LTA releases environmental impact assessment report on Cross Island MRT line

Nature lovers buoyed by ongoing dialogue with the government agency
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 19 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — In a rare move on Friday (Feb 19) due to strong public interest, the Land Transport Authority posted online the first phase of a report on the environmental impact of a rail line development, more than a week after opening it for public inspection.

This was in response to public feedback, the LTA stated on Facebook as it announced the move, which was welcomed by nature lovers.

The first phase of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report detailed the effects that site investigation work for the future Cross Island MRT line would have on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The LTA is studying the soil and rock profiles of two alignment options for the future MRT line, one of which will cut under the nature reserve for about 2km.

Before it was put online, five physical copies of the EIA report had been available for inspection at LTA by appointment.

At the same time on Friday, about 100 people braved the rain and turned up for a talk on the environmental impact of the Cross Island Line on the nature reserve — of which MacRitchie is a part — held at the office of the Nature Society (Singapore) in Geylang.

Mr Leong Kwok Peng, vice-president of the society, said it exceeded their expectation that just 70 to 80 people would attend the talk. Nature Society council member Tony O’Dempsey spoke about the engagement process between the nature community and LTA so far, and said this dialogue would continue into the second phase of the report.

He told TODAY after the talk: “One thing I really like is that we’ve had an objective and frank discussion lacking in emotion with the agencies… That was a real step ahead and I think that’s a model for future engagement.”

Mr O’Dempsey also explained the society’s “zero-impact” policy, believing that the various projects taking place at different times near the reserve could have cumulative impact — or “death by a thousand cuts”, as he put it.

Another public talk about the Cross Island Line and the EIA report will take place next Thursday (Feb 25) at SingJazz club in Jalan Sultan.

Among those who attended the talk on Friday were Secondary 4 student Wei Qining and Mr Chen Dexiang, who recently returned to Singapore after completing his master’s degree in conservation management in the United Kingdom.

Qining, 16, is on Nature Society’s mailing list and said she found the topic of the talk interesting. Although she has not been to the MacRitchie forest, she wants to get more involved in environmental work. “Singapore doesn’t have lot of forest left,” she said.

Mr Chen, 30, said he used to work on EIA reports as a project consultant and is looking for avenues to contribute, for the Government and the people to make a better decision on the Cross Island Line. He hopes to start a blog and share more about the EIA process. “I enjoy nature and also hope people will appreciate what we have now,” he said.

LTA puts 1,000-page environmental study online after people complained it was inconvenient to access
Audrey Tan Straits Times 19 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE - The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has finally put a 1,000-page environmental impact assessment report online. This comes after members of the public had complained it was very inconvenient to get their hands on the results of the study - undertaken to look at the potential impact of site investigation works of the upcoming Cross Island Line which could cut through the Republic's largest nature reserve.

In a Facebook post on Friday, the LTA said it has done so in response to feedback. Those interested can view the report here

The authority's latest move comes after environmentalists, ecologists and members of public called for the report to be put online.

Although the LTA first gazetted the report on Feb 5, people could look at the report only after the Chinese New Year break, on Feb 10, and by appointment only at the authority's Hampshire Road premises.

In a forum letter to The Straits Times published on Friday, for instance, ST reader Ezra Ho pointed out that many other statutory boards and ministries publish key policy documents and collect feedback online.

He wrote: "So, why is public viewing and feedback for a 1,000-page document like this not done online? How can members of the public meaningfully read, understand and comment on such a document within the timeframe provided?

"With this arrangement, the LTA effectively limits the number of people who can access the EIA, contrary to the spirit of public participation and transparency."

The first phase of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) looked at the potential impact of preliminary site investigation works on the two proposed alignments of the upcoming Cross Island Line.

One alignment cuts through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, while the other is routed around the reserve along Lornie Road instead.

The findings showed 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.

Biologist David Tan, from the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group, said: "I think it's good to see that LTA is responding to public feedback, and I hope that this newfound sensitivity to public concerns will extend to the rest of the public consultation exercise over the alignment of the Cross Island Line as well."

LTA's environment report now online
Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Feb 16;

The report was open to the public, but to get information on a new environment impact assessment (EIA) for an upcoming MRT line, people had to make their way to the Land Transport Authority's Hampshire Road premises to read the 1,000-page hard copy, with no photography allowed.

Yesterday, after complaints that it was too difficult to access the study, which looked at the potential impact of soil works for the Cross Island Line if it cut through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) put it online.

"In response to feedback, LTA has made the EIA report available online at for interested parties who are unable to come to LTA to view the documents," the authority said in a Facebook post yesterday.

The move was welcomed by environmental groups, scientists and members of the public, who had felt the LTA was not forthcoming with the results of the study. "It is well-received news," said Mr Tony O'Dempsey, a council member of the Nature Society (Singapore), adding that the society had suggested the results be put online during its discussions with the LTA.

Biologist David Tan, from the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group, said: "I hope that this new-found sensitivity to public concerns will extend to the rest of the public consultation exercise over the alignment of the Cross Island Line as well."

Nature groups are uniting under the March for MacRitchie banner to call for an alternative route skirting around the reserve, instead of going through it.

The report comprises findings from consultancy Environmental Resources Management for the first phase of the EIA. The second phase will be done by year end.

A key finding showed that the preliminary 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. 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.

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

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Tackle floods? Create more space for water

The Dutch have moved away from building storm surge barriers to having 'water plazas'
Lin Yangchen Straits Times 20 Feb 16;
When you tell people about the rise of sea levels and flooding wrought by climate change and extreme weather, the first thought of some people may be to find ways to keep the water out.

But civil engineers and landscape architects are beginning to realise that water need not always be the enemy. While it threatens to inundate coastal cities, it is vital to everyday life at the same time.

"Water can sometimes be our friend," argued Ms Tracy Metz, director of the Amsterdam-based John Adams Institute, a non-profit foundation that promotes cultural exchanges between the United States and the Netherlands, in a lecture on Thursday at the Ministry of National Development (MND).

Ms Metz was explaining to the audience of academic, industry and government representatives how the Dutch have moved from a focus on getting rid of water to one on redesigning cities to create more space for water.

For example, the Dutch started by building enormous storm surge barriers to protect their cities. However, the barriers disrupted the tidal flows that supported marine life.

Now, "water plazas" are being constructed instead in places like Rotterdam, most of which lies below sea level.

These plazas, being lower than the surrounding area, act as temporary reservoirs that prevent flooding in heavy storms. During dry periods, the water drains away, allowing people to use the plaza for their activities.

"It makes it possible for the water to come and go without creating any serious damage," said Ms Metz.

The lecture, which had a question and answer session, was organised by the Centre for Liveable Cities, which was set up by MND and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

Professor Kees Christiaanse, programme leader at the Future Cities Laboratory, a joint programme between Singapore's National Research Foundation and ETH Zurich, cited other flood-alleviation measures used in some cities, such as collecting water on roofs and making pavements out of porous material.

"If you add up all these interventions, then you can get quite a lot of effect," he added.

It was generally agreed that in order to realise these visions of making a city more resilient to floods, a change of mindset is needed.

Ms Metz noted the challenge of garnering public support for designing parts of a city to flood on purpose. "We're not used to places changing character.

"Children are by far the best investment in outreach that we could possibly do," she said.

PUB chief sustainability officer Tan Nguan Sen, who moderated the Q&A session, said: "Children are brought up with the mindset that they should avoid getting wet in water. So it's really an uphill task to educate the younger generation to actually embrace water."

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$70m rosewood case: High Court overturns acquittal

Nod for prosecution's appeal to send case back for trial at same district court that threw it out
Selina Lum Straits Times 20 Feb 16;

The acquittal of a managing director and his firm by a district court midway through a trial for illegally importing more than 29,000 endangered rosewood logs worth US$50 million (S$70 million) was reversed by the High Court yesterday.

Judicial Commissioner (JC) See Kee Oon allowed the prosecution's appeal to send the case back to the same district court.

The trial is now due to continue with Wong Wee Keong and his firm Kong Hoo putting up their defence.

The defendants are charged with importing 29,434 rosewood logs from Madagascar into Singapore without a permit. The goods were seized in March 2014 from a vessel berthed at Jurong Port.

Rosewood is a controlled species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), to which Singapore is a signatory. Under Singapore's Endangered (Import and Export) Species Act, rosewood cannot be imported without a permit from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore.

Last October, District Judge Jasvender Kaur threw out the case without calling for Wong and his firm to give their defence. She ruled that the prosecution had not made out a case for the defendants to answer.

Judge Kaur found that the facts of the case pointed to a "transit" situation, and not one of "import". Under the Act, a shipment of rosewood logs is considered to be in transit if it is "brought into Singapore solely for the purpose of taking it out of Singapore" and is kept under the control of the AVA director-general or an authorised officer.

First, she found the logs were brought into Singapore "solely for the purpose of containerisation to ship to Hong Kong". She also found the logs were in the Jurong Port Free Trade Zone and under the "control" of an authorised officer.

Last week, Second Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck argued that the district judge was wrong to conclude that the logs were brought into Singapore solely for the purpose of being taken out. He noted that the only consignee named on shipping documents was Kong Hoo and that the defendants could not give details of any buyers in Hong Kong.

Mr Kwek also argued that the trial judge had wrongly interpreted "control" under the Act. The logs were not under the physical or legal control of the authorities, he said.

The defence lawyers, Mr K. Muralidharan Pillai, Mr Paul Tan and Mr Choo Zheng Xi, noted the boss of a logistics firm had testified that it was hired by Kong Hoo to pack the wood into containers for shipment to Hong Kong.

Yesterday, JC See said the evidence was inconclusive and found the trial judge's interpretation was wrong. Mr Wong Siew Hong, representing Madagascar's government, was in court on a watching brief.

Company MD charged with illegally importing endangered rosewood
High Court overturns earlier decision by lower court to dismiss the charge
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 20 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — The managing director of a company said to have illegally imported endangered rosewood from Madagascar will have to defend the charge against him, after the High Court set aside an earlier acquittal yesterday.

Wong Wee Keong, 54, and his firm Kong Hoo are facing charges of importing nearly 30,000 rosewood logs into Singapore in March 2014 without a permit. The prosecution’s case against them was dismissed last October by District Judge Jasvender Kaur, who said the defence had no case to answer.

In a decision that environmentalists criticised as setting back efforts to stop trafficking of illegal timber, District Judge Kaur had ruled that the logs were in transit and found no evidence to show they had been imported to Singapore — no permit was hence needed. The seizure of the rosewood logs, worth about US$50 million (S$70.4 million), was the largest ever recorded, according to environmental news site Mongabay.

The prosecution appealed against District Judge Kaur’s decision and Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon yesterday agreed substantially with its arguments, ordering the case to be remitted to court for trial. The evidence does not point “irresistibly” to the district judge’s conclusion that the sole purpose of bringing the logs into Singapore was to ship them to Hong Kong, said Judicial Commissioner See, who will issue written grounds of his decision at a later date.

The prosecution argued that District Judge Kaur’s decision was potentially inconsistent with Singapore’s international obligations as a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), and was against the legislative intent of Singapore’s Endangered Species Act to comply with CITES.

Although there were signed quotations of ocean freight charges for the logs from Singapore to Hong Kong, there were no particulars of the purported overseas buyers nor their departure date, argued Second Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck, who said this cannot be regarded as a true transit case on the “mere say-so” of Wong and Kong Hoo.

Among recommendations adopted by CITES parties, are that items in transit have named consignees, and any permits or certificates clearly show the ultimate destination of shipment. While not legally binding, they provide a basic framework for how treaty provisions should be interpreted and promote consistency in the international implementation of CITES, noted amicus curiae Kelvin Koh. An amicus curiae, or friend of the court, is appointed by the court in certain cases to assist on legal issues.

The prosecution also pointed out that Wong and Kong Hoo had not informed authorities that they were shipping endangered species from Madagascar, which would be needed for authorities to exercise physical or active legal control over the goods. Mr Kwek disagreed with the defence and the judge’s conclusion that the logs are within such control simply by being within the free trade zone of ports. Such an interpretation would be against Singapore’s intent to comply with its CITES obligations and mean laxer regulations in certain areas that would allow wildlife traders to traffic endangered species to the exclusion of relevant authorities’ oversight, he said. This does not accord with Parliament’s intention to prevent Singapore from being used as a conduit for the smuggling of CITES-protected species, he said.

Wong and Kong Hoo are represented by lawyers K Muralidharan Pillai, Mr Paul Tan and Mr Choo Zheng Xi. The trial is expected to resume after March.

Illegal logging of Malagasy rosewood, prized for its texture and density, has upset the natural balance of rainforests there, according to recent reports by The Guardian.

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Tagging birds with high tech

Carolyn Khew, Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Feb 16;

The simple metal bands used by NParks at the start have given way to green and white flags, seen on this Common Redshank. The coloured flags enable researchers to see from afar where these birds have come from and better understand their migratory routes.

In 2011, a Common Redshank was spotted in the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve but this was no random visitor.

The long, red-legged bird had been ringed in 1990 and had returned, showing it had survived more than two decades in the wild - possibly the longest on record for the East-Asian Australasian Flyway.

Such valuable information is only possible through bird ringing, which works in the same way as a dog tag except the rings are much smaller and lighter. The ring or metal band placed around the leg of the bird gives it a unique serial number which tells researchers where it was first ringed and, in so doing, gives valuable insight into its ecology.

In the case of the Common Redshank, researchers were able to determine its lifespan in the wild.

And in order to better understand the birds that stop over in Singapore, the National Parks Board (NParks) will start tagging birds with satellite transmitters this year.

These can detect in real time their precise locations without their having to be recaptured.

"Bird ringing allows researchers to study and understand the migration patterns and lifespan of different bird species.

"Over the years, we have improved our methods of bird ringing so that more data is collected and with increased accuracy," said NParks director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah.

"The data collected is important in the protection and management of areas critical to the continual survival of these birds."

Efforts by NParks to ring the birds started in 1990 and, so far, more than 11,000 birds of 142 species have been tagged, About one in five of them (2,500) have been recaptured at least once.

"As these birds come back to the Sungei Buloh reserve repeatedly, it shows that it is an important refuge, and must continue to be protected and well managed," said Mr Wong.

The data collected has helped NParks to manage the wetland reserve by providing the right kind of habitats needed for birds to feed and roost.

For example, bunds (raised embankments) were modified as the two most common birds in the reserve - Whimbrels and Common Redshanks - prefer to stand on slightly higher ground than have their feet too deep in mud.

According to conservation group BirdLife International, which has six regional offices worldwide, many of the world's migratory species are in decline due to reasons such as habitat destruction, illegal hunting and climate change.

Singapore is on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, which consists of various routes used by millions of birds to escape harsh winters up north. The flyway stretches from Arctic Russia and Alaska to Australia and New Zealand.

While habitat loss is one reason many of the world's migratory bird species are declining, Sungei Buloh has remained a safe haven for the thousands of birds that seek refuge there each year.

Last year, a higher number of uncommon species were also spotted at the reserve.

Mr Spike Millington, chief executive of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership, a voluntary initiative which aims to protect migratory waterbirds, their habitats and the livelihoods of people dependent on them, said tagging allows a better understanding of how birds adapt to changes in habitats, and how survival rates are affected by habitat loss.

"Migratory birds often rely on a network of "stepping stone" sites and habitats to complete their migratory journeys," said Mr Millington.

"What happens when critical sites are lost? Can birds adapt? Can they move elsewhere? Can young birds survive as well as more experienced adults?

"All of these questions can be answered, at least in part, by bird tagging," he said.

BirdLife International (Asia) and NParks are partners of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership for the conservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats along the flyway.

Bird ringing efforts have slowly become more sophisticated over the years.

The simple metal bands used by NParks at the start gave way to green and white flags to show the birds had been tagged here.

The coloured flags enable researchers to see from afar where these birds have come from and better understand their migratory routes.

In 2014, tiny geo-locators which can detect light were used to record the location of the birds based on the timing of sunset and sunrise.

This can be used to calculate the longitude and latitude readings and, hence, the location of the birds.

The locators also record temperature, which shed light on the migration status and habitat conditions.

But things are about to get even better with transmitters.

Apart from the satellite transmitters that will be used for bigger birds, NParks will be tagging the smaller ones with radio transmitters about 1g in weight.

Efforts started last week with three Mongolian Plovers. The transmitters will help find out where else in Singapore these birds go other than Sungei Buloh.

The usefulness of such methods for bird tagging is maximised only if follow-up action is taken, said ecologist Yong Ding Li from the Australian National University in Canberra.

"In theory, if we know where a bird goes and spends substantial amounts of time, we can focus the conservation resources in protecting those places.

"For a number of bird species, scientists are still unsure where they migrate to, and thus it is difficult to plan for their effective conservation," said Mr Yong.

He cited the example of the Muraviovka nature reserve in east Siberia, which was identified as important to waterbirds, thanks to satellite tracking studies.

White-naped and Hooded cranes first caught and tagged in Izumi, Kyushu, in Japan, were later found to spend a lot of time in Muraviovka nature reserve. Some even bred there.

Eventually, this spurred conservation efforts to protect the Muraviovka area.

"Ultimately, how well science (and the study of bird migration by tagging) can help conservation efforts depends on local and national governments," said Mr Yong.

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Malaysia: Dead manatee found on Tanjung Logok beach

HALIM SAID New Straits Times 19 Feb 16;

KOTA TINGGI: The carcass of a manatee was found washed ashore at a beach in Tanjung Logok here around 2.50pm today.

According to Johor Fisheries Department director Munir Mohd Nawi, the carcass of the animal measured 2.33m in length with a diameter of 0.84m.

Munir said the manatee carcass was found by villagers in the area who informed the department about the finding.

"The manatee was believed to have died before being washed ashore as it had started decomposing. The stomach area of the animal was already rotten," he said.

He said an investigation paper will be opened to investigate the cause of death of the manatee and why it had washed ashore in Johor.

This is the second deep sea marine creature and endangered marine life that was found on the beaches of Johor after a Sei whale was found beached on Pantai Semerah beach in Batu Pahat, after it was first spotted in Pontian.

[wildsingapore comment: The dead creature is probably a dugong. Manatees are only found in the Americas and Western Africa. Dugongs are not 'deep sea' marine creatures as they feed on seagrasses found in shallow seas.]

Dead Dugong Washed Ashore In Kota Tinggi
Bernama 19 Feb 16;

JOHOR BAHARU, Feb 19 (Bernama) -- A dead dugong was found washed ashore at Pantai Tanjung Logok, near Kota Tinggi Friday.

Johor Fisheries Department director, Munir Mohd Nawi said the animal known by its scientific name Dugong Dugon was found by members of the public at about 10 am before they alerted the department.

"After being informed, fisheries officers went to Pantai Tanjung Logok and found a dugong carcass on the beach. It had started to decompose," he said when contacted.

Munir said dugongs were usually injured and killed after being hit by boat engine blade but the department would wait for a post-mortem to identify the actual cause of dugong's death.

He said judging from the external conditions, the dugong was believed dead for more than 24 hours.

He said the department had so far been unable to determine where the dugong came from and did not rule out the possibility it was dead much earlier before drifting onto the beach.

Touching on the dugong species, Munir said the Johor state government had allocated RM1 million this year to develop a dugong sanctuary in the area between Pulau Tinggi and Pulau Sibu, near Mersing.

"Under the sanctuary plan, the centre which is expected to start operation this year could accommodate 50 dugongs," he said.

According to Munir, the Johor Fisheries Department and the Johor state governmment would be developing the area as a sanctuary as it is rich in seaweeds which is a major food source of dugongs.


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Indonesia environment ministry detects 370-500 hotspots in Papua

Antara 19 Feb 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has said her ministrys team found some 370 to 500 hotspots of forest fires in Papua early this year.

"It is a matter of worry since there was no hotspot in Papua last year, and this year the number is already around 370 to 500," Nurbaya said here on Friday.

The fires were not being caused by any act of corporations but resulting due to the local peoples lifestyle habits, she said.

Her ministry and the newly set up Peatland Restoration Agency (BGR) continue to coordinate to curb forest fires in Papua, which is one of the seven provinces being closely monitored.

The ministry sent a team to Papua last January and found local people burning old grass in order to prepare the ground to grow fresh grass for cattle.

Besides, fires were also lit up on purpose along the banks of rivers and lakes to catch fish.

The central and local governments need to inform the communities regarding certain traditional slash and burn methods that are allowed, the minister said.

"It should be firmly ensured that there must be no fire in peatland area, and that it is allowed in other areas with clear restrictions," she said.

She said use of fire in hunting must be avoided because it could spark a bigger fire.

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Indonesia: Residents ready for plastic bag charge

Corry Elyda and Agnes Anya, The Jakarta Post 19 Feb 16;

Unlike many city administrations that have announced their resistance, communities and private entities have shown enthusiasm for a program obliging modern retailers to charge customers for plastic bags starting Sunday.

Tiza Mafira, the director of the Diet Kantong Plastik (DKP) movement that initiated the program, said in a press conference on Wednesday that 80 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by the DKP said they supported the program.

Tiza said the survey showed that 80 percent of respondents were ready to bring their own bags when shopping. “According to the survey, the ideal price of plastic bags is between Rp 500 [4 US cents] and Rp 2,000. However, it may vary in accordance with how much each city is willing to pay,” she said, adding that the respondents also hoped that the money raised would be used for corporate social responsibility (CSR) schemes.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry’s decision to issue a circular stating that retailers should start charging for plastic bags was inspired by petitions both online and offline, which attracted 70,000 signatures.

As many as 23 major cities were scheduled to implement the circular from Feb. 21, coinciding with National Waste Awareness Day. However, claiming that they were unprepared, many local administrations backed off. Only nine have maintained their willingness to continue with the plan and only one city, Bandung, has prepared to release a regulation to support the program.

Agus Supriyanto, retailer education department head at the ministry’s Waste Management Directorate, said the ministry would trial the program for three months from Feb. 21 to June 21 to see whether it would successfully decrease the use of plastic bags.

“In June, we will evaluate the program before deciding to issue a ministry regulation to reduce the use of plastic bags,” he said.

A survey carried out from Feb. 5 to 14 showed that 94 percent of 10,044 respondents were willing to pay for plastic bags and 92 percent did not mind bringing their own bags.

Meanwhile, some retailers have also announced their support for the program. Convenience-store chain Circle K corporate legal manager Aryanto, who also attended the press conference, said the company, which had 500 stores across the country, would participate in the program. “However, we will charge Rp 200 for plastic bags, in accordance with the recommendation of Aprindo,” he said, referring to the Indonesian Retailers Association.

Aryanto said he hoped that the central government and city administration would make a clear regulation because they could not force customers to pay for plastic bags without a regulation. DKP estimates that more than 9 billion plastic bags are used by retailer consumers each year in Indonesia.

The policy also received support from religious institutions, such as the Jakarta Catholic Diocese. The diocese’s Episcopal vicar for categorical communities, Andang Listya Binawan SJ, said that the church authorities praised the plastic bag tax as it was likely to reduce the use of plastic, which was polluting the Earth.

The diocese has been urging its congregation to control the use of plastics and styrofoam since 2013 in a bid to reduce plastic bag waste.

It is campaigning for the move again in the current pre-Easter period, in which its congregation is being urged to not only abstain from eating meat, but also using plastic bags and styrofoam, for 40 days.

“With the move, we would like to invite Catholics to grow their faith by taking care of our home; the environment — which has been supporting our lives,” said vicar Andang.

With the move, the diocese also asks authorities in Catholic churches in Greater Jakarta to not consume water packaged in plastic cups or bottles during meetings.

Monica Anggraini, a church member, has welcomed the program and has been encouraging her community members to bring their own tumblers to meetings.

“Sometimes, they forget to bring tumblers to the meetings. So I provide reusable cups,” she said.

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Indonesia: Sumatran elephant found with leg almost severed by rope

The youngster was spotted with another calf and their mother in a wildlife sanctuary in Bengkalis, Riau province, with their legs entangled in ropes believed to have come from traps set by locals.
Channel NewsAsia 19 Feb 16;

JAKARTA: A Sumatran elephant calf lies stricken in the jungle in Indonesia as conservationists fight to remove a rope tightly wound around its leg that almost caused the critically endangered animal to lose a limb.

The youngster was spotted with another calf and their mother in a wildlife sanctuary in Bengkalis, Riau province, with their legs entangled in ropes that are believed to have come from traps set by locals, according to the Indonesian Mahout Association.

The calf lies on its side in the mud, as a rescuer holds an intravenous drip that is attached to the creature, during the operation to remove the tightly wound cord.

His leg was saved but the other two elephants were not so lucky -- the mother lost her tail and the other calf lost a leg, according to the association, which believes the elephants were entangled for several months.

After being alerted by a group of trekkers who posted pictures on social media, local conservationists tracked down the elephants and carefully removed the ropes from their legs and treated their wounds.

The operation took a week due to a lack of decent equipment and ended Friday, with all the ropes removed and the pachyderms left in the wild, according to mahout association chairman Nazaruddin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. A mahout is an elephant keeper.

It is not clear whether the elephants were the intended targets of the rope traps or if villagers were trying to catch other animals for food, Nazaruddin said.

Protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Sumatran elephant as critically endangered, and there are believed to be less than 3,000 remaining in the wild.

- AFP/hs

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