Best of our wild blogs: 8 Mar 16

Cyathea trichodesma: a new record found in MacRitchie wetland
Flying Fish Friends

Face to Face
Saving MacRitchie

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Cross Island Line: Getting to the root of the problem

Shamir Osman, New Paper AsiaOne 7 Mar 16;

After going through the recently-released Environment Impact Assessment on soil investigations at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) at MacRitchie, plant expert Lahiru Wijedasa is concerned.

"The disturbance that might be caused by soil investigation is significant and if damage is caused, it will be irreparable," the former senior arborist at the Singapore Botanic Gardens told The New Paper.

"The most damage from the soil investigations will be on the rare plants and old trees in MacRitchie, from the weight of the machines that will go into the area."

Studying the various tables and schedules in the assessment, Mr Wijedasa explained that a boring machine weighing 2.5 tonnes will be moved into CCNR.

And with each borehole requiring 1,000 litres of water, an ancillary machine weighing 2.4 tonnes will have to transport the water to the various sites. (See graphics)

He stressed the immense damage the tree roots and other plants will suffer even if the 16 boreholes within the CCNR are on existing footpaths.

From 2007 to 2014, Mr Wijedasa oversaw, among other projects, the development of the 5-hectare healing garden and boardwalk in the Botanic Gardens rainforest.

"In those projects at the Botanic Gardens, we put in place mitigating factors like a boardwalk or even temporary boardwalks to prevent putting weight on tree roots," he said.

"This is crucial because the clay soil in Singapore makes most trees grow their roots wide, not deep. If heavy weights are placed on them, they will die and not grow back.

"And it is almost certain that there are tree roots growing under the footpaths in MacRitchie."


Mr Wijedasa studied the map of boreholes in the assessment.

The map revealed that in addition to the 16 boreholes, there are 21 others in the forested area on the fringes of the CCNR, which will have an impact on the area.

"These additional boreholes, while not within the gazetted boundary, are still close enough to have an effect on the gazetted CCNR. "You can't look at things in isolation," he said, pointing to hydrology - the circulation of water below the earth's surface - as another major cause of concern.

Mr Wijedasa presented his findings at a Green Drinks event at the Sing Jazz Club on Feb 25.

Mr Tony O'Dempsey from Nature Society Singapore, who was at the event, expressed concern.

"The impact of the soil survey shouldn't be played down or ignored," he said.

"The public can give their feedback on the assessment and I strongly recommend that Mr Wijedasa writes in to present his findings. This is an issue of grave concern."

Singapore Arboriculture Society president Rick Thomas, who was not at the event, concurred with Mr Wijedasa about root damage.

He said: "When it comes to works on the surface (during the soil investigation), you don't need heavy machinery to do damage.

"Any machinery going over the top will see damage sustained by the trees."

Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng believes it is not too late for robust discussions on the matter before damage is done.

Mr Ng, who was at the event, said: "The second phase (including soil investigations) is a gamble and if we fail with mitigation factors, the impact could be irreversible. It is a primary forest.

"I don't think the final chapter (on the soil investigation) is written yet. There is avenue for discussion, so let's start the debate."


The Cross Island Line (CRL) will undergo a four-stage process before its projected completion in 2030:

Stage 1: Feasibility studies before a decision is made on CRL's final route (24 to 30 months)

Stage 2: Detailed engineering design (24 to 30 months)

Stage 3: Construction (72 to 78 months)

Stage 4: Testing and commissioning (30 to 36 months)

The process is still at Stage 1 because an Environmental Impact Assessment had to be done on soil testing, which is required to study the viability of tunnelling since the line will run through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve at MacRitchie.

The 1,000-page assessment showed that soil testing would have a "moderate" impact on the environment.

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

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Forest City developer presses ahead amid reclamation issues

This is despite question marks hanging over ambitious project amid reclamation issues
Rennie Whang Straits Times 8 Mar 16; and AsiaOne

The shore of Forest City, with the Tuas Second Link to Singapore in view. Amid ongoing talks, Country Garden insists it is reclaiming within Malaysian boundaries. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The mega Forest City project off Johor Baru seems to be going full steam ahead despite ongoing controversy over its reclamation plans and even as other developers have either shelved scheduled project launches or dropped them altogether.

Forest City's China developer Country Garden has already started work on one of the four islands that will eventually comprise the largest mixed development in Johor Baru. The project has an estimated value of $58.3 billion and is slated to be completed in phases over the next two decades.

Some reclamation of the Johor Strait has started, where the project will be connected to Johor via a two-lane road. Work on at least one other island is under way as well.

Malaysia and Singapore have been discussing the environmental impact assessment report approved by the Malaysian authorities for Forest City, a Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday.

Malaysia provided the report in January last year. "We have been studying the information provided by Malaysia carefully and have sought further clarifications on some of the information that Malaysia provided," the spokesman said.

While talks are ongoing, Country Garden insists that it is reclaiming within Malaysian boundaries and, according to Mr Yu Runze, Country Garden head of business strategy, its plan for the 1,386ha development has been approved.

Even as the reclamation issue is still being discussed, Country Garden has built a huge sales gallery complex, complete with sandy beach and palm trees. Businesses are also being wooed with economic incentives.

At the opening ceremony for the project on Sunday officiated by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, Mr Najib declared the sprawling Forest City a duty-free zone, along with corporate tax incentives for companies in sectors such as tourism and healthcare.

While Country Garden declined to provide the number of units for the project, its first phase comprises 482 condo units and 132 serviced apartments. It said it has received bookings for nearly all of this first phase. Buyers are mainly from China, with some bulk sales as well.

Average prices are RM1,200 (S$406) per sq ft, or about RM500,000 for a 517 sq ft studio to about RM2.2 million for a 1,862 sq ft four-bedroom apartment.

Mr Yu said: "A lot of Chinese and Middle East citizens are looking for a global asset allocation. They are not short-term speculators but looking at long-term yields, or they just want to keep overseas assets."

Country Garden is understood to have marketed Forest City in China strongly, with newspaper and TV adverts. One reason for the strong response could also partly be that a booking requires only a 10 per cent deposit according to its website.

In China, Country Garden, which has a listing in Hong Kong, is headquartered in Guangzhou. Founder and chairman Yang Guoqiang made his name with the construction of a township in East Guangzhou, which now has about 30,000 homes and 150,000 residents.

Ms Mireille Wan, founder of MDW Consultancy and formerly with CBRE in China, said: "Country Garden is strongly represented in most of the major Chinese cities." Some analysts have put Country Garden in the same league as China property giants Vanke and Evergrande.

Mr Wee Soon Chit, executive director of Malaysian property consultancy Landserve, said some Malaysians were initially sceptical of the commitment Chinese developers have to their Iskandar projects. But he pointed out that Country Garden has been "working round the clock" to complete more blocks at its Danga Bay project and its commercial area with food and beverage outlets is packed at night.

One Malaysian buyer, Mr Sudesh Narayanan, 36, is confident of the prospects. His family bought a four-bedroom unit at Forest City for RM2 million on Sunday. "We felt the development will be Johor's next big thing," he said.

Forest City will enhance value of property mart
The Star 8 Mar 16;

JOHOR BARU: Local developers are likely to benefit from the enhanced value of the market contributed by Forest City, said Johor Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) branch chairman Hoe Mee Ling.

She said Forest City, which is a multi-billion ringgit mixed development project, would be a catalyst of sorts and that China could lend its financial strength and technology to the area.

The project, which consists of four man-made islands, will feature high-rise condominium units and coastal residences under its Phase One.

On Sunday, the Federal Govern­ment announced that these man-made islands would be made duty-free and that there would also be special corporate tax breaks.

“Malaysian developers will benefit from the enhanced value brought in by Forest City. This will also encourage us to up our game for the benefit of all buyers,” Hoe said yesterday.

Country Garden Holdings chief executive officer Mo Bin said that the gazetting of Forest City as a duty-free zone would boost its position as an international destination and put Iskandar Malaysia on the world map.

Among the future facilities would be the first duty-free shopping mall which was expected to be ready by end of the year at the Fisherman’s Wharf on Island 1 of Forest City, he said.

Forest City is Country Garden’s largest real estate project outside of China.

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Kranji Farms recognised as tourist spot

Melissa Lin, The Straits Times AsiaOne 8 Mar 16;

A young visitor getting up close with goats at the first Singapore Farm Festival, in May last year, organised by the Kranji Countryside Association (KCA). There are over 100 farms in total in the area, and at least 40 are open to the public, offering farmstays, tours and food & beverage outlets.

The small farms dotting the north-western landscape that have offered eco-tourism activities for years have been recognised as a tourist attraction called the Kranji Farms.

Two brown directional signs, endorsed and approved by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), identifying the area as a tourist point of interest, were put up late last year in Jalan Bahar and Kranji Road.

There are over 100 farms in total, and at least 40 are open to the public, offering farmstays, tours and food & beverage outlets.

Farmers hope that Kranji countryside's new status as a tourist destination - which will be launched on Saturday by the owners, STB, LTA and MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC Yee Chia Hsing - will help the agriculture industry attract new blood, and be an incentive for the authorities to make the area more visitor-friendly.

Mr Kenny Eng, 42, president of the Kranji Countryside Association (KCA), said: "The recognition is critical for the future of farms, because it makes farm businesses more dynamic, more sustainable in the digital age and more able to attract young talent."

The non-profit KCA, which has 40 member farms, has lobbied for the Kranji farms to be recognised as a tourist spot - and for the road signs - since it was set up in 2005.

KCA's founding president Ivy Singh-Lim, 66, owner of organic farm Bollywood Veggies, hopes the authorities will add cycling and walking paths, to help the countryside attract not only local families but visitors from abroad as well.

"Things here are reasonably cheap, and they can enjoy the kampung lifestyle," she said. "I would like to appeal to the authorities to leave this place alone ... so that we can continue to sell coffee at $2."

Over the years, the farms have introduced activities for school children, company retreats and amenities such as restaurants for walk-in visitors, as interest grew in the unusual experiences they offered.

Bollywood Veggies attracted 15,000 visitors a month last year, compared to 6,000 per month in 2010. The official tour operator for Kranji Farms, Uncle William, held 250 tours last year, up from the 160 in 2010.

The farms that are open to the public grow an array of produce and live stock including organic vegetables, ornamental fish, food fish, frogs and goats.

Shuttle buses make seven trips daily between Kranji MRT station and points of interest such as Sungei Buloh, Kranji marshes and five of the more popular farms.

Two years ago, Jurong Frog Farm started organising small group tours at $40 for a minimum of five people. The 25-minute tour lets visitors hold and feed frogs, watch them breed, and ends with a sampling of frog meat. It now attracts three to five groups per week, said its director Chelsea Wan, 32.

The 105-year-old nursery and landscaping business Nyee Phoe Group, where Mr Eng is a director, has an F&B outlet, four villas for farmstays and conducts workshops on terrarium-making and plant potting.

Farm owners say demand keeps growing, with people hungry for something different.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic's senior tourism lecturer Michael Chiam said tourists tend to think of Singapore as an urbanised environment.

"Kranji countryside presents a different side of Singapore," he added.

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Malaysia: Sepang fires spreading due to strong winds and dry spell


SEPANG: Strong winds and the dry spell have been blamed for causing the fire near Km 27.4 of the Elite Highway here to spread.

When contacted, Fire and Rescue Department KLIA Zone chief Abu Bakar Abd Kadir said the fire started spreading at about 2pm on Monday due to the hot weather and strong winds.

On Sunday, they managed to smother fire covering an acre, with another acre left to be put out on Monday.

“But now the fire has spread to about two acres towards the northern side," he said, adding that operations have been ongoing since Thursday.

It was reported on Saturday that the fire was believed to be started by certain parties as investigations found that there were people using the area to grow crops.

Abu Bakar, who led operations to put out the fire, said they were facing difficulty due to the peat soil conditions and water supply constraints.

He said the department had also tried to build canals using excavators to ensure the fire would not spread as it was still burning below ground.

He said there were a total of 33 personnel involved in the operation.

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Malaysia: ‘Go ahead and build the bridge’

The Star 8 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Some 500 villagers staged a peaceful protest against some conservationists’ campaign to stop the construction of a bridge across the Kinabatangan river.

The villagers want the authorities to go ahead with building the bridge from Sukau II to Jalan Morisem. However, the conservationists said the project in the eco-sensitive Kinabatangan area, which is part of the Heart of Borneo conservation area, could affect wildlife’s movement. The project involves Lot 3 of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

The local community, comprising village heads, appealed to the conservationists, saying the bridge could ease their access across the river.

Spokesman Bahari Maya said without the RM69mil bridge, the villagers had to use boats all the time.

On Sunday, Bahari handed a letter of protest to the Wildlife Department in Kinabatangan district as well as to the police.

Last week, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the Public Works Department would have an alternative plan after the conservationists’ concerns were highlighted.

Sukau assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman said the bridge project was supposed to kick off in January.

“But it was put off following objections from NGOs who were concerned that the project may jeopardise the population and survival of the elephants and other wildlife,” he said.

Under the first phase, he said, besides the bridge, there would also be a new road built from Jalan Sukau up to the bridge.

Saddi said a second phase would involve building a 1,000m-wide viaduct, which would look like a flyover across the elephant sanctuary area.

“There would also be another 8.5km road with it,” he added.

The viaduct, he said, could become a new tourism product in Sukau. “It will be for a night safari.

“The viaduct will enable wildlife to move from one forested area to another under the structure,” he said,

Saddi said no land within the sanctuary would be disturbed. “And, no tree would be chopped to make way,” he said.

However, he said there would be the acquiring of private land.

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Malaysia: Three vessels transporting logs seized by authorities

The Star 8 Mar 16;

MIRI: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has confiscated some 9,000 metric tonnes of timber logs and seized two ships and a barge off the coast of Miri on suspicion of illegal transportation of logs.

The agency has been carrying out surveillance operations 11 nautical miles in the South China Sea off Miri since March 4.

Late on Sunday, the patrol teams sprang into action and made the seizures, said its enforcement chief for Miri Admiral Abim Sungom yesterday.

“The barge with 1,844 logs weighing 9,000 metric tonnes have been seized along with the two ships.

“The ships may have contravened the law,” he said, adding that MMEA was probing whether they have valid permits to transport the logs.

A total of 17 crew members were also detained.

This is the second bust by the agency off the coast of Miri in the past two weeks.

On Feb 25, MMEA patrols busted an attempt to smuggle 2,386 logs on a barge 28km off Miri.

They seized a barge and a boat and arrested a local and three Indonesian crew members.

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Indonesia: Stormy weather predicted in West Kalimantan

The Jakarta Post 8 Mar 16;

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has forecasted that West Kalimantan will likely see heavy rainfall and strong winds in the next seven days.

Pontianak-stationed BKMG officer Sutikno said on Monday that the agency had predicted rain with medium to heavy intensity would occur in the province’s 14 cities and regencies.

“While strong winds with speeds of 25 to 40 knots per hour will likely happen in the afternoon along the western-coastal areas that include Ketapang, North Kayong, Kubu Raya, Mempawah, as well as Pontianak and Singkawang,” he said.

Sutikno reminded residents to avoid taking shelter under shade trees during strong winds or heavy rain.

Sri Sujiati, the city’s head of Sanitation and Parks Agency, said that they had pruned old shade trees that posed risk to residents.

“We regularly prune shade trees, and we always monitor the field when heavy rain and strong winds occur,” she said.

In Kapuas Hulu, around 600 kilometers from Pontianak, the Kapuas River has begun to overflow due to the downpour in the past two days.

“Houses are still safe as most are stilted-wooden houses, but the roads in the villages and subdistricts have been inundated,” said the head of Kapuas Hulu Disaster Mitigation Agency, Abdul Halim.

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Indonesia: NTT Police nab protected turtle shells supplier

The Jakarta Post 8 Mar 16;

East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Police officers nabbed on Monday a supplier of endangered Hawksbill sea turtle shells, which sell for Rp 8 million (US$608) to Rp 20 million each.

Police spokesperson Adj. Sr. Comr. Julens Abraham Abast said the perpetrator was caught carrying 335 turtle shells.

Julens said that as the turtle was listed as an endangered species, the perpetrator would be charged according to the 1990 law on natural resources, conservation and ecosystem and could face five years’ imprisonment.

The technical division head at NTT Natural Resources Office, Maman Surahman, said turtle shell sales had been increasing recently as the shells could be made into accessories. “There has to be continuous patroling and familiarization about the turtle’s importance to the marine ecosystem,” Maman said.

A fisherman, Lambertus Sarong, said that he never had heard of a regulation that banned the capture of protected species.

“We don’t know which species are protected and which are not,” he said.

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Indonesia: Four Arrested in Jambi for Possession of Sumatran Tiger Skin

Radesman Saragih Jakarta Globe 7 Mar 16;

Jambi. Four people in Jambi province have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the illegal wildlife trade after they were caught with the skin of a critically endangered Sumatran tiger in their possession, officials said on Monday (07/03).

The four, identified only as S.R. (44), A.Y. (30), I.W. (25), and K.W. (35), were arrested by the Tebo District Police and officials from the province's Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) in Muarabungo, about 250 kilometers from the provincial capital Jambi, on Saturday.

Police confiscated one well-preserved tiger skin along with a car the suspects were using to conduct their illegal activities.

According to the suspects, a local politician is also in on the scheme.

"We are coordinating with the Jambi Provincial Police to investigate the Jambi legislator allegedly involved in the tiger skin trade," Tebo District Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Aman Guntoro said on Monday.

The four are charged with violating the country's law on wildlife protection and the case will be handed over to the Jambi Provincial Police, Aman said.

BKSDA official Amenson Girsang said the agency would intensify its operations to eradicate poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife.

"In 2015, BKSDA Jambi managed to crack down on seven tiger skin trade cases. There were 18 people named as suspects in those cases. The tiger skin trade took place in the districts of Sarolangun, Bungo, Muarojambi, Kerinci, and also in Jambi city," Amenson said.

Last year, Indonesia was Southeast Asia's largest market for the illegal trade in exotic species, catering to both domestic and international clients with most transaction conducted online, according to the National Police's criminal investigation unit, Bareskrim.

The Sumatran tiger is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature with and estimated population of between 300 and 500 remaining in six major protected areas across Sumatra island.

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Philippines: Red tide alert still up in Visayas coastal areas


The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) warned the public anew against eating and catching shellfish in six coastal waters in the Visayas found positive for paralytic shellfish poison or red tide toxin.

BFAR Shellfish Bulletin No.7-16 said that the coastal waters of Dauis in Bohol; Daram Island in Daram, Irong-Irong Bay and Cambatutay Bay in Western Samar; Leyte; Naval, Biliran Island Province; and Pilar in Capiz are still positive for red tide.

The agency said that all types of shellfish and acetes (alamang) gathered and collected from these areas are not safe for human consumption.

BFAR, however, said that several species—including fish, shrimps and crabs—are safe to eat provided that they are fresh and washed thoroughly, and internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking.

Meanwhile, the bulletin added that Balite Bay in Mati, Davao Oriental and the coastal waters of Gigantes Islands in Carles, Iloilo are now free of the toxic red tide.

Other major fishing grounds in the country continued to be unaffected by the toxins.

Red tide occurs when algae rapidly increase in numbers to the extent that it dominates the local planktonic or benthic community. Blooms are caused by environmental conditions that promote explosive growth.

Such high abundance can result from explosive growth caused by a metabolic response to a particular stimulus or from the physical concentration of a species in a certain area due to local patterns in water circulation, warm sea surface temperatures and high nutrient content.

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Thailand drafting plan to end annual smoke haze in SE Asia

Bangkok Post 7 Mar 16;

CHIANG MAI – Thailand is taking the lead in drafting a plan to set Asean on the road to becoming haze-free, hopefully controlling the annual smog that settles across the region from farmers burning off fields and forests.

The initiative emerged from a meeting of a working group of senior Asean officials in Chiang Mai, chaired by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Gen Surasak Karnjanarat, to draft a roadmap for a sustainable solution to the problem.

The goal is to make Southeast Asia a haze-free region by 2020. The plan will focus on cooperation to solve the problem, with no binding penalties.

Thailand will propose the roadmap for the consideration of Asean environment ministers before the end of this year.

Wijarn Simachaya, director-general of the Pollution Control Department, said the problem of the annual smoke was at present being tackled via to regional groups.

The first was the Mekong subregion - Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia - which had earlier agreed to curb the number of fire hotspots in the subregion at a maximum of 50,000.

The other area of cooperation was among the lower Asean countries  - Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and Brunei. They had each set standards for the maximum amount of particulate matter that can be present in outdoor air without threatening the public's health. For example, Malaysia and Indonesia set the standard at 150 microgrammes/cubic metre, while Thailand settled on 120 microgrammes.

Mr Wijarn said each country had to control burning to ensure that the particulate matter level did not exceed its own standard, which would help eliminate tran-boundary haze problems.

He said the roadmap will not include punishment clauses if the standards were not upheld. It would  focus more on cooperation to solve the problem in the Asean region.

For Thailand, the level of particulate matter smaller than 10 microns in nine northern provinces was at a  moderate level on Monday, with the highest being 119 microgrammes/cubic metre in Chiang Mai and Lampang.

Thai northern provinces usually blanketed in smoke haze from agricultural burning in open fields, while southern provinces are frequently cloaked in haze from forest fires in neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

Cabinet approves Bt93-million operational plan to fight haze in the North, Northeast
THE NATION 5 Mar 16;

THE CABINET has approved an operational plan to curb the haze plaguing the North this year.

The plan focuses on nine target provinces - Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae, Nan, Phayao, Mae Hong Son, and Tak - which have been hit by forest fires. Ministers also approved a budget of Bt93.8 million to fund operations.

Under the plan, emphasis is on the prevention of burning to ensure forest fires do not spread so wide that they will be difficult to control. The objective is to reduce damage that may occur.

It also calls for the mobilisation of forces from all sectors, as well as a volunteer network, to try to limit the haze. Responsible personnel will be provided with sufficient equipment to support their operations and monitor vulnerable areas.

Moreover, members of communities will be educated in forest fire control and be encouraged to participate in reducing burning throughout the critical period this year. Stricter law enforcement will be applied to people who start fires.

Governors of affected provinces will adopt the "Single Command" approach to deal with the situation. The Cabinet instructed 10 relevant government agencies to work in an integrated way with a centralised command set-up.

Forests drier, fire risks greater

In agricultural areas, the Ministry of Interior is working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in a campaign against burning, while the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry will serve as core agency handling the problem in national reserves and conservation areas.

Forest fires in Thailand are caused primarily by human activity. Collecting forest products is a leading cause of fires, followed by hunting and clearing of land for cultivation and raising livestock.

Official reports show that |forest fires are more frequent because of extreme weather and global warming, which have caused severe and widespread drought. As a consequence, forests are drier and the chance of fire is much greater.

The dry season each year, from January to April, is a critical period for forest fires and haze pollution, especially in the North and Northeast.

The Northern Rainmaking Operations Centre, meanwhile, has prepared both personnel and equipment to ease the haze in the Upper North, as well as boosting moisture in the soil in forests, and water for reservoirs.

The Prime Minister instructed officials to work in a proactive manner, as the haze problem will have impacts on public health, the environment, and tourism.

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Deluges increasing in world's wettest and driest regions: study

Alister Doyle Reuters Yahoo News 8 Mar 15;

OSLO (Reuters) - Extreme downpours are increasingly hitting both the wettest and driest regions of the world and global warming will raise the risks of bigger cloudbursts for the rest of the century, a study showed on Monday.

"Extreme daily precipitation averaged over both dry and wet regimes shows robust increases" since 1950, a team of scientists led by Markus Donat of the University of New South Wales in Sydney wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Projected climate change until 2100 indicated a "continued intensification of daily precipitation extremes", according to the study, which examined trends in the driest 30 percent of the Earth's land area and the wettest 30 percent.

Warm air can hold more moisture than cold. Past studies have suggested that wet areas will get wetter and dry areas drier overall with a warming trend, blamed by scientists on man-made emissions of greenhouse gases.

But there have been big uncertainties about how the frequency of local extremes of rainfall may change, from tropical forests in the Amazon to deserts.

Among recent downpours, Death Valley in California, the hottest and driest place in North America, has had spectacular flowers this spring after heavy rains last year. And in 2015, Chile's Atacama desert was carpeted in flowers after the heaviest rains in 20 years.

Extreme rains also cause damaging floods. Severe rainfall is especially a threat in dry areas, the study said, because authorities have often invested little in flood defenses.

The study's findings "do not tell us what will actually happen in any particular location, but rather how risks will change", said William Ingram, of Oxford University, who was not part of the study team.

In a commentary in Nature Climate Change he wrote that there were still big gaps in scientific understanding of rainfall and climate change. There are few rain gauges in the Sahara, for instance.

Last December, 195 nations reached the Paris Agreement on climate change, aiming to shift from oil, coal and natural gas to low-emission renewable energies such as wind and solar power this century.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; editing by Andrew Roche)

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