Best of our wild blogs: 17 Apr 16

Ubin Field Survey 2016
Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At Venus Drive (15 Apr 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Yellow-vented Bulbul juveniles visit our home! (Part 2)
My Nature Experiences

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Govt taking steps to cut Singapore’s carbon emissions

Today Online 16 Apr 16;

We thank Mr Richmond Lee for his interest in climate action (“More Govt action needed to help tackle climate change”; April 9).

Before the Paris Agreement, Singapore committed to reduce our emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and to stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking around the same time. This is an ambitious goal given our limited renewable energy options.

Singapore uses natural gas, the cleanest form of fossil fuel, for over 90 per cent of our power generation. We will step up plans to increase the adoption of renewable energy.

By 2020, 350 megawatt-peak of solar power, representing five per cent of peak electricity demand, will be installed. More solar photovoltaic systems will be deployed on government agencies’ facilities and roofs of Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks.

The National Environment Agency administers the Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme, which provides consumers with more information on the energy cost and consumption of major home appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators.

Minimum Energy Performance Standards are mandated to eliminate the sale of energy-inefficient home appliances. The standards are regularly reviewed and updated in tandem with technological advancements.

These programmes encourage consumers to choose more efficient products with lower life-cycle costs and carbon emissions.

The Building and Construction Authority encourages buildings to be designed with good natural ventilation through its Green Mark scheme. The target is for 80 per cent of buildings to be Green Mark-certified by 2030.

To encourage recycling, all HDB estates now have one recycling bin per block. Since 2014, all new HDB blocks have been designed with centralised chutes for recyclables, accessible on every floor.

The Government will continue to enhance existing measures and introduce new ones to lower our greenhouse gas emissions. All stakeholders, including businesses, households and individuals, must also play a part by conserving energy and minimising waste.

More Govt action needed to help tackle climate change
RICHMOND LEE Today Online 9 Apr 16;

Climate experts have warned that this could be the next hottest year on record after two straight years. (“Planetary warming reaches new level of worrying extremes”; March 19).

Climatologist James Hansen cautioned presciently in the 1980s that the effects of global warming could be abrupt.

Now, the unfolding weather abnormalities and disasters often catch us off guard.

The effect of sudden change should seep into the consciousness of Singaporeans and Malaysians, as we are experiencing warmer, drier days owing to the extended El Nino, made worse by global warming.

In scientific literature, it is easy to find examples of how climate change has been linked to a higher incidence of extreme El Nino weather events.

The previous extreme El Nino event, in 1997/1998, highlighted to Singaporeans that unpredictable weather patterns precipitated the Indonesian haze, and affected our health and economy adversely.

An extreme El Nino and haze severity are correlated, proving that it takes only a tiny temperature change to cause an observable domino effect. The haze in 2013 and last year were probably disasters, relative to the scale of the 1997 event.

At this stage, geoscientists and climate experts are providing more accurate models and data for the world, and warning of an even steeper decline in the state of our environment.

Yet, political inertia has left some world powers such as the United States tangled in domestic bickering over the issue of enacting stricter environmental requirements for coal-fired power plants.

Last year’s Paris Agreement on climate change was a landmark, as world leaders were committed to cutting greenhouse emissions. But we now need to ask ourselves: What’s next?

Past environmental letters to Voices have contributed ways of greening our society better, ideas that are worth pursuing.

Take, for instance, the plastic reduction initiative by the National University of Singapore Students Against Violation of the Earth (“Awareness of plastic waste is insufficient to bring change”; March 31, online).

On the whole, the Government should be more proactive and rigorous by enacting laws similar to that in South Korea, Japan or Taiwan to separate trash, recyclables and batteries, which could contain toxic chemicals.

This would be a clear signal of progress towards a more environmentally conscious future.

We have a good track record of using clean fuel for our power, but we must still keep track of advances in photovoltaic and other renewable sources. Our future energy mix should be less dependent on fossil fuel.

Homes could be more energy-efficient by favouring energy-saving appliances.

We could build houses with higher ceilings, and buildings with architecture that encourages natural wind to enter the apartments.

There should also be a shift in our consumption habits, while redesigning products that eliminate waste should be another green goal.

Climate change is inevitable; what is not is the scale of its severity. If those effects are not attenuated now, there would be more uncertainty and any environmental fallout would have greater political and socio-economic repercussions.

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Malaysia: Banning shark finning alone not solution to dwindling shark numbers

Kristy Inus New Straits Times 16 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Banning shark finning alone is not a solution to dwindling shark numbers here.

Instead, creating shark sanctuaries and educational awareness are key to mitigating the issue.

Tourism Malaysia diving advisor Clement Lee said such sanctuaries should be created at different locations on Sabah's coast so that everyone can get involved, including fishermen who rely on catching sharks as their livelihood.

He said there was a need to create an alternative source of income for these fishermen by absorbing them into the hospitality sector where they would then have direct influence on choices made by family members when it comes to fishing activities.

Lee said this following the recent Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents' (Matta) call on members and partners to boycott restaurants that offer shark fins soup in their menus, revealing that sharks attracted over 55,000 divers to Sabah and generated RM323 million in economic revenue.

Sharing his experience as one of the pioneers in Sabah’s diving sector when he ventured into the business in 1983, he said as an industry player, he practiced the concept of bringing fishermen into hospitality as well as other sectors.

"We sent people from the island for training ... Some are now dive masters or even mechanics," he said in a statement released by the Sabah Shark Protection Association.

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Malaysia: Expert paints grim picture with future El Nino episodes

The Star 17 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: Future El Nino episodes could be hotter, drier and would worsen river pollution.

Climatologist Prof Datuk Dr Shaharuddin Ahmad from Univer­­siti Kebangsaan Malaysia said global warming could bring a multiplier effect to the El Nino weather pattern, raising temperatures further.

“We could get a situation of higher than normal temperatures due to global warming going up even further when El Nino happens – an ‘El Nino Plus’,” said Shaharuddin.

He said the current episode of El Nino, which was causing dams to dry up and threatening water supply in various states, should serve as a wake-up call to Malaysians.

“We have to open the minds of people on what could happen if we continue to waste water. If it gets worse, measures such as cloud seeding will only have a limited effect,” he said.

Furthermore, severe hot spells could lead to worsened pollution in rivers since pollutants discharged into water bodies could not be diluted, thus disrupting water flow.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) president S. Piarapakaran said ammonia pollution, the most common cause of water treatment plant shutdowns, would be harder to clean up if El Nino starts to lower the water level in rivers.

“The contaminants need lots of water to dilute, so dry weather with no rainfall will make clean-ups harder.”

He said many treatments need to be upgraded to improve their ability to clean up ammonia contamination.

He said the extra equipment needed for this required space which plants located in dense urban areas do no have.

One solution, said Piarapakaran, would be to set up “ammonia stripping” facilities in the rivers upstream from the water intakes, which AWER proposed in 2014.

“This is going to be a repetitive problem so we need a permanent solution now instead of waiting for things to get worse before acting on it.”

Hot spell can worsen river pollution
CHRISTINA CHIN The Star 17 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: Of the 477 rivers monitored by the Department of Environment last year, 168 were slightly polluted while 33 were polluted, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said.

The number of clean rivers, however, has increased from 244 in 2014 to 276 last year. Water quality was assessed from a total of 5,469 samples taken nationwide.

The main reasons for the pollution was high levels of bio-chemical oxygen demand, ammoniacal nitrogen and suspended solids due to inadequate treatment of sewage and effluents from agro-based and manufacturing industries, animal farming, domestic waste and improper earthworks and land clearing activities, the Natural Resources and Environment Minister said.

“Why polluted? Because of domestic and industrial waste, and buffer zones between development areas and rivers that aren’t big enough.

“Siltation goes into the river and reduces river capacity and quality. Once water quality is bad, even the machine used to purify and make it drinkable, will stop functioning. Some rivers are reaching that level,” Dr Wan Junaidi said in an interview.

It would be alarming if the main rivers that supply raw water for public consumption was polluted, he said, adding that the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) – a new mechanism used in developed nations – would be implemented this year to assess the permissible pollution load of rivers.

Research has been done locally on the mechanism that sets the maximum amount of a pollutant which a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards, but operating it full-scale hasn’t been worked out yet, he said.

Under the current assessment method, the pollution level was based on the concentration of pollutants.

TMDL, which will complement the existing assessment method, was the best way of controlling pollution because the carrying capacity of each river could be identified and enforced, he said.

“The pilot project findings will be presented to the respective state governments for legislation and enactment.

“It’s the states that will determine TMDL’s effectiveness,” he said, adding that RM50mil was approved under the 11th Malaysia Plan for the integrated management of 25 main river basins, each measuring over 8,000ha, nationwide.

The move, he said, would improve water quality, reduce flood risks, ensure water supply and protect the environment.

On April 3, Sunday Star reported that despite having four times more than what we need, dry taps were part of life here.

The main reason, according to Institution of Engineers Malaysia president Datuk Lim Chow Hock was pollution.

Worrying about La Nina floods as we bake under El Nino heat
RAZAK AHMAD The Star 17 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: It’s ironic that Malaysians burning under the merciless El Nino heatwave that is drying up rivers and reservoirs will have to face possible monster floods at year end.

The latest data from a US climate agency said there was a 60% chance that El Nino “sibling” La Nina – which in Malaysia causes heavier than normal rainfall – will happen sometime from October to Decem­ber (see graphic).

“We should be on the lookout from now, especially in areas prone to floods during the year-end northeast monsoon season,” said climate expert Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah.

El Nino, which means “the boy” in Spanish, is an irregular weather phenomenon that causes sea temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean to rise while La Nina, “the girl” in Spanish, leads to a cooling of seawater.

La Nina often takes place after El Nino ends.

Both lead to unusually heavy rainfall in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere.

Dr Azizan, who is director of Universiti Malaya’s National Antarc­tic Research Centre, said the 2014 year-end floods in the east coast of the peninsula, which were the worst in decades, occurred even when there was no La Nina.

As such, it was possible that severe flooding could take place if a strong La Nina happens this time.

He said US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data indicated that the current El Nino phenomenon had al­­ready peaked.

Its severity this time was almost the same as in the 1997-1998 period when the previous extreme El Nino episode took place.

Dr Azizan said some parts in the peninsula’s east coast were flood prone due to improper drainage despite being very developed.

“Also, more rainfall does not necessarily mean bigger floods as it depends on where the rain falls. If much of the rain falls over the sea, it may not cause floods,” he said.

Meteorological Department director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail, when contacted, said the department was closely monitoring the data but has not reached a conclusion yet.

She said there have been instan­ces when El Nino or La Nina did not materialise despite 70% predictions that they would happen.

“We feel it is still too early to conclude that La Nina will take place,” she added.

Memories of dry period come flooding back for settler
The Star 17 Apr 16;

KOTA TINGGI: The current water woes in the district have caused memories of a similar dry period some 30 years ago to come flooding back for Felda settler Ismail Abd Rahman.

The 75-year-old said when he first moved to Felda Lok Heng Timur in the early 1980s, water was scarce and temper among the settlers reached a boiling point.

“The area just opened up then and there was hardly enough water for the settlers and we usually had to fight for it.

“It came to a point where settlers would lock their pipes to make sure that no one stole their water,” he said.

Ismail said this time around, taps in the Felda scheme had been dry for more than a week and people even stored their water in plastic barrels placed in front of their houses.

“I have to guard the barrels to make sure no one steals them. I cannot afford to lose the barrels of clean water as my family needs it,” he added.

But he was puzzled why only Felda Lok Heng Timur and Lok Heng Barat were affected when Felda Lok Heng Selatan did not have water problem.

Sundry shop owner Hairusabri Samsuri, 46, said that people had been buying cartons of mineral water bottles ever since the area was hit by the problem.

“In just a couple of days, I had doubled the sale of 1.5-litre mineral water bottles.

“The villagers are not buying the bottled water just for drinking. Some even use it for bathing,” he added.

He said Syarikat Air Johor had given them a schedule where every two days, the company’s tankers would come and provide water to the settlers.

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Malaysia: Penang fears ‘super drought’, calls for delay in padi planting

The Star 16 Apr 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The nation should temporarily stop irrigating padi fields because the “super drought” is here.

This is one of the four measures that Penang’s state-owned water corporation, PBA Holdings Bhd, is calling for.

Its chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa urged the Federal Government to instruct all water authorities nationwide to cease the irrigation of padi fields, especially in the northern region, until the rains return.

Jaseni said Teluk Bahang Dam, for example, received 955mm of rain last April but this month, it only got 91mm of rain so far.

“Air Itam Dam had 200mm of rain last April but we only had 59mm in the last two weeks.

“We are now faced with a super drought,” he told reporters during a tour to the waterfall treatment plant in Penang Botanic Gardens.

Citing Muda River in Kedah, Jaseni said its water was too precious now to wet the tens of thousands of hectares of padi fields in Kedah and Penang.

“If we start irrigating for the planting season and run too low on water level later, the padi will just die.

“It is better to delay the planting season and compensate the farmers financially so that they can tide over till it rains again,” he said.

He also called on the Federal Government to instruct all water authorities to reduce their draw-down from the country’s dams and rivers, launch massive cloud seeding operations and urgently raise the water conservation awareness of Malaysians.

Jaseni’s sense of urgency, however, does not seem to be shared by Kedah.

Muda Agricultural Development Authority deputy general manager (technical) Datuk Hor Tek Lip, when contacted, assured that the state’s dam levels were still “comfortable and not worrisome”.

The authority supervises Pedu, Ahning and Muda dams and provides irrigation for over 50% of the state’s padi fields.

“Muda Dam is now releasing water to help Beris Dam regulate Muda River. Normally, we keep Muda Dam’s water.”

Padi planting activity to go on despite hot weather
The Star 17 Apr 16;

PENDANG: There is no cancellation in the padi planting activity schedule for the new season this year in the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) area although the hot weather will persist until June.

Mada chairman Datuk Othman Aziz said the water level at the three major dams supervised by Mada, namely Pedu, Ahning and Muda were at 70% as of yesterday and sufficient for this season.

“We will implement the first planting season according to schedule and at the same time, we will help the state government supply water from the Muda Dam to the Beris Dam.

“In turn, the Beris Dam will channel water via Sungai Muda to Sungai Petani, Kulim, Penang including Penang,” he said after opening the Jom Turun Bendang programme at Kampung Pulau Tengah, Mukim Padang Kerbau, here yesterday.

Also present were Sungai Tiang assemblyman Datuk Suraya Yaacob and Pendang Umno division chief Datuk Paduka Md Rozai Safian.

According to the schedule, three phases of water supply was established by Mada – March 30, April 9 and April 19.

Earlier in his speech, Othman said almost 30% of about 55,000 padi planters in MADA did not use the correct padi seeds resulting in poor quality crops.

“The authorised padi seeds are produced under the Rice Seed Verification quality standard scheme conducted by the Agriculture Department as a confirmation agency,” he said.

Suraya, who is also state Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Committee chairman, said the coordination of 449ha of padi field in Mukim Padang Kerbau here, was much lauded. — Bernama

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Malaysia: Water rationing begins in northern Perlis

The Star 17 Apr 16;

KANGAR: Water rationing in the northern parts of Perlis from Wang Kelian, Kaki Bukit, Titi Tinggi, Beseri and Abi has begun.

Perlis Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man said 13,000 domestic users would be affected by the rationing.

He said residents in Kampung Melayu, Kampung Kolam and Kampung Kok Mak in Padang Besar; Jalan Batu 16; National Service Training (PLKN) Complex in Guar Chenderai; and Kampung Bukit Merah, Beseri would still receive water supply, but with lower pressure.

The affected areas, he said, would be supplied with clean water from lorry tankers and static tanks placed at several strategic locations and Syarikat Air Perlis (SAP) would supply clean water to schools or institutions of higher learning in the affected locations if there were requests.

Azlan, who is also SAP chairman, suggested that leave be given to the Guar Chenderai PLKN trainees for the 2.0 Series 13/2016 who started their training on March 26 until water supply returned to normal, while students of the Mara Junior Science College in Beseri could be given leave to return home during the weekend.

“The water rationing plan is subject to changes from time to time by SAP because if it rains in the near future, we can stop the rationing.

"During the critical period, consumers in the affected areas are advised to conserve the water available," he said.

Water rationing in northern Perlis begins today
The Star 16 Apr 16;

KANGAR: Water rationing in the northern parts of Perlis from Wang Kelian, Kaki Bukit, Titi Tinggi, Beseri and Abi began Saturday, said Perlis Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man.

He said 13,000 domestic users would be affected by the move while residents in Kampung Melayu, Kampung Kolam and Kampung Kok Mak in Padang Besar; Jalan Batu 16; National Service Training Programme (PLKN) in Guar Chenderai; and Kampung Bukit Merah, Beseri will still receive water supply with lower pressure.

He said the affected areas would be supplied with clean water from lorry tankers and static tanks placed at several strategic locations in the villages concerned.

He said Syarikat Air Perlis (SAP) would supply clean water to schools or institutions of higher learning (IPT) in the affected locations if there were demands from them.

Azlan, who is also SAP chairman, suggested that leave be granted to the Guar Chenderai PLKN trainees for the 2.0 Series 13/2016 who started their training on March 26 until water supply returned to normal, while students of the Mara Junior Science College (MRSM) in Beseri could be given leave to return home during the weekend.

"The water rationing plan is subject to changes from time to time by SAP because if rain occurs in the near future, we can stop the rationing.

"During the critical period, consumers in the affected areas are advised to conserve the water available during times of emergency," he said after feting 44 former village heads at a gathering at the Dewan Residensi, here Saturday night.

He said the cloud seeding operations in Perlis would be continued for the fifth day Saturday and is expected to end on Monday. - Bernama

Enough water in Malacca dams to last 50 days without rain
KELLY KOH New Straits Times 16 Apr 16;

MALACCA: The state government here has a water shortage contingency plan for water rationing should there be no rain till early June.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron however said there is adequate water at the dams here and this would be able to last for the next 50 days before water rationing should happen.

"Malacca has water to last for the next 50 days without any rain.

"If there is no rain for 50 days, then we may be forced to do water rationing," he told reporters at the Malacca International Air Carnival at Batu Berendam International Airport here, on Saturday.

As of yesterday, Idris said water levels at Jus dam was at 70 per cent and Asahan dam was at 80 per cent, while Durian Tunggal was at 50 per cent.

"If it hits 40 per cent, then we have to be cautious.

This is why we are now pumping between 100 million litres and 200 million litres of water a day from the Jus dam to Durian Tunggal dam.

"We are using a pump system for the first kilometre with the rest using gravitation system."

He added that another 100 million litres of water is being pumped to the Gadek water treatment plant also through the gravitational pipe system.

Idris said Malacca was also sourcing 3.78 million litres of water from Sungai Muar per day.

The state consumes 535 million litres of water per day for both domestic and commercial use. On a related issue, Idris acknowledged that the current heat wave and dry spell had affected the Gadek and Menggong water treatment plant resulting in complaints from residents.

He said water levels at the Gadek treatment plant were low resulting in accumulation of chlorine and causing the water to have a reddish tint.

"We have stopped treatment at the treatment plants and began delivering water to the affected residents.

No need for water rationing yet in Kedah
The Star 17 Apr 16;

ALOR SETAR: The Kedah government will not be carrying out water rationing yet although the levels at three dams are below 50%.

State Housing and Local Government, Water Supply, Water Resources and Energy Committee chairman Datuk Badrol Hisham Hashim (pic) said the total capacity in all the five dams in the state was still sufficient to supply water for domestic and agriculture use.

“Pedu Dam and Ahning Dam are more than 60% full. The level at three other dams – Beris Dam, Muda Dam and the Padang Saga Dam in Langkawi – are less then 50% ,” he said after launching the Tree For a Tree programme organised by Tenaga Nasional Berhad at the Pendang Recreational Park yesterday.

Badrol said cloud seeding was carried out at areas around the dams since last week and would resume again next week.

As of Friday, the water level at Pedu Dam was 91.92m (minimum level is 77.19m), Ahning Dam - 107.05m (81.45m), Muda Dam - 93.86m (88.36m), Beris Dam - 77.27m (68m) and Padang Saga Dam - 17.72m (17.9m).

In Sik, Kedah, chalet owner Mohamad Nasir Mohd Zain was able to repair and strengthen the foundations of the jetty at his Hill Lake View Resort due to the low water level at the Beris Lake.

Mohamad Nasirsaid the water level had subsided about five metres, exposing structures beneath the water surface.

“All these while, even during the dry season, the water level only subsided a little.

“This season is the worst I’ve seen and for the past two months, I’ve been noticing the water level dropping daily,” she said.

A check at one of the pillars beneath a bridge over Beris Lake showed that the water level was at 77m while the watermark for the highest level was at 84m.

A spokesman of the Beris Dam management urged the public not to panic as the water level has not reached a critical stage.

“The water level is at nearly 80m, and water is being released on schedule into Sungai Muda for padi farming and general consumption,” he said.

The concrete faced rockfill Beris Dam is located in a narrow valley of Sg.Beris, 1.6km upstream of the confluence between Sg Muda in the district of Sik, Kedah.

In George Town, the Penang government has underlined three measures to face the “super drought.”

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has proposed that regular cloud seeding activities be carried out in the northern region.

Lim also suggested for all operators to reduce water supply and to provide only sufficient amount of water to meet consumers’ demands. Checks showed that Penang’s Air Itam Dam has a 59.5% capacity while the Teluk Bahang Dam is at 61.1% capacity.

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Best of our wild blogs: 16 Apr 16

The Marine Park at ADEX (15 -17 Apr 2016)
Sisters' Island Marine Park

Preserving Tangible Links to Past
IPS Commons

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