Best of our wild blogs: 22 Jan 16



8 feathered friends of the MacRitchie Forest
Love our MacRitchie Forest

5 Mysterious Structures from the World's Smallest Architects
Macro Photography in Singapore

Book Review: Of Whales and Dinosaurs
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Talk by Dr Kae Kawanishi: Conservation of Critically Endangered Malayan Tigers – 4pm, Weds 27 Jan, NUS
biodiversityconnections


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2015 was warmest year in Singapore since 1998

FRANCIS LAW Today Online 22 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — In line with earlier projections, last year was indeed the year when the heat was on, joining 1998 and 1997 as the warmest years on record for the island, with an annual mean temperature of 28.3°C.

Singapore was not alone in feeling the heat. According to a recent report by the National Climate Data Centre (NCDC) in the United States, last year was the warmest year on record for the planet.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said that last month was the warmest December on record here, with a mean monthly temperature of 27.7°C, confirming earlier estimates.

The mean annual temperature here has been rising since 2012, which recorded 27.5°C.

The next joint warmest years on record are 2010 and 2002, with an annual mean temperature of 28.1°C.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) had said earlier that the record temperatures registered in 2015 could be attributed to the “strong El Nino events”.

The weather phenomenon refers to the warm phase of a temperature cycle in the tropical central and eastern Pacific Ocean.

According to the NCDC, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces recorded last year was 0.9°C above the 20th century average of 13.9°C — beating the previous record warmth of 2014 by 0.16°C.

The 0.9°C figure represents not only the fourth time that a global temperature record has been set this century, but is also the largest margin by which the previous record had been broken. The NCDC report also said that global temperatures were “strongly influenced” by the strong El Nino conditions.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow, from the National University of Singapore’s Department of Geography, described the NCDC’s latest temperature figures as “undoubtedly significant”.

“The increase compared to 2014 is very large. It’s consistent with (global) warming since 1970s. It’s an indicator that the warming ... is going unchecked.”

Asst Prof Chow added the temperature figures should serve as yet another warning that the advances made during the Paris climate talks in December should be met by action.

Associate Professor Matthias Roth, who is also from the same NUS department, said the figures “confirm the urgency for real emission cuts to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere”.

In the run-up to the climate talks in Paris, Singapore pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

However, Assoc Prof Roth said Singapore is “actually not cutting emissions”.

“When emissions will be stabilised in 2030, they will have increasedby about 20 per cent, compared to now,” he said. “What is needed, however, are drastic cuts in emissions to bring current greenhouse gas concentrations significantly below current levels,” he added. FRANCIS LAW


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2 Singapore firms hit Top 10 of most sustainable organisations globally

According to the 2016 Corporate Knights’ Global 100 index, info-communications provider Starhub was ranked eighth while real estate company City Developments Limited came in tenth.

Channel NewsAsia 21 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: Two companies in the Republic have emerged among the top ten most sustainable corporations in the world.

According to the 2016 Corporate Knights’ Global 100 index that was released on Thursday (Jan 21), info-communications provider Starhub was ranked eighth while real estate company City Developments Limited (CDL) came in tenth.

According to the Corporate Knights website, “the companies comprising the 2016 Top 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World are those tackling these sustainability problems head on”.

Before entering the top 10 in 2016, Starhub was ranked 24th in 2015 and 29th in 2014. It first appeared in the top 100 in 2013 at rank 66.

Said Chief Executive Officer of StarHub, Tan Tong Hai: “I am very happy that our efforts to create a sustainable future and to deliver long term value for our stakeholders are recognised.

“It has always been important to us to do what is right for the business, community and the environment. Our efforts are ongoing, and we will continue to work hard in our sustainability efforts.”

Meanwhile, CDL is the first and only Singapore company to be listed on the ranking for seven consecutive years. It first appeared at 81st place on the list in 2010, and moved up to 34th place in 2015.

Said CDL Chief Executive Officer Grant Kelley: “We are focused on sustainable development and have helped to green Singapore with more than 80 Green Mark buildings.

"Our efforts have created stronger brand equity and product differentiation. They have also given us a first-mover advantage as environmental regulations have been mandated progressively for the property sector.”

Two other Singaporean companies - Keppel Corporation and CapitaLand - made the top 100 of the list, at 55th and 93rd respectively.

Singapore was the only Southeast Asian country represented. In Asia, only Japan, South Korea and China joined Singapore in having representatives on the list. The top Japanese company was 80th-ranked Takeda Pharmaceutical (ranked 80th), while the best performing South Korean company was Shinhan Financial Group at 18th.

China's only representative, Lenovo, took 68th place. Germany's BMW was ranked the top overall in the world, with France's Dassault Systemes at second place and Outotec from Finland in third.

Corporate Knights is a Toronto-based media and investment advisory company. Its Corporate Knights’ Global 100 is released annually.

The top 10:

BMW - Germany
Dassault Systemes - France
Outotec - Finland
Commonwealth Bank of America - Australia
adidas - Germany
Enagas - Spain
Danske Bank - Denmark
Starhub - Singapore
Reckitt Benckiser Group - UK
City Developments - Singapore
- CNA/xk


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Ministry to work with firms in ‘green’ growth aim: Masagos

KELLY NG Today Online 22 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — Industries and vehicles will have to adhere to tougher emissions standards, while the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) will work with businesses to adopt greener practices and enhance their energy efficiency, to achieve environmentally sustainable economic growth.

In his ministry’s addendum to the President’s Address to Parliament last Friday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli noted that economic growth and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive, and pledged to partner interest groups and regional governments to realise this vision.

According to the International Energy Agency’s 2014 Key World Energy Statistics report, the energy and transformation industries in Singapore contributed 46 per cent of carbon emissions from fuel combustion in the energy sector in 2010, while industrial activities accounted for 38 per cent.

Mr Masagos said yesterday that his ministry will not hesitate to “take tough action” against errant businesses. The minister cited the Republic’s experience with transboundary haze as one that has shown “devastating” environmental, social and economic impact of irresponsible businesses.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chairs the Inter-ministerial Committee on Climate Change, echoed calls for industries to step up efforts in re-examining their operations. These will be complemented by regulations under the Energy Conservation Act, which targets a 35 per cent improvement in energy intensity by 2030 from 2005 levels, as well as by various capability-building programmes, incentives and financing schemes, said Mr Teo in the National Climate Change Secretariat’s addendum to the President’s Address.

Singapore has made an “ambitious” pledge to combat global climate change in the deal adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention Climate Change last month. In it, the Republic committed to slash emissions intensity (the amount of greenhouse gas emitted per dollar of GDP) and stabilise emissions by 2030.

This calls for a concerted effort by all stakeholders, including the Government, businesses, households and individuals, he stressed.

Both government bodies are also committed to investing in good environmental infrastructure and technology to address the wide-ranging impacts of climate change.

For instance, the MEWR has undertaken a review of the Water Master Plan to ensure a reliable water supply for future generations.

As the Republic’s base of “green companies” expands, Singaporeans can look forward to jobs in areas such as solar energy, energy storage solutions and clean transportation, said Mr Teo. At the household level, more categories of appliances will be added to the Minimum Energy Performance Standards scheme, which ensures that only household electrical appliances that meet minimum energy performance standards can be sold here. It currently covers air-conditioners, refrigerators, clothes dryers and general lighting.


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Make walking, cycling and public transport the Singaporean way of life: MOT

The Ministry of Transport aims to have three in four commuters choosing public transport as their main mode of travel by 2030. "We will support this shift by making it much easier to walk and cycle in Singapore," said Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan.
Edric Sng Channel NewsAsia 21 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: The aim is to have three in four commuters choose public transport as their main mode of travel by 2030, a proportion rising to 85 per cent by the 2050s. To make this "car-lite" vision come to pass, the Government will invest a projected S$36 billion in public transport expenditure over the next 5 years, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

Citing a 1975 speech by the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Khaw said on Thursday (Jan 21) that the objective is "a city pleasant, green and cool, and safety and convenience for the pedestrian".

Asked the Transport Minister: "Can we build on Mr Lee’s legacy of a clean and green city and his people-centric vision to transform Singapore into a city that prides itself on public transport, walking and cycling, instead of driving? We are not quite there yet, but I believe that together, we can make a car-lite Singapore a reality."

Rail reliability remains the "top priority", while the Government will improve walking and cycling connections, particularly to train stations and bus stops, Mr Khaw, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, said in the Ministry of Transport's addendum to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's opening address to Parliament last Friday.

"Within Singapore, we have laid the foundations for a public transport system that is reliable, convenient, and affordable. We aim to have three out of four commuters take public transport as their main mode of travel by 2030, and at least 85 per cent by the 2050s," he said.

"We will support this shift by making it much easier to walk and cycle in Singapore, since this is how almost every public transport commuter gets to the MRT station or bus stop today. With safe and comfortable facilities, we hope too that Singaporeans will increasingly walk or cycle to neighbourhood amenities."

He added that technology and innovation - such as self-driving vehicles and new urban designs - will also support a "new mobility paradigm" that does not revolve around the private car.

IMPROVING THE TRAIN, BUS NETWORK

The ministry aims to make walking, cycling, and riding public transport become the way of life for Singaporeans, said Mr Khaw.

Central to these plans is improving rail reliability, with the train operators and Land Transport Authority set to recruit "many" additional engineers and technicians to shore up maintenance capabilities, as well as implementing more stringent maintenance requirements, he said.

The rail network will double to 360km in the next 15 years, with a new line or MRT extension opening almost every year until 2021 - by which time there will be an MRT station within a 5-minute walk from any location in the central area, and 8 in 10 households will be within a 10-minute walk of a station by 2030, said the Transport Minister.

Existing routes will be enhanced, he added. Major renewal works for the trunk North-South and East-West MRT Lines will be completed by 2018, and service levels of existing train and bus networks will be raised in the next five years, in large part due to the new bus contracting model.

"FROM DOORSTEP TO DESTINATION"

To improve connectivity to public transport nodes over the next five years, the length of covered walkways will be quadrupled, while dedicated cycling paths will be built in more towns, Mr Khaw said.

Ang Mo Kio and Tampines will pilot a "fully integrated, seamless" walking and cycling network; Kampong Bugis will pilot new design concepts for private developments that facilitate seamless walking and cycling; while Bidadari Town will have a walking greenway and cycling paths connecting to its two MRT stations, he added. Other cycling connectivity improvements include the Queenstown-City Link and the Bishan-Kallang Link.

For longer-distance connectivity, the planned North-South Expressway will be reconfigured to be part of a “North-South Corridor” that will include express bus lanes and a cycling trunk route to the city, said Mr Khaw, while the revitalised Bencoolen Street will include wide pedestrian paths and a dedicated cycling lane.

More trials are planned for self-driving vehicle technology, which could complement and "radically improve" the public transport experience, he said.

One knock-on benefit of reducing the number of cars needed on the road: Safer journeys for pedestrians, in particular children and the elderly. More "silver zones" and "school zones" are in the pipeline, the Transport Ministry said.

BIGGER, BETTER AIR AND SEA PORTS

Mr Khaw also outlined the major infrastructure projects in the works to strengthen the competitiveness of Singapore's air and sea hubs.

Changi Airport Terminal 4 and Jewel Changi Airport are on track to commence operations in 2017 and 2019, respectively, while Terminal 5 is expected to be completed in the second half of the 2020s. A three-runway system will be in place in the early 2020s, and more investment will be made in air traffic management capabilities, he said.

By the end of 2017, Pasir Panjang Terminal Phases 3 and 4 will grow Singapore's seaport capacity by more than 40 per cent come. The first set of berths of the new Tuas Terminal will be ready by 2021.

But beyond mere capacity, the Government hopes to improve the efficiency and productivity of the air and sea ports using innovative design and cutting-edge technology, both at new and existing facilities, Mr Khaw said. More investment in skills is also planned to train and develop the aviation and maritime sector workforce.

Said the Transport Minister: "Our aviation and maritime sectors are the lifeline of Singapore’s economy. They provide the global connectivity needed by companies, and keep Singapore at the heart of international business and trade. They ensure our attractiveness as a global city, facilitating the flow of people, goods, services, and ideas. They contribute about 13 per cent of our GDP and more than 330,000 jobs.

"We cannot take this for granted."

- CNA/mz

‘Bold’ moves for car-lite Singapore in the offing
AMANDA LEE Today Online 22 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE – In a decisive step towards making cycling one of the Republic’s key transport modes, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be studying how to turn the impending North-South Expressway (NSE) into a North-South Corridor.

The reconfiguration will feature a 21.5-km cycling trunk route into the city that spans the entire corridor, as well as dedicated bus lanes for express bus services serving the corridor, and wide walking paths along the surface corridor with greenery for shade.

In his ministry’s addendum to the President’s address to Parliament, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said today (Jan 21): “Our aspiration is for walking, cycling, and riding public transport to become the way of life for Singaporeans.”

In a blog post on the addendum later, Mr Khaw said: “There is a growing consensus among developed cities that fewer cars mean less traffic congestion, less air and noise pollution, and more land for public spaces and amenities.

“Cities designed to encourage active mobility, such as walking and cycling, also improve mental and physical health, reduce stress, and build a strong sense of community. Overall, car-lite cities make for a better quality of life.”

In the addendum, Mr Khaw also outlined the Transport Ministry’s plans for the next five years, which include restoring Bencoolen Street.

For the construction of Downtown Line 3’s (DTL 3) Bencoolen station, part of Bencoolen Street between Middle Road and Bras Basah Road has been closed since Oct 2011.

However, when Bencoolen Street reopens to the public next year, two of the four original lanes will be converted into wide footpaths lined with trees and benches for pedestrians.

There will also be a dedicated cycling path connecting Rochor Canal and Bukit Timah to the Central Business District.

This is among other cycling connectivity improvements such as Queenstown-City Link and the Bishan-Kallang Link, said Mr Khaw.

More bicycle parking facilities will also be provided in the area. A dedicated bus lane will also be incorporated into the design of Bencoolen Street.

Works are expected to start from the middle of next year and will be completed together with the DTL3 station next year.

The Government has always been pushing for Singaporeans to walk, cycle and take the public transport.

By 2030, the Government aims to have three out of four commuters taking the public transport as their “main mode” of travel, and at least 85 per cent by the 2050s.

“We will support this shift by making it much easier to walk and cycle in Singapore, since this is how almost every public transport commuter gets to the MRT station or bus stop today,” said Mr Khaw.

He also said a car-centric transport system is not sustainable in Singapore where space is an issue.

“Already, one million private vehicles ply the roads today and 12 per cent of our land is used for roads,” said Mr Khaw.

He noted that “a growing number of cities are also decisively” moving their transportation model away from private cars, for an improved urban environment and high quality of life.

Previously, in an interview with TODAY in August last year after he had announced he was stepping down, former Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew addressed the idea of having dedicated cycling lanes.

Stressing that the Government wanted to make buses the “kings of the road”, he said: “If I can widen the roads by another 1.5m, am I actually better off moving that space off the road? Those are the questions we have to answer.” He added that it was safer to keep cyclists off the roads but they should also be segregated from pedestrians.


Longer covered walkways, cycling paths to be built
AMANDA LEE Today Online 22 Jan 16;

As part of the Government’s plans to encourage Singaporeans to go “car-lite”, the length of covered walkways here will be quadrapled, and dedicated cycling paths will be built in more towns in the next five years.

This will be designed into new housing estates while existing estates will be retrofitted. Ang Mo Kio and Tampines will pilot a “fully integrated and seamless walking and cycling network”, while Kampong Bugis will pilot new design concepts for private developments that facilitates seamless walking and cycling. Bidadari, the site of a successful HDB flat launch last year, will have a walking greenway and cycling paths connecting to its two MRT stations.

“Our aspiration is for walking, cycling and riding public transport to become the way of life for Singaporeans,” said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in his ministry’s addendum to the President’s Address released yesterday.

The Government will also do more to make streets safer, by continuing to roll out more “silver zones” and “school zones” which allow the elderly and the vulnerable to move about safely.

“Our aspiration is also motivated by the desire for safer streets,” said Mr Khaw. “We can go a long way towards a future of zero road fatalities by designing streets for the more vulnerable users — children, the elderly and other pedestrians — rather than cars.” AMANDA LEE


North-South Corridor, Bencoolen Street to be cyclist and pedestrian friendly
Original plans for the North-South Expressway and Bencoolen Street have been reimagined to include cycling paths and pedestrian walkways, the Land Transport Authority announces.
Edric Sng Channel NewsAsia 21 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: As part of plans to make walking, cycling and taking public transport the primary means of commuting in Singapore, the Land Transport Authority unveiled what it called two "signature" conversion projects - incorporating more cyclist and pedestrian-friendly dimensions to the original plans for the North-South Expressway and Bencoolen Street.

The planned North-South Expressway - originally conceived as a 21.5km road to connect towns in the North to the city centre - will be reconfigured to be part of a “North-South Corridor” that will include express bus lanes and a cycling trunk route to the city, said the LTA on Thursday (Jan 21), expanding on Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan's addendum to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's opening address in Parliament.

According to visuals supplied by the Land Transport Authority, the design of this Corridor will be tiered, with dedicated cycling and walking paths on the surface, lined with trees, and roads alongside and underground. The finalised design and timeline will be released at a later date, said the LTA.

Mr Khaw also pointed to the remaking of Bencoolen Street as an example of what the Government is trying to achieve with the shift away from cars as a primary mode of commuting.

The stretch of Bencoolen Street between Middle Road and Bras Basah Road has been closed since October 2011 for the construction of Downtown Line 3's Bencoolen Station. When reopened in 2017, two of the original car lanes will be converted into wide, tree-lined footpaths, as well as a dedicated cycling path connecting Rochor Canal and Bukit Timah to the Central Business District. More bicycle parking facilities will also be provided in the area.

Works are scheduled to start from the middle of 2016, and be completed with the Bencoolen station in 2017, said LTA.

Other cycling connectivity improvements include the Queenstown-City Link and the Bishan-Kallang Link, while mature and upcoming towns will include "integrated, seamless" connections between the walking and cycling network and train and bus hubs, said Mr Khaw.

- CNA/mz


Govt’s commitment to make cycling a viable commuting choice lauded
AMANDA LEE Today Online 22 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — Cycling enthusiasts applauded the Government’s eye-catching move to incorporate dedicated paths for two-wheelers in the redesign of the North-South Expressway, noting that it demonstrates the will to create a car-lite environment in Singapore.

Still, transport analysts and Members of Parliament (MPs) noted that some minor details on the use of these paths remain to be ironed out, with safety in mind.

Mr Woon Taiwoon, who co-founded cycling group Love Cycling SG, hailed the incorporation of cycling into the emphasis on upping connectivity across the island.

“The new expressway design is a very innovative approach which further demonstrates the car-lite intent,” said the 42-year-old product designer. “We are delighted to see cycling being integrated fully into the plans.”

Mr Lam Shiu Tong, a cyclist for almost 30 years, said it shows the commitment to make cycling a commuting choice. “This is fantastic. Cyclists have been waiting for this for a long time,” said the 49-year-old, a senior director at Singapore Sports Hub.

Agreeing, Mr Francis Chu, also a co-founder of Love Cycling SG said: “The Government is committed to make cycling a viable choice for commuting.” The 56-year-old added that facilitating cycling as a mode of transport is “long overdue”.

While they welcomed the move, experts and MPs on the transport government parliamentary committee said there can be greater clarity on the usage of the cycling paths to make it safer for everyone.

MP Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) suggested installing a divider to separate vehicular traffic and bicycles. “So that when (a) car wants to move to the cycling path it hits the kerb and prevents (accidents) from happening,” he added. “We need to have some safety precaution.” Mr Ang was also concerned about the kind of bicycles and personal mobility devices (PMDs) that will be allowed on the cycling lanes.

The Land Transport Authority has set up a panel to explore the rules and norms that govern the use of footpaths and cycling paths. This could possibly include regulations on the use of bicycles and PMDs. The panel will decide on the enforcement that should accompany these rules and norms, which will be compiled in a report by the second quarter of this year.

SIM University senior lecturer Walter Theseira said: “For high-speed bicycle commuting, the path absolutely has to be separated from vehicle traffic, ideally by hard barriers — such as curbs — but also separated from pedestrian traffic, though this could be done with softer barriers. If separation is not achieved, bicyclists will be fighting with pedestrians for space and there will more pedestrian-cyclist accidents, which will probably hurt the adoption of bicycling as an accepted mode of transit here.”

On whether there can be more cycling lanes in future, MP Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten SMC) said it depends on the result of this particular project. “If you create a cycling trunk (route) and that leads to cyclists riding everywhere in an irresponsible manner, there will be a backlash,” he said.

“I’m concerned that if cyclists feel that ‘well, I am entitled to ride on the road whichever way I want’, there will be adverse reactions from other motorists.”

Cyclists applaud LTA’s bike-friendly initiatives, but raise concerns about congestion
“Simply painting a couple of lines does not necessarily address some underlying concerns,” a cyclist says of plans to make the North-South Corridor and Bencoolen Street more bicycle, pedestrian and bus-friendly.
Justin Ong Channel NewsAsia 21 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: Local cyclists and motorists have welcomed new projects unveiled on Thursday (Jan 21) by the Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in bid to foster a culture of walking, cycling and public transport in Singapore.

But several individuals Channel NewsAsia spoke with also outlined their concerns over the possibility of congested pavements and called for greater education and awareness between users of different modes of transport.

Under LTA’s new plans, the upcoming North-South Expressway will be part of a “North-South Corridor” that includes an off-road cycling trunk route to the city and express bus lanes on the highway. And Bencoolen Street, once reopened upon completion of the Downtown Line, will see a dedicated bus lane on top of an off-road cycling lane to connect Rochor Canal and Bukit Timah to the Central Business District.

The authorities also announced other cycling connectivity improvements like a Queenstown-City Link and Bishan-Kallang Link.

“It's great to see some sort of initiative that could potentially increase cyclist safety,” said Mr Bjorn Wong, who cycles to and from work. “If the roads in question fall along my route to work, it would allow for much less stressful commutes.”

Echoing his point was Mr Muhammad Rezal Ramli, who cycles from his home in the East to his workplace in the city. “This will definitely make my commute more direct, faster and definitely safer, and attract more bike commuters to hop on,” he said.

“Anything that reduces traffic congestion on the road is a good thing,” said Stephen Ames, a bicycle shop owner who delivers and collects goods on his bike.

Avid cyclist Darren Ho highlighted the current road situation along Bencoolen Street as “very dangerous for cyclists, because of the sheer capacity of traffic”. But he said he would hit the roads “a lot more” with the new dedicated cycling routes.

Calling it “a great move towards a more “car-lite” situation”, cyclist Nicholas Cordeiro said: “This sends the right signal to cyclists that there are provisions for them ... an added incentive to ride.”

MOTORISTS REACT

Despite the dedicated bus and cycling lanes taking up space otherwise used for car lanes, drivers and motorbike riders Channel NewsAsia spoke with were generally in support of the initiatives.

“Dedicated lanes for cyclists are good because it's far less dangerous than sharing the road with vehicles," said Ms Adele Chan. "As a driver I think it will improve efficiency on the road. It's better to give this system a try than not try to improve at all."

Another driver, Mr Gavin Chian, said it was “worth a shot at creating a good system for cyclists”.

“It's refreshing to see the authorities take such a big step to encourage more people to commute via bicycle,” said Mr Kevin Ho, who rides a motorbike to work.

“I used to cycle to work, but heavy traffic and inconsiderate drivers put an end to that. The North-South Corridor does not affect my route to work since I live in the East, but hopefully dedicated bicycle lanes will be rolled out to other parts of the island very soon,” he added.

But Ms Chan also noted: "The Bencoolen Street area has always been a mess, and traffic was particularly bad when construction began. It's worrying that there will be one less lane for cars, but who knows, maybe after the roadworks clear up, overall traffic will be smoother."

Driver Terence Chew welcomed the news, but observed that to encourage more bicycle-commuting, the implementations would require additional steps such as showering facilities at the workplace - a point also raised by Mr Ames.

TO CYCLE ON OR OFF THE ROAD

The long-standing debate of whether cyclists belong to the pavement or the roads also came into focus when the cyclists Channel NewsAsia spoke to expressed worry over the use of the dedicated cycling lanes. The artist impression provided by LTA shows the cycling lane right next to the pedestrian path.

“If pedestrians have access to the lanes, we may well end up with congestion so similar to East Coast Park (ECP) on weekends,” said Mr Wong and Mr Cordeiro, with the latter jokingly adding: “Hopefully these lanes don't get abused by motorcycles!”

Mr Cordeiro, Mr Ho and Mr Ames all said that having bicycles share the road with cars instead would provide for pedestrian safety.

Said Mr Ames: “I believe that bike lanes should be road-based, leaving pedestrians to pavement environments, and bicycle riders on these lanes should follow the rules of the road.”

The road is safer, said Mr Cordeiro, as “pedestrians won't become a hazard”.

“Cyclists on the roads is ideal yes, but in reality a tough one to implement,” noted Mr Chew. “Also, there is a glaring lack of awareness on road etiquette towards and from both cyclists and drivers.”

But others like Ms Chan dismissed the idea of bicycles on roads as “too dangerous for everyone”, while Mr Rezal argued for the merits of sticking to the pavement instead.

“At this point of time, with so much discord between motorists and cyclists, riding on the road is not ideal. It will discourage others who might be thinking of commuting by bike,” said the 35-year-old teacher. “I believe Singapore can differentiate itself from other established cycling cities by getting cyclists to stay along the pavement as compared to roads.”

EDUCATION THE SOLUTION

The best way forward, according to Mr Ho, Mr Wong and Mr Cordeiro, is to educate cyclists and motorists alike on etiquette.

“Some form of regulation or bike-lane code needs to be in place, so people are educated on how to use it, with consideration of other users and safety,” said Mr Cordeiro.

Mr Ames went one step further with recommendations for how to design the lanes or provide for bicycles on the roads.

“Cycle lanes should be wide enough to allow riders to overtake one another safely, and if taking two directions of traffic, be marked with central lines,” he said. “And simple ideas such as waiting boxes for cyclists at the front of red traffic light queues help to give dedicated space at junctions to wait and feel secure in.”

The 48-year-old added: “Singapore is a perfect country to set up a strong cycling infrastructure; it is compact and has a climate that enables year round cycling.”

Meanwhile, Mr Wong indicated that it boils down to keeping a sense of entitlement in check.

“Simply painting a couple of lines does not necessarily address some underlying concerns,” he said. “It may reduce the chances of incidents taking place ... but the mindset of mutual respect must be communicated as public service announcements.”

“If the fundamental cause isn't addressed, friction between groups of road users will continue to exist. We cannot afford to have motorists demand priority for road usage, or assuming bicycling is a lesser option.”

- CNA/jo


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Malaysia: 'Dengue outbreak in Terengganu serious'

New Straits Times 21 Jan 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: The increasing number of dengue cases and deaths in this state show that the dengue outbreak this year is a serious episode for the state.

State Health, Women Development , Family and Community committee chairman Datuk Muhammad Pehemi Yusof said quick action should be taken to put an end to the problem.

Pehemi said yesterday, Terengganu recorded the fifth fatality from dengue this year following the death of an 11-year-old pupil from Pulau Perhentian in Besut.

He said the boy who was admitted to the Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital on Monday night after suffering from fever for six days. He died while receiving treatment.

"A sibling of the boy is still being warded at the Besut Hospital," he said.

Pehemi said a team of officers from the Terengganu Health Department had fogged Pulau Perhentian and conducted health checks on the island.

To date, Terengganu recorded five deaths with 343 cases of dengue in January alone.

This is a 290 per cent increase in number of cases compared to the 92 cases during the same period last year.

Negri Sembilan records first dengue death, hospital ward filled with patients

KHAIRUL NAJIB ASARULAH KHAN New Straits Times 21 Jan 16;

SEREMBAN: Negri Sembilan has recorded its first dengue death since Jan 1 this year.

State Health director Dr Abdul Rahim Abdullah said the 63-year-old victim was believed to have been infected by the virus at her house in Mambau, near here.

“The victim passed away at Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital (HTJ) on Jan 11.

“There was another 34-year-old woman who died after falling ill with dengue on Monday. However, she also suffered from other illness.

“The health department is still trying to determine her actual cause of death,” he said.

He was speaking to reporters after witnessing the wheelchair distribution by the Nilai Municipal Council (MPN) to Rantau clinic, here, today.

Dr Abdul Rahim said 229 dengue cases had been recorded between Jan 1 and Jan 18, almost triple the 81 cases of the same period in the state last year. “Seremban and Nilai recorded the highest cases followed by Port Dickson, Kuala Pilah, Jempol and Rembau.

“The dengue ward at HTJ is fully occupied and we have opened another ward to accommodate patients.

“In addition, we have summoned the help of medical staff from districts with fewer cases to support HTJ,” he said.

The rise of dengue cases in Terengganu is alarming: Razif

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 23 Jan 16;

KUALA NERUS: The dengue epidemic is so alarming in Terengganu that concerted efforts have to be taken to prevent more victims and deaths, said Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman.

He said as of Jan 21, a total of 407 cases were reported in the state, as compared with 106 cases for the corresponding period last year, accounting for a 301 increase.

There were also five deaths during the period this year, with four cases in the state capital Kuala Terengganu and one in Kampung Pulau Perhentian, Besut.

"We have the ignominy of occupying fifth spot in the country for having the most number of dengue cases.

This is not a good sign and is worrying. "We cannot take things lightly and all parties, including the public, must play a role in combating dengue.

We should not just place this responsibility on the Health Department and local authorities," he said at the gotong-royong Perdana at Kampung Bukit Kandis.

According to statistics, Kuala Terengganu had the most number of dengue cases (26) followed by Kuala Nerus (65), Dungun (26), Besut (19), Marang (14), Hulu Terengganu (11), Kemaman (5) and Setiu (2).

Razif expressed concern that 30 locations were still active with dengue. Of this number, he said 16 locations were in Kuala Terengganu, seven in Kuala Nerus, two in Besut and one in Dungun.

"Kuala Terengganu's worst hit areas are in Jalan Panji Alam, Kampung Chendering Pantai, Kampung Gong Tok Nasek Hilir and Kedai Buloh," he said.


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Malaysia: Illegal logging in Terengganu -- RM2mil worth of machinery and timber seized

ZARINA ABDULLAH New Straits Times 21 Jan 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: State Forestry Department enforcement officers seized various types of logging machinery and timber worth more than RM2 million during a raid at the Cherul forest reserve in Kemaman on Tuesday.

Its director Datuk Azmi Nordin said five rangers from the Kemaman branch were involved in the 11am operation , which was mounted following 24-hours of observation and a tip off from the public.

Azmi said the five rangers from the forestry department units had to seek back up from the police before they managed to stop the illegal logging activity at the site.

"Our rangers had been monitoring the illegal logging activity since Monday.

The raiding party discovered that the loggers had fell trees without a valid licence," he said at a press conference in his office in Kuala Terengganu today.

"My men confronted the loggers who had initially given their cooperation but things changed when a representative of the concession arrived at the site.

He started threatening my men who then left the site to avoid any untowards incident," he said.

He said the rangers left the site at 1pm and returned with reinforcements comprising 20 rangers and four policemen at 7pm.

The loggers, mostly Indonesians were no longer at the site.

The logging machineries, equipment and timber were abandoned at the site.

"We seized a dozen logging machineries , including five bulldozers and four excavators and timber worth more than RM2 million," he said, adding that the team and policemen had to take a two hour off-road ride to reach the site from Chenih.

" The contractor, in his 40's from Kuantan, who was involved in the incident has been identified and will have his statement recorded next week," he said, adding that all of the seized items were placed at a store in Chenih.

He said the case was being investigated under Section 81(2) of the Forestry Act 1984 for illegal logging.


Action taken against illegal logging mastermind
The Star 21 Jan 16;

KUCHING: Action has been taken against a senior officer of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) for allegedly masterminding an illegal logging activity in Kampung Danu, Padawan.

SFC chief executive officer Wong Ting Chung, who confirmed this yesterday, said the corporation had handed over the illegal logging case to the Forestry Department of Sarawak, which was in the process of taking legal action against the culprits.

He said that the logging permit given to the Kampung Danu cooperative had been withdrawn after it was found that it had been abused for logging activities outside the permitted area.

“We have started the disciplinary process against him (the SFC officer) in accordance with the company’s rules and regulations.

“He has answered our show-cause letter and we will decide his fate soon.”

Apart from withdrawing the permit, the Forestry Department of Sarawak seized 750 logs and the machines used in the illegal logging during a raid on Dec 8.

The logs and machines are still being held at the junction of the logging road in Kampung Danu.

The department, in a statement last month, said the culprits could be charged under the new Sarawak Forest Ordinance 2015, which carries heavier penalties.

Prior to the raid, a group of Kampung Danu villagers, who are committee members of the village cooperative, had lodged a report at the Siburan police station denying that they had given their approval to the cooperative to apply for the logging permit.

In their report, they claimed that several members of the cooperative had used the cooperative for their personal benefit.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Public Health Assistant Minister Datuk Dr Jerip Susil, who is also Bengoh assemblyman, strongly denied his involvement in the logging activities. — Bernama


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Malaysia: Three held for poaching, tiger carcass found

The Star 22 Jan 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Three people were detained for illegal poaching after authorities found a carcass of a tiger (Panthera Tigris) at their home in Pasir Semut, Kemaman.

Terengganu’s Department of Wildlife and National Park director Mohd Hasdi Husin said the three were detained on Wednesday at about 6.30pm.

The three – from Terengganu, Pahang and Sarawak – are in their 50s.

Mohd Hasdi said the three were handed to the police for allegedly killing the tiger and trying to sell its body parts for medicinal purposes.

The Panthera Tigris is a critically endangered animal.

“Acting on a tip-off, three of our officers posed as buyers and made a deal where a deposit of RM10,000 was to be paid to the men on Wednesday evening.

“We raided the house in the evening where we introduced ourselves and the raiding team found the carcass in the bathroom, chopped into four, as they allegedly attempted to sell the tiger’s skin, bones and teeth.

“Apart from that, the meat was intended to be sold to restaurants selling exotic meat,” he said.

He said poachers frequently hunt tigers as their body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine and fetch high prices.

He said there were fewer than 400 tigers left in the Malaysian jungles.


Three men arrested after discovery of tiger carcass in toilet
ZARINA ABDULLAH New Straits Times 21 Jan 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Three men face the prospects of spending five years in jail and a fine of RM500,000 for possessing a tiger carcass at their house in Kemaman on Wednesday.

They are being investigated under Section 68(2)(c) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, after being detained by State Wildlife and National Parks Department rangers.

The rangers from the department's headquarters here mounted an ambush following a tip-off from the public and waited for three days before making their move.

"The rangers targetted a house in Pasir Semut in Kemaman.

When the house was raided at 6.30pm, they found a tiger carcass hidden in the toilet and three men in the house," said State Wildlife and National Parks director Mohd Hasdi Hussin.

Hasdi said the tiger, weighing about 150 kilogram, was trapped before it was shot in the head and had its organs removed and separated into four parts.

"We believe the age of the tiger is about 20 years.

We suspect a syndicate is involved and the carcass is waiting for buyers from a neighbouring country," he added.

Tiger or Panthera tigris is an endangered and a protected species.

Hasdi said the three men aged between 50 and 60 years were detained at the Kemaman police station.


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Malaysia in the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2015 report

Malaysia is green and growing
PIERRE BOIS D’ENGHIEN The Star 22 Jan 16;

MORE than 190 countries met in Paris last month, on the occasion of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21), and reached a deal to address the issue of climate change.

As always, forests and emissions from deforestation received attention throughout the conference.

In this context, it is more important than ever to draw public attention to the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2015 report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The report is titled “How Are The World’s Forests Changing?”

The FRA, produced every five years to provide a consistent approach to describing the world’s forests and how they are changing (source: www.fao.org), is the most comprehensive examination of forests worldwide, taking data from hundreds of sources and using teams of researchers from around the globe.

Many NGOs have accused the palm oil industry of being a major cause of deforestation, particularly in Malaysia.

It has been one of the key pillars of the campaigns to discredit palm oil.

But the new data from the FRA changes this.

Malaysia, one of the major players in the palm oil industry, is doing pretty well in terms of managing its forest resources.

Indeed, Malaysia’s forest area today is 22,195,100ha or 67.6% (more than two-thirds) of the land area.

In 2000, the coverage area was 21,591,000ha.

Between 2010 and 2015, forest area has risen by 14,000ha per year.

In other words, Malaysia’s forest area is increasing, not decreasing.

Note that the primary forest is 5,041,1000ha (22.7% of forest area), other naturally regenerated forests are 15,188,000ha (68.4% of the total area), and with respect to planted forests, they represent 1,966,000ha or 8.9% of forest area.

Even when looking at forest cover – which calculates at forest canopy cover and includes smaller blocks of trees – Malaysia’s numbers are impressive.

Global Forest Watch, an initiative of the World Resources Institute, says Malaysia’s forest cover is around 29,000,000ha, upward of 80%.

Malaysia’s numbers are all the more remarkable following the past 25 years (1990-2015), when the global forest area continued to decline gradually as the global population continued to grow.

The positive aspect is that, as noted by the FAO report, “the focus on sustainable forest management has never been so high: more lands are designated as permanent forest, we have established more action and monitoring, reporting, and planning and stakeholder involvement is greater every day, and there is an almost universal legal framework legislating on sustainable forest management.

Larger areas are designated for the conservation of biodiversity and simultaneously forests have an increasingly important role in offering products and services.”

The authors also note that in 1990 the world had 4.128 billion hectares of forest; in 2015, this total area decreased to 3.999 billion hectares – bringing the terrestrial coverage rate down from 31.6% to 30.6% in 25 years.

From this point view, Malaysia sets a good example, its forest area decreased only slightly over the past 25 years.

The rate of its forest loss has effectively fallen to zero. The decrease in Malaysia’s forest area is smaller than the losses in developed countries such as Australia and Canada.

Malaysians should be proud because one of the main features highlighted by the report is that “the total forest area reported as primary has increased from 1990 to 2015, largely because more countries now report on this forest characteristic.

Some countries have reported increases in national primary forest because old-growth forest categories-have-been reclassified (among them, Costa Rica, Japan, Malaysia, Russia and the United States).”

Finally, while the world also focuses on conservation of biodiversity, considerable progress has been made in this regard, since the area designated for biodiversity conservation in Malaysia rose from 1,120,000ha in 1990, to 1,859,000 ha 2015.

There will be detractors in relation to the findings of this report. Some will claim that the use of “forest area” by the FAO is not as reliable as “forest cover”.

But there is a reason for this.

“Forest area” is a longer term measure of land area that is classified as forest over a longer term, while “forest cover” is a snapshot of one point in time.

“Forest cover” is subject to disturbances, man-made or otherwise. Think of forest fires, volcanoes, diseases or clearance for environmental purpose (such as fire breaks).

But it is also worth noting that a number of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries such as Canada, Australia and Chile had larger forest area losses than Malaysia over the past 25 years.

After reading all these numbers, it is surprising that some continue to spread the rumour that Malaysia suffers the terrible effects of deforestation.

As an observer at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), I am obviously very interested in all of this data.

This is a sign that, contrary to what some seem to believe, Malaysians take care of their forests and are aware of this precious piece of national heritage.

The Malaysian people can be proud of this report, and should look to its findings to challenge the international media and those who intentionally spread misinformation about Malaysian palm oil.

Malaysia should therefore be lauded. Far from the environmental pariah that some have accused it of being, it is a country that has worked hard to manage its natural resources sustainably.

Obviously this does not mean Malaysia can allow its efforts to cease; environmental management is always a work in progress.

In summary, the key facts from the United Nations FAO report are:

> Malaysia’s forest area is increasing, disproving the accusations of unregulated, indiscriminate mass deforestation.

> Malaysia remains one of the world’s best performers in retention of forest. Forest area currently stands at 67.6% of land area.

> Globally, the news for forests is also improving, biodiversity conservation areas are increasing, and the global rate of forest loss is declining.

Pierre Bois d’Enghien is a renowned agronomist and environmental expert, who has worked with many of Europe’s leading players in plantations and agricultural development.
Bois d’Enghien has a Master’s degree in Environmental Management, and currently works with Socfin, SIAT, and Feronia as well as other agricultural leaders. He also serves as an auditor to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Bois d’Enghien is a well-publicised author and commentator in Europe on environmental matters, including for major newspapers. He travels widely in his role as an agronomist and consultant, including Africa and South-East Asia.


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Indonesia: One dead following heavy rains, flooding across Riau

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 21 Jan 16;

Flooding caused by heavy downpours and overflowing rivers has inundated several regions in the country, killing at least one person and paralyzing economic activities in the affected areas.

In Kampar, Riau, floods have engulfed several districts in the regency over the past three days, causing material damage and claiming the life of 10-year-old M. Rifai Afri.

Rifai, who lived in Palung Raya subdistrict, Tambang district, was reported missing on Sunday afternoon at around 3 p.m. local time by his father, who had left him alone at home to buy kerosene.

The SD 15 state elementary school fifth grader was last seen playing alone not far from his home. He was believed to have slipped into a 120-centimeter-deep ground hole that had filled with water from the Kampar River, which had bursts its banks. As he could not swim, he was swept by strong river currents.

“His body was found the next day. His family refused an autopsy be performed on him as it wanted to bury him immediately,” Kampar Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Santoso said on Wednesday.

Overflowing water from the Kampar River has submerged areas along its banks after the Koto Panjang
hydroelectric power plant (PLTA) was forced to open its sluice gates to maintain a water level of 85 meters above sea level. Incessant rain in upstream areas in the neighboring West Sumatra province has caused water to fill up the dam drastically.

Apart from engulfing around 5,000 homes, flooding has also swamped various public facilities, including schools along the Kampar River basin area passing through the seven districts of Kampar, North Kampar, East Kampar, Rumbio Jaya, Tambang, Siak Hulu, and Perhentian Raja.

The Kampar Education Agency said that as many as 66 schools were been forced to close as classrooms were engulfed up to a meter high.

“There is no access to schools and the flooding could endanger the safety of children,” said Kampar Health Agency secretary Edi Rusmadinata.

Separately, Kampar Fishery Agency head Usman Amin said water released from the Koto Panjang PLTA had also caused hundreds of fish farmers from Merangin village, Kuok district, to Gobah village, Tambang district, to suffer losses of up to Rp 5.6 billion (US$414,000).

Spokesperson for the Riau and Riau Islands branch of state power company PLN, Sarno, said the dam must release its water to maintain its capacity and strength.

“The release of water from the dam due to overcapacity has been carried out for years. Before water is released, every area passed by the river is notified through village elders, community figures and village officials,” he said.

Flooding has also hit several regions in South Sumatra and East Java over the past several days.

In South Sumatra, a flash flood triggered by heavy downpours over the past couple of days has engulfed hundreds of homes in Muara Kelingi district, Musirawas regency. The 3-meter flash flood, caused by the overflowing Musi River following heavy rains from Monday, has brought people’s daily activities to a halt.

In Pamekasan regency, East Java, 11 local government buildings were inundated by floodwater on Wednesday following heavy downpours in the region’s downtown area for more than four hours.

Among the affected buildings are those belonging to the regency’s industry and trade, public works, irrigation and disaster mitigation agencies.

“All documents, however, are safe, as the floods occurred during work hours,” Pamekasan Irrigation Agency head Achmad Sjaifuddin said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Flash flood damages homes, bridge in Jambi

The Jakarta Post 20 Jan 16;

A flash flood, triggered by the swollen Batang Asam River, struck houses in Tanjung Belit village, Jujuhan district, Bungo regency, Jambi, on Monday.

“The incidence took place at about 2 a.m. local time when most people were fast asleep. After seeing the water rise, people immediately left their homes,” said villager Azhar on Tuesday.

“A nearby bridge was also engulfed by water and logs have piled up under it,” he added.

Tanjung Belit village chief Mahyudin said that besides damaging homes, the flash flood also cut off access to the village.

“As a result, the road heading to the bridge is impassable for four-wheeled vehicles,” said Mahyudin.


Death toll rises as heavy rains cause more flooding, landslides
Jon Afrizal, Syamsul Huda M. Suhari and Lita Aruperes, The Jakarta Post 22 Jan 16;

Heavy downpours have continued to spread across the archipelago, triggering a landslide that killed at least three people in Jambi and North Sulawesi and floods that submerged hundreds of houses in Gorontalo.

A series of heavy rainfalls throughout Wednesday in Kerinci regency, Jambi, has triggered a landslide that buried three people alive in the hilly Sungai Air Sangkil area in East Air Hangat district.

The three victims, identified as Buyung, 42, Sardono, 24, and Wani, 37, worked as laborers on a farm in the area.

“The three victims were on their way home on Wednesday when the landslide buried them,” East Air Hangat district chief Montes told reporters on Thursday.

As of Thursday, local authorities had only managed to recover the bodies of Buyung and Sardono.

“We are still looking for the body of the third victim,” East Air Hangat Police chief First Insp. Iswanto said.

Another landslide triggered by heavy rainfalls in Manado, North Sulawesi, also killed 61-year-old Fredy Tengker on a farm near his house in Malalayang district on Thursday.

“I was delivering lunch for my brother when I found his body swept away by soil quite far from the farm,” the victim’s brother, Max Tengker, said.

Meanwhile in Gorontalo province, heavy rains poured in Gorontalo and North Gorontalo regencies from Wednesday evening to Thursday afternoon, triggering floods that inundated at least eight villages in the two neighboring regions.

Head of logistics at Gorontalo Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Tahir Laendeng, said floodwater and mud had inundated more than 200 houses in four villages in Gorontalo regency.

Tahir said his agency had set up two evacuation shelters to anticipate the continued impacts of the floods.

“We have also prepared food supplies for flood victims,” he said.

In North Gorontalo, Nurdin, a local BPBD official, said floods had hit at least four villages in Sumalata district.

“Hutakalo subdistrict is the worst affected area as floodwater there has inundated dozens of houses up to two meters deep. As of this [Thursday] afternoon, there is no sign that the floodwater will subside,”
Nurdin said.

After experiencing a prolonged dry season last year, many parts of the country have welcomed the arrival of the rainy season over the past several weeks.

In late November, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) warned that several areas, including North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Bengkulu, Jambi and South Sumatra, would be prone to floods on account of heavy downpours. Meanwhile, other regions, including Bengkulu, Aceh, southern parts of West Java, parts of Central Java and West Nusa Tenggara, were said to be prone to landslides.

Last month, more than a dozen villagers in Lebong Tandai, North Bengkulu, were killed when a landslide triggered by a heavy rainfall hit the huts where they were sleeping.

Meanwhile in Kampar regency, Riau, a 10-year-old child died earlier this week after he was swept away by floods due to heavy downpours and an overflowing Kampar River.

The BMKG, however, has warned that heavy rainfall will continue to pour in many parts of the country for the rest of the week.

“Rain with medium to high intensity will continue to spread across Gorontalo and North Gorontalo regencies starting on Thursday afternoon,” Gorontalo BMKG forecaster Fatuhri said.


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Indonesia: Food crisis looms in NTT, C. Sulawesi amid drought

Djemi Amnifu, Ruslan Sangadji and Lita Aruperes, The Jakarta Post 21 Jan 16;

Despite the arrival of the rainy season in many parts of the archipelago, it is expected that millions of people in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) and Central Sulawesi will soon face a food crisis due to a prolonged drought in the two regions.

Deputy NTT Governor Benny Litelnoni said that, despite heavy rainfall in many other parts of the country, all 22 regions in the province had only recorded low rainfall and that this rain had not been enough to recover from last year’s prolonged dry season.

Most local farmers are yet to begin planting and the province, according to Benny, is at risk of food shortage.

“We received reports of drought from all 22 regions and have deployed a team to make inventories. After that, we will immediately take appropriate measures,” Benny told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

The NTT provincial administration extended the drought emergency period in the region from Dec. 31 to Jan. 31, Benny added.

In anticipation of the low rainfall, Benny said that he had also called on farmers, through relevant agencies, to grow short-term crops.

“Amid the current water crisis, short-term crops should be grown as an effort to maintain family food reliance,” Benny said, adding that the prolonged dry season in NTT had been partly triggered by the El NiƱo weather phenomenon.

NTT, home to 5.3 million people, requires approximately 300,000 tons of rice per year for local consumption.

As of this week, the NTT branch of State Logistics Agency (Bulog) had 46,000 tons of rice in storage.

The director of non-government group Gerbang Mas, in South Timor Tengah (TTS) regency, Konrad Mariaman, said that a food crisis was imminent following the prolonged dry season.

“The government should immediately take anticipatory measures. A food crisis would have a severe impact on malnutrition,” he noted, adding that rain had yet to fall in a number of southern areas in the regency, such as Kuanfatu, Kolbano, Kualin and South Amanuban districts.

In Central Sulawesi, tens of hectares of rice fields in Parigi Moutong regency are also at risk of being abandoned due to a water shortage in irrigation channels as a result of drought.

Most farmers in Petapa subdistrict, Central Parigi, for instance, stopped cultivating their rice fields after harvest two months ago.

“Usually, both the rainy season and planting season begin in January, but we could not grow due to a lack of water,” said local farmer Moh. Yusran.

Petapa subdistrict chief Yushar said most rice fields in his area were rain-dependent. As a result, during drought, farmers are forced to remain idle.

The subdistrict administration, he added, had been making an effort to overcome the problem by building an irrigation system with village funds and assistance from the regency administration.

Data from the Parigi Moutong regional administration shows that, in the regency, the total rice field area reaches more than 31,000 hectares. With each hectare producing between 7 and 8 tons of dried paddy, Parigi Moutong was once able to produce 224,000 tons of dried paddy, equivalent to 134.500 tons of rice,

Meanwhile, in North Sulawesi, more than 700 residents in Miangas district, Talaud Islands regency, have been struggling with food scarcity because the country’s northernmost region has not been served by a pioneer ship since last month.

Miangas district chief Steven Edwin Maarisit acknowledged that food supplies were thinning. “The food stocks will only last for the next couple of weeks,” said Maarisit.

North Sulawesi Transportation Agency head Joy Oroh said that the situation was caused by a shift in the schedule of pioneer ship operations. “We are still waiting for the implementation of the newly-issued Presidential Decree [regarding pioneer ships]. We hope that four ships will be in operation by the end of the week,” Joy said.

Kupang needs additional stock of rice to forestall shortage
Antara 21 Jan 16;

Kupang (ANTARA News) - The district of Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, said it needs additional stock of rice to forestall shortage with harvest failure in some areas of the district as a result of El Nino-triggered prolonged drought.

The eastern part of the country has been hit the hardest by the drought caused by the weather phenomenon over the past year.

"We have asked for supply from Jakarta. Hopefully we will receive the shipment soon," Regent Ayub Titu Eki said here on Thursday.

Currently the district administration has only 11 tons of rice in stock, the district head said, adding it is feared the stock would not be enough to meet the requirement.

Most farmers in the district chose to grow vegetables, and groundnut, which are more resistant to drought.
(Uu.H-ASG/F001)


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Indonesia braces for La Nina-induced heavy rainy season

Fardah Antara 21 Jan 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia was hit hard by the El Nino weather phenomenon last year and has been described by experts as one of the worst ever to be experienced in history.

El Nino triggered a prolonged drought, caused crop failures, and led to forest, peatland, and plantation fires, particularly on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, in 2015.

The fires ravaged over 2.6 million hectares of forest and peatland areas and produced toxic haze.

The environmental disaster impacted the health, education and livelihoods of millions of people on the two major islands of Indonesia as well as neighboring countries particularly Singapore and Malaysia.

Early estimates of the total economic costs of the fires in 2015 in Indonesia alone exceed US$16 billion, according to the World Bank, which is helping to assess the costs of the fires and haze in a variety of sectors.

Approximately 5 million students were impacted by school closures in 2015, a feature story entitled "Indonesias Fires and Haze Crisis" posted on the World Bank website in November 2015 said.

"While not yet fully analyzed, the costs related to biodiversity may exceed US$295 million for 2015. The long-term impact on wildlife and biodiversity is also not fully known, but thousands of hectares of habitat for orangutans and other endangered species have been destroyed," the World Bank wrote.

As the country is still grappling with the impacts of El Nino, the national meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG) has recently announced that another natural phenomenon called La Nina, which is the opposite of El Nino and usually triggers a heavy rainy season in Indonesia, is forecast to begin in September 2016.

"We continue to monitor the signs of La Nina, and we do not exactly know how it would be. El Nino is forecast to weaken after March, following which there will be a balance, and thereafter, La Nina will occur whose impacts would likely be felt in the end of 2016," Head of BMKGs Meteorology and Publication Department, Mulyono R. Prabowo, stated.

He could not forecast the intensity of La Nina, but it would usually be milder. He, however, cautioned inhabitants of the regions prone to landslides to be on alert.

La Nina would likely trigger floods in urban areas such as Jakarta, he pointed out.

"Southern Jakarta will experience high precipitation, and it will affect Central Jakarta," he noted.

Sea tides and the lack of water absorption areas could worsen the flooding.

"In such a situation, water pumps will not be effective," he remarked.

Both El Nino and La Nina have gravely impacted Indonesia in the past.

Prabowo has forecast high precipitation in February and March this year, and later it will slow down.

The meteorology agency and the Agriculture Ministry have developed a dynamic planting calendar to help farmers decide when to plant and which crops are suitable for planting in certain seasons.

In fact, the agriculture ministry is making preparations in anticipation of the natural phenomena La Nina, which usually leads to a very wet and prolonged rainy season in certain regions.

The anticipatory measures are crucial to mitigate the impact of La Nina on agricultural crop production, Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman said recently.

"The BMKG has forecast that the weather will remain normal this year. La Nina is likely to occur in October, but we are preparing in advance, as we did while dealing with drought last year," the minister stated.

To mitigate the impact of floods that could lead to crop failure, the ministry will improve irrigation networks, provide pumps to dispose of water, and build deep as well as shallow wells to absorb water in flood-prone areas, such as those in Karawang in West Java Province and Jombang in East Java.

He has also coordinated with the National Logistics Agency (Bulog) to shore up rice stocks before La Nina-induced downpours start affecting the farming activities.

Furthermore, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has warned that La Nina might intensify hydrometeorological natural disasters, such as floods, landslides, and whirlwinds in parts of the country this year.

"Based on BMKGs forecast, La Nina phenomenon is likely to strengthen in mid-2016," BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho remarked on Dec. 18, 2015.

He said at least 315 districts and municipalities are expected to experience flooding, affecting more than 63.7 million people. Some 274 districts and municipalities are at risk of landslides.

Due to high precipitation, the provinces of Central, West, and East Java are prone to flooding, landslides, and strong winds, he pointed out.

To anticipate landslides, the BNPB needs to install hundreds of early warning devices, but the agency currently only has 50 units.

Last year, the agency had informed that 99 percent of the natural disasters hitting Indonesia in 2014 were hydro-meteorological in nature -- floods, landslides, and whirlwinds.

The agencys data showed that 496 instances of whirlwinds, 458 floods, and 413 landslides affected Indonesia during 2014.

Landslides led to 338 deaths, displaced 79,341 residents, and damaged 5,814 houses in Indonesia in 2014.
(T.F001/INE/KR-BSR)


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No, South Africa hasn't turned the tide on its rhino poaching crisis

2015 may have seen a small dip in the number of rhino poached in South Africa, but the level of killing is still double natural reproduction rates
Karl Mathiesen The Guardian 21 Jan 16;

The announcement that South African rhino poaching deaths fell slightly in 2015 adds a misleading gloss to another devastating year in which criminal gangs expanded their operations into new, even more delicate rhinoceros populations.

South Africa’s environment minister Edna Molewa said on Thursday that 1,175 dead rhinos were discovered during the country’s annual census of poaching activities - 40 less than the 2014 record of 1,215.

“I am today pleased to announce that for the first time in a decade - the poaching situation has stabilised,” said Molewa. Since 2007, when just 13 rhinos were taken for their horns, poaching has spiralled into a crisis that now threatens the last stronghold of southern white rhinos an has grown so bad that the government has enlisted the armed forces to assist park rangers.

The South African government was keen to tie the “stabilisation” to an increase in poaching-related arrests and firearms seizures, beefed-up security around Kruger National Park (where the majority of animals are killed) and the translocation of 124 rhinos to more secure areas.

“Were it not for these interventions, the situation would be far worse and many more rhino would be lost,” said Molewa.

Wildlife advocates, while praising South Africa’s renewed efforts to combat poachers, were quick to point out that stable numbers did not equate to a stable situation.

“It’s still catastrophic,” said Dan Stiles, an expert on the illegal wildlife trade. Heather Sohl, WWF-UK’s chief advisor on species, said the current level of poaching was “totally absurd”.

“In the 17 years preceding the sudden escalation in 2008, fewer than 36 rhinos used to be killed by poachers in South Africa each year,” she said.

Tom Milliken, a rhino expert from wildlife trade watchdog Traffic, warned about misinterpretation of the South African census numbers. He said the real number of deaths could be considerably higher given that not all poached rhino carcasses are found. With this uncertainty taken into account, he said, the results of the 2014 and 2015 censuses were “virtually the same”.

He said the loss of more than 800 animals from Kruger alone - roughly 10% of the park’s remaining animals in one year - was double the natural rate of reproduction.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if numbers [of rhino] were starting to go down,” he said, although the government said the population remained stable.

Milliken said the “stabilisation” may have more to do with the total number of rhinos that poachers are able to take on their smash and grab missions across the border from Mozambique.

“The low-hanging fruit are rhino populations that are pushed up against a border for one reason or another. They are possibly the easiest animals to get. If you have to walk in and penetrate the park deeper and deeper, that could be an impediment,” said Milliken.

The pyrrhic victory in South Africa was outweighed by a dramatic increase in poaching of the critically endangered black rhino in Namibia and Zimbabwe.

“The overall situation for Africa has not changed at all, this year is really going to show record levels of rhino poaching,” said Milliken. The South African announcement brought the total number of rhinos poached in Africa to 1,305 - six more than 2014 and the worst year in decades.

In Namibia the number lost to poachers jumped from 24 in 2014 to 80 last year. At the same time, Zimbabwe reported an increase from 11 to more than 50. Together the three countries (including South Africa) house 95% of remaining African rhino.

The rapid explosion of South Africa’s poaching crisis shows how quickly criminal gangs are able to scale up operations once they set up in a country. Milliken called the rise of poaching in Namibia, which has the largest remnant population of black rhino, as “horrifyingly worrying”.

“What we are seeing is the conflagration is spreading to other rhino populations,” said Milliken. “What’s happening [in Namibia] is the same kind of poaching brand that South Africa has represented. There’s the presence of the Asian syndicates, there’s some degree of corruption in the private sector and there’s other evidence of government officials being corrupted and involved.”

Millken said many Chinese nationals, working as development officials with legitimate jobs, had been implicated in the growing trade. As China’s influence in the continent grew, he said, so too would the influence of the international gangs that drive the trade.


Shaw said the developments should prompt national governments and their international law enforcement partners to enrol local communities in the fight against poachers.

“The infiltration of these communities by sophisticated criminal gangs not only threatens rhinos, it also compromises the safety and sustainable development of the people living in these communities,” said Shaw.

“Local communities can help tackle wildlife crime, but only if they see themselves as active partners in conservation with a real stake in protecting wildlife, not just as pawns in a fight between law enforcement officers and international criminal syndicates.”


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