Best of our wild blogs: 7 Mar 16

Pesta Ubin: a month of celebrating Ubin!
Pesta Ubin 2016

The last Green Corridor Run
The Long and Winding Road

Talk: A Double Bill of Fly Tales by Barbara Ismay and Rudolf Meier Thu 10 Mar 7pm
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

A Green Avadavat at Punggol Barat
Singapore Bird Group

Smooth-coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) @ Kranji
Monday Morgue

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Cross Island Line could save commuters 40 minutes: LTA chief

Speaking to current affairs programme Talking Point, parties call for a holistic cost-benefit analysis, not just focus on the S$2 billion extra cost involved in skirting the nature reserve.
Channel NewsAsia 6 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: The Cross Island Line that will stretch from Jurong to Changi could save commuters up to 40 minutes of travel time, said Land Transport Authority (LTA) chief executive Chew Men Leong.

The new MRT line, which is scheduled to be ready by 2030, has been the subject of controversy in recent weeks, over one possible option of running the line under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Some Singaporeans have even questioned the need for the line in the first place.

Speaking to current affairs programme Talking Point, Mr Chew said the new line – with a potential daily ridership of 600,000 - would connect residents along the East-West corridor “to key employment centres such as Changi logistics park and the Jurong Lake district “with significantly shorter travelling times”.

“I give you an example. If the line is done, commuters from Ang Mo Kio can reach any part of the island using public transport within less than one hour, basically saving easily 30 to 40 minutes of travel time,” he said.

In addition, “half of the 30-over stations have connections to other lines. This creates many more travel options for commuters. And it will help redistribute load in the other lines, generally giving better comfort to all commuters. At the same time, during disruptions, you have alternative travel options, enhancing the resilience of the entire network,” said Mr Chew.

A debate currently centres around two possible alignments in the middle section of the Cross Island Line. One is a 4km stretch that would run for 2km under the nature reserve, at a depth of 40m. The second option is to skirt the reserve in a 9km route that might require land acquisition, and add 6 minutes to travel time.

“We have looked at many options. Right now, we have come down to two. There are not really other feasible alignments at this juncture,” said Mr Chew.

It may take two years for a decision to be reached, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has said. This is only after more environmental, technical and engineering studies as well as public consultations are carried out.


Economist Euston Quah said what was currently missing was a systematic cost-benefit analysis of the two options.

“We are not seeing a cost-benefit analysis being done. What we are hearing is how much additional cost it would take. This is cost effectiveness, not cost benefit; in other words, the cheapest way,” said Professor Quah, head of economics at the Nanyang Technological University.

Authorities have said it would cost S$2 billion more to build the alignment that skirts the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Prof Quah said: “In the typical infrastructure development, we should know about benefits. Now, is it worth the extra S$2 billion?”

In terms of the more tangible benefits, for instance, going directly across the nature reserve would mean savings in travel time and the cost of land acquisition. Skirting it could mean the ability to pick up more passengers and spur more business activity in affected areas, noted Prof Quah.

Mr David Tan, a nature enthusiast with the advocate group Love Our MacRitchie Forest, said: “If you skirt the nature reserve, there is the possibility of opening another station, say at MacRitchie reservoir park to serve park users. And it is also very near Mount Alvernia Hospital; hospitals always need high accessibility.”

But Thomson Ridge resident Chan Teck Guan disputed the need for another MRT station near the estate. He said: “At the moment we are quite well served by the Circle Line. The Marymount station is only 10 minutes’ walk away. By 2020, the Thomson Line will be ready, with an MRT station right in front of my house.”

Transport analyst Lee Der Horng, of the National University of Singapore’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, also noted that the longer alignment would see “more curvatures” that could mean “more wear and tear”, leading to higher costs of train maintenance in the future.


But the intangibles – such as the loss to nature - are just as important in a cost-benefit study, said Prof Quah. A dollar value should be put to items such as flora, fauna, biodiversity and water contamination. “We have to know what is the magnitude and the probability of (such damage) happening; and then we can compute what would be the impact cost on society,” he said.

How to assign a value? Find out how much people would be willing to pay to avoid crossing the central catchment area – such as through a survey about increasing the price of an MRT ride, suggested Prof Quah.

It is not the final answer that is important, he said, but the process of making people think about what trade-off they will accept between economic development and environmental conservation.

But MacRitchie advocate Mr Tan said: “You cannot always put a dollar value on everything. One of the very important aspects of the nature reserve is that it makes Singapore a livable city. Having the forest reserves intact, having the trees perform the functions they do in terms of cleaning the air, creating fresh air, mitigating floods, affects our economic livelihood, affects our economic productivity as well.”

LTA’s Mr Chew reiterated that if it’s decided to take the direct route across the forest, there would be no structures, including ventilation shafts, on the surface. As for the construction, he emphasised: “We are only going to launch and recover the tunnel boring machine well outside the central nature reserve. We are not going to have a situation where trucks and vehicle movement are within the nature reserve - at all. We’re not going to do that”.


Phase two of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) will be done later this year, on the likely impact of building and operating the MRT line either across or around the forest. But the final decision will take into account all possible impacts – on commuters, residents, businesses and taxpayers, said Mr Chew.

For now, nature groups are concerned with the more immediate soil investigation works. An EIA report released in February showed a likely “moderate” impact of such works if mitigation measures are taken.

These mitigation measures include reducing the number of boreholes to be drilled from 72 to 16, steps to contain waste water and noise, and protecting tree roots from movements of heavy machinery. No vegetation will be cleared, and NParks officers will supervise works to ensure no damage done, said the LTA.

Said Mr Tan: “It’s very reassuring that these things have all been talked about. But at the end of the day, the overarching worry is, what is the likelihood of failure? Whether a vehicle accidentally tramples or knocks into something … What happens if mitigation measures fail? Will the damage be irrecoverable? Very likely so. And if it fails, who will take accountability?”

- CNA/xk

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

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Raw fish handling standards expected soon

Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Mar 16;
Guidelines on how ready-to-eat raw fish should be handled and prepared could be developed as early as the end of this month.

They are being put together by a group formed last December by the Food Standards Committee, managed by the Singapore Manufacturing Federation Standards Development Organisation (SMF-SDO).

This organisation manages the development, promotion and implementation of standards, and represents local industries in international standardisation efforts.

The move to produce the guidelines comes after demand for freshwater and saltwater fish as well as ready-to-eat sushi and sashimi was hit by Group B Streptococcus (GBS) cases.

Figures released last year showed that about 150 GBS cases that year were linked to an aggressive strain of bacteria known as Type III GBS Sequence Type 283. In total, there were 355 cases of GBS infections and two deaths last year.

These include the case of a 22-year-old man who died of GBS infection. Another man, who fell critically ill and slipped into a coma after eating raw fish last November, has since been discharged from hospital.

An SMF-SDO spokesman said: "The committee's work will contribute to restoring consumers' confidence in the consumption of ready-to-eat raw fish."

There is currently no standardised way to handle and prepare ready-to-eat raw fish to prevent cross-contamination and bacterial growth across the food supply chain, he added.

This includes the transport, distribution, storage, handling, display and service of raw fish.

Seafood manufacturer Fassler Gourmet, which sells many seafood products, including salmon, cod fish and tuna, has had its business affected by the GBS cases.

During the Christmas period, sales fell by about 20 per cent compared with the year before, with only 100 platters sold, said Fassler chief executive officer Mellissa Chen. "It affected us quite badly because sashimi platters are our most popular festive product.

"Even though the GBS scare was linked to freshwater fish, there was a perception that saltwater fish like salmon was affected too."

Fassler Gourmet, which imports salmon from Chile and Norway, is part of the group working on the guidelines, which comprises members from both private and public sectors. Members include the Consumers Association of Singapore, food manufacturers, distributors, retailers and regulators.

The guidelines will eventually be part of a technical reference - a document that sets out standards for industry adoption, and is scheduled to be ready by the end of the year. To promote awareness of the technical reference, a launch event and workshops will be held.

Infectious diseases specialist Hsu Li Yang said that in last year's outbreak, people were infected with the aggressive strain of GBS bacteria although they did not eat freshwater fish from porridge stalls.

Some remembered having eaten sushi or sashimi instead, which might have included freshwater fish, so it seems possible that cross-contamination of fish occurred along the supply chain.

"It is probably worth having such guidelines, simply to restore consumer confidence, said Dr Hsu.

"If consumers equate compliance with the guidelines to achieving similar standards of hygiene and safety, then I think it would be a positive thing for the industry."

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Malaysia: Najib rolls out special incentives for Forest City

AsiaOne 7 Mar 16;

DUTY-FREE zone status and other incentives were announced yesterday by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for the Forest City four-island project in the Strait of Johor with the aim of spurring business activities, local and foreign media reported.

One sweetener targets qualified companies or firms with Iskandar Development Region (IDR) status involved in tourism and Mice, education and healthcare, which would enjoy tax breaks if they set up shop in the mixed-use green development.

This is likely to be the largest in South-east Asia on completion, reported the Business Wire.

Mice - which means meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions - is a type of tourism which can spin off benefits for many sectors of the economy.

Forest City, a joint multi-billion-dollar eco-city project by China's Country Garden Holdings and Johor's Esplanade Danga 88, is within the IDR.

Tax incentives would also be granted to Green Developers and Green Development Manager, and there would no restrictions on company equity for foreign investors claiming corporate incentives, said Mr Najib.

The announcements were made in Iskandar Puteri at a grand ceremony for the official opening of the project by the Sultan of Johor.

"These packages are designed to ensure the success of the Forest City project based on its masterplan and target of becoming a smart and green city," the Bernama news agency quoted Mr Najib as saying.

He expressed hope that the incentives would be able to help contribute RM175 billion (S$59 billion) in foreign direct investments by 2035.

He said the city is expected to create 220,000 jobs for Malaysians in high-value sectors such as finance and e-commerce in the next 20 years.

The project, which began in 2013 and is about three times the size of Sentosa, is the first overseas venture of Country Garden.

Among the upcoming amenities in the city, which will likely take 30 years to complete, is its first duty-free shopping mall.

It is scheduled to open at the end of this year on Island 1.

Condominiums and high-rise coastal residences in Island 1 are already open to the public for previews and bookings.

Meanwhile, Singapore's Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources has reiterated concern that land reclamation work for some Malaysian projects in the Strait of Johor has begun without the needed studies on potential environmental impacts.

The ministry did not name Forest City when it raised the issue again last month but it revealed that Singapore is analysing the environmental impact assessments report provided by Malaysia for the project.

The project's reclamation work near Tuas was suspended in June 2014 but Malaysia restarted it in January last year.


Najib announces special incentives for Forest City project in Johor

ISKANDAR PUTERI: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has announced four special incentives for the multi-billion ringgit mixed development project Forest City here including making the four manmade islands duty free.

He also announced special corporate tax breaks as well as tax breaks for those involved in tourism, education and healthcare sectors.

"The companies given the tax breaks will not be imposed with restrictions on foreign ownership of their company shares," he said, hoping that all these incentives are able to help contribute RM175bil in foreign direct investments by 2035.

He added that the project is expected to offer 220,000 job opportunities to Malaysians in the next 20 years.

Najib made the announcement during the launch of the project, which was officially opened by Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.

The Ruler signed the plaque to launch the project, witnessed by Najib and Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin during the grand opening ceremony held at the Forest City sales gallery here Sunday.

Forest City granted duty-free zone status and corporate incentives to lure investors and tourists
Business Wire 6 Mar 16;
* Other sweeteners include corporate tax incentive for qualified companies or companies with Iskandar Development Region status involved in tourism and MICE, education and healthcare
* Corporate tax incentive for Green Developers and Green Development Manager
* No restrictions on company equity for foreign investors to claim corporate incentives
* Sales gallery of Forest City now open to public for previews and bookings

SINGAPORE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Forest City [“森林城市”], Southeast Asia’s largest mixed-use green development and a joint venture project by Hong Kong-listed Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd [“碧桂园集团” or “the Group”] and Johor’s Esplanade Danga 88 Sdn Bhd [“柔佛人民集团”], has been granted a duty-free zone status and a slew of incentives by the Federal Government of Malaysia.

Southeast Asia's largest mixed-used green development officially open today.
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In announcing the incentives today at the grand opening ceremony of Forest City, Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak said, “To ensure the success of Forest City, I am pleased to declare duty free zone area at Forest City, enabling local residents, businesses and tourists to benefit from the work, live and play environment.” Other incentives that were announced include corporate tax incentive for qualified companies or companies with Iskandar Development Region status involved in tourism and MICE, education and healthcare, corporate tax incentive for Green Developer and Green Development Manager and a waiver on company equity restriction for foreign investors to claim these incentives. By 2035, Forest City is expected to create 220,000 jobs for Malaysians in the finance and e-commerce sectors.

His Royal Highness Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, the Sultan of Johor, Chief Minister of Johor Y.A.B Dato’ Mohamed Khaled Nordin and several distinguished guests and business partners graced the event.

Being a green development, Forest City is also working with G-Energy, an international green consultant, towards achieving internationally-recognised GreenRE and Green Mark certifications.

In addition, Forest City has also achieved Iskandar Development Region (IDR) status development for tourism and MICE (meeting, incentives, conference and exhibition), education and healthcare sectors. The IDR status currently grants a five-year tax exemption or 100% investment tax allowance of the capital expenditure against 100% of statutory income.

Forest City has already signed several MoUs with globally renowned partners including Shattuck St. Mary’s School and UIW/Christus, the fourth largest medical group in the US, to collaborate on international schooling and to provide residents with world-class medical services.

Mr Mo Bin [莫斌], Chief Executive Officer of Country Garden Holdings, said: “With Forest City gazetted as a duty-free zone, it has boosted Forest City’s position as an international destination and put Iskandar Johor on the world map. It is also in line with our vision to enhance the prosperity of Forest City to upgrade the infrastructure within the region with the available incentives to help create a vibrant city.”

Among the upcoming amenities, the first duty-free shopping mall will be ready to welcome shoppers by end-2016 at the Fisherman’s Wharf on Island 1 of Forest City, which will carry a wide range of leading international brands and products. Another attraction will be a five star boutique hotel.

Under the Island 1 of Forest City, condominiums and high-rise coastal residences are now open to public preview and booking in Singapore, China and Malaysia. These condo units and high-rise coastal residences are exceptionally designed and are situated within leafy foliage corridors and car-free avenues with gated security. These contemporary-styled apartment ranges from 753 sq ft to 1,862 sq ft in size.

Datuk Md. Othman Haji Yusof, Executive Director of Country Garden Pacificview, said in his opening remarks: “This is a historic occasion not only for Country Garden, but also Malaysia, and most importantly for Iskandar and local people. We are confident that Forest City project will immensely benefit our local economy, creating jobs and new business opportunities for all.”

Forest City is Country Garden’s largest real estate project outside China, which bodes well with the Group’s internationalisation strategy to expand businesses overseas. The Group has also completed residential projects in Australia and Malaysia and is aiming to launch real estate projects in Indonesia and Vietnam in the near future. Recognised by the Guangdong provincial government as one of the top developers in China, the Group has delivered quality homes for more than three million residents globally since its inception in 1992. The Group currently has more than 300 projects globally.

‘Johor’s future is bright’
NELSON BENJAMIN The Star 7 Mar 16;

ISKANDAR PUTERI: Johor is poised to be the next economic powerhouse in Malaysia after the Klang Valley, especially with four mega projects taking place in the state.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said among the schemes already underway were the multibillion-ringgit Forest City project, the High Speed Rail project between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, the double-tracking project between Gemas and Johor Baru, and oil and gas ventures in Pengerang.

“All these projects, together with good planning not just coming from Putrajaya but at the district as well as grassroots levels, I am sure that Johor’s future is bright despite the uncertain global economy.

“Johor is an important state for the Government either politically or economically. And I do believe that the state is in good hands and its aspirations to become a new economic powerhouse will soon become a reality,” he said.

Najib said this in his speech before launching the Johor Strategic Economic Growth Plan (PPSJ) and Iskandar Malaysia Comprehensive Development Plan ii (CDPii) at Educity Indoor Stadium here yesterday.

He pointed out that statistics from the Malaysian Investment Development Authority had shown Johor to be the highest-ranked in Malaysia last year with RM31.1bil in investments in the manufacturing sector, which contributed to 41.6% of the country’s overall investments.

Najib also expressed confidence at Iskandar Malaysia’s growth as the southern corridor had brought in investments of more than RM200bil since its inception in 2006.

He, however, said that focusing on one area for development would result in economic injustice to other districts as “no group or individual should be left behind to enjoy the growth in Johor”.

Najib added that he supported the intervention by the state government to introduce the PPSJ, where all 10 districts would be able to gain opportunities to attract new investments by promoting their unique products to a bigger market.

He noted that the Government had always stressed on programmes and initiatives that not only focused on physical development but also on the rakyat.

“The people must be at the centre of development to ensure they enjoy the growth as well.

“Inclusive planning is important. Engaging with the rakyat will let them understand that big investments bring in many jobs, which then lead to economic growth and government allocations for the rakyat’s benefit.

“I do not want the people to support me because I am the Prime Minister but to support the plans that we have made based on the needs of the rakyat,” he said.

Najib: Johor to be new economic powerhouse

ISKANDAR PUTERI: Four mega projects in the state are expected to help propel the state into a new Malaysian economic powerhouse, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (pic).

He pointed out that there were several mega projects underway in the state, including the multi-billion ringgit Forest City project, the High Speed Rail project between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, the Double Tracking project between Gemas and Johor Baru and Pengerang oil and gas hub.

Najib said this in his speech during the launching of the Johor Strategic Economic Growth plan (PPSJ) and Iskandar Malaysia Comprehensive Development Plan ii (CDPii) at the Educity Indoor Stadium here.

He added that statistics showed Johor ranked the highest in the country last year with RM31.1bil investment in the manufacturing sector, which contributed 41.6% of Malaysia’s overall investment.
He also expressed confidence with the Iskandar Malaysia's growth as the growth corridor has brought in RM200bil in investments since its inception in 2006.

"I believe that Johor’s future economy is in good hands with these projects which will certainly change the state into new economy powerhouse in the country," said Najib.

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Malaysia: Najib approves Johor's RM100mil water transfer project


JOHOR BARU: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak approved Johor's request for RM100mil to fund a water transfer project to solve the water shortage in some parts of the state.

He said the project was needed to transfer raw water to dams to address the water shortage, which affects about 450,000 residents who depend on scheduled water supply for clean water.

"The state can go ahead and start funding the project immediately. We will deduct it from the state's debt with the federal government," Najib said in his speech when launching the Johor Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) here on Sunday.

Earlier, Mentri Besar, Datuk Khaled Nordin had requested for the project to be implemented.

Fed Govt Approves Water Transfer From PAMER To Sungai Layang Dam
Bernama 6 Mar 16;

JOHOR BAHARU, March 6 (Bernama) -- The federal government has approved the implementation of a water transfer project from the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development Raw Water Supply Project (PAMER) to the Sungai Layang Dam here, with the Johor government spending first the requirement of RM100 million.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the amount spent would subsequently be deducted from the debt of the state government to the federal government.

"The project will overcome the problem of water rationing which is expected to become more critical in the future," he told reporters after opening the Johor Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) at Galleria@Kotaraya, here, Sunday.

Najib said, with the very prolific development in the city of Johor Baharu and Iskandar Malaysia, a boost in basic utility like water supply in the area, was much needed via the implementation of the water transfer project.

On the hope that the federal government will speed up approval for the implementation of a Rapid Transit Bus (BRT) service for the city of Johor Baharu, the Prime Minister, who is also Finance Minister, said the government must scrutinise the project first. "We (federal government) have to look at it first because there is a rather large deficit in terms of collection and expenditure," he said.

Earlier, when speaking during the opening of the Johor UTC, Mohamed Khaled urged the federal government to consider the water transfer project or allow the Johor state government to pay first with the assurance the federal government would repay the state government or deduct the state government debt with the federal government.

According to Mohamed Khaled, the state government must implement the RM100.6 million water transfer project for a long term solution so that 485,000 consumers need not have to endure water rationing.

With Iskandar Malaysia, specifically Johor Baharu, undergoing much changes and becoming an increasingly congested metropolitan, Mohamed Khaled hoped the federal government could speed up the approval of the BRT project as part of the long term solution for public transportation in Johor Baharu.


RM100mil allocated for water transfer project
The Star 7 Mar 16;

JOHOR BARU: The Federal Government has approved a RM100mil allocation to Johor for a water transfer project to channel raw water to the Sungai Layang dam in Pasir Gudang here.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who is also the Finance Minister, said the state government would fund the project and the amount would be offset against the RM300mil that the state owed the Federal Government. Under the project, the state government hopes to build pipes from the Air Mentah Rapid (Pamer) project to the Sungai Layang dam.

The Pamer project involves a 77km pipeline from Sungai Seluyut in Kota Tinggi to Pengerang for the oil and gas needs in the area. However, as the project is not fully operational in Pengerang, the state hopes to build additional pipelines to divert the water to the Sungai Layang dam.

More than 450,000 consumers are affected by water shortage every year, especially during the dry spells, and scheduled water supply had to be carried out. Last year, the water crisis went on for four months.

On the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project to improve public transportation in Johor Baru, Najib said the Government needed more time to study the matter as it involved huge subsidies.

“At the moment, we are having quite a big budget deficit,” he said.

Najib also said the Government would continue to expand the Urban Transformation Centres (UTC) as more than 27.4 million transactions nationwide have been conducted since the project started in 2012.

There are now 10 UTCs nationwide. The next locations will be in Kelantan, Sibu, Miri, Perlis and Negri Sembilan.

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Malaysia Dengue Threat: 'Mosquitoes developing resistance'

THARANYA ARUMUGAM New Straits Times 7 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Some Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have developed resistance to insecticides, adding to the challenges in combating vector-borne diseases like dengue, Zika and yellow fever, medical researchers revealed.

Institute for Medical Research Malaysia’s Infectious Diseases Research Centre (IDRC) medical entomology unit head Dr Lee Han Lim said there was evidence that Aedes mosquitoes were becoming less susceptible to chemical insecticides because of extensive use .

“However, it is highly localised and limited to several areas only.

“Hence, it will not affect insecticide efficacy in other areas,” he told the New Straits Times.

Dr Lee said the problem could be countered by rotating, every six months, the use of insecticides that had different mechanisms of killing mosquitoes.

He said one should use synergist (chemicals that increased the killing power of insecticides), such as Piperonyl butoxide, or non-chemical control agents, such as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or BTI, a bacterium that killed mosquito larvae, but has no effects on other organisms, and mosquito larvae would not develop resistance, even after more than 20 years of use.

Asked if dengue strains had mutated into a new, more contagious strain, IDRC virology unit research officer Dr Ravindran Thayan said based on sequencing of selected genetic regions of local dengue virus strains, there was no evidence of new dengue serotypes or genotypes.

However, Dr Ravindran said there were possibilities of new clades (a group of organisms believed to have evolved from a common ancestor) within the same dengue genotype.

“Whether this results in a more contagious strain is not known. There is no evidence that these strains can result in more severe manifestations of dengue.”

Dr Ravindran said there was no scientific evidence that the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes had changed its breeding habits as they still preferred to breed in still, clear and clean water.

“Dirty and polluted water, such as those in clogged drains, only breeds Culex mosquitoes, which are not dengue vectors.”
Culex mosquitoes carry arbovirus, West Nile virus, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, St Louis encephalitis and avian malaria.

However, recent research found that Aedes mosquitoes are able to breed in the clear upper layer of sewage waters as well.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) professor Dr Chua Tock Hing said Aedes were adaptable insects and able to colonise all sorts breeding sites containing stagnant water.

He said there was ample evidence to show that Aedes mosquitoes were resistant to pyrethroids insecticides (such as permethrin) and organophosphates (such as teme-phos and malathion).

Another scientist from UMS, Dr Sylvia Daim, said there was no evidence to indicate that dengue viruses had mutated to become more contagious from human to human, human to mosquito or mosquito to human.

However, she said, there were reports of periodical emergence of dengue viruses with new genetic types that became easily transmissible by mosquitoes and caused an outbreak under favourable conditions, such as concurrent high mosquito densities, with emergence of new dengue virus genetic type.

This phenomenon, she said was attributed to the unique evolutionary dynamics of dengue virus, in which genetic lineages within the same serotypes regularly emerge and extinct.

“Such events occur on a regular basis where dengue is endemic,” said Dr Sylvia.

She cited a research article, titled “Dengue virus type 1 clade replacement in recurring homotypic outbreaks” published on BMC Evolutionary Biology in 2013, that speculated the next major DEN-1 dengue virus serotype outbreak in Malaysia would occur some time in 2019.

“The researchers had analysed the genes of DEN-1 isolated between 1997 and 2011.

“The study reported that the recurring major DEN-1 outbreaks in 1987, 1997 and 2004 were associated with virus lineage replacements within this serotype and that these were due to random chance events.

“With a seven- to 10-year cyclical pattern, they speculated that the next major DEN-1 outbreak in Malaysia could perhaps take place three years from now.”

Dr Sylvia said organisms evolved to adapt to the changing environment and perpetuate the existence of their species.
However, micro-organisms, such as viruses, mutate much more easily and at a faster rate because of their simpler genetic machinery compared with animals and plants.

For infectious agents like the dengue virus, they evolve mainly to better evade a host’s immune response and to enhance their transmissibility, she added.

Dengue Threat: The worst of the lot
THARANYA ARUMUGAM New Straits Times 7 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Researchers have found that the dengue virus serotype 2 (DEN-2) poses the most risk to patients out of the four dengue strains.

Institute for Medical Research Malaysia’s (IMR) Infectious Diseases Research Centre (IDRC) had revealed that based on studies, DEN-2, which could cause dengue haemorrhagic fever, was associated with severe manifestations of the disease, which could be fatal if not detected at an early stage.

Its virology unit research officer, Dr Ravindran Thayan, said this could be because the virus was more efficient in multiplying itself in some individuals, resulting in higher viral load, or it had developed the ability to evade the immune system better than other dengue serotypes, causing it to stay longer in the body.

“It could be because the virus has better fitness compared with the other dengue serotypes. This leads to longer dengue epidemics,” he told the New Straits Times.

However, Dr Ravindran said the pathogenesis of dengue was not limited to viral factors as there were other factors that could cause severe clinical manifestations, such as secondary dengue infections and host factors, which included immune status, immune response and co-morbidities (simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases in a patient).

There are four serotypes (DEN-1 to DEN-4), and infection by one serotype does not provide long-term, cross-protective immunity against the other serotypes.

The Health Ministry said that DEN-1 and DEN-2 co-predominate the country since 2013.

DEN-1 currently is the predominant virus in Malaysia.

Dr Sylvia Daim, an expert on microbiology, infection and immunity from Universiti Malaysia Sabah, said Malaysia was highly endemic for all four dengue serotypes, which could pose equivalent risks.

However, she said DEN-1 and DEN-2 seemed to pose more risk to Malaysians, as these were the prevalent serotypes in circulation.

“With the dynamic evolution of dengue viruses and the right circumstances, DEN-3 and DEN-4 have the potential to overtake DEN-1 and DEN-2 and become the prevalent serotypes.”

Sylvia said collective immunity of the human population was the key in tackling dengue fever, because if more people were immune to dengue infection, the lesser the risks posed by the viruses.

“Vaccination is an important tool in the fight against any infectious diseases. In the case of dengue, effective vector control is crucial to combat the disease.”

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Indonesia: Fishermen win allies in fight against land reclamation projects

Dewanti A. Wardhani, The Jakarta Post 7 Mar 16;

Increasing numbers of public figures and communities are adding their voices to calls to halt land reclamation in Jakarta, citing both environmental and humanitarian reasons.

Previously, the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen’s Association (KNTI), aided by the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), had fought a lonely fight, filing numerous petitions to Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama to put a stop to the ongoing land reclamation off the city’s north coast.

Their fight, however, did not go unnoticed, and more and more public figures and communities have come out in support of the movement against land reclamation.

Documentary filmmaker and journalist Dandhy Laksono has publicly voiced his opposition to land reclamation, not only in Jakarta but also in Makassar and Bali. Dandhy and colleague Ucok Parta released last year a documentary on the Benoa Bay reclamation in Bali, which was opposed by local activists and communities; members of the 1998 activist movement also recently stated their opposition to the reclamation.

Dandhy’s documentary on the controversial Benoa Bay project, titled Kala Benoa, tells a thought-provoking story critical of the reclamation. Dandhy recently told The Jakarta Post that he was currently filming a similar documentary on reclamation in Jakarta.

“The angle, perspective and execution will be similar to Kala Benoa,” he said.

Singer and activist Melanie Subono, who has 679,000 Twitter followers, has also been vocal in opposing land reclamation in Jakarta through her social media accounts. Melanie told the Post that her opposition was based on simple reasons, namely that reclamation was environmentally destructive and harmful to local people.

Not only did reclamation degrade the environment, she said, but neither the Jakarta administration or the central government had addressed the impact on local fisherfolk. The project, she added, benefited only a small number of people of a certain class.

Communities, including women’s organization Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity), have joined hands with the KNTI, forming a coalition against land reclamation. Solidaritas Perempuan program officer Arieska Kurniawaty said that the organization advocated the rights of women living in Muara Angke and Kamal Muara in North Jakarta, areas greatly affected by land reclamation projects.

Arieska argued that the effects of land reclamation on these women, most of whom also manage their households, were graver than those on men.

“Many of the women we’ve met used to shell mussels. Since the land reclamation project began, there have been fewer mussels and many women have switched occupation to laundry work, which is far less lucrative,” Arieska said.

Meanwhile, a group of residents claiming to be “the real traditional fishermen” of Muara Angke have voiced support for the project, which they insist is in no way environmentally or socially debilitating.

Local leader Tubagus Mukri, who leads the movement in support of land reclamation, admitted that a number of members of the group had received financial and other forms of support from Islet G — AKA Pluit City — developer PT Muara Wisesa Samudera, a subsidiary of Agung Podomoro Land. Mukri said that he was a fisherman who also ran an umroh (minor haj) travel agent.

Mukri was present during the recent hearing of a petition filed by the KNTI, and which heard expert testimony from Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) oceanographer Alan Koropitan and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry’s director of marine spatial planning, Subandono Diposaptono.

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