Best of our wild blogs: 3 Apr 16

Marching for MacRitchie
BES Drongos

Butterfly of the Month - April 2016
Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At Singapore Quarry Trail (01 Apr 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Take a walk in MacRitchie forest and fall in love with nature

Basil Edward Teo Straits Times 1 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE - Mr David Tan has been visiting Singapore’s forests for over a decade now, but each time he enters the woods, the biologist discovers something new.

“Every time we come in, we see something unusual happening. Whether it's a bird is doing something unusual, or an unusual bird just showing up for some reason,” he said.

The 27-year-old is a volunteer with nature group Love Our MacRitchie Forest which conducts guided walks.

The group was formed in 2013 following the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) announcement of the new Cross Island Line. In the proposal, the train track would run under the MacRitchie forest.

Through guided walks every two weeks within MacRitchie Reservoir Park, the band of students, nature lovers and activists hopes to raise awareness of MacRitchie’s biodiversity.

The walks are popular and the group has been hitting its maximum cap of 30 participants per walk for its two trails , the Petai Trail and Venus Loop Trail. Walks are conducted only twice a month to limit impact on the trails.

The Straits Times joined one such walk on a Sunday morning.

Check here for upcoming walks.

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

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Rats resurface in Bukit Batok

Ng Keng Gene, The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Apr 16;

Rats! It looks like Bukit Batok has an infestation problem yet again.

About a year after a major rat infestation on a hilly area near Bukit Batok MRT station in end 2014, rats have been reported around Bukit Batok Street 23 this and last week.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said about 20 rat burrows were found along a footpath near the See Thian Foh Combined Temple in Street 23 last Thursday. It had also received feedback about rat activity in an industrial estate in the area on Wednesday.

While NEA said rat control works were carried out this week, the rodents were still a problem yesterday at the temple, where the pests have been damaging property and eating food offerings.

Temple volunteers said yesterday that rat infestation has been a problem there since the middle of last year.

"We catch about four or five rats a week. Sometimes, we also use rat poison to ease the problem. Once we found about 20 rats dead behind the temple," said a 73-year-old temple volunteer who gave her name only as Ms Sim.

She showed The Straits Times the rat droppings she came across yesterday in the temple's kitchen.

"I just wiped the stove in the kitchen clean yesterday, but there are rat droppings again today," she added.

The rats appeared to have come from rat burrows found on vacant state land behind the temple.

The managing agent for the land is the Housing Board.

NEA told ST yesterday that it has deployed its pest control operator to help HDB to bring down the rat population at the vacant land.

So far, 40 rats have been caught in one round of operations, using means such as glue boards or traps.

NEA investigations found that the rodents involved are roof rats, whose "main harbourage areas are the trees on the vacant land". The burrows on the ground are their hiding spaces when they are on the ground foraging for food, it added.

NEA said it will continue to help HDB with rat control operations over the next few days. It added it will also work with HDB to put in place a tight rat control regime.

Meanwhile, temple volunteers said the temple has tried to keep the rodents at bay using various methods, including planting sticky traps or installing wire mesh beneath drain covers. Volunteers also caged the temple's plants, to prevent them from being eaten by rats.

A temple volunteer who identified himself only as Mr Leow said the temple sought help from a pest control operator last month.

"They said they could deal with the rats in the temple, but could not exterminate the rats in the land outside the temple, as it was managed by the Government," he said.

Jurong GRC MP Rahayu Mahzam, who oversees the area affected by the rat infestation, said: "Action has been taken promptly on the same day and I will keep a close watch and work with all parties to resolve the issue."

- See more at:

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Chestnut Nature Park opens with separate hiking, biking trails

Located next to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the park now has a biking trail of 1.6km and a hiking trail of 2.1km.
Angela Lim, Channel NewsAsia 3 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: The first nature park in Singapore to have separate hiking and biking trails – to ensure greater safety for park visitors – was opened on Saturday (Apr 2).

The first phase of the Chestnut Nature Park, comprising 17 hectares in the southern portion of the park, was officially opened by Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee on Saturday morning.

Located next to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the park now has a biking trail of 1.6km and a hiking trail of 2.1km.

When the northern portion of the park is completed, both trails will be between 5km and 6km each, bringing the total mountain biking trail in Singapore to about 30km.

At the launch on Saturday, Mr Lee flagged off cyclists and accompanied about 100 residents and volunteers on the hiking trail. He also announced a new Friends of the Park scheme.

"I remember meeting many participants who expressed a desire to volunteer their time or play an active role to shape and manage our green spaces,” he said. “This scheme will bring together a variety of stakeholders to tap on their diverse expertise and ideas, and better structure our community of park users and NParks volunteers to make their efforts more fruitful.”

Mr Lee also encouraged all Singaporeans to join in promoting active and responsible use of the parks.

All 81 hectares of the Chestnut Nature Park will be open to the public when the second phase is completed by the end of the year.

- CNA/cy

Thrills on wheels at new nature park
Calvin Yang, The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Apr 16;

Ascending steep slopes, navigating tricky obstacles, and tackling narrow tracks - these are several of the challenges cycling enthusiasts can take on at a new 1.6km mountain biking trail.

The trail is part of the 17ha Chestnut Nature Park (South), which also has a 2.1km hiking trail.

The park, next to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, was opened by the National Parks Board (NParks) yesterday. It is the first here with both trails for mountain bikes and hikers.

When the 64ha Chestnut Nature Park (North) is completed by the end of this year, it will boast a total of 5km of hiking trails and 6km of biking ones.

From the middle of this year, park users can also look forward to a kiosk where they can rent bicycles.

Yesterday, NParks also launched the Friends of the Parks scheme to encourage greater community stewardship of green spaces.

Selected parks under the scheme will each be headed by a community of up to 10 members from various interest groups, such as hikers, bikers and researchers.

They will play a role in promoting responsible use of the parks through ground-led initiatives.

Chestnut Nature Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the Park Connector Network will be the first to get such a group. The existing Friends of Ubin Network for Pulau Ubin will also come under the scheme, but will continue operating without any changes.

Said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee, who attended the opening yesterday: "The community may propose and organise meaningful activities that they would like to carry out... and suggest ideas, such as conservation, recreation and horticultural projects."

More than 100 mountain bikers yesterday tried the moderately challenging trail at the park for the first time, and many were pleased with the experience.

Avid cyclist Jonathan Wong, a 32-year-old sales manager, said it is a good training ground for beginners who are trying to grasp basic bike-handling techniques.

"It is made for riders of all abilities," he said. "Bikers can ride closer to nature and get a good workout in the process."

A group of mountain bikers tested the trail a few weeks ago. Based on their input, tweaks were made to improve safety while keeping the trail challenging.

The northern portion of the nature park includes a supposedly tougher biking trail.

Last year, NParks closed the popular Butterfly Trailas parts of it fell within the construction site of the nature park.

Mr Wong Tuan Wah, NParks' director of conservation, said the trail is currently undergoing biodiversity assessments and restorative works.

"We have to wait until these studies have been completed before we can formulate any plans," he added.

NParks opens Chestnut Nature Park (South)
Nparks media release 2 Apr 16;

Launch of Friends of the Parks scheme to provide greater opportunities
for community stewardship of green spaces

Singapore, 2 April 2016 — The National Parks Board (NParks) launched the first phase of Chestnut Nature Park today. About 17 hectares in size (26 football fields), Chestnut Nature Park (South) extends the buffer for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and improves the ecological network for biodiversity. Chestnut Nature Park (South) is Singapore’s first nature park with separate mountain biking and hiking trails, measuring 1.6km and 2.1km respectively.

Friends of the Parks Community
NParks also launched the Friends of the Parks community to encourage greater community stewardship of green spaces. This community was conceptualised after participants at the SGfuture dialogue sessions in Jan 2016 expressed strong support for the idea that park users should play a bigger part in designing, stewarding and programming our parks and green spaces. Consisting of local communities of regular park users and stakeholders, Friends of the Park members will play an active role in promoting active and responsible use of our parks through ground-led programmes and initiatives.

The community builds on the success of the Friends of Ubin Network (FUN). FUN members come from a wide spectrum of the community, including nature enthusiasts, architects, historians, students, educators, bloggers, Pulau Ubin residents, educators, and representatives of heritage and recreation groups. FUN members have contributed many useful ideas and implemented ground-led initiatives at Ubin.

The community will start with Chestnut Nature Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and the Park Connector Network. For Pulau Ubin, the existing Friends of Ubin Network will also come under the Friends of the Parks community but will continue operating without any further changes. This will be gradually extended to more parks to encourage community stewardship. More details of the Friends of the Parks scheme can be found in Media Factsheet A.

Joining in the event was Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, Desmond Lee, who planted the Braided Chestnut tree (Castanopsis inermis) to mark the occasion. He said, “The concept of the Friends of the Parks community was first mooted at the SGfuture dialogues in January this year. I remember meeting many participants who expressed a desire to volunteer their time or play an active role to shape and manage our green spaces. The community will bring together a variety of stakeholders to tap on their diverse expertise and ideas, and better structure our community of regular park users and NParks volunteers to make their efforts more fruitful.”

Community Involvement
The community’s inputs were actively sought in the development of Chestnut Nature Park. Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Mayor of North West District Teo Ho Pin, as well as Members of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Liang Eng Hwa, held an exhibition in 2014 where public feedback on Chestnut Nature Park was gathered. Suggestions such as shelters, mapboards as well as hiking and biking trails were all implemented.

Amenities and activities at Chestnut Nature Park (South)
As a shared community space for different users, visitors to Chestnut Nature Park (South) can look forward to a range of recreational activities such as hiking, mountain biking and bird watching. Bird lovers will be able to spot globally threatened species such as the Straw-headed Bulbul, globally vulnerable species such as the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, as well as species such as the Banded Woodpecker, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker and Little Spiderhunter. Chestnut Nature Park (South) is also home to animals such as the Spiny Hill Terrapin and the Cinnamon Bush Frog.

The biking trails at Chestnut Nature Park (South) are classified as moderately difficult to extremely difficult. There are also shelters with informative map boards. From mid-2016 onwards, park users can look forward to a kiosk where they can rent and wash bikes as well as buy pre-packaged snacks. When the 64ha Chestnut Nature Park (North) is completed in late 2016, there will be a total of 5km of hiking trails and 6km of biking trails. More details of the things to do at Chestnut Nature Park (South) can be found in Media Factsheet B.

Enhancing habitats
As part of the ongoing habitat enhancement programme to augment NParks’ biodiversity conservation efforts. Chestnut Nature Park has been planted up with native tree species. Examples of these native tree species are the Braided Chestnut (Castanopsis inermis), Singapore Walking-Stick Palm (Rhopaloblaste singaporensis) and the Jelutong (Dyera costulata). These native tree species will allow animals to thrive by improving the ecological connectivity between green spaces so that animals may move around safely. Details on the flora and fauna in Chestnut Nature Park (South) can be found in Media Factsheet B.

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ASEAN haze website hacked

"We didn’t harm your site! Just deface (sic)," wrote a team of hackers calling themselves Muster BD, apparently from Bangladesh.
Channel NewsAsia 1 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: A website on the transboundary haze issue by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was inaccessible on Friday (Apr 1) after being apparently hacked by a group called Muster BD.

A message on the main page indicates that it is in "maintenance mode". “Sorry for the inconvenience. Our website is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance. Thank you for your understanding," it stated.

A check of the cached page reveals more information. “Your site’s security is good but not enough to stop #Muster BD. We didn’t harm your site! Just deface (sic),” a message reads. It was accompanied by a logo that read "BD_Level_7 Team: Bangladesh_Level_Seven Hackers".

It was preceded by a scrolling message that said "Security doesn't exist our dictionary (sic)".

The website later became accessible. However, no explanation about the incident has been provided.

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Malaysia: Aerial water bombing to put out peat fire in Sabah

The Star 2 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Firemen are likely to use aerial water bombing to put out a major peat fire at the Klias peninsula which has caused haze in most parts of west coast Sabah.

Over a hundred firemen were now working round the clock to douse the underground fires affecting some 200 of the 12,000ha mangrove forest reserve in Bisuluk, Beaufort.

Fire and Rescue Operations deputy assistant director Khairul Azuwan said they were likely to use aerial water bombing at strategic areas in the forest reserve in efforts to put out the underground fires which started three days ago.

“If all goes well, we will carry it out tomorrow (today),” he said adding they had already managed to put out about 80% of the fire.

Khairul said firemen were responding to hundreds of calls on fires all over the state due to the El-Nino induced dry spell.

The air quality index for most parts of Sabah recorded moderate levels as of 11am Friday with visibility of about 3.5km.

The dry weather has also caused water shortages at 365 villages in the state.

The Sabah Education Department has urged all schools in the state to reduce outdoor activities.

The dry spell is expected to continue until June.

Aerial water bombing puts out mangrove fires in Beaufort
The Star 2 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The three-day fight against a raging fire at the Binsuluk mangrove forest reserve in Beaufort has finally ended with firemen resorting to aerial water bombings early Saturday.

State Fire and Rescue Department Operations assistant director Khairul Azuwan said the operations involving various agencies including the Forestry Department ended at about 3.07pm but will continue again on Sunday.

“We have to make sure that the fire has been completely put out in that area,” he said.

Firefighters in Sabah have had to attend up to 100 calls each day to put out fires due to the El-Nino induced dry spell and heatwave.

Meanwhile, the air quality index for many parts in Sabah has improved from Friday’s moderate to good as of 4pm Saturday while Keningau district is still reported to be at moderate level.

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Malaysia: Enough water in Johor despite critical levels in three dams

YEE XIANG YUN The Star 2 Apr 16;

JOHOR BARU: Water concessionaire SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd has assured residents of Johor that there is still enough water despite levels dropping at three of its seven dams.

SAJ general manager for production and distribution Elias Ismail said the Upper Sungai Layang and Lower Sungai Layang dams had about 35% of water left while the Congok dam in Mersing had about 25%.

He said that the normal water level at dams were 60%.

"Those dams might be in the critical levels but we assure the people that there is enough water to be distributed to the consumers.

"There is no cause for worry. The water levels can be sustained through rainfall and river supply and we are monitoring the situation closely everyday," he said at the Water Day celebration in Hutan Bandar Johor Baru here on Saturday.

All is well for now in Johor despite drop in water levels
YEE XIANG YUN The Star 3 Apr 16;

JOHOR BARU: The current hot spell brought about by El Nino has caused water levels in several dams and rivers in Johor to drop but authorities assured that there is sufficient water supply for everyone.

Syarikat Air Johor Holdings Sdn Bhd (SAJ) general manager for production and distribution Elias Ismail said the Upper Sungai Layang and Lower Sungai Layang dams in Pasir Gudang had about 35% of water.

“Congok dam in Mersing has 25% of water left,” he said.

Elias said normal water level at the dams was 60% and as anything below that was considered critical and urged users to prevent wastage.

“The water level at the Congok dam is currently at 4.8m and it will be of concern if it drops to 4.5m.

“Right now, the situation is ma­­nageable,” he said after attending the World Water Day celebration in Hutan Bandar Johor Baru yesterday.

The two Sungai Layang dams supply water to some 575,000 users, mostly for industrial needs in Pasir Gudang and Masai, and parts of Johor Baru.

Congok dam supplies water to about 30,000 other consumers in the state.

Besides the three dams, Elias added that SAJ was on high alert with regards to the Sungai Sem­brong Kiri in Kluang, Sungai Mersing in Mersing and Sungai Gembut in Kota Tinggi, where levels had dropped as well.

It was easier to record the levels at dams than rivers because the latter varied daily due to uncontrolled upstream and downstream activities and environmental factors, he said.

He said there would be conti­nuous daily monitoring of the water levels but, for now, there was no cause for worry.

Elias also said the state supplied water to Malacca’s Durian Tunggal dam via Sungai Muar as part of an agreement between the Malacca and Johor state governments but added that this did not interfere with Johor’s water supply.

The seven dams under SAJ’s care are Juaseh dam in Segamat, Congok dam, the two dams in Sungai Layang, Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi, Ledang dam in Tangkak and Gunung Pulai dam in Johor Baru.

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Malaysia: New law to end water woes soon, says Wan Junaidi

CHRISTINA CHIN The Star 3 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: A new law to solve Malay­sia’s perennial water woes is in the pipeline.

The law governing water resources will include recommendations for states to gazette all their water catchment and water sources, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

The Bill, which will standardise water ma­nagement processes nationwide, would be tabled in Parliament when it was ready, he said.

“Water is my priority but it’s governed by the states so we have to engage them first,” he said.

Citing an example, he said de-gazetting of forest reserves come under the state and local authorities’ jurisdiction.

“We want all states to have a water ma­­nagement template to follow. It makes things ea­sier and more efficient. If there’s a pro­blem, you’ll know where to go and how to deal with it.

“My deputy has gone from state to state to hold discussions. He has visited five states already and I’ve given him until July to cover the others,” he told Sunday Star.

He was responding to calls by non-governmental organisations to gazette downstream water resources and increase protection for water catchments.

Malaysia’s annual rainfall is equivalent to the volume of 390 million Olympic size pools yet the people do not have enough water to use.

One reason, experts say, is that the Malaysian water bodies are badly polluted.

The Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) president Datuk Lim Chow Hock said water stressed states could not rely on dams alone as upper catchments can only trap between 10% and 15% of rainfall.

Gazetting water catchments must extend beyond just the upper stream forested areas, he said, adding that total catchment management must include downstream areas.

Dr Wan Junaidi said since taking over the ministry eight months ago, he had been stu­dying the country’s water problems.

“We have so much rain but no water. Why? We’re collecting less than 20%.”

Bigger buffer, please
The Star 3 Apr 16;

WE need bigger buffer zones that correspond to the size of gazetted catchments. Activists feel that protecting water catchments is easier to achieve, and more crucial, than gazetting downstream bodies of water.

The existing 10m buffer zone may not be enough for large catchments, says S. Piarapakaran, president of the Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER).

In 2014, the wettest town in Malaysia, Taiping, had to ration water. It doesn’t take a genius to know that if catchment areas are disturbed, karma will bite back, he shrugs.

Water catchment, he explains, is an area that is able to flow rainwater to a particular river. A virgin forest can control its own climate, which helps maintain river flow and reduce the impact of a dry season.

“When a catchment is segmented into protected and unprotected areas, the forest’s climate control ability is compromised. And you’ll end up with white elephants like Seremban’s Gemencheh dam. The land-use around it was converted from catchment to plantation. Now, the water company has to spend more than RM30mil to build a back pumping system, pushing pump maintenance and dam de-siltation costs up.

“Bukit Larut (formerly Maxwell Hill, in Perak) is another example. A hostel was built in a catchment area for tourism. The river flow and waterfall have not been the same since.”

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Henry Goh suggests doubling the 10m buffer zone. Zeroing in on protecting our forests to prevent surface runoff, he says better management is needed in the conversion of forests for agriculture.

Large scale cultivation of mono-crops has greatly compromised the water catchments. We have to seriously consider replacing logging as a source of income, he says.

Without the forest acting like a sponge, we have to resort to protecting downstream lakes, swamps and even mining pools, fromexploitation and pollution, MNS conservation department head Balu Perumal adds.

And groundwater should only be a back-up, he adds, wondering whether we’ve reached such a point of desperation that we can no longer rely on our forests.

Authorities are now looking at options like buying water from other states, using water from mining ponds and extracting groundwater – measures that he feels, are “exceptionally drastic” and should be avoided.

“We don’t want to end up like Singapore having to turn to recycled and desalinated sea water. At that stage, the price of water will be too expensive.”

Maintaining forested areas as water catchments is important for long-term sustainability. Look at how Selangor has to buy water from Pahang to drive its economic growth, Balu points out. The state’s original forest cover has shrunk by 30% and what remains is no longer able to retain sufficient water during the dry season, he says.

While stressing the importance of buffer zones, he feels that the size should depend on the type, intensity and scale of the development. Dams without forested catchments upstream are pointless, he adds.

Meanwhile, AWER’s national survey shows that more than 70% of almost 5,000 Malaysians want Parliament to be directly responsible for water resources if the respective state governments’ failure to protect their catchments leads to a water crisis and higher tariffs.

Around the world, many agencies report directly to Parliament. Simply passing the responsibility to a ministry will be no different from what we are facing at the state level now, AWER’s Piarapakaran believes.

Calling on Malaysians to adopt simple measures that can keep water bodies clean, MNS’s Goh pleads: “Reduce, recycle and reuse all non-biodegradable materials. Stop using polyethylene for packaging, carry your own water bottle and use a tiffin carrier. When trekking in the forest, take your rubbish out and throw it away properly.”

He thinks education is key. Public awareness campaigns must be intensified as it’s easier to gain compliance from the informed.

Penang Water Watch president Prof Dr Chan Ngai Weng wants us to love and respect nature. Do something to help stop pollution – volunteer with or support non-governmental organisations. River protection and conservation isn’t solely the government’s responsibility, he insists.

“It’s everyone’s job. Rivers are God’s gift to humanity. We should be stewards protecting rivers, not the culprits that pollute and kill them!”

Balu stresses that we must maintain enough forests to sustain our need for freshwater and to mitigate the impact of climate change. We must start re-forestation exercises in a big way and stop our destructive habits, he urges.

“Be thrifty with water. Pay your Indah Water bills on time because the company cleans your sewage before it goes into the river. And hold regular gotong-royong sessions to beautify rivers.”

Piarapakaran thinks it’s important to introduce mandatory water efficiency labelling for household, industrial and agricultural items. A minimum water efficiency standard must be imposed so products that don’t meet the minimum requirement cannot be sold here. Increasing efficiency ensures availability of raw water to be converted to treated water, he says.

Wet weather, dry taps
CHRISTINA CHIN The Star 3 Apr 16;

Even with four times more water than what we need, taps are still running dry. Experts say the pollution must stop. And, our catchments need urgent protection. Otherwise, our water woes will be an annual affair.

WITH 973 billion cubic metres (bcm) of annual rainfall – a volume equivalent to the water in 390 million Olympic size pools – Malaysia is rich in water resources. We have four times more than what we need, even after losing water to evaporation, groundwater recharge and surface runoff discharging into the sea. Yet, annual droughts and dry taps are part of life here, especially for households in water-stressed states.

Recently, Malaysians celebrated World Water Day amidst heatstroke fears and the threat of waterless taps, with temperatures in Kedah, Pahang, Perak, Perlis and Sabah hovering dangerously close to 40°C. Brought on by El-Nino, an irregular weather phenomenon which causes sea temperatures to rise, the heat left irrigation canals dry as fields turned brown in the north of the peninsula, where the current hot spell is at its worst.

The Klang Valley faces two dry spells annually – from February to March and from mid-May to September – but Institution of Engineers Malaysia president Datuk Lim Chow Hock believes adequate provision of quality water is not a question of availability but one of sound management and good governance.

Even by 2020, we will have enough, he assures, as water demand is only estimated to be 17.2bcm four years from now. We have 74bcm of “effective rainfall”, he says (see graphic for details).

“We like to blame climate change for floods and droughts because it’s convenient and more acceptable but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. We cannot control the weather but we can mitigate, maybe even prevent, its impact.”

The main reason we’re still experiencing water shortages is because of pollution, says Lim, who is also the Malaysian Capacity Development Network for Sustainable Water Management network manager and Capacity Development in Sustainable Water Management board member.

“Water pollution significantly reduces the sustainability of water resources. Just take the Klang River – rubbish thrown into it amounts to 77,000 tonnes a year. That’s shameful!

“The main thing that makes water unusable is pollution. And that is perfectly preventable.

The whole land mass right up to the sea, must be considered a water catchment - not just the upper stream forested areas. - Datuk Lim Chow Hock

“Chemicals from factories, oil from eateries, sullage from wet markets, silt from land clearing, and rubbish thrown by irresponsible people – it all ends up in our waterways. Treating clean surface runoff for water supply is expensive. But if polluted, it costs three to four times more.

“The law is sufficient but enforcement is a problem. Policing is very difficult because of limited resources,” he says.

Dr Yang Farina Abdul Aziz, senior professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Centre of Water Research and Analysis, agrees.

Our rivers, she says, are treated like “one huge dumping site” for solid waste and effluents from irresponsible factory owners. Malaysia has all the necessary laws and regulations but the enforcement needs consolidating, says Dr Yang Farina, who is also an Academy of Sciences Malaysia fellow and Malaysian Chemical Institute assistant honorary secretary.

Last year, Dr Yang Farina was part of a team that studied the bauxite pollution issue in Kuantan, analysing the water there for heavy metals. She also investigated the occurrence of pesticide residues in Cameron Highlands in 2014.

We must ensure that our rivers are clean and pristine from one end right until it flows into the sea, she stresses, calling on the Government to look into water treatment methods in hot spots like Cameron Highlands.

Detailed, multi-disciplinary research is needed to identify emerging pollutants in the water ways of such farming intensive areas, she says.

“The presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals in tap water – even at very low levels, is of grave concern as the long-term chronic effects of such pollutants are not fully known,” she cautions.

Killing our rivers means threatening our water supply and destroying aquatic life, flora and fauna, points out Prof Dr Chan Ngai Weng, Penang Water Watch president and Universiti Sains Malaysia water resources, hydrology and flood hazard management and climatology expert.

“Ninety-seven per cent of our tap water supply is sourced from rivers. In almost every developed country, rivers are the heart and soul of their cities. But here, rivers are treated like dumpsters. There isn’t a single urban river here that’s a centre of attraction, like Seoul’s Cheongye Cheong River or Tokyo’s Tsurumi River.”

But pollution is only one of the reasons we’re living in fear of droughts, he says. Sure, we have to control river pollution and impose a hefty fine on the polluters – perhaps even jail them – for poisoning a public water source, but deforestation, the destruction of water catchments and the high cost of using groundwater or desalination, must also be tackled.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia president S. Piarapakaran questions whether failure to plan and enforce the law are reasons why we’re facing problems. Parts of Europe have set new standards for international cooperation over the Rhine River that flows through several countries. In Malaysia, we fight over raw water issues between states, he sighs.

He suggests practical ways to increase raw water resources; for instance, the Department of Environment’s wastewater discharge standard must take into account population density and economic activities and the tariff must be based on raw water quality. State governments that keep their raw water quality high will then earn more for their raw water, he offers.

Institution of Engineers’ Lim adds that the water pollution problem is compounded by uneven distribution and variation of rainfall, poor demand management, water wastage, and non-revenue water losses. In smaller states and those that have been more extensively deforested, the problem is more severe. Water-stressed areas like the Klang Valley, and states like Malacca, Perlis and Penang can no longer rely on dams alone for a potable water supply, he warns.

According to Lim, very few water catchments have been gazetted and legally protected. Many are exposed to incompatible development that can adversely affect water resources. At least 3% to 5% of virgin forest reserves have been cleared already, and we’re only relying on upper catchments, which can only trap between 10% and 15% of rainfall at best, he says. That’s not enough in water-stressed, high population areas. We have no choice but to go downstream to trap water, he says.

“In Malaysia, about 70% of the 496bcm surface runoff, or river flow, is lost to sea as flood discharge. And of the remaining 30%, half cannot be used because of saline intrusion. This means that only 15% of surface runoff can be used. This is termed ‘effective rainfall’. Water is coming down but we’re just letting it go to waste.”

He argues that the whole land mass right up to the sea must be considered a water catchment – not just the upper stream forested areas. When it comes to gazetting water catchments, it must be done in totality, he thinks.

“We must make sure that whatever comes down is harvested. The only way to do that is through total catchment management,” he explains, stressing that gazetting doesn’t mean saying no to development – it’s saying yes to “controlled development”.

Citing Singapore as an example, he says almost 70% of the urbanised island is gazetted as a water catchment. The Kallang River water catchment stretches until its mouth where the barrage is. It used to be wasted water going to sea but now it’s an invaluable resource, he says.

Malaysia, he believes, must review its laws to facilitate the gazetting of downstream water catchments even if they are on private land. Areas protected as water catchments should cover all water bodies, including ponds and lakes, which can be used for recreational purposes and as tourism attractions, he suggests.

“You can still conduct mining activities, build homes and have eateries by the water body, but any water body whether it’s on plantations or in villages or towns, must be gazetted so that every drop of water that comes down is not wasted or made unusable because of pollution.

“In some areas, it might even be necessary to tap into our groundwater reserve. If we can do this, even during the drought, we have nothing to worry about.”

While it’s a “good idea”, Malaysian Nature Society president Henry Goh thinks an in-depth study of the secondary effects is necessary as downstream gazetting may affect communities which depend on the water bodies for their livelihood.

Penang Water Watch’s Dr Chan thinks gazetting downstream water bodies may not be practical.

“Development in urban areas has already reached the river’s front door, so to speak. In KL, buildings closely straddle the banks of the Klang River. It’s the case for many rivers that run through urban areas like Sungai Pinang in Penang – there’s simply no space,” he points out.

Lim stresses that good governance, though complex, is important for the sustainability of our water resources. Existing water policies are spread among the functions of seven different ministries. The National Water Resources Council formed in 1998 has not been provided with a legal mandate to act effectively, he feels.

Population growth and economic development will continue to stress water availability as demand rises. Water resources must be managed in an integrated and holistic manner by using the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) for all river basins to ensure sustainable development, he says.

IWRM balances sustainable development (national interest) and desirable socio-economic development (public interest) with ecological conditions (environmental integrity), he explains.

More institutional reforms are needed in the long term to bring all water related agencies under one ministry. For sustainable management, people must realise that water is a valuable asset. It must be appreciated for the future, adds Lim, who is also a commissioner with the National Water Services Commission (SPAN).

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia’s Piarapakaran wants the Environment Quality Act 1974 (EQA) and Water Services Industry Act 2006 (WSIA) to be amended. These Acts, he explains, don’t cover the overall losses incurred by the public and industry when there’s pollution.

“Cleaning cost plus operational losses and severe pollution penalties will show the true cost of pollution. But amendments to the EQA and WSIA are needed so that both SPAN and the Department of Environment can work together to charge the culprits.”

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Malaysia: Free water to be reviewed in Selangor

ALLISON LAI The Star 2 Apr 16;

SHAH ALAM: Selangor will review its free water scheme to benefit only those who really need such aid, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said,

He said 20 cubic metres of treated water will still be given free of charge to every household in the state this year.

“We have received many suggestions to provide free water only to the targeted group. This will be given serious consideration.

“As for now, we have decided to continue with the free water scheme until the water industry restructuring exercise is fully concluded in the state,” he said in reply to Saari Sungib (Amanah-Hulu Kelang) during the Selangor state legislative assembly sitting yesterday.

It was reported earlier that the acquisition of concessionaire Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor (Splash) was still ongoing with an independent valuer appointed to provide an estimate of the quantum to be paid to Splash.

Azmin said the state had not received any complaints on the abuse of the free water scheme since it was implemented six years ago.

He said the state spent RM1.1bil on the free water scheme between June 1 2008 and Dec 31 last year.

“We realise that the cost to provide free water is high.

However, it is done to lessen the burden on the people and we will ensure a caring agenda like this continues,” he said, but appealed to consumers not to waste water.

In a bid to encourage water conservation, he said the state government started the Jom Jimat Air campaign last month.

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Indonesia: 56 hotspots detected in Riau

Antara 3 Apr 16;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) station in Pekanbaru detected 56 wild fire hotspots in eight districts and municipalities in the Riau province on Saturday (April 2).

"Based on the Terra and Aqua satellites reports this morning, 27 hotspots were detected in Bengkalis and 12 were detected in Meranti," Head of the BMKG Station, Sugarin, said.

Meanwhile, five hotspots were detected in Pelalawan, two in Rokan Hilir, three in Dumai, two in Siak, four in Indragiri Hilir and one hotspot was detected in Indragiri Hulu, he said.

Overall, the satellite detected 79 hotspots across Sumatra island, of which 56 were found in Riau, 18 in Riau Islands and five in North Sumatra.

Sugarin believed that 30 of the 56 hotspots in Riau indicated forest and land fires with a confidence rate of above 70 percent.

He said 15 of the 30 hotspots were found in Bengkalis.

A total of 63 hotspots were detected across Sumatra Island on Thursday, including 16 in Riau Islands Province, nine in Aceh, 14 in North Sumatra, and two in West Sumatra.

On March 7, the Riau provincial government declared an emergency alert status, indicating the need to expedite the efforts to prevent and handle forest and land fires following the discovery of hotspots.

The status, which will remain effective for three months, is aimed at expediting the measures to handle and prevent forest and land fires.

Riaus district administrations of Meranti, Bengkalis, Dumai, Rokan Hilir, Siak and Pelalawan had earlier also declared the emergency alert status.

(Reported by Fazar Muhardi & Anggi Romadhon/Uu.S12/INE/KR-BSR)

56 Hot Spots Detected in Riau
Jakarta Globe 2 Apr 16;

Jakarta. Satellites have detected 56 hot spots in eight districts across Riau province, an official said on Saturday (02/04), warning that current conditions in the region are optimal for the spread of land and forest fires.

Most of the hot spots were detected in Bengkalis (with 27) and Meranti (12), according to Sugarin, head of the Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

Of the 56 hot spots, 30 indicated that there were land and forest fires with a level of credibility of above 70 percent, Sugarin added.

"We warn that current high temperatures can cause fires to spread easily," Sugarin said, adding that strong winds in the area could also hamper efforts to extinguish them.

In total, 79 hot spots were detected around Sumatra island, with 18 in Riau Islands province and five in North Sumatra.

Land and forest fires have been an annually recurring problem in Indonesia over the past 10 years. Parts of the country last year saw what observers described as the worst fires on record.

Last year's fires destroyed vegetation on millions of hectares of land, afflicting more than half a million people with health problems and resulting in billions of dollars in economic losses.

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Greenpeace reveals Indonesia's forests at risk as multiple companies claim rights to same land​

Karl Mathiesen The Guardian 2 Apr 16;

Indonesia’s palm oil, mining and logging industries are enmeshed in a cat’s cradle of overlapping land claims and corruption that are hampering attempts to stop deforestation and fires, newly released maps reveal.

Compiled over almost a decade by Greenpeace using data from provincial governments, resource companies and others, the interactive maps highlight the vast scale of the concession overlap. Across more than 7m hectares – an area equivalent to the Republic of Ireland – licences for the same concessions have been allocated to as many as four palm, pulpwood, logging or coal mining companies at a time.

With no central land registry in Indonesia, campaigners say the result is a mess of competing claims. Companies may end up thinking they have the right to clear land that another company or government body has pledged to protect from deforestation.

The federal ministry of environment and forestry grants the rights to develop land for pulpwood and selective logging, whereas coal mining and palm oil concessions are granted by local and provincial officials.

“You can’t control forest industries if you don’t know who controls the land,” says Richard George, Greenpeace UK forests campaigner. “Almost anyone can pop up with a bit of paper that they’ve been given by somebody and say ‘Well, actually, it’s mine’.” Indonesia’s ministry of environment and forestry did not respond to the Guardian’s requests for interview.

The overlap is exacerbated by corruption within different layers of government. According to Laode Syarif, deputy chief of the Indonesian government’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), many officials exchange land rights to raise money for election campaigns or to curry influence with powerful business owners, and bribes for concessions are commonplace.

Syarif blames the corruption on “collusion between private sectors and government officials at local, provincial and even national level”. The fires that follow the clearing of land typically get worse around the time of an election, he says, when whole tranches of new land are opened up in corrupt deals.

The KPK has been asked by the Indonesian government to step in, says Syarif. Once it identifies concessions which have been handed out irregularly it demands officials revoke these licences. The commission has also prosecuted corrupt officials as high as the rank of provincial governor.

Since coming to power in 2014, president Joko Widodo has committed to reduce the deforestation and drainage of peat bogs. In order to combat corruption and illegal activity, his government has promised a national registry of land ownership, known as One Map.

But the initiative, which was supposed to be finalised last year, has been delayed until 2019. According to Syarif, recalcitrant ministries and local governments have been loath to hand over their records in case they expose criminal or negligent practices.

Aida Greenbury, managing director of sustainability at Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), one of the world’s biggest pulpwood suppliers, says overlapping licenses “have been creating big challenges for a deforestation-free supply chain”.

She refers to an ongoing land dispute in West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. In 2013, an APP supplier, Daya Tani Kalbar, was one of two companies accused of destroying forest and peatland in its concession area – known to be orangutan habitat.

An investigation by APP and its partner The Forest Trust found the forest was being cleared and planted by Gerbang Benua Raya (GBR), a palm oil company unconnected to APP which also claimed to be licensed to operate in the area. It is not clear how or from whom GBR attained their license. The RSPO does not list them as a member.

Greenpeace’s mapping tool (see below) suggests native forest continues to be denuded three years after the issue was raised with APP.

According to Tom Johnson, head of research at environmental investigations unit Earthsight, a “far bigger problem” than the encroachment of concessions with one another is the overlap of company concessions with lands claimed by local communities. On 16 March, Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission published a 1,000 page compendium of recent land conflicts.

Johnson says many of these conflicts are triggered by various tiers of government laying claim to forests where indigenous people live, and handing them out to the private sector. In the Melawi district of West Kalimantan more than 95% of land is controlled by private companies.

Greenpeace hopes that, in lieu of a large scale release of up-to-date concession data from the government and the completion of the One Map, companies will now come forward to update its unprecedented – although not comprehensive – set of maps.

“Until we’ve sorted out land tenure in a way that allows for everyone – government, civil society, companies and the Indonesian people – to know who’s actually responsible for controlling land,” says George, “you are always going to have this buck passing.”

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Philippine rice farmer killed as drought protest turns violent: Demo leader

Philippine police opened fire as a protest by thousands of rice farmers who lost their crops turned violent on Friday, killing one and wounding about a dozen, a leader of a farming group said.
Channel NewsAsia 1 Apr 16;

MANILA: Philippine police opened fire as a protest by thousands of rice farmers who lost their crops turned violent on Friday, killing one and wounding about a dozen, a leader of a farming group said.

About 6,000 farmers blocked a portion of the main highway in North Cotabato province on the southern island of Mindanao, demanding government assistance after drought linked by some to El Nino hit hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland.

"Loud bursts of gunfire erupted," Norma Capuyan, leader of a farmers' group, told reporters. "There was heavy volume of fire. We ran to a church compound and the police surrounded us."

A farmer died on the spot and about a dozen others were wounded in the legs and shoulders, Capuyan said, adding the police first tried to disperse them with water cannon but started shooting when they held their ground.

North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza said about 20 police were wounded when the farmers attacked them with sticks and stones. She said the first shot was fired by the protesters.

The police issued a statement saying it was investigating.

"Any violation of national police rules and regulations shall be meted (out) with the appropriate penalty," national police spokesman Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor said in a statement.

The protest began on Wednesday when farmers barricaded the highway in Kidapawan, demanding a dialogue with the governor and the release of 15,000 sacks of rice she had promised to them as relief.

The agriculture ministry said more than 300,000 hectares of farmland had been affected by drought, causing loses of about 5.3 billion pesos (US$115.09 million) in rice and corn. It said the effects of El Nino were minimal.

(US$1 = 46 pesos)

- Reuters

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We're running out of time to prevent the world from starving

Sean Kane, Tech Insider Yahoo News 1 Apr 16;

Humans need to figure out how to grow more food in the future, and we need to do it today.

Two-thirds of humanity's calories come from four crops: corn, rice, wheat, and soy beans. And by 2050, we'll need to produce 60-110% more of these crops to account for rising population, meat and dairy consumption, and biofuel use.

And according to a worrisome new study, published the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B study, our current methods are not going to cut it.

We've figured out to greatly ramp up food production before, so there is some cause for hope. The Green Revolution of the mid 20th century, for example, is credited with saving as many as a billion people in the developing world from starving. That happened thanks to new farming technologies, like improved irrigation, the advent of pesticides, and breeding higher-yield varieties of grains.

Further agriculture breakthroughs could help us here, but there's a huge hang-up: These improvements take decades to actually get into the ground.

"We have to start increasing production now, faster than we ever have," Stephen P. Long, a University of Illinois crop scientist and an author of the study, said in a press release. "Any innovation we make today won't be ready to go into farmers' fields for at least 20 years, because we'll need time for testing, product development, and approval by government agencies."

By that estimate, we'll have about 10 years to close the gap. "[W]e're one crop breeding cycle away from starvation," Long said.

We also may have reached a plant productivity ceiling, and it's an unfortunate consequence of the Green Revolution's success. The study claims that the fraction of plants that can be used for food is nearing its limit.

One thing hasn't changed much in agricultural technology, and might be the key to cracking the productivity ceiling, is the rate of photosynthesis.

Plants rely on this process to transform the sun's energy and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air into food. Even though food yields have increased, photosynthesis rate within the plants has not followed suit.

myanmar rice farmingAP Photo/Richard Vogel

One major factor in photosynthesis rate in crops like rice and soy is the enzyme rubisco, which traps CO2 during the process. This trapping is known as carbon fixing, and it's responsible for creating the carbohydrates we derive energy from and, in the case of livestock, also the energy our food uses, too.

Under certain conditions, like high temperatures, "rubisco can make a mistake and use oxygen instead of CO2," Long said in the release. "When it uses oxygen, it actually ends up releasing CO2 back into the atmosphere."

That's why Long and others are trying to hack rubisco to work under high CO2 levels as well as high temperatures — and possibly use our warmer, more carbon-rich climate change to our advantage.

It's not that easy, though. A molecule called RuBP, which accepts the CO2 that rubisco traps, also affects photosynthesis. So in addition to tweaking rubisco the scientists also need to figure out how to increase the rate at which plants regenerate RuBP and handle all that extra CO2.

The team says it's already made some progress in tobacco plants by coaxing the leaves to increase carbohydrate production in the presence of both high CO2 levels and temperature — and without the use of extra fertilizer. Next up is testing the process on stable food crops.

While this may be good news for food security, the authors' forecast of the future is rather blunt.

"In the face of the extraordinary challenges ahead, we simply do not have the luxury to rule out the use of any technology that may hold promise to improve crop performance," Long said in the release.

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Forests still large enough to double the world's tiger population, study finds

Jessica Aldred The Guardian 1 Apr 16;

Forests that harbour tigers are being lost but are still large enough to take double the world’s tiger population in the next six years, according to a study using new satellite mapping technology.

But the internationally agreed goal can only be achieved if no further habitat across Asia is lost and if the “corridors” that connect tiger populations are protected, researchers warn in the paper, published on Friday in the journal Science Advances.

The tiger is the most endangered big cat, with as few as 3,200 left in the wild in the forests, swamps and jungles of 13 Asian countries. Logging, agricultural expansion and infrastructure development have all cut their habitat and they are also under severe pressure from hunting and poaching for their body parts, which are used in traditional Asian pseudo-medicine.

By 2010 the rate of loss was so great that a high-level summit was convened in Russia, where tiger nations agreed on a goal called Tx2 to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022.

Since the meeting, Nepal and India have reported an increase in tiger populations, Amur tiger numbers are rising in Russia and there are indications that tigers are settling and breeding in north-eastern China. Later in April, India will host a ministerial conference where countries will report on their progress.

The new analysis, led by Anup Joshi at the University of Minnesota in St Paul, in the US, shows that despite an overall decline in habitat between 2001 and 2014, enough wild habitat remains to meet the goal.

The researchers used Google Earth Engine’s cloud computing platform to process huge amounts of high-resolution, real-time satellite imagery and 14 years of forest loss data from Global Forest Watch. This allowed them to calculate changes in tiger habitat to the level of detail of 30m in a single wildlife corridor and at a wider scale across 76 landscapes that have been prioritised for the conservation of wild tigers.

Previously, Joshi said, monitoring tiger habitat could only be done once a decade because of limited access and expertise in satellite monitoring technology. Using the new technology, conservationists can pinpoint exactly where habitat loss is occurring and potentially curb future losses.

“The tiger countries have set the goal to double numbers – we are bringing them the tools to plan and meet their target,” said Joshi. “We have developed a tool that anyone in those countries can use without having remote sensing expertise. Now we can monitor forests annually and provide this info directly over the web, making people more accountable.”

Altogether, around 80,000 km2 of forest was lost across all 76 of the tiger landscapes studied, with more than 58,000 km2 occurring in 29 priority areas.

They found that forest loss in the areas studied – 7.7% between 2001-2014 – was far less than anticipated, something they found “remarkable and unexpected” given that the 13 tiger range states represent some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with $750bn expected to be invested in infrastructure projects annually over the next decade.

“Most encouraging was that loss was less than expected in the 51 tiger reserves,” the paper said. “This suggests that if future habitat loss is prevented, the tiger recovery in some range states will accelerate. In these promising locales of enhanced protection, a doubling of the tiger population could be attainable by 2022.”

Among the 29 landscapes deemed most critical for increasing tiger numbers, 10 accounted for more than 98% of the loss, with the greatest loss in Malaysia and Sumatra and extensive loss in areas of oil palm expansion.

The impact in those 10 areas was deemed “devastating”. For example, the Cambodian northern plains landscape, which contains five large reserves of tropical dry forest, has lost habitat that would support more than 170 tigers.

“There are three important things for the conservation of tigers,” Joshi said. “Habitat, anti-poaching efforts and maintaining tiger prey species. We want this study to encourage people to think that doubling numbers is possible but we don’t want to paint too rosy a picture.”

Rebecca May, from WWF-UK’s tiger programme, who was not involved in the research, said: “This year is a critical halfway point in the TX2 goal. We know that populations have been increasing in some countries,proving tiger population recovery is possible when governments, environmental organisations and local communities work together. However, we still have a long way to go, as tigers remain seriously threatened by poaching and habitat loss.”

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China braces for 'severe' flooding on Yangtze River

Severe floods are expected on China's Yangtze River this year due to a strong El Nino weather pattern, state media said, raising the risk of deaths and damage to property and crops along the country's longest waterway.
Channel NewsAsia 2 Apr 16;

BEIJING: Severe floods are expected on China's Yangtze River this year due to a strong El Nino weather pattern, state media said, raising the risk of deaths and damage to property and crops along the country's longest waterway.

The El Nino conditions are the strongest since records collection began in 1951, and resemble a 1998 weather pattern that flooded the river and killed thousands, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday, citing vice minister of water resources, Liu Ning.

"Precipitation in the upper, middle and lower reaches of the river is forecast to be as much as 80 percent more than normal from May to August," Xinhua said.

Some Yangtze tributaries had already begun flooding and the flood control and drought relief situation was "extremely severe", Liu said, according to the news agency.

Provinces and cities along the river needed to make contingency plans, Xinhua cited Wang Guosheng, the governor of central Hubei province, as saying.

China has frequently been devastated by natural disasters, particularly by floods and earthquakes that have claimed millions of lives over the centuries.

Flooding, an annual problem, has been exacerbated by urban sprawl and poor drainage infrastructure in many cities.

Xinhua said 1,320 people died in the 1998 floods, though estimates vary and some put the death toll at more than 4,000.

Floods could be a test of the water management capabilities of the controversial US$59 billion Three Gorges Dam, which was finished in 2012. Along with power generation and navigation, the dam was designed for controlling the Yangtze's water levels.

The ongoing El Nino, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, has been linked to serious crop damage, forest fires and flash flood and drought around the world.

Experts have warned that changing global climate leading to extreme weather will likely have an impact on the world's most important commodity crops – maize, soybean, wheat and rice.

Most of the global production of these four crops comes from a small number of countries such as China, the United States and India.

(Reporting by Jessica Macy Yu and Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)

- Reuters

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