Best of our wild blogs: 12-13 Mar 16

Ryparosa scortechinii: Philosophically at MacRitchie Forest
Flying Fish Friends

Terumbu Pempang Tengah: seagrasses doing well, no bleaching
wild shores of singapore

Night Walk At Dairy Farm Nature Reserve (11 Mar 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

NParks BioBlitz 2016
Singapore Bird Group

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Indonesia starting firefighting early as dry season begins

Niniek Karmini, Associated Press Jakarta Post 11 Mar 16;

Indonesia's top security minister said Friday that authorities have started efforts to fight forest and peatland fires that often pollute Southeast Asia's air as the dry season begins this month.

Luhut Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for politics, legal and security affairs, said the government wants to avoid mistakes made last year when lack of prevention resulted in fires burning out of control. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had to ask help from other countries to bring the blazes under control.

Forest fires have been an annual problem in Indonesia since the mid-1990s, causing a toxic haze that often drifts into neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Last year's fires, which covered 2.1 million hectares, were considered one of the country's worst environmental disasters since 1997, when blazes spread across nearly 10 million hectares.

Most of the fires are started deliberately to clear land for agriculture such as palm oil plantations.

"We will declare a state of emergency once fires are detected, particularly on peat land," Pandjaitan said. "We don't want to repeat mistakes we made last year."

Early declaration of emergencies will speed up the release of funds so authorities can deploy troops, helicopters and firefighting equipment more quickly, he said.

Damming canals so they flood peatland, which burns easily, is also being tried nationwide.

Scientists have predicted that low rainfall due to the El Nino effect could make fires worse this year if the government fails to stop intentional burning, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan on the Indonesian part of Borneo island.

The fires have caused health problems and economic losses on top of environmental damage. Last year in Indonesia there were 21 deaths and the smoky haze blanketing a swath of the country was estimated to have caused respiratory problems for half a million people.

The World Bank has estimated US$16 billion in economic costs from the 2015 fires, more than double what was spent on rebuilding Aceh province after the 2004 tsunami.

The Riau provincial government declared a state of emergency on Monday after fires in at least three districts began spreading rapidly because of strong winds. More than 700 police and soldiers have been deployed to extinguish the fires.

Riau province was one of the most severely affected areas last year.

Indonesia begins serious efforts to tackle forest fires
Authorities in Riau in western Indonesia have started their fight on forest fires, as the dry season begins to set in.
Sujadi Siswo Channel NewsAsia 11 Mar 16;

JAKARTA: Authorities in Riau in western Indonesia have started their fight on forest fires, as the dry season begins to set in.

On Tuesday (Mar 8), the Sumatran province declared a state of emergency over fires spreading rapidly because of strong winds. In just two months, more than 200 hectares of forests there have been razed.

More than 700 personnel from the military, police and forestry ministry have been deployed to put out the fires in Riau.

For the first time, coordinated joint patrols are also being deployed, not only to detect fires but also to educate the population on fire prevention.

"The new initiative from the Forestry and Environment Ministry this year is the coordinated joint-patrols. They consist of personnel from the military, police, fire fighters, community, media and non-governmental organisations,” said Supartono, spokesman for Riau Environment Conservation Agency.

On Monday, the Riau provincial government declared its highest level of disaster readiness since fires were detected in at least three districts two months ago.

It said it has the situation under control except for certain inaccessible areas where water bombing needs to be done.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry said so far 10 people have been questioned for allegedly starting the fires. Often, these are started by plantation companies and smallholders to clear land ahead of the planting season.

Riau was one of the provinces severely affected by forest fires last year, made worse by the prolonged dry season caused by the El Nino weather pattern.

It was considered to be one of the worst environmental disasters in recent years, costing the Indonesian government an estimated US$16 billion.

The haze from the fires choked its neighbors Singapore and Malaysia – and several parts of Thailand – causing schools, offices and airports to shut down for several days.

It also affected the health of hundreds of thousands of people in the region.

Singapore and Malaysia were among dozens of countries that assisted Indonesia in the fire-fighting efforts.

President Joko Widodo has vowed to tackle the problem and his government recently set up an agency to restore some two million hectares of carbon-rich peatland damaged by fires.

- CNA/jb

Jakarta employs new tactics to fight forest fires this dry season
Today Online 12 Mar 16;

JAKARTA — Indonesia’s top security minister said yesterday that authorities have started efforts to fight forest and peatland fires that often pollute South-east Asia’s air as the dry season begins this month.

Mr Luhut Pandjaitan, the Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal and Security Affairs, said the government wants to avoid mistakes made last year when lack of prevention resulted in fires burning out of control. President Joko Widodo had to ask for help from other countries to bring the blazes under control.

Forest fires have been an annual problem in Indonesia since the mid-1990s, causing a toxic haze that often drifts into neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Last year’s fires, which covered 2.1 million ha, were considered one of the country’s worst environmental disasters since 1997, when blazes spread across nearly 10 million ha.

Most of the fires are started deliberately to clear land for agriculture such as palm oil plantations.

“We will declare a state of emergency once fires are detected, particularly on peat land,” said Mr Pandjaitan. “We don’t want to repeat mistakes we made last year.”

Early declaration of emergencies will speed up the release of funds so authorities can deploy troops, helicopters and firefighting equipment more quickly, he said. Damming canals so they flood peatland, which burns easily, is also being tried nationwide.

Scientists have predicted that low rainfall due to the El Nino effect could make fires worse this year if the government fails to stop intentional burning, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan on the Indonesian part of Borneo island.

The fires have caused health problems and economic losses, on top of environmental damage. Last year in Indonesia, there were 21 deaths and the smoky haze was estimated to have caused respiratory problems for half a million people.

The World Bank has estimated US$16 billion (S$22 billion) in economic costs from the 2015 fires, more than double what was spent on rebuilding Aceh province after the 2004 tsunami.

The Riau provincial government declared a state of emergency on Monday after fires in at least three districts began spreading rapidly because of strong winds. More than 700 police and soldiers have been deployed to extinguish the fires.

Riau province was one of the most severely affected areas last year.

Mr Anderson Tanoto, a director at Royal Golden Eagle, a diversified conglomerate that controls Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL), a producer of fibre, pulp and paper, said that the declaration of a state of emergency “was positive”, as it will help Riau, the province in which APRIL has its main operations, to secure all the investment and manpower it needs to help prevent and fight fires.

“That means that all command posts will start working. The faster they start working, the faster the flame can be extinguished,” said Mr Anderson. “Last year, the alert was sent so late.”

Ms Aida Greenbury, managing director of sustainability at Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a subsidiary of the Sinar Mas Group, said APP has made commitments for this year to spend more than US$20 million for its broad fire management strategy, which lists measures such as prevention, preparation, early detection and rapid responses. AGENCIES

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Buildings can play part in green fight

Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiOne 11 Mar 16;

The world may have signed a pact to tackle climate change last December, but its effects are still being felt far and wide.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that buildings contribute to as much as a third of total global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly due to the use of fossil fuels for energy generation.

In Singapore, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) says buildings, which refer to offices, shopping malls, hotels, and educational and healthcare institutes, consume more than a third of the nation's electricity.

"Buildings thus present a huge opportunity for tackling climate change, especially by improving energy efficiency in design and reducing energy consumption when operating buildings," said a BCA spokesman.

The UNEP says current technology can cut energy consumption in buildings by up to 80 per cent.

Research and development may reduce this further, and BCA has a suite of initiatives to promote R&D, including the BCA SkyLab, a rotatable laboratory for testing and developing energy-efficient technology.

Experts such as Dr Herbert Dreiseitl, director of the Germany-based Liveable Cities Lab, have also suggested that to protect the country against the effects of climate change - such as heavier rain and prolonged dry spells - more green features can be incorporated in buildings from an earlier stage of the design process.

For instance, water retention tanks could be installed to store rainwater.

This would reduce the rainwater flowing into the public drainage system, lessening the chances of flash floods. Stored water can also be used to water plants in the building during a dry spell.

But as new buildings make up only a small part of the building stock, green strategies that can be applied to existing buildings must also be considered, said Professor Thomas Schroepfer, associate head of the architecture and sustainable design school at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

This could involve re-using existing structures, said Prof Schroepfer, who authored Dense + Green: Innovative Building Types For Sustainable Urban Architecture, a book launched by SUTD's Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities last month.

"A good local example would be the Rail Corridor and the proposed adaptive reuse of the existing building, the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station."

The winners of a design competition for the future of the former KTM railway land had repurposed the station as a multi- function community building, which is also expected to include facilities such as a railway gallery, art clubs and cafes. The station's carpark could also become a public park.

As of January, almost 2,600 buildings in Singapore and more than 76 million sq m of gross floor area are certified green by the BCA.

This is more than 30 per cent of the Republic's total gross floor area. The Government's goal is to green at least 80 per cent of total gross floor area of buildings here by 2030.

BCA believes Singapore is on track to achieving this through initiatives such as cash incentives to get building owners that retrofit their premises to make them more energy-efficient.

"BCA's three Green Building Masterplans in the last decade had initiatives targeted at new buildings, existing buildings and pave the way for us to hit the target," said a spokesman.

"The next step is to innovate and further stretch the energy savings of green building technologies, which is the key focus of the various R&D efforts over the next few years."

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How trees can cut your air-con bill

Lin Yangchen, Straits Times AsiaOne 12 Mar 16;

They provide shade and cool the air when water evaporates from their leaves

Did you know that the patch of trees behind your house might save you money on air-conditioning bills?

This has to do with the way plants cool the air when water evaporates from their leaves. With climate change already bringing higher temperatures and more extreme weather events, the importance of greenery is set to increase.

"We are in a climate where every degree counts in terms of human comfort," said Associate Professor Matthias Roth of the department of geography at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

This is especially so in a densely built city like Singapore, where concrete surfaces absorb heat during the day and the "canyons" of closely packed buildings prevent it from escaping at night.

This is known as the urban heat island effect and was the subject of a recent study by Prof Roth in collaboration with his master's student, Mr Reuben Li.

They deployed about 40 temperature and humidity sensors all over Singapore, monitoring hourly changes in different environments over about three years.

The study found that rural areas with few buildings, like Lim Chu Kang, were about 3 deg C cooler at night than urban areas such as Orchard Road. This is because a flat and open rural area allows heat to escape easily at night.

If the night is clear and calm, the rural area can be up to 7 deg C cooler as there are no clouds to prevent heat from escaping into space, and no wind blowing in warmer air from the city.

In the day, however, rural areas are as warm as urban areas, the researchers found. This is where having tall trees can make a difference.

The temperature sensors showed that at midday, forested areas are about 1.5 deg C cooler on average than urban areas. This is because trees provide shade as well as evaporative cooling.

Even a small park in the city can have a cooling effect. An example is Telok Kurau Park, a rectangular plot measuring 187m by 97m with large shady trees, in the midst of a sprawling estate of low-rise housing.

A study by Prof Roth's honours student, Ms Khoo Yuan Ling, in 2004 found that on a clear and calm night, the park can be up to 2 deg C cooler than the surrounding area.

She also found that the cooling effect can be felt beyond the park boundary up to a distance roughly equal to its width. This is known as the edge effect.

Said Prof Roth: "If you remove the pocket of green area, you remove the edge effect as well."

The result? Increased discomfort and higher air-conditioning bills as people fight the heat by blasting their air-conditioning.

The Centre for Climate Research Singapore has projected an increase in surface temperature of 1.4 to 4.6 deg C across the country by the end of the century. While global warming is impossible for Singapore to control on its own, it still has a role to play.

"What we can do locally is to try to mitigate the heat island effect," said Prof Roth.

The Singapore Government has worked hard to preserve greenery in the country, which ranks among South-east Asia's foremost economic powerhouses. Almost half of the island is green. The total area of greenery in Singapore increased from 35.7 to 46.5 per cent from 1986 to 2007, according to a report by the National Parks Board.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) says that 9 per cent of Singapore's land has been set aside for parks and nature reserves, and 19 per cent for defence. A large proportion of the land for defence use is wooded.

URA also has policies in place to ensure that greenery and development go hand in hand.

"In all new regional growth centres, it is now mandatory for developers to replace 100 per cent of the site area they displaced on their new buildings in the form of greenery and communal spaces," said a URA spokesman.

Mr Kavickumar Muruganathan, head of eco-certifications and lead environmental engineer at the Singapore Environment Council, pointed out that greenery serves many purposes. Besides cooling the air and being home to wildlife, it relaxes the mind and acts as a natural noise barrier.

"It even acts as an effective flood alleviation mechanism," he added, citing the ability of vegetation to retain water.

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The ST Guide To... visiting Singapore's nature reserves

Audrey Tan Straits Times 11 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE - There is no lack of green spaces, even in urban Singapore, and the upcoming March school holiday is a perfect time to explore them.

From the manicured lawns of Gardens by the Bay to the rustic trails within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, there is a shade of green to suit every fancy.

But while all green spaces are important, some may be more equal than others.

Parks are man-made environments that support a smaller diversity of species, as compared to nature reserves, which are original native environments that are biologically diverse.

There are certain species of plants and animals that visitors can only find in nature reserves.

A five-banded gliding lizard and a slender squirrel, for instance, are animals you would not be able to find in Singapore's local parks.

The Johnson's freshwater crab, discovered by Singapore crab expert Peter Ng in the 1980s, is even more unique.

It is restricted to the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves, and can be found nowhere else in the world.

When it comes to trees, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve is where Singapore's largest primary lowland rainforest patch can be found, with many of the tree species from the genus Dipterocarpus and Shorea going back millions of years.

As biologist David Tan from the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group puts it: "As for the primary forest, they're primeval, and are likely as old as the soil."

There are more than 300 parks in Singapore, but only four nature reserves, namely, the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve as well as the Central Catchment, Bukit Timah and Labrador Nature Reserves.

Nature reserves are protected areas for the conservation of Singapore's biodiversity, and visitors should take more care when visiting them. Here are some tips for planning a visit to the nature reserves.


The entrance of the Kampong Trail at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on Aug 23, 2013. PHOTO: ST FILE
Unlike parks, entry to the nature reserves are restricted to certain hours, so check the National Parks Board's (NParks) website at for the opening hours before making a trip down.

Take note that parts of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve are currently closed due to restoration work.

Although visitors can access the summit of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve through the Main Road from 7am to 6pm on weekends, the reserve will remain closed on weekdays and public holidays that do not fall on weekends.


A clouded monitor lizard scampering across the trail at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on Sept 11, 2014. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER
Nature reserves are less "sanitised" than parks, in the sense that the trails open to the public within the reserves are often dirt tracks instead of concrete paths, so dress appropriately.

Sturdy, covered footwear are important for navigating routes which may be littered with rocks. Long pants or tops with long-sleeves would also help visitors avoid getting bitten by insects or scratched by protruding branches.

Try to avoid using stick-on insect repellent patches, as these tend to fall off clothes and become litter.

Covering up is the best option to avoid getting bitten, but if not, use gel or spray repellents.


Elusive, shy animals like pangolins are easily scared off by mass activities. PHOTO: NATIONAL PARKS
Nature reserves are home to some species of animals that are elusive and very shy, such as the Sunda pangolin or birds like the chestnut-winged babbler.

So mass activities such as exercise programmes, family days and organised runs tend to scare them off. When visiting a nature reserve, keep noise to a minimum, to avoid scaring off the animals.

Soak in the cacophony of nature instead of plugging into an MP3 player. This will also help you to be more in tune with your surroundings, and is a safety precaution. Keep your ears pricked, particularly after a rain, as you may hear the tell-tale crackling of branches about to fall off.

And no matter how cute or interesting a plant or animal seems, whether in a park or nature reserve, avoid touching or handling plants and animals. Doing so may harm the wildlife, and animals may also fight back in retaliation.

Remember the old adage: take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.

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Malaysia: Johoreans Need Not Panic, Water Supply Still Sufficient - SAJ

Bernama 11 Mar 16;

JOHOR BAHARU, March 11 (Bernama) -- The people in Johor need not to panic or worry as the water supply in the state is still sufficient to meet their demands despite the dry weather due to the El Nino phenomenon.

Syarikat Air Johor Holdings Sdn Bhd (SAJ) corporate communication chief Jamaluddin Jamal, when contacted, said:

"Most of the dams in the state are stable, water supply still sufficient, the public need not to worry."

However, Jamaluddin said the SAJ would continue its observation and monitoring activities on two dams, namely the Sungai Lebam Dam and Sungai Layang-layang Dam, where the water levels had dropped to below critical.

As at today, the water level at Sungai Lebam Dam had dropped to 10.48m, below the critical level of 12.27m, while the water at Sungai Layang-layang dropped to 20.88m below the critical level of 23.50m, he said, adding that water rationing would only be implemented as the last resort.

More information for water supply status in Johor can be obtained by contacting SAJ toll free line 1800-88-7474 or by sending email to


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Malaysia: Feeling the heat of El Nino

The Star 12 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has begun to rush water supply to 124 villages as the El Nino-induced dry spell started to take hold, with wells and lakes drying up.

The Department of Civil Defence and other agencies sent water to eight districts in the past 24 hours amid reports of crop failures due to the dry days.

The move came a day after Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman ordered all district officers to prepare for situations such as haze and drought.

Department director Col Mulliadi Al-Hamdi Ladin said staff were working with agencies such as the Fire and Rescue Department to provide water supply to the affected villages in Tuaran, Kota Belud, Keningau, Sook, Beaufort, Membakut, Menumbok and Kuala Penyu.

“An average of 100 cubic meters of water is being sent to each village,” he said, adding that more than 30 reports of crop failure in Kota Belud, which is Sabah’s rice bowl district, had been received.

“Wells and lakes are drying up. We are doing all we can to deal with it,” he said.

Mulliadi said the department was also waiting for more equipment like boats and lorries.

Firemen here, meanwhile, are battling at least 20 bushfires a day throughout Sabah.

Sabah Fire and Rescue Department director Nordin Pauzi said firemen had to be on standby at all times as the number of bushfires was increasing.

He said the number of open burning cases, including forest and bush fires, jumped from 188 in January to 431 between Feb 1 and 24.

Most of them occurred near housing and farm areas, he added.

Meteorologists are expecting rain next month but anxiety remains that the drought would prolong.

Power demand pushed to highest due to heatwave
The Star 12 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The hot and dry spell in the past few days has pushed electricity consumption to its highest in peninsular Malaysia, with Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) recording an all-time high peak demand of 17,175MW on March 9.

The heatwave, due to the El Nino weather phenomenon, has seen the consumer demand for energy climbing since Monday, breaching the 17,000MW peak demand threshold.

The electricity usage broke the previous record in peak demand of 16,901MW registered on June 6, 2014.

Nonetheless, TNB said it had sufficient electricity generation in place and the higher demand projected would not have any impact on the reliability of power supply.

The current totalled installed capacity in peninsular Malaysia stood at 22,220MW, out of which 11,818MW is TNB’s own capacity while the balance is the total installed capacity of the independent power producers.

In line with the Government’s call for efficient use of energy, electricity customers are encouraged to adopt the following measures during peak hours of energy consumption (2pm to 5pm):

> Setting air conditioners at 23°C to 25°C.

> Ironing and washing clothes at night.

> Boiling water during off peak hours.

> Operating their machines or factories at night (large power users like cement manufacturers and steel millers).

Heatwave has Malaysians seeking cooler climes
JOASH EE DE SILVA The Star 13 Mar 16;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians are hiding from the heatwave ... in their homes, offices, shopping malls and wherever there is air-conditioning.

Chan Ren Cheian, 25, who works with a publishing company, sought refuge in his air-conditioned office at 11am yesterday although his shift was starting only at 6pm.

“I couldn’t stop perspiring even after taking a cold shower,” said Chan, who lives in a small, non air-conditioned rented room in SS2 here.

According to the Meteorological Department, the temperature in Petaling Jaya at 4pm was 34°C, while Ipoh recorded 36°C; Alor Setar 37°C; Malacca 36°C and 38°C in Chuping, Perlis.

Post-graduate student Sin Tien Tan, 25, said he had been spending most of the past few days in his university’s library.

“I used to go to the library only to borrow or return books. But now I am also doing Internet research in the library,” said Sin.

hot weather

He added that there were also more people than usual in the library now, compared to previously.

Teacher Liew Nyuk Hsia, 32, will be hopping on a plane to Kuching for the school holidays to escape the heat.

“On, it says the temperature there is only 25°C, so it sounds like a good place to get away from the heat,” said Liew, who will be there from today till Saturday.

Sunway Shopping Malls chief executive officer and a Malaysian Shopping Mall Association adviser H.C. Chan said there would usually be an increase in the number of people in the malls during hot days.

“Generally, when it is hot, people want to go somewhere cool, comfortable and relaxing,” said Chan.

Personal financial consultant Kelvin Wong, 28, had been putting off spending RM300 to tint his car but now, the weather has pushed him to get it done.

“I can’t stand the heat anymore, so I’ve fully tinted the car,” he said.

As for undergraduate Chester Wong, 22, he is spending more time in the bathroom to take more cold showers.

“On a normal day, I only shower twice a day. But now, I’m taking nearly four to six cold showers a day,” he added.

No water rationing for now but use sparingly, SPAN urges
The Star 13 Mar 16;

PETALING JAYA: There will not be any water rationing for now but conservation efforts should begin, warns the National Water Services Commission (SPAN).

The commission’s corporate communications director Carol Pelly said SPAN was constantly working with water operators to monitor dam levels.

She said these operators would submit a request to carry out water rationing and SPAN would review the request and give its approval if it was deemed necessary.

“We will give reasonable amount of warning if water rationing is to be implemented,” Pelly said.

On Friday, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau said scorching heat was forecast on March 20.

He said the current hot spell could cause a heat wave if the temperature exceeded 35°C for five straight days or 37°C for three consecutive days.

Pelly said during the current hot spell, it was important for the people to use water sparingly and conserve as much as possible.

“Storing rain water to water plants will also allow treated water to be used for more urgent needs like cooking and drinking,” she added.

She also encouraged industrial users to review their current water management practices.

“They should promote good and efficient water usage, recycle water or even use alternative sources.”

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia president S. Piarapakaran said even though the inter-monsoon season was expected in April, authorities should start preparing for the worst.

“What if the dry season persists longer than predicted? When there is a severe dry season, clouds are hard to come by and cloud-seeding cannot be carried out,” he said, adding that cloud-seeding should be done before a crisis sets in.

Recently, Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan was among the first to sound the alarm, urging consumers to be prudent with water usage as the levels were critical in five of the state’s dams, namely Sg Terip, Kelinchi, Talang, Teriang and Sg Beringin.

Heat wave spikes electricity demand in Msia to all time high
HARIZ MOHD New Straits Times 11 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) recorded demand for electricity on Wednesday at 17,175 megawatts (MW), the highest ever in Peninsular Malaysia.

In a statement yesterday, TNB said the high consumption was pushed by the exceptionally hot weather in the past few days.

“The hot weather in the past few days had pushed electricity consumption to its highest in Peninsular Malaysia, with TNB recording an all-time high peak demand of 17,175MW on Wednesday.

“The heat wave, due to the El Nino weather phenomenon, saw consumer demand for energy soar since Monday, breaching the 17,000MW peak demand threshold.”

TNB said this broke the previous record peak demand of 16,901MW, which was registered on June 6, 2014.

The national energy provider said the higher demand would not affect the reliability of power supply as TNB had sufficient generational capacity.

It said there was capacity to generate 22,220MW of electricity in the peninsula, out of which 11,818MW was TNB’s own capacity, while the rest was from independent power producers.

“In line with the government’s call for the efficient use of energy, electricity consumers are encouraged to adopt measures during the peak hours of energy consumption between 2pm and 5pm.” The measures include setting air conditioners between 23ºC and 25ºC, ironing and washing clothes at night and boiling water during off-peak hours.

For large power users, such as cement manufacturers and steel millers, TNB advised them to operate machines or factories at night.

Consumers who wish to get more information on energy efficiency tips can refer to TNB’s website at

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Malaysia: Scorching heat expected on March 20

The Star 12 Mar 16;

PETALING JAYA: Scorching heat is forecast on March 20 due to the equinox phenomenon.

The current hot spell could cause a heatwave if the temperature exceeds 35°C for five straight days, or 37°C for three consecutive days, said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau.

In a statement, he said that of late, the highest temperature was recorded on Thursday in Alor Setar, and Chuping (Perlis) where it peaked at 38.5°C.

He said if the rain continued to stay away, then Kedah, Perlis and Penang could record even higher temperatures.

“As for the Klang Valley, the nights will be hotter than usual,” he said.

Malaysians, especially senior citizens and children, should take precautions when engaging in outdoor activities. “Drink more water to prevent dehydration,” he said.

Tangau said the hot and dry weather was projected to ease by the end of the month following the inter-monsoon season where there would be more rain and thunderstorms in the evening.

On another matter, the Depart­ment of the Environment said yesterday that the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings recorded in the Klang Valley was due to ground level ozone and not the PM10 fine dust that is part of a haze.

Ground level ozone is a secondary pollutant formed by chemical reactions triggered by the presence of ultraviolet rays in sunlight.

“The API is based on five parameter pollutants – PM10 (indicator of haze), SO2, NO2, CO and ground level ozone (O3). In the API calculation, the most prominent parameter becomes the API of that particular time or hour,” the DOE said.

“The contributing factor to high ground level ozone is due to high intensity sunlight since the weather now is very hot and dry, resulting from the El Nino.”

Moderate API readings were recorded in Petaling Jaya at 103, Shah Alam (103) and Batu Muda (124) at 2pm yesterday.

April thunderstorms may bring some relief to hot spell

KUALA LUMPUR: The current hot spell is expected to last throughout the month with thunderstorms expected in April with the start of the one month inter monsoon season.

“The heat typically lifts as thunderstorms occurring in the afternoons will be common then,” said a Metreological Department Expert here today.

He also said the wet and rainy north-east monsoon season ending this month was marked by general dry spells from January to March due to the intense effects of El Nino.

“Rainfall dipped from 20 and 60 per cent while there was a general 0.5 degrees Celsius to 2.0 degrees Celsius rise in average temperatures,” he said, adding that the effects would neutralise come June.

Chuping, Perlis recorded the hottest temperature nationwide for three days from March 7 to March 10 at a scorching 38 degrees Celsius.

Lubok Merbau, Perak held the record for the hottest day in January and February with a reading of 37 degrees Celsius.

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Malaysia: Dengue cases on the rise

VEENA BABULAL New Straits Times 11 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: There have been a total of 62 deaths from dengue this year up to March 5, compared to 74 deaths recorded in the same period in 2015.

In a statement on Facebook, the Health Ministry said there were 28,122 cases recorded as of March, an increase of 1,513 (5.7 percent) from last year.

The number of dengue cases reported nationwide dropped by 166 cases last week, compared to the 2,885 recorded the week before.

Despite the 5.8 per cent reduction in cases in the two weeks, the ministry however reiterated its call not to take the matter lightly.

“The number of cases can spike upwards again if precautionary measures are not taken or lackadaisically carried out.”

“The public also has to change their attitude and give priority to cleanliness and carry out the eradication of aedes mosquitoe breeding grounds as the risk of being infected is still there,” it added.

There are 237 dengue hotspots listed in nine states. Topping the list is Selangor with 163 hotspots, followed by Johor (54) and Perak (5).

Terengganu and Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya) recorded four hotspots each, Pulau Pinang and Sabah also recorded two hotspots respectively while Negri Sembilan and Malacca recorded one hotspot each.

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Malaysia: High-Level Discussion Needed To Address Transboundary Haze Issues - Lee Lam Thye

Bernama 11 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 (Bernama) -- A high-level discussion is needed to address the transboundary haze issues and find ways to solve the problem once and for all, said social activist, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

Lee, who is also Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation vice president, said there should be bilateral talks between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

"The bilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) was proposed after all ASEAN members ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

"It was reported that the MoU between Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta was scheduled to be signed on Sept 18 last year but was postponed to Sept 25 before being delayed again. Until now, no new date has been set for the signing of the MoU," he said in a statement here, today.

Lim said it was heartening to note that Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was doing his best to get both sides to sign the MOU but the minister had yet to receive any response from his counterpart.

Earlier on Monday, Indonesia's western province of Riau has declared a state of emergency over forest and land fires blazing on the island of Sumatra.

The report sparked fears of a recurrence of haze in the country.

"Malaysia should avoid a repeat of last year's haze at all cost. Last year, the thick haze, which enveloped the country from August to October, was one of the worst in Malaysia," he added.

Lee also commented on the report from the Meteorological Department that said the forest fires in Riau should not be an immediate concern as the northeasterly wind would not bring the haze particles to Malaysia.

"But what will happen in May and June when the winds change direction?

"Malaysia has to be pro-active and take preventive action as the haze issue is one of great concern for everyone because it affects the whole country in terms of people's health, healthcare expenses, environment, economy and many others," he said.

The NRE ministry also needed to expedite the implementation of the law, to make parties responsible for causing air pollution in Malaysia accountable for their actions in neighbouring countries such as illegally burning forests and peatlands, he said.


Malaysia must take lead in tackling haze issue
The Star 12 Mar 16;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia must be proactive in preventing the perennial haze, because it comes with great cost to health, environment and the economy, said social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic).

“Time is not on our side. Malaysia has to take the lead and get Asean to work on measures to prevent or mitigate this transboundary pollution,” he said in a statement.

Urging for strong political will and commitment from each Asean member, he suggested that the association of nations set a target – that the region be haze-free in the next three to five years.

“Images of a grey sky, low visibility, polluted air, respiratory problems, school closures and flight delays during last year’s crisis are still vivid in everyone’s minds.

“Malaysia should avoid a repeat of this at all cost,” he said.

Lee praised Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar for trying to get Indonesia to agree to address the issue.

“Regrettably, the minister has yet to receive any response from his counterpart despite sending nearly 10 letters,” he said.

A bilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) was proposed after Asean ratified the Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

Lee called on Malaysia and Indonesia to ensure the MoU was signed as soon as possible so that bilateral measures and actions to solve the issue could be expedited.

He said the Meteorological Depart­ment had reported that ­forest fires in Riau should not be an immediate concern because the winds are not blowing towards Malaysia.

“But what will happen in May and June when the winds change direction?

“If need be, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should get in touch with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to get things going.”

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Malaysia: Batu Caves of great importance for conservation

TAN YI LIANG The Star 12 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has identified Batu Caves as an area of great importance for conservation.

"Batu Caves is of great importance to all of us because of its biodiversity, cultural, scientific, recreational and aesthetic values. However, the limestone hill remains poorly protected and the management is fragmented," said MNS honorary member Datuk Henry S. Barlow in his speech in conjunction with MNS' 76th anniversary on Friday.

He added that Batu Caves is a repository of geological and natural history knowledge as there are endemic plants and animals. The Temple Cave is a major religious site while the Dark Caves is an important conservation and nature tourism site.

"It continues to face numerous threats including illegal quarrying, invasive animal and plant species, fires, urbanisation, and inappropriate infrastructure development. The recent fires on the limestone hill underscores the need for better protection of its natural resources," said Barlow, who served as MNS' honorary treasure for 25 years.

He added that the society has been involved in many efforts over the years to protect Batu Caves, including the successful campaign to stop quarrying in the early 1980s.

"MNS continues to be involved in the conservation efforts there and has been entrusted by the Selangor government to manage the Dark Caves," said Barlow at the event at a hotel here, which was attended by Selangor Ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

Barlow said that a long-term solution for the protection of Batu Caves would be increased legal protection and an effective management framework, adding that this could be achieved by forming a Batu Caves conservation trust.

He said that such a trust would involve the Selangor state government and the various parties that are managing different parts of the limestone hill.

"A management plan needs to be formulated and implemented. Ultimately, better management of Batu Caves will improve its chances of getting a Unesco World Heritage Status," said Barlow.

He added that combining Batu Caves with other limestone sites in Selangor such as Bukit Takun and Anak Buas as well as the Klang Gates Ridge as a serial site is an option that should be explored further as it may improve the chances of success.

On the previous successes of MNS, Barlow said that one key success of the society was the protection of Endau-Rompin, when in 1977 MNS gave its voice to the call to stop extensive logging there and caused the termination of logging concessions.

"After leading the historic Malaysian Heritage and Scientific Expedition there, Endau-Rompin was eventually gazetted as state park in 1993. A similar year-long expedition took place in 1993 to Belum in northern Perak, leading to the eventual establishment there of a state park," he said.

He added that in 1987, the society took the first step into environmental education by accepting the management of what is now known as the Kuala Selangor Nature Park, and two years later, the Boh Field Study Centre in Cameron Highlands was set up, thanks to the generosity of Datuk T.B. Russell.

"Today, with the opening last year of the Vale Eco Centre in Teluk Batik, Lumut, Perak, we manage eight such centres in eight differing places each with its own particular purpose and appeal," said Barlow.

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Malaysia: Sharks put ‘in the soup’

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 13 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The over-fishing of sharks has reached a point where it is no longer sustainable, and this will adversely affect the country’s seafood supply chain.

WWF-Malaysia’s Marine Prog­ramme Sustainable Seafood manager G. Chitra Devi said sharks were a wildlife species whose existence played a crucial role in keeping the ecosystem healthy.

“The high consumption of shark fins in Malaysia causes sharks to be overfished. The decline of sharks will cut short our supply of seafood and affect human survival.

“This is a matter of food security and if the present trade of sharks continues, businesses will exhaust their supply of fins and sharks,” she said during a campaign by the Sabah Shark Protection Association to create awareness on the conservation of sharks and urge the people to stop consuming shark fins.

Chitra said the over-fishing of sharks was simply not sustainable as sharks could not reproduce fast enough to cope with the high demand, resulting in their population dwindling rapidly.

According to the association, sharks prevented potential outbreak of diseases and helped improve the gene pool of other fish species, which were crucial for the continued supply of fish as a major and affordable source of protein.

It added that sharks kept the populations of commercial and non-commercial fish in check, enabling only healthier and stronger fish to remain and reproduce in larger numbers, keeping the marine ecosystem stable.

The association also expressed concern that despite studies confirming the shark’s role in the ecosystem, various types and sizes of sharks were fished daily and ended up as a meal, mainly in the form of shark’s fin soup.

Together with various non-governmental organisations, the association champions the protection of endangered sharks and sting rays in Sabah through three core areas – habitat protection through existing or new Marine Protected Areas; the strengthening of governance and law, and continued raising of awareness, especially among consumers; and engagement with the business sector to reduce pressure on sharks in the wild.

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Indonesia: Weary of haze crisis, civil group files lawsuit against government

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 11 Mar 16;

A group of citizens in Riau have filed a lawsuit against the central government with the Pekanbaru District Court, demanding serious action be taken against the forest and land fires that result in annual haze crises.

The group consists of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment’s (Walhi) Riau chapter, the Malay Community Forum, Siku Keluang Cultural House and the Working Network of Riau Forests.

They accuse the President, the environment and forestry minister, the agriculture minister, the health minister, the head of the National Land Agency and the Riau governor of failing to protect citizens’ rights.

“Forest fires have been going on for 18 years. For too long, the people of Riau have been forced to breathe in polluted air because of haze from forest fires,” Walhi Riau chairman Riko Kurniawan said on Thursday.

“The country is failing to protect its citizens. We demand the country immediately solve this issue.”

In its lawsuit, the group demands better management of natural resources, especially in the forestry and plantation sectors, which are widely blamed for many of the fires.

It also called on the government to revise all policies related to peatland management in order to make forest fire prevention efforts more effective.

“We’re not asking the government to pay compensation — we just want it to improve its management and its policies to stop forest fires happening again in the future,” Riko explained.

The submission of the lawsuit was turned into something of an event, with cultural performances and a long march by residents playing traditional Malay instruments.

The group’s legal representative, Indra Jaya, said he hoped the judge appointed to try the case would have a background in environmental issues.

The Riau provincial administration has declared a state of emergency over forest and land fires, which every year send choking smog across swathes of the country and into neighboring nations, pushing average daily greenhouse gas emissions above those of the US.

The fires are often set by plantation companies and smallholders to clear land, and were particularly bad in 2015 because of a prolonged dry season caused by the El Niño weather pattern.

Earlier this week, Bukit Barisan military commander Maj. Gen. Lodewyk Pusung deployed military personnel to areas where hot spots had been detected.

“We must prevent new hot spots from spreading, so we’re deploying personnel to monitor locations prone to fires. We don’t care if the land belongs to local people or to corporations,” he said.

Lodewyk said that his team was equipped with sharp bullets and had been given permission to take tough action during patrolling.

“If we find anyone burning the land, we will shoot him or her in the legs so they can’t escape,” he said, expressing disappointment that slash-and-burn practices were still rampant in Riau.

Since early February, a total of 300 hectares of peatland on the eastern coast of Riau have been burned, and hot spots have also been detected in conservation areas in Bengkalis and Siak regencies.

Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) division II head Supartono said that around 70 hectare of land within wildlife and biosphere reserves had been burned.

“People are still clearing land within conservation territory. The BKSDA, together with forest police officers, will continue to track them down to forestall the emergence of new hot spots,” he said.

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Indonesia: New system developed to tackle forest fires

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 12 Mar 16;

The government, learning from the negligence that led to last year’s widespread land and forest fires which is considered one of the century’s greatest environmental catastrophes, is developing a new system of fire prevention.

Last Friday, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) detected 59 hotspots in Sumatra, including 45 hotspots in Riau; with the dry season approaching, concerns are mounting over a repeat of last year’s debilitating fires and haze.

“Under the current mitigation system, when a fire is detected, it is extinguished. This leads to fluctuations in the number of hotspots. But we can’t keep chasing fires like that. As such, we plan to develop a system within the next two to three weeks to make the government more active and able to prevent forest fires,” Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said on Friday.

The new system is to be developed in conjunction with the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Ministry, the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister and the World Bank, and will engage regional governments and local communities in preventing forest fires. The system is expected to ensure every decision regarding forest fire prevention made by regional governments is followed at all levels down to village level.

In practice, the government will also utilize its social assets in the form of community engagement to prevent forest fires.

BNPB head Willem Rampangilei said recently that the government would train local residents to prevent land and forest fires, as they were more able to respond quickly to flare-ups. To date, Willem said, local people had not been involved in fire-prevention efforts, and were indeed often blamed for setting fires.

Siti said the government was optimistic the initiative to engage local communities would succeed, as she had noticed increasing public involvement in regions prone to forest fires.

“We already have good capital. I noticed in South Sumatra there was very lively [public involvement]. Whenever a hot spot emerges, local people move instantly [to put out the fire],” she said.

The mitigation system will be coupled with a monitoring system currently being prepared by the government, Siti added.

Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) head Nazir Foead said on Thursday the agency was working together with Hokkaido University and Kyoto University in Japan to develop an early warning system for detecting fires in peatland. The early warning system would, Nazir said, complement that of the BNPB.

“While the BNPB system monitors what happens above ground, we will monitor what happens below the ground, such as the depth of water in peatland,” Nazir said.

He said the system, dubbed SESAME, was being tested by Japan and the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) in Central Kalimantan.

“BRG research and development deputy Haris Gunawan is currently meeting with a number of academics in Japan to discuss the possibility of adopting the system not only in Central Kalimantan but also in other places,” said Nazir.

The BRG is also looking at the possibility of moving the system server from Japan to Indonesia, he added.

“Japan is prepared to have the server located in Indonesia. We just have to decide whether the system is managed by the BPPT, the BNPB, the Environment and Forestry Ministry or us. We think the BPPT is the most appropriate government agency [to manage the system] because the BRG has a lifespan of only five years,” Nazir said.

Indonesia to Better Manage Forest and Land Fires This Year: Officials, Private Sector
Muhamad Al Azhari Jakarta Globe 11 Mar 16;

Jakarta. Indonesia’s government officials and the private sector claim forest fires prevention and management will be better this year after a tough lesson from what critics have called the country's worst environmental disaster last year, which cost the state billions of dollars.

An early alarm rang this month in Riau province, which suffers from forest fires every year. Provincial spokesperson Darusman said the Riau governor has declared a state of emergency over forest and land fires, a Reuters report said on Wednesday (09/03).

Agus Justianto, senior advisor to the Minister of the Environment and Forestry said on Thursday the government has responded to any threats of forest fires seriously.

Indonesia experienced the worst draught in 15 years caused by the El Nino weather pattern last year. The nation’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) predicted this year’s continued El Nino isn’t less severe as last year’s.

“We have prepared for an integrated approach,” Agus, who advises the minister on natural resources and economic affairs, told the Jakarta Globe.

Agus was speaking on the first day of a two-day meeting of the General Assembly of the Tropical Forest Alliance in Jakarta from March 10-11.

Agus said Indonesia’s integrated approach to tackling forest fire include a stronger monitoring for law enforcement to push for action against possible offenders of forest-fires, creating a one-map policy to govern land and forest areas to establishing a dedicated agency for peatland restoration.

On top of that, he said, the government has also established regional task forces in nine provinces to push for prevention and tackling forest fire issues within their regions.

“The source of funding for these task forces are from the state and provincial budgets, those are the primary sources, but it doesn’t close the chances to receive funding from other parties, including from the private sectors and other countries,” Agus said.

In Riau, Reuters’ report said about 500 police and military personnel and a water-bombing helicopter had been dispatched to help extinguish the fires, even though the haze had not yet reached urban areas.

Nazir Foead, the head of the Peatland Restoration Agency said the fire in Riau province covered an area of about 100 hectares, but it took place about three kilometer from the nearest airport in Dumai. Pinang Kampai Airport in Dumai serves the city and surrounding areas.

Riau governor decided to declare a state of emergency. Top executives from pulp and paper companies operating in Riau welcomed the move and share the same optimism about forest fire fight may be better this year.

The sooner, the better

Anderson Tanoto, a director at Royal Golden Eagle, a diversified conglomerate that controls Asia Pacific Resources International (April), a producer of fiber, pulp and paper, said that the declaration of a state of emergency “was positive,” as it will help Riau, the province in which April has its main operations, to secure all investment and manpower it needs to help prevent and fight fires.

“Last year, the alert was sent so late,” said Anderson.

April operates a 1,750 hectare manufacturing complex in Kerinci, one of the largest single-site pulp mills in the world.

“That’s why I think this is a positive thing, because it [the alert] was sent in March. That means that all command posts will start working; the faster they start working, the faster the flame can be extinguished,” Anderson said.

Aida Greenbury, managing director of sustainability at Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a subsidiary of the Sinar Mas Group conglomerate, said APP has made commitments for this year to spend more than $20 million for its broad fire management strategy, which lists measures like prevention, preparation, early detection and rapid responses.

The impact of Indonesia's forest and land fires last year was massive, as it resulted in haze that blew to neighboring countries, but also caused significant economic, environmental and social damages.

The World Bank in a report released in November said that early estimates of the total economic costs of the fires in 2015 in Indonesia alone exceed $16 billion, which means it was more than double the damage and losses from the 2004 tsunami and equal to about 1.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

This estimation includes calculation in losses in agriculture, transport, trade, forestry, industry, tourism and other sectors.

The World Bank said in the report that "some of these costs are direct damage and losses to crops, forests, houses and infrastructure, as well as the cost of responding to the fires."

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Indonesia: Multi-Stakeholder Alliance Formed to Fight Fires

Muhamad Al Azhari Jakarta Globe 11 Mar 16;

Jakarta. A group of leading forestry and agriculture companies, NGOs and other partners announced on Friday (11/3) the formation of the Fire-Free Alliance, a voluntary, multi-stakeholder platform to aid in the resolution of land and forest fires in Indonesia.

Founding members include Asia Pacific Resources International (April), a producer of fiber, pulp and paper and its sister palm oil group of companies under the Asian Agri flag and two other group of palm oil companies under Musim Mas group and Wilmar group.

Sustainable trade initiatives include the International Trade and Development, People's Movement to Stop Haze, known as PM.Haze – a movement in Singapore by people who believe that everyone can help stop the haze – and non-government organization of Rumah Pohon.

"Forest and land fires have impacts to all aspects of life in Indonesia. FFA exists to help assure and to fight forest and land fires," said Chief Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, during a keynote speech on Friday at the second day of the meeting of the General Assembly of the Tropical Forest Alliance in Jakarta. The meeting runs on March 10-11.

"The president has instructed the Indonesian Military [TNI] and the police to stay on alert over potential threats of forest and land fires. This is hard to control, but with better preparation, things will be better handled than last year," said the retired general, who served in the military for more than 30 years.

Luhut said this year, the government will work as optimum as possible to prevent forest and land fires.

"The government will announce as quickly as possible, should there be a potential of fires. For example, the one in Dumai [Riau], we have instructed the governor to act and extinguish the fire," he said.

Luhut acknowledged that last year, the government came up with many policies, but the impact in the field were minimum.

FFA said in a statement on Friday that its members have jointly committed to collaborate and share knowledge, information and potentially resources to roll out fire prevention initiatives based on April Group’s Fire Free Village Program (FFVP). They will also help enhance fire monitoring, detection and suppression.

Launched in 2015, the community-focused FFVP is a fire prevention initiative that seeks to educate, enable and empower villagers nearby fire-prone areas to fight fire and campaign against the use of fire for agricultural purposes.

According to April Group's data, the program achieved a 90 percent decline in fire incidence among participating villages, during what is considered the worst possible El Nino episode in Indonesia, compared to 2014.

"FFA members will adopt and implement the FFVP, sharing lessons and best practices on how partnerships and engagement with the communities can protect forests from the high risk of fires," FFA said in a statement, adding that the alliance's commitment help supports the Indonesian Government’s commitment to a "Haze Free Asean" by 2020.

“The FFA demonstrates how the private sector in partnership with civil society groups can advance the fire-free cause through voluntary action,” said Lucita Jasmin, April's director for sustainability and external affairs.

“Collaboration under the FFA umbrella will help expand a successful fire prevention strategy to the broader landscape.”

Petra Meekers, director of sustainable development at Musim Ma,s said the group believes the FFA "will be a valuable platform to exchange good practices and enhance Musim Mas’s existing firefighting plans.”

Community Collaboration to Prevent Land and Forest Fire 11 Mar 16;

In an effort to stop forest fires and haze from becoming an annual problem during the dry season in Indonesia, a Riau-based initiative called the Fire Free Village Program (FFVP) is being scaled up to include more villages collaborating to prevent land and forest fires.

Designed and launch in 2015 by APRIL Group, the program consists of a five-pronged approach to preventing fires: community incentives to not clear land with fire, identifying community fire crew leaders, education in sustainable agricultural alternatives, air quality monitoring and community awareness campaigns.

The program is executed in collaboration with the provincial government, law enforcement authorities, local communities and non-governmental organizations with incentives program rewards villages that are successful in maintaining fire-free areas by not using fire as agricultural tool. Villages that participate in the project and remain fire-free are rewarded with infrastructure grants.

With the long term objective of influencing behavior change in relation to the use of fire in agricultural practice, part of the Fire Free Village Program is to support communities with alternative, sustainable agriculture with mechanized land preparation, agricultural machinery and training.

“This private-initiated program help our cause to make Riau free of forest fire and haze,” said Arsyadjuliandi Rachman, Riau’s interim governor at the program's launch in 2015.

Emphasizing on collaboration on fire prevention efforts in addition to the overall fire detection and suppression, the program reflects the view that fire prevention is the most effective long-term solution to the fire and haze issue.

“The program is about collaboration in forest fire prevention. Along with the government, civil society groups and the community, we will work together to address the root cause of land and forest fires,” said Tony Wenas, Managing Director of APRIL Group Indonesia Operations.

Partnering with APRIL to roll out the program in Riau are two local NGOs: Rumah Pohon and Blue Green. Building on a pilot fire-prevention program in 2014, nine villages from fire-prone areas were initially chosen to participate in this project have committed to a zero burn policy.

All nine villages are located in the periphery of the group’s plantation in the town of Kerinci in Pelalawan regency, where it operates a mill.

In anticipation of this year's dry season, the Fire Free Village Program is now expanded to 20 villages from the original nine and supported by a new complementary community awareness initiative called Fire Aware Community (FAC), rolled out across another 55 villages, further contributing to efforts to prevent forest fires in Riau Province.

The new FAC component is designed as an entry-level phase to engage with communities and provide a background on fire management and fire prevention. It will provide seasonal support for fire suppression, as well as a broader communication strategy with specific community groups.

APRIL also pledged an additional US$1 million on top of the company’s existing investment in fire suppression capability to support the program's expansion. This equates to an investment of approximately US$30,000 per Fire Free Village Programme participant and US$5,000 per Fire Aware Community village.

Root cause prevention

The extension acknowledges the success of the 2015 program, which effectively engaged with nine local communities to reduced burned areas by 90 percent from 2014 to 2015. Effective collaboration and coordination between community leaders, government, businesses and NGOs is key in the success of the program's execution.
In particular, the 2015 program contributed to a significant reduction in fires surrounding the Kampar Peninsula. This has been credited to a combination of factors — early detection, active suppression and a focus on root-cause prevention through the FFVP.

Commenting on APRIL Group's fire-prevention program, Kuala Panduk village chief Tomjon said the initiative also offered economic and environmental benefits. "Farmers can develop land without using fire and get information about better ways of farming," Tomjon said.

Meanwhile, Dede Kunaifi from Rumah Pohon said that the project encouraged greater awareness of the dangers of fire and haze, as well as their adverse impacts on health and livelihoods. "By collaborating with like-minded stakeholders, we hope to see a win-win and lasting solution on the ground," Dede said. (+)

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Indonesia: Floods Leave Two Dead, Three Missing in Bandung, West Java

Antara 13 Mar 16;

Jakarta (Antara News)- Floods have left two dead and three others missing in Bandung District, West Java Province, as Citarum River overflowed following incessant heavy rains since Tuesday (March 8).

The downpours caused flooding in 15 regions in Bandung District, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said in a statement, here, on Sunday.

The flood-affected regions are Cicalengka, Rancaekek, Cileunyi, Solokan Jeruk, Majalaya, Ciparay, Baleendah, Dayeuhkolot, Bojongsoang, Pameungpeuk, Banjaran, Arjasri, Cangkuang, Katapang and Kutawaringin.

The flooding forced more than three thousand people to evacuate themselves to higher grounds, and affected some 5,900 families comprising 24 thousand people.

The floodwaters reached a height of between 80 cm to three meters, particularly in villages near the river bank.

The dead victims were Risa, 13, and Ela, 40, who lived in Sawahluhur, Sukasari village, Pameungpeuk Sub-district.

Elas husband and two daughters were missing as the building where they were staying and is located near the river bank, collapsed after being swept away by flash floods.

A joint team of the Bandung Disaster Mitigation Office (BPBD) and the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) are currently looking for the three missing victims.

The downpours also triggered a landslide in Lemburkebon area, Padasuka village, Kutawaringin Sub-district, Bandung.

The landslide seriously damaged one house, but did not claim any lives.

BNPB Chief Willem Rampangilei has instructed evacuation of the natural disasters victims. They are currently being accommodated in local governments offices, schools and mosques.

The Bandung district head is expected to declare a flood emergency status soon to accelerate the rescue efforts.

On March 2, the BNPB chief told the press that his office recorded floods and landslides in 260 cities and regencies since the beginning of the year and until February 26.

"Forty-six people died in the disasters and 16 sustained injuries, while as many as 1,083,104 people were displaced," Willem Rampangilei stated.

Potatoes cause landslides in Wonosobo, research finds
Arientha Primanita, 10 Mar 16;

Potatoes are partly to blame for a recent landslide in Wonosobo, Central Java, as farmers engage in unsafe planting practices that harm the environment to try to reap high prices amid the area's status as Indonesia's largest potato producer, the results of a study revealed on Thursday.

The short potato roots are a major factor in soil erosion leading to landslides in Wonosobo, a study by the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) entitled “Forest Ownership and Management in Indonesia” revealed.

"Domestic potato prices rose an average of 35 percent between 2010 to 2014. Because of this farmers are driven to plant crops that put themselves and surrounding communities at risk," CIPS Trade and Livelihood researcher Hizkia Respatiadi said in a statement sent to on Thursday.

Part of the study took part in Wonosobo regency, where Kejajar subdistrict, Dieng Plateau, is the biggest potato producer in the country.

As reported earlier, heavy rain triggered a landslides on Tuesday evening that covered the road connecting Wonosobo to Dieng Plateau.

Dieng Plateau, spanning Wonosobo and Banjarnegara regencies in Central Java, is a popular tourist destination in Central Java that has highlands, beautiful scenery and sacred temples.

The area is the country's biggest producer of potatoes, with most residents working as potato farmers. Potato takes less time to grow -- three months compared to six months for tobacco.

The study found that protectionist trade policies, such as the 2012 Food Law that bans food imports, are driving up domestic food prices.

“We need better incentives through informed trade policies that encourage farmers to grow crops more suited to their environment so that they can earn a decent living without putting their and others' lives at risk,” Hizkia said.

Landslides could be prevented if local communities had rights over their forest resources, the study suggested.

Residents of Buntu village in Wonosobo acknowledged the likelihood of a landslide occurring if state-owned forestry firm Perhutani were to cut down trees located uphill from their homes. Thus, residents must be involved in forest management as they are directly affected by forestry activities.

“Local communities must have secure property rights over forests, because they are the ones who know what will affect their living environments," Hizkia added.

The study shows that local community involvement and ownership of forest resources can improve sustainable forest management. (rin)

Floods submerge 35 thousand houses in Bandung district
Antara 13 Mar 16;

Flood in Baleendah, Bandung District, West Java. (ANTARA FOTO/Fahrul Jayadiputra)
Bandung, W Java (ANTARA News) - Floods triggered by incessant heavy rains and the overflowing of Citarum River, have submerged some 35 thousand houses in the districts of Dayeuhkolot, Baleendah and Bojongsoang in Bandung District, West Java Province.

"This flooding is the worst over the past 10 years. The floodwaters have reached a height of up to 3.3 meters," Coordinator of Bandungs Disaster-Alert Youth, said on the phone, Sunday.

The office of Dayeuhkolot Sub-district administration, which had never been flooded since 20 years ago, is now inundated at a height of 35 cm, he said.

In the meantime, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said in a statement in Jakarta, on Sunday that the floods left two dead and three others missing in Bandung District.

The dead victims were Risa, 13, and Ela, 40, who lived in Sawahluhur, Sukasari village, Pameungpeuk Sub-district.

Elas husband and two daughters were missing as the building where they were staying and is located near the river bank, collapsed after being swept away by flash floods.

The floods affected 15 regions, namely Cicalengka, Rancaekek, Cileunyi, Solokan Jeruk, Majalaya, Ciparay, Baleendah, Dayeuhkolot, Bojongsoang, Pameungpeuk, Banjaran, Arjasri, Cangkuang, Katapang and Kutawaringin.

The flooding forced more than three thousand people to evacuate themselves to higher grounds, and affected some 5,900 families comprising 24 thousand people.


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Indonesia: Yellow-crested cockatoo population shrinks

Markus Makur, The Jakarta Post 11 Mar 16;

Damage to habitats and rampant illegal hunting of the yellow-crested cockatoo in East Nusa Tenggara have been blamed for the decreasing population of the protected birds in the province over past decades.

Bird-watching guide Samuel Rabenak, who is also on the staff of the local branch of non-governmental organization Burung Indonesia, said research conducted in the Mbeliling forest, Komodo National Park, showed that the yellow-crested cockatoo population had continued to decrease.

He said the birds could now only be found in Golo Mori village, Komodo district, West Manggarai regency, Flores. “And there are not many,” Samuel told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He blamed the condition on damage to their natural habitat, insufficient supply of food in the woods in Flores and uncontrolled illegal hunting of the birds.

He said two days earlier he had guided seven birdwatchers from New Zealand from Labuan Bajo to Kelimutu National Park and they were shocked at locals carrying air guns to shoot the birds around Gorontalo Labuan Bajo.

“The bird has been declared to be on the brink of extinction or critically endangered,” Samuel said.

He suggested that to preserve the protected birds in their natural habitat, the government should promote the replanting of trees that produce food for the birds and ban hunting the birds.

The province was once renowned for its yellow-crested cockatoos, or Keka as the bird is locally known. Before 1985, the birds could be easily found in the region.

Rampant hunting, however, has drastically decreased its population. Local farmers consider the birds enemies because they eat their corn and buckwheat.

Meanwhile, the head of the technical division of the province’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), Maman Surahman, said the population of yellow-crested cockatoos in Manipo Recreational Park in Kupang regency was between 25 and 30 while in Harlu Wildlife Reserve in Rote regency there were 30 to 45
of them.

Efforts to protect the birds from illegal hunting, he said, included conducting a periodical inventory and studies on the components of their habitats, such as their hiding, nesting and foraging places.

Rampant hunting, however, has drastically decreased its population. Local farmers consider the birds enemies because they eat their corn and buckwheat.

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Indonesia: Javan hawk-eagles return to Mt. Merapi, population on the rise

Bambang Muryanto, The Jakarta Post 12 Mar 16;

In contrast to the decreasing populations of many rare species across Indonesia, the population of Javan hawk-eagles is increasing in Mount Merapi National Park (TNGM), where they can frequently be spotted circling the volcano.

TNGM forest ecosystem control official Arif Sulfiantoro said that his team had identified three more birds, meaning the park is home to a total of six Javan hawk-eagles.

“In 2014, we recorded only three Javan hawk-eagles in the mountain’s forest conservation area. Now that number has doubled,” Arif The Jakarta Post. “This is incredible news.”

He said that the birds, which are endemic to Java, had been identified by the TNGM research team in two regions. Two were spotted in Plawangan forest in Turgo, Sleman regency, Yogyakarta; the third was located in Kemalang, Klaten regency, Central Java.

Of the six, one is the baby of a couple that nested in Plawangan forest, the only primary forest left on the slopes of Mt. Merapi, near the Kaliurang tourist resort.

Arif said it was possible that the two hawks found in Plawangan forest had come from another forest within TNGM.

“We’re not yet entirely sure where they came from,” he said.

Established in 2004, TNGM covers an area of some 6,410 hectares, straddling four regencies: Sleman in Yogyakarta and Magelang, Klaten and Boyolali in Central Java.

Following the 2010 Mt. Merapi eruptions, the protected species disappeared from TNGM, and no individuals were spotted by the TNGM team until 2011.

In 2012, the team spotted four Javan hawk-eagles, but one went off radar in 2014.

Arif said that identifying the whereabouts of Javan hawk-eagles was difficult because the birds preferred to live in dense primary forest.

They are also shy and often hide behind trees when competitors — black hawks or crested serpent eagles — appear nearby. Other enemies include long-tailed monkeys, who like to steal the hawk’s eggs.

According to Arif, Javan hawk-eagles are easily stressed and reluctant breeders — a female Javan hawk-eagle lays only one egg per year.

In 2013, Yogyakarta Governor Hamengkubuwono released a female Javan hawk-eagle in TNGM, but the park’s team have not come across the bird since.

Yogyakarta-based birdwatcher Lim Wen Sin welcomed the news that TNGM now had six Javan hawk-eagles, noting that the national park could ideally only accommodate between eight and 12 individuals.

“Javan hawk-eagles can cover a territory of 1,500 hectares. The birds still have to share space with other predators within a fairly cramped forest,” Lim said.

The main threat to the continued existence of the Javan hawk-eagle is illegal hunting. Four years ago, some 80 were traded online every year. In 2015, with the species in decline, the number traded had fallen to 60.

The IUCN Red List has listed the Javan hawk-eagle as an endangered status since 1994. Ornithologist Bas Van Balen stated in 2012 that the population of the bird across Java stood between 600 and 900.

During the massive eruptions of Mt. Merapi in 2010, hundreds of wild animals that had lived on the slopes of the volcano left the area, their habitats razed by the activity of the world’s most active volcano

Hundreds of long-tailed monkeys from the scorched Plawangan forest were seen moving out of the area, entering residential areas some 15 kilometers down the slopes.

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Indonesia: More reclamation projects challenged in court

Indra Budiari, The Jakarta Post 11 Mar 16;

A lawsuit challenging a Jakarta gubernatorial permit for the construction of artificial islets F, I and K off the city’s northern coast kicked off at the Jakarta State Administrative Court on Thursday with a panel of judges reading out the petition.

In the 38-page petition, a copy of which was made available to The Jakarta Post, fishermen, rights activists and environmentalists claim that the Jakarta governor violated various regulations in issuing the permits and demanded that the court revoke them immediately.

The petitioners believe that the reclamation was carried out without obtaining a preliminary environmental permit as regulated by Law No. 32/2009 on environmental management and protection.

The Jakarta administration is also accused of violating the basic rights of coastal fishermen — as the most affected parties in the artificial islet development projects — to access and manage natural resources in the area. The petitioners said the fishermen’s needs were not being taken into account during the construction.

“Based on Constitutional Court decision No. 3/PUU-VIII/2010, fishermen have a constitutional right to coastal and small island areas,” the petition claims.

On Oct. 22 last year, the city administration issued construction licenses to city-owned PT Jakarta Propertindo for Islet F and to PT Jaladri Eka Paksi for Islet I, and on Nov. 17 to PT Pembangunan Jaya Ancol for Islet K. The three islets are part of the 17 man-made islets planned to be built off the city’s northern coast.

Recently, Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama announced that he was considering evicting fishermen from the shoreline of North Jakarta and relocating them to the Thousands Islands, saying that they would get better catches in the regency.

The idea, however, has been strongly opposed by the fishermen, who believe that moving to the Thousands Islands would pose problems for them as the deeper sea would make it harder for them to catch fish or clams with tools as basic as those used by many Muara Angke fishermen, let alone the tougher competition with the islands’ fisherfolk.

The reclamation projects are also being conducted while the bylaw regulating the islets has yet to be passed by the city council.

During Thursday’s hearing, the petitioners also claimed that the city administration lacked the authority to issue the permits as the Jakarta coast was a strategic national area and any permit should be issued by the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry as a representative of central government.

“Furthermore, in 2003 the ministry issued Ministerial Decree No. 14/2003 on the environment and impropriety of the northern Jakarta coast reclamation project because it had the potential to harm the area’s maritime ecosystem,” Martin Hadiwinata, one of the petitioners, told the court.

The petition says that more fish would die as a result of environmental degradation, including the occurrence of harmful algal blooms.

“With so many violations committed in the project and damage that it could bring to the fishermen and the ecosystem, the judges should revoke or postpone the implementation of the islet construction permits,” Tigor Hutapea, a lawyer from the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation representing the fishermen, told the Post after the hearing.

Separately, Haratua Purba from the Jakarta administration’s legal bureau, said he would refute all of the arguments in the next hearing slated for March 17.

“I can’t share the details of our response. Every argument will be countered next week,” he said.

Aside from the petition against the permits for three islets, a hearing on a petition also filed by fishermen against Islet G and the trial is ongoing. In last week’s hearing, a law expert witness said it was the central government that had the authority to issue such permits.

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Thailand: Trang fishermen told to look out for slow-moving male dugong


A SENIOR marine official has urged Trang fishermen to help a seine-entangled male dugong spotted in the area if it gets caught in a dragnet.

Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong, the head of Phuket Marine Biological Centre's Rare Sea Animal Division, said the animal was spotted during the division's latest annual survey of the seagrass zone off the province.

"We have been monitoring him and found that this teenage male dugong swims slower than usual," Kongkiat said.

"Although it can still find food by itself, there is a risk that a seine [dragnet] might one day get caught on a big undersea rock and trap this animal under the sea.

"It will die if it can't swim to the surface and get some oxygen."

He told fishermen to alert officials if the animal was injured.

According to an annual aerial survey that concluded on Wednesday, Thailand's dugong population is growing, with at least 15 more sea cows counted in the Trang Sea. Twelve pairs of dugong mothers and calves were found - a positive sign that efforts to conserve the last and largest dugong herd in Thailand has made progress.

Fishermen's groups in the area have cooperated by not using dangerous fishing gear. Still, at least one dugong was found entangled in seine fishing net near Koh Libong.

This year's survey started on March 3 and was made up of 10 gyroplane trips - which count rare marine life including sea turtles, plus dolphins, whales and dugongs.

Kongkiat led the survey with support from other Thai and Japanese researchers.

"This latest survey was very successful. We found at least 150 dugongs in total, an increase from the previous year's 135 sea cows. We also found baby dugongs in the area, which indicated the dugongs' better reproduction condition. The oldest dugong is believed to be about 70 years old," Kongkiat said. Plus Trang's 35,000 rai (5,600 hectares) of seagrass appeared to be healthy, he said.

The survey were first conducted in 2010 and reported a peak of dugong deaths - 13 cases - in 2012.

Last year, six dugong deaths were reported killed, mostly because of hazardous fishing gear, Kongkiat said, adding that the centre aimed to keep the death rate under five a year.

The centre must boost local people's awareness about hazardous fishing gear and rubbish in the ocean to minimise threats to marine life and invite the public to participate in conservation efforts, he said.

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