Best of our wild blogs: 14 Feb 16

CNY Day 3: Tanah Merah sandflat
wonderful creation

Life History of the Common Tiger
Butterflies of Singapore

Morning Walk At Kent Ridge Park (13 Feb 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Singapore Bird Report-January 2016
Singapore Bird Group

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Call for 'zero impact' for MRT line under MacRitchie nature reserve

Green groups want MRT line to go around while engineers say impact can be reduced
Audrey Tan Straits Times 14 Feb 16; and AsiaOne

Renewing calls for the Government to rethink possible plans to build an MRT tunnel under Singapore's largest nature reserve, several green groups are banding together to ensure their message gets across loud and clear.

Next month, the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group and the Herpetological Society of Singapore are among those hoping to raise awareness about the issue through a "March for MacRitchie" campaign.

The moves come even as engineers say that contractors have the tools to moderate harmful impacts on the environment.

The month-long series of events, which includes free guided walks to the reserve, school talks and an exhibition at the National Library, aims to inspire Singaporeans to speak up for the forest and support calls for the Cross Island Line to go around, instead of through, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

These plans come in the wake of last week's release of an environmental impact assessment report, which found that there will be "moderate" impact on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve when work on preliminary soil tests for the Cross Island Line start in the third quarter of the year. The tests will determine the soil and rock profile, which will help the authorities decide how a train tunnel can be built through the reserve.

The report also said the impact will only be kept to "moderate" levels if mitigating measures, such as the use of enclosures to reduce engine noise and tanks to collect discharge, are effectively carried out.

Engineers who spoke to The Sunday Times said that minimising negative impacts on the environment is well within contractors' capabilities.


In all, the report highlighted nine mitigation measures, which the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said will be part of requirements for contractors doing the site investigations. These measures include having 30m buffer zones around streams and marshes, and using enclosures to minimise noise and tanks to hold discharge, such as drilling fluid.

Contractors must also work closely with National Parks Board (NParks) staff when venturing off-trail or encountering wildlife.

Professor Chu Jian from the Nanyang Technological University's school of civil and environmental engineering, said that while these measures "will certainly increase cost", they were the best that can be offered without compromising engineering design standards.

Mr Chong Kee Sen, president of The Institution of Engineers, Singapore, said the measures could "effectively mitigate noise, soil, water and other impacts to the environment".

LTA has said it will also cut the number of 10cm-wide boreholes up to 70m deep needed to test the soil from 72 to 16. They will be drilled only on existing trails and clearings.

"Locating boreholes near existing trails is a good measure that reduces the effects of having additional access into the nature reserve," said Mr Chong.

Assistant Professor Chian Siau Chen, from the department of civil and environmental engineering at the National University of Singapore, added: "Some of these measures are well over and beyond what is required. All these mitigation strategies are very helpful from an engineering perspective.

"The key factor in ensuring effectiveness of these strategies is the monitoring and control."


But green groups say there are no guarantees whether contractors will stick to these mitigation measures fully. Biologist David Tan from Love Our MacRitchie Forest highlighted a 2013 incident in which a stream at the Venus Drive forest - just outside the reserve - was polluted by contractors despite mitigation measures in place. Similar lapses could affect the rich biodiversity in the reserve, he said.

If discharge from the soil investigation works is not contained properly and seeps into freshwater streams and other aquatic habitats, for instance, sediment could get trapped in the gills of fish and other aquatic organisms.

"The pollution could also affect visibility in the stream, which will have adverse effects on aquatic visual predators," he said.

Ecologists believe it would be hard to prevent negative effects spreading to other parts of the reserve.

Commenting on the 30m buffer zone, Dr Nanthinee Jevanandam, a sustainability specialist from Earthys Sustainability Consulting, said: "In general, increasing the buffer protects the immediate area, but there are interactions that can extend beyond the vicinity." For instance, animals roam the forests in search of food and mates, and may live in different parts of the forest at different stages of their life cycles.

Ms Natalia Huang, principal ecologist at environmental consultancy firm Ecology Matters, added: "The degree of how much of the impact is mitigated cannot be guaranteed and may not be measured either."

Green groups insist there should be zero impact on the reserve, highlighting the importance of the area. It comprises pristine freshwater streams and Singapore's largest patch of primary lowland rainforest. At least 413 species of plants, 218 species of birds, 30 mammals, 24 freshwater fish species and 17 species of amphibians can be found there, including a species of crab found nowhere else on Earth.

Mr Tony O' Dempsey of the Nature Society (Singapore) said: "During the Nature Society's deliberations with LTA, we determined that the impact on animals is high and remained high after mitigation.

"The Nature Society remains of the opinion that no impact is acceptable in the nature reserve."

For the alternative route around the reserve, the impact of soil investigation works along Lornie Road was deemed to be "negligible", and "minor" for areas near Venus Drive and a golf course, according to last week's report, which ST saw.

The decision on whether to build through or around the reserve is still being considered.

"The Central Catchment Nature Reserve is a national treasure," said business owner and former NParks conservation manager Joey Gan, 33, who has joined the March for MacRitchie movement. "Transport may be a key issue for the country but in this case, there is an alternative. If we don't take it, the damage to our national natural heritage could be irreversible ."

What does 'moderate' impact mean?
Straits Times 14 Feb 16;

Last week, an environment assessment report said the effect of soil testing works on animals and plants in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve could be kept to "moderate" levels if measures to reduce impact are strictly implemented.

What does "moderate" mean? The roughly 1,000-page report, seen by The Sunday Times, said a moderate impact "falls somewhere in the range from a threshold below which the impact is minor, up to a level that might be just short of breaching a legal limit".

Assistant Professor Chian Siau Chen of the civil and environmental engineering department at the National University of Singapore said there are usually five categories under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) framework: Major, moderate, minor, negligible and beneficial.

"Moderate usually refers to moderately adverse changes to the ecosystem which may exceed the range of natural variation," he said, adding that potential for recovery without intervention is good, although a low level of impact may remain.

But Ms Natalia Huang, principal ecologist at consultancy Ecology Matters, pointed out that there is no standard description for such terms in Singapore. How the terms are used could vary, she said.

"Ideally, impacts to very sensitive environments such as the freshwater streams in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve should be negligible to minor, although some moderate impacts are often unavoidable, " she said.

Ms Huang called for the EIA report to be put online, as is standard practice in other countries. It is now available for public viewing at the Land Transport Authority's Hampshire Road premises, and by appointment only, until March 4.

Audrey Tan

Studying impact of new MRT line
Audrey Tan Straits Times 14 Feb 16;

Early 2013: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announces the 50km Cross Island Line to link Changi and Jurong by 2030.

Preliminary plans show it cutting through primary and secondary forests in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Nature groups, alarmed by the possible environmental harm, suggest that the line be built along Lornie Road on a route that goes around the nature reserve.

September 2013: The LTA announces an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to study both alignment options.

August 2014 to December 2015: Consultancy Environmental Resources Management works on Phase 1 of the EIA, which looks at the potential impact of site investigation works on the nature reserve.

February 2016:The LTA gazettes the findings of the EIA's Phase 1.

They show that tests to see how a train tunnel can be built through the 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 nature reserve.

Mitigation strategies to prevent this include the use of enclosures to reduce engine noise and tanks to collect discharge.

Audrey Tan

Rare animals that make nature reserve their home
Straits Times 14 Feb 16;

Forests may look calm from afar, but the cacophony of the sounds of nature tells a different story.

The Central Catchment Nature Reserve is a treasure trove of wildlife. Here are some of the rare mammals that can be found in Singapore's largest nature reserve:

This is the most commonly seen flying squirrel in Singapore. It has a large, thin, reddish-brown flap called the patagium which connects the forelimbs and hindlimbs, and allows it to glide from tree to tree. In Singapore, it is one of three nationally threatened flying squirrel species. The others are the red-cheeked flying squirrel and the red giant flying squirrel.

The Sunda pangolin is critically endangered globally as it is poached for its meat and scales.

Critically endangered here, the lesser mousedeer inhabits primary and mature secondary rainforests. It is the smallest hoofed animal in Singapore.

Critically endangered in Singapore, this nocturnal creature is usually slow, but can move quickly when catching prey.


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

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Malaysia: Protected species sold on Facebook


KOTA BARU: PET sellers in Kelantan have turned to online portals such as Facebook and to sell wild animals, including protected species such as binturong and parrots.

Kelantan Wildlife and National Parks director Mohamad Khairi Ahmad said they stumbled upon the novel way of selling wild animals online when they nabbed a school leaver recently.

He said the youth was nabbed at a shopping complex here after the department found his sales ad selling a baby binturong on Facebook.

The baby binturong was put up for sale at RM5,000.

Binturong (scientific name: Arctictis binturong), also known as bearcat, is a mostly tree-dwelling mammal.

The binturong’s natural habitat is up in the trees of the rainforest canopy.

Binturongs are active during the day and at night, and are omnivorous.

They feed on small mammals, birds, fish, earthworms, insects and fruits. “The department suspects many individuals are using same way to sell pets to earn some pocket money.

Many do not realise that selling protected animals even as pets is an offence under the Wildlife Act.

“The public must apply for a special permit to keep the animals,” he told the New Straits Times.

Khairi said besides binturong, other wild animals which they found being put on sale online included dusky leaf monkey and parrots.

“We believe that many buyers are attracted to these animals because they look cute and easy to play with.”

Khairi urged members of the public to report to the department if they come across any individual selling protected animals online.

“We will not hesitate to take action against those who break the law.”

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Indonesia: Harvest failures loom as floods wash out regions

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, Ganug Nugroho Adi and Suherdjoko, The Jakarta Post 13 Feb 16;

Farmers in Sumatra and Java are on the verge of another harvest failure as floods submerged thousands of hectares of farmland in the respective regions this week.

In South Solok regency, West Sumatra, floods triggered by heavy rains over the past several days have damaged at least 800 ha of rice fields across six districts due to mud accumulation.

“The figure, however, does not include the affected side crop areas,” said South Solok Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Editorial on Friday.

He also expressed concern over limited food supplies for local residents following the floods.

“Many local farmers were set to harvest their crops over the next two weeks. With everything in their field damaged, what shall these people eat next month?” said Editorial, adding that more than 1,500 local residents had fled the neighborhood due to the disaster.

In West Sumatra’s Limapuluh Kota regency, floods have submerged 2,490 ha of rice, corn and chili fields and, of the affected farmland, 4.5 ha is currently confirmed to have experienced crop failure.

“The failure is likely to cost local farmers around Rp 1 billion [US$74,100],” agriculture and horticulture agency head Aprizul Nazar said.

After a prolonged dry season, the rainy season finally arrived in many parts of the country in December and has intensified since then.

While last year’s extended dry season, caused by the El NiƱo weather phenomenon, saw thousands of ha of farmland experience crop failure, a series of heavy downpours over recent weeks has created similar anxiety among farmers and local residents in the country’s flood-prone regions, including North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Riau, and Central Java.

In Riau, floods have hit three regencies: Kampar, Rokan Hulu and Kuantan Singingi. Leaders of the three regencies have declared an emergency response status, saying they were overwhelmed with anticipative measures.

Floods also occurred in Sukoharjo and Surakarta in Central Java following incessant rain from Wednesday to early Thursday. In Sukoharjo regency, hundreds of homes in Bondosari, Grogol, Mojolaban and Bulakrejo districts were engulfed.

The floods originated from secondary irrigation channels from the East Colo Dam, a tributary of the Bengawan Solo River, one of the country’s longest rivers, engulfing both hundreds of homes and at least 300 ha of rice fields.

“More than 200 homes were submerged by up to 1 meter of water. The BPBD, together with volunteers, TNI and police personnel were at hand to help residents,” Sukoharjo BPBD acting head
Suprapto said.

Meanwhile in Magelang regency, a 3-meter-high cliff in Sidosari subdistrict, Salaman district, collapsed on Wednesday evening due to heavy rain, destroying two houses.

No fatality was reported as a result of the incident but the inhabitants were forced to evacuate.

In Grobogan regency, heavy rains caused the Lusi River to overflow and flooded residential compounds in Plendungan and Jetis for the whole of Thursday and Friday.

Meanwhile the Pekalongan municipal administration has prepared seven evacuation centers to accommodate people displaced by floods as an anticipatory measure considering the high intensity of rain across the region.

“We have also prepared temporary shelters in every subdistrict. The assembly site is the subdistrict hall, From here we will proceed to accommodate affected people at prepared shelters,” Pekalongan BPBD official Hengki Susilo Hadi said.

Jakarta braces for flooding during peak rainy season
Fardah Antara 13 Feb 16;

Flooding in the Harmoni, Central Jakarta, area after heavy rains on Tuesday (February 09, 2016). (TMC Polda Metro Jaya)
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Jakarta administration is intensifying efforts to normalize sewage systems in the capital city as the rainy season is forecast to reach its peak in February 2016.

In early February, floods reaching a height of up to 120 cm inundated 20 neighborhoods in South and East Jakarta municipalities.

"Pumps were used to drain water. Gradually, the floodwaters are receding," spokesman of the Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Office (BPBD Bambang Suryaputra said February 4.

In East Jakarta, flood-affected areas included Cawang, Kampung Melayu and Bidara Cina, and in South Jakarta it was Pejaten Timur, Pengadegan, Rawajati, Kebon Baru, and Bukit Duri.

Following the incessant downpour on February 12, the Ciracas Police Complex was flooded, Jakartas Police reported on its official Twitter account @TMCPoldaMetro in the evening.

Penggilingan Baru and Kampung Pulo areas in East Jakarta were also inundated.

The Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Office (BPBD DKI) has reminded the public that the capital city is currently under the third alert status of flooding.

The water level in several sluices has reached the third alert status at 2:20 a.m. local time on February 13, the office wrote on its official Twitter account @BPBDJakarta.

In East Jakarta, flood-affected areas included Cawang, Kampung Melayu and Bidara Cina, and in South Jakarta were Pejaten Timur, Pengadegan, Rawajati, Kebon Baru, and Bukit Duri.

The water level reached a height at 173 cm/MT in Pasar Ikan sluice, 190 cm/MT in Pluit dam, 30 cm/G (alert 4) in Katulampa, and 130 cm/M (alert 4) in Depok, in addition to 790 cm/MT (alert 3) in Manggarai, 510 cm/MT (alert 3) in Kelapa, 160 cm/MT (alert 3) in Krukut Hulu, and 120 cm/MT (alert 4) in Pesanggrahan. It had also reached 145 cm/M (alert 4) in Angke Hulu, 150 cm/M (alert 3) in Cipinang Hulu, 110 cm/T (alert 4) in Sunter Hulu, and 380 cm/T (alert 4) in Pulogadung.

The Jakarta administration is planning to install CCTVs in every pump house across the capital city, aimed at monitoring the water level in every sluice. Of the existing 150 water pump houses, only 12 have CCTVs currently.

The BPBD DKI Jakarta has mapped out that 34 urban villages in Jakarta are categorized as very prone to flooding, and 57 others are in the "prone" category.

The office has trained 5,000 volunteers in 124 urban villages to help mitigate the impacts of flooding.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is currently drafting a contingency plan, as the peak of the rainy season to occur in February might trigger floods, landslides, and whirlwinds.

Floods were expected to occur in the capital city in February 2016, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho noted at a press conference on floods and landslides February 10.

Jakarta is on flood alert status from the first until third week of this month and will be on emergency response status in the third and fourth week, according to him.

Currently, the flood alert status covers 18 sub-districts that include 134 neighborhoods in 34 urban villages, with a total of 52,451 people, and 72 shelters for flood victims.

However, in January, the precipitation decreased and was uneven in January this year due to El Nino, he pointed out.

"Due to low precipitation in January 2016, the number of floods and landslides decreased compared to those recorded in January 2105. There was a 43 percent decrease in the number of floods, and a 75 percent drop in the number of landslides that occurred," he stated.

In the meantime, Jakarta Governor Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) has urged the World Bank to accelerate the implementation of the Jakarta Emergency Dredging Initiative (JEDI) project aimed at curbing floods in the capital city.

"We have urged the World Bank to accelerate the implementation of the JEDI project, considering that there are 1,058 conduits across Jakartas area," Ahok stated early this month.

The JEDI project is one of the measures to minimize floods in Jakarta. Its concept is to evenly distribute the flow of water in the city.

"By doing this, floods could be controlled, and the waters would recede faster. Therefore, we want the project to be implemented quickly," he emphasized.

Jakarta has 13 major rivers, of which the World Bank is in charge of dredging five rivers. The rest will be implemented by the Jakarta provincial administration and the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry.

"Through the Water Planning Service, we constantly dredge every existing water drain, so that every drain is open, and the water can flow smoothly," he explained.

The JEDI project encompasses seven packages. Package 1 comprises the Ciliwung River, Gunung Sahari, and Melati reservoir (including Kali Gresik and Kali Cideng Hulu rivers). This package is being implemented by the Jakarta administrations Water Planning Service.

Package 2 comprises two sub-packages: 2A Cengkareng Drain and 2B Kali Sunter Hilir River. They are being implemented by the Water Resources Directorate General of the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry.

Package 3 covers the Kali Cideng River in Thamrin, which is also being handled by the directorate general.

Package 4 includes the Kali Sentiong Sunter River, North Sunter reservoir, South Sunter reservoir, and East Sunter III reservoir, which is being handled by the Jakarta administration.

Package 5 being implemented by the ministry comprises the rivers of Kali Tunjangan and Kali Angke Bawah.

Package 6 covers the West Flood Canal and Kali Sunter Hulu River and is being carried out by the ministry.

Package 7 covers the Kali Grogol Sekretaris River, Kali Jalekang-Pakin-Kali Besar, and Kali Krukut Cideng rivers, and is being implemented by the Jakarta administration.

The project is estimated to cost some US$190 million. Of this amount, the World Bank will contribute about US$140 million, according to information on the World Banks website.

The Government of Indonesia and DKI Jakarta will contribute about US$15.5 million and US$34 million respectively.

A grant worth US$0.5 million from the Netherlands Government will be utilized to help strengthen Jakartas Flood Management Information System.

Indonesia is currently experiencing the peak of the rainy season that has caused flooding and landslides in 166 districts and municipalities in several provinces, including in West Sumatra, North Sumatra, Riau, Bangka Belitung, West, East and Central Java, Jambi, West Kalimantan, and Aceh.

Social Minister to visit flood victims in Kampar, Riau
Antara 13 Feb 16;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa is to visit flood victims in Kualu village, Tambang sub-district, Kampar District, Riau Province.

"I will see the locations affected by flooding in Kampar, and locations once hit by fires," Minister Khofifah said, here, Saturday.

She will present relief aid worth Rp696 million constituting food, clothes, and evacuation facilities.

The Riau provincial authorities have declared a flood alert status as flooding has spread and killed two inhabitants, while precipitation is still high now.

Three districts - Kampar, Rokan Hulu and Kuantan Singingi, have also declared flood emergency status.

The Riau disaster mitigation office has disbursed Rp500 million to help flood victims in Kampar and Rokan Hulu.

In Kampar, 56 villages located in 12 sub-districts were submerged with floodwaters reaching a height of up to 1.7 meters. Some 26,614 families or 133,070 people were affected.

Floods in Rokan Hulu spread to seven sub-districts, and affected at least 11,438 people.

Indonesia is currently experiencing the peak of the rainy season that has caused flooding in several regions, including in West Sumatra, Bangka Belitung, North Sumatra, and West and East Kalimantan, in addition to West and Central Java, Jambi, and Aceh.

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Research finds harmful algae toxins in Alaska marine mammals

DAN JOLING Associated Press Yahoo News 13 Feb 16;

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A review of more than 900 marine mammals hunted, stranded or captured for research along Alaska's coast has found toxins from harmful algae in 13 species, creating concern that the natural poisonous substances could increase as water temperatures warm and sea ice diminishes.

Algal toxins were present in animals sampled from southeast Alaska to the Arctic Ocean. Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies examined feces, stomach content and urine for two toxins.

Algal toxin has led to deaths of sea lions documented since 1998 in central California. They have been found previously in Alaska, at times creating health concerns for people eating clams, but have not been documented to this extent, said Kathi Lefebvre, a research biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"The real concern is that the waters are warming and the sea ice is melting and the light is more available, making it more favorable for these blooms of algae," she said.

Algae are simple organisms, sometimes single-cell, that like other phytoplankton, float in the ocean at the mercy of ocean currents.

Harmful algae species produce toxins. When conditions are right, with optimal temperature and nutrients, harmful algae can grow rapidly divide and create dense blooms. They're eaten by zooplankton or filter feeders such as clams, shellfish or tiny fin fish, allowing the toxin to move higher in the food web.

Lefebvre is program leader for NOAA's West Coast Wildlife Algal-toxin Research and Response Network in Seattle, which looked at samples from 905 animals collected in Alaska wildlife over nine years. The sampling was "opportunistic," meaning the same species of animal was not sampled regularly. That means the study could not detect whether toxins had increased in particular species over a decade, Lefebvre said.

Researchers looked for domoic acid and saxitoxin.

Domoic acid has killed California sea lions. A study last year indicated affected animals that survive can suffer brain damage that leads to significant deficits in spatial memory, which could affect their ability to forage, migrate or avoid ship strikes, Lefebvre said. Domoic acid was found in all 13 Alaska species reviewed and was found in 68 percent of bowhead whales samples and 67 percent of harbor seals.

Saxitoxin, which causes paralytic seafood poisoning in clams, was found in 10 of the 13 species. It was detected in 50 percent of the humpback whale samples and 32 percent of bowhead whale samples.

Researchers could not conclude whether algal toxins were related to 2015 Alaska marine mammal die-offs, such as fin whales and sea otters.

"We don't have the smoking gun," Lefebvre said. "We don't have the right kinds of samples to look at." Instead, the research emphasizes the importance and potential impacts of algal toxins in historically cold Alaska waters, she said.

Researchers also don't know whether the toxin concentrations found were high enough to cause health impacts for the marine mammals sampled. They did conclude, however, that the levels accumulating in commonly eaten parts of the animals were not at a level of a concern for human safety.

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Hawaii declares emergency over mosquito-borne illnesses

CATHY BUSSEWITZ Associated Press Yahoo News 12 Feb 16;

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency to fight mosquito borne illnesses including dengue fever and the Zika virus.

The state has been in the midst of a dengue fever outbreak on Hawaii's Big Island, where there were more than 250 confirmed cases.

There have been no locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus in Hawaii, Ige said in a news conference Friday. But there's concern that the islands could be at risk because mosquitoes that can carry dengue fever also can carry the Zika virus.

"We are doing everything we can to be prepared, to be proactive, to prevent vector borne diseases here in Hawaii," Ige said.

The emergency proclamation could help the state acquire more money to control outbreaks.

Hawaii is rushing to build up its mosquito control staff after a December report from the Centers for Disease Control highlighted deficiencies in the state's vector control department. The state slashed its mosquito control and entomology staff during the economic downturn, from 56 employees in 2009 to 25 positions in 2016. Health officials are now searching for funding to rebuild the staff, and the Department of Health plans to hire 10 new staffers with money the governor released, said Virginia Pressler, director of department, on Friday.

"We are actively hiring new staff, an entomologist that will be dedicated to Hawaii Island that will be starting next week as well as additional communications and vector control staff," Pressler said.

Officials stressed that Hawaii is still a safe place to visit. No travel advisories have been issued about Hawaii, and tourism is off to a strong start in 2016, said George Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

"There's no reason to be alarmed or to alter your traveling plans," Szigeti said.

There are active Zika outbreaks on Pacific Islands including American Samoa. Flights between American Samoa and Hawaii run several times per week.

The proclamation also will give the state more power to take preventive measures, including the ability to spray pesticides regardless of a homeowner's wishes.

"There are some who are holding out and not allowing us to be on their property," Pressler said. "One of the things that this emergency declaration from the governor will allow us to do is that we can in fact enforce that we will come and take care of mosquitoes on a property that someone is refusing, because it is a public health emergency."

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Millions die from air pollution, mainly in China, India

Air pollution kills more than 5.5 million people around the world each year, with over half of those deaths occurring in fast-growing China and India, researchers said Friday.
Channel NewsAsia 13 Feb 16;

WASHINGTON: Air pollution kills more than 5.5 million people around the world each year, with over half of those deaths occurring in fast-growing China and India, researchers said on Friday (Feb 12).

And the number of premature deaths will continue to climb in the years ahead unless more aggressive measures against pollution are adopted, scientists warned the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in the US capital.

"Air pollution is the fourth highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease," said Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver, Canada.

Air pollution ranks behind high blood pressure, diet and smoking as the fourth greatest risk factor for fatalities worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease study, done by the Institute for Health Metrics.

"Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population," said Brauer.

China and India account for 55 per cent of yearly global deaths from air pollution. About 1.6 million people died of air pollution in China in 2013, while India saw 1.4 million deaths.

In China, burning coal is the biggest contributor to poor air quality - and pollution from coal was found to have caused 366,000 deaths in 2013, said Qiao Ma, a PhD student at the School of Environment at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

She projected that air pollution will cause anywhere from 990,000 to 1.3 million premature deaths in 2030 unless more ambitious targets are introduced.

"Our study highlights the urgent need for even more aggressive strategies to reduce emissions from coal and from other sectors," said Ma.

In India, the main culprit was burning wood, dung and biomass for cooking and heating.

"India needs a three-pronged mitigation approach to address industrial coal burning, open burning for agriculture, and household air pollution sources," said Chandra Venkataraman, professor of Chemical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in Mumbai, India.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines, pollution should be restricted to a daily particulate matter of 25 microgrammes per cubic metre.

In February, Beijing and New Delhi typically see daily levels at or above 300 microgrammes per cubic metre - or 1,200 per cent higher than WHO guidelines, researchers said.

More than 85 per cent of the global population lives in areas where the World Health Organization Air Quality Guideline is exceeded.

- AFP/ec

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