Best of our wild blogs: 5 Apr 16

Singapore’s Important Biodiversity and Bird Areas
Singapore Bird Group

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One-third of monkeys being culled each year 'too much': MP Louis Ng

938LIVE reports: "It just reduces the troop size for a little while. A lot of times, when they trap the monkeys, they are trapping the younger ones - the babies who haven’t learnt," says the ACRES executive director.
Lee Gim Siong, 938LIVE Channel NewsAsia 4 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: Calling out the authorities for the number of monkeys being culled annually, animal activist-turned-Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng said that killing about a third of the total macaque population in Singapore every year is "too much".

Close to 630 monkeys were culled by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) last year. That is estimated to be about one-third of the total macaque population in Singapore. According to the AVA, around 440 monkeys were culled in 2014, while about 570 were killed the preceding year.

Responding to queries from 938LIVE, the AVA said that it received about 750 instances of monkey-related feedback last year, similar to the preceding year. This is a significant drop from more than 1,800 reports in 2013.

The AVA noted, however, that while the overall volume of feedback has fallen, the proportion of feedback pertaining to public safety-related issues and monkey nuisance has increased, now averaging about seven in 10.

In this light, Mr Ng said that culling would not be an effective method to curb such complaints, and he intends to raise this during the upcoming Committee of Supply debates.

“It just reduces the troop size for a little while. A lot of times, when they trap the monkeys, they are trapping the younger ones - the babies who haven’t learnt. What we find is that biologically, without a doubt, the mothers will breed again," said Mr Ng, who is also the executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES).

"If we do cull the whole troop of monkeys, another troop will just take over the area. Unless we are really determined to kill all 1,800 monkeys or so, within one or two months, wipe out the whole population in Singapore completely, there is really no effective way of culling them at this point,” he added.

The AVA said it humanely euthanises animals as a last resort, and conducts targeted removal of aggressive or nuisance-causing monkeys for public safety in response to feedback.

Examples include a case in August last year, where a troop of monkeys repeatedly entered a residence, and attacked and injured a dog twice over a year. During the same period, the AVA also handled a case of 2 monkeys entering a playschool multiple times over two weeks, stealing food and behaving aggressively towards the children.


Dr Robert Liew is one resident who has experienced, first-hand, the realities of living with the macaques. At his home near Casuarina Road, monkeys regularly climb on the walls of his home. “They come to the railing and look for food. We try to put the food away as much as possible,” he said.

Dr Liew, however, said that he has learnt to deal with the monkeys, such as by avoiding eye contact. “They’ve never done harm to me or my family. We also have a dog; the monkeys know there’s a presence of a larger animal. They don’t come too close,” he added.

For him, an added step will be for the authorities to do more to prevent members of the public from feeding the monkeys, which usually appear “when passers-by start feeding them”.

Nearby, Ms Karen Tan is another resident who encounters monkeys loitering near her home on a daily basis. “These monkeys come and go as they please. But it’s a matter of education. A lot of my neighbours and I were distraught to sometimes see baby monkeys in cages. I don’t think anyone wants to see the animals killed,” she said.

Indeed, instead of culling, co-existence is the way to go for Mr Ng, who added that he hopes to continue working with the AVA on the issue.

"(Killing) 600 a year is too much; a lot of times, they use private contractors. How much money is spent on culling? Perhaps the money can be used on more humane solutions, going on the ground to fence up the areas, make sure the monkeys have no access," he said, adding that these would be more sustainable solutions, together with education and raising awareness.

"The monkey probably doesn’t know that it’s entering the house, the only thing they are seeing is the food. That’s the stimulus. Remove the stimulus and the monkeys will go away. It’s happened for residents in Thomson. I spoke to them, found that when they put up the grilles, made sure that the monkeys have no access to food, the monkeys naturally leave," said Mr Ng.

For now, he continues to see politics as a platform to continue his work with animals and effect change at a higher level, and intends to keep his focus on the issue.

"With ACRES, we’ve rescued monkeys and released them back into the wild. Rescuing the monkeys one by one will take a long time; I don’t think we can make a huge difference if we continued that way," said Mr Ng.

"Now I’m trying to push for more policy changes in the way we handle the human and wildlife conflict. I will ask more questions on whether culling is a solution. Asking the parliamentary question (is) just a first step."

- 938LIVE/kk

NOT MONKEY BUSINESS: One-third of the total monkey population was culled last year, but are they still getting on residents' backs? Some of them who live near Peirce Reservoir talk to 938LIVE.

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ACRES seeks to locate otter with fishing hook stuck near eye

The injured otter was spotted on Saturday evening (Apr 2) at the canal near Kallang Bahru road says the animal welfare group.
Channel NewsAsia 4 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) has called on the public to help them find an otter with a fishing hook lodged near its eye. Otter expert Fast Snail shared photos of the injured creature on Facebook.

Photo: Yane Kang/Fast Snail's Facebook page

Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia on Monday (Apr 4), the director of ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre and Wildlife Crime Unit Anbarasi Boopal, said they were alerted to the incident on Saturday night. The member of the public who tipped them off had reportedly seen the affected otter at the canal near Kallang Bahru road at around 5.30pm.

"We are depending on the public on any further sightings and updates. We do not have any further sighting reports after that," said Ms Boopal.

“We hope that the hook comes off safely, as a rescue operation can be very stressful not only to the individual but also to the other otters from the family," she added.

Fast Snail said the otter injured is a second-generation member of the group of otters fondly referred to as Bishan 10, a nod to their frequent appearance at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. "Sadly, it's related to illegal fishing again," wrote Fast Snail.

Last month, Fast Snail alerted ACRES a case of another otter in the Marina Bay area entangled by a fishing line but the line later fell off the otter.

In October last year, an otter pup was ensnared by a hook after an illegal fisherman apparently lured them with his fishing line.

Said ACRES' Ms Boopal: "It is important to note the detrimental effects of illegal and irresponsible fishing in our rivers and waterbodies, resulting in suffering of our wildlife such as fish, monitor lizards, otters, turtles and more."

- CNA/ek

Otter pup free of fish hook but has small wound
Lydia Lam, My Paper AsiaOne 8 Apr 16;

THE otter pup that was spotted on Saturday with a fish hook in its eye is now free of the barb.

Facebook user Fast Snail, or Nick Soo, told My Paper yesterday that the pup had been spotted hook-free by about 10 otter watchers.

"We have no idea how the hook was removed," said the 34-year-old engineer, who photographs and takes videos of otters as a hobby.

"We believe it was pulled out by the otters themselves," he said.

However, Mr Soo added that the pup has a small wound that is "slightly swollen".

He said they will keep monitoring to make sure it is all right and thanked members of the public for tracking it.

The pup, believed to be four to five months' old, is part of a second litter born to two otters often spotted at Bi-shan-Ang Mo Kio Park. The family of 10 is affectionately called Bishan 10.

News of the injured pup broke when otter watcher Yane Kang, 40, snapped photos of the pup with the hook in its eye on Saturday evening.

The incident cast a spotlight on irresponsible anglers, some of whom fish illegally.

Last year, a man turned himself in to the police after a video Mr Soo had taken of him appearing to hook an otter with his fishing line went viral.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority did not take any enforcement action against him due to insufficient evidence. He was issued a fine for fishing in a prohibited area.

Fishing is not allowed at all waterways except Pang Sua Canal, a spokesman for national water agency PUB told The Straits Times in a report yesterday.

PUB issued about 400 summonses for illegal fishing last year. Fines of up to $3,000 can be issued to those caught fishing in unauthorised areas.

Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive at animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), said they "are relieved that the hook has come off the pup and very thankful to the otter watching community for the updates".

"We truly hope that there is increased awareness on the plight of wildlife who suffer from such illegal and irresponsible fishing activities in our waterways," she added.

Otter with fishing hook stuck near eye out of trouble
"We think we are fairly confident to say the fish-hook is off from the pup's eye,” says otter expert Fast Snail in a Facebook post.
Channel NewsAsia 8 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: The otter that was reportedly seen with a fishing hook lodged near its eye is out of trouble, according to the latest update from otter expert Fast Snail.

“Having spent hours in cross-examining and analysis of visual records from many fellow enthusiasts, we think we are fairly confident to say the fish-hook is off from the pup's eye,” Fast Snail wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday (Apr 8).

“From submitted photos and videos, we could not tell if there's any infection (just swollen eye), but it seems like the pup is eating well and has been able to catch up with the rest of the family members,” the expert added.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society had earlier called on the public to help locate the injured otter.

This could have been the third instance of an otter injured as a result of illegal fishing in Singapore. Last month, another otter was spotted in the Marina Bay area entangled by a fishing line while in October 2015, an otter pup was ensnared by a hook after a man apparently lured them with his fishing line.

- CNA/xk

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Malaysia: Haze getting worse in Sabah’s west coast

The Star 5 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Thick smoke from open burning and bush fires is causing breathing problems as well as stinging pain in the eyes for people in Sabah’s west coast, where haze is reported to be the worst in the state.

The situation worsens when the wind is strong as it fans the blaze which, in turn, causes bigger swathes of smoke.

Ashes from the burnt grass and trees can be seen everywhere. Anyone standing outside their car for less than a minute would already smell of smoke.

It is even worse for those living close to the burning areas.

Siti Sarah Hatam, 55, said the burning behind her house in Bongawan, some 73km from here, was suffocating and made breathing difficult for her and her children.

“It is hard to breathe. There is nowhere to get away from the haze because it invades our house,” she said, adding that she hoped the weather would improve soon.

The mother of six had not been washing her clothes for the past few days due to the smoke but decided to do it yesterday when she saw an improvement in the weather.

“The situation, however, worsened throughout the day and now all my clothes smell of smoke,” she added.

Achil Toimin, 20, said the smoke caused him headaches.

“It is better today compared to the last few days when I even had to help my neighbour put out bush fires in front of her house,” he said yesterday.

Some parts of the Papar-Beaufort road were also burning, much to the frustration of folk living there.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman has asked for immediate measures to implement cloud seeding in the west coast of Sabah in view of the deteriorating air quality.

In a statement released after he met with officials from the Fire and Rescue Department, Sabah Meteorological Department and Department of Environment on the haze situation, he said the biggest contributor to the haze was the peat fires in the Binsuluk Forest Reserve in Beaufort and Kota Klias.

Firemen and State Forestry Department personnel were coordinating their efforts to battle the fire in Binsuluk, he said.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said that open burning by plantation smallholders was to be blamed for causing the peat fires in Klias and Binsuluk, which forced 77 schools in southwestern Sabah to be closed for two days.

The fire on March 27 destroyed 200ha of the Binsuluk Forest Reserve and razed 20ha of the reserve area in Klias, he added.

83 schools in Sabah closed due to unhealthy API
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 4 Apr 16;

TUARAN: Eighty-three schools in Papar, Beaufort and Kuala Penyu will be closed today and tomorrow, said Sabah Education deputy director Maimunah Suhaibul.

Yesterday, she had announced 77 schools in those areas would be closed today.

The eight more schools to follow suit are SK Kimanis, SK Our Lady Fatima, SK Kelatuan, SK Tanaki, SK Tampasak and SMK Bongawan II.

“I have informed the Education Ministry of the closure of those schools due to Air Pollutant Index with readings between unhealthy and very unhealthy levels throughout the days.

“The Department of Environment has placed a portable air quality monitoring device at SMK Membakut 2 to monitor the haze situation at the three districts,” she said after the launching of the state-level 1Malaysia Reading Camp at SMK Tamparuli here.

Meanwhile, schools in Kota Kinabalu are advised to inform the Education Department should they decide to allow students to go back early due to poor air quality.

“As of now, the API reading in Kota Kinabalu is at 60, which is still moderate. We hope the situation will not affect schooling sessions.

But if certain schools are badly affected due to nearby open fires, they have to ensure parents personally pick up their children, for safety purposes.”

Sabah parents take kids out of school early due to haze
The Star 5 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Parents fetched their children from school early while many rushed to pharmacies for face masks as the west coast of Sabah was enveloped by smoke from forest fires.

Although the Air Pollutant Index (API) stayed at a moderate 68 in the city, many found the thick haze and smell of smoke worrying, especially for the health of their children.

Some schools gave out face masks to their pupils while Parent-Teacher Associations in many other schools started raising money for masks.

The winds were shifting the haze to many parts of the west coast from the worst-hit southwestern Beaufort area.

Department of Environment (Sabah) assistant director Norazizi Adinan said the area recorded a very unhealthy API of 300 on Sunday but this dropped to 150 as of noon yesterday and was continuing to improve.

Sabah Education Department deputy director Maimunah Suhai­dul told reporters yesterday that 83 primary and secondary schools, with more than 20,000 students in Beaufort, Kuala Penyu and Papar, would stay closed till today.

She said principals in other areas had been given permission to close their schools should the haze worsen, but they must inform the department.

UMS may suspend classes due to worsening air quality
KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 4 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) will consider suspending its classes if the Air Pollutant Index (API) continues to rise, said its vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Harun Abdullah.

In a statement today, he said the university would take action if the air quality depreciates.

This, he said, was to ensure the safety and health of the people especially the undergraduates.

"We view this haze situation seriously and will continue monitoring the situation," he said.

As a precautionary step, UMS is distributing facial masks for free to all their students.

As of 3pm, the Kota Kinabalu district recorded an API of 70 (moderate level).

Air pollution level at Beufort, Papar, Kuala Penyu reaches 161
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 4 Apr 16;

BEAUFORT: The air quality in Papar, Kuala Penyu and here recorded an unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) of 161 as of 11am.

A Sabah Environment Department spokesman said the readings at three districts were measured using a portable machine.

The state Education Department had also ordered 83 primary and secondary schools in the districts to be closed today.

Beaufort district officer Mohd Shahid Othman said firemen were putting out bush and forest fires. “We will have meeting with relevant agencies if the situation worsens.”

Meanwhile, Kota Kinabalu recorded second highest API at 60 as of 11am. The state capital and nearby towns Telipok and Bandar Sierra appeared hazy in the morning.

Haze in Beaufort area improves overnight but remains unhealthy
The Star 4 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The situation in the Beaufort area of south western Sabah improved overnight but remains unhealthy.

Department of Environment (Sabah) assistant director Norazizi Adinan said that the Air Pollutant Index was at 161 as of 8am Monday dropping from the "very unhealthy"’ levels of 300 recorded late Sunday.

"The API peaked to 300 overnight but we are seeing a drop now,’’ he told The Star Online.

Norazizi said fires across the Klias peninsular, Bongowan, Membakut and parts of Papar as well as a simmering peat fire in the Binsuluk Forest Reserve area might be triggering the heavy haze conditions.

The Beaufort area about 100kms from Kota Kinabalu does not have a permanent station to monitor air quality levels.

Acording to Norazizi, they had put up a mobile station (Portable Particulate Matter Monitoring System) at SMK Membakut 2 about three days ago to monitor the worsening haze situation in the area.

Late Sunday, Sabah Education Department ordered 77 primary and secondary schools in Beaufort, Kuala Penyu and Papar involving some 20,000 students to remain close till Tuesday and would reviewed if there was need for further closure.

Hazy conditions also hit the state capital and its surrounding areas here with meteorologists disclosing that visibility was 1 km in Kota Kinabalu as of 8am while visibility for the rest of the state including Labuan was above 10kms.

API readings for Kota Kinabalu was at a moderate 60 while interior Keningau was at 54 at 8am Monday.

A spokesman for the Kota Kinabalu International Airport there was no flight disruptions due the dropping visibility.

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Malaysia: Small fires by farmers causing Sabah's choking haze

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 4 Apr 16;

BEAUFORT: Farmers who had started small fires for land-clearing activities on March 27 are responsible for the choking haze in three districts - Beaufort, Papar and Kuala Penyu.

National Resource and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar in a statement today said the fire had spread encompass 20 hectares of peat soil forest reserve at Klias and another 200 hectares at Binsuluk.

The Sabah Fire and Rescue Department took almost a week to bring the fires under control today.

"However, the embers within the peat soils are still emitting thick smoke, causing the haze.

"Cloud seeding operations will be conducted by the Malaysian Meteorology Department and the Royal Malaysian Air Force if the Air Pollutant Index reading exceeds 100 for more than 72 hours," he said.

Wan Junaidi reminded the people not to start fires as they can be charged under Section 29 (A) of the Environment Quality Act.

Members of the public are also urged to help put out small fires or report the incidents to the authorities. As of 3pm, the readings at three districts stood at 143.

The State Education Department had ordered 83 schools at the affected areas to be closed today and tomorrow.

Make it rain: Sabah urges MOSTI to conduct cloud-seeding
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 4 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government is urging the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry to execute cloud seeding to mitigate the worsening haze situation in the state.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the people’s health and wellbeing had to be prioritised.

“It is time for the state government to discuss with the federal ministry in implementing cloud seeding to make it rain and improve the hazy situation,” he told a press conference on Sabah Fest 2016 here today.

Three districts of Beaufort, Papar and Kuala Penyu recorded Air Pollutant Index (API) readings between unhealthy and very unhealthy levels today.

Earlier, Masidi said the Sabah Fest, themed “gulu gulu”, would be showcased at the Auditorium Kompleks JKKN Sabah from April 8 to May 1.

The musical will depict ancient warrior Datuk Paduka Mat Salleh fighting the British during colonial rule. Tickets are priced at RM50 each.

Sabah ready for cloud-seeding in bid to end haze
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 4 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI) is ready to conduct cloud-seeding in Sabah, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

"I have spoken to MOSTI minister Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau and asked him to rectify the situation and possibly conduct cloud-seeding as soon as possible.

"He informed me that they are ready to conduct cloud-seeding but its success depends on the availability and type of clouds," he said in a statement. The Malaysian Meteorological Department and Royal Malaysian Air Force have been put on standby to conduct the exercise.

Musa had also called for a briefing by the State Fire and Rescue Department, Sabah Meteorological Department and the Department of Environment on the worsening haze situation, especially on the west coast of Sabah this morning.

He also directed the State Disaster Relief Committee and respective district level committees to be alert and report any open burning activities.

The Fire and Rescue Department, meanwhile, have been told to be vigilant and ready to spring into action to overcome any emergency situation.

"The situation is worrying because of the diminishing air quality that can cause respiratory problems and poor visibility that could pose a safety risk for air and road traffic.

"People should also limit their outdoor activities due to the poor air quality," he said, advising the public to be responsible and not resort to open burning which would worsen the haze situation.

Musa worried over worsening air quality
MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 4 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman has expressed concern over the deteriorating air quality and asked for immediate measures to implement cloud seeding in Sabah's west coast.

"The situation is worrying because of the deteriorating air quality, which can cause respiratory problems, poor visibility and pose a danger to air and road traffic,’’ he said in a statement released on Monday after he met officials of the Fire and Rescue Department, the Meteorological Department and the Department of Environment on the worsening haze situation in Sabah.

He said the biggest contributor to the haze was peat forest fires in the Binsuluk forest reserve in Beaufort and Kota Klias.

He said firemen and state Forestry Department personnel are coordinating their efforts to battle the fires in Binsuluk.

"I have spoken to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau and asked him to rectify the situation and possibly conduct cloud seeding as soon as possible,’’ he said.

Musa also directed the state disaster relief committee and district-level committees to be alert and report any open burning.

"I also ask the public to be responsible and not resort to open burning that would worsen the haze situation.

"The public should also limit outdoor activities due to the poor air quality,’’ he added.

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Malaysia: Farmers feeling the heat

PETALING JAYA: The healthy steamed fish dishes that Malaysians enjoy will likely be pricier soon in view of the RM20mil losses suffered by Malaysia’s marine fish farms industry due to rising temperatures.

Marine Fish Farmers Association deputy president Mohamed Razali Mohamed said the hot weather had taken its toll on Malaysia’s marine fish farming, which is the largest in South-East Asia.

“Groupers, snappers and barramundi are dying in cages due to the red tide or the growth of algae, which competes with the fish for oxygen,” he said.

“Just last month, 100 tonnes of fish worth RM4mil that were destined for both local and overseas markets were wiped out in fish farms in Pulau Kukup in Johor.”

Mohamed Razali said the hot weather had encouraged algae to bloom in the shallow water, pushing up fish mortality.

Most of the 2,000 fish farms in the country operate in shallow water and protected bays, using about 100,000 wooden cages.

In 2014, Malaysia produced 64,000 metric tonnes of marine fish worth RM1.2bil.

Mohamed Razali said export earnings from grouper and snapper, which are also sold to restaurants in Hong Kong, China and Singapore, amounted to RM400mil annually.

To escape the red tide, fishermen who could afford it were investing on high-density polyethylene cages so that they could relocate their farms to deeper waters.

These cages, which are also used for salmon farming in Norway, can withstand rough seas and weather but cost up to RM10,000 each.

Perak Animal Husbandry Association president Tan Kuang Liang, whose members include 128 pig farmers, said the lack of water due to the hot spell was a major concern.

Pigs needed to be hosed down daily to keep them cool, he said, fearing that a prolonged water shortage may increase mortality.

“The price of pork is stable now but any impact on the market will be felt in six to eight months,” he said, adding that the hot spell was “unprecedented”, leading to reduced appetite and birth rates among the animals.

Malaysian Federation of Ruminant Breeders Association chairman Samad Kassim said livestock would get stressed, leading to lower beef and milk production.

Farmers had to spend more on supplements and vitamins for their livestock, he said, adding that the dry weather which led to grass drying up was another headache.

Samad, who operates a dairy farm with 300 heads of cattle in Kota Kemuning, said milk production was down by 20% to 30%.

“Farmers have to absorb these losses. Personally, I have had to spend another RM5,000 or RM6,000 a month on supplements for my cows,” he said.

Federation of Livestock Farmers’ Associa­tion of Malaysia president Jeffrey Ng said poultry farmers who breed in open houses or free range were worse off as unlike closed door farming, there was no way to control the temperature.

Crop insurance to protect farmers from risks
The Star 5 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: The Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry will soon introduce “crop insurance” to protect farmers from risks linked to climate change such as drought, diseases and floods.

“In its first phase, the crop insurance will cover only padi. Later, it will include other agriculture activities such as livestock, agro-food commodities such as fruits and vegetables as well as the fisheries sector,” said minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

The insurance, he said, would make the agriculture sector more attractive to investors and give the farmers peace of mind, knowing that they were protected from the risk of any unfortunate eventualities.

Ahmad Shabery said the ministry had identified strategies to increase export and control imports such as intensifying production and efficiency, enhancing the competitiveness of Malaysian products and developing import substitution, which included changing Malaysian lifestyles to create more demand for local products.

“We also import a vast amount of animal feed such as soy and maize. We will explore how these can be grown on our own farms.”

Ahmad Shabery said the ministry would carry out a mid-term review of the National Agro-Food Policy (NAP) soon.

NAP outlines the directions for agro-food development from 2011 to 2020. It has generally taken into account the effects of climate change.

“Although the main reason for the mid-term review is to evaluate our current achievements compared to what we have planned before, new challenges such as climate change and new opportunities such as exports of our agro-food will also be considered,” he said.

Ahmad Shabery said the review would take into account food sovereignty as the country must not only be able to produce its own food but also be able to export it.

“History has proven that in times of war or peace, the sovereignty of a nation can be easily crippled by its over-dependence on foreign sources of food,” he said.

But he said that Malaysia has adequate food items with self-sufficiency levels (SSL) for fish, vegetables and poultry being at least 90% despite the hefty food import bill.

The SSL for rice, a staple food for Malaysians, is about 70% and the remainder includes special varieties such as fragrant, basmati, brown and glutinous rice.

For other food items such as poultry, the SSL stands at 105%, eggs (120%), fruits (100%), fish (90%), vegetables (90%), beef (28%) and milk (13%).

But he conceded that much of the food consumed by Malaysians was still imported.

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Malaysia: Heatwave causing water supply concerns in Malacca

The Star 5 Apr 16;

MALACCA: Malacca, which recently offered to help its neighbour Negri Sembilan cope with dry taps, may itself face water woes in two weeks.

The state is contemplating cloud seeding by the middle of this month if the hot spell continues to threaten the water levels at three dams.

As of yesterday, the level at the major dam in Durian Tunggal stood at 58% after breaching the warning stage while the other two dams, Jus and Asahan, are still at a comfortable 77% and 89% respectively.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron urged consumers to be serious in saving water although there was still sufficient supply for now.

“But we can’t predict the weather and will start water rationing in a month if there is no rainfall at these dams.

“For now, we can just pray for rain,” he said yesterday.

The state government, he said, would seek help from the Federal Government for cloud seeding by the next two weeks if the situation called for it.

On March 15, the Malacca government offered to help supply water to Negri Sembilan.

At that point, the dam level at Durian Tunggal was at 78%, Jus at 85% and Asahan, 98%.

In Johor Baru, Johor water regulatory body (Bakaj) director Mohd Riduan Md Ali said there weres no plans yet to implement water rationing in the state despite the drop in water levels at all the dams statewide.

He said that despite the drop, the state would continue to supply 1,700 million litres of water per day through the 42 water treatment plants statewide.

“At the moment we are able to cope with the situation,” he said at a special briefing yesterday.

He added that there were several water transfer efforts to increase the water levels at the Lebam and Layang dams.

The present dry spell and reduced rainfall were among the factors contributing to the drop in water levels.

On cloud seeding, he said it was done 30 times last year and that they hoped to carry it out again between now and May.

Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said all water-related projects in Johor would be given priority to ensure continuous water supply, especially during the present dry spell.

There are five major water-related projects in the state, including in Kahang, Pagoh, Buloh Kasap and Sungai Lebam.

Hasni said the state was also coming down hard on those involved in illegal water extraction for farming and illegal discharge of industrial waste into the state’s waterways.

“There have been some cases of factories discharging wastes into rivers, including in Skudai, Sembrong Kiri and Simpang Renggam,” he said.

“We are also facing salt water intrusion in Sungai Muar and Sungai Johor.”

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Malaysia: Dengue claims 12th death in Terengganu

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 4 Apr 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Dengue claimed its 12th death in the state, with the latest being a 67-year-old man last Friday.

The victim, from Kampung Tok Adis in Kuala Ibai here, was admitted to the Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital on March 27 before his condition deteriorated further.

He was transferred to the intensive care unit on the third day before he succumbed to the virus at 9.45am on Friday.

Prior to this, the last reported death was in Dungun on Feb 29. An average of four dengue-related deaths a month have been reported since January.

State Health, Women, Family and Social Development Committee chairman Datuk Muhammad Pehemi Yusof said Kuala Terengganu tops the other districts with nine deaths, followed by a case each in Dungun, Besut and Marang.

He said the Aedes mosquitoes most likely bred indoors currently as it is impossible for them to breed outside during the current hot weather with the lack of rainwater.

"It is wrong to think that the Aedes mosquitoes cannot breed during the hot season. When favourable conditions arise, its number can still multiply," he said.

Health officers to carry out anti-dengue ops
The Star 5 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Health officers may enter homes for checks in a large-scale anti-dengue operation that is scheduled to kick off soon at housing estates nationwide.

The two-month operation, starting April 11, will see enforcement officers going into houses in dengue-prone areas to check for mosquito-breeding grounds.

They are authorised to do so under the Destruction of Disease-Bearing Insects Act 1975.

Health Ministry deputy director-general (public health) Datuk Dr Lokman Sulaiman told Sin Chew Daily that the health officers would be accompanied by unarmed police and army personnel during the anti-dengue operation.

“The team will be in uniform and carry their identity documents and an authorisation letter.

“If nobody is at home, we will leave a notice to inform the occupants that we will return to check the premises,” he added.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam had announced that the operation would be conducted at 192 dengue-prone areas throughout the country.

The move has, however, caused worry to the public who are concerned with letting possible imposters into their homes.

When interviewed by the daily, some residents said they hoped that the ministry would make arrangements with resident associations before carrying out the checks.

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As Indonesian forests burn, new anti-fire agency feels heat


As forest fires raged like never before across Indonesia last year, President Joko Widodo announced he was setting up a special agency to tackle the annual scourge that shrouds parts of Southeast Asia in choking haze.

But, with this season's fires already blazing, the Peatlands Restoration Agency has barely got off the ground and has a huge task ahead of it.

Nazir Foead, who was appointed to lead the body, told Reuters it needed at least $1 billion in funding over five years, but that the government was unlikely to allocate a budget for another two months.

Foead, an environmental expert who was formerly the World Wildlife Fund's conservation director in Indonesia, so far has just a handful of staff and concedes the agency won't have the clout to force plantation companies to toe the line in helping restore dried-out peatland.

The fires are often started by palm oil plantation and paper firms or by smallholders who use slash-and-burn practices to clear land cheaply. Peaty soil, found in many parts of Indonesia, is particularly flammable when dry, often causing fires to spread beyond their intended areas.

"The authority to issue or freeze licenses lies with the environment ministry and local governments, not with this agency," Foead said, referring to permits needed to operate the plantations that dominate swathes of the nation's landscape.

Much of Southeast Asia was blanketed in acrid haze for several months last year and, as pollution levels spiked, thousands of people were afflicted by respiratory illnesses, while tourism, schools and flights were disrupted.

The agency's goal is to prevent fires by "re-wetting" 2 million hectares (5 million acres) of drained and damaged peatland - roughly the size of Israel - with at least 30 percent of that carried out this year. The process involves raising water levels using dams and irrigation channels.

Nearly half the fires during 2015's prolonged dry season were on peaty soil.

But the agency's budget has not been decided yet, and it has been operating since it started in January using money from around $80 million pledged by donors.

Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki said the agency would also have access to funds already allocated to the environment ministry as a stopgap until its budget was finalised.

"The agency is just in the institution building and staffing stage," Masduki said, adding the government remained optimistic the body would achieve its targets this year.


As the agency looks to find its feet, fires are already flaring in some areas. Riau province on Sumatra island last month declared a state of emergency, with over 1,000 people deployed to manage the crisis.

Chief Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said the government would declare emergencies in affected areas earlier this year to ensure firefighting resources were deployed quickly.

"Last year we didn't declare emergency until September, when the fires were already widely spread, that was our mistake," he said last month.

President Widodo, who last year cut short a visit to the United States because of the disaster, has threatened to sack officials if they fail to contain blazes.

Foead and his fledgling agency want plantation companies to restore peatlands within their concessions.

"There is no other choice for companies but to restore or they will risk huge penalties," he said. Although he added that the agency would have no legal authority to enforce this.

NGO sources said the agency would likely face challenges in convincing companies and communities, used to slash-and-burn clearing, to take responsibility for damaged land.

Even getting relevant government institutions to cooperate in mapping and fixing the problem could be hard, said one NGO worker.

"(The agency) is having to fight to get basic data about land use and which companies are given permits," said the worker, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Foead said, however, that the whole of the government was on board with the idea of the agency and that "everyone is cooperating".

He said he remained hopeful the agency had a chance of succeeding in the long-run because the initiative was a top priority for Widodo's administration.

(Additional reporting by Fergus Jensen in Jakarta and Rozanna Latiff in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by John Chalmers and Joseph Radford)

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Indonesia: Bumper crops all round for Batang fishermen

Agus Maryono Jakarta Post 13 Mar 16;

Fishermen in Batang regency, Central Java, have seen a significant increase in their hauls over the last two years, thanks to improved fishing equipment, an official has said.

The Batang administration’s head of fisheries and maritime affairs , Achmad Taufik, said Batang’s sea fishing production reached around 25 million kilograms per year on average. “In the last two years, production has increased by around 25 percent annually,” Taufik said on Friday, adding that sea fishing revenues contributed around Rp 80 billion (US$6.08 million) per year to the regency’s locally generated recurring revenues.

“We are targeting a 27.5 percent increase in our fisheries production this year. With their plentiful hauls, we hope that fish traders do not forget their responsibility to pay fees to the government,” Taufik said.

To maximize sea fishing production, he went on, the Batang administration is set to renovate infrastructure facilities at fish auction centers in seven areas across the regency.

According to Taufik, Batang now has 11,765 fishermen, comprising 625 fishing boat owners and 11,140 crew members, and 765 fishing vessels with various gross tonnages.

The fishing vessels operate various modern fishing equipment, such as purse seines, mini purse seines, bottom long lines, gill nets and trammel nets.

Friday morning saw unexpected scenes at Batang port, with dozens of sharks laid out on the floor of a storage facility within the complex. Fishermen were seen unloading more sharks from large baskets and labeling their catches.

“They are expensive. They will be sold in Jakarta, not here,” said Abdul Kahfi, 40, a fisherman, adding that sharks were very much in season in the waters off the coastal regency.

“Alhamdulillah, we're getting good hauls. We go fishing every day and return home with our vessels packed with fish,” he told He added that there were around 10,000 fishermen active in Batang, and that almost all of them were enjoying large hauls.

According to Kahfi, an adult shark can fetch between Rp 400,000 and Rp 500,000.

Shark overfishing among local fishermen, however, has put the species at risk of extinction. Indonesia catches more sharks than any country in the world, according to conservation group Save Sharks Indonesia.

Green Peace Indonesia data show that Indonesia produces at least 486 tons of dried shark fins per year. Meanwhile, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says at least 1.1 million tons of shark products are traded globally every year. Conservation groups have called on the government to take tougher measures to prevent shark fishing. (ebf)

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Indonesia: Flores eagle attracts international bird-watchers

Markus Makur Jakarta Post 4 Mar 16;

More international bird-watchers, especially from the US and European countries, are visiting Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, to observe the Flores eagle, an endemic bird species on the island.

Yohanes B. Fua, head of the conservation section for regional division III at the East Nusa Tenggara Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said areas popular for bird-watching included the Ruteng Ecotourism Park, especially on the southern side of Ranamese Lake in Kampung Phinisi, Ranamese district, East Manggarai regency. The peak of Mount Ranaka was also considered an ideal place to watch Flores eagles.

“We have often spotted eagles in those areas. Many international bird-watchers stay overnight in guesthouses in Ranamese to observe eagles and other endemic bird species. Staff members of [non-profit bird conservation organization] Burung Indonesia have all this time accompanied international bird-watchers and tourists interested in visiting the Ruteng Ecotourism Park in areas around Ranamese Lake,” said Yohanes.

He added that the population of Flores eagles was threatened but they were not yet categorized as endangered. “Recently, two researchers from Burung Indonesia observed Flores-endemic species in areas around Ranamese Lake,” he said.

Burung Indonesia staff member Samuel Rabenak, who is also a member of bird-watching group ABI Birding, said Puar Lolo Forest in Mbeliling, West Manggarai regency, Flores, was one of most beautiful places for observing Flores eagles.

He said forest areas in Puar Lolo were still well-preserved, so many birds still could be found there. Tourists with special interests and domestic and international bird-watchers came to observe and enjoy the uniqueness and beauty of Flores eagles.

“Hundreds of domestic and international tourists with special interests had a tour to Flores to observe Flores eagles and other endemic bird species on the island, such as the Flores corvus and Flores scops owl,” said Rabenak.

He explained that trips offered to tourists interested in observing the eagles usually began in Labuan Bajo, the capital of West Manggarai regency, before moving to Puar Lolo Forest, Sano Nggoang Forest and Golo Lusang Forest and ending in forest areas around Ranamese Lake. Visitors could later observe endemic birds in the Kisol valley, Poco Ndeki and Nangarawa forest areas, among other places. “They will also be taken to watch Flores eagles in Kelimutu National Park in Ende regency,” said Rabenak.

“Only a few bird guides operate in Flores. Guiding bird-watching activities needs special skills such as knowledge on bird species and of course, special interest in bird-watching,” he added.

Rabenak said it was hoped that local administrations would encourage travel agents to promote special tourist programs, including bird-watching of endemic species. (ebf)

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Water crisis developing in drought-hit Vietnam: UN

A water crisis is developing in central and southern Vietnam as the region is hit by its worst drought in recent history. The United Nations says 1.5 million people face an acute shortage of drinking water.
Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 4 Apr 16;

KON TUM, Vietnam: Life has become harder for Ta Dinh Hao since the rains stopped earlier than usual last September.

The once teeming fish pond in front of his concrete house in Vietnam’s Central Highlands is now parched earth. His rice field has been dead for months and the cassava is struggling, but the 47-year-old farmer’s biggest worry is the dangerously low water level in his household well.

If the well dries up, he could afford to buy drinking water for another two or three months. “But after that, we won’t last,” he said with a sad smile.


A record drought across central and southern Vietnam is affecting the water supply and livelihoods of nearly 1.8 million people, 80 per cent of them in urgent need of drinking water, a United Nations situation report says. Twelve out of Vietnam’s 63 provinces have so far declared a state of emergency.

The drought is forecast to peak in April and persist through May, which means relief may not come until June, a late start for the rainy season. “The thing is even in the wet season now, people, especially farmers, can feel the drought,” said Nguyen Dang Quang, head of division at the National Hydrometeorological Forecasting Centre (NHFC). NHFC's records show the Central Highlands has experienced drought for the past two years at least.

Drought is a slow onset disaster, making it a less visible and more forgettable crisis than typhoons and earthquakes that strike Vietnam’s neighbours, but it is as much a crisis, said the UN’s Vietnam Resident Coordinator Pratibha Mehta.

“People are not dying today, people have not been forced to leave belongings, so all those things have not happened,” she said, “But that does not mean they are not suffering.”


Experts blame the drought on climate change, citing the prolonged El Nino phenomenon affecting all of Southeast Asia. Chinese hydro-power dams on the upper reaches of the Mekong River have also been linked to severe saltwater intrusion exacerbating the drought in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.

Aid workers said there is little doubt local factors such as intensive farming and deforestation in the drought-hit areas themselves are also at work. An official report released in 2015 shows the Central Highlands lost 14 per cent of its forest cover in seven years, equivalent to more than 50,000 hectares a year.

Fewer trees means less capacity to trap and hold groundwater, said Trinh Trong Nghia of Plan International Vietnam. “That is scientifically proven, (and) it links to drought in that area.”

Hanoi has committed US$23 million to emergency drought relief, intended for drilling wells and transporting water and rice to stricken localities.

Vietnam’s long-term strategy to address the drought’s root causes is less clear. The government has invested in reforestation and forest protection in the Central Highlands in recent years, but experts agree it is not enough.

Concerted effort is needed to help local communities switch to more sustainable cultivation, adapt to long-term drought, and raise environmental awareness, Nghia said. The task list is long and Vietnam is starting from a low base.

In Kon Tum city, Channel NewsAsia drove past residents hosing down their porches and house plants in the afternoon heat, oblivious to the thirst in Hao’s drought-stricken village less than two hours’ drive away.


The impact of drought is starting to show on Vietnam’s growth figures. Minister of investment and planning Bui Quang Vinh has warned that damage to agricultural output could drag growth down to 5.45 per cent this year, under the 6.7 per cent target for 2016.

The real cost of Vietnam’s record drought, however, may not be known for years. The effect on nutrition, children’s school attendance, and healthcare services is not immediate, said Mehta.

“All of these implications will be slower to see but there will be implications.”


Normally, Hao is busy sowing crops or tending to his fields at this time of year. “But without water, there is nothing to do” he said.

A short walk away, Tham’s household well has hit rock bottom. The water they can pump up is unusable, muddy with sediment and rocks. Her family is relying on bottled water and what is left in their rainwater tank. Like Hao, she offered the Channel NewsAsia team a drink nonetheless.

Their province of Kon Tum declared a state of emergency in mid-March but the village is remote and has yet to receive government help.

"We just stay and wait for the rain," Tham told Channel NewsAsia. “It’s misery, but we have nowhere else to go.”

- CNA/pp

Drought in Vietnam will become 'dangerous' in April: forecast
Chi Nhan, Thanh Nien News 29 Mar 16;

Drought and saltwater intrusion in Vietnam’s southern and central regions will persist through April, according to experts.

Nguyen Dang Quang, a drought expert at the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting, said at a Monday forum in Hanoi that the intense El Nino phenomenon from last year will last for two more months.

Temperatures in the central and southern Vietnam in April and May will be around one degree Celsius higher than the average in recent years.

“April will be an extremely dangerous time for drought and saltwater intrusion in the regions,” Quang said, as cited by Tuoi Tre newspaper.

Experts at the conference said salinization of the Tien and Hau Rivers, the main tributaries of the Mekong River, will hit an alarmingly high level.

Nearly half of the 2.2 million hectares (5.4 million acres) of arable land in the Mekong Delta had been attacked by saltwater and hundreds of thousands of locals are suffering from water scarcity.

Economic impacts

Bui Quang Vinh, Minister of Investment and Planning, said at a government meeting last Saturday that the damage to agriculture activities may drag economic growth this year to 5.45 percent, from 6.68 percent in 2015.

A report from the Southern Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting said in the southern region the mercury will rise to 39 degrees in April and early May.

The report said the region will stay hot and dry until rain arrives in late May.

Monsoon flood is considered a bliss to the delta farmers as it washes up salinity from the dry season and freshens up fields for the next crops. But this year it will come around several months later than usual, possibly in October.

Last year the water level in the region dropped to the lowest in history amid the intense El Nino.

VN's rice supply may decrease due to drought and saline intrusion
VietNamNet Bridge 4 Apr 16;

Opinions vary about the rice supply in the context of the serious drought and saline intrusion in the Mekong River Delta, the rice granary of Vietnam.

The Plantation Agency reported that 140,000 hectares of the 2015-2016 winter-spring crop have been affected by the drought. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) predicted that the sowing on 500,000 hectares of rice fields, or 30 percent total area of the summer-autumn crop, would be delayed due to the drought and saline intrusion.

Meanwhile, the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) has predicted high rice output available for export in 2016, about 8.6 million tons.

Huynh The Nang, VFA’s chair and general director of Vinafood 2, one of the two major rice export corporations, confirming the figure, said that 3.87 million tons would be from the winter-spring crop, 2.89 million tons from the summer-autumn crop and 1.08 million tons from the autumn-winter crop. Besides, 750,000 tons of rice left from 2015 could also be used for export.

In 2015, Vietnam exported 8.1 million tons of rice, both through official and across-border channels. If Vinafood’s prediction is true, Vietnam would export 500,000 tons more in 2016 if compared with last year.

The Vietnam Food Association (VFA) has predicted high rice output available for export in 2016, about 8.6 million tons.
Regarding exports in the first half of this year, VFA plans to sell 3.1 million tons, not including the export volume across the border line. Of this, 1.3 million tons would be exported in the first quarter, or 100,000 tons higher than initially planned, an increase of 56 percent compared with the last year’s same period. Meanwhile, 1.8 million tons would be sold in the second quarter, the same as the same period last year.

Le Thanh Tung, a senior official from MARD, declined to comment about the high export volume predicted by MARD in the context of serious drought in Mekong Delta. However, he said the rice output in 2016 may be at the same level as 2015.

Also, according to Tung, it is impossible to declare the volume of rice for export now. The figure would only be officially made public at the conference reviewing the production of the winter-spring to be held in some days.

“It is quite a delicate matter to speak about the volume of rice for export, because this may affect millions of people,” he explained.

A local agriculture official in Mekong Delta said he is not sure about the output, but affirmed that the supply will not be as high as in previous years.

Local newspapers quoted some rice merchants in An Giang and Tien Giang provinces as reporting that the rice price has been increasing because of concerns about the short supply to be caused by the drought.

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Drought-hit Palau could dry up totally this month

The tiny country of about 18,000 people declared a state of emergency last month, the latest Pacific island nation to do so as one of the worst ever El Nino-induced droughts in the region worsens.
Channel NewsAsia 4 Apr 16;

KOROR, Palau: Drought-stricken Palau could dry up completely this month, officials warned on Monday (Apr 4) as the Pacific island appealed for urgent aid from Japan and Taiwan, including shipments of water.

The tiny country of about 18,000 people declared a state of emergency last month, the latest Pacific island nation to do so as one of the worst ever El Nino-induced droughts in the region worsens.

"We're still in the state of emergency, there's a sense of urgency to address the crisis," a government spokesman told AFP as the National Emergency Committee (NEC) met to discuss strategy.

An NEC report prepared for President Tommy Remengesau offered a bleak outlook for the already-parched country.

"Based on the current water level and usage rates, and assuming conditions persist unabated, a total water outage is likely to occur in the next two to three weeks," it said.

Access to tap water is already rationed to three hours a day or less in the capital Koror and schools are only open half days because they cannot give students enough to drink.

"The NEC has been in contact with the governments of Japan and Taiwan regarding support of materials and equipment, as well as direct shipments of water as necessary," it said.

The Japanese embassy in Palau confirmed it had received a request for assistance and discussions were ongoing about what form it would take.

"The nature of what type of assistance and in what volume is expected to be finalised as soon as possible," it said in a statement.

Palau also expects help from Taiwan, one of the few countries to maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei in the face of opposition from China.

The NEC report added that the US military had been asked to supply portable water filtration systems to alleviate the increasingly desperate situation.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said last month the El Nino weather pattern - associated with a sustained period of warming in the central Pacific which can spark climate extremes - was unlikely to ease before the second half of the year.

The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia have also declared states of emergency, while Guam and the Northern Marianas are experiencing low rainfall.

In Koror, bottled water has become scarce as people stockpile dwindling supplies.

Resident Rolynda Jonathan said she constantly worried about her two children.

"There are no words to describe the level of stress, worry and burden of hauling water from one place to another," she told AFP. "Every morning we struggle to shower, clean up and prepare for the day with the limited amount of water we have."

- AFP/ec

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Rains kill 53 in northwest Pakistan, Kashmir

At least 53 people were killed and 60 injured after heavy rain across northwest Pakistan and areas of Kashmir caused landslides and the roofs of dozens of homes to collapse, officials said on Sunday.
Channel NewsAsia 4 Apr 16;

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: At least 53 people were killed and 60 injured after heavy rain across northwest Pakistan and areas of Kashmir caused landslides and the roofs of dozens of homes to collapse, officials said on Sunday (Apr 3).

The deaths were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and in the Neelam valley in Pakistan-administered Kashmir after heavy downpours that began Saturday night.

The number known to have died rose to 45 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a provincial disaster management agency spokesman said, adding they were still waiting for reports from a few more remote areas.

The worst-hit area was Shangla district where 14 deaths were reported, followed by Kohistan region where rains and landslides killed 12 people.

Five children and three women were killed on Saturday night in the Kashmiri village of Sam Gung after a landslide caused by heavy rains buried two houses, local official Abdul Hameed Kiyani told AFP. He said the bodies were recovered Sunday evening.

Poorly-built homes across the country, particularly in rural areas, are susceptible to collapse during the annual spring rains, which are often heavy.

Severe weather in recent years have killed hundreds and destroyed huge tracts of prime farmland. During the rainy season last summer, torrential downpours and flooding killed 81 people and affected almost 300,000 people across the country.

- AFP/de

Rescuers race to reach thousands stranded by rains in Pakistan
The authority said it had received reports of damage to dozens of houses but had failed to reach affected people in three districts of the northwestern province.
Channel NewsAsia 4 Apr 16;

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Rescuers were battling Monday (Apr 4) to reach thousands of people stranded by floods and landslides in Pakistan's northwest and parts of Kashmir, officials said, as the death toll rose to 55.

Disaster management officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where 47 people have died since the downpour began Saturday night, said they were consulting with the military about a rescue operation there amid fears the death toll could still climb.

"We are trying to arrange a helicopter to reach the people stuck under debris of their houses," Latifur Rehman, a spokesman for the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, told AFP.

The authority said it had received reports of damage to dozens of houses but had failed to reach affected people in three districts of the northwestern province.

"We need to get bodies and the injured out from under the rubble and provide food and tents to the survivors," Rehman said, adding that four truckloads of supplies had been sent to affected districts.

"All roads leading to villages and other areas have been blocked... There is no movement at all," Khalid Khan, a courier company owner in Shangla district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told AFP, adding that local hospitals lack the facilities to deal with the injured.

In Pakistan-administered Kashmir's Neelum Valley, officials said thousands were stranded by landslides.

At least eight people including five children died there when two houses were buried in a landslide caused by the rains, local official Abdul Hameed Kiyani told AFP.

Mainly dry weather was expected in most parts of Pakistan from Monday, according to the meteorological department's website, though thunderstorms are still predicted for Kashmir.

Poorly-built homes across the country, particularly in rural areas, are prone to collapse during the annual spring rains, which are often heavy. Severe weather hits Pakistan annually, with hundreds killed and huge tracts of prime farmland destroyed in recent years in a blow to the heavily agrarian economy.

During the rainy season last summer, torrential downpours and flooding killed 81 people and affected almost 300,000 across the country and in Kashmir.

- AFP/yt

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Climate change will wipe $2.5tn off global financial assets: study

Losses could soar to $24tn and wreck the global economy in worst case scenario, first economic modelling estimate suggests
Damian Carrington The Guardian 4 Apr 16;

Climate change could cut the value of the world’s financial assets by $2.5tn (£1.7tn), according to the first estimate from economic modelling.

In the worst case scenarios, often used by regulators to check the financial health of companies and economies, the losses could soar to $24tn, or 17% of the world’s assets, and wreck the global economy.

The research also showed the financial sense in taking action to keep climate change under the 2C danger limit agreed by the world’s nations. In this scenario, the value of financial assets would fall by $315bn less, even when the costs of cutting emissions are included.

“Our work suggests to long-term investors that we would be better off in a low-carbon world,” said Prof Simon Dietz of the London School of Economics, the lead author of the study. “Pension funds should be getting on top of this issue, and many of them are.” He said, however, that awareness in the financial sector was low.

Mark Campanale of the thinktank Carbon Tracker Initiative said the actual financial losses from unchecked global warming could be higher than estimated by the financial model behind the new study. “It could be a lot worse. The loss of financial capital can be a lot higher and faster than the GDP losses [used to model the costs of climate change in the study]. Just look at value of coal giant Peabody Energy. It was worth billions just a few years ago and now it is worth nothing.”

The Bank of England and World Bank have warned of the risks to the global economy of climate change and the G20 has asked the international Financial Stability Board to investigate the issue. In January, the World Economic Forum said a catastrophe caused by climate change was the biggest potential threat to the global economy in 2016.

“Physical climate change impacts are a systemic risk on a massive scale,” said Ben Caldecott, the director of the sustainable finance programme at the University of Oxford. “Investors can do much more to differentiate between companies more or less exposed and they can help reduce the risk to the global economy by supporting ambitious action on climate change.”

The new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change, used economic modelling to estimate the impact of unchecked climate change. It found that in that scenario, the assets were effectively overvalued today by $2.5tn, but that there was a 1% chance that the overvaluation could be as high as $24tn.

The losses would be caused by the direct destruction of assets by increasingly extreme weather events and also by a reduction in earnings for those affected by high temperatures, drought and other climate change impacts.

If action is taken to tackle climate change, the study found the financial losses would be reduced overall, but that other assets such as fossil fuel companies would lose value. Scientists have shown that most of the coal, oil and gas reserves such companies own will have stay in the ground if the global rise in temperature is to be kept under 2C. The total stock market capitalisation of fossil fuel companies today is about $5tn.

“There is no scenario in which the risk to financial assets are unaffected by climate change. That is just a fiction,” said Dietz. “There will be winners and losers.” Major investors such as Norway’s sovereign wealth fund – the world’s biggest – have already begun selling off high-carbon stocks such as coal companies.

Investors have also been warned about investing in new coal and gas fired power stations after 2017 by a second new study. The research shows that, to meet the 2C target, no new carbon-emitting power stations can be built anywhere in the world unless they are later closed down or retrofitted with carbon capture and storage technology.

“Investors putting money into new carbon-emitting infrastructure need to ask hard questions about how long those assets will operate for, and assess the risk of future shut-downs and write-offs,” said Prof Cameron Hepburn of the University of Oxford.

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