Singapore recorded highest temperature in 10 years on Wednesday at 36.7 deg C: NEA

Chew Hui Min, The Straits Times AsiaOne 16 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE - A searing 36.7 deg C was recorded in Seletar on Wednesday (April 13), the hottest temperature seen in Singapore in 10 years.

Singapore experienced significantly warmer conditions in the first two weeks of April, when the highest daily maximum temperature ranged between 34.1 and 36.7 deg C.

The latter was recorded at Seletar, and is the highest daily maximum temperature recorded so far this year and also the highest in the last ten years, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Friday in a press release.

As of April 14, the mean monthly temperature for the month was 29.4 deg C, which is 1.4 deg C warmer than is usual for April.

The unusually warm conditions are expected to persist for the rest of April, even as inter-monsoon conditions have set in and are forecast to persist for the rest of April and into May. Light and variable winds are typically seen in this period.

While more rain is expected, the daily maximum temperature could reach a high of up to 36 deg C on a few days, NEA said.

On most days, it may range from 33 to 35 deg C.

Short thundery showers are expected in the afternoon on five to seven days.

Pre-dawn rain and "gusty winds" caused by a Sumatra squall may visit on one or two days, NEA said.

The rainfall for April is expected to be near average, after two months of dry weather.

In the first half of April, rainfall was below average. The highest rainfall of 126mm was recorded around Jurong. Rainfall was lowest around Admiralty, where 20mm - 82 per cent below average - was recorded.

Additional reporting by Melissa Lin

Temperatures expected to hit up to 36°C over next 2 weeks: MSS
This is despite it being the inter-monsoon period, when "short-duration thundery showers" are expected, says the Meteorological Service Singapore.
Channel NewsAsia 15 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: Warm days can be expected in the second half of April, with temperatures ranging from 33°C to as high as 36°C.

In an advisory issued on Friday (Apr 15), the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said this is even with the forecast of "short-duration thundery showers", which are expected to occur mostly in the afternoons on five to seven days.

MSS said Singapore is currently experiencing inter-monsoon conditions, which are characterised by "low level winds that are light and variable in direction".

It said that in the first two weeks of April, Singapore experienced "significantly warmer conditions" where the highest daily maximum temperature ranged between 34.1°C and 36.7°C.

"There were rain showers on many days during this period, (but it) brought only brief relief to the warm conditions," it added.

MSS also said that the temperature of 36.7°C was recorded in Seletar on Wednesday - the highest daily maximum temperature recorded so far this year and the highest in the last 10 years.

- CNA/hs

The next two weeks will see thundery showers and hot days: Met Service
Today Online 15 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE – The weather in the next two weeks is likely to be wet and hot, according to the Meteorological Service in a statement on Friday (April 15).

There will be “short-duration thundery showers mostly in the afternoons” on five to seven days and thundery showers with gusty winds in the pre-dawn hours and morning on one or two days. Rainfall for April is expected to be near average.

The daily maximum temperatures will range between 33°C and 35°C, and could reach a high of up to 36°C on a few days.

Warmer conditions are common during the inter-monsoon period when there is strong solar heating and the winds are generally light, said the weatherman.

The Met Service also said that Singapore experienced its warmest day in 10 years on Wednesday when the mercury hit 36.7°C in Seletar.

As of 14 April 2016, the mean monthly temperature for April 2016 was 29.4°C, 1.4°C warmer than the long-term mean for April.

In the first half of April 2016, rainfall was below average. The highest rainfall of 126mm (near average) was recorded around Jurong. Rainfall was lowest over the northern part of Singapore around Admiralty, where 20mm (82 per cent below average) was recorded.

The highest total daily rainfall recorded was 111mm around the Upper Pierce Reservoir area on April 3.

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Zero chance of haze like last year in region, says Indonesian official

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 16 pr 16;

SINGAPORE — There is “zero chance” that any haze this year will be as severe as last year’s episode — where air quality hit hazardous levels and forced the closure of schools in Singapore and in the region — the head of an Indonesian agency recently set up to restore degraded peatland has boldly promised.

Acknowledging that fire prevention had not been a focus previously, Mr Nazir Foead, who was making his first overseas speech since taking the reins at the Peatland Restoration Agency, said “we are not in the denial stage anymore, we’re in the stage of correcting the mistakes of the past”.

“There will be hotspots, I cannot deny,” he added. “There will be fires, but the scale of the fires that create haze that choke the Indonesian public and our neighbours will dramatically be less.”

Mr Nazir, a former environmental activist, was addressing an audience of agroforestry and business players and non-governmental organisation representatives at the 3rd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs think tank on Friday (April 15).

Asked if his prediction of less severe haze was too bold, Mr Nazir said things are very different this time round. Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday issued a moratorium on new permits for oil palm plantations, and had vowed in January to sack local military and police chiefs for uncontrolled fires in their provinces, for example.

“I cannot emphasise how seriously now Indonesia is preparing actions, programmes, changing policies to prevent fires from happening,” he said, at the event held at the Ritz-Carlton, Millennia Singapore.

The scale of the disaster last year, which affected tens of millions of people and cost Indonesia up to 475 trillion rupiah and Singapore about S$700 million, shocked the Indonesian government and sparked determination to not allow history to repeat, he added.

The haze episode in Singapore was protracted last year, lasting from September to November. The Pollutant Standards Index levels breached 2,000 in Central Kalimantan and Indonesians fled their homes for other cities, while in Singapore, the PSI crept to hazardous levels (above 300), causing schools to close on Sept 25.

The Peatland Restoration Agency was formed in January, with Mr Widodo setting the target to restore 2 million hectares of peatland in seven provinces. The agency has mapped out 2.26 million hectares of dry or canalised peatland that has been burnt frequently in recent years. Of this area, 360,000 hectares is conservation land. The remainder are in cultivation areas — three-quarters are concession areas awarded to companies and one-quarter is community land.

Of 2.6 million hectares that was burnt last year in Indonesia, nearly 1 million was peatland.

Mr Nazir’s agency aims to re-wet the peatland — carbon-rich wetlands that burn easily when drained — and provide alternative livelihoods to communities by identifying crops such as sago palm that grow well in wet conditions.

Peatland restoration in Riau province’s Meranti Islands was launched a few days ago, and Mr Nazir said peatland maps of four districts will be available in about three months.

His “dream” is to make the information publicly available. Asked about legal concerns previously cited, that have prevented Indonesia from publicly disclosing the concession maps of companies, Mr Nazir said it is something government institutions need to dicuss internally. “What I see (is), there is no national secret in providing the information of the concessions (to the public),” he said. Instead, companies and land managers would know they are being watched and be motivated to do right.

“When companies do good, communities and smallholders, the government has to think how to give incentives to do better, and let the public also see what is happening on the ground. That can only happen if we expose the maps,” he told reporters.

His agency has its work cut out, working with 12 ministers and seven governors and ensuring quality dams are built to raise the water table, among other tasks. But Mr Nazir reckoned the toughest challenge will be getting companies that have not adopted sustainability measures on board. “There might be corporations that might think (it’s) not my problem, it’s the community that burns the land.”

After mapping out the 1.9 million hectares of peatland in cultivated areas at a suitable scale, his agency will engage companies on restoration plans. Pulp companies commonly grow acacia on rather dry land but Mr Nazir said switching to species that grow well on wet peatland would be iyestdeal.

Singapore can play a role in the financing of alternative crop cultivation and serve as a market for products, he said.

'Zero chance of last year's haze happening again this year': Indonesian agency
The head of Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency says determination from the government, palm oil and pulp and paper companies, as well as the community will see that fires do not break out on peatlands this year.
Liyana Othman Today Online 15 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: There is "zero chance" that the region will experience the same bout of haze this year as it did in 2015, according to the Head of the Peatland Restoration Agency in Indonesia, Mr Nazir Foead.

This is due to the determination from the government, palm oil and pulp and paper companies, and the community to make sure that steps are taken to ensure that fires do not break out on peatlands, added Mr Nazir, who was speaking at the third Sustainable World Resources dialogue on Friday (Apr 15).

The Peatland Restoration Agency was set up in January this year by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to restore about 2 million hectares of peatland that have been damaged by fires.

It is a move by the Indonesian government to prevent fires from happening, which is a shift from a focus on mitigation efforts in the past.

The agency is now in the process of creating more detailed maps to complement the One Map initiative. This will be completed in the next two to three months.

It is also urging companies to play their part in restoring peatlands, which is something touched on by Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli at the same event.

"Agro-forestry companies should take full responsibility for fire prevention and mitigation in their concessions. There must not be a repeat, for example, of last year's fires... Companies should invest in efforts to rehabilitate degraded and fire-prone peatlands. Companies must ensure that sustainable policies and practices don't stop with them," said Mr Masagos.

Restoration involves rewetting the carbon-rich peatlands, which burn easily when dry. The agency wants to create dams and canals to increase the water level in peatlands. It will also identify other types of crops besides palm oil that can grow well on peatlands, like the sago plant.

Mr Nazir added the agency is in talks with the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), to consider including companies' efforts in peatland restoration as a criteria in issuing the Singapore Green Label certification.

"SEC has just announced that it is now taking it further and working on a new category for products with pulp and paper, which will include in its criteria the requirement for peatland management and fire prevention standards. When fully developed, I believe this standard will be the most holistic certification standard for pulp and paper in the world," said Mr Masagos.

- CNA/dl

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Fire prevention part of new SEC certification for paper companies

TOH EE MING Today Online 16 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE — By the end of this year, consumers buying pulp and paper products could have another indicator to help them choose the more environmentally-responsible companies.

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) is in the midst of drawing up a new category under the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme, which will look at companies’ management of plantations, with an emphasis on peatland management and fire prevention.

This was revealed by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, during his speech at the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources yesterday.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the dialogue, SEC chairman Isabella Loh said that they are looking to work with stakeholders such as plantation owners, mills and operators, and peatland agencies regionally, and non-governmental organisations such as Indonesian activist group Eyes on the Forest.

To get companies on board, Ms Loh said it would be crucial to reach a consensus where companies can “take on a certification of this size” without it being too costly for them.

“It has to start from the root cause to see how we can be more responsible ... There are many multi-stakeholders (to work with) ... But it’s not going to be an overnight process,” she said.

Further details about the certification will be announced later, said SEC.

In his speech, Mr Masagos commended the effort as a “bold initiative” that would set global standards by being the “most holistic certification standard” for pulp and paper worldwide.

It would also be a tool to “empower consumers to make a very safe non-haze pro-conservation choice”.

Civil society plays a crucial role in pressuring companies to be more transparent and accountable, and in supporting sustainable businesses, he added, pointing to the ground-up efforts in last year’s haze episode, the worst yet experienced by the Republic.

The SEC and the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) had jointly led a movement against unsustainable practices, with the SEC imposing a restriction on the use of its Singapore Green Label certification by companies allegedly linked to the haze.

This led to supermarkets such as NTUC FairPrice, Prime and Sheng Siong pulling the products of an affected company — Asia Pulp & Paper — off their shelves.

He also cited the We Breathe What We Buy campaign in increasing public awareness on the sustainability of agroforestry products, which was led by partners such as the World Wildlife Fund Singapore and People’s Movement to Stop Haze.

He said: “As consumers, each one of us can influence the agroforestry industry through our purchasing decisions.

“We have choices, and we should make our choices count ...These actions demonstrate the significant power of a collective consumer voice, and an increasingly active and empowered consumer movement, led by civil society.”

He also noted the importance of governmental efforts such as the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act in galvanising companies to take action, pointing out how prominent agroforestry companies had “frantically taken out advertisements and gone on talk shows to show that they are doing something”.

“My message to all these companies is simply this — companies practising unsustainable production that affect us with haze must know that their actions will not lead to profitability and that they will have to face the consequences sooner or later,” he added.

Organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, the dialogue was attended by more than 350 stakeholders from government bodies, the agroforestry sector, banks and financial institutions, and non-governmental organisations. TOH EE MING

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More waste produced in 2015, recycling rate also goes up

More waste produced in 2015, recycling rate also goes up
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 16 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE — A growing population and rising affluence led to a rebound in the total amount of waste generated by the Republic, even as the recycling rate saw an uptick.

The country churned out 7.67 million tonnes of waste last year, a 2.1 per cent increase from the 7.51 million tonnes generated in 2014, according to figures released by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The 2014 figure represented a 4.3 per cent dip from the amount of waste generated in 2013 — an anomalous decline amid a general upward trend in recent years.

The NEA said the increase in total waste generated last year was “in tandem with Singapore’s growing population and affluence”.

Regardless, last year’s figure was lower than the 7.85 million tonnes of waste generated in 2013.

Meanwhile, the amount of waste recycled rose from 4.47 million tonnes in 2014 to 4.65 million tonnes last year, although this was still shy of the about 4.83 million tonnes recycled in 2013.

The overall rate of recycling inched up by one percentage point last year to 61 per cent, from 60 per cent in 2014. The recycling rate has hovered consistently between 59 and 61 per cent over the last five years.

The NEA attributed the increase in last year’s recycling rate to “an uptick in the recycling of wood, horticultural waste and metals”. The recycling rate for horticultural waste, for instance, climbed to 66 per cent in 2015, from 59 per cent the previous year.

The amount of food waste generated — which the authorities have been trying to combat through a range of initiatives, including a campaign to tackle the problem last November — declined for a second straight year.

It stood at 785,550 tonnes last year, down from 788,600 tonnes and 796,000 tonnes in 2014 and 2013 respectively. Last year’s food waste levels were nevertheless markedly higher than the 675,500 tonnes generated in 2011.

But the recycling of food waste has continued on a steady ascent, with the amount of food waste recycled reaching 104,100 tonnes last year, up from 101,400 tonnes in 2014. In 2011, 69,700 tonnes of food waste were recycled.

The amount of plastic waste recycled, however, dipped to 57,800 tonnes last year, continuing the decline seen between 2013 and 2014.

In 2014, 80,000 tonnes of plastic waste were recycled, down from 91,100 tonnes in 2013.

After registering the biggest fall in 2014, the amount of construction-debris waste generated headed north again to reach 1.41 million tonnes last year.

In 2014, the Republic generated 1.27 million tonnes of construction-debris waste, a 25.1 per cent decline from about 1.7 million tonnes recorded in 2013.

159,000 tonnes more waste generated
Samantha Boh, The Straits Times AsiaOne 16 Apr 16;

The total amount of waste generated in Singapore rose by 159,000 tonnes last year to hit 7.67 million tonnes - just short of the high of 7.85 million tonnes in 2013.

But for the second year running, food waste has dropped slightly, going by figures released by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on its website yesterday.

The increase in total waste generated is "in tandem with Singapore's growing population and affluence", said the NEA.

Ms Nuramirah Suyin Zaihan, an environmental engineer at the Singapore Environment Council, noted that the average amount of waste generated by individuals here each year has increased by almost 200kg from 2000 to 2014.

The authorities have been trying to get people to recycle more, given that space in the landfill in Pulau Semakau is expected to run out between 2035 and 2045.

"At the rate at which we generate waste currently, it would speed up the time for which Pulau Semakau reaches its limit," said Ms Nuramirah.

On the positive side, she said it was encouraging that Singapore threw away slightly less food last year, but added that reducing food waste is an ongoing effort.

According to NEA figures, people in Singapore threw away 785,500 tonnes of food last year, down from 788,600 tonnes in 2014.

Compared to 2014, this is a 0.39 per cent decrease, and a 1.32 per cent decrease from 2013.

Separately, the overall recycling rate rose to 61 per cent last year from 60 per cent the year before, "due to an uptick in the recycling of wood, horticultural waste and metals", said the NEA.

A new facility that recovers metals from incineration bottom ash has also helped, the agency said.

The facility, which started operations in July last year, has helped to increase the amount of metal recycled from 1.48 million to 1.49 million tonnes.

Overall, 4.65 million tonnes of waste was recycled.

One area for improvement is in food waste recycling, which remains low, at 13 per cent, despite making up 10 per cent of the total waste generated here.

Ms Nuramirah said the recycling of domestic waste materials, such as paper, cardboard and plastics, could be improved.

The recycling rate of paper and cardboard fell by 1 percentage point to 51 per cent, and the rate for plastics fell from 9 per cent to 7 per cent.

"We need to ramp up recycling efforts in these areas, and encourage consumers and businesses to recycle more of their waste," she said.

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Malaysia: Massive water crisis threatens nation

The Star 16 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: First, the prolonged dry spell, and now a potentially massive water crisis ahead as the country faces the full impact of El Nino.

The National Water Services Commission (SPAN) has raised the alarm bells, warning that not enough was being done to conserve water.

Rivers are drying up and dam levels are dropping acutely by the day.

SPAN chief executive Datuk Mohd Ridhuan Ismail said urgent measures were needed to remind the public to stop wasting and start conserving water.

The prolonged hot and dry spell is impacting different parts of the country in different ways.

The worst hit will be 85,000 domestic and industrial consumers in parts of Johor when rationing starts on Monday.

Output from four water treatment plants in the Kota Tinggi and Mersing districts have reached critical levels.

During the exercise, water supply will run normally for one day in the affected areas while there will be no water supply for the next two days.

In Pahang, Pengurusan Air Pahang Bhd (PAIP) said there was a need to start looking for alternative sources of water, including from wells.

This comes after the water level at rivers in Pahang dropped drastically, making it difficult for treatment plants in three districts to get raw water.

More than 7,000 account holders in Lipis, Pekan and Temerloh are facing supply disruptions.

In Malacca, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said the state will have to consider water rationing if the dry spell continues.

For now, there is enough water in all three major dams.

Up north, near the Perak-Thai border, an entire lake has all but “disappeared”.

The man-made Tasik Takong, in the Takong Recreational Park, used to be popular spot for anglers, picnickers and tourists.

In Rantau Panjang, Sungai Golok which divides Kelantan and Thailand is now easier to cross without the need for any travel documents.

Dry weather has turned the river into a stream and some parts of the river can be walked across.

In Kangar, cows were seen grazing in the Timah Tasoh Dam which saw water levels dipping below the critical level.

A village road submerged when the dam was built over two decades ago is now usable again.

In Sabah, villagers on Banggi Island have resorted to digging into dry riverbeds while others are relying on wells and springs which are also drying up.

Penang’s state-owned water corporation – PBA Holdings Bhd – urged the Federal Government to instruct all water authorities to stop irrigation of padi fields, especially in the northern region, until the rains return.

PBA Holdings chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said the extraordinary move was needed to counter the effects of what he described as a “super drought”.

Jaseni said the water of the Muda River in Kedah was too precious to be used in the thousands of hectares of padi fields in Kedah and Penang.

Manage water carefully, SPAN urges users
The Star 16 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: Manage your water very carefully from now before the situation turns critical. This is the advice to all state governments from the National Water Services Commission (SPAN).

It wants state governments to take steps to secure water for both consumption and irrigation, instead of waiting for a supply crisis.

The call came as an expert warned that the recent scattered afternoon rains, which accompanied the inter-monsoon season, were not enough to mitigate the impact of the El Nino weather phenomenon on the country.

SPAN chief executive Datuk Mohd Ridhuan Ismail said regardless of water levels in their dams, all states needed policies to get the public to conserve the resource.

He singled out Penang’s rigid no-rationing policy, which he said was not helping but compounding the problem.

Mohd Ridhuan pointed out that he was from Penang and was not criticising the state for the sake of it.

He added that the almost free water rates enjoyed by the public in Penang also sent the wrong message to consumers and did not promote conservation.

“It may be good for consumers there in the short term, but these policies can stress the state’s water supply,” he said.

He added that the no-rationing policy could mean Penang was not equipped with an adequate number of water tankers should there be a crisis.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said on Thursday that the state’s dams were getting drier by the hour due to El Nino and there would be a water crisis in two months if the rains did not come soon.

Mohd Ridhuan said water rationing scheduled to start in parts of Johor on Monday could be delayed if heavy rains fell over the weekend.

But he said consumers in Kota Tinggi and Mersing must still be prepared for water rationing.

SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd is due to start scheduled water rationing to 85,000 domestic and industrial consumers in the Kota Tinggi and Mersing districts, starting from April 18 until May 15.

SPAN is also concerned with the dwindling water level in the Timah Tasoh dam in Perlis, which had only 15.7% of effective storage. The dam is used for both water supply and irrigation.

Over in Pahang, water treatment plants in Temerloh, Lipis and Chini were not operating at full capacity due to the reduction of raw water from rivers.

Consumers in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, however, have no cause for concern yet.

Air Selangor corporate communications head Amin Lin Abdullah said the water situation in Selangor was stable and all water treatment plants were fully operational.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Climatology and Oceano­graphy Prof Dr Fredolin Tangang said parts of Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah were still expected to be affected by the drought and hot weather.

He said the scattered afternoon rainfall as a result of the inter-monsoon season had not been enough to mitigate the impact of El Nino.

“Generally, I think there is still lack of moisture in the region because of the El Nino effect,” he said.

Dr Fredolin expects the weather to be back to normal in June.

Hot spell reduces Sg Golok to a stream
The Star 16 Apr 16;

RANTAU PANJANG: The El Nino effect in this district is so severe that it has reduced Sungai Golok to a stream.

The river divides Kelantan and Thailand and it is now especially easy for those wanting to cross the border without a passport to do so.

In fact, it is even possible in some spots to do that without getting your feet wet.

“This is the worst of the hot seasons to have happened here, and for residents to see a river turn into a mere stream, it is unreal for them,” said restaurant owner Mokhtar Ismail, 61.

“This has never happened before to the extent that one can cross the river without even getting their shoes wet.

“We are seeing the worst of this river, which must be at its lowest ebb in over 20 years,” added Mokhtar, who runs a restaurant at Chabang Tiga here.

He said conditions in the river during the dry season also posed a danger, being similar to low tide – the sand in some parts is like quicksand.

“It may look harmless and shallow but the sand is swirling underneath,” added Mokhtar, who said children had been known to drown in such conditions.

Boat operator Zailani Ibrahim, 44, who charges RM1 to ferry passengers between Thailand and Kelantan, said he had never seen the river turn into a stream before.

This year’s dry season, he added, was very long compared with previous years.

“I lost my whole income for the month. It is also not possible to anchor my boats here so I have anchored them about 1km from here,” he said.

“If this continues for the next two or three months, I will have to find another job to feed my family,” said Zailani, who is one of the 60 boat operators along the 34km river.

Meanwhile, it is understood that Bukit Kong, a dam built to supply water for agricultural purposes, is becoming popular with the locals as its level has dropped tremendously.

People go to the dam daily to enjoy a swim in the shallow waters.

Man-made lake near Thai border dries up
The Star 16 Apr 16;

GRIK: A 4ha lake near the Perak-Thai border has dried up, possibly becoming the first “lake casualty” of El Nino in the country.

Takong Lake, in the heart of Pengkalan Hulu, a rural town about 45km from here and 7km from the border, has only a rivulet of water remaining while the rest of the lake bed has become an expanse of mud-cracks.

This man-made lake is in the Takong Recreational Park, which is a local haunt of anglers, picnickers and tourists who rent paddle boats.

In January, Pengkalan Hulu assemblyman Aznel Ibrahim announced plans to create a floating market on the lake by August to match the one in Haadyai.

It is learnt that after the lake shrunk drastically, the local authority further drained it 10 days ago to let locals catch the fish in it.

A resident, who only identified himself as Rosli, said townfolk and Thai visitors came by the thousands and caught hundreds of kilos of freshwater fish like tilapia, carps, common snakeheads (haruan), catfish, jungle perches (sebarau) and freshwater prawns (udang galah) using nets, pails and even bare hands.

“We call it Pesta Gagau and the last time we did it was four years ago, when the lake had also dried up,” said Rosli.

In Kangar, the bed of the Timah Tasoh Dam is so parched that cows are grazing there.

A tarred village road that was submerged when the state’s only dam was completed in 1992 is now usable again. As of yesterday, the Perlis dam water level would only need to go down by 0.2m before a full blown crisis hits.

“The level is now 26.2m. When it hits 26m, we will alert the state government and Syarikat Air Perlis to start water rationing,” said state Drainage & Irrigation Department director Najib Abdullah yesterday.

He said plans were in motion to start water rationing in certain areas today, adding that Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man was expected to announce it.

The dam’s maximum level is 29.1m, and although it is still about 90% full now, the lake is so small its critical level is 25m.

When The Star visited the dam, motorcyclist Nor Hisham Jusof, 34, was spotted riding along the previously submerged road with a friend.

“Word that this road has resurfaced is spreading. So I rode out here to check it out. I’ll come back again to go fishing. In a drought, it’s easy to catch lake fish,” he said.

Rains in Sabah ensuring dependable supply of water
The Star 16 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Rains over many parts of Sabah in the past week have assured a sufficient water supply, particularly for the state’s west coast.

The rains since April 9 increased levels at the Babagon dam and Sungai Moyog in Penampang, said Sabah Water Department deputy director Teo Chee Kang.

He added that the water level at the dam had risen to 112.1m from 111.7m in recent days.

“We are still far away from the lowest level of 102m at the height of the drought in 1998,” Teo said in an interview.

He said the higher water level at Sungai Moyog has enabled the department to increase its raw water intake there from 75 million litres to about 100 million litres per day.

Teo said together with the 120 million litres daily from the dam, water production was now at 215 million litres per day, sufficient for the state capital, Penampang and its surrounding areas.

“We anticipate more rainfall in May. We are quite confident that we have enough water to see us through until June when this dry spell is expected to end,” he added.

Desperate situation persists for islanders
The Star 16 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Desperate islanders at the parched northernmost island of Banggi are digging into riverbeds to get water even as supplies are reaching the island.

Islanders at remote villages such as Kampung Pangkalan Darat and Kampung Lok Tohog, about 20km from Banggi’s main settlement of Karakit, have had to find their own water supply.

As a result, some have resorted to digging a dried-out riverbed and begun pumping whatever water available there.

Banggi islander Salma Marail said there was still no rain on the island and water supply from Kudat was only available at the Water Department’s makeshift depot at Karakit.

“To get the water, we need to have a vehicle such as a small truck or hire one. Some islanders cannot afford it,” she said.

She said remote settlements like Pangkalan Darat were about 20km from Karakit and travelling the distance to get water was too time consuming for villagers.

Kudat assistant district officer for Banggi, Awang Shahrin Awang Bakar, said the Water Department would be shipping about 20,000 litres of treated water from Kudat to the island three times a week.

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Indonesia: Only 150 Sumatran elephants remain in Jambi

Antara 15 Apr 16;

Jambi (ANTARA News) - The population of wild Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximum Sumatranus) in Jambi has plunged to only 150, according to a survey of the Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Office (BKSDA).

The population might further decrease due to the rampant poaching of elephants for ivory in Jambi, Syahimin, the Jambi BKSDA chief, stated here, Thursday.

The average life expectancy of Sumatran elephants is some 60 years.

Since 2013, seven elephant poaching cases have come to light, but only one case was successfully solved, and the poachers were detained.

One elephant was recently found dead with its ivory missing in Tebo District, Jambi Province. In connection with the case, two people were arrested, while three others are still at large.(*)

Police arrest elephant poachers in Jambi
Jakarta Post 14 Apr 16;

Jambi Police have apprehended Suk, alias Pakde Cecep, 71, and EJ, 43, of Sumai, Tebo regency, Jambi, for elephant poaching. The protected animal was shot with a homemade firearm.

After the elephant died, the poachers stole the tusks and sold them for tens of millions of rupiah per kilogram.

The crime was revealed thanks to a report from residents who found the carcass of the elephant in the area. The police and a team from the Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) then pursued the perpetrators.

The police also seized the elephant skull and a pair of tusks, measuring 40 cm and 90 cm in length, and weighing 9 kilograms each. Pakde initially intended to sell the tusks to a buyer at Rp 12 million (US$900) per kilogram.

The police also seized rounds of ammunition and several sharp weapons. Jambi Police chief Brig. Gen. Musyafak said that based on the police’s investigation, more people were involved in the crime. “We already know their identities and we are pursuing them,” said Musyafak.

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Indonesia: Govt. readies moratorium on palm oil, mining permits

Ayomi Amindoni Jakarta Post 14 Apr 16;

The government is preparing a moratorium on the issuance of new permits for oil palm plantations and mining operations.

"[We] are preparing a moratorium on palm oil and on mining areas," President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said in Jakarta on Thursday.

Jokowi explained that the existing oil palm land was considered sufficient and that production capacity could be increased by maximizing the existing potential."As long as the seeds are of good quality, the production can be doubled," he went on.

The President also said there would be no permissions for mining companies to clear land for expansion. "We will not allow the overlapping of mining concessions and forest conservation areas to happen again,” he added.

The announcement follows the recent introduction of Presidential Instruction No. 8/2015 on a permit moratorium and tighter governance of primary forests and peatlands, which has been in effect since May 2015.

Indonesia was a country rich in biodiversity and home to the world's third largest forest area, which made it the lung of the world, Jokowi said, calling on all parties to protect the environment.

In reaction to global expectations for Indonesia to maintain its natural wealth, the government has launched a nationwide initiative to preserve wild plants and animals.

The release of 200 Hawksbill turtle hatchlings, four adult Hawksbill turtles and 200 birds in Karya Island, Thousand Islands regency, Jakarta, on Thursday marked the start of the national movement.

The preservation of nature was not merely about planting trees, but should be seen as a preservation of the whole ecosystem, including all the species of plants and wildlife, the President stressed.

"The national movement to save wildlife is Indonesia's answer to the world’s demands to be the lung of the world," Jokowi said at the launching ceremony.

The movement is part of the UN’s International Day of Forests.

In addition to releasing the animals, the President also oversaw the transplanting of 1,000 specimens of corals and sea grass and the restoration of mangrove forests through the planting of 5,000 mangrove seedlings.

International Day of Forests on March 21 aims to raise awareness on the importance of forests and trees.

Based on a 2012 UN resolution, member countries are expected to promote the important role of forests and trees.

The 2016 theme for International Day of Forests is "Forests and Water, Sustain Life and Livelihoods". (bbn)

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Indonesia: Maritime minister calls for stoppage to Jakarta bay reclamation

Antara 15 Apr 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Maritime Affairs and Fishery Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has called on the Jakarta administration to halt the Jakarta Bay reclamation project until developers meet all necessary norms.

"The reclamation was being carried out without any recommendation or observing coastal area zoning regional regulations," the minister told the press here on Friday.

A reclamation project needs recommendation from the Maritime Affairs and Fishery Ministry.

She said her ministry, the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry and the Jakarta Administration will hold a meeting to discuss the controversial project.

In the meantime, Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias Ahok earlier said President Joko Widodo has no objections to any reclamation project as long as it does not damage the environment.

"I think, in principle, the president, who himself has been a governor, sees nothing wrong with reclamation. All over the world, reclamation happens. The president says that the important thing is that it should not damage the environment,," Ahok said here, Friday. (*)

Minister Susi asks Jakarta to stop reclamation projects
Callistasia Anggun Wijaya Jakarta Post 16 Apr 16;

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has requested that the Jakarta administration stop the Jakarta Bay reclamation project temporarily until it meets the sufficient requirements in accordance with the law.

The controversial megaproject of the 17 man-made islets off the Jakarta Bay does not meet existing regulations even though the authority lies in the hands of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, Susi said on Friday.

"We want the reclamation to be halted for a while until all the requirements are fulfilled as mandated by the law," Susi told journalists in a press conference at her official residence.

Reclamation projects could proceed, but the Jakarta administration must follow procedures, the minister said.

Based on a 1995 presidential decree issued by the late president Soeharto, the Jakarta governor has the authority to issue reclamation permits. However, a 2012 presidential regulation stipulates that reclamation permits must be based on the ministry's recommendations as Jakarta was included in the national strategic areas.

Moreover, Susi also pointed out that the reclamation projects had been started despite the lack of Jakarta's coastal area spatial planning bylaws. The Jakarta City Council halted the deliberations on the bylaws on Tuesday on the back of legal issues following the arrest of councillor Muhammad Sanusi over alleged bribery on the discussions of the bylaw.

The ministry and House of Representatives Commission IV overseeing agriculture, forestry and maritime affairs had also agreed to stop the reclamation projects during a working meeting at the House complex on Wednesday.

The ministry initiated a meeting with all relevant stakeholders of the project, such as the Jakarta administration, the Environment and Forestry Ministry and developers to settle the dispute, Susi said.

The discussion was needed to clarify the overlapping regulations regarding the megaproject, for which investment is estimated at Rp 150 trillion ($11.4 billion), to bring a win-win solutions for all stakeholders, especially the public.

The ministry will also push for public facilities in the planned 5,100 hectares of reclaimed islets, Susi said.

"We have to monitor the access of the public to the beach. Currently many people can't access the beach because corporations have plotted the beach for their own benefits," Susi added.

The ministry has asked the Jakarta administration to cooperate to settle any disputes regarding reclamation, she added.

Separately, Governor Ahok has claimed that he has the support of the President in regard to the reclamation projects.

"The President sees nothing wrong with the reclamation. Most importantly don't damage the environment, president said," he added. (rin)

Jakarta bay reclamation project ignores public`s rights: Senator
Antara 15 Apr 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Since the onset, the Jakarta Bay reclamation project has ignored the Jakarta residents right to information, according to Jakarta senator Fahira Idris.

"The Jakarta residents have not received comprehensive information on the project to reclaim 17 islands for developing business centers and settlements," Fahira, deputy chairperson of Committee III of the Regional Representative Council for Jakarta, noted in a statement, Thursday.

Most of the information reaching the public only revealed that the reclamation was necessary and a noble deed to solve Jakartas problems of land shortage, flooding, and coastal damage, she stated.

In fact, Fahira believes that the project was more business-oriented than in tune with the publics interests.

Therefore, the Jakarta senator has urged the residents to reject the reclamation project.

"For me, the fate of the reclamation project lies in the hands of Jakartas residents. It is time for Jakartas inhabitants to demonstrate that this city does not belong to either the provincial administration or the Regional Legislative Council, and moreover, even not the property developers," Fahira emphasized.

The officials and businessmen can have the clout, authority, and money, but once the inhabitants of Jakarta stand united in rejecting the project, the reclamation work must be halted, she remarked.

The arrest of three people in connection with a bribery case concerning the reclamation project should serve as a momentum for the Jakarta public to be more alert and vocal regarding development programs in the capital city, she pointed out.

"The alleged bribery case is a tip of the reclamation iceberg. There are plenty more controversies and problems regarding the ambitious project," she noted.

Fahira quoted the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) as saying that the Jakarta Bay reclamation projects case was considered to be a major corruption scandal as a lot of money was on stake and several people were involved in it.

The Jakarta senator also pointed out that in accordance with President Joko Widodos maritime axis vision, a coastal area, which was environmentally degraded, should be revitalized by the regional administration instead of being reclaimed, because fishermen in the coastal areas relied on it for their livelihood.(*)

Fishermen to celebrate suspension of Jakarta Bay reclamation project
Antara 16 Apr 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Fishermen will celebrate the decision of temporary suspension of the Jakarta Bay reclamation issued by Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti.

"Fishermen celebrate the decision of the government and the House of Representatives which stopped the Jakarta Bay reclamation project temporarily through sails," Chairman of the Indonesian Traditional Fishermens Union (KNTI) Riza Damanik said in a written statement received here Saturday.

The reclamation project has cut fishing area and damaged the environment around Jakarta Bay, Damanik remarked.

As a result, the project eliminated the livelihood of fishermen and disrupted marine ecosystems.

Fishermen of Jakarta Bay will celebrate the recommendation by conducting theatrical action in the port of Muara Angke on Sunday (April 17).

Earlier, Maritime Affairs and Fishery Minister Susi Pudjiastuti called on the Jakarta administration to halt the Jakarta Bay reclamation project until developers meet all necessary norms.

The reclamation was being carried out without any recommendation or observing coastal area zoning regional regulations," the minister told the press here Friday.

A reclamation project needs a recommendation from the Maritime Affairs and Fishery Ministry.

Her ministry, the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry and the Jakarta Administration will hold a meeting to discuss the controversial project, she said.

In addition, Jakarta senator Fahira Idris remarked that Jakarta residents have not received comprehensive information on the project to reclaim 17 islands for developing business centers and settlements.

Most of the information reaching the public only revealed that the reclamation was necessary and a noble deed to solve Jakartas problems of land shortage, flooding, and coastal damage, she stated.

In fact, the project was more business-oriented than in tune with the publics interests, Fahira believed.

Therefore, the Jakarta senator urged residents to reject the reclamation project.

Meanwhile, Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias Ahok earlier said President Joko Widodo has no objections to any reclamation project as long as it does not damage the environment.

"I think, in principle, the President, who himself has been a governor, sees nothing wrong with reclamation. All over the world, reclamation happens. The President says that the important thing is that it should not damage the environment," Ahok said.(*)

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March temperature smashes 100-year global record

Damian Carrington The Guardian 15 Apr 16;

The global temperature in March has shattered a century-long record and by the greatest margin yet seen for any month.

February was far above the long-term average globally, driven largely by climate change, and was described by scientists as a “shocker” and signalling “a kind of climate emergency”. But data released by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) shows that March was even hotter.

Compared with the 20th-century average, March was 1.07C hotter across the globe, according to the JMA figures, while February was 1.04C higher. The JMA measurements go back to 1891 and show that every one of the past 11 months has been the hottest ever recorded for that month.

Data released released later on Friday by Nasa confirmed last month was the hottest March on record, but the US agency’s data indicated February had seen the biggest margin. The Nasa data recorded March as 1.65C above the average from 1951-1980, while February was 1.71C higher.

The World Meteorological Organisation, the UN body for climate and weather, said the March data had “smashed” previous records.

Climate change is usually assessed over years and decades, but even scientists have been struck by the recent unprecedented temperatures. Furthermore, annual heat records have been also tumbling, with 2015 demolishing the record set in 2014 for the hottest year seen, in data stretching back to 1850.

The UK Met Office expects 2016 to set a new record, meaning the global temperature record is set to have been broken for three years in a row.

Prof Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University in the US, responded to the March data by saying: “Wow. I continue to be shocked by what we are seeing.” He said the world had now been hovering close to the threshold of “dangerous” warming for two months, something not seen before.

“The [new data] is a reminder of how perilously close we now are to permanently crossing into dangerous territory,” Mann said. “It underscores the urgency of reducing global carbon emissions.”

The Met Office, along with the US agencies Nasa and Noaa, keep the most-used global temperature records and will release their assessment of March temperatures later this month. But the JMA records have shown the same trends as these in the past.

The UN climate summit in Paris in December confirmed 2C as the danger limit for global warming which should not be passed. But it also agreed agreed to “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5C, a target now looking highly optimistic.

A major El Niño weather event, the biggest since 1998, is boosting global temperatures. But scientists are agreed that global warming driven by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions is the largest factor in the astonishing run of temperature records.

“While the current spike in global temperatures is getting a boost from El Niño, most of this anomalous warmth is a result of the ongoing human-caused global warming trend,” said Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist at Potsdam University in Germany.

Prof Adam Scaife, at the UK Met Office, said the run of record temperatures was set to continue, but that records would be less likely in 2017 as the impact of El Niño waned.

“While the El Nino is now decaying, it’s impact on global temperature tends to peak a few months later due to a delayed effect on the rest of the world’s oceans. This means that there is a high risk of record global temperatures over the next few months,” Scaife said. “Global temperatures are expected to continue to rise in future decades due to climate change, but El Niño may well [end] later this year, reducing the chance of record temperatures in 2017.”

The impact of the heat has been seen around the world and at the end of March scientists announced that the winter peak of the Arctic ice cap was the smallest ever recorded on records going back to 1979.

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El Nino weakens, here comes La Nina, meteorologists say

SETH BORENSTEIN Associated Press Yahoo News 15 Apr 16;

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the midst of an epic El Nino, federal meteorologists say its flip side, La Nina, is around the corner.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center on Thursday reported that the current strong El Nino is weakening but likely to stick around a couple more months. At the same time, NOAA issued a formal watch for a fall arrival of La Nina, saying there is a 70 percent chance for the flip side of El Nino.

Prediction center deputy director Mike Halpert said it often means dry weather for the U.S. Southwest and parts of California, which haven't quite recovered from a four-year drought.

"A dry winter next year won't be good, I can assure you of that," Halpert said.

What may be truly confusing is this summer's Atlantic hurricane season, Halpert said. At the start of the summer, Earth may still be in the tail end of an El Nino, which often reduces the number of Atlantic hurricanes. But by the time the hurricane season hits its fall peak, it should be a La Nina, which tends to increase the number of storms.

La Nina often means wetter winters in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley and drier in the south, especially Florida, Halpert said. It often means fewer East Coast snowstorms, but a bit colder weather, especially in the Northern Plains, with the Northeast more a wild card, he said.

El Nino is the natural warming of parts of the Pacific that alters weather worldwide that occurs every several years and last nearly a year. La Nina, with cooler Pacific waters, lasts a bit longer.

La Nina "largely is kind of a reverse of what we see" in El Nino, Halpert said. "Brazil should be wet instead of dry. South Africa should be wet instead of dry."

El Nino, La Nina and a neutral condition, neither warm nor cool, together make up what's called the El Nino Southern Oscillation. But don't expect neutral for long. Halpert said computer models are unanimous that the world will zip past neutral and directly into the cooler La Nina.

This El Nino, which started a year ago, has been one of the strongest on record. At this point, readings indicate it is of moderate strength, but the pool of warm water is pretty thin and it could change fairly rapidly, Halpert said.

Six out of the last 10 moderate or strong El Ninos since 1950 have been followed quickly by a La Nina, according to calculations made earlier this year by Tony Barnston at Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society.

NOAA's monthly El Nino update:

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