Best of our wild blogs: 6 Jan 16

2016 - Free guided walks at Chek Jawa Boardwalk with the Naked Hermit Crabs
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Read more!

SGX seeks public feedback on proposed rules for sustainability reporting

The move to introduce rules and a guide is in response to growing global interest in sustainability information, says the bourse.
Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Exchange (SGX) is seeking public feedback on proposed rules and a guide for sustainability reporting, which it will introduce on a "comply or explain" basis.

SGX expects the new rules to apply to companies from the financial year ending on, or after Dec 31 2017, with reports published from 2018.

In a media release on Tuesday (Jan 5), the bourse said the introduction of the rules will be further progress from voluntary reporting which has been in place since 2011 and is in response to growing global interest in sustainability information.

SGX said sustainability reporting would enable investors to more comprehensively assess a company's prospects and quality of management.

The bourse said its survey of institutional investors in June 2015 found that more than 90 per cent of respondents consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects of business and strategy when investing. It added that the "comply or explain" approach to sustainability reporting gives companies the opportunity to report in the way that best suits their industry and circumstances.

SGX said it is seeking comments on five proposals. Issuers will have to include the following five primary components in a sustainability report:

Identification of material ESG factors, giving reasons for their choice and a description of the process of selection.

Policies, practices and performance of the company in relation to each of the material ESG factors in both descriptive and quantitative terms. Performance should be discussed in the context of any previously disclosed targets.

Targets for the forthcoming year.

A chosen reporting framework to guide the disclosure of relevant information on the ESG factors. Using an internationally recognised or industry-relevant framework enhances acceptance and comparability.

A statement of the board confirming compliance with the primary components or description of any alternative practices with reasons for preferring them.
SGX added that it is also consulting on:

Companies reporting only material ESG factors.

That reports be published within five months from the end of each financial year.

Whether anti-corruption and diversity aspects should be included as a primary component in a sustainability report.

Roles and responsibilities assignment to the Board, with regard to sustainability reporting.
"Sustainability reporting builds on transparency and governance for which Singapore is internationally recognised. It addresses investor demand for quality returns and gives companies the opportunity to differentiate themselves," said SGX CEO Loh Boon Chye.

SGX Special Adviser Yeo Lian Sim, said: "What sustainability reporting does is to have more information about the environmental, social and governance aspects of the company, its opportunities and its risks that have effect on the company business performance.

“So to the investor with this information, it enables a more in-depth analysis of what is coming in terms of the company's performance and you'll also be able to assess how good the quality of the management is."

SGX said it plans to work with industries to further fine-tune its approach.

Ms Yeo said: “We expect to have the final rules and guide by the end of the first quarter, which leaves another nine months of preparation time before the financial year 2017.

“In this period, we will work closely with Global Compact Singapore in terms of training and capability building, and we already started with plans to work with our listed companies in terms of industry commonalities and industry assessment."

The public consultation is open until Feb 5 and can be accessed via SGX's website. Members of the public can also email SGX at

- CNA/dl/xk

Public views sought on SGX sustainability reporting proposals
LEE YEN NEE Today Online 6 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — Moving a step closer towards requiring listed companies here to report their economic, environmental and social impact, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) is inviting the public to comment on proposed rules and guidelines that all listed companies will have to follow in publishing these reports.

The exchange’s announcement today (Jan 5) marked “further progress” from the voluntary sustainability reporting regime that has been in place since 2011, it said, adding it expects to implement these rules on a “comply or explain” basis from Dec 31, 2017, onwards.

Companies are expected to include in their annual sustainability reports components such as identifying environment, social and governance factors that affect business strategies, and explaining their practices and performance, as well as setting targets and a statement from the board to affirm compliance.

Those who do not report the required components must explain their reasons for not complying, and stating that the component is not relevant will not be enough, said SGX.

“Sustainability reporting builds on transparency and governance for which Singapore is internationally recognised. It addressed investor demand for quality returns and gives companies the opportunity to differentiate themselves,” SGX chief executive Loh Boon Chye said in a statement.

The move will affect close to 800 primary-listed corporates on both Main and Catalist boards. As of end-2013, only about 160 out of 537 Mainboard-listed companies filed these reports voluntarily.

The launch of the public consultation today follows a year-long effort by the bourse to garner views from corporates and investors through focus groups and surveys.

SGX special advisor Yeo Lian Sim said at a media briefing today that the move is timely given the signing of the “momentous Paris accord”, where 195 countries committed to taking action to limit the increase in global temperatures to below 2°C.

“For ourselves, we’ve had the haze (last) year. It was pretty prolonged, it affected our way of life. It became not just a business matter, regulatory matter or government matter, it really affected everybody, including the man on the street,” said Ms Yeo. “I think this is something that is needed and asked for by investors as well as other stakeholders ... At the same time, we can see that doing sustainability reporting also conveys internal benefits to the companies.”

While compliance will entail additional costs for companies, sustainability reporting may also allow them to reach out to new groups of investors who base their investment decisions on a company’s sustainability practices.

Mr Ian Hong, a partner at KPMG, said the Paris accord and the prolonged haze situation have raised awareness of the potential impact of environmental and social risks on companies’ value chain. “Ultimately, commitment from top management is critical in the success of a company’s sustainability journey and this is best reflected through tangible targets and performance reporting,” he said.

SGX suggested giving companies five months after the end of each financial year to publish their sustainability reports on SGXNet.

The public consultation is open from now until Feb 5.

Read more!

Singapore reports highest number of dengue cases in a week for 2015

There were 455 dengue cases reported last week, 86 more than the week before, says the National Environment Agency.
Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: A total of 455 dengue cases were reported in the week ending Jan 2, 86 more than the week before, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in an update on its website. This is the highest number of cases in a week recorded in 2015.

NEA reiterated that the proportion of dengue cases due to the DENV-2 serotype has increased in the Republic and now accounts for more than half of all dengue cases in Singapore. The DENV-1 serotype had accounted for most of the dengue cases since March 2013 and NEA said this change in the main circulating dengue virus may be an early indicator of a future dengue outbreak. When there is a prevalent serotype of dengue in the population, the community will build up a "herd immunity" to the serotype. When the main circulating dengue serotype changes, there will hence be less community immunity against the new serotype.

NEA is urging members of the public as well as stakeholders to take immediate action to stem the further increase in cases. "We are seeing an increase in the Aedes mosquito population and are also experiencing slightly warmer than usual year-end weather due to the El Nino phenomenon," NEA said. The warmer conditions support faster breeding and maturation cycles for mosquitoes and shortens incubation periods for the dengue virus, the agency added.

NEA said source eradication of mosquito breeding habitats remains key to preventing mosquito breeding and encouraged stakeholders to play their part by checking their premises daily for these habitats and removing them. Residents with plants in vases should also change the water and scrub the inside of the vases every alternate day.

"Those infected with dengue should also apply repellent as regularly as possible to prevent mosquitoes from biting and picking up the virus from them and those showing symptoms of dengue should see their GPs early to be diagnosed," NEA added.

- CNA/hs

Sharp rise in dengue cases last week
Salma Khalik, The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Jan 16;

Dengue cases rose sharply at the end of last year. The week of Dec 27 to Jan 2 saw 455 cases - the highest for the year and 86 more than in the previous week.

It brings the total number of people infected last year to more than 11,000, with four dying from this mosquito-borne viral disease.

The victims are mainly from the eastern half of the country, with the largest of the 97 active clusters in Tampines, which has 178 cases.

Dengue had been quiet for most of the year, with the number of infections below 300 cases a week.

But December, which is not usually the high dengue season, had three weeks of more than 300 cases and one with 455, possibly signalling a big outbreak.

The last time that dengue numbers topped 400 in a week at the turn of the year was in 2013 - the year of the worst dengue outbreak, with more than 21,000 people diagnosed with the disease.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) warns that it has been seeing a rise in the number of aedes mosquitoes - the ones that transmit the dengue virus - likely caused by the warmer year-end weather, leading to mosquitoes breeding and maturing faster.

Another worry is the change in the dominant virus. Den-1 has been responsible for most of the dengue cases here since March 2013, said the NEA. But the Den-2 virus now accounts for more than half of the cases. Going by past experience, each time the dominant strain changes, the result is almost always a surge in cases.

Studies show that the number of diagnosed cases is the tip of the iceberg, with real numbers more than 20 times the official figures.

This is because most people would see a doctor only if they are very sick. Symptoms include sudden high fever, joint and muscle pain, vomiting and a red rash.

Dengue cases in Tampines spike to 188 on Tuesday
Tampines Town Council has already strengthened preventive measures across cluster areas, such as oiling drains and gullies on a daily basis to prevent mosquito breeding.
Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 6 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: Despite stronger preventive measures against dengue, the number of cases in Singapore's biggest cluster in Tampines rose by 10 in a single day to a total of 188 as of Tuesday (Jan 5), according to statistics from the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Tampines Town Council has already strengthened preventive measures across cluster areas. For example, drains and gullies are now oiled daily to prevent mosquito breeding, up from once a week. The affected areas are Tampines Ave 1, Tampines Ave 3, Tampines Ave 4, Tampines St 81 and Tampines St 91.

Stakeholders in the area have also stepped up their efforts. As the new school year started this week, a preschool with 120 students enrolled reached out to parents to help keep the children safe.

Principal of My First Skool Suhana Salleh said: "During our daily outdoor activities, we encourage parents to put mosquito patches on the children's uniforms. We also make sure that our centre is very clean and there is no trapped water in the toilets. On top of that, we work very actively with NEA... officers will come every week to our centre."

Over at the second-largest cluster along Pasir Ris Streets 11, 12, 21, and 51, a total of 81 dengue cases have been reported as of Jan 5.

In response to media queries, MP for Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC Zainal Sapari said its pest control team conducts checks twice a week, up from once a week previously, and that most mosquito breeding sites have been found inside homes.

He added that grassroots leaders have been going door-to-door to reach out to residents on taking precautionary measures.

- CNA/xk

Dengue fight: More breeding sites found in Tampines, says Masagos
The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources is calling for volunteers to help distribute mosquito repellent to residents in the affected areas.
Channel NewsAsia 8 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: A total of 86 breeding sites were found in a cluster in Tampines, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said in a Facebook post on Friday (Jan 8).

The Tampines Polyview cluster is located near Temasek Polytechnic. The cluster has 195 reported dengue cases as of Thursday, up from 188 on Tuesday. Of the breeding sites, 60 were found in homes, 19 in common areas, six in other premises and one in a Downtown Line 3 (DTL3) construction site.

During an earlier inspection with the National Environment Agency (NEA) "adult mosquitoes and larvae were found in traps, indicating a "high level of mosquito activity" said Mr Masagos. This was "despite three rounds of home inspections and destruction of breeding habitats".
NEA said all 86 mosquito breeding sites found have been destroyed as of Thursday.


It also said out of the 195 dengue cases, 81 are foreign workers working at the DTL3 construction site, while the rest are residents in the area.

"Although the construction site is not the key contributor of mosquito breeding, NEA has been working closely with the main contractor, Cooperativa Muratori & Cementisti - C.M.C di Ravenna, to implement a daily temperature taking regime for all its workers," NEA said.

Insect repellent has been distributed to all staff on site and the contractor has an in-house vector control team to carry out search-and-destroy work as well as application of anti-mosquito oil, the agency said. In addition, the pest control operator for the contractor carries out treatment on site twice a week, NEA stated.

A total of 40 of the cases are the DENV-2 strain.


On Wednesday, it was reported that Tampines Town Council had already strengthened preventive measures across cluster areas. For example, drains and gullies are now oiled daily to prevent mosquito breeding, up from once a week.

Mr Masagos also said that other than regular checks and oiling of drains, NEA officers have been carrying out inspections at night and on weekends, while reaching out to all residential units.

In their release, AVA and NEA said dengue cluster alert banners have been put up around the Tampines estate. There are also alert posters at the lift lobbies "to heighten awareness", they added, advising residents to allow NEA officers to carry out indoor spraying of their homes.

Mr Masagos has called for volunteers to assemble at the Tampines West Community Club on Jan 17 at 2pm to help distribute mosquito repellent to residents in the affected areas, as well as help create awareness on the dengue situation.

NEA said it is working with members of the community from Tampines Polyview, Palmspring, Terrace, Green and Palmsville RCs to not just conduct house visits, but also to remind residents about the 5-step Mozzie Wipeout.

It said the top breeding habitats in homes are domestic containers and flower pot plates or trays. The top breeding habitats in public areas are discarded receptacles and closed perimeter drains, it said.

- CNA/av

Volunteers needed to fight dengue; more breeding sites found in Tampines: Masagos
Chew Hui Min Straits Times 9 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans need to chip in to help prevent dengue, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said, after a dengue inspection in Tampines.

A total of 86 mosquito breeding sites were found in the Tampines Polyview cluster, said Mr Masagos in a Facebook post on Friday (Jan 8).

"Sixty were in homes, 19 in common areas, six in other premises, and one in a construction site," he wrote.

The minister, who is also an MP of Tampines GRC, accompanied National Environment Agency (NEA) officers on an inspection visit in Tampines Polyview.

It is the largest dengue cluster to date, with 195 dengue cases reported as of Thursday.

"Other than regular checks and oiling of drains, the officers have also been carrying out inspections at night and on weekends, reaching out to all residential units," Mr Masagos said.

During the inspection, they found adult mosquitoes and larvae in some of the Gravitraps, indicating a high level of mosquito activity, despite three rounds of home inspections and destruction of breeding habitats.

"We need to prevent mosquito breeding. But NEA officers and Town Councils cannot achieve this alone," he said.

"I would like to call out to volunteers to come down to Tampines West CC on Sunday, 17 January at 2pm to help us distribute repellents to residents in the affected areas and to create awareness on the dengue situation and also to encourage them to practise the five-step Mozzie Wipeout. #stopdengue"

Read more!

Malaysia: Sarawak gears up for second, third wave of floods

New Straits Times 5 Jan 16;

KUCHING: The newly-formed Natural Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) will help the Sarawak government face the possibility of second and third waves of floods in the state.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said 15,000 men from several agencies under Nadma are ready to be deployed nationwide.

Zahid, said the agency is prepared to face any consequences, but noted that the next waves of floods which are expected to hit Sarawak would be mild and would not incur severe damages.

"The first wave of floods in Sarawak is over.

We are now making preparations to face the possibility of the second and third waves.

"Based on projections by the Meteorology Department, the next waves of floods will be very mild if it hits the state," said Zahid after attending a meeting at Wisma Bapa Malaysia in Petra Jaya near here today.

More than 200 people were relocated to relief centres when floods wreaked havoc in the Kuching and Samarahan divisions recently.

Zahid also announced that the Federal government has approved RM1.1 million for the construction of a retaining wall for a long house at Kelawit in Bintulu.

He also announced a RM650,000 allocation to acquire eight-passenger aluminium boats and an 40 horsepower boat engines for Sarawak.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, who also attended the same meeting, said the countless assistance provided to Sarawak showed that the Barisan Nasional government is concerned about the welfare of the people in the state.


Read more!

Malaysia: Pahang rep wants thorough probe into death of fish

The Star 6 Jan 16;

KUANTAN: The authorities must investigate what caused dozens of dead fish to be washed up at Sungai Balok here, said Beserah assemblyman Andansura Rabu.

He urged the Fisheries Depart­ment and the Environment Department to conduct a thorough investigation and disclose the results to prevent speculation from being spread around.

Many people believe bauxite pollution caused the fish to die, he said.

“At the head of the river is the Gebeng industrial area where bauxite is stored. The public needs to know the truth, whether it is due to the dumping of waste from factories, the spilling of bauxite or even fish poisoning,” he said in a statement yesterday.

The images of the dead fish were uploaded on social media.

Pahang Fisheries Department director Adnan Hussain said the cause could be a drop in oxygen level in the water.

“From what I can see in the pictures, it does not seem like there are many dead fish, and those seen are the small ones,” he said, adding that the matter would be investigated.

Fisherman Raja Haris Raja Salim, 63, claimed pollution had also affected crabs, shellfish and freshwater fish along the river.

In Kuala Lumpur, an announcement on whether to issue a temporary halt, impose a total ban or to regulate the bauxite mining industry is expected to be made today by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

Companies involved in bauxite mining also confirmed meeting authorities in Putrajaya this week.

A mining executive wanted the Government to crack the whip on illegal bauxite miners and exporters.

Officially, Pahang only has 11 mining operators after the state revoked the licences of 34 contractors in July.

But he claimed there were as many as 50 companies exporting the ore to China. He pointed out that his company had invested millions of ringgit to mine bauxite legally.

Dead fish nothing unusual: Pahang state fisheries director
T.N.ALAGESH New Straits Times 5 Jan 16;

KUANTAN: A week after the "red sea" phenomenon at Balok beach here, nearby villagers were in for another shock today when they found hundreds of dead fish floating in Sungai Tonggak near Gebeng.

However, State fishery authorities claim that initial tests revealed the cause of the dead fish most likely had nothing to do with the recent phenomenon.

Balok Makmur Rukun Tetangga chairman Abdul Rahman Ali, 57, said villagers spotted dead ikan belanak (mullet) washed up on the sand banks during low tide about 7.30am.

He said as far as he knew, there were no bauxite stockpiles near the river banks.

"However, the contaminated water might have come from other sources including the drains or maybe the (contaminated) red sea waters last week killed the fish before being swept by currents into this part of the river.

"As villagers sometimes cast their nets in the river, I hope the authorities will conduct checks to confirm if the fish in the river is safe for consumption," he said when met today.

Ab Razak Musa, 56, from Taman Seberang Balok said it was the second time such an incident occurred in the village.

"A similar incident occurred some time ago but there were fewer dead fish compared to now.

"With the bauxite issue a hot topic, we cannot rule out any possibility that river contamination from bauxite has killed the fish," he said.

Meanwhile State Fisheries director Adnan Hussain said his officers had conducted several tests and collected water samples for analysis.

"After some tests by our officers, the results showed that the incident was nothing unusual.

"Initial tests showed the (cause of) dead fish had nothing to do with silt and mud. No other rivers here are affected except for Sungai Tonggak," he said.

He said a detailed report on the incident was expected to be complete in a week.

Read more!

Malaysia: 50% rise in dengue deaths

The Star 6 Jan 16;

PETALING JAYA: The number of dengue cases last year paints a scary picture. There was a more than 50% jump in the number of deaths caused by dengue compared to 2014.

This, according to the Health Ministry, was the highest number of dengue deaths ever recorded in the country.

According to the ministry, 336 people – an average of 28 a month – died from dengue last year compared to 215 in 2014, a rise of 56.3%.

There was also an increase of 11.2% in the number of dengue cases throughout last year, up from 108,698 in 2014 to 120,836 cases.

That’s 333 cases a month or 110 cases each day!

The ministry is now cautioning people to brace for an equally bad, if not worse, year ahead.

The ministry’s Vector Borne Disease Sector (Disease Control Division) head Dr Rose Nani Mudin said the upward trend of dengue cases recorded in the country, corresponded with the rest of the world.

“World Health Organisation’s (WHO) data also showed the number of cases increasing each year globally.

“The upward trend is also observed in other countries (with dengue), number of cases have been continuously increasing.

“It’s a global phenomenon,” said Dr Rose, who is also an epidemiologist.

The ministry’s data also showed there were 145 dengue hotspots in the country, with Selangor having the highest number of hotspots at 107.

Other hotspots are in Johor (23), Perak (9), and Penang (3), while Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negri Sembilan and Sabah have one each.

Dr Rose said climate change could be one of the factors contributing to the spike in dengue cases.

“Alternate rainy and hot seasons cause the Aedes breeding to increase,” she said, adding that water collected in stagnant containers during the rainy season could worsen the situation.

She said another factor was serotype changes in the dengue virus.

“Four to five months after a serotype shift, when one dengue serotype becomes prevalent, cases would increase due to lack of immunity against the new serotype.”

Poor community behaviour also contributed to the prevalence of the Aedes mosquitoes.

“Poor environmental cleanliness due to littering and inappropriate solid waste disposal are the main issues in the country and this resulted in the high Aedes breeding index,” she said.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Ashok Zacha­riah Phillip said many Malaysians only dengue-proofed their houses but not their neighbourhood.

“Most Malaysians are quite aware of the dangers of dengue but they don’t proactively go around and try and prevent it.

“They just take care of the areas around their house and that’s about it,” said Dr Ashok.

However, he said, the main breeding areas for Aedes mosquitoes were construction sites and places with a lot of debris and litter.

“That is where the breeding grounds are. Many of the hotspots are close to construction areas,” he said, adding that the community could take part in preventing Aedes breeding by cleaning their neighbourhood together and the council could send teams to construction sites to check on its cleanliness.

Selangor draws up plan to snuff out hotspots
The Star 6 Jan 16;

KLANG: With 98 hotspots, Selangor is really the hotbed of dengue in the country and the state has drawn up an action plan to combat the menace.

State Health, Welfare, Women and Family Affairs executive councillor Dr Daroyah Alwi said the action plan was outlined during a workshop on dengue recently and would be launched soon.

“We will inform the media about the plan in detail during the launching ceremony,” she said yesterday.

Dr Daroyah said there had been 3,825 dengue cases reported in October last year, with 4,024 cases in November and 5,746 cases in December.

“Our dengue trend analysis since 2010 showed that there has been an increase in cases during every year-end, especially in December. This trend happens at the national level too,” she said.

However, the total number of cases reported between October and December last year was fewer compared to the same period the year before, signifying a success in the state’s efforts.

“We are hopeful we can keep the number lower this year,” she said.

Of the 98 dengue hotspots in Selangor, 45 were in Petaling Jaya, 25 in Gombak, Hulu Langat (20), Hulu Selangor (3), Kuala Selangor (2), Klang (2) and Kuala Langat (1) .

State Local Government, New Village Development and Legalising of Factories executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah said Selangor would continue with its efforts to fight the dengue menace, including conducting random spot checks around premises at the hotspots.

All local councillors will continue organising gotong-royong in their respective areas to get rid of Aedes mosquito breeding grounds, he said. Random and frequent spot checks would also continue along with fogging.

Selangor Health Department director Datuk Dr S. Balachandran also said the department would focus on weeding out breeding grounds, with more campaigns and road shows to educate members of the public.

“It is very important to get every single person at every level of the community and society to come onboard and fight dengue,” he said.

Johor folk urged to help keep rising dengue deaths down
NELSON BENJAMIN The Star 7 Jan 15;

JOHOR BARU: The number of dengue related deaths in the state has doubled last year.

The situation is expected to worsen if the people do not play their part in keeping their surroundings clean.

The number of deaths in 2015 doubled to 51 compared with 25 in 2014, said Johor health and environment committee chairman Datuk Ayob Rahmat.

“Last year we had 15,743 cases compared with 6,310 cases in 2014. This is worrying,” he said.

Johor Baru continued to remain at the top with 75% of all the dengue cases followed by Batu Pahat (5.5%), Kulai (4.1%), Segamat (3.3%), Pontian (2.7%), Kota Tinggi (2.7%), Muar (2.2%), Ledang (1.9%), Pontian (1.9%) and Mersing (0.5%).

Ayob added that there were 35 hotspots in Johor Baru alone with two in Kulai and one in Batu Pahat.

“Most of the cases in Johor Baru are due to the rapid development and construction taking place in the city.

“Out of the 120 development projects in Johor Baru, at least 40% to 50% were found to be Aedes breeding grounds,” he added.

He hoped that agencies, especially the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), would use its powers and temporarily close down worksites found to be breeding grounds for aedes mosquitoes.

“We need stronger enforcement from all agencies,” he said, adding that the local councils also needed to play their part.

He said fighting dengue was not the sole responsibility of the Health Department.

Ayob said at present, there were 200 development projects in the state with 120 in Johor Baru.

“We plan to take action against more developers but other agencies such as the CIDB should also use the laws to compel developers to keep their worksites clean,” he said, adding that last year some 3,563 compounds had been issued and 212 cases taken to court.

Dengue fever: 336 fatalities recorded since Jan 3
FAZLEENA AZIZ New Straits Times 10 Jan 16;

PUTRAJAYA: Statistic provided by the National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC), indicates that a total of 2,404 dengue cases have been recorded nationwide from January 3 to 7.

Health Ministry iDengue website showed that the number of cases in Selangor continues to soar with 1,163.

This is followed by Johor with 399 Kuala Lumpur (155), Negri Sembilan (111) and Penang (102) cases.

The number of daily cases recorded as of Jan 7 stands at 561 in all states.

The only state that has not recorded any cases is Federal Territory Labuan while Putrajaya has three and Kedah recorded four dengue cases.

From Jan 3, 2015 to Jan 6, a total of 336 people have died of dengue.

Last week, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam had said the biggest stumbling rock in the battle against dengue was the lack of an effective treatment.

He said although the vaccine has been introduced, but it was not 100 per cent effective, as it has a limited scope of usage. “After taking these two factors into consideration, whatever we have is all about control.

“One is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and the other is controlling the breeding of mosquitoes,” he said.

Read more!

Malaysia: ‘Our monkeys are at risk’

PATRICK LEE The Star 6 Jan 16;

PETALING JAYA: They are in our cities and in our jungles, on the trees, and, telephone and power lines.

Environmentalists say, however, there is not much else most can relate about Malaysia’s primates, as the Year of the Monkey swings in this Chinese New Year.

“You have the crab-eating macaque (kera). They are everywhere.

“And then you have the extremely charismatic and endangered great ape, the orang utan,” WWF-Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma told The Star.

He said Malaysia had many primates from the lar gibbon to the once-thought extinct stump-tailed macaque, found in parts of Asia but here only in northern Malaysia.

“Yet mostly foreigners and some locals, are interested in them,” added Dr Dionysius.

“They are all charismatic in their own way ... (but) you don’t find groups of people looking for primates,” he said.

The IUCN Red List, an international inventory of animal types, showed 21 primates listed in Malaysia.

Slow lorises and tarsiers made this list too, though monkeys, apes and others made up 17 of those present.

Seven of the 17, including the siamang, are endangered today.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia director Dr Melvin Gumal said many primates here were at risk from hunting and land clearing.

Some gibbons, he said, were “territorial” and that it was not so simple for them to move when their trees were chopped down.

“So when the land they’re on is converted, they lose out,” he said.

He said while it was good for primates to have large protected areas to live in, enforcement was most important of all.

“It’s one thing to say please do not hunt. It’s a different thing to be on the ground,” said Gumal.

With this in mind, he said some, like orang utans, bred slowly, with each female giving birth to only three or four young in their lives.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry previously said it would commit to retaining 50% of forest cover and ensure jungles were not fragmented.

Dr Dionysius said it was good to have government policy on keeping forests here intact, but efforts must be taken to ensure there were animals, especially primates there.

“How do primates fare in remaining forests? Research institutions and universities must take this up.

“Otherwise we have forests, but we don’t know about the primates (in them),” he said.

Read more!

Indonesia: Govt to appeal forest fire case

The Jakarta Post 5 Jan 16;

The government is preparing to appeal a Palembang District Court verdict declaring that the operations of pulp producer PT Bumi Mekar Hijau (PT BMH) did not cause any environmental damage.

In the verdict delivered on Wednesday, the court said the evidence collected in the case against PT BMH failed to prove it illegally set fire to 20,000 hectares of its concession in Ogan Komering Ilir, South Sumatra, in 2014.

“We are preparing for the appeal,” said Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya as quoted by on Monday.

Siti said she was waiting for a copy of the court verdict.

The lawsuit lodged by the ministry sought Rp 7.8 trillion in damages, which would have been the largest financial award ever levied against a company accused of forest burning in the country, with the intention of sending a strong message to those responsible for the annual haze.

The court said no damage could be proven as the burned land was still fertile and had been replanted with acacia trees afterward.

The judges also failed to take into account the air pollution caused by the fire in the company’s concession.

The verdict on PT BMH has been criticized as it is deemed to set a bad precedent for similar cases that have yet to go to trial, with the government pursuing other companies allegedly responsible for forest fires that have eased on account of monsoon rains.

The government has sanctioned 23 companies over the fires, with three having land-use or environmental permits revoked while 16 had permits suspended.”

Government to Lodge Appeal Next Week in Forest Fire Case
Jakarta Globe 5 Jan 16;

Jakarta. The Environment and Forestry Ministry is planning to lodge an appeal next week against a recent decision by the Palembang District Court in South Sumatra which threw out a Rp 7.8 trillion ($565 million) lawsuit against Bumi Mekar Hijau, accused of practicing slash-and-burn forest clearing in 2014.

Herwinsyah, a lawyer for the ministry, told on Tuesday that the team of lawyers representing the government would meet ministry officials in Jakarta on Friday to discuss legal strategies for the appeal.

“On Monday we will lodge the appeal,” Herwinsyah said.

The plaintiff's lawyer refused to divulge the grounds of the appeal but added that the district court should have ruled in the government's favor given the evidence presented.

The Palembang District Court has been criticized for ruling in favor of Bumi Mekar Hijau last week, dismissing accusations made by the Environment and Forestry Ministry that it deliberately burned forests in its own concession area to make way for oil palms during the 2014 drought season.

The government had demanded the company pay a fine of Rp 2.6 trillion as well as conduct an environmental restoration of the damage done during the 2014 forest fires, worth another Rp 5.2 trillion.

The court, presided over by Judge Parlas Nababan, ruled however the government failed to prove that the company was directly responsible for the fire.

The court also dismissed claims of environmental damage caused to the company's concession area, saying that the area “can still be replanted with trees.”

Bumi Mekar Hijau was also accused of committing the same practices in 2015, contributing to forest fires that resulted in choking haze that for months affected hundreds of thousands of people in Kalimantan, Sumatra and neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

The case for the company's purported violations in 2015 has not yet been brought to trial.

Read more!

Indonesia: Agency to restore damaged peatlands to soon launch

Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency, which aims to restore damaged peatlands destroyed by forest fires, may be set up in the next few days.
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency, which aims to restore damaged peatlands destroyed by forest fires, may be set up in the next few days.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry told Channel NewsAsia that amendments to the presidential regulation on the formation of the agency is already with President Joko Widodo.

Mr Widodo is expected to sign it soon, and announce the personnel that will be leading it.

“Preventive steps have been prepared, and some have started to be implemented," he said.

In November, the government announced that it was taking steps to restore the damaged land by setting up the agency. More than two million hectares of land were ravaged by the forest fires between June and October 2015.

President Widodo also told world leaders about the project when he spoke at the Paris climate change conference last month.

The agency will coordinate restoration efforts across several ministries, and will report directly to the President. Restoration works will focus on seven provinces hit by the forest fires last year.

It aims to improve the hydrology system and control the network of canals in the peatlands. For example, if the canals are damaged, the agency will respond immediately.

In addition, it will control the use of peatlands and manage issues in connection with peatland permits.

Environmental groups welcomed the establishment of such an agency, but Kiki Taufik, Forest Campaign Manager from Greenpeace Indonesia said it has to start work soon.

Mr Kiki said: “This new agency probably will need time to be set up. The fires could happen again in July or August, so now it’s very urgent for us, not only to wait for the structure of the agency (to be set up), but the planning process should also be clear.”

The government said it has finished mapping the entire peatland ecosystem in Indonesia, creating the base map of the restoration project.


Nur Hidayati from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, known as Walhi, said she believes the initiative must not create a new conflict with the community.

"With regards to tenure, regarding the land rights, that’s the most important thing because we see that for a long time there is still a long list of conflicts, tenure conflicts, land rights conflicts that’s created human rights violation in the past that have not been resolved yet,” she said.

“Second, what we hope is that this is aimed at restoration as a way to give back to the local community access to manage the natural resources. We are not hoping that this kind of initiative will be another way for corporations to get their land to increase their land bank.”

Last week, a district court in South Sumatra rejected a government lawsuit against pulpwood plantation company Bumi Mekar Hijau for clearing land by illegal burning.

The court said there was no evidence the company purposely started the fires. However, the new Peatland Restoration Agency may be able to indirectly help the government in future lawsuits.

"In future, there will be concrete information from the agency that the land cannot be cultivated, said Krisna Rya, the head of the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s Law Bureau.

“The agency will map the land, and there will be proof the companies did not protect the land. The agency will provide the data. Directly no, but indirectly we need the data as evidence.”

The restoration project is expected to cost about US$3.6 billion. The government has set aside funds from the state budget, and countries like Norway and United States have also given their commitment to give financial help.

- CNA/jb

Read more!

Thailand's forest rangers step up training in violent 'blood wood' war

The forests of the Mekong region have become a battleground as rangers try to stop poachers from driving the Siamese rosewood tree to extinction
Demelza Stokes The Guardian 5 Jan 16;

It’s dawn in Thailand’s Eastern forest, and the sound of combat boots echoes through the jungle mist at Ta Phraya national park’s headquarters.

The stomping boots belong to forest rangers on a counter-poaching tactics course. They are training with Hasadin, a team of elite rangers formed in June 2015, whose mission is to stop the Siamese rosewood tree from being driven to extinction by poachers.

“The poachers don’t care if we’re rangers ... if they meet us and they have weapons in their hands, they shoot immediately without warning,” says Piroon Pilaphop, leader of Hasadin’s Dong Yai wildlife sanctuary team.

Siamese rosewood is a hardwood species confined to the remaining forested areas of just four countries in the Mekong region – Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Renowned for its blood-red colour, the highly coveted endangered species is illegally logged in Thailand and smuggled through mainland south-east Asia to luxury “hongmu” furniture markets in China.

Conservationists have warned that with rates of illegal logging increasing by 850% in recent years, Thailand’s Siamese rosewood trees could be extinct within a decade.

Large trees in protected forests have become so scarce that their plunder is more akin to wildlife poaching. Increasingly large groups of illegal loggers cross the Thai-Cambodian border with weapons and are willing to engage in firefights in order to get the highly valuable “blood wood”.

“Rosewood is becoming harder and harder to find. The last big rosewood trees are in the deep forest, so the smugglers are moving deeper and deeper into Thailand,” says Khajornsak Anantuk, a sergeant major with the Ta Phraya border police, who is helping to train the rangers.

In the war against rosewood poaching, rangers train in self defence, patrol, conducting raids, making arrests, weapons and explosives identification. In the classroom they study poachers’ rights, GPS mapping, forest law and species identification.

The poachers have increasing safety in numbers - vastly outnumbering the rangers - and in the deep forests the rosewood has to be carried out on foot. “If they want 60 pieces of wood, they have to bring more than 60 people because it’s one piece for one person. They also bring guards and front scouts,” says Booncherd Jaroensuk, head of Ta Phraya national park.

Seven forest rangers died in 2015 in relation to violent Siamese rosewood crime, according to the Freeland Foundation, an organisation based in Bangkok working to improve ranger training in Thailand.

Most loggers previously came from the border region with Cambodia, but some are now allegedly brought in from as far as the Cambodian-Vietnam border by traffickers.

“The people along the border have got wise to how dangerous it is, so the middlemen are bringing people from over on the Vietnam border who don’t know anything ... sometimes they don’t even know it’s a protected forest,” says Tim Redford, training coordinator at Freeland.

In September last year, 23 Cambodian would-be loggers fled their traffickers upon discovery that Siamese rosewood was their target, and handed themselves over to the Thai police, according to the Cambodia Daily. “It’s a form of human trafficking … they are being tricked into it ... there have been two cases recently where Cambodians have been taken into the forest and told that they were going to be working on legal timber projects or on construction work,” says Redford.

“I wish they would just arrest the big guys so the problem will finally stop,” says Hasadin ranger Piroon, referring to the catalogue of corrupt officials, businessmen, and brokers involved in the clandestine transnational trade that carves its murky way throughout south-east Asia.

The lucrative trade saw $1.2bn worth of Siamese rosewood imported to China between 2000 and 2014, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Sold for 200 baht (£3.60) a kilo on the forest floor, it currently fetches more than £30,000 per tonne (£30/kilo) in China’s wholesale markets. EIA reported a bed made from Siamese rosewood being sold for US$1m in Shanghai in 2011.

Siamese rosewood was listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in 2013 in an attempt to curb the decimation of south-east Asia’s remaining stocks. The listing should have prohibited the international trade in logs, sawn timber and veneers, but an annotation allowing for the legal trade in “semi-finished” products of Siamese rosewood has provided a catastrophic loophole.

“The biggest problem is the demand ... without that, there wouldn’t be the tsunami of cash entering these badly governed countries which then exacerbates corruption, undermines the rule of law, and provides incentives for loggers to risk their lives,” says Jago Wadley, senior forest campaigner at EIA.

Read more!

Bad air plagued Beijing for nearly half of 2015: Report

The Chinese capital faced 179 polluted days last year, with 46 of them considered heavily polluted, according to the Global Times, citing figures from the city's environmental protection bureau.
Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 16;

BEIJING: Beijingers spent nearly half of 2015 breathing air that did not meet national standards, Chinese media reported on Tuesday (Jan 5), as the city struggles to address a smog problem that has provoked widespread public anger.

The Chinese capital faced 179 polluted days last year, with 46 of them considered heavily polluted, according to the Global Times, citing figures from the city's environmental protection bureau.

Levels of PM2.5 - harmful microscopic particles that penetrate deep into the lungs - averaged 80.6 microgrammes per cubic metre over the year, the newspaper said, more than eight times the World Health Organization's recommended maximum annual average exposure of 10.

The figures represented a 6.2 per cent decrease year-on-year, but still left citizens breathing air that was 1.3 times the country's own standard, which is not as strict as the WHO's.

After a comparatively mild year for pollution, Beijing in December declared its first ever red alert for smog, the highest level of a four-tier system, prompting authorities to order thousands of factories to close or curb their activities and pull half of all private cars off the streets, among other measures.

The decision came in response to public anger after the city failed to put the system, established in 2013, into action after heavy smog hit the city earlier the same month.

The move set off a domino effect, with cities across China's polluted east and north declaring their own alerts, with PM2.5 levels climbing to over 700 in some areas. The entire eastern province of Shandong, home to almost 96 million people, issued its first ever alert.

Beijing followed up with a second alert later in December, but then ignored successive waves of smog that struck the city around Christmas.

- AFP/ec

Read more!