Best of our wild blogs: 11 Feb 16

Assessing MacRitchie’s Environmental Impact Assessment report
The Middle Ground

Checking up on Cyrene
wild shores of singapore

Is this Malaysian palm oil firm still destroying forest in Borneo — and selling to Wilmar?
Mongabay Environmental News

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After terrorism, the next issue Singapore respondents were most concerned about was climate change

Singapore respondents most worried about global terrorism, 3rd most concerned country in survey
WONG CASANDRA Today Online 11 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — Out of nine international issues, respondents in Singapore were most concerned about global terrorism, according to a global survey by market research firm YouGov. The average proportion of those concerned here was also the third highest out of 17 countries, the survey found.

An average of 28.4 per cent of 980 Singapore respondents chose global terrorism to be a serious problem facing the world, 3.3 percentage points higher than the global average percentile share of concern of 25.1 per cent.

The top two countries most worried about terrorism were France and Australia at 33.7 per cent and 31 per cent respectively. Data for France was collected a week after the ISIS terror attacks in Paris, said YouGov. The attacks killed 130 and injured scores of people.

China ranked the lowest with 18.6 per cent of respondents concerned about terrorism, followed by Indonesia at 19.8 per cent. Terrorism was, nonetheless, still the top concern for respondents in China, and the second biggest concern for those in Indonesia. The survey was conducted between November and December last year, before prominent terrorism-related events took place in the region, including the bomb blasts in Jakarta and terrorism-related arrests in Malaysia last month.

A total of 18,235 respondents from countries in Asia, North America, Europe, the Middle East and Australia were polled. They had to choose from among nine issues — including economic instability, climate change, armed conflicts and spread of infectious diseases — those they considered to be serious problems facing the world. They also chose what they considered as the single most serious issue facing the world. The percentage score was then calculated as an average of the two findings so as to include both the breadth and intensity of concern, said YouGov.

After terrorism, the next issue Singapore respondents were most concerned about was climate change (14.8 per cent). This was followed by poverty, hunger, thirst (11.8 per cent) and economic instability (10.5 per cent). While the issue of infectious diseases ranked at 5th place at a low 8.5 per cent, this was the highest score out of the 17 countries surveyed.

Collectively, the top worries in Asia were mostly similar, with global terrorism, climate change, poverty, hunger, thirst, and economic instability frequently making the top five.

Respondents in Indonesia and Malaysia also ranked armed conflict among their top five concerns, while China respondents were concerned with energy scarcity (second place at 15.2 per cent). Hong Kong respondents placed more emphasis on population growth (fifth place at 7.8 per cent).

The majority of the Asian countries polled were least concerned about nuclear weapons, with average scores arranging between 3.3 to 4.7 per cent. The survey was conducted before North Korea’s nuclear bomb test last month. The exception was Malaysia as the country’s respondents were least worried about population growth.

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Impact of Cross Island work on MacRitchie significant without LTA mitigation measures

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 11 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — The impact on MacRitchie fauna — like the lesser mousedeer and the slow loris — from site investigation work for the future Cross Island MRT Line would be “large” if mitigation measures were not adopted following a report commissioned by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) now open for public inspection.

With a high number of animal species near the alignment option that cuts beneath the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, wildlife would be significantly disturbed if not for restricted access that the LTA has agreed to implement. Most animals will be able to move far away enough from the noise generated by drilling rigs and other machines, but concerns remain over some creatures such as the lesser mousedeer, slow loris, colugo and pangolin.

The mousedeer, slow loris and critically endangered Sunda pangolin have distinct home ranges, and movement away from the noise or human activities “may potentially bring such fauna into territorial conflict such as increased competition for food and shelter, particularly in a highly fragmented habitat like that in the CCNR”, stated the Environmental Impact Assessment (Phase One) gazetted by the LTA last Friday (Feb 5).

The LTA announced mitigating measures for site investigation work last Friday, but did not detail the potential impact on wildlife mentioned in the report consisting of about a thousand pages, which TODAY inspected yesterday.

Phase One of the report, done by an external consultancy engaged by the LTA, quantifies the impact of site work to determine rock profiles for two alignment options of the Cross Island Line, while a second phase to be completed by the end of the year will assess the impact of construction and operation of the future MRT line.

Measures to reduce the environmental impact of site investigation work include 30m buffer zones around streams, wetlands and marshes; siting boreholes on existing trails and clearings; reducing the number of boreholes from 72 to 16; and working with the National Parks Board for careful execution of surveys.

Enclosures around borehole-drilling machines will cut noise to around 70 to 80 decibels, roughly equivalent to the level of urban traffic noise. According to the EIA report, noise barriers are unfeasible because of space constraints along trails and the need to minimise intrusion.

The report also noted the potential impact of worksites outside the nature reserve. For instance, a form of drilling called horizontal directional coring will take place at the Singapore Island Country Club’s Bukit golf course, where the Sunda pangolin has been spotted foraging at night.

As horizontal directional coring will take place 24 hours a day for four to 12 months at each location, lights and human disturbance will potentially have an ecological impact, the report said.

According to Environmental Resources Management — the consultancy hired by LTA — a large impact means an entire habitat, or a significant proportion of it, is affected and long-term viability is threatened. It could also mean entire populations of species are affected, or populations of species listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable in the Singapore Red Data Book are affected.

With mitigating measures, the impact of site investigation work will be reduced to “mainly moderate” levels, with the possibility of escalation to major levels only if measures are not observed. Controls will also be in place for unplanned events such as accidental spills and water pollution from site runoff. The emphasis is to reduce impact to levels as low as reasonably practicable, said the EIA consultant.

The slew of measures recommended includes: Having surveyors walk in single file and use the same route in and out of the nature reserve, ensuring no littering and meals eaten only in designated areas, no clearance of vegetation, and allowing only one type of geophysical survey to be conducted each day.

Those involved in the project should keep open lines of communication so work schedules can be adjusted to avoid cumulative impact, the consultant added.

Nature Society (Singapore) council member Tony O’Dempsey, who is part of the working group consisting of fellow nature experts engaged by the LTA, said the group had pushed hard for restricted access to off-trail areas of the reserve. “So what we’ve avoided there is clearance of forest and siltation of streams and significant reduction in the number of boreholes,” he said.

Meanwhile, other nature enthusiasts banding together under the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement yesterday renewed their call for the Cross Island Line to be rerouted south near Lornie Road to avoid the nature reserve entirely. Lapses in safety and vigilance will occur despite mitigation measures, they said in a statement.

“The fact that the EIA report forecasts ‘major’ impacts if mitigation measures were to fail is reason enough to avoid conducting any site investigation works within the nature reserve boundaries altogether,” they said, adding that the only acceptable impact should be zero impact.

Studies have shown that noise levels of 75 to 80 decibels are likely to result in changes to birds’ breeding habits and territorial defence activities, and are likely to be detrimental to insects, for instance, said the group.

Nature walks and other outreach activities will be held next month to acquaint more people with the reserve, with more details at

Tests on nature reserve must be conducted with care: Study
Otherwise, soil works for new MRT line could have major impact on largest reserve: Report
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Feb 16;

Tests to see how a train tunnel can be built through Singapore's largest nature reserve would have a "moderate" impact on plants and animals there, but only if measures to reduce impact are strictly implemented.

Otherwise, the soil investigation works for the upcoming Cross Island Line could have a large impact on the highly sensitive parts of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The mitigation strategies to prevent this include the use of enclosures to reduce engine noise and tanks to collect discharge.

This was one of the findings of an independent environmental study commissioned by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to assess the impact of the line on the reserve, which includes reservoirs like MacRitchie, Upper Seletar, Upper Peirce and Lower Peirce.

Although gazetted by the LTA last Friday, the first viewings of the roughly 1,000-page report started only yesterday.

"The significance of residual impacts is mainly moderate (moderate to major), with the possibility of escalating to major only if the mitigating measures are not observed," said the report by consultancy Environmental Resources Management.

Last Friday, the LTA committed to some of these mitigation measures, like getting contractors to work closely with the National Parks Board (NParks) when venturing off-trail or encountering wildlife, and applying a 30m buffer zone around streams or marshes.

While environmental groups here acknowledged efforts to minimise impacts on the reserve, which is home to critically endangered species of wildlife such as the Sunda pangolin, they maintained that an "acceptable impact is no impact".

Mr David Tan, a biologist from the National University of Singapore and a member of the Save Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group, opposes the idea of running an MRT line through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Despite the mitigating measures, he noted that the works will continue to have a "moderate to major" impact on the forest.

"Lapses in safety and vigilance can and will occur no matter how many mitigation measures are in place," Mr Tan added.

An LTA spokesman said measures proposed in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) Phase 1 study will be part of the contract requirements for the site investigation contractors. "No works can start until LTA is sufficiently assured that the measures are in place. LTA will closely supervise the contractors during the works. In addition, both NParks and the consultants, as well as representatives from nature groups where appropriate, will monitor the mitigation measures," she added.

Professor Peter Ng, head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, said that although building an MRT line that cuts through the nature reserve would cause considerable impact, it is still too early to say whether that decision will be made.

"Soil investigation works is just part of the EIA. After all the data has been collected, it would be up to the authorities to study the information objectively, and decide if the line will still cut through."

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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67-year-old Singaporean dies from dengue

The victim lived at Toa Payoh Lorong 4, which is not an active dengue cluster.
Channel NewsAsia 10 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: A 67-year-old Singaporean man died from dengue on Wednesday (Feb 10), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Ministry of Health (MOH) announced in a joint press release. He was admitted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Monday and his condition deteriorated.

The victim had lived at Toa Payoh Lorong 4, which is not an active dengue cluster. Nonetheless, vector control operations to kill adult mosquitoes and destroy any potential breeding habitats are ongoing, NEA and MOH said.

"Residents are urged to cooperate fully and allow NEA officers to inspect their premises for mosquito breeding and to spray insecticide to kill any infective mosquitoes," they added.

This is the second reported dengue death for Singapore this year. Last month, a 47-year-old Marsiling Rise resident died from the virus as well.

NEA has said it has seen an increase in the Aedes mosquito population due to warmed conditions caused by the 2015 El Nino phenomenon. "In view of the warmer than usual weather persisting, the number of dengue cases in 2016 is expected to be high, with cases spiking earlier than in previous years. There is an urgent need to keep the mosquito population under control," NEA and MOH reiterated.

- CNA/ly

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Education key for animal welfare, says SPCA’s new acting executive director

Dr Jaipal Singh Gill plans to organise more discussions on animal ethics and welfare for SPCA Singapore. He also tells Channel NewsAsia being called a "crazy animal person" is not a bad thing.
Ray Yeh Channel NewsAsia 10 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: Newly appointed acting executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Singapore Dr Jaipal Singh Gill is no stranger to the organisation. He started out as an inspector with the animal welfare charity in 2008, responding to complaints of animal cruelty cases. Two years later, he became its operations manager. In 2011, he decided to go to Melbourne, Australia, to pursue his degree in veterinary medicine.

“We learnt about animal behavior, animal health and disease, animal management and animal welfare at the vet school, and I plan to use those skills and experience that I gained as part of my work here,” said the 33-year-old vegetarian.

Dr Gill spoke to Channel NewsAsia at the SPCA’s brand new complex in Sungei Tengah about his vision for animal welfare in Singapore.

Q: Have you always loved animals?

When I was a young child, I used to visit the SPCA shelter at Mount Vernon and I really enjoyed spending time with the animals there. I also used to rescue kittens or dogs I found on the street. One thing I always wondered was why there were so many unwanted animals at the shelter. And why animals were sometimes treated as lesser beings, even though they are sentient like us. They have the ability to experience sensations such as pain, and emotions such as fear and joy.

I find the suffering of any sentient being troubling. And long ago I made the decision to be part of the solution.

Q: What are some of the most common misconceptions people have about owning pets?

Our inspectorate receives about 70 complaints every month. Some of those are cruelty cases where animals have been intentionally harmed, but the majority are animal welfare cases, where a pet owner has done something or has omitted to do something that has led to the compromise of the welfare of their animals.

When I was an inspector, we used to receive a lot of complaints about dogs kept in cages, or confined on leashes for extended periods of time. It's a problem we still see today. Speaking to pet owners made me realise that there’s a mindset that that's how animals are meant to be kept, or they cannot find any other solution to a problem like poor toilet training or destruction of furniture.

A lady who lived in this very big terrace house had three dogs in cages stacked on top of another. When I asked her why she kept her dogs this way, she said: "My house is not a zoo, I cannot have animals running all over the place."

We also see rabbits, for example, being kept in really small cages, because people think that's the way they're supposed to be kept. Or they're kept on wire mesh flooring that can harm their feet. Or they're fed poor diets of only carrots. I've seen that before when I was inspector.

A lot of these things actually stem from a lack of awareness of how to look after your pet. Nobody wants to harm their pet. People love their pet. A lot of them treat them as family. It's not about pointing fingers and accusing people. It's about how can we help you; how can we give you the resources, the support, the education, to be better pet owners?

Q: More education is required then?

Education should start from young, as long as a child can understand the way the world works. Here, we have very young children coming through our gates and we try to reach every single one.

But I think education is something that can happen at all levels. We have education programmes for adults, as well as children. This is an ongoing, continuous process. We don't expect change like this to occur overnight. but we have to start somewhere.

Q: Do you think we’re doing enough for animal welfare here in Singapore?

The animal welfare scene in Singapore has changed drastically over the years. Many years ago, the main group serving animals in Singapore was the SPCA, In the last couple of decades, it's been very heartening to see many different animal welfare groups join the movement. I think this evolution of our society is a very positive change, showing that we now think not just for ourselves, but for others.

The state of animal welfare in a country is determined by many different things. It's determined by the culture of the people, the religion, socioeconomic factors, the politics. All these things come together to influence how animals in the society are treated.

I've seen great changes to animal welfare in Singapore since I joined the movement about 10 years ago. However, there is of course, a lot still left to be done.

Q: You’ve lived and worked overseas. What can we learn from other countries?

There's no country that's perfect in their animal welfare policies, but you can see some good things coming out of different places.

For example, something I hope to see done here at some point soon, is the restriction of sale of pets. In Singapore, we're always told that Singaporeans are not reproducing fast enough, we have a fast ageing population. With our companion animals, it is the exact opposite. We have a massive pet overpopulation problem, largely due to indiscriminate breeding, and an uncontrolled pet industry.

So some of the lessons we can take from overseas where they have implemented systems where they ban or restrict the sale of pets in their countries, this is definitely something we can learn from.

That being said, I feel that here in Singapore we can also lead, we can be the trendsetters in animal welfare for countries in Asia and beyond.

Q: Do you think there’s a lack of animal welfare discussions in Singapore?

Back in vet school, I used to organise animal ethics discussion sessions where we used to sit around fortnightly and talk about all sorts of issues to do with animal welfare and the use of animals in society. One day we're talking about animals in agriculture and farming, the next week we're talking about whales and dolphins in captivity. We talk about overpopulation of pets, the use of animals in teaching. There were disagreements of course, but that's the fun of discussing these issues.

I also organised the debate where I got the people who are pro the use of animals in agriculture to argue against people who were against the use of animals in agriculture. But we swapped it around, so the people who were against the use of animals in agriculture would argue for the use of animals in agriculture, and the other way around.

We also used to screen documentary films, and have speaker night sessions where we bring in people who are experts in animal welfare to talk to the students.

That's something I hope to revive here at the SPCA. It is very important to discuss issues. Animal welfare issues are complex, they involve many different facets and there sometimes is not one right answer. It's very healthy to bring in different sides of the debate, have that discussion, and then find a solution that works for everyone involved, of course, keeping animals at the forefront of that decision.

Q: Recently, we’ve seen some high-profile animal cruelty cases happening in Singapore. What are your thoughts on these cases?

The recent spate of cruelty that we've seen in Singapore is very disheartening. Groups like ours, including the Government, have done a lot to try and prevent these things from happening. We need to say that this is absolutely not acceptable, we need to put in all the resources, find every way we can to prevent cruelty from happening in the first place, but then also finding the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

However, what we understand from reading works done by experts in psychology and psychiatry is that, if you talk about outright cruelty to animals, or outright intentional harm of an animal, there seems to be a particular sort of person with a certain background that ends up doing those acts. It's not the average person on the street that goes out to intentionally harm animals. So a lot of these people sometimes also require care, and they require support themselves. They may be dealing with certain mental issues that require society to support them.

Q: People sometimes refer to animal welfare activists as “crazy animal lovers”. What would you say to these people?

Emotion and passion can be used positively. I, myself, when I was dealing with animal cruelty or welfare issues on the ground, got emotional at times. You see an animal suffering and that is an emotional issue. I had a lot of trouble initially coping with the work, because I used to see suffering on a daily basis. But it's something you work through and try to overcome, and then you get on with the job. But I do empathise with people who come to the table with a lot of emotion. If we can use that positively, we can enact great changes in Singapore.

Labels will always be thrown around. Activists or "crazy animal person" - these are people with a heart, and I think this sort of mentality should be encouraged, for the current generations and also for the future generations. That's why our education programmes is one of our key services and something I plan to push and expand beyond the current work we do. Only with education and building a more compassionate and empathetic society can we ever progress as a nation.

Q: Some people also argue that we should care for other people first, not animals.

I tell people that I work in animal welfare and they sometimes ask: “Why don't you care about people? Why don't you look after people welfare first?” My answer is always: “Why can't we do both?”

Many times, the lives of animals and people are intertwined. When you improve animal welfare, you improve people welfare. If you improve the welfare of your society, the welfare of animals improve. I think the fate of humans, animals and the environment are closely connected, and I think we should care about all of them and not just one.

- CNA/ry

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Malaysia: Comprehensive study of beach erosion following tidal waves in Terengganu

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 10 Feb 16;

KUALA NERUS: A comprehensive study of soil erosion following tidal waves along affected stretches of beaches off Terengganu has been called to prevent major disasters.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman said that the Drainage and Irrigation Department, along with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, have been roped in to carry out the study.

The study, he said, would focus on soil erosion prone areas including Pantai Paka, Dungun; the Setiu Wetlands and Tanjung Gelam in Kuala Nerus.

“The state government is seeking additional funding from the federal administration to carry out this study and implement measures like constructing bund walls and wave breakers at the affected areas.

“We need to expedite this plan as the situation is worrying,” he said after visiting several victims affected by tidal waves at Kampung Mengabang Telipotin Kuala Nerus.

Razif said the state government had already carried out RM1 million bund works previously along a one kilometre stretch from Kampung Tok Jembal to the beaches of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and Tanjung Gelam.

“Those were short term measures by us and we are committed to come out with a permanent solution soon to ensure the safety of our residents,” said Razif.

Tidal waves since last Sunday had displaced 38 people from seven families in Kemaman, forcing them to shelter at three relief centres.

It also affected 23 victims from four families in Mengabong Telipot, Kuala Nerus who sought shelter with their relatives after their homes were damaged.

Several residents in Bukit Keluang Besut were similarly affected.

In Pantai Teluk Lipat Dungun, traffic came to a standstill after the trunk road was inundated with rising sea waters.

Meanwhile, the Terengganu Economic Planning Unit, the East Coast Economic Region and the state DID have allocated RM20,000 immediately to carry out bund works and for the placement of sand bags at Pantai Sura in Dungun.

Dungun development officer Datuk Din Adam said the measures were necessary as the beach in Dungun was severely affected by the tidal wave phenomenon that had affected a seven kilometre stretch from Pantai Teluk Lipat to Pantai Teluk Gadung.

Din added that a RM69 million federal grant had been allocated under the 11th Malaysia Plan to handle beach erosion at critical areas in the state.

Giant waves lash village and wreak havoc

DUNGUN: At first there were screams, then loud crumbling noises before huge waves battered village homes in Kampung Pantai Laut.

Villagers at the fishing village in Paka ran from house to house, saving their own and their neighbours belongings as waves washed through their wooden dwelling.

For Hazura Halias, 33, a mother of four, watching the huge waves hit land on Sunday night was the scariest experience of her life.

“It was total chaos,” she said.

The disaster saw half her brick house, two rooms, the kitchen and all the belongings, such as a television set and cupboards, destroyed.

“All we could do was to save our lives,” she said.

“I grabbed my four children and ran to my mother’s house up the road as my husband collected important documents,” she said yesterday.

Besides damaging homes, Hazura said the huge waves – an annual phenomenon – had been adding to the coastal erosion.

“There used to be some 100 families staying here before.

“Within five years the numbers has shrunk, leaving only about 38 families.

“Many of them have moved out as their homes were damaged,” Hazura said.

In Paka, fishermen were unable to go to sea due to the rough conditions and huge waves.

Boats were still berthed at the jetty.

At Mengabang Telipot, the waves caused a partial collpase of one house while a few more were damaged.

The rough sea conditions also caused over 150 holiday makers to be stranded at the Perhentian and Redang islands after boat services from the mainland were suspended.

Besut district police chief Supt Khaled Che Lah said the stranded tourists in Perhentian island had safely made their way back on Monday while hoteliers in Redang island said their affected guests had arrived safely at the Merang Jetty on Tuesday.

New homes for victims of super high tide
The Star 11 Feb 16;

KOTA BARU: Kelantan government will relocate 17 families whose homes at Pantai Pulau Kundor were battered by waves on Sunday during a super high tide.

Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob said the state government and the Kelantan Islamic Religious Council would help build new homes for residents who had to move out.

“They can no longer live there as it is dangerously close to the coastline. The government has identified an area to build the new homes,” he said when visiting the families at the flood relief centre here.

At the same time, Ahmad urged the Federal Government to build wave breakers in the area, as it had been approved under the 11th Malaysia Plan.

“The wave breakers should be built immediately,” he said.

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Malaysia: 5,000 evacuees now in Sarawak

SHARON LING The Star 11 Feb 16;

KUCHING: The number of flood evacuees in southern Sarawak has risen to more than 5,000 as high tides caused floods in low-lying areas although the rain has lessened.

As at 2pm yesterday, there were 5,533 evacuees from 1,484 families in Kuching, Bau and Serian districts – up from 3,230 people on Tuesday night.

They were housed at 20 relief centres in Kuching, five in Bau and two in Serian.

By afternoon, there were no more evacuees at the Taman Malihah multipurpose hall, St Peter Bunuk, Surau Kampung Landeh, Dewan Sinaran Lumut and Dewan Kampung Bumbok centres.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said the situation had improved and was under control.

“It does not affect all of Sarawak but mainly the Kuching and Serian divisions.

“In the next week or so we expect some rain but it will not be as bad as it was a few days ago,” he told reporters after being briefed by the Kuching disaster management committee at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here yesterday.

He said although tide levels were still high, the situation was not expected to be as bad because there was less rain, adding that the Kuching barrage on the Sarawak River was helping to control the flow of water.

“Repairs are being done immediately with regards to erosion and damage to roads. We expect it to be completed in the next week or so and all roads are now passable,” Adenan said.

He also said the state government would consider giving financial assistance to flood victims later.

“We are providing the usual assistance like food and clothing,” he said.

State Fire and Rescue Department director Nor Hisham Mohammad said the amount of rainfall had lessened “drastically” in the last two days compared with Sunday.

“We hope the situation will keep improving as it has stopped raining in the upper catchment area,” he said.

He advised residents in low-lying riverine areas, including Kampung Kudei, Kampung Pulo, Kampung Tupong and Kampung Bintawa, to stay alert during high tide.

“Take early precautions to put your belongings at a high level.

“For those who have difficulty moving, such as the elderly and disabled, report to us immediately so that we can evacuate them smoothly if necessary,” Nor Hisham said.

A flood victim, housewife Senorita David from Kampung Kudei Baru, said she was evacuated to the Civic Centre here with six of her family members, including her two-week-old baby girl, when the water level rose on Monday night.

“A lorry from the Civil Defence Department took us away at about 10pm. We had time to pack our belongings,” she said.

The Civic Centre sheltered some 750 people from 200 families as of yesterday morning.

2,700 evacuated due to floods
The Star 10 Feb 16;

KUCHING: Over 2,000 people have been evacuated as heavy rain brought floods to parts of Kuching and Bau districts.

As of 2pm yesterday, the number of eva­cuees had risen to 2,679, compared to 765 on Monday night.

State Civil Defence Department (JPAM) public relations officer Siti Huzaimah Ibrahim said the flood victims had been moved to 21 relief centres – 14 in Kuching and five in Bau.

Seven of the centres were opened on Monday night as more rain fell while two more were opened yesterday morning.

Deputy State Secretary Datuk Misnu Taha said the weather was expected to improve by the end of the week.

“According to the Meteorological Department’s forecast, the rain will lessen over the next few days until Friday. The Drainage and Irrigation Department’s telemetry stations also showed light rain in most parts of Sarawak, unlike the heavy rain over the last few days,” he told reporters after chairing a state disaster management committee meeting yesterday.

He cautioned that water levels could rise again during high tide and advised residents in low-lying areas to be on the alert.

“The public can contact JPAM if they observe the water level rising. The Welfare Department is also ready to deliver food to relief centres,” he said.

In Malacca, the flood situation continued to improve as only 119 flood victims remained at Sekolah Kebangsaan Belimbing Dalam, Durian Tunggal, Alor Gajah.

All other relief centres have been closed as flood water receded yesterday.

In Johor, only one relief centre remained open at SK Sepang Loi in Segamat, which housed 10 people from two families.

All other relief centres in Tangkak were closed yesterday evening as situation returned to normal.

Adenan: Situation in flood-hit Sarawak improving
The Star 10 Feb 16;

KUCHING: The situation in the flood-affected areas of Sarawak is under control and the rain over the past three days is expected to ease off beginning Wednesday, said Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem (pic).

He said the situation was improving and the barrage at Sungai Sarawak was helping to control the movement of water in the river.

Adenan commended all the relevant authorities for their hard work in successfully managing the distribution of aid to the flood victims, and said there was excellent cooperation.

He spoke to reporters at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here after attending a briefing given by the Kuching District Flood Disaster Management Committee.

Floods hit several places in the Kuching, Bau and Serian districts over the past few days due to rain and high tide, forcing the evacuation of 5,688 people as of this afternoon. - Bernama

Malacca Health Department moves to prevent post-flood diseases
The Star 10 Feb 16;

MALACCA: The Malacca Health Department on Wednesday began implementing post-flood disease-prevention measures.

Its director, Datuk Dr Ghazali Othman, said the phase-by-phase implementation was aimed at preventing the spread of dengue, typhoid, cholera and other diseases, and getting rid of rats and houseflies.

He said the measures included destroying mosquito breeding grounds, larvaciding and disinfecting with lysol.

Dr Ghazali advised the people to keep their houses and environment clean so that the disease-prevention programme could run smoothly.

The situation in the flood-hit area of Melaka is improving, and as at 8am today the number of evacuees had dropped to 90 at the relief centre at Sekolah Kebangsaan Belimbing Dalam Durian Tunggal in Alor Gajah. - Bernama

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Malaysia: Dead whale same as the one rescued in Pontian

MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 10 Feb 16;

BATU PAHAT: The dead whale that was found beached at the Sungai Sarang Buaya river mouth is the same one found and rescued in Pontian two days ago.

Johor Fisheries Department director Munir Mohd Nawi said the mammal is from the highly endangered Balaenoptera borealis species.

Widely known as sei whale, it is the third largest of its kind in the whale family.

He said a forensics team from the Turtles and Marine Ecosystem Centre was examining the carcass.

"This is the same whale that was found and rescued in Pontian waters a couple of days ago.

"The carcass is being towed to the department's jetty here for a post-mortem and to find out the cause of death," he said.

It was recently reported that a whale was rescued by a group of people in Pantai Rambah on Monday.

However the mammal was found beached again in shallow waters along Sungai Sarang Buaya on Tuesday.

Expert: Whale could have died due to stress
MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 11 Feb 16;

BATU PAHAT: The whale that was earlier rescued off Pontian could have died due to emotional distress after it got separated from its pod, says a fishery expert.

“This whale might have been separated from its group while looking for food along the Malacca Straits. This may explain why it ended up off Pontian.

“It was having trouble returning to its pod due to the low tide at that time. This led to it suffering emotional distress which can cause organ damage,” Fisheries Research Institute (FRI) officer Mohd Tamimi Ali Ahmad said when met after the whale’s carcass was towed back to the Batu Pahat Fisheries Department jetty here yesterday.

A post-mortem to identify the cause of death will be carried out on the 12m-long, 15-tonne adult male mammal.

“The carcass that was found along the river mouth of Sungai Sarang Buaya here is of the same animal found in Pontian earlier.

“We need about a week to obtain the results of the post-mortem.

“Once it is complete, its meat and organs will be destroyed while the skeleton would be placed at the FRI headquarters at Dungun in Terengganu,” he said.

The highly-endangered Sei or Baleen Whale is the third-largest whale after the Blue Whale and the Fin Whale.

“The Sei Whale is a common animal that can be found in Malaysian waters as the area is within their migratory route,” he said.

Over the last 10 years, Mohd Tamimi said, there have been similar cases of beached species, including at Carey Island in Selangor and Pahang.

“It is not only whales that have been found beached, but also dugongs and dolphins.

“I hope people will keep the sea clean for the sake of such animals,” he said.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency Batu Pahat enforcement chief Lieutenant Commander Maritime Muhammad Zulkarnain Abdullah said the animal had swam more than 90 nautical miles from Pantai Rambah in Pontian to its final destination at Sungai Sarang Buaya here.

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Malaysia: Preserve forest reserves, Kedah urged

The Star 11 Feb 16;

ALOR SETAR: Over 2,000ha of forest reserves in Kedah have been cleared illegally to make way for new agricultural areas, the state Forestry Department director said.

Ku Azmi Ku Aman said among areas which had undergone serious deforestation for illegal cultivation were Langkawi and Kubang Pasu, where land had been planted with rubber trees on a large scale.

"There are about 300,000ha of forest reserves in the state and if illegal land clearing is not curbed immediately, the forest reserves will be gone," he told reporters yesterday.

He said the locals cleared and cultivated the forests in order to obtain permanent land titles from the state government after cultivating the land for some time.

He said the department would propose to the state government to extend some form of compensation to the illegal settlers so that they would vacate the areas.

"We also monitor the forest reserves constantly with the use of drones,” he said. — Bernama

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Malaysia: Prices of fish caught in a vicious cycle, say bidders

ROSLI ZAKARIA New Straits Times 10 Feb 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Who dictates the prices of fish? Is it the fisherman, the wholesaler, retailer, fishmonger or consumer?

The answer is, all of the above except the fisherman. They have, in one way or another, contributed to the push-and-pull factor in determining the prices of fish. In Terengganu, however, the “daganan” (bidders) come into the picture.

The daganan are responsible for buying every single fish landed by fishermen. The fishermen’s daily needs and earnings are taken care of by the daganan as well, the minute they land their catch at the fish landing jetties in Terengganu.

They do play a role in determining the prices of catch and record all dealings with the fishermen, including paying in advance for the daily fuel consumption, ice (to preserve their catch), food and cigarettes.

The total cost runs to between RM500 and RM1,000 per vessel, depending on the number of crewmen in the boat and the duration at sea.

On a good day, the daganan can sell all the fish to wholesalers at a predetermined price that could lead to a profit ranging from 50 sen to RM4, depending on the performance of the wholesaler.

It is only when the wholesalers are able to sell the fish at the predetermined prices that the daganan get paid in cash. But, if the fish was sold at lower than the predetermined prices, the daganan will still get paid, but at a price much lower than the deal made with the wholesalers.

When met at the Pulau Kambing fish landing jetty, daganan A. Rahman Ali, 59, said the daganan did not play a central role in determining the price of fish.

“The public thinks we (the da ganan) set the prices of fish in the market. We do not, but we do solve the problems of fishermen who depend on us to buy fuel, food and other requirements for that daily trip to sea,” said Rahman.

“However, we usually get feedback on the price of fish from wholesalers in wholesale and wet markets in Kuala Lumpur and Johor late in the evening. When we buy from fishermen, the price will be based on that and we will usually mark it up by 50 sen.

“But, we will not get the 50 sen until wholesalers sell all the fish to retailers. If wholesalers sell fish at below the 50 sen profit, we will not break even or may suffer losses for the day.

“But, if wholesalers sold fish at a profit of RM1 or above, the daganan will make that 50 sen profit.”

To the question on how prices of fish are dictated, Rahman said: “We are actually at the mercy of wholesalers.

“The wholesalers are at the mercy of retailers and the retailers are at the mercy of consumers. It is a vicious cycle.”

Agencies help fishermen by reeling in middlemen
NAIM ZULKIFLI New Straits Times 12 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Measures taken by the Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM) and fishermen associations have seen fishermen reducing their dependence on daganan (bidders). The measures taken were equipment aids, interest-free loans and assistance during the monsoon for fishermen nationwide.

LKIM Corporate Communication department director Intan Suhaila Othman said the board had made efforts to reduce the middlemen’s involvement, which had led to the manipulation of fisherman. In turn, the middlemen controlled the price of fish.

“LKIM provides places for fishermen to sell their catch by themselves, which they can get full profit without the involvement of daganan.

“We can get information about the catch as long as they land their catch at LKIM fish landing jetties.

“We help fishermen by providing equipment aids, such as nets, containers, as well as equipment to repair boats,” she told the New Straits Times.

Intan said another aid was interest-free loans to replace or to repair old fishing boat.

“In certain areas, fishermen are not registered under fishermen associations and have to rely on middlemen because they do not have the money to buy daily needs to go fishing.

“We are doing our best to reduce their dependency on middlemen, and by 2019, we hope that we can abolish daganan’s involvement.

“We can’t do price inspections as they are under the purview of the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry. However, we do daily price monitoring and post it on our website.”

Kuantan Fishermen Association chairman Talib Husin said it helped fishermen by providing aid, especially during the monsoon season.

“We don’t have the budget to provide them financial aid. All we can do is provide basic necessities, such rice, coffee and milk, to help them out.

“LKIM has taken the initiative by providing fish markets that are managed by fishermen near fish landing jetties. As soon as we land the catch, our family members will sell the fish at the market.

“From that, we can maximise profits as the income generated by selling the catch goes directly to fishermen,” he said.

Talib said the collaboration between the associations in the states had given fishermen extra income.

“There is demand for certain fish in other states, and by exchanging products, we are making sure that all the catches are sold, which helps fishermen get extra income.

“We encourage our fishermen to apply for loans from Tabung Ekonomi Kumpulan Usaha Niaga to help them.”

A Terengganu Fishermen Association spokesman said the prices were set by daganan and wholesalers as fishermen did not know how to determine the market price for fishes.

Federation of the Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) deputy president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman said fishermen did not have many options as they were tied to middlemen.

“Apart from the bad weather, especially in the east coast, middlemen, wholesalers, retailers and fishmongers determine the price of fish.

“It has become a tradition among fishermen where the middlemen pay them in advance for the daily fuel consumption of their boats, ice (to preserve their catch), food and cigarettes, as well as lending money for their needs as they don’t have a fixed income.

“This causes fishermen to be bound to daganan as the advance payment is a debt, which leads them to be manipulated by the latter.

“Fomca suggests that LKIM acts as the middleman by buying fish directly from fishermen, and take it to markets.

“This reduces the burden on consumers as the fish will be sold at cheaper price.

“This will also help fishermen earn profit directly without daganans involvement.

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Indonesia: Authorities slammed for slow response in containing dengue outbreak

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari, Ganug Nugroho Adi and Slamet Susanto, The Jakarta Post 10 Feb 16;

Gorontalo resident Opan could not hide his disappointment after his pleas for the local administration to fumigate was met with no response despite the ongoing dengue fever outbreak in the municipality.

Opan, who lives in Tomulabutao subdistrict, said he was worried that the mosquito-borne disease would quickly reach his neighborhood if locals failed to take the necessary preventive measures, particularly fumigation.

“We repeatedly asked the subdistrict administration to fumigate, but no health officer has come to our neighborhood,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Gorontalo and a dozen other cities, including Tangerang in Banten, North Luwu in Sulawesi and Gianyar in Bali, have declared their dengue outbreaks extraordinary occurrences after the disease claimed the lives of dozens of people and hospitalized hundreds of others since the beginning of the year.

In Gorontalo, which is also the capital of Gorontalo province, dengue fever claimed four lives and hospitalized 161 people during the first five weeks of the year.

Despite the ongoing spread of the disease, the city administration, however, has made little headway in carrying out preventive measures, including fumigation.

In Kota Barat district, for example, at least three subdistricts have reported that no fumigation had been carried out in the area even though some residents were hospitalized earlier this month with dengue fever.

Separately, Gorontalo Health Agency head Nur Albar said that as of Tuesday, her institution had fumigated only 30 percent of the areas within the municipality. She attributed the slow progress mainly to administrative reasons.

“The city administration has allocated Rp 196.3 million (US$14,423) from this year’s budget for fumigation,” she said.

“However, as of last week, we could only access the first amount of money totalling Rp 78.5 million.”

The Aedes aegypti mosquito spreads dengue fever. After a person has been bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito it takes four to 10 days for symptoms to manifest. The most common symptoms are high fever, severe headache, nausea, swollen glands and joint pain.

The disease can be deadly when a patient experiences plasma leakage, fluid accumulation, respiratory distress, severe bleeding or organ impairment.

With the absence of a vaccine to protect against dengue, vector control is the only method available for the prevention and control of the disease.

Meanwhile in Sragen, Central Java, Tunggul subdistrict chief Suntoro called on the regional administration on Tuesday to immediately arrange fumigation in the subdistrict. He said 15 villagers had contracted dengue fever so far this month, triggering anxiety among local residents.

“The local administration must take real action instead of just keeping busy disseminating information on the government’s anti-mosquito campaign,” he said.

In Yogyakarta, a group of Gadjah Mada University researchers under the Eliminate Dengue Project (EDP) is planning to release mosquitoes that carry a bacteria called Wolbachia into the region in an effort to prevent dengue fever. The mosquitoes will later spread the bacteria, which can contain the development of the dengue virus, through breeding.

EDP spokesperson Bekti Andarini said the method was tested in 2015 in four villages in Sleman and Bantul regencies, after which scientists found that 80 percent of mosquitoes in the areas carried Wolbachia.

“This year we will release the mosquitoes in Yogyakarta municipality to prove whether the method is effective in controlling dengue fever,” Bekti said.

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Indonesia: More lives lost, houses swamped as floods worsen across Sumatra

Apriadi Gunawan, Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 10 Feb 16;

Foods continued to submerge cities and regencies across Sumatra on Tuesday, destroying public facilities and claiming two lives.

In Deli Serdang regency, North Sumatra, two children were reportedly killed on Monday after being swept away by swift currents in Sunggal Kanan and Kutalimbaru villages.

“Two of my people were killed by the floods, one in Sunggal and the other in Kutalimbaru,” said Deli Serdang Regent Ashari Tambunan after visiting the family of victim Aqila Ardera in Sunggal Kanan on Tuesday.

The body of 2-year-old Aqila, daughter of Arianto and Putri Anggraini, was found in an irrigation canal on Jl. Setia Sama, Sunggal, on Monday afternoon. Aqila is believed to have slipped into the irrigation canal as she was playing outside her home after a downpour.

Ashari said he had instructed the local public works agency to restore public facilities, such as roads and irrigation canals, damaged by the heavy rains that have drenched the regency in recent days.

In Binjai city, also in North Sumatra, floods triggered by incessant rain damaged two bridges, severing traffic access between East Binjai and South Binjai districts.

Binjai Public Works Agency head Nanang said the bridges, one on
Jl. Diponegoro and the other in the Pahlawan area, had been damaged during massive flooding on Monday.

“The damaged bridges in Binjai have forced residents to take other, more circuitous routes,” Nanang said.

Meanwhile, in West Sumatra, three regencies ravaged by floods and landslides, namely Limapuluh Kota, South Solok and Pasaman, have imposed a 14-day emergency period starting Monday.

West Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) emergency and logistics division head R. Pagar Negara said floods and landslides had affected 10 of the province’s regencies and cities, but that the three named regencies had borne the brunt.

“Preliminary data show that floods have affected 2,272 families, or 33,319 people, whose homes have been swamped by up to 3 meters of water,” Pagar told the Post on Tuesday, adding that the joint search and rescue team was still searching for one person buried by a landslide in South Solok and another who was swept away by the Batang Maek River in Lima Puluh Kota.

Lima Puluh Kota BPBD head Nasriyanto said the river had gradually subsided as of Tuesday morning.

“Residents have cleaned their homes, but all their belongings have been swamped. Nothing’s back to normal yet; there have been power cuts since the floods began, and local people are also facing a clean-water shortage,” said Nasriyanto.

Relief aid from the regency and provincial administrations and the public had been slow to reach disaster locations, he added.

Nine of the 13 districts in Lima Puluh Kota have been swamped by floods; the local BPBD has yet to complete a list of victims. In the most severely hit district, Pangkalan, which contains more than 1,000 homes, floodwaters are now above 2 meters.

The main road to Riau, 2 kilometers of which was submerged on Monday, was again traversable on Tuesday.

Heavy rain continued to pour on Tuesday, exacerbating floods and hitting Rokan Hulu, Kampar and Kuantan Singingi regencies in Riau.

The floods submerged 1,606 houses in Kampar, 1,050 houses in Rokan Hulu and 554 houses in Kuantan Singingi after local rivers burst their banks. Authorities have urged riverbank-dwellers to remain on high alert.

Floods submerge 120 hectares rice fields in langkat, North Sumatra
Antara 10 Feb 16;

Langkat, N Sumatra (ANTARA News)- Floods have submerged rice fields, covering a total area of 120 hectares in Karya Maju village, Tanjungpura Sub-district, Langkat District, North Sumatra Province, since Monday, according to an official.

"Now, the floodwaters in the rice fields have begun to subside, but hopefully, the water level in Wampu River would not rise," Mariono of the Tanjungpura agriculture office stated on Wednesday.

Yusfik Helmi, another local agriculture official, remarked that rice fields in the village are often flooded as they are located near the banks of Wampu River.

In the meantime, incessant heavy rains over the past week had caused flooding and led to two rivers overflowing their banks in Binjai District, North Sumatra.

Several sub-districts in Binjai were inundated, Yusrizal, head of the Binjai disaster mitigation office, stated recently.

The Mencirim and Bingei rivers overflowed and flooded the city following downpours, he remarked.

The local authorities have deployed officers to help the flood victims.


Floods submerge 500 houses in Pandeglang, Banten
Antara 10 Feb 16;

Pandeglang, Banten (ANTARA News) - Flash floods submerged around 500 homes in four villages of Cigondang, Kalanganyar, Teluk and Labuan in Pandeglang District, Banten Province, with the water level reaching 2.5 meters, an official has said.

Head of Pandeglangs Post-Disaster Management division of the Regional Disaster Mitigation Board, Lilis, when contacted on Tuesday, said the floods have inundated 500 houses and will continue since rain was still lashing the area as of Tuesday evening.

While no casualty has been reported so far, the floods did cause material losses running into tens of millions of rupiah, she pointed out.

The Regional Disaster Mitigation Board (BPBD) delivered food and drinks to the flood victims lest there is any starvation, she added.(*)

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Nature as the First Line of Defense against Floods

The World Bank 10 Feb 16;

When it comes to protecting the world’s coasts, the best solutions may depend less on modern infrastructure, and more on rethinking how we value existing natural resources. A new report recommends using engineering and insurance models to re-evaluate the benefits of habitats like mangrove forests and coral reefs, instead of building walls against floods and rising seas.

It is well documented that reefs and mangroves reduce the impact of waves hitting coasts, thus decreasing the risks of flooding and erosion. But until now, the economic argument for investing in such habitats has been less clear. Managing coasts with natural solutions: Guidelines for measuring and valuing the coastal protection services of mangroves and coral reefs seeks to address this evidence gap, and to reorient the cost-benefit analysis between built or “gray infrastructure,” and “green infrastructure” based on environmental processes.

Measuring and valuing services of mangroves and coral reefs

In a ground-breaking approach to measuring the benefits of ecosystem services, Lead Marine Scientist at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Michael Beck - who co-led the report with Glenn-Marie Lange, Technical Advisor for the World Bank Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) Global Partnership, with support from the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, and Resources for the Future – applied assessment techniques commonly used in the engineering and insurance sectors.

Beck explained, “A typical way of valuing the flood protection benefit of coral reefs and mangroves is to ask, ‘If I lose those habitats, what is the cost of replacing them with a seawall or a breakwater?’ But learning from the engineering and insurance sectors, we can do a much better job of directly measuring the flood reduction benefit. By comparing the expected flood damages with the damages that would occur if reefs and mangroves were lost, we obtain a difference that represents the value of having those resources in place. This approach is known as the Expected Damage Function.”

The report demonstrates that mangroves and reefs not only have ecological value, but also social and economic significance. To date, the ecosystem services that have been highly valued for mangroves and coral reefs are provisioning services, such as how much fish production or timber a habitat can provide. This new work on flood reduction value is one of the very first, rigorous valuations of regulating services that can be done at a national and global scale.

A viable solution to an issue of global concern

The combined impacts of population growth, urbanization and climate change continue to make coastal defense more and more challenging. Worldwide, hundreds of millions of people are at risk from floods and extreme weather, and the economic cost of damages is rising steeply. Insurers have paid out more than $300 billion over the last 10 years just for coastal losses from storms.

By showing that the important protection characteristics of mangroves and reefs can be readily incorporated into economic planning tools like Natural Capital Accounting, Beck and the WAVES team hope that policymakers view these habitats as critical for coastal defense, and as cost-effective alternatives to vulnerable gray infrastructure. This will, however, require concerted efforts at a significant scale: by some estimates, 19 percent of mangroves were lost between 1980 and 2005*, and 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs are considered threatened**.

A track record of success

Despite the enormity of the coastal management challenge, momentum is growing in favor of restoring habitats to reduce risks from flooding and erosion. The Guidelines highlight over 20 case studies where the coastal protection roles of mangroves and reefs were reflected in major policy decisions, including:

In Vietnam, some 9,000 hectares of reforested mangroves were shown to have substantial benefit-cost ratios, from 3:1 in some communes to 28:1 in others.

In the aftermath of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan of 2013, the Government of the Philippines pledged $8 million for a cash-for-work program to restore mangroves and beach forests along the hardest hit coastlines.

The Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) found that, in seven out of the eight countries examined, reef and mangrove restoration was one of the most cost-effective approaches to coastal risk reduction and adaptation.

“What we hope,” Beck said, “is that in addition to their intrinsic value, by showing decision-makers how important mangroves and reefs are as a first line of defense, we can really inspire more action, not just from conservationists, but from disaster risk managers, from development planners, and from ministries of finance and development.”

*Spalding et al. 2010

**Burke et al. 2011

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