dwindling catch was a result of the polluted waterways of the rivers and coastline.

Jamaluddin said the mangrove forests had been decimated because of illegal logging, too.

“Our income has dropped drastically over the past 10 years.

“Our catch is only about 25% of what it used to be in the 1990s.

“The destruction of the mangrove forest has affected marine life as there are fewer fish in the rivers,” said Jamaluddin, adding that soil erosion had made the rivers shallow and murky.

It was proven in the past that when the coastal mangrove receded, there was a chain reaction which affected humans and wildlife.

Nasarudin added that improper waste disposal methods had worsened river pollution.

The duo welcomed efforts to rehabilitate the Kuala Selangor Nature Park through the collaboration between the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and Naza TTDI Sdn Bhd.

Both parties also aimed to make the park Selangor’s first Ramsar-certified wetland. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is a treaty that protected wetlands and prevented development near such places.

Obtaining recognition for the park would protect the ecosystem and ensure proper use of the wetlands and its resources including being a breeding ground for wildlife.

To this end, a master plan was also being drawn up to protect the park and serve as a guide for future improvements.

MNS executive director and Environmental Education Division head I.S. Shanmugaraj said the area was one of the state’s largest producers of cockles.

“The Selangor government is looking at slowly rehabilitating coastal mangrove areas by enhancing and replanting mangrove trees.

“We are currently planting mangrove trees with Naza volunteers under the National Mangrove Replanting programme coordinated by the National Resources and Environment Ministry,” he said.

MNS had also converted an underutilised aviary into a greenhouse for various species of mangrove saplings.

Naza TTDI GMD’s Office assistant general manager Rosmin Wan Mohamed said the company was keen to be involved in an environmental programme.

“As developers, we are obliged to follow certain guidelines to protect the environment.

“At the same time, we also want to educate our staff on the importance of preserving the environment,”

In addition to installing new and more comprehensive signage, the company was also upgrading the walkways and amenities such as the public restrooms.

“We are keen to improvise the park and draw visitors by improving accessibility,” said Rosmin.

Naza TTDI would also lend its expertise in terms of personnel and materials to enhance the park’s facilities.

Shanmugaraj said most of the earlier fittings were put up without considering the park’s environment and its inhabitants.

“While we take steps to improve the park’s infrastructure, we will do our best to ensure the man-made structures such as bird towers blend in with the environment,” he said.

The master plan will include a template for the management of the park, enhancement of its trails, rope bridge, and bird tower as well as rehabilitation of the lake system.

Shanmugaraj said the park fulfilled all the requirements to obtain Ramsar accreditation.

He said MNS planned to apply for the accreditation this year and would update its information on the list of flora and fauna at the park.

“Some of the information is outdated as the surveys were carried out between the 1970s and 1990s,” he said.

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Indonesia: Tanjung Panjang’s mangrove forests in critical condition

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari, The Jakarta Post 31 Mar 16;

The condition of mangrove forests in Tanjung Panjang Nature Reserve (TPNR) in Pohuwato regency, Gorontalo, is increasingly critical as 80 percent of the swamps have been converted into fish farms.

Gorontalo Regional Mangrove Working Group (KKMD) head Rahman Dako said the massive mangrove forest conversion was attributed to several past government regulations that supported such actions.

The problem, Rahman said, began when the government in the 1980s launched the “Blue Revolution” policy to improve the country’s fish production, opening opportunities for newcomers to develop fish ponds in the region.

The condition worsened when thousands of hectares of mangrove swamps were deforested and converted into fish farms before Gorontalo province gained autonomy from its parent North Sulawesi province.

Conservation areas were then easily sold to newcomers, a majority of them from South Sulawesi, by simply obtaining a permit from village chiefs.

“Weak law enforcement has definitely led to the further mangrove forest conversion in Pohuwatu,” Rahman said.

The mangrove forests in the western-most regency in Gorontalo are regarded as the main ecosystem barrier in the Tamini Bay coastal area. The mangrove swamps also act as a barrier against tsunami and erosion and a habitat of various wildlife and fish species.

Unfortunately, Pohuwato has lost at least 11,563 ha of mangrove forests over the past 30 years.

“If the condition is left unchecked, the TPNR will just remain a story for our grandchildren,” said Rahman at a recent dialog on mangrove forest preservation.

In order to maintain mangrove forest sustainability, Pohuwato Regent Syarif Mbuinga offered several solutions, including providing alternative incomes for people who relied on fish agriculture.

A number of agreements between local administrations and fish farmers had also been established, highlighting the prohibition of opening new ponds in protected forest areas and inside the TPNR, and a ban on cutting trees within 100 meters along river banks and 50 meters from creeks.

In addition, Syarif said, residents were also prohibited from buying and selling mangrove forest areas located both within forest reserves and TPNR.

“If the agreement is violated, we will not hesitate to take stern action,” he said.

Separately, Ambo Tang Daeng Matteru, chairman of the South Sulawesi Family Harmony (KKSS) in Pohuwato said of the approximately 13,500 residents from South Sulawesi settling in Gorontalo province, 60 percent of them rely on fish and shrimp farming for their livelihoods.

“Profits from fish farming are substantial as 1 hectare of a fish farm can yield at least a ton of fish or shrimp at a price of Rp 10,000 (US$0.75) per kilogram. These commodities are heavily marketed in South Sulawesi, North Sulawesi and Surabaya, East Java,” he said.

Ambo said the fish farming culture of people from South Sulawesi, particularly the ethnic Bugis, had been an ongoing tradition for hundreds of years. Many Bugis people, he said, had also opened shrimp ponds in peninsular Malaysia and Australia.

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Malaysia: Two green turtle carcasses found

ZARINA ABDULLAH New Straits Times 30 Mar 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Two green turtle carcasses were found on the beaches of Paka and Kerteh yesterday.

State Fisheries Department director Abdul Khalil Abdul Karim said the first carcass was spotted by a worker near a food premise near Paka beach.

He said the male turtle, identified to be from the Chelonia Mydas species was partly decomposed.

Abdul Khalil said a second male carcass of the same species was found by a member of the public at Kerteh beach in the evening.

"Both turtle carcasses were partly decomposed.

The turtles are believed to have died a week ago at sea," he said.

Initial investigations indicate that the turtles may have died after being trapped in fishermen nets.

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Avoiding a nightmare for S.E. Asia’s dreams of nuclear power

LIN YANQIN Today Online 31 Mar 16;

When the Government said earlier this year that it was reviewing whether to lift curbs on food imports from Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, it prompted a ripple of concern among the public, who wondered if it was too soon.

A radiation leak at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which resulted from an earthquake in 2011, put fears of a nuclear fallout hitting the region on the consciousness of Singaporeans for the first time.

Until then, nuclear power and its risks were a distant concept. But lesser known is the fact that for decades, Singapore has lived alongside neighbours with small-scale research nuclear reactors, including Indonesia (three), Thailand (one), Vietnam (one) and Malaysia (one). The Republic, along with New Zealand, is the only Pacific Rim country with no research reactor, according to the World Nuclear Association, which promotes nuclear power.

Indeed, the appetite for nuclear power in South-east Asia is growing, unlike in North America and Europe. Vietnam and Indonesia have both engaged international partners with the know-how to work on their first power-generating nuclear plants.

But how prepared are countries and the region as a whole for the possibility that something could go wrong?

In recent years, experts have noted weaknesses within the countries, such as the lack of nuclear expertise and protocol that do not meet International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards. Regionally, there is also not enough nuclear accident response capabilities and information-sharing on the matter.


Among the key nuclear developments in South-east Asia is the Ninh Thuan 1 plant in Vietnam, which is expected to have a capacity of around 4,000 megawatts, meeting 3 to 4 per cent of the country’s total electricity demand. Vietnam is working with Russia’s state nuclear firm on the plant, which will start construction in 2020. It is also working with a Japanese consortium to develop a second nuclear plant.

In Indonesia, plans to operate four nuclear power plants by 2025 with a total capacity of 6 gigawatts have been shelved in the wake of public objection, but its plans for its first experimental 10-megawatt nuclear power plant in Serpong in Banten province remains on track to start construction next year.

Beyond South-east Asia, China, seeking to move away from coal power, is set to build 40 nuclear power plants over the next five years. This is on top of the 30 it now has in operation, and the 24 under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association. South Korea has 25 nuclear reactors providing about one-third of its electricity, while, more ominously, North Korea recently conducted nuclear and missile tests, prompting tough sanctions against the country.

Dr Michael Malley of the Naval Postgraduate School and Dr Tanya Ogilvie-White of the University of Canterbury noted that at a 2011 international conference on nuclear challenges in South-east Asia, participants, especially those from outside the region, felt South-east Asian governments “have not done enough to prepare for worst-case scenarios”.

What could lead to these worst-case scenarios?

Protecting nuclear material and facilities from terrorists is a key concern. Indeed, it was the impetus for United States President Barack Obama to initiate the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in 2009, the fourth edition of which begins today, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong among those in attendance.

Other concerns are whether nuclear power plants are being built, maintained and secured in a way that meets international standards. Are nuclear-related materials transported properly? How many shipments pass through the region annually? Have there been any breach of rules and has action been taken against those who do not observe the rules? Is nuclear waste being safely disposed of?

In 2014, a report by the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University highlighted the risks in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia’s nuclear ambitions. For example, Vietnam’s emergency protocol still did not conform to the IAEA’s standards, and it did not have a comprehensive nuclear power plant security plan as well as a management plan for spent fuel.

Indonesia is relatively better prepared, as it has been mulling nuclear power since 1956. The country has in place two agencies overseeing the implementation and regulation of nuclear power and inter-agency groups to coordinate disaster response. The IAEA also conducted an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review in Indonesia in 2009, and while it was not made public, the Indonesian government has said it confirms the country’s extensive preparatory work. But the NTS Centre researchers noted objections, such as “distrust towards the government’s capability in dealing with nuclear emergencies, financial constraints, Indonesia’s vulnerability to natural disasters, and corrupt practices”.

Nuclear power has not been ruled out by Malaysia, but there has been “serious concerns over the safe disposal of nuclear waste and the independence and impartiality of the Malaysian regulatory body, Atomic Energy Licensing Board”, noted the researchers. An investigation at a radioactive waste management facility in Kuantan run by Australian mining firm Lynas found that the storage system there was inadequate and risked exposing workers to high radiation, among other lapses.

“The future implications this has for nuclear power plant development and the safe disposal of nuclear waste are significant,” they said.

While the intentions behind nuclear development in the region may be peaceful, the implications of inadequate implementation and management are anything but. South-east Asia is prone to natural disasters. Indeed, this has been central to objections from Indonesians in areas where proposed reactors are to be built (in Central Java and in the Bangka-Belitung Province).

Anti-nuclear groups have noted that the country, sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire, is vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, even in areas the Indonesian government said are relatively safe from tectonic activity.


That nuclear power and its risks occupy a very low rung on the average Singaporean’s list of priorities has not escaped the Government. Although the Government decided not to pursue nuclear power as an option for the foreseeable future after a feasibility study, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has stressed the importance of nuclear security and safety to Singapore.

“We are small and densely-populated. Any nuclear or radiological incident would be a major disaster, perhaps an existential one,” he said at the last NSS in 2014. That year, Singapore amended the Radiation Protection Act so that it can accede to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 amendments.

The National Research Foundation started a programme to train 100 nuclear experts in the next decade. These experts would, for example, be able to study the impact of radiation on Singapore in the event of a nuclear incident, so that the authorities can roll out precautionary measures. Experts would also be able to detect and trace radioactive materials that could be used to make weapons. So far, only nine experts have been selected in the last two years.

Mr Lee has attended all four editions of the NSS, underscoring the importance of nuclear security to the Republic. While North Korea and its nuclear tests could dominate the discussions over the next few days, countries, including Singapore, will be delivering progress reports on nuclear security.

Also on the table are possible actions the international community can take to strengthen the global security architecture. With this NSS being the last — in tandem with the end of Mr Obama’s term as President — countries are expected to adopt a set of documents on the road ahead to key security initiatives. The fallout from a nuclear disaster does not stop at international boundaries. On a regional level, countries can come together and adopt a common position to promote nuclear safety and non-proliferation. And as the Government ramps up the training of experts, the ordinary Singaporean will benefit from understanding the implications of nuclear power booming so close to our shores.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lin Yanqin is a deputy news editor at TODAY.

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'Drastic' Antarctic melt could double global sea-level rise

Matt McGrath BBC News 31 Mar 16;

Global sea levels could rise by more than double the current best estimate, according to a new analysis of climate change in Antarctica.

The modelling assessment says that Antarctic melting alone could contribute more than a metre to sea level by the end of this century.

By 2500, according to the study, the same source could cause levels across the world to rise by 13m.

The authors say that rapid cuts in carbon emissions could limit this risk.

Competing ideas

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that, without any restrictions on carbon emissions, the seas around the world likely rise by up to 98cm by 2100.

However, the IPCC estimates contained a minimum contribution from Antarctica.

Other analyses since then have projected bigger increases, with a recent study suggesting that the oceans were rising faster than at any time in the past 2,800 years and by 2100 they could be up to 1.31m higher.

The exact level of Antarctica's impact on these projections has been vigorously debated. Late last year, a research paper suggested that projections of a contribution of a metre or more were not plausible.

But this new study argues that by 2100 the world could see 1.14m of sea-level rise from Antarctica alone.

Additions to the model

The scientists say that their model is able to provide a more accurate prediction because it incorporates the impacts of some physical processes for the first time.

While other models have focussed on the impact of warmer waters melting the ice shelves from below, this new study also includes the effect of surface melt-water and rain trickling down from above and fracturing supporting ice, hastening its slide to the sea.

The model also calculates the impact of the disintegration of floating ice shelves. If this happens, it will reveal walls of ice so tall that they cannot support their own weight.

The scientists involved expect that these extra factors will kick in over the coming decades, as warming from the atmosphere (not just from warmer waters below) becomes the dominant driver of ice loss.

"One reason that other models didn't include the atmospheric warming is because it hasn't started to happen just yet," said co-author Dr David Pollard from Penn State University, US.

"In Antarctica, around the edges at sea level, it's just beginning to get up to the melt point in summer.

"With that warming, the flanks of Antarctica will start to melt drastically in about 50 to 100 years - and then it will start to kick in according to our model."

The authors believe that they have demonstrated the accuracy of the new model by correctly replicating sea-level rise in warm periods, millions of years into the past.

"Recently, we looked at the long-standing problem posed by geological evidence that suggests sea level rose dramatically in the past, possibly up to 10 to 20 metres around 3 million years ago, in the Pliocene," said Dr Pollard.

"Existing models couldn't simulate enough ice-sheet melting to explain that."

'Right questions'

If the world continues to emit "business as usual" levels of carbon dioxide over the coming decades, the scientists argue that sea-level rise will be double what has already been estimated for the coming 100 years.

"If these processes do kick in and they end up being as important as we think that they could be, then they really do have a big impact," said Prof Robert DeConto from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

"West Antarctica is responding very soon in these simulations and that ends up having a big impact on North America in particular."

Other researchers have praised the development of the new model for including impacts such as surface melt water and ice-cliff collapse, but they are uncertain about the conclusions.

"I have no doubt that on a century to millennia timescale, warming will make these processes significant in Antarctica, as well as Greenland, and drive a very significant Antarctic contribution to sea-level rise," commented Prof David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey.

"The big question for me is, how soon could this all begin, and could it be early enough to drive substantially higher sea levels by 2100? I'm not sure, but these guys are definitely asking the right questions."

The authors believe that there is "good news" in their report. If global emissions of carbon are curtailed significantly then the extra factors that substantially boost Antarctic melting will be avoided.

Seas will continue to rise, but not at the runaway rates suggested by this paper, which has been published in the journal Nature.

Sea levels set to 'rise far more rapidly than expected'
New research factors in collapsing Antarctic ice sheet that could double the sea-level rise to two metres by 2100 if emissions are not cut
Damian Carrington The Guardian 30 Mar 16;

Sea levels could rise far more rapidly than expected in coming decades, according to new research that reveals Antarctica’s vast ice cap is less stable than previously thought.

The UN’s climate science body had predicted up to a metre of sea level rise this century - but it did not anticipate any significant contribution from Antarctica, where increasing snowfall was expected to keep the ice sheet in balance.

According a study, published in the journal Nature, collapsing Antarctic ice sheets are expected to double sea-level rise to two metres by 2100, if carbon emissions are not cut.

Previously, only the passive melting of Antarctic ice by warmer air and seawater was considered but the new work added active processes, such as the disintegration of huge ice cliffs.

“This [doubling] could spell disaster for many low-lying cities,” said Prof Robert DeConto, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the work. He said that if global warming was not halted, the rate of sea-level rise would change from millimetres per year to centimetres a year. “At that point it becomes about retreat [from cities], not engineering of defences.”

As well as rising seas, climate change is also causing storms to become fiercer, forming a highly destructive combination for low-lying cities like New York, Mumbai and Guangzhou. Many coastal cities are growing fast as populations rise and analysis by World Bank and OECD staff has shown that global flood damage could cost them $1tn a year by 2050 unless action is taken.

The cities most at risk in richer nations include Miami, Boston and Nagoya, while cities in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Ivory Coast are among those most in danger in less wealthy countries.

The new research follows other recent studies warning of the possibility of ice sheet collapse in Antarctica and suggesting huge sea-level rises. But the new work suggests that major rises are possible within the lifetimes of today’s children, not over centuries.

“The bad news is that in the business-as-usual, high-emissions scenario, we end up with very, very high estimates of the contribution of Antarctica to sea-level rise” by 2100, DeConto told the Guardian. But he said that if emissions were quickly slashed to zero, the rise in sea level from Antarctic ice could be reduced to almost nothing.

“This is the good news,” he said. “It is not too late and that is wonderful. But we can’t say we are 100% out of the woods.” Even if emissions are slashed, DeConto said, there remains a 10% chance that sea level will rise significantly.

Active physical processes are well-known ways of breaking up ice sheets but had not been included in complex 3D models of the Antarctic ice sheet before. The processes include water from melting on the surface of the ice sheet to flow down into crevasses and widen them further. “Meltwater can have a really deleterious effect,” said DeConto. “It’s an attack on the ice sheet from above as well as below.”

Today, he said, summer temperatures approach or just exceed freezing point around Antarctica: “It would not take much warming to see a pretty dramatic increase [in surface melting] and it would happen very quickly.”

The new models also included the loss of floating ice shelves from the coast of Antarctica, which currently hold back the ice on land. The break-up of ice shelves can also leave huge ice cliffs 1,000m high towering over the ocean, which then collapse under their own weight, pushing up sea level even further.

The scientists calibrated their model against geological records of events 125,000 years ago and 3m years ago, when the temperature was similar to today but sea level was much higher.

Sea-level rise is also driven by the expansion of water as it gets warmer and in January scientists suggested this factor had been significantly underestimated, adding further weight to concerns about future rises.

Recent temperatures have been shattering records and on Monday, it was announced that the Arctic ice cap had been reduced to its smallest winter area since records began in 1979, although the melting of this already floating sea ice does not push up ocean levels.

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Burning smell, haze could be due to local vegetation fires: NEA

Air quality in Singapore is expected to remain in the Moderate range for the next 24 hours, the National Environment Agency says.

Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: The burning smell detected in some parts of Singapore on Tuesday could have been caused by some local vegetation fires, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said.

The fires and some wind convergence over Singapore in the late afternoon on Tuesday could have also contributed to the deterioration in the air quality in some parts of the island on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, NEA said.

Air quality in Singapore is expected to remain in the Moderate range for the next 24 hours, the agency said. As of 11am on Wednesday, the 24-hour PSI reading was 68-82, in the Moderate range, while the 3-hour PSI reading was 71 and the 1-hr PM2.5 was 17-32 ug/m3.

Fair and warm conditions are forecast for the rest of Wednesday with prevailing winds blowing from the northeast.

While hotspot activities in the surrounding nearby region have been low, there has been a rise in the number of hotspots in the northern ASEAN region which is currently experiencing its traditional dry season, NEA said.

“This could result in an increased concentration of particulate matter such as dust particles in the atmosphere over the region,” it added.

Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, everyone can continue with normal activities, NEA said. Those who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention.

The agency added that it is monitoring the situation closely and will provide further updates when necessary.


In response to media queries, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said the number of vegetation fires in the first three months of the year was lower than the previous two years.

There were 121 vegetation fires between January and March, with 94 in March alone. This compares to 97 of such fires in March last year, and 239 in March 2014.

The largest fire this month occurred on Mar 2 along Yishun Ring Road, SCDF said. The fire involved a thick patch of vegetation measuring about 5m by 10m – less than one-quarter the size of a football field. SCDF officers extinguished the fire using two water jets within an hour.

- CNA/cy

SCDF puts out 94 vegetation fires in March
Today Online 30 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE – The Singapore Civil Defence Force has put out 94 vegetation fires around Singapore in March. The biggest vegetation fire this month broke out on March 2 at Yishun Ring Road that involved an area of about 5 m by 10 m, said a statement by the SCDF on Wednesday (March 30). That fire was put out within an hour.

According to statistics provided by SCDF, there have been 121 vegetation fires this year so far, with most of them happening this month. “Overall, the number of such fires for the first three months of this year is comparatively lower than the two previous years,” the SCDF noted. There were 409 vegetation fires in 2015 and 437 fires in 2014.

The SCDF released this information in response to media queries on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the National Environment Agency attributed the burning smell around Singapore to, in part, vegetation fires.

The NEA also said that hot spots in the the northern part of South-east Asia, which is experiencing a dry season, could also be a cause of the increased concentration of dust particles in the atmosphere.

These factors could have contributed to the burning smell and slight deterioration in air quality, the NEA said.

At 4pm, the 24-hour Pollution Standards Index ranged between 67 and 81. The 24-hour PSI first hit 80 at 10 pm in the southern part of Singapore and at 11 pm in the central part of Singapore on Tuesday night. It has stayed above 80 since for these regions.

The air quality for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the moderate range, according to the NEA. For the rest of Wednesday, fair and warm conditions are forecast with prevailing winds blowing from the northeast.

Hotspots and local vegetation fires could be cause of burning smell
Today Online 30 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — Hotspots in the northern ASEAN region and local vegetation fires are some factors that could have contributed to the burning smell in Singapore said the National Environment Agency in an advisory sent on Wednesday (March 30).

It noted that there has been a rise in the number of hotspots in the northern part of Southeast Asia that is currently experiencing the traditional dry season. “This could result in an increased concentration of particulate matter such as dust particles in the atmosphere over the region.”

In addition, there were some local vegetation fires reported, and some wind convergence over Singapore in the late afternoon on Tuesday, the NEA said.

“These factors could have contributed to the burning smell and slight deterioration in our air quality in some parts of the island last night and early this morning. NEA is monitoring the situation closely and will provide further updates when necessary.”

The air quality for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the Moderate range, according to the NEA. For the rest of Wednesday, fair and warm conditions are forecast with prevailing winds blowing from the northeast.

At noon, the PSI reading for Singapore ranged from 68 to 82. The 24-hour PSI first hit 80 at 10 pm in the southern part of Singapore and at 11 pm in the central part of Singapore on Tuesday night. It has stayed above 80 since for these regions.

Complaints about the haze are beginning to appear on social media.

One user, @SpikyKelvin, tweeted on Tuesday morning: “Woke up to a HAZY morning here”. Another person, going by the name @morbidshark groaned: “The #SGHaze is back already?! How bad is it gonna get this time”.

Photos are also beginning to appear on Twitter and Instagram. Instagram user @sanyuhesselink posted a photo of the view from Hougang Cape showing a hazy horizon and noted: “this is what happen when you have an inconsiderate neighbour who smokes (burns rainforests) and don’t care about your health or well-being”

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Hard to identify cause of smoky smell in air: NEA

KENNETH CHENG Today Online 30 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — The smoky smell that has been lingering in the air across the island in recent days may have been brought on by transboundary haze in the region, or fires in Singapore or other sources of localised burning, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Tuesday (March 29).

On a regional haze map put up by the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre at 7.30pm, there were scattered hotspots detected over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Localised, thin smoke plumes were also observed in the vicinity of some of the hotspots.

The centre, which runs a regional collaboration programme among the national meteorological services of ASEAN member countries, reported that “wet weather condition continue to subdue hotspot activities with only isolated hotspots detected in Brunei” in the southern ASEAN region.

Since Sunday, there have been multiple reports from the public, regarding an acrid smell in the air and reduced visibility in some parts of the island, with some making calls to Mediacorp newsrooms to register their observations. From late Tuesday afternoon, there have been reports from various parts of the country, including the Central Business District and Sentosa, of palpable smoky smells in the air and visibly hazy conditions.

The three-hour PSI reading on Tuesday crept up from 69 at noon to 83 at 10pm. And the 24-hour PSI stayed within the Moderate range (51-100) in all parts of the island, registering between 61 and 69 at noon to between 65 and 80 at 10pm.

The NEA spokesperson said that “transboundary smoke haze from forest and peat fires in the region” may be a possible cause, but added that it was difficult to identify the cause or source of such smells because of their “transient nature”.

Such smells, the spokesperson said, are usually — but may not always be — accompanied by higher Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) or PM2.5 readings which measure fine particulate matter in the air. This means there is no strong correlation between PSI or PM2.5 readings and burning smells in the air.

Between last September and October, Singapore experienced a prolonged bout of haze which, at one point, forced the closure of primary and secondary schools for a day.

Singaporeans report 'haze' smell
The 3-hour Pollution Standards Index reading hit 87 at 8pm on Tuesday (Mar 29), the highest level this year.
Channel NewsAsia 29 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: The 3-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) crept up from Tuesday afternoon (Mar 29) before peaking at 87 at 8pm, the highest level this year. It went down to 83 by 10pm.

However readings of the 24-hour PSI at 8pm was 65-78, still within the Moderate range. When the 24-hour PSI goes beyond 100, it is considered unhealthy.

In response to media queries, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said there are a few possible causes for a burning smell in the air. It could be due to "transboundary smoke haze from forest and peat fires in the region, the occurrence of local fires or other localised sources of burning". It added that smells may not always be accompanied by higher PSI or PM2.5 readings.

The PSI is an index of daily air quality levels and computed on the concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), the dominant pollutant during haze episodes, along with other pollutants.

"Due to the transient nature of such smells, it is difficult to identify the cause or source of the smells," NEA said, adding that there is no correlation between PSI/PM2.5 readings and burning smells in the air.

According to the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS), scattered hotspots were detected over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia on Tuesday.

"Localised, thin smoke plumes were observed in the vicinity of some of the hotspots," MSS said on its website, adding that in southern ASEAN, wet weather continued to subdue hotspot activities, with isolated hotspots detected in Brunei.

Last year saw Singapore badly hit by transboundary haze from neighbouring Indonesia for a prolonged period, with the 24-hour PSI hitting the 'Hazardous' and 'Very Unhealthy' range for several days.

- CNA/dl

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Local farm to produce smoked fish to diversify income source

Tie-up with seafood manufacturer comes in wake of 2015 algae bloom
Carolyn Khew Straits Times 30 Mar 16;

Local fish farm Ah Hua Kelong will be producing smoked fish following last year's disastrous algae bloom, which killed 100 tonnes of its stock.

One reason: Fish to be smoked need not be as big as those meant for restaurants and so can be harvested earlier. This means the fish spend less time in the water and are at a lower risk of exposure to an algae bloom.

The farm will sell its smoked sea bass at its outlet - PasarBella in Turf Club Road - soon.

Ah Hua Kelong is believed to be the first to roll out locally farmed smoked fish. This is in a tie-up with local seafood manufacturer Fassler Gourmet.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) - which facilitated the tie-up last November - said that it is exploring this option with other fish farmers.

Mr Teh Aik Hua, owner of Ah Hua Kelong, said that, besides quicker harvests, the smoked fish business will also lower reliance on the fresh fish market as the farm's source of income.

Ah Hua Kelong, set up in 2006, runs two coastal farms - in Sembawang and Changi - and produces 50 to 80 tonnes of fish yearly.

Explaining the quicker harvests, Mr Teh said that fish to be smoked can be harvested and filleted when they are about 1kg, which is about one year after they arrive at the farm as fry.

However, the fish have to grow to at least 3kg - which takes 11/2 years more - before restaurants want to buy them as fish fillet.

Hence restaurant fish are at higher risk of algae blooms, which are unpredictable.

An AVA spokesman said that smoked fish will help to open new markets for the farmers.

Mr Teh pointed out that fish farmers in Singapore have to compete with imports from Malaysia, which are often cheaper due to lower manpower costs and a weaker currency.

Venturing into such products would thus help to diversify the farms' income source.

Last year's algae bloom - between February and March - wiped out more than 500 tonnes of fish from more than 70 farms.

It was the second bloom in two years, the previous one being in 2014.

Factors such as the dry weather and an excess of nutrients in the water can lead to an algae bloom.

While not all algae are harmful, some can suffocate fish, or cause gill damage - as was the case last year.

After last year's incident, some farms put in contingency plans.

These plans include transferring fish from open-net cages to canvas bags equipped with aerators and oxygen pumps, to prevent exposure, in case of an algae bloom.

Blue Ocean Harvest, for instance, has a mechanised system which can quickly deploy canvas bags to contain fishes from the open-net cage.

In Ah Hua Kelong's new venture, the farm will fillet the fish and send it to Fassler Gourmet, which will smoke it in its facility using beechwood log.

Ah Hua Kelong's smoked fish will come vacuum-packed and have a shelf life of six months.

It will be sold in two flavours - chilli crab and teriyaki - at $15 per packet.

The chief executive officer of Fassler Gourmet, Ms Mellissa Chen, said: "Ultimately, it's about helping the industry in Singapore.

"It's meaningful to collaborate with local farms as we understand the challenges they face. "

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What Singapore could face in 2030

Sheryl Lee Straits Times 30 Mar 16;

Imagine a future where borrowers do not need banks, where technology has removed the need for middlemen and made old business models in Singapore obsolete.

Or imagine this nation plagued with environmental problems - heatwave, water stress and soaring food prices as crops fail across Asia - but then taking the lead in regional recovery efforts.

These are just some of the scenarios Singapore could face in 2030, according to a new research report by the CIPD, a professional body for human resources, and the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI).

The report included four scenarios of life in Singapore in 2030.

"The scenarios are not predictions but they do set out possible ways Singapore may develop in the future based on choices made today," said Dr Wilson Wong, head of Insight and Futures at CIPD.

He said the future is likely to see a combination of these scenarios.

The other two scenarios depict a future where businesses continue to rely on foreign employees, highlighting the importance of professional accreditation, and a Singapore faced with external security threats.

In response to future challenges, Dr Wong said leaders need to think long term. "Marginal issues today will take centre stage in future... environmental issues are not big on corporate agendas, but they are very big globally.

"Business should also invest in developing talent instead of taking 'ready-made' talent from somewhere else," he said.

Ms Wong Su-Yen, chief executive officer of HCLI, said that the four scenarios confirm the need for Singaporeans to be more adaptable and resilient. She highlighted the new Outward Bound Singapore campus mentioned in the Budget as something that would "build adventure and resilience" for the workforce of the future.

"Companies can also help by moving their talent around, giving them experience in uncomfortable new environments and across cultures," she said.

Dr Wong outlined steps such as increasing diversity in the workforce and supporting other ways of thinking to build resilience, as well as encouraging employees to be less risk-averse.

"Uncertainty will be the new norm," he said.

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Malaysia: More Sabah villages going dry

The Star 30 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The dry spell is causing more villages in Sabah to run out of water, with the number increasing by more than 100 in just two days.

State Natural Disaster Manage-ment Committee head of secretariat Kol Mulliadi Al Hamdi Ladin said the number of villages requiring water to be sent was 316 as at 8am yesterday, compared with 212 on Sunday.

He said the delivery of water by trucks was being handled jointly by the Water Department, Public Works Department, the Civil Defence Department and the respective district offices.

Kol Mulliadi said the northern Pitas district was among the most affected with 44 villages there requiring water to be sent, followed by Tuaran (40), Inanam in Kota Kinabalu (36) and Kota Belud with 25.

He told The Star that some 1,200 boxes of bottled water were ready to be shipped to drought-hit Pulau Banggi within the week.

Arrangements were also being made to send bottled water from Sabah’s northernmost town of Kudat to the island where folks from 16 kampung have made appeals.

Hundreds of Pulau Banggi villagers are now depending on a spring at the foothill of Bukit Serong, some 13km from the island’s main settlement of Karakit, for water.

The island’s water treatment plant was operating at 30% of its maximum capacity of two million litres per day due to a drop in river levels.

As the dry spell shows no sign of easing, other agencies including the Sabah Wildlife Department have taken preventive measures to stop forest and bush fires from breaking out.

Sabah Wildlife director William Baya said the department was temporarily freezing all hunting licences in the state.

“This is a precautionary measure to reduce the occurrence of forest fires that threaten the wildlife as well,” he said.

The likelihood of forest fires increases with the presence of people in the jungle for hunting, William added.

Sabah Fire and Rescue Services Department director Nordin said they were getting up to 200 calls a day reporting bush and forest fires around the state.

“There are many bush fires. They are everywhere and we are doing our best to minimise the damage and prevent casualties,” he said.

The Air Quality Index, however, remained at a healthy level of 49 at 11am on Tuesday, the Department of the Environment reported on its website.

Sabah Meteorological Depart-ment acting director Lim Ze Hui said they expected below normal rainfall until the end of April.

Kedah, Perlis are the hottest states
The Star 30 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The highest temperatures yesterday were recorded at 3pm in Kedah and Perlis, with 37ºC in Alor Setar and 36ºC in Chuping, respectively.

The temperature was expected to return to normal in the middle of next month, said Meteorological Department deputy director-general (weather and climate) Alui Bahari.

“The two states usually experience hot weather in March and April,” he said.

Alui said Langkawi had recorded 43 days without rain so far and advised the people to reduce outdoor activities and drink plenty of water to prevent heatstroke.

“During the inter-monsoon season in the middle of next month, west coast states in the peninsula are expected to experience rain or thunderstorms in the evenings,” he said.

The rain and thunderstorms would reduce the heat brought on by the El Nino phenomenon, he added. — Bernama

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Malaysia: ‘Avoid eateries serving shark fin’ -- Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents

NURBAITI HAMDAN The Star 30 Mar 16;

PETALING JAYA: Tour and travel agents have drawn the line when it comes to eateries with shark fin soup on their menus.

“Say it’s a three-star hotel that sells shark fin. We will not take them (tourists) there.

“We will not have functions there. We will not have events there,” Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) inbound vice-president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said.

He said it was the first time MATTA had made such a stand public, although the group had been against the eating of shark fins for years.

Tan said this after the group issued a statement quoting him as calling on the group’s 3,100-plus members to boycott places with shark fins on the menu.

He later clarified to The Star that this call was not a rule, but an advisory.

“The sharks help keep the ecosystem in order. Once the sharks are all gone, then the ecosystem will also change,” he said.

He also added that such a scenario would not be good for dive resorts.

Asked what led MATTA to make this call, he said it was due to Sabah state tourism minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun’s disappointment over the seeming lack of federal action on the matter.

MATTA’s press statement yesterday called on its members and partners to boycott restaurants offering sharkfin on their menus.

Quoting Tan, it said shark fin consumption was no longer in vogue and leading hotel chains such as Hilton, Hyatt, JW Marriott, Le Meridien, Peninsula, Shangri-La, Waldorf Astoria and Westin had stopped serving the dish.

“But in a recent report by the Hong Kong Shark Foundation, a shocking 98% of the 375 restaurants surveyed continue to choose money over environmentally friendly practices.

“If voluntary efforts are ineffective, tourism authorities could compile a list of restaurants that serve shark fin so that tourists could boycott them altogether, and not just the dish,” Tan said in the statement.

According to Tan, European Union countries had already prohibited shark finning since 2003 and by 2013, another 27 nations had joined them.

“Many tourists are environmental conscious and promoting ecotourism would backfire if we continue to allow our sharks to be slaughtered.

Tan said the banning of shark hunting and killing was under the purview of the Government but the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister did not wish to impose such a ban, even if it is for Sabah only.

“If a nationwide prohibition is not practical, the least the Government could do is to introduce it to the states that call for a ban, starting with Sabah.”

Boycott restaurants offering shark fins in their menus
THARANYA ARUMUGAM New Straits Times 30 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) has called on its members and partners to boycott restaurants offering shark fins in their menus in an effort to conserve sharks and their declining population in Malaysian waters.

Matta inbound vice-president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the shark population in Sabah had declined by 80 per cent over the past three decades and they were fewer sharks in waters off Peninsular Malaysia.

The sharks found in Sabah, he said, had attracted over 55,000 divers last year, pumping RM323 million to the local economy but cautioned that this annual revenue would be wiped out if the sharks are reduced in numbers.

He said the banning of shark hunting and killing falls under the purview of the Federal Government but the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister does not wish to impose such a ban, even for Sabah.

“European Union countries had already prohibited shark finning since 2003 and they were joined by another 27 nations by 2013.

“The ban on shark hunting and killing will be further delayed if hunters are given greater priority than this magnificent fish species, which plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of nature in our marine ecosystems. “Hence, Matta has called for a boycott of establishments serving shark fins.

The slogan - When the buying stops, the killing can too, is just as applicable here as in other conservation efforts," he said in a statement today.

Tan said shark fins consumption had no longer been in vogue for some time and leading hotel chains such as Hilton, Hyatt, JW Marriott, Le Meridien, Peninsula, Shangri-La, Waldorf Astoria and Westin do not serve it.

However, he said in a recent report by Hong Kong Shark Foundation, a shocking 98 percent of the 375 restaurants surveyed continued to choose money over environmentally friendly practices.

Tan suggested that if voluntary efforts were ineffective in tacking the issue, tourism authorities could compile a list of restaurants that serve shark fins, hence tourists could boycott them, and not just the dish.

“A strategic campaign to raise awareness and educate restaurant operators, locals and tourists would have a rippling effect across society, and ensure that such noble conservation efforts are sustainable. “A simple competition to pick the best slogan for not eating shark fins would generate much interest and publicity, and those enterprising could sell T-shirts with meaningful slogans.”

Tan said the drop in demand for shark fins would force fishermen to look for more sustainable catch or perhaps pull their resources together to build kelongs as many marine fishes sold in the markets are farmed. “These kelongs can also be turned into tourist attractions for day trippers and overnight visitors.”

Tan said the Federal Government could perhaps introduce the banning of shark fins to states that call for a ban, starting with Sabah.

“Tourism is the lifeblood of the state and the fact that it earned RM6.4 billion last year did not come by chance but as a result of great foresight by banning logging 15 years ago.”

“Since 2011, Sabah State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun has been urging the Federal Government to ban shark hunting and killing but to no avail.

“The widespread desecration of our natural resources in the peninsula will continue in Sabah and Sarawak unless the ministry is helmed by someone who is more environmental conscious. “We need to be more caring and shark finning is cruel.

As for the tourism industry, it is like killing the goose that lays the golden eggs,” he added.

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Indonesia: Three Sumatran tigers reported to have attacked villager in Jambi

Antara 29 Mar 16;

Jambi (ANTARA News) - Three Sumatran tigers reportedly attacked a resident of Selampaung Village of Kerinci District in Jambi Province, an official said on Tuesday.

Head of Section I of Kerinci Seblat National Park Agency, Agusman, said on Tuesday that the agency is investigating the report and has deployed its officers to track down the tigers.

"We have received a report that the victim was bitten on his thigh. However, we havent met the victim as yet," Agusman said.

The authority also needs to investigate whether the attack was by tigers or some other big cats, such as leopards.

The victim, identified as Martadinata (43), was attacked on Monday (March 28) at around 02.00 p.m. when he was cultivating his cinnamon field.

He encountered three tigers but only one stormed towards him.

If the attack occurred outside the national park area, the agency will track down the tigers and drive them back to their natural habitat.

"But if the attack occurred inside the Kerinci Seblat National Park, then it is their own habitat. What was the victim doing inside the national park?" Agusman wondered, referring to possible human trespassing.

Moreover, Agusman said the place where the attack took place, there is the harvest season for durian, a local delicacy fruit, and residents often flocked to the area to pick the thorny hard-skinned fruit.(*)

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DiCaprio visits Indonesian jungle to support environmentalists

AFP Yahoo News 30 Mar 16;

Jakarta (AFP) - Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio has visited the Indonesian jungle to help protect a biodiverse area from deforestation.

Fresh from clinching his long-awaited first Oscar last month, DiCaprio spent the weekend in the Leuser ecosystem, on Indonesia's main western island of Sumatra.

The actor, an ardent supporter of environmental causes, was pictured accompanied by local environmentalists and flanked by two critically endangered Sumatran elephants.

The elephants are among a dizzying array of rare animals who live in Leuser's dense rainforests.

DiCaprio said on his Instagram account that his foundation, which supports numerous environmental projects, was backing local groups to establish a "mega-fauna sanctuary" in the area.

He described the area as "the last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants coexist in the wild".

Local green activist Farwiza Fahan, who met DiCaprio on his visit, said the sanctuary was aimed at giving more protection to the area, but the plan was still in the early stages.

Like much of Indonesia's rainforests, the area is under threat from the aggressive expansion of palm oil and pulp and paper plantations, while endangered animals are targeted by poachers and locals who view them as pests.

But the area faces an additional threat after authorities in the province of Aceh -- which includes much of the Leuser ecosystem -- pushed through a plan to open up new swathes of virgin forest for commercial exploitation and lay roads.

The central government in Jakarta, which must approve such locally made plans, has asked Aceh to revise it, but activists claim that local authorities are pushing ahead with it regardless.

DiCaprio, who attended the COP21 climate change talks in Paris last year, has been raising the alarm on global warming since 1998 when he founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

He won the best actor Oscar for his role in the "The Revenant", a film about a 19th century fur trapper filmed under extreme winter conditions in Canada and Argentina.

Actor and Environmental Activist Leonardo DiCaprio Visits Aceh
Ratri M Siniwi Jakarta Globe 30 Mar 16;

Banda Aceh. Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio made a secret visit to Mount Leuser National Park in southeast Aceh on Sunday (27/3).

Along with fellow actors Adrien Brody and Fisher Stevens, the budding environmental activist visited the park’s research facility in Ketambe, where the trio had close encounters with Sumatran orangutans and elephants.

DiCaprio has taken a personal interest in conserving the forests of the Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park through his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. The national park faces constant threats from deforestation, mainly driven by palm oil field expansion.

“We need local, national and international involvement to protect Mount Leuser National Park. The park is one of the oldest national parks in Indonesia and was declared a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco in 1981,” said Andi Basrul, who runs Mount Leuser National Park.

The national park is also Unesco World Heritage Site and a natural habitat for some critically endangered species, including the Sumatran orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Sumatran elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros.

DiCaprio recently spread the message through his Twitter account, urging participation to boost the conservation efforts.

Sumatra’s unique ecosystem and biodiversity have attracted many activists and award-winning celebrities. As part of an environmental documentary made three years ago, actor Harrison Ford conducted a hard-hitting interview with Indonesia's forestry minister, urging him to take action on illegal logging activities in Sumatra and to adopt more sustainable forestry practices.

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