Best of our wild blogs: 30 Nov 16

Sisters' Island Marine Park (Pulau Subar Darat)
Offshore Singapore

32nd Singapore Bird Race 2016 Review
Singapore Bird Group

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$100 Billion Chinese-Made City Near Singapore 'Scares the Hell Out of Everybody'

Pooja Thakur Mahrotri and En Han Choong Bloomberg 21 Nov 16;

The landscaped lawns and flowering shrubs of Country Garden Holdings Co.’s huge property showroom in southern Malaysia end abruptly at a small wire fence. Beyond, a desert of dirt stretches into the distance, filled with cranes and piling towers that the Chinese developer is using to build a $100 billion city in the sea.

While Chinese home buyers have sent prices soaring from Vancouver to Sydney, in this corner of Southeast Asia it’s China’s developers that are swamping the market, pushing prices lower with a glut of hundreds of thousands of new homes. They’re betting that the city of Johor Bahru, bordering Singapore, will eventually become the next Shenzhen.

“These Chinese players build by the thousands at one go, and they scare the hell out of everybody,” said Siva Shanker, head of investments at Axis-REIT Managers Bhd. and a former president of the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents. “God only knows who is going to buy all these units, and when it’s completed, the bigger question is, who is going to stay in them?”

The Chinese companies have come to Malaysia as growth in many of their home cities is slowing, forcing some of the world’s biggest builders to look abroad to keep erecting the giant residential complexes that sprouted across China during the boom years. They found a prime spot in this special economic zone, three times the size of Singapore, on the southern tip of the Asian mainland.

The scale of the projects is dizzying. Country Garden’s Forest City, on four artificial islands, will house 700,000 people on an area four times the size of New York’s Central Park. It will have office towers, parks, hotels, shopping malls and an international school, all draped with greenery. Construction began in February and about 8,000 apartments have been sold, the company said.

It’s the biggest of about 60 projects in the Iskandar Malaysia zone around Johor Bahru, known as JB, that could add more than half-a-million homes. The influx has contributed to a drop of almost one-third in the value of residential sales in the state last year, with some developers offering discounts of 20 percent or more. Average resale prices per square foot for high-rise flats in JB fell 10 percent last year, according to property consultant CH Williams Talhar & Wong.

Country Garden, which has partnered with the investment arm of Johor state, launched another waterfront project down the coast in 2013 called Danga Bay, where it has sold all 9,539 apartments. China state-owned Greenland Group is building office towers, apartments and shops on 128 acres in Tebrau, about 20 minutes from the city center. Guangzhou R&F Properties Co. has begun construction on the first phase of Princess Cove, with about 3,000 homes.

Country Garden said in an e-mail it was “optimistic on the outlook of Forest City” because of the region’s growing economy and location next to Singapore. R&F didn’t respond to questions about the effects of so many new units and Greenland declined to comment.

Singapore Draw

“The Chinese are attracted by lower prices and the proximity to Singapore,” said Alice Tan, Singapore-based head of consultancy and research at real-estate brokers Knight Frank LLP. “It remains to be seen if the upcoming supply of homes can be absorbed in the next five years.”

The influx of Chinese competition has affected local developers like UEM Sunrise Bhd., Sunway Bhd. and SP Setia Bhd., who have been building projects around JB for years as part of a government plan to promote the area. First-half profit slumped 58 percent at UEM, the largest landowner in JB.

A decade ago, Malaysia decided to leverage Singapore’s success by building the Iskandar zone across the causeway that connects the two countries. It was modeled on Shenzhen, the neighbor of Hong Kong that grew from a fishing village to a city of 10 million people in three decades. Malaysian sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd. unveiled a 20-year plan in 2006 that required a total investment of 383 billion ringgit ($87 billion).

Singapore’s high costs and property prices encouraged some companies to relocate to Iskandar, while JB’s shopping malls and amusement parks have become a favorite for day-tripping Singaporeans. In the old city center, young Malaysians hang out in cafes and ice cream parlors on hipster street Jalan Dhoby, where the inflow of new money is refurbishing the colonial-era shophouses.

Outside the city, swathes of palm-oil plantations separate isolated gated developments like Horizon Hills, a 1,200-acre township with an 18-hole golf course.

“The Chinese developers see this as an opportunity. A lot of them say Iskandar is just like Shenzhen was 10 years ago,” said Jonathan Lo, manager of valuations at CH Williams Talhar & Wong, a property broker based in Johor Bahru. “Overseas investors coming to Malaysia is a new phenomenon so it’s hard to predict.”

Construction soon outpaced demand. To sell the hundreds of new units being built every month, some companies took to flying in planeloads of potential buyers from China, prompting low-cost carrier AirAsia Bhd. to start direct flights in May connecting JB with the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

On the first such flight, 150 of the 180 seats were taken by a subsidized tour group organized by Country Garden. Almost half of them ended up buying a residence, the developer said in an e-mail.

“A lot of [Chinese developers] say Iskandar is just like Shenzhen was 10 years ago”

Buses disgorging Chinese tourists at Forest City in November were met by dozens of sales agents, with the women dressed in traditional Sarong Kebaya outfits similar to those worn by Singapore Airlines Ltd. stewardesses.

The visitors filed into a vast sales gallery where agents explained the enormity of the project using a replica of the finished town, with model buildings as tall as people. They viewed show flats with marble floors and golden-trimmed furniture, dined on a buffet spread and were encouraged to sign on the spot. A two-bedroom apartment cost as little as 1.25 million yuan ($181,400), about one-fifth of the price of a similar-sized private apartment in central Singapore.

But JB is not Shenzhen. The billions poured into the economic zone in southern Guangdong in the 1980s and 1990s by Hong Kong and Taiwanese firms was soon dwarfed by Chinese investment as factories sprang up all along China’s coast.

In Malaysia, investment growth is slowing, slipping to 2 percent year on year in the third quarter, from more than 6 percent in the previous quarter. The value of residential sales in Malaysia fell almost 11 percent last year, while in Johor the drop was 32 percent, according to government data.

“I am very concerned because the market is joined at the hip, if Johor goes down, the rest of Malaysia would follow,” said Shanker, at Axis-REIT Managers, who estimates that about half the units in Iskandar may remain empty. “If the developers stop building today, I think it would take 10 years for the condos to fill up the current supply. But they won’t stop.”

Developers have a pipeline of more than 350,000 private homes planned or under construction in Johor state, according to data from Malaysia’s National Property Information Centre. That’s more than all the privately built homes in Singapore. Forest City could add another 160,000 over its 30-year construction period, according to Bloomberg estimates, based on the projected population.

“Land is plentiful and cheap,” said Alan Cheong, senior director of research & consultancy at Savills Singapore. “But buyers don’t understand how real estate values play out when there is no shortage of land.”

The developers haven’t been helped by government measures designed to prevent overseas investors pushing up prices. In 2014, Malaysia doubled the minimum price of homes that foreigners can buy to 1 million ringgit, and raised capital gains tax to as much as 30 per cent for most properties resold by foreigners within five years.

The stream of new developments has scared away some investors, pushing developers to concentrate more on finding families who will live in the apartments, said Lo at CH Williams. Profit margins have fallen to around 20 percent, from 30 percent when land was cheap a few years ago, according to his firm.

Singapore billionaire Peter Lim’s Rowsley Ltd. said last year it will no longer build homes in Iskandar and will instead turn its Vantage Bay site into a healthcare and wellness center.

“The Chinese players have deep financial resources and are building residential projects ahead of demand,” Ho Kiam Kheong, managing director of real estate at Rowsley said in an interview. “If we do residential in Iskandar, we would be only a drop in the ocean. We can’t compete with them on such a large scale.”

UEM Group Bhd., the biggest landowner in Iskandar, is selling plots to manufacturers to boost economic activity in the area.

“The market is joined at the hip, if Johor goes down, the rest of Malaysia would follow”

“Industries are the queen bee,” creating jobs and wealth for local residents, said Chief Executive Officer Izzaddin Idris. “That will bring a demand for the houses we are building.”

U.S.-based chocolate maker Hershey Co. is among those building a plant in Iskandar, joining tenants such as amusement park Legoland Malaysia and Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios—a franchise of the U.K.-based movie studio.

Meanwhile, sales reps sell a Utopian dream—a city of the future with smart, leafy buildings and offices full of happy, rich residents.

“It will take a while for all the parts to fall into place: infrastructure, manufacturing, education, healthcare and growth in population,” said Ho at Rowsley. “But I have no doubt it will happen eventually.”

—With assistance from Emma Dong.

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Malaysia: Kuala Terengganu struck by worst flooding since 2013/14 disaster

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 29 Nov 16;

UALA TERENGGANU: Cityfolk here briefly went into panic mode when continuous heavy downpour, which began at 8am, swiftly inundated major parts of the city, disrupted traffic, flooded homes and generally brought life to a standstill.

Many were immediately reminded of severe floods which paralysed much of the state from Dec 2013 to Jan 2014, displaced thousands of households and caused millions in damage.

The worst affected districts today were the areas of Taman Sri Intan 1 and 2, Batas Baru, Tok Jembal, Kampung Padang Air and Gong Badak, where water levels rose to as high as 1 metre by 10am.

Major roads became unpassable, including Jalan Sultan Omar, Jalan Kamaruddin and Jalan Batu Burok, with long lines of vehicles stuck until waters began to gradually subside after 1pm when the rain began to die down.

State Civil Defence Department deputy director Amir Sarrafudin Zalman urged people stay calm, as water levels near rivers and along coastal areas had not yet reached alarming levels.

He said the water was receding extremely slowly because of high tide. "The situation is compounded by several clogged drains in the city.

The situation is (still) under control, but we will (continue) monitoring, and will alert the public on the latest flood situation in the state," he said.

Checks showed that some families incurred damage to their property, as the sudden rise in flood waters had caught many by surprise.

Many were not able to save their belongings, as they were either at their workplace, or still sleeping, when waters rose.

Flash flood strikes Terengganu, 92 people from 19 families evacuated
ZARINA ABDULLAH New Straits Times 29 Nov 16;

TERENGGANU: Heavy rains for the past 12 hours have resulted 92 people from 19 families seeking shelters at three relief centres in Kuala Terengganu and Kemaman.

The victims were forced to leave their houses after their housing areas were inundated by about one metre-deep water following a flash flood.

State Welfare Department's flood portal stated that as of 8pm, 72 people from 15 families have been placed at SK Badrul Alam Shah in Kemasik.

Another 16 people from three families were moved to SK Telok Kalong, in Kemaman. In Kuala Terengganu, a family of four had sought shelter at the SK Gong Tok Nasek, in Kuala Terengganu.

Meanwhile, district police chief Deputy Superintendent Mohd Suhaimi Ali said Jalan Kuala Terengganu-Kuantan near Merchang, which was closed since noon, has been opened to all vehicles at 5.30pm.

East Coast lashed by heavy rain

KUALA TERENGGANU: Flash floods and thunderstorms threw life into chaos in various places across Terengganu, causing several road closures – and it was only the beginning of the bad news.

Worst is yet to come, said Terengganu Civil Force’s deputy director Mejar Amirsarafudin Zalman.

He said there would be high tides measuring about 2.5m in Kuala Terengganu and up to 3.2m from today for eight consecutive days, which could cause more major floods in the event of rain.

In Kuantan, it poured for more than 12 hours with the rains starting at 6am and stopping only at 7pm, a sign that the monsoon was about to hit the east coast of the peninsula.

The flash floods in Terengganu yesterday, which started after a heavy downpour at about 2am, caused two major roads in Batu Burok here and Serating Merchang in Marang to be closed to light vehicles, while Jalan Sultan Omar and Jalan Kamarudin near Kuala Terengganu Specialist Centre was inundated with water up to 0.4m. The road was not closed.

As of 6.30pm, the Serating Merchang road in Marang had reopened to vehicles.

Some low-lying areas around Kuala Terengganu, Kemaman, Dungun and Hulu Terengganu were affected but no major damage to properties was reported.

Eighty-seven evacuees from Kemaman and Kuala Terengganu were now taking refuge at SMK Badrul Alam Shah in Kemasik; SK Teluk Kalong in Kijal, Kemaman, and SK Gong Tok Nasek here.

They were all from Kampung Sarang Lang, Kampung Baru Kanan, Kampung Baru Kiri, Kampung Gong Cengal (all in Kemaman) and Kampung Gong Tok Nasek.

According to Mejar Amirsa­rafudin, the cause of the flash floods was the heavy downpour which met with the high tides although clogged drains could also be the reason for certain areas in the city centre.

He also urged the public to be more responsible and stop circulating false flood pictures through WhatsApp.

“We also urge the public not to panic following the spreading of photographs as some were taken in a way to make it look like a disaster.

“The Civil Defence Force is monitoring the situation constantly and we are in contact with all respective agencies including the Meteoro­logical Department and Department of Irrigation and Drainage for immediate reports on flood eventualities,” he said, adding that the public could log on to or call the operation room for information.

Meanwhile, Mahathir Md Daud, from Kampung Durian Burung here, said it took only 10 minutes for the water level to rise and inundate his house in the morning.

“This is the first time a flash flood occurred in the 45 years that the house has been standing. Everything happened so quickly that we were unable to carry anything.

A car makes its way down a flooded road in Kuala Terengganu.

“We will have to start packing and moving our belongings to a higher place as the flash flood was a warning there could be a bigger one coming soon,” he said, adding that the floodwaters had caused slight damage to his sofa set and the motors in his two refrigerators.

Housewife Rosmah Engah, 36, from Kampung Batu Penunggul, Marang, was a very frustrated woman.

She said such flash floods were a norm every time it rained heavily for six continuous hours in her area.

She blamed poor drainage for causing the flash floods which saw her house inundated at about noon.

Terengganu floods: More people move to relief centres at two districts

KEMAMAN: More people have been evacuated from floods as the Fire and Rescue Department starts monitoring river banks due to the high tide phenomenon.

The number of flood evacuees increased to 316 from 79 families on Wednesday from 87 evacuees on Tuesday night.

Civil Defence Force deputy director Major Amirsarafudin Zalman said the evacuees were housed at five centres in Kemaman and Kuala Terengganu.

Kemaman has 303 victims from 74 families placed at three centres while 13 victims from five families were housed at two centres in Kuala Terengganu.

The five evacuation centres are SMK Badrul Alam Shah in Kemasik; SK Teluk Kalong, in Kijal, Kemaman, Kampung Titian Berayun JKKK hall, SK Gong Tok Nasek and SK Chendering in Kuala Terengganu.

"The victims were all from Kampung Sarang Lang, Kampung Baru Kanan, Kampung Baru Kiri, Kampung Gong Cengal (all in Kemaman), Kampung Gong Tok Nasek and Kampung Chendering in Kuala Terengganu," Amirsarafudin said.

As of 8.20am, SMK Badrul Alam Shah in Kemasik shelters the most number of evacuees at 256 victims from 65 families followed by SK Teluk Kalong with 42 victims from eight families.

The first three evacuation centres (SMK Badrul Alam Shah, SK Teluk Kalong and SK Gong Tok Nasek) were opened between 3.50pm and 4.55pm on Tuesday.

Bernama reports that the Terengganu Fire and Rescue Department is monitoring rivers, beaches and several high risk areas due to the high tide phenomenon and incessant heavy rain since early Wednesday.

Its chief, Che Shaari Abdullah, said the monitoring of the areas which began from 9pm, involved a team of 30 divided into three groups.

"The groups are making checks in villages, towns, the shoreline and rivers. We are also placing markers to indicate the water level.

"Based on the initial checks, the situation is still under control although with a slight increase (in water levels)," he told reporters after conducting a check at Batu Buruk beach area.

Che Shaari also advised visitors to be on the alert and not to visit or carry out activities at risky areas throughout the monsoon season.

The Meteorological Department had forecast rains in Terengganu for the next five days which also coincides with the high tides of up to 3.2m in Kemaman and 2.5m in Kuala Terengganu.

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Malaysia: Connected mangroves

IZWAN ISMAIL New Straits Times 28 Nov 16;

Telecommunication solutions provider Ericsson uses tech to help rehabilitate mangrove areas in Sabak Bernam, writes Izwan Ismail

OVER the past years, soil and river pollution in the Sabak Bernam coastal area in Selangor has resulted in severe dwindling of mangrove trees in the area.

This in turn has led to serious erosion of the area which, if not addressed, will cause more damage.

To this end, Ericsson has stepped in to offer its expertise and technology know-how in monitoring the growth of mangroves and, at the same time, gauge the environmental condition.

Its vice president of solutions for Malaysia and Sri Lanka, Sebastian Barros, says farmers are very worried about erosion there.

“Much had been done. The affected community planted new mangrove saplings but the exercise was not very successful. Due to the harsh weather conditions, growth was affected and saplings died. Monkeys also destroyed the young trees,” he says.


What Ericsson is doing is to bring the wonders of Internet of Things (IoT) and wireless technology to the area, specifically Kampung Datuk Hormat. “We want to rehabilitate the mangrove areas which have eroded and are disappearing,” says Barros.

According to him, mangrove trees can hold up to 100 times the effect of tsunamis as they act as an essential natural barrier.

Besides that, they can hold carbon up to five times better than other trees.

The area is also home to 100 species of fauna, including snakes and crabs.


The project, which started in September 2015, is called Ericsson’s Connected Mangroves, the first of its kind in the world.

It combines cloud, machine-to-machine and mobile broadband to help the local community in Kampung Datuk Hormat to better manage the growth of mangrove saplings.

After the affected areas were identified, volunteers from Ericsson, NGOs and the villagers planted mangrove saplings that were equipped with special sensors which could monitor real-time information about soil and weather conditions, fires, water levels and any intrusion from third parties.

This ensured positive growth and rehabilitation of eroded coastlines.

“Data is compiled and sent directly to a cloud system where users, such as farmers, NGOs, analysts and authorities, can have access to it and so understand more about the current status of the saplings,” says Barros.


Ericsson’s aim is to plant 10,000 mangrove trees by end of 2018. To date, it has planted 3,000.

“By combining ICT innovation with collaborative partnerships built on a shared vision, we now see a higher percentage of mangrove saplings that are likely reach maturity.

In addition, through the Internet of Things (IoT) solution, the community has been empowered to use data to manage the environment and take action to support the mangroves,” he says.

It was estimated that only 40 per cent of mangrove saplings had reached maturity in recent years.

But pilot results from the project have shown an improvement of 50 per cent in the mortality rate.

“This implies that with the Connected Mangroves approach, for every 1,000 saplings, around 700 or more can reach adulthood,” says Barros.

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Malaysia Seriously Mitigating Global Warming, To Ratify Paris Agreement

Azman Ujang Bernama 14 Nov 16;

MARRAKECH, Nov 14 (Bernama) -- Malaysia is seriously doing its part in mitigating global warming and plans to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change before the end of this year, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said here Monday.

Wan Junaidi, who is leading the Malaysian delegation to the 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Forum on Climate Change (COP 22) underway in this Moroccan city, said as one of the 191 signatories of the Paris Agreement, Malaysia had pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 45 per cent by 2030 compared with the 2005 level.

"Energy, industrial processes, agriculture, land use, land use change, forestry and waste are among the sectors under the scope and coverage of our reduction commitment," he said when opening the first ever Malaysia Pavilion under the COP series.

The Pavilion serves as a platform for Malaysia to showcase and highlight the country's achievements that include activities related to climate change mitigation as well as demonstrate its commitment towards the cause.

The conference at the level of officials from all the 191 signatory countries of Paris Agreement began last week while the three-day High-Level meeting among ministers kicks off tomorrow.

Virtually all member countries are showcasing ongoing and future sustainable development projects under a massive tent-like city here.

Wan Junaidi said Malaysia's biological diversity was rcognised as among the world's richest and one of the 12 megadiverse countries in the world.

"Our economic growth, that is crucial for our well-being, also places pressure on our flora and fauna," said Wan Junaidi, who has been heading the ministry over one-and-half years and has been pushing hard to introduce stronger new laws to protect the country's bio-diversity.

He has consistently emphasised the need to strengthen efforts in conservation to ensure balanced development in pursuit of green growth and contribution to the global Sustainable Development Agenda.

The ministry's secretary-general Datuk Seri Azizan Ahmad said credit for Malaysia having its inaugural Pavilion at last after 22 COP meetings had taken place should be given to Wan Junaidi who fought hard to get it approved by the Cabinet.

One of the projects being showcased by Malaysia at the Pavilion is Forest City, a smart city development located at Johor's Iskandar Malaysia adjacent to the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link.

Forest City, a joint-venture between Country Garden Holdings and Esplanade Danga 88, is branded as a prime model of a future city and comprises of four islands designed as an ideal destination for a new generation of Malaysians and foreigners who seek to live and work in a compact and walkable mixed-used of metropolis with a variety of civic, cultural and recreational amenities set within a lush tropical landscape.

Forest City is expected to generate an estimated RM197.7 billion of GDP by 2035 or 7 per cent of total GDP of Johor and creating over 220,000 jobs half of which are skilled workers.

The Malaysian delegation to COP22 includes Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Utama Idris Haron, Malaysian Ambassador to Morocco Datuk Jamal Hassan and secretary-general of the Ministry of Green Technology, Energy and Water Datuk Seri Dr Zaini Ujang.


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Indonesia: Social forests managed by cooperatives should be expanded - President Jokowi

Antara 28 Nov 16;

Tuban (ANTARA News) - Tree planting for social forests, managed by both private parties and cooperatives, need to be explored more, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has said.

"Let us not give large concessions entirely to corporations, if it could be beneficial for the people, then by any means, go for it," President Jokowi said during the commemoration event of National Tree Planting Day and National Planting Month in Tasikharjo village, Tuban, East Java, on Monday.

When corporations fail to pass on the benefits to the public, then social forest management concessions will be given to cooperatives or private entities, Jokowi further said.

"I believe that this model can be followed and I will be sure to check it. We hope that it could be a good model to be explored in other provinces and regions," he stated.

The government will support programs that incorporate farmers, fisherman and cooperatives in managing large-scaled economic schemes, he continued.

"I would like to incorporate farmers, fisherman and cooperatives, and without a model involving them it would be challenging for small entities to grow. It needs to be done on a large economic scale," he remarked.

He also advised his ministers to support the program so that they receive the tangible economic benefits and improve the economic movement.

"I have warned the cooperatives minister to involve the cooperatives, and I have also said to the maritime and fisheries minister to incorporate fishermen. The same goes for the agriculture minister whom I have advised to incorporate farmers," he reiterated.

He will keep an eye on the program and it will be evaluated in the next 3 to 4 months to a year, the president assured.

If the evaluation shows positive results in a way that it affects the economy, it will then be implemented in other cities and provinces in Indonesia.

Tree planting in Tasikharjo village, involving the Green Earth Endowment Producers Cooperative, need to be followed by other parties, the president said.

"I see this as a well initiated format and I will continue to follow its progress, because there is an environmental value to it, but on the other side, there is also a community value and that can also be beneficial for the peoples economy," he stated.

Every month people can obtain earnings from maintaining the trees and again during harvest season, he explained.

"This is the kind of Pancasila (five ideologies) oriented economic processes that we would like to explore more," he concluded.

(Reported by Joko Susilo/Uu.KR-ARC/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

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Malaysia needs to go for nuclear energy

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 30 Nov 16;

JOHOR BARU: Malaysia has no choice but to go for nuclear energy in less than 15 years from now to ensure the country is able to cater for its energy needs in the future.

Malaysian Nuclear Agency (Nuclear Malaysia) director-general Datuk Dr Muhamad Lebai Juri said the idea of the country having nuclear energy had been discussed many years ago.

He pointed out that nuclear energy would not replace the existing energy in the country derived from fossil fuel, gas, coal or even renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydro power.

“Malaysia needs a good mix of energy coming from different sources to reduce its dependency on only from one particular source,’’ Dr Muhamad said at a briefing.

He said this after opening the three-day 19th Radiation Protection Conference and Workshop 2016 attended by some 250 radiation practitioners nationwide.

Dr Muhamad said one advantage of using nuclear energy was that the authorities would be able to keep the power tariff low unlike using power from gas, coal or fossil fuel although the initial investment to set up a nuclear plant is costly.

He said if Malaysia were to go for nuclear energy, it would made up between 10% and 30% of the country’s total energy output while the balance would come from fossil fuel, gas, coal, hydro power, solar and wind.

“South Korea is planning to build between three and five nuclear reactors to have 30% of its power output made up of nuclear energy by 2030,’’ said Dr Muhamad.

He added that in France, 80% of the country’s power supply came from nuclear power and in the United States, there were about 101 nuclear power plants.

Dr Muhamad said that at the end of the day, it is the prerogative of the Government to decide whether there is a need for the country to go for nuclear energy. “We will continue educating and creating awareness among the people that nuclear energy is safe if Malaysia decides to go for nuclear energy one day.’’

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Philippines: US manufacturer aims to improve 1 million lives by recycling fishing nets

A. Azim Idris Asian Correspondent 29 Nov 16;

ABANDONED, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear — including nets — makes up about 10 percent of marine waste globally, but an Atlanta-based manufacturer is embarking on a large-scale cleanup effort while helping impoverished fishermen earn extra income to improve the lives of 1 million people by 2020.

Through the Net-Works programme, U.S.-based Interface Inc, one of the world’s largest carpet tile manufacturers, has enabled community members of some of the Philippines’ most under-served fishing villages to gather and sell discarded nets, with the aim of restoring the environment and improving the quality of life among the communities involved.

Speaking to the Asian Correspondent recently, Interface’s Chief Sustainability Officer Erin Meezan said the company has set goals on how much ocean it wants to protect by 2020 and to provide 10,000 families access to community banking.

“We stated this idea of a partnership opportunity that then evolved to include (fishing) communities in the Philippines where they would be paid to collect the nets and ultimately, we got them into a contractual agreement with our yarn supplier who then takes the nets before we incorporate them into products,” Meeran said.

Already running in its fourth year, the Net-Works programme is a collaborative effort between Interface’s supplier and nylon manufacturer Aquafil and leading marine experts Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

The programme, Meeran said, works by turning recycled nets into yarn that Interface can then purchase from Aquafil which buys the discarded material from the fishing villages.

This, in turn, provides additional income for the communities to acquire food in times of need, support education choices, or to invest into other livelihood opportunities.

Since 2012, the Net-Works had collected 66,860 kilos of nets, by residents in 14 collection sites in Danajon Bank and the Bantayan Islands in the Philippines.

Collected fishing nets are processed into yarn which is then turned into carpet tiles, supporting Interface’s Mission Zero goal to source 100 percent recycled material.

Net-Works, according to Interface, is the “first inclusive business model of its kind” to combine the conservation and livelihood expertise of ZSL and the business know-how of Interface to integrate fishing communities in the Philippines into the global carpet company’s supply chain as a source of recycled nylon.

Meezen said the idea came about when Interface aspired to go beyond using recycled content for its products to sourcing raw materials in a way that has a social and environmental impact.

“In speaking with our yarn supplier, Aquafil, Interface realised that they have been experimenting with marine nets, and so the idea was hatched where Interface would try to find a way to incorporate marine nets into our supply chain in a way that has an additional social and environmental benefit,” she said.

After a series of meetings, she said the company realised that the ZSL was doing similar work to protect some marine habitats in the Philippines.

“We saw an interesting marriage between the resource and the marine conservation work they were doing in the Philippines, where they were seeing these marine nets making a huge negative impact, and our desire to collect the nets,” she said.

Net-Works has shown that it is possible not only to effectively tackle this growing environmental problem, but to also empower some of the most disadvantaged communities in the Philippines to join a global supply chain by taking care of the environment, the company said in a statement.

The programme has also created 508 memberships in Community Banks, with the opportunity to earn supplemental income through the sale of nets, as well as access to financial infrastructure via locally-established CoMSCAs (Community Managed Credit and Savings Associations) or local micro-finance initiatives, for the fishermen.

While the company has not set any specific target in terms of collection of nets, Meeran says the focus was on the impact of the programme by the year 2020.

Meeran said one of the most important aspects of Net-Works was to establish a community bank where money from the yarn suppliers could flow and be distributed to the local communities that previously did not have access to banking.

Asked why the company chose the Philippines for the programme, Meeran said it was because the ZSL had already established an on-the-ground presence, and was already working with communities there, adding the Danajon Bank, where a net collection hub was established had a special ecological significance due to the sensitivity of the area.

However, she said the company was also looking to expand the programme to other countries such as Thailand and India in the near future.

For now, the fishermen in the Philippines, she said, are paid to collect the nets but the source of income is not meant as full-time job.

“It’s meant to be a supplemental source that goes on top of what they normally do so they are paid for the nets collected and they also have access to the community banks to use those services on whether they want to get loans or something else,” she said.

On whether the company compromised on its profits for the green effort, Meeran said it did not as the company paid the same price to the yarn supplier for recycled yarn that is made from these nets.

“Aquafil has said there are marginal additional costs associated with the programme but those are not being passed on to us and nor are they being passed on to customers, they are simply being incorporated into sourcing their material,” she said.

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Japan orders major poultry cull after first bird flu outbreak in nearly two years

Ayai Tomisawa and Osamu Tsukimori Reuters 29 Nov 16;

Japan has started culling more than 300,000 chickens and ducks after the discovery of a highly contagious form of bird flu on farms in the north of the country, local officials said.

The bird flu outbreaks are the first in nearly two years in Japan and news of the cullings boosted shares in some infection-control product makers.

In Niigata prefecture north of Tokyo, authorities on Tuesday started culling about 310,000 chickens at a farm in the village of Sekikawa after 40 birds were found dead from H5 bird flu, a prefectural official told Reuters by telephone. The cull will continue until Dec. 2, the official said.

Further north in the prefecture of Aomori, about 16,500 ducks were being culled in the city of the same name after some tested positive for bird flu, according to a statement on the prefecture's website.

This is the first time that highly pathogenic avian influenza has been confirmed in Aomori prefecture, it said. The agriculture ministry said the outbreaks are the first for nearly two years in poultry farms in Japan.

Taiko Pharmaceutical Co, which makes infection-control products, surged 3.2 percent, and mask maker Daiwabo Holdings, jumped 5.1 percent.

Protective clothing maker Azearth Corp, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's second section, soared 17 percent to its daily limit of 681 yen.

Meanwhile, grilled-chicken restaurant operator Torikizoku Co dropped 2.8 percent.

"The news about bird flu is affecting these shares, but these moves tend to be short-lived," said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Asset Management.

South Korea last Friday announced a temporary nationwide standstill order for poultry farms and related transport over the weekend in a bid to contain a spread of H5N6 bird flu, a severe strain of the disease.

Another severe strain of bird flu, H5N8, has hit several countries in Europe and led to the culling of thousands of poultry after being detected in wild ducks in Northern France.

In recent weeks there have also been outbreaks in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Romania and Germany. Dutch authorities destroyed about 190,000 ducks on Saturday at six farms following an avian flu outbreak.

Farmers located in humid regions, where the risk of transmission is higher, are advised by health authorities to keep poultry flocks indoors or apply safety nets preventing contact with wild birds.

The H5N8 virus has never been detected in humans but it led to the culling of millions of farm birds in Asia, mainly South Korea, in 2014 before spreading to Europe.

The World Organization for Animal Health had warned in an interview with Reuters mid-November that more outbreaks of H5N8 were likely in Europe as wild birds believed to transmit the virus migrate southward.

(Writing by Aaron Sheldrick Editing by Michael Perry)

Japan orders chicken cull on third bird flu outbreak in less than a week
Reuters 1 Dec 16;

Japan has started culling another 230,000 chickens after the discovery of a highly contagious form of bird flu on a farm in the north of the country, the local government said.

The latest bird flu outbreak in Joetsu City in Niigata prefecture marks the second instance in the prefecture and the third in Japan in less than a week.

Authorities have been culling more than 300,000 chickens and ducks this week after the discovery of the first H5 bird flu in nearly two years.

That comes as South Korea said on Tuesday it would cull 3 percent of its total poultry population to curb an outbreak of the H5N6 variety of bird flu that has hit a number of farms across the nation.

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Nov 16

Get Crafty This December 2016 at LKCNHM
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

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How much coral has died in the Great Barrier Reef’s worst bleaching event?

James Cook University The Conversation AU 29 Nov 16;

Two-thirds of the corals in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef have died in the reef’s worst-ever bleaching event, according to our latest underwater surveys.

On some reefs in the north, nearly all the corals have died. However the impact of bleaching eases as we move south, and reefs in the central and southern regions (around Cairns and Townsville and southwards) were much less affected, and are now recovering.

In 2015 and 2016, the hottest years on record, we have witnessed at first hand the threat posed by human-caused climate change to the world’s coral reefs.

Heat stress from record high summer temperatures damages the microscopic algae (zooxanthellae) that live in the tissues of corals, turning them white.

After they bleach, these stressed corals either slowly regain their zooxanthellae and colour as temperatures cool off, or else they die.

The Great Barrier Reef bleached severely for the first time in 1998, then in 2002, and now again in 2016. This year’s event was more extreme than the two previous mass bleachings.

Surveying the damage

We undertook extensive underwater surveys at the peak of bleaching in March and April, and again at the same sites in October and November. In the northern third of the Great Barrier Reef, we recorded an average (median) loss of 67% of coral cover on a large sample of 60 reefs.

The dieback of corals due to bleaching in just 8-9 months is the largest loss ever recorded for the Great Barrier Reef.

To put these losses in context, over the 27 years from 1985 to 2012, scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science measured the gradual loss of 51% of corals on the central and southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef.

They reported no change over this extended period in the amount of corals in the remote, northern region. Unfortunately, most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in this northern, most pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef.

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Bright spots

The bleaching, and subsequent loss of corals, is very patchy. Our map shows clearly that coral death varies enormously from north to south along the 2,300km length of the Reef.

The southern third of the Reef did not experience severe heat stress in February and March. Consequently, only minor bleaching occurred, and we found no significant mortality in the south since then.

In the central section of the Reef, we measured widespread but moderate bleaching, which was comparably severe to the 1998 and 2002 events. On average, only 6% of coral cover was lost in the central region in 2016.

The remaining corals have now regained their vibrant colour. Many central reefs are in good condition, and they continue to recover from Severe Tropical Cyclones Hamish (in 2009) and Yasi (2011).

In the eastern Torres Strait and outermost ribbon reefs in the northernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, we found a large swathe of reefs that escaped the most severe bleaching and mortality, compared to elsewhere in the north. Nonetheless, 26% of the shallow-water corals died.

We suspect that these reefs were partially protected from heat stress by strong currents and upwelling of cooler water across the edge of the continental shelf that slopes steeply into the Coral Sea.

For visitors, these surveys show there are still many reefs throughout the Marine Park that have abundant living coral, particularly in popular tourism locations in the central and southern regions, such as the Whitsundays and Cairns.


The northern third of the Great Barrier Reef, extending 700km from Port Douglas to Papua New Guinea, experienced the most severe bleaching and subsequent loss of corals.

On 25% of the worst affected reefs (the top quartile), losses of corals ranged from 83-99%. When mortality is this high, it affects even tougher species that normally survive bleaching.

However, even in this region, there are some silver linings. Bleaching and mortality decline with depth, and some sites and reefs had much better than average survival. A few corals are still bleached or mottled, particularly in the north, but the vast majority of survivors have regained their colour.

What will happen next?

The reef science and management community will continue to gather data on the bleaching event as it slowly unfolds. The initial stage focused on mapping the footprint of the event, and now we are analysing how many bleached corals died or recovered over the past 8-9 months.

Over the coming months and for the next year or two we expect to see longer-term impacts on northern corals, including higher levels of disease, slower growth rates and lower rates of reproduction. The process of recovery in the north – the replacement of dead corals by new ones – will be slow, at least 10-15 years, as long as local conditions such as water quality remain conducive to recovery.

As global temperatures continue to climb, time will tell how much recovery in the north is possible before a fourth mass bleaching event occurs.

This article was co-authored by David Wachenfeld, Director for Reef Recovery at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Great Barrier Reef scientists confirm largest die-off of corals recorded
Higher sea temperatures have led to the worst bleaching event on record, new study finds, with coral predicted to take up to 15 years to recover
Guardian staff and agencies The Guardian 28 Nov 16;

A new study has found that higher water temperatures have ravaged the Great Barrier Reef, causing the worst coral bleaching recorded by scientists.

In the worst-affected area, 67% of a 700km swath in the north of the reef lost its shallow-water corals over the past eight to nine months, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University study found.

“Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most-pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef,” Prof Terry Hughes said. “This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected.”

Great Barrier Reef: diving in the stench of millions of rotting animals
The southern two-thirds of the reef escaped with minor damage, Hughes said. This part was protected from the rising sea temperatures because of cooler water from the Coral Sea.

Scientists expect that the northern region will take at least 10 to 15 years to regain the lost corals but are concerned a fourth bleaching event could interrupt the slow recovery.

The dire assessment of the reef’s health comes as the Australian government is due to report to Unesco’s world heritage committee on its handling of the reef.

After the federal government submits the report Unesco will decide whether to again consider listing the Great Barrier Reef on its “list of world heritage in danger”.

The government will need to report on how it has funded and implemented its Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan, as well as how the bleaching event has affected the reef.

Since it last considered including the Great Barrier Reef on its list, the reef has undergone the worst bleaching event in recorded history. According to government agencies, 22% of the reef was killed in one hit, as unusually warm waters bleached and killed the coral.

Climate change poses such a threat to the reef that the former head of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has called for a ban on all new coalmines in Australia to protect the reef from climate change.

Graeme Kelleher, who was the first chief executive of the authority, a position he held for 16 years, said: “Australia cannot have a healthy Great Barrier Reef and a continuing coal industry.

“I love the reef and I have worked to preserve it since 1979; I will oppose anything that threatens to destroy it,” he said.

Great Barrier Reef suffered worst bleaching on record in 2016, report finds
Hywel Griffith BBC News 28 Nov 16;

Higher water temperatures in 2016 caused the worst destruction of corals ever recorded on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a study has found.

Some 67% of corals died in the reef's worst-hit northern section, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies report said.

The situation was better in the central section, where 6% perished, while the southern reef is in good health.

But scientists warn recovery could be difficult if climate change continues.

Coral bleaching happens when water temperatures rise for a sustained period of time.

In February, March and April, sea surface temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef were the hottest on record, at least 1C higher than the monthly average.

"Some of the initial mortality was down to heat stress," said study leader Professor Terry Hughes.

"The coral was cooked."

How bleaching occurs

Far more has been lost through gradual starvation, after the coral expelled the colourful algae zooxanthella, which turns sunlight into food.

This is what leads to the white, skeletal appearance of the coral, which is left without its main source of energy.

The study also found that the coral which survived the bleaching have now come under greater threat from predators such as snails and crown of thorns starfish.

This year's mass bleaching was the worst-ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef, following two previous events in 1998 and 2002.

Professor Hughes is certain that the increased water temperature is the result of carbon emissions, and warns that climate change could bring annual bleaching within 20 years.

"Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef," he said.

"This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected."

Where is the damage?

One of the worst-hit areas is around Lizard Island in Far North Queensland, where around 90% of the coral has died.

Dr Andrew Hoey, whose team charted the area, said the impact was far worse than feared after an initial survey in April.

"It's devastating to get in the water somewhere you've been coming for almost 20 years, and it's just knocked it on its head," he said.

"There's very little coral cover left there. It was dominated by the acropora - the branching corals - but we lost most of them."

Lizard Island is home to a research station, where scientists from across the world have come for decades to study marine life
One of its directors, Dr Anne Hogget, said this was by far the worst event to hit the Great Barrier Reef since she started working there in 1990.

"We had bleaching here in 2002," she said. "We thought this was bad at the time, but this has blown it completely out of the water."

She is hopeful that the reef is capable of recovery, but fears it may not be give an opportunity, as sea temperatures continue to rise.

"The trajectory is not good," Dr Hogget explained.

"We keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and this happened absolutely because of that."

What happens next?

On the central and southern parts of the Great Barrier Reef, where bleaching was not as prevalent, there is concern that it has been misreported, with one magazine even publishing an obituary of the reef earlier this year.

Tourism operators like Michael Healey from the Quicksilver Group are keen to point out that many sites were unaffected, but there is concern for the reef's long term health.

"Without the Great Barrier Reef, we wouldn't survive," he said.

"So it is absolutely of the utmost importance that we ensure that our politicians and everyone else in our community and around the world are doing what they can."

The Australian Government has published a long-term sustainability plan for the reef, and pledged financial support for research into coral bleaching.

The 2050 plan identifies the need to help make the reef more resilient to climate change in the future, while trying to lower carbon emissions.

Mr Healy argued even those not financially involved had a stake in the reef.

"I'd say every human on the planet does," he said.

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Marine disease likely to follow Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching

Cornell University Science Daily 28 Nov 16;

Higher water temperatures in 2016 caused the worst destruction of corals ever recorded on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, report experts. And this may be followed by devastating outbreaks of infectious disease, they say.

Drew Harvell, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is widely recognized for her work on marine diseases -- specifically, the ecology and evolution of coral resistance to disease as well as evaluating the impacts of a warming climate on coral reef ecosystems. Harvell says the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies report showing that higher water temperatures in 2016 caused the worst destruction of corals ever recorded on Australia's Great Barrier Reef may be followed by devastating outbreaks of infectious disease.

Harvell says, "Although the Great Barrier Reef was badly hit, the epicenter of this 2016 event is actually in the middle of the Indo-pacific, at Palmyra atoll and Kiribati where temperatures reached four degrees about the seasonal baseline for over a month. Over 90 percent of corals died on many of those reefs.

"This is the worst bleaching event of the northern great barrier reef. Mid and southern sections were also hit with a 2002 event that caused mass bleaching and outbreaks of infectious disease. We typically do see outbreaks of disease following the bleaching events, because of the double whammy of the corals being stressed and warm temperatures favor infectious microorganisms.

"Outside magazine published an article called 'An Obituary for the Great Barrier Reef.' The event was bad, but the central and southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef are quite healthy, so that article was over-stated. You don't call a forest dead just because 50 percent of the trees are dead, but it is an extreme event.

"It is useful to realize this is the third straight year in a row of record-breaking temperature. Each year from 2014-2016 was successively the warmest year on record, assuming this year will once again break records and now be the warmest year on record."

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Thailand: Climate change 'threatens fight against illegal fishing'

Cod Satrusayang Reuters 28 Nov 16;

Climate change threatens to undermine Thailand's efforts to combat illegal fishing and avoid a potential European Union ban on exports by the multi-billion dollar seafood industry, environmental groups say.

They warn that climate change is slowing the recovery of fish stocks in traditional fishing grounds, prompting boats to venture outside Thai waters in search of fish.

“Overfishing plays a major role in the decimation of the fish stock in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, but climate change is just as big a threat,” said Suchana Chavanich, a marine biologist at Chulalongkorn University.

“Warmer oceans mean that fish don’t grow to their full length. Coral bleaching caused by climate change means fish nurseries and their food sources are also under threat,” Suchana said.

Thailand's fish stocks peaked in 2006 at 856,212 tonnes of fish caught in the Gulf of Thailand, according to One Shared Ocean, a group that monitors marine issues.

Four years later it was down to 617,568 tonnes, the last year for which the group has data.

The EU issued a "yellow card" to Thailand in April 2015, warning the country should clean up its poorly regulated fishing industry or face a ban on seafood exports.

Thailand is the world's third-largest seafood exporter, shipping $7 billion worth of fish and seafood products in 2013, according to fisheries department data.

Exports to the EU were 481 million euros ($511 million) last year, EU figures show.

Since the EU "yellow card", the Thai government said it has registered most of its fishing fleet and banned ships fitted with push nets and bottom trawling equipment from going to sea.

As a result, more than 3,500 fishing boats have been unable to leave port for at least a year, according to the Thai Overseas Fisheries Association.

Earlier this month, the last of 48 boats seized during operations against illegal fishing were sunk off the Thai coast in an effort to create artificial coral reefs for tourism.

The EU said it is working with Thailand on implementing an action plan and no deadline has been set for a decision. “The dialogue with the Thai authorities is ongoing,” Enrico Brivio, spokesperson for Environment, Maritime and Fisheries, said in an emailed statement.

While the government has sought to avoid an EU ban, it has not done enough to address the effects of climate change on marine aquaculture, said Anchalee Pipattanawattanakul, an ocean researcher at Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

"Any recovery made by fish stocks from the government's new illegal fishing initiatives are threatened in the long term by warming oceans," Anchalee said.

Officials at the Department of Fisheries said climate change was an issue for the cabinet and parliament to address.

Meanwhile, the fishing industry is skeptical about the government's assurances that the measures it has introduced to combat illegal fishing will lead to a recovery in fish stocks.

More than 300,000 people are employed in Thailand's seafood sector, many of them migrant workers from neighboring countries.

"A lot of the fishermen have come to me for advice about changing industries and what other things they can do," said Abhisit Techanitisawad, President of the Thai Overseas Fisheries Association.

"They just don't see their long term future within this industry."

(Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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India’s grand plan to create world’s longest river set to go

TV Padma New Scientist 28 Nov 16;

Engineering projects don’t come any bigger than this. If India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, gets his way, work could soon begin on a project to link large rivers in the Himalayas and Deccan Peninsula via 30 mega-canals and 3000 dams.

When the work is finished the water network will be twice the length of the Nile, the world longest river, and it will be able to divert water from flood-prone areas to those vulnerable to drought.

But geologists and ecologists in India question the science behind the Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) scheme. If it goes ahead it might lead to ecological disasters and coastal erosion that would threaten livelihoods and endanger wildlife.

And yet New Scientist has learned from the officials close to the project that work on the pilot link is likely to “start any time soon”, with final clearance from the ministry of environment and forests expected imminently.

Water network

Versions of the ILR scheme date back more than 60 years to the days of British rule in India. In its latest incarnation the plan is to link 14 rivers in north India and 16 in the western, central and southern parts of the country, creating a water network some 12,500 kilometres long. The idea is to reduce droughts and floods and create 35 million hectares of arable land in the process, as well as the means to generate 34,000 megawatts of hydropower.

This project is backed by Narendra Modi, who became the country’s prime minister in 2014. Since then India’s National Water Development Agency has completed detailed project reports for three key initial river links – the pilot link between Ken and Betwa rivers in northern and central India; Daman Ganga and Pinjal rivers in western India; and Par and Tapti rivers in western and central India. A feasibility report of a fourth link between three Himalayan rivers – Manas, Teesta and Ganges – is in the final stages of preparation.

But many researchers question the science behind the scheme. They say there isn’t a simple division between river basins that carry too little and too much water – and that climate change has triggered changes in rainfall patterns with unpredictable knock-on effects on water flow.

They argue that it would be unwise to set in stone a vast new canal network at a time of dramatic environmental change.

Changing climate

A study published in July builds on this. Climate modelling once predicted that India’s dry areas will become drier and its wet areas wetter, but this is no longer the case.

A team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay and Madras found a significant decrease in the monsoon rainfall over major water surplus river basins in India. The team’s computer simulations showed that the water yield in surplus river basins is decreasing but it is increasing in deficit basins.”What may appear as water deficient today may become water surplus in the future due to climate change,” says study author Sachin Gunthe at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. “So, how do you justify inter-linking?”

Geologists are concerned, too. Over the millennia India’s landscape has gradually evolved with the natural flow of water. “Most rivers are fed by monsoon rains and have built large floodplains and deltas over the years,” says Vedharaman Rajamani at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “Pushing rivers around through ILR disrupts the supply of sediments and nutrients downstream.”

This could negatively affect agriculture, as farmlands have been built over centuries in floodplains and near river deltas. “Rivers recharge aquifers near farmland,” Rajamani says. “Besides, rivers are critical to freshwater biodiversity, including fish, and carry nutrients to marine life.”

Good side of floods
What’s more, a central target of the ILR scheme – to make flooding in some parts of India a thing of the past – ignores the very real value of flooding. For one thing, it carries huge volumes of silt that can reduce coastal erosion.

“A river is not just a natural pipe through which water flows,” says geologist Chittenipattu Rajendran at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore. “It carries deposits and sediments. Dams trap sediments that are critical to habitats downstream.”

Natural flooding also helps recharge supplies of freshwater below India’s floodplains and deltas. Without that sporadic influx from floods, salt water gradually intrudes into groundwater supplies in land. “Desiccation and desertification follow,” says Rajamani. Decreased sedimentation also leads to coastal erosion, he adds.

Rajamani says the presence of excess fresh water in the Bay of Bengal delta is especially crucial, as it helps create and maintain a layer of low salinity in the bay, which is one of the several complex, interlinked factors that influence the onset of the Indian summer monsoon. Artificially manipulating the natural system could disrupt the monsoon rainfall in the region, he says.

Rajendran says that the huge amount of water in dams would increase the water pressure in the cracks and push on crust below, possibly increasing the risk of earthquakes in the already quake-prone Himalayas.

A grand distraction?
Sunita Narain, director of Delhi-based NGO, the Centre for Science and Environment, has in the past described river linking as a “grand distraction” from other pressing problems, including environment degradation.

She thinks the ILR scheme will mean building vast reservoirs to control and store water. Those reservoirs will displace hundreds of thousands of people, she says – claiming the Indian government’s track record in resettling people displaced by such projects has been poor.

Ecologists are concerned too. A pilot project in the ILR scheme – the Ken-Betwa link – would be built at the cost of destroying an estimated 4100 hectares of forest. This might include 58 square kilometres of the Panna Tiger Reserve – 10 per cent of the reserve’s area. And yet it got the official approval in September.

The government, however, has stayed dedicated to the idea. Interlinking rivers is an attempt to boost water supply to the needy states, says Vijay Goel, junior minister for water resources.

But while the project looks grand on paper whether it turns out to be a success or a disaster remains to be seen.

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Shrinking glaciers cause state-of-emergency drought in Bolivia

Climate News Network: Three main dams supplying water to La Paz and El Alto are no longer fed by Andean glaciers and have nearly run dry
Jan Rocha for Climate News Network, part of the Guardian Environment Network The Guardian 28 Nov 16;

The government of Bolivia, a landlocked country in the heart of South America, has been forced to declare a state of emergency as it faces its worst drought for at least 25 years.

Much of the water supply to La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, and the neighbouring El Alto, Bolivia’s second largest city, comes from the glaciers in the surrounding Andean mountains.

But the glaciers are now shrinking rapidly, illustrating how climate change is already affecting one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

The three main dams that supply La Paz and El Alto are no longer fed by runoff from glaciers and have almost run dry. Water rationing has been introduced in La Paz, and the poor of El Alto – where many are not yet even connected to the mains water supply – have staged protests.

The armed forces are being brought in to distribute water to the cities, emergency wells are being drilled, and schools will have to close two weeks ahead of the summer break.

President Evo Morales sacked the head of the water company for not warning him earlier of the dangerous situation, but the changes produced by global warming have been evident for some time.

Shrinking snowline

A recent report by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) says: “Temperatures in the region have risen by 0.5C (0.9F) in the period 1976 to 2006, and the people of La Paz and El Alto can observe evidence of climate change in the form of the shrinking snowline in the mountains above them.

Low water levels at the Milluni Zongo reservoir near La Paz, Bolivia.
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Low water levels at the Milluni Zongo reservoir near La Paz, Bolivia. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images
One glacier on Chacaltaya mountain – which rises above El Alto and which once hosted the world’s highest ski resort – has already completely disappeared. And the two Tuni-Condoriri glaciers that provide water for El Alto and La Paz lost 39% of their area between 1983 and 2006 – at a rate of 0.24 sq km per year.”

The SEI says that if the regional and global climate models that predict a two-degree rise in temperatures by 2050 are right, many small glaciers will completely disappear, while others will shrink dramatically.

It warns: “Glaciers are estimated to provide 20% to 28% of water for El Alto and La Paz. Therefore glacier loss will have a considerable impact, which will be felt particularly during the dry season, when glacial water provides the majority of urban water.

“The glaciers and mountain water systems also support agriculture, power generation and natural ecosystems throughout the region.”

The problem is exacerbated in El Alto, a sprawling settlement of more than a million people who have migrated from the countryside.

The city’s population grew by at least 30% between 2001 and 2012, and the city’s land area has rapidly expanded by 144% in the last decade, spreading into the flat open countryside to the south and west. By 2050, the population is expected to double to two million people.

The SEI believes that one of the causes of this increased influx into the city will be climate change. It says: “Evidence from El Alto’s history indicates that the fastest periods of population growth coincided with droughts, floods and bad harvests associated with the meteorological phenomena of El Niño and La Niña.

“The years 1985 to 1987, when migration into El Alto reached heights of 65,000 new immigrants, were also years of poor harvests.”

Supply outstripped

By 2009, demand for water in El Alto had already outstripped supply, and that supply is now increasingly under threat as climate change melts the glaciers.

Bolivia cannot rely on new sources to resolve its water crisis, given both the costs and potential range of climate change impacts. So one of the country’s most critical challenges in coming years will be to plan and implement strategies for managing water under uncertain climate conditions.

Conservation and recycling methods, the SEI says, will be needed to build the resilience of Bolivian cities’ water systems to climate change.

The cities will also need to find ways of reducing water consumption, especially from industries and commercial enterprises, but also from the profligacy of a small number of rich domestic consumers.

The SEI paper recommends community participation in developing strategies and decision-making on the management of water resources. But, at the moment, the only role for those affected communities is that of protest.

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7 marine research projects awarded under R&D programme

Lianne Chia Channel NewsAsia 28 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has one of the most urbanised marine environments in the world. And yet coral reefs are thriving in its waters, with more than 200 species of reef-building corals and about 200 species of fishes documented on reefs here.

A research project by the National University of Singapore (NUS) hopes to find out why these reefs have managed to survive.

The project is one of seven awarded by the Government under the National Research Foundation’s (NRF) marine science research and development programme. Deputy Prime Minister and NRF chairman Teo Chee Hean made the announcement at the official launch of the St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory on Monday (Nov 28).

NRF will invest S$25 million over five years in the programme, which hopes to develop more talent in marine science research by training research scientists, engineers and PhD students in the field. There will also be internships and collaborative partnerships with industry for technology development and applications.

"As a low-lying island, global warming and the rise in sea levels and temperatures can pose challenges to our marine ecosystems," said Mr Teo, adding that the environmental health of Singapore's waters will also affect Singapore's water supply, which is partly from desalination. "It will also impact aquaculture which provides a local food source.

"Therefore, it is important for Singapore to build up a good understanding of tropical marine science and our marine environment."


The seven awarded projects cover a variety of topics including the development and decline of algal blooms in Singapore, the ecological engineering of seawalls to enhance biodiversity, and how Singapore’s coral reefs could be affected by planned development projects.

These projects will address "pertinent national challenges", Mr Teo said.

NRF said it received 30 white papers since the call for projects under the programme was launched in October last year. An international evaluation panel recommended awards to the seven projects based on their quality and relevance to Singapore.

A well-equipped marine science facility like the St John's Island National Marine Laboratory will also complement Singapore's research and development the manage and conserve its waters and coastline, added Mr Teo.

The laboratory, which is Singapore’s only offshore marine research facility, was designated a national research infrastructure in March. This means that the laboratory will be open to all researchers in Singapore and international partners.

The facility will also be upgraded with new equipment to support emerging research areas. A skilled core team of scientists and technicians will also train and guide new researchers in marine science, Mr Teo said.

The laboratory will also undertake outreach and education initiatives to share research outcomes with the public. "Activities such as nature walks and residential training workshops will enhance understanding of our marine environment," added Mr Teo.

- CNA/lc

7 research projects awarded under marine science R&D programme
Today Online 29 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — The National Research Foundation (NRF), a department within the Prime Minister’s Office, has shortlisted seven new research projects to jump-start a S$25 million programme, to address pertinent national challenges such as enhancing the resilience of Singapore’s coral reefs and understanding the cause of algae blooms, among other areas.

Apart from building up new knowledge, the national marine science research and development programme aims to develop a new generation of marine scientists and researchers, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday at the official opening of the St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory.

Among the seven awarded projects is one that will study how coral reefs in Singapore managed to survive while coping with stressors such as land reclamation due to the island’s urbanisation.

The study’s outcome will allow researchers to exploit these habitats’ utility as real-time biological monitors of environmental change.

In another project, researchers will study the viral composition of algal blooms, which are a growing problem in Singapore waters, often causing economic losses to industries such as fish farming and tourism.

The team will study how algal blooms rise and later decline in tropical waters, to hopefully develop tools for risk assessment of environmental conditions that lead to their growth.

Mr Teo, who is chairman of NRF, said: “As a low-lying island, global warming and the rise in sea levels and temperatures can pose challenges to (Singapore’s) marine ecosystems.

“The environmental health of our waters will affect our water supply, which is partly from desalination. It will also impact aquaculture, which provides a local food source. Therefore, it is important for Singapore to build up a good understanding of tropical marine science and our marine environment.”

The National University of Singapore (NUS) would manage this programme, but it is designed for different universities and research institutes to work together with public agencies and industry players to address common challenges, Mr Teo said.

Mr George Loh, NRF director of programmes, pointed out that stresses caused by heavy shipping, urbanisation and climate change affect the marine environment, and new knowledge discovered from research could be translated into effective solutions to ensure the environmental sustainability of Singapore’s coastal area.

The programme will look into four main fields: Marine ecosystems and biodiversity, environment impact and monitoring, coastal ecological engineering, and marine technology and platforms.

Professor Peter Ng, the programme director, said that the seven selected projects had gone through “very rigorous screening” by local and international scientists.

The call for projects was launched in October last year, and 30 white papers were received.

In opening the laboratory yesterday to complement marine research efforts, Mr Teo said that the facility may now be used by all researchers in Singapore and international partners.

First launched in 2002 as an NUS research facility, it will be upgraded with new equipment, while a skilled core team of scientists and technicians will train and guide new researchers in marine science.

The lab will also share research outcomes with the public through educational outreach and activities such as nature walks.

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Another lost pangolin this week, found in NUS this time, rescued and released into the wild

Derek Wong AsiaOne 28 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE - Days after a pangolin was found in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on Tuesday (Nov 22), another one showed up at the National University of Singapore (NUS) on Saturday (Nov 26).

A video uploaded by student Ong Kah Jing on Facebook on Saturday night with the caption "Pangolin visiting NUS Utown" showed the critter gingerly finding its way down a flight of stairs at University Town in NUS.

Rescuers from the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) turned up at NUS around 10.45pm as the pangolin was making its way towards a railing in the area.

By then, the nocturnal animal had gathered its own entourage - a small, very excited crowd had converged around it.

The animal was "calm and just kept walking", according to Acres wildlife group director Kalai Balakrishnan. It was given a quick visual check for injuries before being placed in a carrier and handed to the zoo for it to be microchipped and placed in a safe, suitable habitat.

It's not clear if the pangolin was a male or female, but Mr Kalai estimates that it is of sub-adult to adult age and larger than the one found at NTU.

Pangolins are not aggressive animals, said Mr Kalai.

"But if they feel threatened, they will protect themselves by rolling into a ball," he added.

If you do see one, call the Acres wildlife rescue hotline at 9783-7782.

"Follow it to keep track of where it goes. Photos are good too - they provide clues on whether the animal is injured or whether Acres might need to prepare some rescue tools if they are stuck somewhere," said Mr Kalai.

In cases where they are in danger of getting run over by vehicles, get help to divert oncoming traffic away from the animal if it is possible and safe, while waiting for Acres to arrive, advised Mr Kalai.

While pangolins are safe from poaching in Singapore due to strict laws, it is endangered in many other places due to wildlife trafficking.

Pangolins are sought after in China and other parts of Asia for their meat, skin and scales. The skin and scales are used in traditional medicine.

"It is a good thing to know these animals are still surviving here, but they are critically endangered animals so we need to do more to protect them," said Mr Kalai, who estimates that there are about two to three pangolin cases a month which Acres handles.

The National Parks Board (NParks) estimates that there are more than 100 wild pangolins here.

The pangolin also stirred some excitement as it is examination season in NUS. Facebook user Raze Seah felt it boded good fortune to those who chanced upon it. "All A for exam", she wrote.

Another user, Michael Lim, joked that the pangolin was done with school: "The lecture was so boring, I'm going home now..."

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Water sport activities in Marina Reservoir suspended after 'crocodile' sighting

Channel NewsAsia 27 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: National water agency PUB confirmed on Sunday (Nov 27) that water sport activities in Marina Reservoir have been suspended after reported sightings of a creature resembling a crocodile in waters near the Sports Hub on Saturday morning.

The Singapore Dragon Boat Association, Sports Hub and People's Association have all suspended activities in Marina Reservoir this weekend, a PUB spokesperson said on Sunday.

PUB also contacted researchers from the National University of Singapore to identify the creature.

"Preliminary findings indicate that it is likely to be a monitor lizard," the spokesperson added.

The Marina Reservoir area is popular for activities like dragon boating and canoeing.

The Singapore Dragon Boat Association posted on Facebook on Sunday that it will cease all dragon boat activities in Marina Reservoir indefinitely.

The Kallang Water Sports Centre and the Kallang Dragon Boat Nursery will be closed with immediate effect, the association said.

PUB warned those who continue with activities in the reservoir to exercise caution and not immerse in the waters. They should also not go near the creature if they spot it.

- CNA/am

Water sports activities in Marina Reservoir suspended after ‘crocodile’ sighting
Today Online 27 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — Water sports activities in Marina Reservoir have been suspended after a “creature resembling a crocodile” was sighted near the Sports Hub.

National water agency PUB said it first received reports of the creature’s sighting on Saturday morning (Nov 26). The agency added that it is now investigating and patrolling the waters to search for the creature.

“We are in close contact with Sportshub and requested them to alert us if it is spotted again,” said a spokesperson in a statement on Sunday.

“We have also contacted researchers from the National University of Singapore to identify the creature. Preliminary findings indicate that it is likely to be a monitor lizard.”

Among the groups that have suspended activities include the Singapore Dragon Boat Association (SDBA). In a Facebook post, the SDBA said it would be extending the cease order on all dragon boat activities in Marina Reservoir “indefinitely and until further notice”.

Other organisations that have suspended activities this weekend include the Sports Hub and People’s Association.

The PUB warned members of the public not to go near the creature if they spot it. The public can report sightings with photos/videos and its location by calling PUB at 1800-2255-782.

The PUB added that people to continue activities in the area “should exercise caution and not to immerse in the waters”.

Water sport activities at Marina Reservoir to resume; no new ‘crocodile’ sighting
Today Online 29 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — Water sport activities can resume at the Marina Reservoir as there have been no new sightings of the “creature resembling a crocodile”, the PUB said on Tuesday (Nov 29).

Following reports of a ‘crocodile’ sighting on Saturday, the PUB contacted researchers from the National University of Singapore to identify the creature. The agency also checked with experts from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore, ACRES and the Singapore Zoo, and all share the view that the creature is most likely a monitor lizard.

Nevertheless, the PUB said it will continue to patrol the waters to look out for the creature.

Water sports activities in the vicinity had been suspended for the last three days as the PUB patrolled the waters to search for the creature. The PUB had also warned members of the public to “exercise caution” in the area and not to go near the creature.

Among the groups that were affected included the Singapore Dragon Boat Association (SDBA), the Sports Hub and People’s Association.

The public can also report sightings with photos/videos and its location by calling PUB at 1800-2255-782.

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NEA launches drive to get people to cut food wastage

TAN WEIZHEN Today Online 28 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — The North East District kicked off an initiative yesterday to encourage people to reduce food wastage, one that will provide residents with a comprehensive guide on how to do so.

The “I Love My Food @ North East” drive was launched by the National Environment Agency (NEA), in partnership with the North East Community Development Council.

Talks will be held in schools to educate pupils on the issue, and the North East CDC will hold meetings with residents from next month.

Besides talks on food waste reduction, there will be cooking demonstrations of healthy eating.

Ambassadors will also be trained to spread awareness of reducing food waste, at events such as cooking classes and roadshows.

“The amount of food waste generated in Singapore has increased by about 45 per cent over the past 10 years, and can be expected to rise further,” NEA chief executive officer Ronnie Tay said. “Hence, there’s a need to minimise the amount of food waste generated, so as to reduce the amount of waste incinerated and subsequently the amount of ash sent to Semakau Landfill.”

Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli mentioned the initiative at the opening of Phase 1 of Our Tampines Hub, a new integrated facility with a shopping centre, sports and childcare facilities, and other amenities. He added that the facility is also equipped with an eco-digester. It can convert up to two tonnes of food waste daily — more than the 1.4 tonnes expected — into fertiliser and non-potable water.

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Malaysia: Johor to look for new water sources

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 28 Nov 16

ISKANDAR PUTERI: Johor is fa­­cing a major water crisis if it relies on existing resources and does not start exploring new alternatives.

“The time has come for Johor to explore underground water reser­ves and harvest rainwater on a large scale,” said state Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Commit­tee chairman Datuk Hasni Moham­mad at the state assembly sitting here yesterday.

He was replying to a question from Datuk Syed Sis Syed Abdul Rahman (BN-Tanjung Surat) on the progress made by the state authorities on exploring new water resources.

Hasni said Johor was too depen­dent on surface water that supplied 99% of consumption, with only 1% from underground water.

“We are working with two universities in Johor and the Japan Water Forum to conduct research on underground water reserves in the state,” said Hasni.

He said the state government had allocated RM1mil to identify several locations in Johor where exploration for underground water reserves could be conducted next year.

It is part of the RM79.7mil allocation under the state’s Budget 2017 for 14 initiatives to develop sustainable water management in Johor.

He said the state would be adopting Japan’s Kumamoto City in Kumamoto prefecture as the model where some 780,000 residents had used underground water for more than 20 years.

“We will be conducting an in-depth study on the potential usage of underground water with an expert from Kumamoto for a master plan on its usage until 2050,” added Hasni.

He said the state government would also look at other options, including building desalination plants for new development projects along the coastal areas and those located far from existing water supply facilities.

Hasni said the developer of the multi-billion ringgit Forest City project in Gelang Patah was required to build a desalination plant because of the scale of the project.

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Malaysia on track to achieving global sustainable development goals agenda

BERNAMA New Straits Times 28 Nov 16;

ASHGABAT: Malaysia is on track to achieving the global sustainable development goals (SDG) agenda, particularly in the transport sector, based on the country’s current development strategies and goals.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Ab. Aziz Kaprawi said in supporting the SDG agenda on climate change, Malaysia was committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 43 per cent by 2030.

“The commitment is conditional to technology transfer and financial support from developed countries,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the Global Sustainable Transport Conference here, today.

While Malaysia’s development plans are extensive, Aziz said it was also important to examine areas where the SDG could further enrich it.

“This is to ensure Malaysia’s development aspirations are aligned comprehensively to the post 2030 agenda,” he added.

Aziz was one of the speakers at the plenary session of the conference.

In his speech, he stressed four key areas that Malaysia would be focusing in pursuing green growth for sustainability and resilience.

They are, strengthening the enabling environment for green growth, adopting the sustainable consumption and production concept, conserving natural resources for present and future generations and strengthening resilience against climate change and natural disasters.

“The transportation sector in Malaysia accounts for about 35 per cent of the total energy consumed nationally, and produced nearly 50 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2015, second only to power generation.

“Of this, 85.2 per cent of transportation emissions came from road transport.

“This is due to the high rate of personal automobile ownership, where cars account for about 59 per cent of the overall emissions from transport, while freight contributed 27 per cent,” Aziz said.

In facing these challenges, he said a strategy adopted for the sustainable consumption and production concept under the 11th Malaysia Plan, was to encourage low carbon mobility.

“This, is in line with SDG’s goal of making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, as well as taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.” he added.

Organised by the Turkmenistan government, the two-day conference from last Saturday, gathered key government stakeholders from more than 80 countries, the United Nations and international organisations.

They engaged in dialogue and exchanged knowledge, made commitments and discussed plans on implementing sustainable transport. -- Bernama

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Malaysia: Three held for hunting without licence

The Star 28 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife officials have detained three men for allegedly hunting without a licence at an oil palm estate in Tawau.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said the men were arrested during a road block at the area at about 5am yesterday.

Initial investigations found the men in possession of three carcasses of a deer and two wild boars in their four-wheel-drive vehicle, he said in a statement.

The men were not able to produce their hunting licence when asked, he said, adding that a rifle and eight shells were recovered from them.

The men faced charges under the Wildlife Conservation Enact­ment 1997 and if found guilty, they could be fined RM30,000 to RM50,000, or jailed six months up to three years, or both.

Augustine said although deer and wild boar were not on the verge of extinction, the animals were listed as protected to prevent over-hunting.

Deer and wild boar are much sought after animals among natives and exotic food lovers.

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Indonesia: Floods Hit 96 Villages in Bojonegoro

Tempo 27 Nov 16;

TEMPO.CO, Bojonegoro - Bojonegoro subdistrict’s Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPPD) reported that 96 villages in 15 districts in the area were struck by flood due to overflow of Bengawan Solo river with 14.82 meters of water level (flood warning) on Saturday at round 2 o’clock in the afternoon (26/11).

"The flood from the river does not only inundate rice field areas, but also residential areas with 0.50-1 meter high of water," Bojonegoro’s BPPD head Andik Sudjarwo said in Bojonegoro, East Java on Saturday (26/11). Based on BPPD data, the 96 villages are located in districts of Padangan, Trucuk, Malo, Dander, Kota, Balen, Kapas, Kanor, and Baureno.

He further estimates that the water level in Bnegawan Solo will continue to rise up to 15.30 m high due to floods in the upstream areas. Such estimation means that floods will hit 146 villages in 16 districts.

"We are currently still collecting data on the impact of Bengawan Solo overflow," he added.


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