Best of our wild blogs: 14 Jan 16

Free gallery tours at the LKCNHM by volunteer guides
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and Lunar New Year Promotion 2016: Return of the Museum Roundtable Red Packet Giveaway

Coastal works near Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal continue
wild shores of singapore blog

NSS Kids’ Fun with Forest Wildlife at Venus Drive
Fun with Nature

Indonesia appoints conservationist to save country’s declining peatlands
Mongabay Environmental News

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Indonesia to restore damaged peat lands in five years

Antara 13 Jan 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia expects to restore two million hectares of peat lands, damaged by fires last year, within the next five years, presidential spokesman Johan Budi said here on Wednesday.

To achieve this aim, the Indonesian government has set up "Badan Restorasi Gambut (Peat Land Reatoration Agency - BRG), he said.

"It is hoped through this agency, the condition of peat land will be restored. The peat land would be restored to pre-fire state in around five years time," he said at the compound of the presidential palace.

Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya, who accompanied President Joko Widodo during the announcement of the establishment of BRG at a press conference, earlier said that BRG is a non-structural body under the President, and accountable to him.

She said BRG will carry out coordination, and will help in effective restoration, planning and control. It will also ensure cooperation in these efforts.

The agency is also tasked with mapping and determining reserve zones and cultivation areas, implementing the construction of infrastructure and other means to restrict the zones and managing the burned peat areas.

"Ensuring familiarization and education as part of peat land restoration framework, supervision of implementation and maintenance of infrastructure in conversion lands fall in the ambit of the agency, as also other duties assigned by the President," he said.

The BRG will have a chief, a secretariat and four deputies.

"The BRG is supported by a technical steering team and an expert team. The technical steering team members include provincial governors and relevant deputies and director generals," she said.

The expert team members come from universities, research institutes, professionals and larger community.

"The BRGs tenure ends on December 31, 2020," she said.(*)

Indonesia serious about handling damage to peatland: President
Antara 13 Jan 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has stressed that Indonesia is serious about handling the damage to the countrys peatland, as is clear from the setting up of a peatland restoration agency.

"We can convince the international community that we are serious, very serious about handling the damage to the peatland," he said while announcing the setting up of the peatland restoration agency at the Merdeka Palace here on Wednesday.

Land and forest fires, which affected several provinces in Indonesia last year, serves as a valuable lesson for President Jokowis administration.

In this regard, he set up the agency under presidential regulation number 1 of 2016.

"I want to announce the creation of peatland restoration body through a presidential regulation I signed early this month," he said.

On the occasion, Jokowi also introduced Nazir Foead as the agencys chief.

The president assigned the body to draft an action plan immediately to show to the world that Indonesia is serious about handling the damage to peatland.

For the umpteenth time, the president stressed that the nation must learn a lesson from last years land and forest fires in several parts of the country.

"Although these (land and forest fires) have happened repeatedly in the past 18 years, they serve as a valuable lesson," he said.(*)

President announces establishment of peatland restoration agency
Antara 13 Jan 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo announced the establishment of a peat agency at the Merdeka Palace here on Wednesday to restore the peatland areas destroyed by fires in the country last year.

"As we all know, forest fires had ravaged several provinces in the country last year. In connection with this, I today announced the establishment of a peat restoration body based on a presidential regulation I signed on January 6, 2016," he stated at a press conference.

On the occasion, he also introduced Ir Nazir Foead as chief of the body.

President Widodo noted that the leadership of the agency would coordinate the restoration of peatland areas, which were damaged by fires in several provinces.

The president pointed out that Nazir had the required competence and experience, especially in coordinating with ministries as well as state and international institutions.

"An action plan must be immediately prepared and implemented to especially demonstrate to the international community that Indonesia is serious in dealing with the peatland problem," he emphasized.

The Indonesian government has issued a presidential regulation for the establishment of a peatland restoration body to prevent fires in future.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar remarked here on Wednesday that Presidential Regulation (Perpres) Number 1 of 2016 was issued on January 6, 2016.

"Actually, most of its (the peat body) task is to restore the landscape of peatland ecology with regard to saving and protecting them as well as preventing them from fires or being burnt down," she affirmed.

She explained that the institution was tasked with safeguarding, managing, and restoring the peatland areas.

She revealed that two to three million hectares of peatland areas will be restored.

She said several institutions and ministries such as the environment and forestry ministry, the public works and housing ministry, the agriculture ministry, the agrarian and spatial affairs ministry, and the National Development Planning Board will be involved in the effort.(*)

Greenpeace hails establishment of Peatland Restoration Agency
Antara 15 Jan 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Greenpeace has hailed the governments decision to establish a Peatland Restoration Agency and the appointment of environmental activist Nazir Foead as its chief.

"It is a good initial step. The agency, however, will be effective and successful if it would involve the community by making public the forestry data, which had so far remained undisclosed," Teguh Surya, Greenpeace Indonesias foreign campaigner, noted in a press statement received here on Friday.

He believed that President Joko Widodo has taken a huge step in the right direction to overcome the damage caused to peatland areas in the country by proposing to use canals to water them again.

He also praised the issuance of Government Regulation Number 71 of 2014 that imposes a moratorium on peatland exploitation.

He, however, pointed out that the regulation had failed since it was not strengthened, while the follow-up plan was not on a large scale and lacked coordination.

He noted that the Peatland Restoration Agency had limited authority, and hence, the government and all its ranks must cooperate to support it, including in the field of coordination and implementation at regional levels.

Based on the presidents Regulation Number 1 of 2016, the agencys target was to restore only two million hectares until 2020, which is still far below the total area of damaged peatlands that needs to be mapped and restored by the government, he emphasized.

"Permanent fire prevention would only be effective if restoration is carried out across areas that have been damaged and not limited to the two million-hectare area, with a fixed timeline and indicators," he pointed out.

"As we all know, forest fires had occurred in several provinces last year. In connection with this, I today announce the establishment of the Peatland Restoration Agency based on a presidential regulation that I had already signed on January 6," President Widodo stated while announcing the establishment of the Peatland Restoration Agency at the state palace on Wednesday.

He said the agency would later coordinate efforts to restore the peatland areas in several provinces.

The president said that the appointed chairman Foead had the required competence and experience, especially in coordinating with ministries and state institutions as well as international agencies.

"Action plans must immediately be made and implemented to specially convince the international community that Indonesia is serious about handling peatland problems," he added.(*)

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Tuas Power launches solutions to help companies manage energy usage

The solutions provide businesses with real-time data on their energy consumption and help them identify areas of high energy consumption.
Calvin Hui Channel NewsAsia 13 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: Tuas Power on Wednesday (Jan 13) launched a slew of solutions, called the Integrated Energy Management Solution (IEMS), to help building owners and tenants better manage their energy consumption.

The initiative is in line with Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) 3rd Green Building Masterplan, which BCA CEO John Keung said focuses on getting tenants and users of buildings to go green.

IEMS comprises three main areas – the Automated Meter Reading (AMR) Solution, Building Management Solution and the CusCare App.

They provide businesses with real-time data on their energy consumption, helping them track their energy usage on a monthly, daily and even half-hourly basis. Companies and building owners can also identify areas of high energy consumption and take steps to reduce usage.

Through the Building Management Solution, Tuas Power will also help landlords to manage their tenants' electricity accounts, meters, billing and collection, as well as electricity management duties.

According to Tuas Power, which manages more than 630 buildings in Singapore, these solutions can help tenants save more than 18 per cent of their average monthly energy usage.

"Our goal is to help all involved monitor their energy usage, and provide solutions to make sustainable energy a reality," said Tuas Power general manager Michael Wong.


One beneficiary of the new system is warehousing company YCH Group.

"We have a lot of chiller systems and air-conditioning systems, and our main utility consumption is from this kind of energy we are spending on," said Mr Rajkumar T V, project manager of corporate facilities and infrastructure at the company. "So at the end of the day our bottom line comes down to energy savings. So definitely this AMR installation helps us to cut down our running costs."

BCA said tenants typically account for half the energy consumption in commercial buildings, so the involvement of tenants can lead to substantial energy and cost savings.

"There is a very strong business case to go green," said BCA CEO Dr Keung. "Take a look at this benchmarking study that we have done in the last two years. A Green Mark building can be as much as 15 to 20 per cent more energy-efficient than a non-Green Mark building. So these are real savings in cost.

"So depending on the size of your premises, you can save half a million or a million dollars in terms of energy consumption every year if you have a Green Mark platinum building. So that’s a very strong business case to go green."

BCA has been working with building owners to reduce energy consumption, as Singapore strives to reduce carbon emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

- CNA/cy

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Reusable water bottles sold here mostly did not leach BPA: CASE

Out of 20 different reusable plastic water bottles tested, Bisphenol A was only detected in one of them, and it was within the acceptable limit, says the Consumers Association of Singapore.
Channel NewsAsia 13 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: Tests on 20 different reusable plastic water bottles sold in the Republic have shown that almost all of them had no detectable levels of Bisphenol A (BPA) leaching into the water, according to a study by the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE).

BPA, a carbon-based synthetic compound used to make plastics such as polycarbonate and polysulfone, has been linked to heart problems and diabetes in humans. The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore adopts the European Union BPA migration limit of 0.6 μg per ml – the tolerable amount of BPA that may transfer to liquid in a plastic container, and has also banned BPA in baby bottles.

Of the 20 water bottles tested, no BPA was found in 19 of them, and the last one – by Chinese manufacturer Zenxin – had BPA within the acceptable limit, said CASE. The Zenxin polycarbonate bottle, which did not carry a “BPA-free” claim, released 0.08 μg of BPA per ml of water, within the EU limit.

The bottles, which came in different sizes and prices and were from a variety of brands, were purchased from supermarkets, neighbourhood retail outlets and outdoor shops in Singapore, said CASE.

CASE also advised consumers to follow the bottle manufacturers’ usage and cleaning instructions, and to only use them as recommended "in order to reduce the deterioration of the product and the leaching of harmful chemicals".

- CNA/av

Reusable plastic water bottles here mostly did not leach BPA: CASE study
Today Online 13 JAn 16;

SINGAPORE — A study of 20 brands of reusable plastic water bottles sold here has found that most of the bottles did not leach Bisephenol A (BPA) under normal usage conditions.

The exception was one bottle from the brand Zenxin, but the level of BPA detected was well within the European Union (EU) BPA migration limit adopted by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, which regulates such food-contact articles.

There have been health concerns related to human exposure to BPA, a carbon-based synthetic compound used to make certain plastics, with links to heart problems and diabetes in humans. Previous studies on animals have also shown that very high doses of BPA are likely to affect the liver and kidneys.

In the study, two bottles each from 20 different lesser-known brands of reusable plastic water bottles were bought by CASE mystery shoppers from supermarkets, neighbourhood retail outlets and outdoor shops island-wide. The prices of the bottles ranged from S$2.50 for a 400ml bottle to S$30 for a foldable 1.5-litre bottle. Eleven of the bottles carried “BPA-free” claims and nine did not.

During the test, the bottles were filled with distilled water and kept at a constant temperature of 40°C for 24 hours. The water was then tested for BPA.

Test results of CASE's study of BPA leaching in 20 brands of reusable plastic water bottles sold here.
ND indicates "not detected".

Test results showed the polycarbonate bottle made by Zenxin, a Chinese manufacturer, released 0.08mg of BPA per millilitre of water, which is within the migration limit of 0.6mg of BPA per millilitre of water. The bottle, which is sold for S$6.90, did not carry a “BPA-free” claim.

CASE noted that bottles made using good manufacturing practices may not leach BPA, even if it forms part of the base material.

The European Food Safety Authority has deemed that although BPA could pose some risk to consumers, current BPA exposure levels in the market are too low to adversely affect human health. In Singapore, the AVA has banned the use of BPA in infant feeding bottles sold here as a precautionary measure given infants’ high food intake-to-body weight ratio.

Test shows reusable plastic bottles here safe
Jessica Lim, Straits Times AsiaOne 14 Jan 16;

The Case test involved filling the plastic bottles with distilled water and keeping them at 40 deg C for 24 hours. The water was then tested for Bisphenol A (BPA). There have been health concerns related to human exposure to BPA, with a study showing a link between high urinary BPA levels and heart problems and diabetes.

A check by Singapore's consumer watchdog has found that reusable plastic water bottles here are, more likely than not, safe to use.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) bought 20 brands of reusable plastic bottles from supermarkets, neighbourhood retail outlets and outdoor shops here.

Two samples of each - from lesser-known brands and costing between $2.50 and $30 - were sent to a laboratory to test for Bisphenol A (BPA), a carbon-based synthetic compound used to make plastics such as polycarbonate (PC) and polysulfone (PSU).

BPA-based plastic is clear and tough, making it popular for consumer goods such as water bottles, compact discs and can linings.

The test involved filling the bottles with distilled water and keeping them at 40 deg C for 24 hours. The water was then tested for BPA.

Results showed that the bottle from Chinese manufacturer Zenxin - which did not claim to be BPA-free - released 0.08 micrograms of BPA per millilitre of water. This is well within the European Union's BPA migration limit of 0.6mcg/ml, adopted by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). No BPA was detected in the other 19 bottles.

There have been health concerns related to human exposure to BPA. A study by the University of Exeter in England suggested a link between high urinary BPA levels and heart problems and diabetes. Other studies on animals have also shown that very high doses of BPA are likely to affect the liver and kidneys.

Since 2008, several countries, such as the United States and Australia, have investigated BPA safety, prompting some retailers to withdraw PC and PSU products.

The AVA also prohibits the use of BPA in infant feeding bottles.

Case president Lim Biow Chuan said that although its tests were "encouraging", consumers should follow the usage and cleaning instructions of the water bottle makers. This, he said, would help to reduce the deterioration of the product and the leaching of harmful chemicals, especially when the bottles are heated.

He added: "We decided to do the checks because many of us have such water bottles and children use them, too. If we don't conduct a check on such commonly-used items, then we will be remiss in our duty."

Engineer Yeo Min, 32, said she was glad Case's results were positive. She said: "I'm happy the study didn't find anything because if it did, I would probably have to stop using my bottles. It's good to know that what is on the market is safe to use."

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Malaysia: ‘Johor needs to keep rivers alive’

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 14 Jan 16;

JOHOR BARU: The authorities have been urged to quickly restore dead or dying rivers in the state to help ensure sustainable long-term water resources.

Many of the rivers are polluted, mostly due to uncontrolled economic activity, and are drying up, said the Malaysian Nature Society.

Its chairman Vincent Chow said a comprehensive study was needed to identify these rivers and steps taken to rejuvenate them.

“It is disturbing to see the condition of our rivers and if no immediate action is taken, we will be facing a major water crisis,” he said.

A river is dead once it is incapable of sustaining life such as fish and aquatic plants, and this is usually caused by pollution deple­ting the oxygen in the water.

Chow said deforestation in the catchment areas was the chief cause of falling water le­­vels at the Sungai Layang dam in Pasir Gu­dang and Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Ting­gi.

“They have dropped to critical levels,” he added.

As a result, there was a scheduled water rationing exercise from Aug 16 to Dec 30 last year, which affected about 641,000 domestic and industrial consumers in three districts in south Johor.

It was easy to blame the weather, the El Nino phenomenon in this respect, for the depleted dams “but we are also to blame for cutting down trees indiscriminately”, Chow added.

He said that among the rivers which needed im­mediate attention were those in Kluang, namely Sungai Mengkibol, Sungai Kahang, Sungai Sembrong Kiri and Sungai Sembrong Kecil, as well as Sungai Johor in Kota Tinggi.

Green Earth Society Johor president P. Sivakumar said scheduled water rationing would not be needed if the state could ma­nage water resources better and if there was strict enforcement by its agencies.

He explained that large-scale oil palm plantations and other agricultural activities should not be allowed inside water catchment areas or close to dams.

“The state government needs to start gazetting more areas as forest reserves, begin replan­­ting trees and put a stop to any encroaching activities,” he said.

He added that a blueprint for raw water resource management, as part of a 30-year plan to tackle all water-related issues in the state, was also needed.

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Malaysia: Penang sounds water supply warning as ‘Super El Nino’ hits country

OPALYN MOK Malay Mail 13 Jan 16;

GEORGE TOWN, Jan 13 ― Penang has activated its water supply alert status in preparation of drier and hotter days ahead as climatologists here warn of the “super El Nino” phenomenon.

Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said the last time the state recorded rainfall in its two key dams in Air Itam and Teluk Bahang, was on December 29 last year.

“For now, the effective capacities of the Air Itam and Teluk Bahang dams are still healthy and we are continuing to draw water as normal from Sungai Muda,” he told a press conference today.

He said the Air Itam Dam's latest recorded capacity was 87.6 per cent while it was 83.2 per cent at the Teluk Bahang Dam.

“The water level at both dams will be able to sustain Penang usage until the end of March if there are no rainfall for these three months,” he said.

Penang has a larger dam ― the Mengkuang Dam on the mainland ― but it is currently not operating in full capacity as its expansion project is still in progress.

Jaseni said the water level at Sungai Muda is 2.53 metres today and that PBAPP is monitoring the dams and the river on a daily basis.

“We will brief the state government and inform the public on Penang's water supply status regularly,” he said.

Jaseni also warned that the state may experience a recurrence of the extended dry spell in 2014 where no rainfall was recorded for several months.

“If necessary, PBAPP is prepared to implement the water supply and water demand management initiatives to avoid water rationing like what we did in 2014 and 2015,” he said.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was also present at the press conference, said the water supply level in the state is under control for now.

However, he urged Penangites to try to save water in anticipation of the dry spell ahead.

Jaseni said the daily water consumption in Penang is about one billion litres and during dry spells, this typically increases by about 10 per cent.

He similarly urged Penangites to reduce their daily water consumption and reminded them of the water rationing exercises in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Johor and even Taipin in 2014 and 2015.

“We are faced with a double threat of very little rainfall and daily temperatures soaring to 40 degrees so we can expect lower water levels at Sungai Muda and higher rates of evaporation at Penang's dams,” he said.

Penangites brace for El Nino heat
N. TRISHAandCAVINA LIM The Star 14 Jan 16;

PENANGITES have taken to various ways to beat the heat as temperatures soar in the state.

R. Priyah, 25, was seen trying to cool down with friends at the Penang City Park pool in the 35°C heat.

“This is the only place I could think of that allows me to cool off and take a swim for free. The weather has been unbearable lately.

“My family and I try not to go out during the day as we get tired faster than usual,” she said, adding that she uses some lotion to protect her skin if she had to go out during the day.

Coconut seller P. Rangan, who has a stall in Abu Siti Lane, has been doing brisk business with 30% increase in sales over the past week.

“The weather is getting hotter by the day and to cool down, especially in the afternoon, many people come to my stall for some coconut water.

“Sometimes within three hours, I can sell up to 300 coconuts,” he said when met yesterday.

The recent heatwave and dry spell experienced by the northern region has been forecasted to last until March this year.

The dam levels at Air Itam and Teluk Bahang are at 87.6% and 83.2% respectively but Penangites must still be very careful to save water.

Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said they were on the alert in view of the Meteorological Department’s warning of a possible hot and dry El Nino phenomenon.

“The last recorded rainfall at Penang’s key dams was on Dec 29 when we recorded 31.0mm of rain at the Air Itam Dam, 38mm at the Teluk Bahang Dam and 17mm at Mengkuang Dam.

“We have enough water in the dams to accommodate the dry season until March or April.

“We are monitoring the dams and Sungai Muda on a daily basis.

“We will brief the state government and inform the public on Penang’s water supply status regularly,” he told a press conference.

Jaseni urged Penangites to use water wisely and said they could call the PBAPP (04-5096509) any time of the day or night to report leaks at roadside mains or pipes.

“This weather pattern is due to global climate change.

“Penang always has dry weather from January to March but sometimes, the weather is drier than usual and this is one of the years.

“In 2014 and last year, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negeri Sembilan and Johor had to implement water rationing.

“Even Taiping, the wettest town in Malaysia, experienced rationing and we do not want to have to take such a step,” he said.

Jaseni said the dams in the state were designed to store enough water for 100 days.

He added that currently, the daily consumption of water for the whole state was about one billion litres a day on average.

Sabah as well as Limbang and Miri in Sarawak are also expected to face dry spells.

Science, Technology and Innova-tion Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Madius Tangau had said that the current weather is due to the El Nino phenomenon which will be felt throughout the first quarter of the year.

Madius added that the El Nino was expected to reduce the percentage of rain by 20% to 60% and increase the temperature by 0.5°F to 2°F.

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Malaysia: Principals and headmasters can cancel outdoor activities during El Nino

DAWN CHAN New Straits Times 13 Jan 16;

KLANG: Principals and headmasters can cancel out-of-classroom activities in view of the on-going El Nino phenomenon that is expected to last till March.

Deputy education minister P. Kamalanathan said they are empowered to do so based on an existing standard circular that had been previously distributed to district education officers and state education departments nationwide.

"They can issue a directive for outdoor activities to stop should the temperature soar.

We leave it to the wisdom of the principals and headmasters to decide. They are also able to get advice from the nearest district education officers on this," said Kamalanathan.

He said this during a visit to Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Meru where four classrooms were razed in an early morning fire on Tuesday.

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Malaysia: FAMA to import more produce during El Nino

C. PREMANANTHINI New Straits Times 13 Jan 16;

BANTING: The Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority (FAMA) will import more produce to ensure the price of essential goods are stable when the El Nino phenomenon hits Malaysia.

The phenomenon, which will bring with it a period of hot and dry weather, will start by the end of this month and last until March.

FAMA chairman Tan Sri Badruddin Amiruldin said FAMA will work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry to tackle the issue.

"We want to make sure that the farmers and consumers are not affected by the El Nino effect.

"As to the decision to import, this is to assure that our farmers do not face a shortage of goods which will force an increase in the price of produce," he said at a press conference after his visit to the central collection of agricultural products site at Batu 10, Kebun Baru, Telok Penglima Garang here today.

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Malaysia: Sabah to boost revenue with environmental services

STEPHANIE LEE The Star 14 Jan 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The state government is studying ways to implement payment for environmental services in Sabah to finance forest conservation and generate income.

Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said if this was to be done, it could earn the government millions.

“This proposal is timely considering the increasing proportion of protected areas in the state that is not generating direct revenue to the government,” he said.

Currently there is only one service – the Malua BioBank that is helping the government generate revenue with an expected US$34mil (RM148mil) income from the whole programme.

The objective of Malua BioBank is to create a commercially sustainable model for large-scale conservation and rainforest restoration in the Malua Forest Reserve in the state.

The range of payment for environmental services is wide – from recreational purposes where entrance fees are collected for visitors to carbon sequestration.

Mannan said they were not sure how much could be generated via the payment for environmental services as yet.

“So far, we are only getting less than RM5mil,” he said.

The World Forestry Institute (WFI), based in Portland, Oregon, US, has offered four fully funded fellowships (scholarships) to Sabahans over the next four years.

Mannan said these fellowships, one of which has been taken by a staff of the department for a six-month course, would greatly benefit candidates wanting to expand their knowledge in this field.

“We are chairing the committee for this and will be sending three more eligible candidates – be it from the industry or institutes of higher learning relevant to the industry or from the WFI,” he said.

In 2014, Kota Kinabalu initiated a sister-city relationship with the city of Portland.

This partnership is expected to be forma­lised soon, and has since expanded into a Sabah-Oregon collaboration, focusing largely on issues related to environmental conservation and renewable energy.

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Malaysia: We will go all out and nab wildlife smugglers -- Perhilitan

SIMON KHOO The Star 14 Jan 16;

KUALA LIPIS: The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) has two words of advice for wildlife smugglers – cease and desist.

In issuing this stern reminder, Perhilitan enforcement division director Hasnan Yusop said his officers had pledged to go all out to track down and nab such offenders.

Hasnan said Perhilitan took a serious view in matters pertaining to capturing, keeping, smuggling and trading in wildlife and protected species.

“We will step up our efforts to put a stop to these illegal activities in line with our duties and responsibilities to safeguard protected species of wildlife.

“This is one of our resolutions for this year and we will not back down or be intimidated,” he told StarMetro.

To mean business, Perhilitan scored its first success this year by crippling a syndicate specialising in smuggling exotic and protected species of birds.

Three syndicate members, believed to be smugglers and wildlife traders, aged between 20 and 50, were detained during the raid at a house in Kampung Tanjung Gahai, Bukit Betong near here.

Eighty-seven magpies hidden in eight makeshift plastic cages were seized by personnel from the Wildlife Crime Unit, in addition to several other birds and fowls.

The magpies were destined to be smuggled to a neighbouring country via Johor in a car when Perhilitan officers ambushed and nabbed the suspects red-handed.

All three will be investigated under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which carries a fine of up to RM100,000 or a jail term up to three years, or both.

Records showed that from 2011 to last year, a total of 4,167 species of magpies were seized from smugglers, involving 179 cases.

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Malaysia: Dengue outbreak in Terengganu

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 13 Jan 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Terengganu has officially declared it is hit by a dengue outbreak.

State Health Department director Dr Mohammad Omar said an outbreak had to be declared as three dengue deaths had been reported in the first 11 days of the year.

He said an exceptionally high number of dengue cases and dengue deaths were reported lately as the rainy season was coming to an end, followed by the hot season which offered ideal conditions for mosquito-breeding, particularly for the Aedes mosquito.

“As the Aedes mosquito population multiplies rapidly, an average of 30 dengue cases are being reported weekly in the state.

“Imagine three deaths caused by dengue fever were reported so far this year, all in Kuala Terengganu. For the first time in history, we are hit by a dengue outbreak,” he said when met yesterday.

Dengue fever claimed its third victim in the state this year following the death of a 12-year-old girl on Monday.

The other two deaths involved a 65-year-old man on Jan 2 and a 49-year-old woman on Jan 9.

It was reported that five people in the state died from dengue fever last year, compared with only two in 2014.

A total of 1,416 dengue cases were reported in the state last year. Of the total, 25 were haemorrhagic cases. In 2014, 1,653 cases were reported, 75 of which were haemorrhagic cases.

Dr Omar said the presence of trapped rainwater in garbage sites or discarded containers offered a conducive breeding ground for the vector.

“It is hard for mosquitos to breed during the rainy season due to the constant flow of rainwater which flushes away mosquito larvae.
“Things are different immediately after the rainy season.

“Any rainwater trapped in discarded containers or polystyrene boxes are easy target for mosquito breeding,” he said, adding that mosquitoes only required five millimetre of rainwater to breed.

Dr Omar said everyone should play their role in keeping the state clean and mosquito free.

Dengue ward filled to the brim
BEATRICE NITA JAY New Straits Times 13 Jan 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Extra beds have been added to the dengue ward to accommodate the increasing number of patients at Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

Since the beginning of this year, there has been a steady flow of patients admitted and diagnosed, causing the ward to be full, said a doctor who refused to be identified.

“The ward has been busy ever since the year began, and whenever one patient gets discharged, another patient gets admitted within a few hours, ” she said, adding that having enough doctors at the ward helps them to keep up with the needs of patients.

In the male dengue ward, 34 patients were admitted with 13 testing positive for the fever.

Sanjay Raj, 14, who was admitted for three days, said although the ward felt overcrowded, he did not mind it.

“The ward is always packed with patients.

“I am cleared to go back, but there are some patients here who have been admitted for almost one week,” he said.

Mohammad Nizam Ismail, 21, from Petaling Jaya, said despite efforts by the authorities, such as fogging and clearing stagnant water, many people in his residential area were suspected of having dengue, and some had tested positive for it.

“I have been here for three days.

I do have to thank the staff, despite there being so many of us. “They have been taking good care of us and making sure we get our check-ups three times a day,” he said.

On Sunday, the New Straits Times reported on the statistics provided by the National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre, which indicated that 2,404 dengue cases had been recorded nationwide from Jan 3 to 7.

The number of cases in Selangor was highest with 1,163, followed by Johor (399) and Kuala Lumpur (155).

They were 336 fatalities recorded between Jan 3 and 6, with only three states not recording dengue cases.

Selangor still holds highest number of dengue cases nationwide
C. PREMANANTHINI New Straits Times 13 Jan 16;

SHAH ALAM: Selangor continues to hold the highest number of dengue cases in the country, with a total of 2,283 cases from January 3 to 12.

State Health, Welfare, Women and Family Affairs executive councillor Dr Daroyah Alwi said state government has drawn up several preventive programmes on prevention and control given the rising number of dengue cases in the state, this year.

"We have already prepared a number of outreach programmes for this year but we are waiting for the right time to launch the programmes," she said.

Dr Daroyah said the state is aware that Selangor continues to show a high number of dengue cases.

"However, the state is open to any suggestion. Maybe the ministry can provide several other measures which can help the state tackle and eradicate the dengue problem.

"We are taking the necessary initiatives to control the dengue cases.

Each year, the local authorities work closely with the residents and conduct weekly 'gotong-royong' sessions to ensure the environment is kept clean at all times," she said.

Selangor tops in dengue cases, says ministry
The Star 15 Jan 16;

PETALING JAYA: Selangor has the most reported incidences of dengue cases, with the current number at 2,595, reported between Jan 3 and 13, said the Health Ministry’s information website iDengue.

Johor ranked number two with 858 cases, while Kuala Lumpur had 351 confirmed incidences.

Only Labuan showed zero reported cases, according to the website.

Selangor districts also dominated the “hot spot” list (areas with outbreaks lasting more than 30 days), with 107 areas.

The data collected on the hot spot list was last updated on Jan 2.

The Star had reported there were 1,000 more cases of dengue in the first week of 2016 than last year’s weekly average, and that the Health Ministry had warned that the El Nino effect could cause a 50% increase in the average number of cases.

At the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), routine search and destroy efforts and fogging activities are still being carried out daily.

MBPJ has nine fogging teams going around twice daily – from 4.30am to 7am and from 5.30pm to 7pm.

Fogging is only done at an area after MBPJ is informed by the district health office of a dengue case.

The Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) has reported 752 dengue cases last December and 308 cases so far this month.

The council has also released Toxorhynchites (Toxo) mosquitoes as a biological agent in selected areas.

Fogging activities are carried out every day as scheduled by the Petaling district health office. These activities are carried out in different locations according to the number of dengue cases and severity.

MPSJ’s corporate communications deputy director Muhd Azli Miswan said that increasing fogging frequency was not a good method to deal with the increase of dengue cases.

He said a more effective measure was for every resident to spend 10 minutes a week to search and destroy mosquito breeding grounds in their homes.

Expert: Dengue a killer but message not getting through
The Star 15 Jan 16;

PETALING JAYA: The fact that one can suffer from organ failure or even die from dengue fever should be made the focus of movies, theatre and social media to improve public awareness, says a researcher.

The World Health Organisation’s Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Reference and Research director Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said most of those who know about the dangers of dengue are medical staff and people who are health conscious.

“But, many people do not know the severity of dengue fever and that they can die from it.

“This message is not getting across to people in the country,” he said.

Dr Sazaly said he agreed with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam’s statement that while most Malaysians had good knowledge about Aedes mosquitoes, it did not translate into action, such as destroying breeding grounds of the mosquitoes.

The message on the dangers of dengue infection, he added, should not only be reported in the press but disseminated in social media, including WhatsApp chat groups.

“It must be made a talking point,” he said.

The fact that the public were still throwing rubbish indiscriminately in parks and public areas showed that they were still not aware of the seriousness of their actions, he said.

The Health Ministry, said Dr Sazaly, could not fight the battle alone, adding that this required the involvement of the entire society in ending the scourge.

Architects and developers, he added, should also stop making buildings with flat-top roofs and open drains as this created potential spots for mosquito breeding.

In fact, a dengue-free policy must be made a part of every development project, he said.

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Indonesia: Developer-driven reclamation leaves public behind

The Jakarta Post 13 Jan 16;

Land reclamation in North Jakarta has picked up pace under the leadership of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama with construction permits for at least four more man-made islets issued in addition to one granted under former governor Fauzi Bowo. Unlike government-led reclamation in Singapore, Japan and the Netherlands, the project in Jakarta is mostly a private matter and few people know the details of the project or what benefits they stand to get from the islets. The Jakarta Post’s Corry Elyda, Dewanti A. Wardhani and Evi Mariani take a closer look at North Jakarta’s reclamation project.

With a combined 5,155 hectares of new land — about half the area of Bogor city — the project of 17 manmade islets is the biggest reclamation in the history of Jakarta — and so far the most controversial. Initiated during the New Order regime in 1995, the plan had been on and off, jeopardized by an economic crisis in 1997, supported and criticized and taken to court in the past 20 years.

After lying dormant for more than a decade, it got a new lease of life under Fauzi Bowo’s administration, which included the 17 islets in the giant project now called the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD), better known as the giant sea wall that will close
Jakarta Bay. This year, however, the 17 islet reclamation project has been formally separated from the NCICD and the Jakarta administration has taken over the whole organization of the reclamation, leaving behind the national government and the NCICD.

In 2010, Fauzi issued the first construction permit for PT Kapuk Naga Indah (KNI), a subsidiary of Agung Sedayu Group, to build Islet D, which has been marketed as Golf Island, an extension of gated community Pantai Indah Kapuk connected with the city by a bridge of about 300 meters.

Golf Island is to become a residential area for upper-income residents, at least if property prices are any indication. According to a price list obtained by the Post in October last year, a 90-square-meter house on a 128-sqm plot of land on Golf Island is tagged at Rp 3.77 billion (US$278,000), which is at about Rp 30 million per sqm.

According to Google Earth’s history of satellite imaging, the island started to appear as a dot in September 2012 and was completed by March 2015. The whole process is strictly private, and the public, including fisherman living nearby, have never been informed about it.

Also according to Google Earth imaging on March 17, 2015, there was an island next to Golf Island, Islet C, marketed as Riverwalk Island by KNI. Islet C was planned and constructed by the same developer as Islet D, and work was carried out in much the same manner, with very few people knowing about the project. The Post has attempted to obtain a copy of the construction permit of Islet C from city officials for months, but to no avail. Numerous attempts by the Post to contact KNI have gone unanswered.

What little the public knows about the reclamation of 17 islets, it knows from publicly listed developer Agung Podomoro Land (APL), which has been building Islet G, marketed as Pluit City. On Dec. 23, 2014, Ahok issued a construction permit for Islet G, about a month after he was installed as governor. It was the first construction permit for islets Ahok issued and last year he issued another three: Islet F for city-owned PT Jakarta Propertindo and Islet I for PT Jaladri Eka Pakci on Oct. 22 and Islet K for PT Pembangunan Jaya Ancol on Nov. 17.

The Post has been unable to establish whether the construction permit for Islet C, which is half built, was issued by Ahok or by Fauzi.

In total nine companies, seven of them developers, are involved in the project.

The recently installed Deputy Governor for spatial planning and environment, Oswar Muadzin Mungkasa, said the man-made islets were planned to be an independent element that would not burden the mainland.

Urban experts, however, have raised questions as to whether the planning was independent or disconnected from the mainland, and whether not becoming a burden also means not offering any benefits to Jakarta as a whole.

Suryono Herlambang, urban planning expert at Tarumanagara University, said the developers might plan to build some beautiful public space for “waterfront city” as stipulated in the bylaw draft on northern coastal zoning. “But Ancol beach is also beautiful. The question is, will they guarantee that it will be open to the public?” Herlambang asked. To enter Ancol, an individual has to pay Rp 25,000 at the gate and an additional Rp 15,000 for a motorcycle and Rp 20,000 for a car. By contrast, he said, Losari Beach in Makassar in South Sulawesi did not charge visitors.

Agung Podomoro Land’s President Director Ariesman Widjaja told the Post that the public would be welcome to Pluit City. “Everyone is welcome, but of course there will be some rules,” he said.

Herlambang said there was nothing wrong with reclamation itself, but the question people should ask was whether it gives any benefits to Jakarta in general. “Singapore did it because it wanted to focus on the mainland for housing and allocated the reclaimed land for recreational purposes. If Jakarta wants to build more land, it should have reduced the burden of development on the mainland, but that is not happening. I saw the bylaw on the detailed spatial planning and the administration planned to increase the density in the mainland as well.”

The bylaw draft on the reclamation zoning stipulates that the islands would be divided into three areas: the West Zone, consisting of islets A through H, used mainly for housing, the Central Zone, islets I through M, will be a commercial area, and the East Zone, with islets N through Q, will be for logistics and seaports and airports.

Ahok said the city administration had asked the developers to give 5 percent of their respective islet to the administration.

Oswar said the islets would be 30 percent green areas and there would be housing for low-income people. He said for Golf Island, the city administration planned to build low-cost rental apartments for workers supporting the community there.

The head of the Indonesian Association of Regional and Urban Planners (IAP), Bernardus Djonoputro, said such large-scale reclamation should have been done by the government and followed the principles stipulated in the 2007 spatial planning law. The law says that planning has to follow several principles including openness, integrated planning, togetherness, partnership and justice.

From what the public could see so far, however, the planning seemed to promote exclusive and gated community living, Bernardus said. “If the city administration does not get involved with the planning of the islets, the administration would only become the guardians of the gated communities. The administration has to plan for living space that is inclusive,” he said.

“If it is only a massive, giant gated community, it will show that Jakarta has conducted a mediocre planning process, it doesn’t demonstrate any world class manner and the project is nothing we can be proud of,” Bernardus said.

Reclamation goes on despite controversy
Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post 13 Jan 16;

Covering an area of 5,155 hectares, or half that of Bogor city, Jakarta’s latest reclamation is the largest such project in the country’s history, and so far, the most controversial.

Although the reclamation was not his initiative or idea, Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja has shown that he is now the biggest proponent of the project, with four more permits issued during his first year of leadership.

His first permit, for Islet G, or Pluit City built by Agung Podomoro Land’s subsidiary PT Muara Wisesa Samudra, was issued in December 2014, a month after he was sworn in. The latest permit was issued on Nov. 17, 2015 for Islet K by PT Pembangunan Jaya Ancol, despite protests and legal challenges by local fishermen at the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN).

The permits were also issued despite the incomplete draft of the bylaw on northern coastal zoning.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who was Jakarta governor for two years from October 2012 to November 2014, did not issue a single permit and even told the press several times in 2013 that he remained cautious about the project, fearing it might only benefit developers.

Spatial planning experts have questioned the public benefits of the 17 man-made islets by nine companies, mostly developers, while others have raised environmental concerns.

Bandung Institute of Technology’s (ITB) Coastal Technical Expertise Group leader, Muslim Muin said the construction of the 17 islets would create canals between the islets effectively extending the flow of rivers into the sea.

The 300-meter-wide and 32-kilometer-long gap between the northern coastline and the islets would also become a canal, Muslim said.

“It will increase the cost of dredging sedimentation. Who will shoulder this cost? Dredging is not cheap and if it is not dredged regularly, it will flood,” he said.

Local fishermen have filed a petition with the PTUN against the construction permit for Pluit City, demanding it be revoked because they claim the work threatens their livelihood.

The Jakarta Post has prepared a special report into the potential benefits and drawbacks of the reclamation project.

Read more!

Hong Kong bans import and export of ivory

Activists welcome ‘historic’ move to crack down on trade that is seen to help fuel rampant elephant poaching across Africa
AFP The Guardian 13 Jan 16;

Hong Kong will ban the import and export of ivory, the city’s leader announced on Wednesday, in a “historic” move hailed by animal welfare activists.

Chief executive Leung Chun-ying told lawmakers in his annual policy address that officials were determined to crack down on the trade in Hong Kong.

The southern Chinese city is a major hub of ivory sales and has been criticised by environmentalists for fuelling the illegal trade that leads to rampant poaching across Africa.

“The government is very concerned about the illegal poaching of elephants in Africa. It will kickstart legislative procedures as soon as possible to ban the import and export of elephant hunting trophies,” Leung said at the Legislative Council on Wednesday.

He added ministers will “actively explore other appropriate measures” to phase out the local ivory trade.

But he did not specify when the ban would be put in place.

Hong Kong has one of the busiest container terminals and airports in the world and often seizes ivory traded without authorisation. Ivory seizures reached a record 8,041kg in 2013.

The announcement was warmly welcomed by animal welfare activists – but they urged new laws to be implemented as soon as possible.

Alex Hofford from conservation group WildAid told AFP: “We are delighted that the Hong Kong government has finally announced that they will start to phase out the local ivory trade.”

He added: “We’re now urging the chief executive to set a timeline and follow through with concrete action as soon as possible.”

Elephant tusks are used in traditional medicine and to make ornaments with demand high in Asia and the Middle East.

Ivory is also popular with Chinese collectors who see it as a valuable investment.
A report by advocacy group Save the Elephants published in July said Hong Kong’s ivory market is helping push elephants towards extinction.

“History has shown that legal ivory sales only serve to provide a cover for illegal trade, which fuels the rampant poaching we see across Africa. Hong Kong has always been the epicentre of that trade,” Peter Knights of WildAid said in a statement, describing the announcement as a “historic step”.

Knights added the end of the trade “may be in sight” with prices falling in China, a key market.

According to official figures, 242 tonnes of ivory were sold in Hong Kong between 1990 and 2008, an average of around 13 tonnes a year. Since 2010, recorded sales have slowed to just a tonne a year.

China accounts for 70% of world demand for ivory, according to wildlife NGOs. They say China’s zeal for ivory is responsible for the death of 30,000 African elephants each year.

There are now an estimated 470,000 African elephants living in the wild, compared to 550,000 in 2006, said the NGO Elephants Without Borders.

The international trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after populations of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to some 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

Hong Kong government signals end to domestic ivory trade
WWF 13 Jan 16;

Hong Kong – Following a major anti-ivory campaign by WWF-Hong Kong, the city’s Chief Executive, C Y Leung, announced today that the government is actively exploring phasing out the domestic ivory trade.

The government is also set to strengthen efforts to tackle the illegal ivory trade.

Every year around 30,000 elephants are killed in Africa for their tusks, primarily to satisfy the demand for ivory products in Asia. Hong Kong is a key part of this trade as a major transit and retail hub, with a study last year revealing that there were more ivory items for sale in Hong Kong than in any other city in the world.

“The Chief Executive’s decision represents a significant step toward the end of Hong Kong’s ivory trade and a major milestone for elephant conservation,” said Gavin Edwards, Conservation Director, WWF-Hong Kong. “It is no longer a question of if a ban is needed – we can focus on when and how to end Hong Kong’s ivory trade.”

Giving his annual policy address, Chief Executive Leung stressed that Hong Kong is very concerned about the poaching of elephants in Africa and stated that the government will consider “appropriate measures, such as enacting legislation to further ban the import and export of ivory and phase out the local ivory trade.”

Hong Kong said it will also impose heavier penalties for smuggling and the illegal trade in endangered species.

“The government must rapidly implement this decision and develop a concrete timeline to phase out the ivory trade because there is no time to waste,” added Edwards.

Last year, WWF-Hong Kong launched its campaign to end the ivory trade in concert with other conservation organisations, legislators and with wide public support. In early September, WWF-Hong Kong released a report that revealed fundamental flaws in the regulations governing the domestic ivory trade, which allowed traders to launder illegal ivory from Africa – contributing directly to the elephant poaching crisis.

Yesterday, WWF handed in a petition to ban the trade signed by tens of thousands of Hong Kongers. The city’s lawmaking body, the Legislative Council, also passed a motion in December calling for the government to explore further restrictions on the ivory trade, so as to ultimately achieve a total ban on the trade.

“The Hong Kong government has listened to the voices of the city’s people and politicians who have been clearly calling for a ban,” said Cheryl Lo, Senior Wildlife Crime Officer, WWF-Hong Kong. “Hong Kong can now play a leadership role and strike a major blow against the global illegal ivory trade and wildlife crime.”

The decision follows the announcement by Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama in September 2015 that they would take significant and timely steps to halt their domestic commercial ivory trades.

It also comes as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) Standing Committee is meeting in Geneva – with ivory trafficking and elephant poaching high on the agenda.

Yesterday, the European Union tabled recommendations in relation to National Ivory Action Plans, including calling on Hong Kong to provide further information on its registration system for ivory and the implementation and enforcement of regulations for domestic ivory trade.

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