Best of our wild blogs: 23 Mar 16

2nd NSS/NParks Kranji Marshes Bird Trip
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Water levels in Johor's Linggui Reservoir at 42%, just above historic low of 41%: Masagos

Audrey Tan Straits Times 22 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE - Water levels in the Linggiu Reservoir in Johor - which can supply up to 60 per cent of Singapore's water needs - are now at about 42 per cent.

This is just above the historical low of 41 per cent in late 2015. Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli revealed this on Tuesday (March 22) morning at Elias Park Primary School, where a water rationing exercise was being conducted to mark World Water Day.

Dry weather has been causing a steady depletion of water in Linggiu Reservoir since the prolonged dry spell experienced by Singapore and the region in early 2014.

Water levels never recovered from the dry spell and in August 2015, they dropped to 54 per cent. It later dipped to a low of 43 per cent in November 2015.

The north-east monsoon season in December had raised water levels to almost 50 per cent in early January, but they have dipped again since then to the current 42 per cent.

Singapore can draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) from the river, but there have been four disruptions this year. National water agency PUB has been pumping an average of 16 mgd of Newater a day for the month of March to the reservoirs here to meet the nation's water needs.

However, there is no need yet for island-wide water rationing to be conducted, Mr Masagos said.

"Some of you might be wondering why we are having this exercise, and when was the last time a water rationing exercise was held in Singapore," Mr Masagos told students at an assembly.

"The last time we experienced nation-wide water rationing was back in 1964. Although there is no need for active rationing today, it is still important to remind everybody the importance of water."

The voluntary water rationing exercise conducted by Elias Park Primary School was held for 1.5 hours from 10am to 11.30am, to teach students the value of water.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli in a water rationing exercise skit

During that time, the 1,100 students of the school were having their recess breaks. Principal Cassie Fan said students tend to use the most water during this period.

All the taps in the school were turned off for the 1.5 hours and students had to scoop water from pails to wash their hands before and after their meals, and to flush the toilets, for instance.

Elias Park Primary School was one of five schools to mark World Water Day with such an exercise. Two schools, Peirce Secondary School and Bukit View Secondary School, did so in early March. The others, including Bendeemer Primary School and Woodgrove Primary School, did so on Tuesday.

From about 7pm on Tuesday evening, buildings in the Marina Bay area, including the Singapore Sports Hub and the Singapore Flyer, will turn blue to commemorate World Water Day.

Water levels low at Singapore's main source
Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Mar 16;

Water rationing is not yet on the cards for Singapore, but people should save water in their own ways, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

"We have not had water rationing since 1964, and I don't think that, with all the preparation we have in place with Newater and desalination, we would have to do so.

"However, it does not mean that we should take our water supply for granted," he told reporters during a water rationing exercise to mark World Water Day at Elias Park Primary School.

Water levels at the Linggiu Reservoir in Johor - which can supply about 60 per cent of Singapore's water needs - are at 42 per cent, he added. This is only slightly above the historical low of 41 per cent recorded in October last year.

Mr Masagos urged Singaporeans to change their water usage habits by taking shorter showers or by using a cup or turning off the tap when brushing teeth, for example.

It was previously reported that reservoir levels were at their lowest at 43 per cent last November. But national water agency PUB clarified yesterday that the historical low was 41 per cent in October.

There has been a steady depletion of water in Linggiu Reservoir since a prolonged dry spell experienced by Singapore and the region in early 2014.

Last August, the levels dropped to 54 per cent and dipped further to 43 per cent in November.

The north-east monsoon season in December had raised water levels to almost 50 per cent in January, but they have since fallen to the current 42 per cent.

Singapore can draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) from the river, but there were four sea-water intrusions which temporarily disrupted plant operations this year.

The Linggiu Reservoir, located upstream of the Johor River, collects and releases rainwater and pushes sea water back into the sea, to ensure that the river water is not too salty to be treated by the Singapore-run treatment plant there.

PUB has been pumping an average of 16 mgd of Newater a day since the start of this month to reservoirs in Singapore to keep local reservoir stock at a healthy level.

On recent suggestions to make water more expensive, Mr Masagos said that water prices are based on the long-run marginal cost of water, which refers to the cost of producing the next drop of water from the desalination and Newater plants.

He said: "So as long as we are within the long-run marginal cost of producing this water, we will keep water prices at that level."

According to PUB, the price of potable water for domestic households is about $1.50 per cubic metre (not including GST), or 1,000 litres, for homes using 40 cubic metres or less a month.

Each Singapore resident uses 150 litres of water a day, enough to fill almost two bathtubs.

While the 42 per cent figure at Linggiu Reservoir sounds alarming, said Dr Cecilia Tortajada, a senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy's Institute of Water Policy, she is confident that Singapore can meet its water needs through other means, such as treating used water (Newater) and desalination.

"But as dry spells become more frequent, people and industries should also do more to save water," she told The Straits Times.

Elias Park Primary School yesterday held a water rationing exercise from 10am to 11.30am to teach its 1,100 pupils about the value of water.

Taps were turned off and pupils had to scoop water from pails to wash their hands and to flush the toilets.

Said Primary 5 pupil Jethro Tan, 10, of the exercise: "It helps me experience what life was like in the past and how hard life is without water."

S’pore’s long-term water supply a cause for worry: Masagos
VALERIE KOH Today Online 23 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — The long-term supply of water remains a source of worry for the Republic as it cannot always rely on the supply from Johor to replenish its reservoirs, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said yesterday.

Due to the prolonged dry weather, water levels in the Linggiu Reservoir in Johor — which can supply up to 60 per cent of Singapore’s water needs — are now at about 42 per cent, just above the historical low of 41 per cent in October 2015, he added.

Since March, national water agency PUB has been pumping an average of 16 million gallons of NEWater per day into Singapore’s reservoirs to maintain healthy water levels.

Singapore can currently draw 250 million gallons per day (mgd) from the Johor River.

However, Mr Masagos said there had been disruptions on many days last year and also this year due to “intrusion of salinity”, which occurs when the water level at Linggiu is low, and salt water seeps into the river.

According to PUB, there were close to 100 occasions last year where Singapore’s ability to draw water from the Johor River was temporarily affected.

Speaking at Elias Park Primary School, where a water rationing exercise was being conducted to mark World Water Day, Mr Masagos noted that Singapore has been investing in technology that allows it to reuse water that is part of the island’s drainage and sewage system, as well as to produce water through desalination, but with less energy.

“All these sources of water use energy and energy become a critical factor of cost in our water-supply chain. Over the long term, we have to worry about this because we cannot always rely on the supply from Johor to replenish our reservoirs.”

Despite the dry spell, Singapore, which has not held a water rationing exercise since 1964 — does not need to conduct such an exercise yet, Mr Masagos said.

“However, it does not mean that we should take our water supply for granted. Every (drop of) water we save counts and changing our habits to make sure that at the end of the day, all of us use less over the years will matter.

“It could be something like taking one minute less in the shower, using a cup when brushing teeth.”

Individuals and industrial users of water must also put in place technology and processes that will use as little water as possible, as well as ensure that water is not inevitably wasted, he added.

For example, do not buy washing machines that have been rated lowly for water savings.

Mr Masagos said: “We are projecting demand over the next decade and we have to be ready for disruptions to our water supply both from rain coming down less (often) and those disruptions that may occur at our Johor River supply.

“Therefore, it’s necessary for us to put in (place) such mitigation (measures) — more desalination plants, more NEWater processing — to ensure we don’t ever have to go into a water crisis.”

Water level at Linggiu Reservoir close to historic low: Masagos
The water level at the reservoir has fallen to 42 per cent, close to the historic low of 41 per cent recorded in October 2015, says the Environment and Water Resources Minister.
Angela Lim, Channel NewsAsia 23 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: The water level at Linggiu Reservoir - which directly affects the amount of water Singapore can draw from the Johor River - has fallen to 42 per cent, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli revealed on Tuesday (Mar 22).

This is close to the historic low of 41 per cent recorded in October last year, he said at a water rationing exercise at Elias Park Primary School held to mark World Water Day.

Previous reports said that the water level at the reservoir hit a record low of 43 per cent last November. But PUB clarified on Tuesday that the historic low was in October.

"Our worry is of course the long-term supply of water. We cannot just rely on rain to replenish our reservoir. And that is why for the longest time, we have been investing in technology to be able to reuse our water from our drainage and sewage system; at the same time, to invest in technology to produce water through desalination, but with as little energy as possible,” said Mr Masagos.

“All these sources of water use energy, and energy becomes a critical factor in cost. And therefore, over the long term, we have to worry because we cannot always rely on our water supply from Johor to replenish our supply,” he added.

Singapore's water supply has not been affected so far, as about 16 million gallons of NEWater are pumped into its reservoirs daily.

But with hotter and drier weather affecting Singapore's water sources, Mr Masagos urged businesses and individual Singaporeans to do their part to conserve water.

As part of the exercise, about 1,100 students were reminded of what it was like to live with a water shortage. Students also showcased their artwork, and participated in games and other activities with parent volunteers to learn more about how to save water.

Four taps and a foresight that won’t let them run dry
Today Online 23 Mar 16;

Madam Halimah Salleh, 68, remembers how she had to queue to fill a pail of water for her family as a child. Running water from a tap at home was a luxury then, and most Singaporeans had to queue with pails to get clean water from lorries supplied by the government that went to the villages, she said.

“When the lorry came, all of us had to rush to queue and, since only one pail was allowed per person, we had to rush home and come back out again ... I had nine siblings, but only the older ones did the manual work,” said the retiree, in Malay.

Mdm Halimah, a Punggol resident for five years, was among the visitors to Punggol’s inaugural Waterway Day last Sunday, an event that also commemorated the first death anniversary of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Her childhood experience is vastly different from the reality today, thanks in part to the foresight by Singapore’s founding Prime Minister to ensure clean waterways, reservoirs and tap water for the people.

The late Mr Lee introduced the nation’s first Water Master Plan in 1972 that outlined long-term plans to develop sustainable local water resources for Singapore. This was to ensure that Singapore did not have to depend on Malaysia for its supply of fresh water. Singapore’s current water agreement with Malaysia will end in 2061.

Besides ensuring a sustainable and diversified water supply for future generations through the four National Taps — local catchment water, imported water, NEWater and desalinated water — Mr Lee also saw the need to clean up the Singapore River. In 1977, he challenged the Environment Ministry to clean up the river over the next 10 years.

The Singapore River today, which locals and tourists can stroll along and admire the modern skyline from comfortable river boats, is his legacy.

Mr Richard Wong, 61, agreed that the clean-up helped heighten Singapore’s profile as a tourism hub, as “tourists (who) come to Singapore tend to visit those areas of interest”.

He added: “(Previously), the Singapore River had a lot of floating debris and it was dirty and it smelled bad. No fish lived in it. After the clean-up (of) the waterway, people can even swim in it.”

Some older interviewees felt the younger generation may not be fully prepared to handle the problem of water scarcity in future, but one younger Singaporean was more confident. Mr Lai Zhenwei, 29, said Singapore could be a role model for neighbouring countries in overcoming “natural obstacles” such as “not having fresh water (sources of our own)”.

“I am pretty confident that we will reach a stage of water sustainability for the whole nation, but I think it takes the whole nation to do it together, rather than just a small party (of people) doing it,” he said. ASYRAF KAMIL

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Singapore temperatures rising at double the global average

KENNETH CHENG Today Online 22 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — Over the past six decades, temperatures here have risen at a rate more than double that of the global average, with rapid urbanisation cited as a likely major contributing cause, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said on Tuesday (March 22).

Releasing its inaugural Annual Climate Assessment Report with a focus on last year’s climate trends, the MSS said temperatures in the Republic rose by an average of 0.25°C per decade between 1948 and last year, compared with the global increase of 0.12°C per decade between 1951 and 2012.

Meanwhile, the blistering heat is showing no signs of abating, with the MSS forecasting that the warm weather will persist for another month or two. The Republic can also expect more warm days, with maximum temperatures of between 33°C and 35°C.

Nevertheless, the prevailing El Nino phenomenon — the warm phase of a temperature cycle in the tropical central and eastern Pacific Ocean — is tapering gradually and is expected to weaken further around the middle of this year.

Commenting on the rise in temperatures here, the MSS said it cannot be ascribed solely to warming brought about by the emission of greenhouse gases; human activity is also a contributing factor.

It singled out land-use change, such as urbanisation, as a key example that “can impact temperatures … (and) is likely to have played a significant role in Singapore”.

Climate experts interviewed by TODAY concurred that the rapid pace of urban growth here is likely to have had a role in sending temperatures on an upward trajectory.

Associate Professor Matthias Roth, deputy head of the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Geography, said built-up areas in Singapore have approximately doubled since the 1950s to accommodate a fast-growing population.

“As vegetation is turned into concrete and paved surfaces, the incoming energy from the sun is stored in man-made structures during daytime and released at night, thereby increasing local temperatures,” he said, adding that this “urban heat island effect” is a well-known phenomenon that also explains the trend towards warmer nights.

The MSS report also noted shifts in the frequency of “extreme high and low temperatures” here. From 1972, the country has experienced a rise in the number of warm days and nights, and conversely, a decrease in the number of cool days and nights, the 
report said.

Last year alone, there were 127 warm days (34.1°C or higher) and 153 warm nights (26.4°C or higher). By contrast, there were 17 cool days (29.2°C or lower) and 21 cool nights (22.4°C or lower).

Assistant Professor Massimo Lupascu, also from NUS’s Department of Geography, pointed out that when concrete replaces vegetation, evaporation — which absorbs energy and keeps an area cool — also decreases.

“As there is more evaporation happening in parks, forests and rural areas, these are normally cooler than cities,” he said.

Asst Prof Winston Chow, who works in the same department at NUS, said Singapore’s position in a region that is more heavily “exposed to changes in regional weather due to El Nino events” is another factor for the sharper temperature increases.

Still, that greenhouse-gas emissions are largely behind rising temperatures worldwide must not be ignored, he added. “When you urbanise, you use a lot of fossil-fuel energy that contributes to the greenhouse-gas problem. So you have a double whammy.”

Earlier this year, it was reported that last year was one of Singapore’s hottest on record, joining 1997 and 1998 as the warmest years, with an annual mean temperature of 28.3°C.

Last year was also the second-driest for the Republic, with 1,266.8mm of rainfall recorded, trailing behind 1997, the driest year on record, when 1,118.9mm of rainfall was registered. Most parts of the country received below-average rainfall — measured against the average rainfall between 1981 and 2010.

2015 was Singapore's warmest year on record: MSS
It was also the 2nd-driest year after 1997, according to the Meteorological Service Singapore.
Channel NewsAsia 22 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: The average mean temperature for the Republic last year was 28.3°C, making it the warmest recorded year in the country's history - tied with 1997 and 1998, according to the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) on Tuesday (Mar 22).

The temperature in 2015 exceeded the climatological average by 0.8°C, MSS added.

The meteorological agency said that in 2015, Singapore saw warmer than normal monthly temperatures for all months except February, with the warmest months being July, October, November and December. December 2015 had the highest recorded temperatures since Singapore’s temperature records began in 1929.

The warming trend in Singapore has been observed over a number of decades, MSS said. The average rise of 0.25°C per decade from 1948 to 2015 in the Republic is higher than the global warming rate of 0.12°C for a similar period (1951 to 2012).

According to MSS, this trend appears to be accompanied by an increase in the number of warm days and warm nights with temperatures above 34.1°C, occurring against a background of year-to-year climate variability mostly associated with El Niño and La Niña events.

It added that 2015 was also the second driest year recorded in Singapore, with only 1,266.8mm of rainfall recorded. The drier weather in the second half of 2015 was exacerbated by the prevailing El Nino, which in turn contributed to one of the longest and most severe transboundary haze events experienced in Singapore, MSS said.

The driest year on record was 1997, with 1,118.9mm of rainfall.


Prevailing El Nino conditions, which peaked in December after developing in mid-2015, are "gradually weakening" said MSS. This is forecast to weaken further around mid-2016, where conditions transition to neutral, the authority added.

For the later part of 2016, there is is equal likelihood for neutral conditions to persist or for La Nina, added. MSS.

However, for the next one or two months, warmer conditions can still be expected with the mean monthly temperatures likely to be significantly higher than their respective long-term averages.

"More warm days with daily maximum temperatures between 33°C and 35°C can be expected," said MSS.

In its release on Tuesday, MSS also announced the free "Weather@SG" app that provides the latest national forecasts, as well as warnings and advisories. It will be available on the Apple App Store and the Android Play Store.

- CNA/mz

Hot weather may be more frequent, says Met Service
Calvin Yang, Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Mar 16;

Hotter weather could become more frequent in Singapore, along with more extreme weather fluctuations in the drier and wetter months.

In years to come, there are indications that the daily mean temperatures will rise further, according to an inaugural climate assessment report released by the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) yesterday.

The wet periods from November to January and dry months of February and from June to September are projected to get wetter and drier respectively.

Last year, Singapore recorded its joint warmest year, together with 1998 and 1997, with an annual mean temperature of 28.3 deg C. The other seven of the country's 10 warmest years also occurred in the 21st century.

The higher annual mean temperature set last year was partly influenced by one of the strongest El Nino events on record, particularly in the latter half of 2015.

New monthly records were set for the warmest July and December, and records were equalled for October and November.

The warming trend here has been observed over several decades. The average rise of 0.25 deg C per decade from 1948 to 2015 is higher than the global warming rate of 0.12 deg C for a similar period from 1951 to 2012.

With only 1,266.8mm of rainfall recorded, 2015 was also Singapore's second driest year after 1997.

The prevailing El Nino, which developed in the middle of last year and is gradually weakening, exacerbated the dry weather conditions in the region, leading to one of the most severe haze episodes here.

The annual report by the MSS, the national authority for weather and climate, provides updates on climate trends over Singapore, and highlights climatic features and weather occurrences that have affected the country during the year. It aims to provide a perspective of Singapore's current climate situation with that of historical records.

The projections are not surprising, according to experts.

Associate Professor Koh Tieh Yong of SIM University and Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's geography department agreed that these outcomes are likely to take place as long as greenhouse gas emissions continue worldwide from human activity.

Prof Koh said Singapore's urban build-up does not help the situation, as "concrete city landscapes trap more heat than natural vegetation". He added that with the dry spells that may occur more frequently by the end of the century, water resource management will be more important for Singapore.

With indications that hotter, drier and wetter conditions are expected, timely weather information will become more important.

In view of this, the MSS also launched a weather mobile application, Weather@SG, yesterday to provide users with access to current conditions at various locations, latest weather forecasts, and warnings of heavy rain and other hazards.

Free phone app to track weather changes in S’pore
Today Online 23 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — Before reaching for the umbrella, check your smartphone. A new free phone app that allows users to conveniently check updates on weather conditions in Singapore was launched on Tuesday (March 22).

The iPhone and Android application, Weather@SG, will provide the latest national forecasts, advisories, warnings and other weather-related notices such as heavy rain warnings and hazards. Users can also view the rain areas over the island and up to 240km away from their locations.

The Meteorological Service Singapore, which announced the launch in a statement, said that “timely weather information will become increasingly important” given that there are indications that hotter, drier and wetter weather conditions could become more frequent here.

The app, which may be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Android Play Store, can detect the user’s location and automatically display a two-hour “nowcast” and weather conditions such as temperature, rain amount and wind information. Temperature and rainfall trends for the past 12 hours are also available.

Over the next one or two months, the agency said more warm days with daily maximum temperatures of 33°C to 35°C are to be expected.

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Climate change, energy and water security for Singapore

Asit K. Biswas, Augustin Boey, Cecilia Tortajada, The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Mar 16;

Today, March 22, is World Water Day and it is appropriate to assess Singapore's future in terms of climate change, energy and water security. The city-state has an excellent record of managing climate, water and energy issues over the past three decades. The future, always, is uncertain. Countries will have to run faster and faster to stay in the same place.

For a small city-state like Singapore, with a minuscule carbon footprint, the global implications of whatever it does will not be significant since it contributes less than 0.2 per cent of the global emissions. However, both large and small countries must live up to their commitments to make a real difference to the entire world.

Singapore has made an ambitious commitment to reduce its emissions intensity by 35 per cent, from 2005 levels, by 2030. Even if this level is achieved, Singapore's absolute rise in emissions will go up. It is thus essential that Singapore makes every effort to reduce its carbon footprint in all spheres. One of these spheres where it could do better is water.

Both water and energy are strategic sectors for Singapore. Since its independence in 1965, the country has steadfastly strived to enhance its water security. It has made significant and commendable progress which would have been unimaginable in 1965.

It currently imports around half of its water needs from its neighbour Malaysia. However, in the past, on several occasions, Malaysia has threatened to cut off this water supply to exert pressure on Singapore. Furthermore, this year, due to drought conditions in Johor, Singapore has been unable to draw water from the Linggiu reservoir on more than 100 occasions.

Singapore has continually sought feasible ways to improve the city-state's water security. It is aiming to achieve water self-sufficiency by 2060, one year before the current water import treaty with Malaysia will expire. Recent efforts have focused on ramping up infrastructure to increase wastewater treatment and reuse, and sea water desalination, and increasing their efficiencies.

Energy security is also a key priority for Singapore. As a small and resource-scarce island, Singapore is highly dependent on fuel imports for its economic survival. It imports almost all of its energy needs. Reducing energy consumption by improving efficiency and conservation are thus important components in Singapore's multifaceted energy security strategy.

At present, Singapore's urban water and wastewater management practices are one of the best in the world. However, advances in water security have come at the cost of energy security. Both wastewater treatment and desalination are highly energy-intensive processes.

More sustained attention needs to be paid in the future to balancing the trade-offs between energy and water security strategies through coordinated policymaking. An example is the second desalination plant which is more energy efficient than the first one. It has reduced its energy footprint per cubic metre of water by nearly 30 per cent. Advancing water security at the cost of decreasing energy security is not a long-term desirable option.

National electricity consumption has grown at a compound annual rate of 3.63 per cent from 2008 to 2013. Over the same period, its water consumption has grown more modestly at 1.59 per cent over the same period. However, electricity consumption is likely to grow further as more and more water is produced by desalination and advanced wastewater treatment. Thus, Singapore needs to run continually much faster to stay in the same place!

Reducing energy requirements for the water sector will not only reduce Singapore's carbon footprints but will also contribute to the enhancement of its energy security. However, this will require new out-of-the-box policies for water management. It is estimated that 2 per cent of electricity demand is accounted for the water sector. The aim should be to reduce it further to have a lower energy footprint.

Take Singapore's per capita water use. At 150 litres per person per day, it is 50 per cent more than the most efficient European Union cities. Singapore's water price has remained the same since 2000. In 2000, water bills for median households represented 0.69 per cent of their income. Now, it is about 0.36 per cent. In contrast, over the past decade, water prices in Western cities have increased at a slightly higher rate than inflation.

If per capita water consumption can be reduced by one-third through economic instruments, incentives, education and other appropriate means, energy requirements will go down significantly. Since nearly all domestic water used ends up as wastewater after certain time lag, this would mean the amount of wastewater that needs to be treated would be reduced further, saving considerable energy.

Furthermore, even though the quality of tap water in Singapore is excellent, nearly 80 per cent of households boil water before drinking, using even more energy. It is necessary to find out why this is happening and whether households can be nudged to drink water straight from the tap. This will need considerable sociological and perceptional research which is basically missing at present.

A major aspect of Singapore's water conservation programme has been its overwhelming focus on technology. Economic instruments like pricing and incentives, and how to change social perceptions and behaviours have received very limited attention. In our view, major focus has to be given on pricing, incentives and behavioural aspects to reduce Singapore's high per-capita domestic consumption.

Wastewater contains considerable energy. More and more of this energy needs to be recovered. Northumbrian Water of England is already recovering energy from wastewater. Consequently its wastewater treatment process is now energy positive. The treatment plant in Aarhus, Denmark, that is expected to be operational this July, is expected to produce 50 per cent more energy than it consumes. These are the harbingers of a new generation of energy-producing wastewater treatment plants of the future. Singapore needs to benchmark itself against Aarhus.

These and other associated developments of the future will ensure that energy requirements for the water sector should become progressively less and less. They will contribute simultaneously to Singapore's energy and water securities. Reduced energy use will further curtail greenhouse gas emissions which are contributing to global warming. Taken together, they will contribute to enhancing Singapore's water and energy securities and also reduce its carbon emissions: a win-win-win situation.

Asit K. Biswas is the Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS; Augustin Boey is a Research Associate, and Cecilia Tortajada is Senior Research Fellow, at the Institute of Water Policy in the same School.

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Malaysia: Consider replacing the Causeway, says Sultan

The Star 23 Mar 16;

JOHOR BARU: The Sultan of Johor has urged the various stakeholders to mull the idea of replacing the Johor Causeway with a bridge.

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar said he hoped Johoreans and Singaporeans could give their views on how the flow of traffic could be improved.

“I feel sorry for the thousands of Malaysians and Singaporeans who are stuck in traffic jams at the Causeway daily due to the congestion. It is worse during holidays and festive seasons.

“Also, many people are walking to Singapore daily due to the bad traffic jams,” he said.

Sultan Ibrahim said that if Singa­pore disagreed with a tunnel, then a swing bridge could be considered.

“I am sure if you work with Singapore, they will accept as it will be a win-win situation for both countries, but you will have to give a good reason to replace the Causeway,” he added.

Sultan Ibrahim pointed out that it would be meaningless if after the new connectivity, there were still jams.

“The water at the Causeway has stagnated for so many years. Both countries should put aside their differences and come up with solutions to improve mobility,” he said, adding that the projects should have been completed many years ago.

He also spoke about the need for the extension of the rapid transit system (RTS) from Singapore to Johor Baru to improve connectivity.

He also urged the Malaysian Immigration Department to keep all its booths open all the time, as there were a lot of complaints that many of the booths were not open during peak hours and holidays.

On Malaysian students travelling to Singapore for better education, Sultan Ibrahim urged more international schools to be opened in Johor to allow the students to study locally.

“These days, a child’s father speaks better English than their kids.

“This is worrying and alarming,” he said, adding that in many deve­loped countries, it was the other way around.

Sultan Ibrahim also said the state needed better infrastructure projects to cope with the rapid development taking place in the state, citing Pontian, where a new airport and seaport should be constructed.

He said Johor should capitalise on the rapid development taking place in the region to develop these infrastructure.

“Pontian is strategic as it is close to the Straits of Malacca, which is like a highway for vessels.

“We have to think of another airport in the future, as Senai International Airport will be congested once there is an influx of tourist arrivals,” he added.

Sultan Ibrahim said the planning of these projects needed to be done carefully and without those with political agendas.

(Johor presently has four seaports, which are Johor Port, Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Tanjung Langsat Port and Pengerang Deepwater Terminal.)

“All these projects are still in the planning stages, but I foresee that this can be done,” he added.

Sultan Ibrahim said that besides the infrastructure projects in Pontian, he hoped for more deve­lopment in the other districts, including Kulai, which has created a niche as a data centre hub, Kota Tinggi for oil and gas projects and Mersing with its eco-tourism pro­ducts.

He also stressed the need to run Johor like a business empire.

“You should also not wait for people to come to you. Go around and market Johor,” he said, adding that he planned to do that with his new “gold” Boeing 737 aircraft.

He said he wanted investors to come to Johor and have a listing of what they could invest in the state.

Sultan Ibrahim added that to bring in more development, the Government must be willing to be flexible, give incentives and have a consistent policy.

‘Make JB the second biggest city’

JOHOR BARU: The Sultan of Johor has set the target of making Johor Baru the second biggest city in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur.

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar said the southern city was poised to make the grade because of its swift transformation and strategic location next to Singapore, which other states did not enjoy.

He said in many countries, there were always two competing cities, citing Beijing and Shanghai, Melbourne and Sydney, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and New York and Los Angeles.

“Johor stands in a season of transition. Being high-growth, socially progressive and strategic, the state is well-poised to assume greater significance in the overall journey of the nation.

“Johoreans too are ready to leve­rage on the momentum to position JB as the second city of Malaysia.

“JB is aware of this potential and we believe the Federal Government understands the need to push JB to a higher level,” he said in an interview on the occasion of his 58th birthday and first anniversary of his coronation as the Sultan.

The key catalytic projects inclu­ded the Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD), the High Speed Rail (HSR), the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS Link) and Coronation Square, which would push JB for the second city status.

He said the jewel of the upcoming business district will be a RM3bil complex called Coronation Square. It will come up on the site of the old bus and taxi terminal, just half a kilometre from the city’s transport hub and new immigration checkpoint at JB Sentral.

“All this is in line with my vision of making Johor Baru a financial hub,” he said.

The 2.6ha Coronation Square, so named to commemorate the coronation of Sultan Ibrahim this month, will contain serviced apartments, an office tower, a hotel, retail podium, a medical suite and a banking tower.

Unlike a hospital, the medical facilities will offer mainly outpatient services. It will have modern medical services along with traditional treatments such as ayurveda and acupuncture, and be marketed to international patients.

“JB is located next to one of the most advanced and developing metropolises in the world, Singapore.

“Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world and the flow will come to JB,” he said, adding that he had always pushed for the greater use of English because it was the main language in the island republic.

“If JB wants to be regarded as an international city, then it has to act and think like an international player.”

He said there was a need for an exhibition and convention hall in JB for the city to host big trade exhibitions, adding that he would push for a good concert venue suitable for quality acts and that even Kuala Lumpur faced the same problems.

His Royal Highness said once the HSR was in place, it would take only about 90 minutes to travel from KL to JB.

“We want people from the Klang Valley and Singapore to come to JB to enjoy the many facilities that we are building up now, from theme parks to premium outlets. Johor wants to make it easy for concert promoters to stage world-class acts here as we are a progressive state.

“JB has the advantage of learning from KL. We will improve on the strengths and pick up what’s missing in the federal capital and the Klang Valley,” he said.

Sultan Ibrahim said the latest investment figures by the Malaysia Investment Development Authority revealed that Johor captured the lion’s share of approved investment in Malaysia in 2015, adding that at 44% of total value, Johor totalled RM30bil as at September 2015 involving 104 projects.

“I want to make JB exciting and make all Johoreans feel proud and motivated. That is my birthday wish for the state,” he said.

His Royal Highness also said he was proud that the state had grown tremendously by 17.7% between 2012 and 2014, making it one of the fastest growing states.

He pointed out that a middle-class Johorean household earned an income of RM5,197 in 2014, up from RM3,650 in 2012.

Touching on the mammoth Forest City project in Iskandar Malaysia, Sultan Ibrahim said many doubted the project could be done, but it was now a reality with one of the best man-made beaches open to the public.

“There is no economic slowdown in Johor. Everything is still moving,” he said, adding that this project would create ample job opportunities for locals.

Sprawled over 1,386.05ha, Forest City comprises four man-made islands and is a joint development between Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd, a Hong Kong-listed property developer, together with Johor’s Esplanade Danga 88 Sdn Bhd.

Read more!

Malaysia's city of the future is an uncanny valley -- Forest City

NICOLE KOBIE Wired 22 Mar 16;

Forest City is quartet of islands born from reclaimed land in the Straits of Johor, the thin strip of water between neighbours Malaysia and Singapore, but it may as well be the uncanny valley so much is it like wandering into a video game.

The flaws become apparent without even looking very hard. The road linking the first of the islands with mainland Malaysia is lined with fully grown palms, but ten feet back from the road, construction crews push around sand to build a foundation for the fake island. A pool next to the main entrance is surrounded by jungle as thick as on the nearby mainland, as though it's been growing for all of time, but it's no more than three months old.

"Are those flamingos? They are -- are they real? I can't tell." The fully-sized, unmoving elephant model plonked down next to the realistic-from-the-road pink birds suggests they're indeed plastic, too.

Welcome to the 'Role Model of Future Cities', Malaysia's latest attempt to build a city from scratch and compete with Singapore -- just two kilometres from the more prosperous city state.

I'm at the development site and marketing suite as an embedded freelance journalist on a trade mission -- with UK Trade and Investment and Innovate UK promoting British Internet of Things and smart city firms to Southeast Asia -- and our schedule included a trip to Forest City.

In the works for years, the full plans for Forest City had only been unveiled a few weeks before by Chinese developers Country Garden, with a glossy marketing brochure promising "a place of wonder" with "crystal blue skies and the sounds of nature" and a "blooming boulevard of flowers in a vehicle-less environment". Concept artwork shows glistening towers draped with green plants, ringed with beaches and surrounded by sparkling seas. As it's early days, with work expected to take decades, little is actually built, but the ideas behind Forest City are showcased at the main marketing suite, a flat, white and glass structure that's pristinely clean with greenery criss-crossing the walls.

Inside, an incredible model of the city sits in the centre, showcasing what the city aims to look like when it's done. It's straight from Just Cause 2, a game unofficially based on Malaysia that focuses on life in a dystopian island state, with a dash of urban-planner game Cities: Skylines.

Xiang Ye Tao, manager at Forest City, described homes so smart they'll keep your orchid perfectly watered without human intervention, that a window broken by local children kicking around a football will be fixed before you return home. All the surface transport will be sustainable: residents will drive over the bridge but "dock" their car underground, we're told, though it's clear there's plenty of above ground roads on the model.

Buildings will be smart and layered with plants, which we're told will help reduce cooling costs. A mission attendee from the Carbon Trust says that idea is not entirely nonsense -- "it's useful, not just a gimmick," said head of public sector Tim Pryce -- but it's noticeable that the foliage hanging down in front of our faces are, in fact, plastic.

Outside, the plants are at least real. Verdant gardens ring the space-ship style building, and tall palms tower over sun loungers on perfect white sand, which is littered with more fake animals -- including a colony of plastic seals and giant, terrifying crabs, which look like characters to manoeuvre past to reach the next level.

But that automated watering system to keep your orchid perky? It's nowhere to be seen, as old-fashioned humans stand around pointing water hoses at plants, despite how easy it would be to install automatic irrigation systems on a greenfield site. And the view from that sun lounger? Industrial plants in one direction, oil tankers in the other.

One mapping expert, who wished to remain anonymous, pointed out that much of the green on the map suggesting untouched forests were in fact industrial areas. "It's a good example of how you can lie with maps," he said.

A good example of how to lie with maps, according to one expert, with industrial areas coloured greenNicole Kobie/WIRED

There are other concerns, beyond the not unexpected gap between marketing guff and reality. As Alexander Peschkoff, founder of MultiPass, pointed out, the 300,000 expected homes simply won't fit. The developers suggest 700,000 or more could one day live on the 14 square km of the four islands, but that would give Forest City the highest population density on the planet, topping leader Manila by a solid margin.

And there's little reason to cram in residents, as there's plenty of space for building on the mainland, which is only a few minutes further away by car. "There's so many different questions in terms of sustainability and feasibility," said Peschkoff.

Another grand promise that may prove tough to deliver is Forest City's own passport control to avoid the hour-long queues on the main link from Singapore. That will naturally require the approval of Singapore, which has already filed environmental complaints that have delayed the project. "They'll be fucked off," was the overriding sentiment, and it's no wonder, as Forest City is encroaching on Singapore's own space, already too little for its population and plans, and its real estate market.

Forest City isn't being built for the average Malaysian. The studio apartment will cost RM500,000 (£86,500), and the villa RM3.5 million (£606,000), well out of reach on salaries with a median of around £10,000 per year. Instead, Forest City hopes to draw Singaporeans looking to retire or expats working in the city but not keen on paying its higher rents -- the marketing example is a Beijing-based businessman. The marketing team keenly pointed out that dropping RM150,000 (£26,000) into a Malaysian bank account lets foreigners apply for a "My Second Home Visa", which has no minimum stay and doesn't tax your overseas earnings.

High prices might not be all that keep Malaysians away. Our driver said that, with all due respect, she wouldn't live on Forest City, not even for free. Why make your home on a crowded, uncanny island reconstituted in a busy shipping strait when the natural beauty of Malaysia is right there, on the mainland? Fake pink flamingos optional.

Read more!

Malaysia: Government Will Consider Cloud Seeding To Counter Dry Spell

Bernama 23 Mar 16;

KANGAR, March 23 (Bernama) -- The government is considering cloud seeding to counter the current hot and dry spell.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim said the process would be carried out based on need and conducive weather conditions to trigger cumulonimbus clouds.

"The state governments also need to step up their enforcement to prevent forests and bushes from encroachment and open burning," he said in a statement to Bernama here.

He said an alternative solution would be to build tube wells for domestic and agricultural requirements.

"Underground water can be channeled from the well to dry areas during normal or drought season," he said.

Meanwhile, the minister urged the public to reduce outdoor activities and drink more water to avoid dehydration against the sweltering heat.

According to the Meteorological Department, the hot and dry weather associated with El-Nino would end in May or June.


Relief as mercury dips at some hotspots
The Star 23 Mar 16;

PETALING JAYA: After several days of sweltering heat, respite has come with a drop in temperature, said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Madius Tangau.

Alor Setar, which was at a critical state during the heatwave, saw a drop from 37°C to 35.2°C.

Other places that saw a dip in temperature from Monday to yesterday was Chuping, Perlis, from 37.7°C to 36.6°C; Ipoh (35.9°C to 33.4°C) and Seberang Perai (36.8°C to 34.2°C).

“Rainfall in a few places could be a sign that the heatwave is weakening, but are still at levels where people have to be cautious,” Tangau said.

He added that rainfalls in a few places in Perlis and Kedah yesterday was not heavy, but advised that it was only temporary.

Tangau said that more rain was expected in the Klang Valley and south of the peninsula.

As of 6pm yesterday, the Malay­sian Meteorological Department website noted that Chuping recorded the highest temperature at 33°C, while Alor Setar and Seberang Perai recorded 32°C; Ipoh and Malacca at 31°C and Petaling Jaya at 30°C.

MetMalaysia deputy director Alui Bahari said that Sabah would remain dry but there would be some rain in Sarawak.

He added that the same wind patterns was expected to form today, providing more relief from the rain.

Heatwave hits four states in five days
The Star 22 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Six locations in peninsula Malaysia experienced heatwave for five days in a row with authorities advising the public to take precautionary measures.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim (pic) said that the dry and hot weather was mostly felt in Perlis, Kedah, Pahang and Perak.

"Chuping, Alor Setar, Lubok Merbau, Batu Embun, Temerloh and Ipoh experienced the heatwave and recorded above average temperatures for five days in a row," Shahidan said in a media statement issued Tuesday.

He noted that average temperatures for the areas were usually 35 degree Celcius but hit 37 degree Celcius during the heatwave.

"The hot and dry spell happens during the end of the easterly monsoon which occurs during the transition to the westerly monsoon beginning in mid May," he said.

He advised members of the public to reduce outdoor activities and keep hydrated to avoid suffering from fatigue or heat stroke.

"The respective state governments are also advised to step up enforcement to monitor open burning activities by irresponsible parties," he added.

He added that the state governments were also advised to open more tube wells for both agriculture and domestic use.

Shahidan said the Government will consider cloud seeding to alleviate the dry and hot conditions if necessary.

Read more!

Malaysia: Kedah’s burning problem

The Star 23 Mar 16;

ALOR SETAR: As the sun bakes the land to a crisp, scorched padi fields spanning the horizon throughout Kedah and Perlis bear the evidence of open burning.

The authorities are not happy with this.

“No, they are not allowed to do it,” said Kedah Agriculture committee chairman Datuk Suraya Yaacob stonily.

“We know they need to. Burning rice fields after a harvest is the fastest way to kill off all the insects and fungal spores before the next planting,” she said in an interview.

The fires that farmers start have a tendency to go out of control.

Along the 40km-long Jalan Kangar-Alor Setar route, where padi fields line both sides of the road, many trees have been charred by fire.

One such tree on the 16th km marker burnt for a week until it fell a few days ago.

The tree snagged telephone wires when it fell.

It now leans at an awkward angle, supported by the wires.

Motorcyclist Abdul Khadir Said, 65, who rides along the route daily, said he saw the padi field on fire over a week ago.

“The wind swept the fire up to the dry bushes by the road and then this tree caught fire,” he said.

The padi plot’s farmer Ahmad Md Nor, 75, who lives across the road, said he had been burning his field every dry season for decades.

He didn’t expect the tree trunk to burn for a long time.

Ahmad admitted that when the fires were raging a few days ago, smoke had obscured the road and caused a minor car accident not far from his house.

In Arau, Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute station manager Othman Ismail said dried padi stalks left on the field were usually burnt as it was the most cost-efficient method of pest control.

He recalled that in previous de­cades, the intentional burning was so severe that farmers could end up setting whole villages on fire.

But they have learned to take turns and stagger the burning to avoid an all-out conflagration.

“If the padi stalks are left to rot, bacteria will fester and attack the next batch. There are also many damaging insects hiding in the stalks that will thrive with the next planting.”

State Environment Committee chairman Datuk Dr Leong Yong Kong said padi farmers were allowed to burn their fields under the supervision of an agriculture officer who would set certain conditions.

“They should make an appointment with the Agriculture Department to have an officer pre­sent when they burn their fields. Otherwise, it’s an illegal burning.”

Plantation fire in Sabah kills 79-year old woman
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 23 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The plantation fires around the state have killed a 79-year old woman on Tuesday.

The charred remains of rubber tapper Yagoi Golok, was found by Kg. Purak Kogis villagers in Kota Belud at her burning plantation at about 1.30pm.

Sabah Fire and Rescue Department public relation officer Mohd Affendy K Ramin said villagers discovered Yagoi.

The villagers had tried to put out the fire before help arrived.

"Firemen managed to bring the plantation fire under control at about 2pm," he said.

The fire at the six-acre rubber plantation was believed to have started from a spark due to the El Nino-induced extreme heat at about 1pm.

There have been more than 700 reports of fires around the state this month.

Dry spell triggers bush fires near Pekan
T.N.ALAGESH New Straits Times 22 Mar 16;

PEKAN: The dry spell has triggered a series of bush fires along Jalan Pekan-Rompin near Nenasi here over the past one week.

The fires, which have flared up at several hot spots along the stretch has forced firemen to patrol and monitor the nearby forest round the clock.

A Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said firemen spent hours controlling the blaze from spreading to the nearby residential areas and plantations.

"If the fire is not contained, the billowing huge clouds of smoke can worsen the situation by reducing visibility in certain areas or causing haze.

In some areas, the burning spot is barely 15 meters from the main road.

"Workers from a shrimp farm in Nenasi have been assisting the department to douse the fire by providing portable water pump sets.

To date, the situation is still under control," he said.

Read more!

Malaysia: Orphaned sun bear cub rescued from Sabah forest reserve

AWANG ALI OMAR New Straits Times 23 Mar 16;

SANDAKAN: A young female sun bear was rescued from a forest reserve in Pinangah, Telupid here.

The bear, found weak and almost lifeless, is now recuperating well at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok here.

Named “Wawa” by the Sabah Wildlife Department officer who drove her to the centre last Friday, the cub is currently under quarantine and is said to be improving in terms of her health.

BSBCC Chief Executive Officer Wong Siew Te said the cub was found on March 11 by workers conducting forest monitoring.

They subsequently took the cub to an office operated under the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16 before it was surrendered to the department that later sent the bear to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park near Kota Kinabalu the following day.

“Based on details given to us, Wawa appeared to be weak when she was found. Those who brought her to safety decided it would be best to only give her some water to drink.

“After several days, she arrived at BSBCC and although she was exhausted from the six hour drive, she was feisty enough to bark at our staff. “Wawa is still weak and dehydrated but she is adapting well.

We have been giving her constant care and we hope that she will become stronger in the days to come,” Wong said.

He added that it was very unlikely for a sun bear to abandon her cub and that it was not known what had happened to Wawa’s mother.

“BSBCC is taking up the challenge to raise this bear and to teach her all that she needs to know before she returns to her natural habitat as an adult,” he said adding that this was the 48th rescued sun bear to have arrived at the centre.

He reiterated that it is an offence under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 to hunt or to keep sun bears.

Ray of sunshine for sun bear
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 24 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A two-month old sun bear that was found almost lifeless at a forest reserve in Pinangah Telupid is recovering well.

The sun bear, which was found by plantation workers some 210km from here on March 11, has been named Wawa by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) officer who sent her to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sandakan.

BSBCC chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said the cub was still under quarantine and its health was improving.

“Based on details given to us, Wawa appeared to be weak when she was found and those who brought her to safety decided it would be best to only give her water to drink,” Wong added.

“BSBCC is taking up the challenge to raise this bear and to teach her all that she needs to know before she returns to her natural habitat as an adult.

“Wawa is the 48th rescued sun bear to have arrived at our centre,” he added.

He said that it was an offence under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment to hunt or keep sun bears.

Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya said while he was glad that Wawa had made it safely to BSBCC, the fact that she was found alone was worrying.

He said orphans were rescued and sent to BSBCC from time to time, indicating that their mothers might have been killed for its parts by those linked to illegal animal parts trade.

“There is no medicinal value in consuming sun bear parts,” he said, adding that those who continued to poach sun bears and other protected wildlife species would face legal action.

“Offenders may face a penalty of up to five years’ jail or a maximum of RM50,000 fine, or both,” he added.

Read more!

Indonesia: Floods force thousands to flee

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 23 Mar 16;

Flooding caused by heavy downpours and overflowing rivers has inundated several regions on Sumatra, leaving at least one person dead and forcing thousands to leave their homes.

In Padang, West Sumatra, Padang Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Dedi Henidal said 30 percent of the city had been flooded, with Koto Tangah, the biggest district in the city, being the worst-hit area.

Rescue boats from the provincial BPBD, the National Search and Rescue Agency, the military and the police have been deployed since early Tuesday morning to carry affected residents to safety.

“We have set up posts to accommodate the evacuees. We are also preparing logistic supplies and providing health services for them,” Dedi said.

He added that he had yet to gather the exact number of affected homes, most of which belong to a housing complex near an overflowing river and some of which have are submerged in water two meters deep.

“We have deployed officers to evacuate residents who are trapped inside their houses,” he said.

The flood reportedly claimed the life of a 3-year-old boy who was carried away by the strong current of the Batang Kuranji River in Kubu Dalam Parak Karakah.

Firdaus of Koto Tangah district said the flood had inundated his house by half a meter and submerged the road in front of it.

“This is the second time my house has been inundated since I moved here 12 years ago,” said Firdaus, adding that in 2009, water in his house had been ankle-deep.

The flood also forced families in the Taman Harmoni Dadok Tunggul Hitam residential area of Koto Tangah to move to nearby buildings.

Water also inundated some government offices, including the city’s development planning agency and a warehouse of the Indonesian Red Cross.

Padang Mayor Mahyeldi Ansharullah said the floods had forced him to close all schools affected by the flood.

“Some senior high schools cancelled their final exams because of the floods,” he said.

In Padang Pariaman regency, six houses in the districts of Jorong Talao Mundam, Nagari Ketaping and Batang Anai, located on the banks of the overflowing Batang Anai River, were swept away by the strong current of the river.

In Pasaman regency, a landslide has blocked the road connecting Lubuk Sikaping and Bukittinggi since 5:45 a.m., causing severe traffic congestion.

Padang Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) spokesman Budi Iman Samiaji said 370 mm of rain had fallen from Monday night until Tuesday morning.

“That is the highest since I started working here 15 years ago. Usually, the maximum intensity is about 100 mm,” he said, adding
that while the intensity was decreasing, the rain risk in the city would remain high over the next few days.

Meanwhile, torrential rain in Pekanbaru, Riau, on Tuesday night caused floods that affected hundreds of houses.

Floods also inundated the city’s main thoroughfares because of clogged drains, bringing the city to a halt due to traffic jams.

In the province of Aceh, flooding engulfed seven districts in Aceh Barat regency, with two houses damaged by a landslide.

Padang floods losses may reach Rp 25 billion
The Jakarta Post 24 Mar 16;

The Padang Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) predicts that the losses caused by the floods in the city could reach up to Rp 25 billion (US$1.9 million).

“Two bridges have been damaged, the foundations of three bridges have been eroded and at least 16 hectares of rice fields have also been affected,” Padang BPBD head Dedi Henidal said.

He added that the floods had also claimed one life, 24-year-old Rusdiyanto, who fell from Muaro Baru bridge in Koto Tangah district, while another person, a 3-year-old boy, was still missing.

Dedi said the floods had started to subside as of Wednesday afternoon, and his office had started to clean up the mud.

“We’ve cleaned today 50 schools, four administration buildings, seven community health centers [Puskesmas], and 12 subdistrict offices. We hope everything can return to normal soon so children can go back to school,” he said.

Read more!

Indonesia: Sumatran rhino sighted in Indonesian Borneo for first time in 40 years

Smallest of the Asian rhino species that number fewer than 100 in the world was captured in a wooden pit in Borneo, Indonesia, to protect and relocate it
Adam Vaughan The Guardian 22 Mar 16;

Conservationists have made the first physical contact in over four decades with a Sumatran rhino in Indonesian Borneo.

The smallest of the three Asian rhino species, hairy rhino numbers have plummeted to fewer than 100 on Earth due to hunting and habitat loss, with the last wild populations in Kalimantan, Borneo, and the island of Sumatra.

Experts said the capture of a female rhino on 12 March was “outstanding” and “unprecedented”, and marked the first live sighting of one in the area in over 40 years rather than on camera trap or by evidence such as footprints and dung.

“That’s a very, very rare thing,” said Simon Stuart, a rhino expert at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, who said the dense rainforest and remote nature of the area made sightings difficult. “Finding a single Sumatran rhino is good news given we can’t even account for 100 in the world.”

“It’s really a very exciting find,” said Glyn Davies, conservation director at WWF-UK, which captured the rhino using a wooden pit in order to protect it. Part of the reason the beasts were so hard to find is they are “very, very secretive,” he said. The rhino have been sighted in Sumatra more recently than in Kalimantan.

Once widespread across south-east Asia, from northern India to southern China, the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), was declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia last year, making Indonesia their final stronghold. But their low numbers, combined with a lack of international funding and political commitment locally for an action plan led conservationists in 2015 to warn the final ones might go extinct.

The Borneo female will now be re-homed in a sanctuary around 100 miles from where she was captured. Stuart said that because of previous experiences where poachers had arrived weeks after specific locations for Sumatran rhino sightings had been declared, it was important that the location of its new home was kept “really, really vague.”

A further 15 Sumatran rhino have been identified in Kalimantan with camera traps, but Stuart and Davies said it was too early to say whether those and the animal captured were enough for a viable breeding population. The female of the species need to breed regularly or can develop tumours that render them infertile.

Last year the only male Sumatran rhino in the western hemisphere was transported on a 55-hour journey from Cincinnati zoo to Sumatra, to help the remaining population to breed.

New hope for Sumatran rhino in Borneo
WWF 22 Mar 16;

Jakarta, Indonesia – WWF researchers are celebrating the first live sighting of a Sumatran rhino in Kalimantan, the Indonesia part of Borneo, since it was thought to be extinct there. This is also the first physical contact with the species in the area for over 40 years and is a major milestone for rhino conservation in Indonesia.

The female Sumatran rhino, which is estimated to be between four and five years old, was safely captured in a pit trap in Kutai Barat in East Kalimantan on 12 March.

“This is an exciting discovery and a major conservation success,” said Dr Efransjah, CEO of WWF-Indonesia. “We now have proof that a species once thought extinct in Kalimantan still roams the forests, and we will now strengthen our efforts to protect this extraordinary species.”

In 2013, a WWF survey team first found evidence that the species was not extinct in Kalimantan by identifying footprints and capturing an image of a rhino on a camera trap in the same forest. Since then,15 Sumatran rhinos have been identified in three populations in Kutai Barat.

The Sumatran rhino is one of two rhino species that exist in Indonesia. It is estimated that less than 100 Sumatran rhinos remain in the wild, mainly on the island of Sumatra. The rhinos face serious threats from poaching, and habitat loss due to mining, plantations and logging. The wild population of Sumatran rhinos in the Malaysian part of Borneo was declared extinct last year.

The captured female rhino is being held in a temporary enclosure before being translocated by helicopter to a new home – a protected forest about 150 km from the capture site. The rhino's new home is envisioned as the second Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia.

“This is a race against time for rhino conservation. Providing a safe home is the only hope for the the survival of the Sumatran rhino for many generations to come,” said Dr Efransjah. “WWF will work continuously with the Sumatran rhino conservation team for the protection of the Sumatran rhino population in Kalimantan.”

Working as part of the Sumatran Rhino Conservation Team established by the Indonesia Ministry of Environment and Forestry, WWF and other team members are working to translocate at least three rhinos from their current habitat to the sanctuary, where they will be safer and can establish a breeding population.

“This unprecedented discovery and unparalleled operation boosts our hope to save one of the most endangered species and an iconic symbol of the majestic Asian rainforests. This is an exciting moment in our efforts to save the world’s amazing biodiversity,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.

“The entire WWF network commends the Indonesian Government, WWF-Indonesia and all partners involved for their commitment and for this ground-breaking operation,” added Lambertini.

In more good news, Indonesia also recently announced an increase in the population of the critically endangered Javan rhino, which only survives in Ujung Kulon National Park. Three new calves brought the number of Javan rhinos up to 63, from the 60 announced in September 2015.

Read more!

Indonesia: Tiger cubs spotted in oil palm plantation

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 23 Mar 16;

The Bengkulu Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and the Tiger Protection and Conservation team from the Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) are monitoring part of a community-based oil palm plantation where three newborn tiger cubs are reported to have been seen.

Mukomuko BKSDA head Rasidin told The Jakarta Post that a number of local people working in the plantation had noticed three tiger cubs in a bush in a remote area around 12 kilometers from the nearest human settlement.

“A number of people have said they have seen the cubs in recent weeks — the latest [report] was on March 12,” Rasidin said.

“The tiger cubs, the size of a local dog, are not strong enough to run, but the residents didn’t spot their mother,” he added.

He had, he said, gone in person to the location with a team from TKNS, but had not found any tiger cubs, noting that rain might have erased the animals’ tracks.

“We’re sure the three tiger cubs and their mother are still there. We’ve asked local people not to bother them,” said Rasidin.

He added that although the oil palm plantation was in a production forest located approximately 10 km from TNKS, the tiger could possibly raise its cubs there.

“Last year, another tiger gave birth to three cubs in this area and didn’t leave for six months, but it was about 5 km farther [from TKNS]. The location where these three cubs were seen is on a low-lying plain near a village,” he said.

According to Rasidin, Mukomuko, located along the trans-Sumatra highway, has long been plagued by tiger poachers, as the regency is home to swathes of Sumatran tiger habitat.

In addition, Mukomuko TNKS head Nurhamidi said that as the tiger cubs and their mother could possibly be living in the secondary forest near the plantation, he and his team would closely monitor the area in order to prevent human-animal conflict from arising.

“We’ll keep a close eye on the area for some time, ” he said.

Although information on the trade in tiger cubs remains unclear, poachers may take advantage of the cubs to lure and capture their mother.

Poachers frequently hunt Sumatran tigers, which are native to the vast and diverse habitats of Sumatra, as their body parts fetch high prices for use in traditional medicines in Asia.

In August last year, the police arrested four men for allegedly killing a Sumatran tiger and trying to sell its body parts.

The species is also struggling with habitat loss amid the expansion of oil palm and acacia plantations, as well as illegal trading, primarily for the domestic market.

Such practices have put the Sumatran tiger under severe threat, prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list the species as critically endangered.

Currently, the population of Sumatran tigers in the wild is predicted to be about 400 across the entirety of the island of Sumatra.

Meanwhile, a pair of male and female tiger cubs born two months ago at the Kinantan Animal and Culture Park (TMBK) in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, have been named Thamrin and Sarinah.

“We decided to name the male cub Thamrin and the female Sarinah because they were born on Jan. 14, 2016, the same day as a terror attack on Jl. MH Thamrin near Sarinah Plaza in Central Jakarta. Everyone agreed to give them those names,” TMBK Bukittinggi head Ikbal told the Post.

He added that the tiger twins were growing healthily and were now able to play with visitors.

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Indonesia: Residents told to not eat eggs of protected maleo

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari, The Jakarta Post 22 Mar 16;

Besides deforestation, the decreasing number of maleo, an endemic bird of Sulawesi that lives in the Panua Nature Reserve in Pohuwato regency, Gorontalo, is also being blamed on the use of their eggs for traditional rituals.

Panua Nature Reserve head Tatang Abdullah said he was often approached by residents asking for permission to take or, if necessary, buy the eggs of the maleo.

He stated that the eggs were considered by some to be vital for a series of traditional rituals in celebrating weddings, while other residents said the eggs were being used for traditional medicine.

In response to residents who ask for the eggs, Tatang cites a number of rules governing the ban on their use, including a government regulation on the preservation of flora and fauna and the law on the conservation of biological resources and their ecosystems.

Under the law, he said the punishment for any person found deliberately poaching maleo eggs could face a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of Rp 100 million (US$7,600).

“To date, some people still ask for the eggs as many of them are still unaware of the regulations,” Tatang told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Insecurity levels in the reserve, which covers an area of 36,575 hectares, are fairly high. Besides being intersected by the Trans-Sulawesi highway, the area consisting of forests and coastline is surrounded by residential areas covering a radius of up to 100 kilometers.

The conservation area is often appropriated by residents who clear forested areas for farmland. Some of them even settle there. There are 400 ha of farmland recorded within the Panua reserve area.

Such forest conversion involves cutting down trees. According to Tatang, land appropriation has affected maleo breeding, as the birds are known to be solitary, are very sensitive to the presence of humans and require land cover and shady trees.

The Panua Nature Reserve has acknowledged it is overwhelmed by the task of protecting the vast area, given its limited number of four personnel.

The nature reserve often works together with local residents to carry out supervision, but poaching continues.

The current population of maleo birds in the area is estimated at between 550 and 600 individuals. The nature reserve recorded an increase in the number of maleo chicks hatched in a breeding program from 95 in 2014 to 120 chicks in 2015.

Separately, Gorontalo Customary Council secretary-general Alim S. Niode said there were no customary rules requiring the use of maleo eggs in processions or rituals.

According to him, Gorontalo tradition, known as Adati Limo Lo Pohala’a and Payu Lo Hulondhalo, is rich with the concept of natural harmony.

Various important rituals and processions, such as births, weddings and deaths, said Alim, could not be separated from the concept of harmony with nature, which not only involved protecting the environment, but also the social systems within it.

“The use of maleo eggs for customary purposes is just an excuse,” he said. According to him, chicken eggs are usually required in Gorontalo’s rituals and processions.

However, he acknowledged that senior community members previously used maleo eggs for various purposes, such as making cookies for weddings and celebrations.

He said that was for practical reasons, as maleo eggs are larger and are considered more efficient than chicken eggs. Furthermore, in the past, there were no government rules or bans on consuming the protected animal’s eggs.

“All poachers must be dealt with sternly,” he said.

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Climate change warnings for coral reef may have come to pass, scientists say

As coral bleaching threat is raised for Great Barrier Reef, experts say events show that dire projections for reefs under global warming were not alarmist
Karl Mathiesen The Guardian 22 Mar 16;

After almost two years of coral bleaching, with some reefs bleaching twice and possibly three times since 2014, scientists have said that dire predictions of global coral decline made almost two decades ago may now be manifest.

The rolling underwater heatwave has now arrived upon the Great Barrier Reef, with mass die-offs expected along the northern quarter of the world’s preeminent coral ecosystem.

Professor Nick Graham of Lancaster University said the devastation worldwide was probably now on the same scale as the worst ever bleaching on record, which occurred during 1997-98 and wiped out 16% of the world’s reefs in a single year.

“This is the big one that we’ve been waiting for. This is the 1997-98 equivalent, which we’ve been anticipating for a long time,” said the coral scientist. The full impact could not be known until the event had finally ended, added Graham. Models predict it will now head west into the Indian Ocean and could continue in the Pacific until early 2017.

Dr Mark Eakin, the head of the US government’s Coral Reef Watch programme, said this year’s massive bleach conformed with a prediction made by Australian scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg in the wake of the 1998 event. Back then, Hoegh-Guldberg predicted coral reefs would catastrophically decline by the middle to end of this century as oceans warmed and bleaching events became an annual occurrence on most reefs.

“What we’re seeing now is unfortunately saying that Ove’s paper was not alarmist,” said Eakin. “This year is especially telling. In the past, big bleaching events happened pretty much during the course of a year. This current bleaching event started in mid-2014.”

Eakin said many scientist had predicted two or three-year-long events would not begin occurring until the 2020s: “Yet here we are now with back-to-back to sometimes-back-again bleaching.”

Coral bleaching occurs when the ocean temperature surpasses a natural threshold causing the tiny animals, called zooxanthellae, that give coral its brilliance to desert their polyp homes – leaving them bone white. Recovery tends to be patchy and slow. The concern that coral scientists hold for the future is that bleaching events will pile one atop the other, giving reefs no time to rebuild.

But Graham held out some hope for the resilience of the reefs. He said that despite smaller bleaching events occurring throughout the past two decades, the next really massive event hadn’t come “as soon as Ove feared it would”. This had allowed some reefs time to bounce back.

“After 1998 we were worried that they were going to become frequent quite quickly,” he said. “It’s been 18 years until this event which has been a blessing.”

Robbed of the zooxanthellae that clear the corals of intrusive plants, some of the reefs bleached in the past two years will be taken over by weeds and algae, strangling any hope they can return.

“But others will [recover],” said Graham. “Then the real question mark is how frequent these events are going to be. If it’s another 18 to 20 years until we get the next one, then a lot of reefs will have time to bounce back.”

Both the 1998 event and this year have been related to very strong El Niño patterns – which wash warm water across the Pacific Ocean and trigger increased heat around the world. El Niño cycles are fickle, but turn roughly every two to seven years. But the last huge one was in 1998.

“If these super El Niños occur on timescales shorter than a decade then I think that’s when we’re really going to start seeing the ratcheting down of a lot more reefs,” said Graham.

Great uncertainty exists around the effect climate change will have on El Niño. Mat Collins, joint chair in climate change at the UK’s Met Office, said current models showed no consensus over whether the frequency or intensity of the cycle would increase, decrease or remain the same.

However, predicting the behaviour of El Niño was incredibly complex and “we might see differences in future climate models as they improve”.

Even so, El Niño is no longer the only cause of bleaching. In 2005 and 2010, large coral bleaching events occurred independently of the Pacific warming cycle.

“As the temperature is creeping upwards [because of climate change], it takes less of an El Niño ... to cause a lot of bleaching,” said Eakin. “What we would have considered stressful temperatures back in the 1980s have become relatively normal summer temperatures now. That doesn’t mean the corals don’t mind it because a lot of them in fact are bleaching repeatedly.”

The threat of an increasingly hot world has driven some adaptation among coral species and communities. Counterintuitively, being exposed to bleaching has actually made some reefs more resilient. This is because in some circumstances, the most fragile species of coral are killed off and stronger ones take over.

“But in the process, you’re losing biodiversity, which is a big problem,” said Eakin. “The whole question is: are temperatures rising faster than corals are able to adapt? And the answer so far seems to be ‘yes’.”

Ultimately, he said, the determining factor for reefs would be human efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If the world could limit warming to 1.5C above normal, the toughest target outlined by the recent Paris climate agreement, then reefs could stand a chance.

“Even at 2C [which governments have agreed to hold temperatures to] we are going to be seeing the loss of a lot of coral reefs around the world,” he said.

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Climate guru James Hansen warns of much worse than expected sea level rise

Former Nasa researcher and father of climate change awareness says melting of ice sheets could cause ‘several meters’ rise in a century, swamping coastal cities
Oliver Milman The Guardian 22 Mar 16;

The current rate of global warming could raise sea levels by “several meters” over the coming century, rendering most of the world’s coastal cities uninhabitable and helping unleash devastating storms, according to a paper published by James Hansen, the former Nasa scientist who is considered the father of modern climate change awareness.

The research, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, references past climatic conditions, recent observations and future models to warn the melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets will contribute to a far worse sea level increase than previously thought.

Without a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the global sea level is likely to increase “several meters over a timescale of 50 to 150 years”, the paper states, warning that the Earth’s oceans were six to nine meters higher during the Eemian period – an interglacial phase about 120,000 years ago that was less than 1C warmer than it is today.

Global warming of 2C above pre-industrial times – the world is already halfway to this mark – would be “dangerous” and risk submerging cities, the paper said. A separate study, released in February, warned that New York, London, Rio de Janeiro and Shanghai will be among the cities at risk from flooding by 2100.

Hansen’s research, written with 18 international colleagues, warns that humanity would not be able to properly adapt to such changes, although the paper concedes its conclusions “differ fundamentally from existing climate change assessments”.

The IPCC has predicted a sea level rise of up to one meter by 2100, if emissions are not constrained. Hansen, and other scientists, have argued the UN body’s assessment is too conservative as it doesn’t factor in the potential disintegration of the polar ice sheets.

Hansen’s latest work has proved controversial because it was initially published in draft form last July without undergoing a peer review process. Some scientists have questioned the assumptions made by Hansen and the soaring rate of sea level rise envisioned by his research, which has now been peer-reviewed and published.

Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, said the revised paper still has the same issues that initially “caused me concern”.

“Namely, the projected amounts of meltwater seem … large, and the ocean component of their model doesn’t resolve key wind-driven current systems (e.g. the Gulf Stream) which help transport heat poleward,” Mann said in an email to the Guardian.

“I’m always hesitant to ignore the findings and warnings of James Hansen; he has proven to be so very prescient when it comes to his early prediction about global warming. That having been said, I’m unconvinced that we could see melting rates over the next few decades anywhere near his exponential predictions, and everything else is contingent upon those melting rates being reasonable.”

Hansen was one of the first scientists to push climate change into the public’s consciousness, following a series of appearances before Congress in the 1980s. He retired from his role at Nasa in 2013 and has become increasingly outspoken about the need to slash emissions, criticizing last year’s Paris climate deal as a “fraud” because it didn’t go far enough.

His new research warns that water gushing from melted glaciers is already influencing important ocean circulations near both poles. The added cold water risks “shutting down” the North Atlantic heat circulation, triggering a series of storms similar to Hurricane Sandy, which hobbled New York City in 2012.

“If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large-scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters,” the paper states. “The economic and social cost of losing functionality of all coastal cities is practically incalculable.”

Hansen said the world was “pretty darned close” to the point of no return, warning that emissions need to be cut by about 6% a year in order to stabilize the climate.

“What we are threatening to do to young people is irreversible, it’s irreparable harm,” he said. “This is something they didn’t cause but will be out of their control. Among the top experts, there’s agreement that this is very urgent, we can’t continue on this path hoping that emissions will go down, we have to take actions.”

Hansen reiterated his call for a global tax on carbon, denying that the roles of scientist and advocate for change are conflicted.

“This isn’t advocacy, this is what is needed,” he said. “We are allowing fossil fuel companies to use the atmosphere as a free waste dump. If scientists don’t say it then politicians will tell you what’s needed and that will be based upon politics rather than science. I don’t see any reason to not make the whole story clear, or to draw a line and say ‘I’m not going to step beyond this.’”

Tom Wagner, Nasa’s program scientist for the cryosphere, said Hansen has done an “amazing job” in providing a “provocative” piece of research on sea level rise.

“It’s an interesting paper as it’s one of the few times when all of these different fields have been combined,” he said. “It is at odds with some research from other places. He’s made a great effort to combine the Eemian period to what is happening today, which is hard to do. It’s a tough one.

“We know that our knowledge of ice sheet behavior is imperfect, and this is a paper that really gets into that question. We are narrowing down the error bars all the time.”

Scientists recently expressed alarm at the record heat that has baked the planet in the first few months of 2016, which follows a year that was the warmest on record.

These record temperatures, aided by a strong El Niño event, come as nations appear to be slowing the growth of the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the excess heat. Recent figures show the world emitted 32.1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide from energy in 2015, on a par with 2014, while accelerating the shift to renewable energy.

Nevertheless, humanity is still pumping out CO2 into the atmosphere at a rate 10 times faster than at any point in the past 66m years, with the resulting sea level rises, extreme weather events, coral bleaching and drought already evidenced around the globe.

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