Best of our wild blogs: 19 Apr 16

Trumpeter Hornbill in Bidadari (April 18, 2016)
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Job Opportunity: Management Assistant Officer (1 Year Contract)
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

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Singapore’s Wild Bird Trade Raises Troubling Questions About African Grey Parrots

TRAFFIC 18 Apr 16;

A new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society and TRAFFIC underlines Singapore's role as a leading transit hub for birds from Africa and Europe to East Asia and the Middle East, and highlights serious discrepancies in the way this trade has been recorded over a decade.

Published in Oryx, the study is the first of its kind that describes Singapore’s prominent involvement in the trade in birds listed in CITES Appendix I and II based on government data. Notably, it also emphasizes trade record discrepancies.

The study found Singapore to have imported specimens from 212 bird species listed in Appendices I and II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) from 2005 to 2014.

Close to 86,000 birds traded over this period could not be accounted for after arrival in Singapore. “Birds that were not re-exported can be presumed to have remained in the country for the domestic markets, but given the scale of the discrepancy, it seems unlikely,” said Chris Shepherd, Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

Of all species, the African Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus, a popular pet bird, topped the list of species imported to and exported from Singapore during the assessed period—more than 41,700 traded birds were recorded.

Researchers found that Singapore had imported twice as many African Grey Parrots as birds of other species, and re-exported three times as many of the parrots as birds of other species. Almost half of the African Grey Parrots imported during the study period were reported to be wild-caught, from countries under scrutiny for unsustainable exports.

Included as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the once highly-abundant African Grey Parrot is at great risk from hunting for the global pet trade and has already been eliminated in parts of its native range in Central and West Africa. In response to this growing threat to the species, a number of African countries led by Gabon are supporting the uplisting of the African Grey Parrot from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I, the strictest category, later this year when the CITES member governments meet in South Africa.

“Such significant trade data discrepancies in government figures as unearthed in this study warrant further investigation, as an inability to effectively monitor the movement of species such as the African Grey Parrot fundamentally undermines CITES and facilitates potential loopholes for illegal trade,” said Colin Poole, Regional Director for WCS.

The authors state that Singapore is well positioned to serve as a global leader, employing best practices in the regulation, compliance and monitoring of the international trade in wildlife. This is particularly important, not only in terms of its obligations under CITES, but also in relation to the potentially serious impacts that could arise from zoonotic diseases, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses, being brought into Singapore inadvertently through an inadequately regulated wildlife trade.

The study calls for Singapore to begin by taking greater steps to fulfil its obligations to internationally agreed CITES guidelines and provide more complete and accurate trade information, including clearly reporting the actual number of animals in trade rather than simply the number of permits issued. In 2012, Singapore was put in the spotlight by an earlier TRAFFIC study for allowing imports of tens of thousands of parrots, mostly falsely declared as captive-bred from the Solomon Islands but in fact laundered from the wild.

Shades of grey: the legal trade in CITES-listed birds in Singapore, notably the globally threatened African grey parrot Psittacus erithacus, appears in the journal Oryx here.

The study was partly funded by WWF-Singapore.

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Give citizens a sense of ownership in city planning: SMU Provost

As Asia’s cities and populations grow, Professor Lily Kong says it is critical that city leaders engage citizens beyond just having exhibitions of city plans.
Samantha Yap Channel NewsAsia 18 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: Asia is in the middle of its steepest growth and it is crucial for city leaders to start fully involving their citizens in the early stages of development, said panellists on Channel NewsAsia’s Perspectives discussion panel.

Professor Lily Kong, Provost of the Singapore Management University (SMU), for one, said city leaders should take time to sit down with citizens. Leaders need to understand what their citizens' needs are and take them on board when planning cities, because it will be the citizens who will benefit or be affected by top-level decisions, she explained.

“Master planning without public engagement, without community engagement, without involvement, risks a city without a sense of ownership,” Prof Kong, who has written extensively on the social and economic aspects of cities, said.

She pointed to her experience in Japan, where she observed a sense of belonging in some neighbourhoods.

Said Prof Kong: “I was walking along the Ueno region fairly recently. I saw 70- and 80-year-olds in the lake picking up pebble by pebble and scrubbing them. It was about a sense of ownership of the city; it was a sense of pride for the cleanliness for their immediate neighbourhood.

“That sense of belonging, to me, is admirable.”

The SMU Provost noted that city leaders and planners should do more than merely have exhibitions of city plans conceptualised without adequate citizen input.

“It’s not a case of: ‘We’ve put out all these plans and we’ll have an exhibition that’s roving and you come and take a look’, and (say) that’s public consultation. I don’t think that’s public consultation. That’s communication,” she said.


Prof Kong was joined by other academics and private sector experts as they addressed the urban challenges facing Asia’s megacities during the discussion panel.

Dr Noeleen Hezyer, a social scientist and former United Nations Under-Secretary General, said that city planning should involve all parties, including the private sector, civil societies such as non-governmental organisations, and governments. In an ideal situation, they should find solutions to problems facing developed and developing cities, such as poverty and inequality, she added.

“People can no longer be seen as just beneficiaries of urbanisation. They need to be seen as agents of change,” she said.

The UN predicted that by 2030, there will be 41 megacities – urban areas with a population of more than 10 million – across the globe. Asia Pacific will account for 22 of these megacities.

According to Professor Dr Stephen Cairns, Programme Director at Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore-ETH Centre, Asia is “in the middle of the steepest growth of urbanisation”, and in the next 50 years, “predominantly rural populations will become predominantly urban”.

Hanoi, for example, is facing an identity crisis as spontaneous construction projects take place in older neighbourhoods to cater for its growing population. By 2030, its current population of more than 7 million is expected to grow to 9 million.


Mr Wong Heang Fine, Group CEO of Surbana Jurong, said that as populations in Asian cities grow, planners will need to adjust their economic activities to suit their environment, and take in feedback from the community.

But he added that developing cities will face budgeting challenges and must find ways to do more with less, such as partnering with the private sector to take the lead.

“Each of the cities have limited capital budget, so you need to concentrate on using some of those dollars a bit better and let the private sector take the lead in some of the economic infrastructure.”

However, Prof Kong voiced her concerns over privatising urban development without involving the government because master planning with public engagement is still essential.

“Community involvement is critical in making cities work for the people who will actually live in the cities,” Prof Kong said.

Watch the full episode of Urban Challenges In Asia's Megacities, along with past episodes, on the Perspectives homepage.

- CNA/kc

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Lessons for emerging cities from car-lite moves

Lee Meixian. The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Apr 16;

At a time when cities are going car-lite for environmental reasons, it may be a blessing in disguise for developing countries that have yet to build their road and highway infrastructure.

This is because they have the opportunity to avoid the mistakes of the more advanced countries. Now, they can move directly into a car-lite, road-lite transport system, and leapfrog a whole era of car-driven environment degradation, said Gabe Klein, special venture partner at venture capital firm Fontinalis Partners. Mr Klein recently spoke to The Business Times.

The entrepreneur, author, investor and former government transport official in Chicago and Washington DC, was in Singapore at the invitation of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to facilitate a workshop with public and private stakeholders on creating car-lite cities. This included speaking at a lecture organised by ULI and the Centre for Liveable Cities, which was attended by 80 participants from the public and private sectors and academia.

Speaking to BT after the lecture, he said: "The problem is we get so focused on technology, and it's great that we have all this technology that we can use, but looking back at earlier times, perhaps we had some things right.

"Perhaps in simpler times when people primarily walked and cycled and took more rudimentary forms of transit - and I'm not saying as you scale up, you don't want to improve your systems, because you do - but we've used the idea of technology to build horrible monstrosities of freeways and cities."

Mr Klein vehemently believes in a utopian city in the future where traditional cars and roads have all but given way to sidewalks and bicycle paths, and people live in dense communities and work remotely, which minimises the need for travelling.

Every way he puts it, driving is bad - for the environment, for pedestrian safety, even for people's health and fitness. "It will kill you, your city, the air quality, the value of real estate, it will make people unhealthy and fat," he said plainly.

What has been the typical trajectory in many rapidly urbanising countries is that cities quickly become car-oriented, partly also because people see car ownership as a sign of affluence. "You see people in China and India wanting to have a car if the Americans do. Then they realise it's a mistake and they build transit, or a confluence of transit, roads and highways. That's where Singapore is."

Singapore is in the midst of going car-lite as well, in the footsteps of its Western peers. It is discouraging car ownership through high costs and taxes, ramping up its public bus and rail systems, encouraging cycling as a mode of transport to work, decentralising offices, and studying car-sharing schemes as well as the feasibility of driverless pods.

"We've made a tremendous amount of mistakes in the Western world, and a lot of other countries have copied our mistakes, including China. The price they face now is pollution and congestion," Mr Klein said.

Referring to a chart in his presentation (top right), he said: "So if you are in a country that is at the beginning of the curve, jump to here (City C), don't go through the curve of mistakes. It's a really important lesson. You'll waste billions of dollars making the mistakes."

Another mistake that many major cities have made is to create the concept of a downtown - where people work - and the suburbs - where people live.

This has resulted in droves of people mass-commuting across cities at peak hours of the day - something which didn't happen in the past because people had tended to live close to where they worked.

He said: "So what we fundamentally have are challenges of land use. If we have the right land use and the right density, the right services and amenities, and the ability to work close to where we live as we did 100 years ago, perhaps we don't need the advanced transportation system. Just a simple one that focuses on walking, cycling, some high quality transit to link our neighbourhoods and cities."

He continued: "We have gone from this era of hyper consumption in post World War II to people really being more concerned about a higher quality of life by being able to walk, bike, take transit within 5-10 minutes to everywhere they want and not necessarily feeling the need to own everything.

"In transportation, we are really moving from the 'me' economy to the 'we' economy."

And new business models are springing up - be it private-hire and limousine services such as GrabCar and Uber, or shared car ownership initiatives such as Zipcar.

He said: "The innovation is happening at private-sector speed, meaning the profits are driving it. And when you take that and combine it with the exponential rate of change in technology, you can see this (the disappearance of cars from roads) is going to happen very, very fast, before the end of this decade."

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said this could take effect in Singapore as early as 2030.

Meanwhile, there has been debate in Singapore about whether the privatisation of public transport has led to its demise, as profit-maximising operators cut down on maintenance works to reduce costs.

To that end, the government is reportedly studying options for rail operator SMRT Corp to sell its trains to the government, so that SMRT can focus entirely on meeting service standards without being saddled with heavy capital expenditures.

This is something Mr Klein would agree with. He is in favour of the government owning the physical asset, with a private firm operating the asset under contract to the government.

That way, the private company has the benefit of experience; the state can do its checks and balances; and the customer benefits with lower costs and better services.

"Public-private partnerships are about a relationship. And you figure out contractually how much risks you want to maintain on the public side, and how much risks you want to transfer to the private side," he said.

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Proper regulation needed to boost e-waste recycling in Singapore: Experts

With more than 100,000 tonnes of e-waste generated in Singapore each year, experts say authorities need to take the lead to encourage recycling, and regulation should be the first step.
Angela Lim, Channel NewsAsia 18 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: Proper regulation, including legislation, is needed to boost the recycling rates of electronic waste (e-waste) in Singapore, said experts, who added that efforts need to target small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the informal sector.

This comes as the Environment and Water Resources Ministry announced that it has launched a study that looks into having a national e-waste management system. The study will be completed around the first quarter of 2017.

E-waste like discarded mobile phones and computers contain valuable materials like aluminium, but also small amounts of hazardous substances that can pose pollution and health problems.

With more than 100,000 tonnes of e-waste generated in Singapore each year, experts said authorities need to take the lead to encourage recycling, and regulation should be the first step.

Said Mr Venkatesha Murthy, managing director at Vans Chemistry: "The key issue here is awareness. We do not understand what happens when the electronic products end their life.

"Extended producer responsibility and corporate social responsibility have to be in place so that these end-of-life electronics go to the right recycling. The third thing is legislation. Any success always goes with the mandatory law and regulation."

When it comes to corporate e-waste, one recycler said small businesses need to be brought on board. Unlike SMEs, multinational corporations typically have existing contracts with recycling companies to dispose of large amounts of e-waste.

"We concentrate on the formal sector, the large businesses," said Mr Scott Mac Meekin, chief operating officer at TES-AMM. "We'll deploy their new computers to them and take back their old ones at the same time. It's a very efficient system."

"If you look at the SME sector in most countries, they will tend to use their computers much longer and they'll use it through the cycle where there's no more remaining economic value left in it. It really is a recyclable play by that time and no longer a reuse play," he added.

Informal operators that collect e-waste and sell the most lucrative parts to recyclers for profit are another area of concern. Mr Meekin said this is because they discard the rest of the materials, contributing to incomplete recycling.

"I think as long as we have a clear policy that's enforceable, that's a starting point because that helps to obstruct the informal sector that may or may not follow compliance rules very well," he said.

For the wider community, experts said that part of the solution also lies in making it more convenient for individuals to recycle their unwanted electronic products.

- CNA/hs

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Zika virus 'likely to reach S'pore, so mosquito control vital'

Linette Lai, The Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Apr 16;

Local travel patterns make it "almost inevitable" that the Zika virus will find its way here, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor yesterday.

This is because Singapore plays host to many foreign visitors and residents travel abroad frequently, making imported Zika cases likely.

"While we have instituted measures to tackle the Zika threat, it is also critical for the community... to play an active role in preventing the breeding of mosquitoes," said Dr Khor, who is also Senior Minister of State for Health.

The Zika virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito, which also transmits dengue. Cases have been reported in neighbouring countries, including the Philippines, Thailand and East Malaysia.

Two weeks ago, Vietnam reported its first two cases of the virus.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed last week a definite link between Zika and infants born with microcephaly, or abnormally small brains.

Speaking to around 500 women at a seminar organised by the People's Association (PA), Dr Khor said that with the proven link between Zika infections and microcephaly in babies, pregnant women will be "particularly concerned" if the virus becomes entrenched here.

It is the first time that the PA has organised a grassroots event focusing on Zika.

At yesterday's seminar, participants learnt about the origins and effects of the Zika virus from Dr Ng Wee Tong, an occupational medicine specialist with ST Healthcare.

"It belongs to the same virus family as dengue," he said. "And like dengue, people can get bitten but have no symptoms at all."

Zika infections can appear very similar to dengue infections, as both share similar symptoms, such as rashes, headaches and muscle pains.

But those infected by the Zika virus also tend to have conjunctivitis, more commonly known as red eyes. Anyone who shows these symptoms should see a doctor immediately.

In February, the National Environment Agency announced that it was stepping up efforts to stamp out the Aedes mosquito.

These include training more than 5,000 grassroots volunteers to educate residents on preventing mosquito breeding, and deploying another 20,000 mosquito traps by June.

Former nurse Alice Goh, who attended the seminar, said she felt that people need to take the Zika threat more seriously. She has two daughters, both of whom are of child-bearing age.

"People tend to think that it's so far away and it won't come here, but we have to be very alert and aware," the 68-year-old said.

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Malaysia: Four million at risk of water cuts

The Star 19 Apr 16;

GEORGE TOWN: About four million people in the north will be affected if the Federal Government does not act fast to resolve the impending water crisis.

Penang Water Supply Corporation Sdn Bhd (PBAPP) chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said Penangites would be hit hard as both the Beris dam and Muda dam could only last for 30 and 50 days respectively as reported.

“These two dams release water to sustain the water level of Sungai Muda where 80% of Penang water comes from.

“We are concerned with the sustainability of the water level in Sungai Muda,” he said.

Jaseni also raised concern of Kedah’s contingency plan if both dams dried up.

“If they continue to supply water for irrigation in Southern Kedah, they will be in serious deficit.

“That is a fact,” he said at a press conference after the signing of “Corporate Integrity Pledge” (CIP) between PBA Holdings Bhd and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission at Jen Hotel yesterday.

Jaseni said the company had proposed to the Federal Government to carry out four urgent measures – large scale cloud seeding, postponement of irrigation activities in the northern region, minimising draw down of reserves from all dams and to advise consumers to use less water.

Jaseni said although there were rains on Sunday, they managed to collect only 1mm and 31mm at the Air Itam dam and Teluk Bahang dam respectively.

“We were supposed to get rains for the last three weeks but we did not because of El Nino.

“Business will be crippled. Any water rationing can cause chaos in domestic and commercial activities,” he said.

Jaseni said certain parts of Johor and Perlis have already started water rationing.

“This is getting serious. The national water council should convene and find a solution for the problem because it involves four million people,” he said.

No rationing in Klang Valley for now
The Star 19 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: There will be no water rationing in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya for now.

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

In the northern parts of Perlis, water rationing exercises begun last Saturday in Wang Kelian, Kaki Bukit, Titi Tinggi, Beseri and Abi.

Syarikat Air Perlis (SAP) chief executive officer Abd Hamid Sahid said the company was reducing production at Timah Tasoh dam so there would be reserve water for a few more days.

Timah Tasoh supplies 30% of Perlis’ water needs.

“There is water but the pressure is low for those in lower ground areas. We have been sending water tanks daily to help them out,” said Abd Hamid.

No water rationing in Penang
BERNAMA New Straits Times 18 Apr 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Government will not ration water despite the prolonged dry spell which shows no sign of abating.

However, Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said immediate measure needed to be taken by the federal government to mitigate the Super El Nino phenomenon.

He said PBAPP had no plan for water rationing as it would cause chaos for domestic and commercial activities.

“In Penang, we have a policy of no water rationing and that is why we are seriously raising this issue... we urge the federal government to act now to avoid and prevent a foreseeable crisis,” he told reporters here today.

He said PBAPP was primarily concerned with the sustainability of the water level in Sungai Muda as it supplied more than 80 per cent water to this state.

Jaseni said he was informed that the Beris Dam could only last for 30 days while Muda Dam had 50 days, adding that they were the only dams in Kedah which released water to sustain the level of Sungai Muda.

“We like to know what the Kedah contingency plan is about...if the Muda and Beris dam water levels fall below the minimum level and based on the current reserve level, how will it continue to release water to Sungai Muda?” he asked.--BERNAMA

El Nino not yearly phenomenon: Mosti
BERNAMA New Straits Times 18 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will not experience the hot and dry spell caused by the El Nino every year because such a phenomenon only happens once in two to seven years.

Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Datuk Dr Abu Bakar Md Diah said in Malaysia, especially northern states, are currently experience a hot and dry spell due to the El Nino phenomenon and their proximity to the subtropical ridge.

“Subtropical ridge is a significant belt of atmospheric high pressure situated around the latitudes of 30°N in the Northern Hemisphere and 30°S in the Southern Hemisphere,” said Abu Bakar when answering a question from Senator Datuk Jaspal Singh in Dewan Negara, here today. Jaspal had wanted to know why Malaysia, especially the northern states, were experiencing hot weather and a continuous dry spell this year.

Abu Bakar said the hot and dry spell experienced by Malaysia was not an annual occurrence since records on the El Nino phenomenon showed that there was always a gap. Malaysia experienced a similar phenomenon in 1982-1983, followed by 1997-1998 and now from 2015-2016.

The El Nino phenomenon did not only affect Malaysia, but other countries in South East Asia, Asia Pacific as well as Australia, he said.--BERNAMA

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Malaysia: Johor villagers complain scheduled water cut three days early


KOTA TINGGI: Villagers at Felda Lok Heng here are disappointed that the water supply to their area was cut three days earlier than the date announced by the state water concessionaire.

The settlement, which has more than 18,000 consumers, was among many areas in Kota Tinggi and Mersing affected by cuts on 85,000 domestic and industrial consumers.

Water concessionaire SAJ Holdings had announced that the areas would undergo scheduled rationing for 28 days from April 18 to May 15.

Housewife Zalimah Bujang (pic), 53, claimed the supply stopped on Friday.

Housewife Zalimah Bujang said that she only received the water rationing notice on April 16 but the water supply had stopped a day before (April 15).Pic by ABDUL RAHMAN EMBONG/The Star.

“Why did they cut it three days early and not give us a chance to store some water first?

“They should have let the water flow on Sunday so that we could prepare,” she said at her house yesterday.

Her neighbour Misah Saat, 67, who has lived in the settlement for 32 years, hoped the cut would not go on till the Muslim fasting month which was expected in June.

Housewife Suparti Mohamed, 55, said that although the cut began on Friday, she claimed the water tankers from SAJ Holdings only came in yesterday.

“We had to buy bottles of mineral water and make do with the water from the lorries,” she said.

She said the state government had said earlier that no rationing was needed in Johor.

“So why are we now told that there are cuts between April 18 and May 15?” she said.

Foodstall operator Sally Dahar, 53, said she was using a portable tank which provided her with water for three days.

“My business is not affected. But I hope the cut will not last until the fasting month,” she added.

SAJ Holdings corporate communications chief Jamaluddin Jamal said the cut was due to operational issues.

He said that during the rationing exercise, water would flow for one day, followed by two days of dry taps, and the cycle repeated.

“The exercise is necessary after levels at the four water treatment plants in the two districts became critical,” he said.

The plants are in Lok Heng and Sungai Gembut in Kota Tinggi, and Sungai Mersing and Tenglu in Mersing.

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Malaysia: Perak, Johor to ban polystyrene

The Star 19 Apr 16;

IPOH: Perak and Johor, which are moving towards a ban on polystyrene containers, are encouraging people to use tiffin carriers or other biodegradable containers.

The Perak government has declared a total ban on the usage of polystyrene containers and plastic bags from June next year.

Residents here will have to use biodegradable containers or their own shopping bags then.

Perak Environment Committee chairman Datuk Dr Muhammad Amin Zakaria (BN-Batu Kurau) said the ban would be enforced in stages starting with state government buildings this June, citing that cafeterias there would have to use biodegradable containers every Friday.

“In the second stage, the ban will be extended from weekly to daily, starting January 2017.

“The third stage will take place during the same period at the premises of all local governments in the state.

“Finally, the fourth stage will start in June 2017 when the usage of polystyrene and plastic bags will be banned throughout the state, especially in supermarkets, hypermarkets and sundry stores,” he said at a press conference yesterday.

Muhammad Amin said the ban would be enforced by all local authorities in every district.

“Although the move may seem drastic, this is an issue that the state has been contemplating for a while now. We are indeed serious in eliminating polystyrene and plastic waste, so we decided to implement the ban in stages so that the people are given time to get used to the idea of using their own containers and shopping bags,” he said.

Muhammad Amin said the state would work with the Department of Environment to build more e-waste collection centres so that the waste could be handled in a safe manner.

In Iskandar Puteri, state Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said there would be an announcement on the ban by the end of the year.

For now, consumers in Johor should start bringing their own tiffin carriers or food containers for takeaways.

He said the state authorities were conducting a study before banning the use of plastic and polystyrene containers, acknowledging that this was a delicate issue.

Ayub said plastic and polystyrene containers had been clogging up drains and rivers and even becoming mosquito-breeding grounds.

Speaking to reporters, Ayub said that 80% of the 160 tonnes of the rubbish collected yearly in Sungai Skudai, one of the dirtiest rivers in Johor, was made up of polystyrene and plastic.

He also cautioned that the price of takeaway food should not increase once the ban was enforced.

“Customers may not be happy if they are charged an extra 50 sen for taking away food in biodegradable containers.”

Ayub said the state government wanted to encourage food operators to gradually switch to biodegradable containers.

Both Penang and Malacca have banned the use of polystyrene containers in their states.

Johor Govt Plans To Ban Use Of Polystyrene, Plastic
Bernama 18 Apr 16;

ISKANDAR PUTERI, April 18 (Bernama) -- The use of polystyrene and plastic will be banned in Johor to protect the environment and for health, the Johor State Assembly was told Monday.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the matter would be announced by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin at the end of the year at the tabling of the 2017 State Budget.

Towards this end, he said, a working paper on the use of biodegradable and biocompostable containers to replace polystyrene and plastic was being prepared by the Johor Biotechnology and Biodiversity Corporation (J-Biotech).

He said this in response to an oral question from Chua Wee Beng (DAP-Bentayan) who wanted to know if the state government had plans to ban the use of polystyrene and plastic.


Public encouraged to bring containers for takeaways
The Star 20 Apr 16;

ISKANDAR PUTERI: Customers in Johor are encouraged to bring their own tiffin carriers or food containers for takeaways when patronising food outlets in the state.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said that the practice would make them fully prepared when the banning of polystyrene takes place in Johor.

He said the state authorities and agencies were in the midst of conducting an in-depth study before banning the use of plastic and polystyrene containers, adding that this was a delicate issue.

Ayub said plastic and polystyrene containers have been identified for clogging up drains and rivers and even becoming mosquito-breeding grounds.

“We are definitely moving there and Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin will make the announcement on the banning by the end of the year,’’ he told reporters during a break at the state assembly sitting here on Monday.

Ayub said for instance, about 80% of the 160 tonnes of the rubbish collected yearly in Sungai Skudai, one of the dirtiest rivers in Johor, were made up of polystyrene and plastic.

He said while banning such containers would be good for the environment, at the same time the authorities needed to look into other factors.

“Any decision will have to be a win-win situation for both food operators and customers and the price of takeaways should not increase,’’ added Ayub.

He said for instance, customers might not be happy they were charged an extra 50 sen for taking away food in biodegradable containers.

Ayub said that right now the government wanted to encourage food operators to gradually switch to biodegradable containers.

Polystyrene, which does not break down naturally, can remain an environmental hazard for hundreds of years, clogging up drains and rivers.

Those that collect water also end up becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Earlier during the sitting, Ayub said that the government has given Johor Biotechnology and Biodiversity Corp (J-Biotech) the responsibility to submit proposals, initiatives as well as the preparation of a roadmap.

He said that J-Biotech was selected to come up with a five-year roadmap for the consideration of the government.

“J-Biotech is in the midst of preparing an introductory proposal on the replacement of plastic and polystyrene packaging materials to biodegradable and bio-compostable ones.

“The working papers will include suggestions and action plan along with a five-year roadmap to see through the success of the initiative,” he said in reply to a question posed by Chua Wee Beng (Bentayan-DAP) here on Monday.

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Indonesia: Five forest fire cases going to Indonesian A-G

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, The Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Apr 16;

Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry will submit five cases of land and forest fires to the Attorney-General's office by the end of the month, a ministry official told The Straits Times last Friday.

The cases are among 26 that are under investigation.

Mr Shaifuddin Akbar, a sub- director at the ministry who is in charge of coordinating the investigations, declined to name the culprits but said the cases involved illegal fires in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan provinces during last year's transboundary haze crisis.

The ministry is pressing criminal charges against errant companies and smallholders accused of clearing land by burning, which in turn triggered uncontrolled fires between August and November last year. These offences carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and a maximum fine of 10 billion rupiah (S$1 million).

The Attorney-General's office will write up indictments based on the criminal investigation dossier from the ministry, and table them in the district courts.

Mr Shaifuddin said the criminal cases had been slow due to an inadequate number of personnel.

"We are overloaded. Only 10 investigators are working on the 26 cases," he told The Straits Times, adding that only five cases had reached an advanced, cross-examination stage.

His ministry has filed a request to the Law and Human Rights Ministry to boost the number of investigators. He said he needed more officials with an environment case investigator licence.

"We can work at full speed only after then," Mr Shaifuddin said.

The criminal investigations are in addition to the administrative sanctions the Environment and Forestry Ministry imposed on companies late last year. Some had their business licences revoked, others suspended.

Concurrently, Indonesian police are also investigating companies and individuals that used illegal slash-and-burn techniques to clear land during last year's haze season. None of these had reached the Attorney-General's office.

Under Indonesian law, any criminal investigation dossier drawn up by an authorised body - including the police and the Environment and Forestry Ministry - must be submitted to the Attorney-General before trials begin.

When asked by The Straits Times at a recent doorstop for an update on prosecutions of companies accused of illegal land clearing, Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo said: "I haven't been updated of any progress on this."

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Indonesia: Taking the hot seat in war on haze

Mr Nazir plans to plant agricultural crops on the restored land, thus boosting Indonesia's food security while providing new incomes for companies and communities.
David Fogarty, The Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Apr 16;

Conservation veteran Nazir Foead is Indonesian President Joko Widodo's frontman in the fight against the haze.

He is literally a man in the hot seat, and he knows he has to deliver where others failed.

As head of the newly created presidential Peatland Restoration Agency, he is tasked with leading a national effort to restore fire-prone peatlands to curb the annual fire risk.

To succeed, his agency will have to change the way bureaucrats, companies and farmers think about how they exploit the land - moving from development with little heed for the damage caused, to agricultural development that protects the land while benefiting communities and companies.

It's a monumental challenge for a nation that has become synonymous with massive deforestation and rampant, poorly governed agricultural expansion.

But Mr Nazir, 49, an ethnic Chinese from Medan, is confident his agency can succeed. He said last year's fires changed everything.

"The government was shocked to see what happened in 2015," he told a sustainability conference in Singapore last Friday.

"I cannot emphasise more how serious Indonesia is, preparing actions, programmes and changing policies to prevent fires from happening. We understand that prevention actions have not been a focus."

That had changed, he stressed.

He said he had the full support of the President and key ministries. But he faces a sceptical public and sceptical regional neighbours tired of seeing Indonesia's forests and peatlands go up in smoke every year.

Mr Nazir, however, is used to getting his way. He spent 20 years at WWF coaxing bureaucrats and companies into making Indonesia a little greener.

Before becoming head of the peat agency in January this year, he led the Indonesia conservation initiative for the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA), a collaboration by a group of United States foundations.

A key focus was encouraging palm oil as well as pulp and paper companies to be more environmentally responsible and to respect local communities. Preserving peatlands was another focus.

Mr Nazir brings that depth of understanding of the issues to his new ministerial-ranked role. Unlike many of his government peers, he does not belong to a political party, and has never worked in the bureaucracy or the corporate world. Thus, his new role represents a major shift in his career... and risks.

And those risks were daunting - so much so that he initially turned down the job, he told The Straits Times.

"I was in my comfort zone at the CLUA," he said. "I loved the job. Leaving meant taking on a huge responsibility, maybe creating many more enemies in my career. But if we all were concerned about the risks in the first place, we would not start to make a change."

"I believe in this President," he added.

With Mr Joko, he shares a background in forestry. Both attended the forestry school at Gadjah Mada University, in Yogyakarta, although in different years.

The new agency's mission is to restore two million ha of peatlands within five years in seven provinces. Priority areas will be in Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, where most of last year's fires raged. Nearly one million ha of peatlands went up in flames, producing the acrid smoke that blanketed the region.

Peat becomes highly flammable when cleared of forest and drained using deep drainage canals.

It can burn for weeks or months. Some peatlands are up to 8m deep, and an estimated 2 million km of canals have been dug over the years by loggers and plantation firms.

Damming the canals and reflooding the surrounding landscape is seen as the best way to reduce the fire risk.

But that pits Mr Nazir's agency directly against companies with plantations on peatlands, as well as officials with vested interests in palm oil or other crops planted in peat.

On the sidelines of the sustainability conference organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, Mr Nazir said his agency had already mapped 2.26 million ha of priority areas - sites where there have been a high fire frequency and where the peatlands are dry.

Of these, about 1.9 million ha are in cultivation areas, with 25 per cent on community lands. The remaining sites are in government conservation areas, which will be reflooded and returned to natural forest.

The agency is still finalising the map of areas to be restored, and companies are waiting to see how much of their land will be affected. But Mr Nazir noted that rewetting peatlands could benefit all sides.

"It is an easy logic. Instead of having these fires, we're restoring the land and planting with agricultural crops, not only forest species, that increase Indonesia's food security."

He said there are about 100 species, including crops and timber, that can grow in flooded peatlands. These provide alternative incomes for companies and communities.

Land that is repeatedly burnt is already loss-making and non-productive, said Mr Nazir. Restoring it makes economic sense, and can help end conflicts between communities and companies.

"If the conflict can be resolved, the land can be flooded, and it can be planted with certain crops that benefit the companies and the farmers, everybody wins," said Mr Nazir.

That runs counter to the view that clearing peatlands and burning the forest is profitable. In reality, doing so simply primes the land for more fires in future, said Mr Nazir.

It is this change in mindset that he hoped would take root.

Already, he said, the main pulpwood companies are keen to explore growing alternative peatland timber crops that can be used in their mills. He also pointed to the major palm oil and pulp firms supporting zero-deforestation, zero fires and zero peatland clearance in their green policies.

He said his agency had set a target of restoring 600,000ha by the end of this year and another 400,000ha next year, and had already begun work in Riau province near Singapore.

Moreover, he had received about US$135 million (S$183 million) in funding pledges from Norway, the US, the European Union, Britain and soon Japan, with major additional funding from the Indonesian government from next year.

He said the idea was to mainstream peatland restoration, and community livelihoods, so it became standard practice. That would be like hitting the jackpot, he added.

- See more at:

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Indonesia: Gorontalo whale shark site reopens, with new rules

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari The Jakarta Post 18 Apr 16;

A whale shark viewing site reopened on Sunday off Botubarani village in Bone Bolango regency, Gorontalo, with bans on visitors feeding and touching the animals.

Gorontalo Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Agency head Sutrisno said the area, which was previously unregulated and freely accessible to local people and tourists, was closed off completely for one week while the provincial administration formulated rules for visitors.

Prior to the regulations, the waters were swarmed by visitors. Photos of people feeding, touching and riding on the backs of whale sharks in Botubarani can easily be found on social media.

Since opening as a viewing site, the new regulations aim to support the conservation of the animals. Hundreds of visitors have once again flocked to the site since its reopening.

Sutrisno said the administration had secured a 1-hectare protection zone for the whale sharks.

“Fishermen and visitors are not allowed to enter or pass through the zone [in which the whale sharks typically congregate], which is very close to the shoreline,” he said.

Sutrisno added that the only people allowed inside the area would be workers who fed the whale sharks three times a day.

The new regulation bans the use of motorboats in the zone. It also imposes fees of Rp 15,000 (US$1.10) on visitors and Rp 50,000 on divers who wish to view the sharks from the perimeters of the secured area.

Revenue from the fees will be used to buy food for the whale sharks, which eat shrimp, and for the village’s coffers. Divers are only allowed to visit the area in small groups, accompanied by official guides.

Meanwhile, Whale Shark Indonesia project leader Mahardika Rizqi Himawan said the management of the new tourist attraction should come under a single organization capable of watching over the protected animals, which are prone to extinction.

Mahardika said the feeding of whale sharks by humans would change their behavior.

“The behavior of whale sharks in Botubarani has changed, as they appear the moment boats arrive. They assume they will get food from visitors,” he said.

Whale Shark Indonesia is currently in Gorontalo to conduct research and identify behaviors of the sharks.

Based on preliminary observations, whale sharks in Botubarani are immature and measure between five and seven meters long.

Previously, residents reported that whale sharks often visited the village over the past two years, especially since the establishment of a shrimp processing plant, which disposes of waste products into the sea.

As many as eight whale sharks are reported to be approaching the area every morning and afternoon.

However, in recent days, Whale Shark Indonesia could only identify seven individuals, all of them male.

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Indonesia to suspend land reclamation in north Jakarta


Indonesia's government will temporarily halt all land reclamation in north Jakarta until regulatory and environmental conditions are met, a senior cabinet minister said on Monday.

A mega project involving 17 artificial islands off the northern coasts of the Indonesian capital has been dogged by bureaucratic wrangling, a bribery probe by the nation's anti-corruption agency and opposition from environmentalists.

The central government and the Jakarta governor had previously clashed over who has the authority to issue permits for the project. Some fishermen also staged a protest over the weekend, claiming the project was reducing their catch.

Construction will now be suspended and a joint committee will be formed to look into the issues, Rizal Ramli, Indonesia's coordinating minister for maritime affairs, told reporters.

"In analyzing, discussing and resolving this problem, we cannot be too emotional," he said, flanked by Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and Indonesian Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya at a joint press conference.

The decision could delay Indonesian property developer PT Agung Podomodo Land's multi-billion-dollar project called Pluit City, which was set to comprise apartments, offices and shopping malls on parts of the artificial land.

Earlier this month, Agung Podomoro executive Ariesman Widjaja was named a suspect by Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commision (KPK) for allegedly bribing a member of the Jakarta provincial assembly to influence the regulation for the land reclamation.

As of Monday's close, Agung Podomoro shares were down around 13 percent since the KPK's announcement.

A presidential spokesman declined to comment on the reclamation project, deferring questions to the ministries.

(Reporting by Eveline Danubrata; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe and Jakarta bureau; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Keith Weir)

Government finally suspends Jakarta Bay reclamation project
Antara 18 Apr 16;

Government finally suspends Jakarta Bay reclamation project
Activities construction project one of the islands in Jakarta Bay reclamation area in North Jakarta Beach. ANTARA PHOTO/Wahyu Putro A/kye/16 ()
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The government finally decided to suspend the controversial Jakarta bay reclamation project.

The government stopped short of bowing to growing public demand to cancel the big project of building 17 islands in the bay.

"We ask to suspend construction until all requirements and law regulations are fully met," Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli said.

Rizal said at a meeting also attended by the environment minister Siti Nurbaya, Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and officials of the marine and fisheries ministry, it was agreed to form a joint committee to find a solution to the controversy over the project.

The committee will make up of officials of the office of the coordinating minister for maritime, the environment ministry, the marine and fisheries ministry , the Jakarta city administration, the home affairs ministry and the state secretariat.

Siti Nurbaya among the problems to be solved related to analysis on environmental impact which needs to be completed.

The controversy over the real project surfaced when the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested a number of people including leaders of PT Agung Podomoro Land Tbk and Agung Sedayu Group the developers of the project.(*)

Jakarta Bay reclamation project might marginalize urban poor
Pewarta: Fardah Antara 18 Apr 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Jakarta Bay reclamation project has become controversial after a bribery case concerning the mega project came to light, and demonstrations against the project were staged by fishermen and the urban poor affected by it.

Calls to halt the reclamation project have been voiced by various parties, including Vice President M. Jusuf Kalla, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, and Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, as well as by several legislators and NGO activists.

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), however, has insisted that the work on the US$11.4 billion-worth project will continue as it will accommodate the interests of the public and state and will not harm the environment.

"Oh, please go ahead, if intending to stop it (the project), and a regulation should be (first) issued for it, but it should be from the president. Moreover, (the measure to) stop (the project) could be tested (challenged) in the Constitutional Court," Ahok noted in response to calls to halt the project.

Ahok said President Joko Widodo had no objections to any reclamation project as long as it did not harm the environment.

"I think, in principle, the president, who himself was a governor, sees nothing wrong with reclamation. All over the world, reclamation projects are being implemented. The president said the important aspect is that it should not damage the environment," Ahok remarked on April 15.

Ahok frequently cited Dubai and Singapore as successful examples of reclamation work, and the Jakarta Bay reclamation would make the city very advanced similar to them.

However, Minister Pudjiastuti has called on the Jakarta administration to halt the Jakarta Bay reclamation project until the developers met all necessary norms.

The reclamation was being carried out without any recommendation or observing coastal area zoning regional regulations," the minister told the press on April 15, after holding a hearing on the project with the Parliament two days earlier.

The House Commission IV and the Minister agreed to stop the project until all legal necessities are met by developers and the Jakarta authorities.

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

In the meantime, Jakarta Senotor Fahira Idris has viewed that since the onset, the Jakarta Bay reclamation project has ignored the Jakarta residents right to information.

"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 (DPD) for Jakarta, noted recently.

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.

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.

Another harsh criticism came from M Fuad Nasar, an Islamic philanthropist, who said that modernization of Jakarta should not dehumanize and evict the poor people by force.

A dream to make Jakarta another Singapore through coastal area reclamation projects should not make the Indonesian people feel as if they were outsiders in their own country.

The authorities do not make comprehensive studies on the impacts of the reclamation project on the loss of jobs of those evicted and on the environment, particularly maritime ecology, he noted.

"Modernization should not cause effects of dehumanization and forced evictions of the poor," he said.

"Evictions in slum areas will not automatically alleviate poverty, in fact it widens poverty and the social gap. This should be given serious attention in implementing development in the capital city in the future," Fuad Nasar, consultant at the Fatwa Center, said.

He referred to the forced eviction of residents of Luar Batang and Pasar Ikan, North Jakarta, with some of the residents being moved to other areas and accommodated in low-cost apartments.

Previously, residents of Jatinegara in East Jakarta and Kalijodo in North Jakarta had also been evicted for violating the Jakarta administrations land special regulations.

Thousands of security officers were deployed to guard the evictions which were resisted by some affected residents.

"There were poor people being confronted, including old people, women and children. We are moved to see such an incident. Is there no other way, which is more civilized? Did the Jakarta government lose its mind that it took such repressive means and (evictions) by force?" he said.

"Has our local wisdom to prioritize consultation and a human approach towards our own people gone?" he said.

"It is not wrong if some people question, is Pancasila still being uphold as an ethical and moral foundation in development implementation," Nasar, a magister of the National Resilience Study Program of the Gajah Mada University (UGM), said recently.

Evictions by force will unintentionally trigger radicalization in the community, he believed.

"Children witnessed their homes being destroyed by heavy equipment, their parents screamed. There were many soldiers and policemen. What do you think they have in their minds?" he added.

Such treatment towards the grassroots people would make them lost their trust in Pancasila, he said.

The capital citys development progress would not receive God Blessing because there are too many cries and teardrops of the evicted people, he remarked.

In the meantime, the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) stated that the arrest of a Jakarta lawmaker over alleged bribery in the Jakarta Bay reclamation project should serve as a momentum to totally halt the reclamation project.

"Reclamation is not in the interest of the Jakarta public but would benefit a group of elites and capitalists at the expense of nature and will affect the traditional fishermen," Walhi Jakarta Executive Director Puput T.D. Putra noted in a statement recently.

Furthermore, Jakarta historian JJ Rizal told TVOne that the recent forced evictions of North Jakarta�s Luar Batang residents, mostly traditional fishermen, by the Jakarta Administration, is not in the interest of the lower-income people, but of major developers seeking to expand the land in connection with the Jakarta Bay reclamation.

The Indonesian Traditional Fishermen Association (KNTI) said reclamation of 17 islands in the Jakarta Bay has cut the income of local fishermen by about 40 to 50 percent.

"Obviously, it has had a big impact on the economy of traditional fishermen as their income has come down by 40 to 50 percent," KNTI chief patron Chalid Muhammad said recently.(*)

Reclamation project the answer to Jakarta Bay pollution woes: Ahok
Callistasia Anggun Wijaya Jakarta Globe 18 Apr 16;

The reclamation project is the answer to Jakarta Bay’s pollution woes as the mega project would help restore contaminated water and fix the environment of the capital's coastal areas, Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama said on Monday.

The city administration has conducted discussions with the Director general for coastal and small islands at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, Sudirman Saad, on the mega project consisting of 17 man-made islets off the coastal area of Jakarta, Ahok claimed.

The discussion resulted in the conclusion that reclamation was the answer for the heavily polluted waters of the Jakarta bay, Ahok added.

“Reclamation is not prohibited. Sudirman is the person who taught me that if the bay has been polluted, the technique to fix it is by reclamation to absorb the toxicity. There’s a book about it, just ask him,” Ahok told journalists at City Hall on Monday.

A joint Jakarta administration, Maritime Ministry and Coordinating Maritime Affairs Ministry meeting on Monday afternoon will discuss the continuation of the controversial project, especially issues relating to permit issuance.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said on Friday she asked Ahok to halt the reclamation projects. Acknowledging that authority over the projects remained with the Jakarta governor, Susi reminded the city administration to fulfill all the requirements and acquire recommendations from her ministry before proceeding.

The project, which will add 5,100 hectares, half the size of Bogor city, to Jakarta’s total area, would benefit all Jakartans as long as the city administration acquired the 15 percent contribution from developers, Ahok said.

From the 17 planned islets, eight have already acquired permits and began construction.

Ahok's statement is in contrast with environmental experts and activists who believe that the reclamation project threatens the Jakarta Bay environment.

Chairman of the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen's Association (KNTI) Riza Damanik said the toxic sediment in Jakarta Bay would enter the sea during the construction of the reclaimed islets.

This would worsen the water pollution in Jakarta Bay as the reclamation project would harm the sea biota as well as the residents of coastal areas, especially poor fishermen.

Furthermore, the other coastal areas in Banten province, where developers are taking the sand from, would also suffer environment degradation from sand dredging, Riza said.

"The Jakarta administration must stop the reclamation project and address the environmental damage that has occurred as a result of the reclamation,” Riza said in a discussion on the reclamation project on Friday.

The KNTI also pointed out flaws in the environmental analysis documents (Amdal) and strategic environmental assessment (KLHS) issued by the city administration.

The group urged the administration to completely halt the project, saying it threatened the livelihoods of thousands fishermen who lived along the coast.

According to KNTI speakers at the discussion, around 17,000 fishermen families had been the victims of the construction of islets C, D, and G, and the average fisherman’s income had dropped to Rp 30,000 (US$2.27) per day from the previous level of at least Rp 300,000. Reportedly, fishermen can now only catch 50 kilograms of fish, a stark contrast to their previous 1 ton catches.

"Reclamation has impoverished the fishermen. Traditional fishermen must also sail further, because the area that they previously used to catch fish has been turned into the islets," Riza said.

In a trial at the Administrative Court (PTUN) against the reclamation, KNTI alleged PT Muara Wisesa Samudra, a subsidiary of property giant Agung Podomoro Group, that acquired the permit to develop Islet G, to forging fishermen's signatures when completing their Amdal documents.

Moreover, KNTI also slammed the city administration for failing to include information about the environmental supporting capacity in the KLHS such as the increased need for clean water, energy, transportation and waste disposal.

Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) public attorney Wahyu Nandang urged the city administration and central government to focus on the livelihoods of the fishermen and not just the their own profit.

The public must be at center of the project, he continued, adding that YLBHI would closely monitor the deliberations of reclamation bylaws once the discussions started.

"So there won’t be any ‘law smuggling’ during the process,” Wahyu said referring to deliberations on the Jakarta coastal spatial planning bylaws that have been plagued with controversy since the a corruption case involving city councilor Mohammad Sanusi and the Agung Pomodoro Group came to light. (rin)

Reclamation halted amid legal wrangling, scandals
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Agnes Anya The Jakarta Post 19 Apr 16;

On good terms: Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli (right) shakes hands with Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama before a meeting to discuss the controversial Jakarta Bay reclamation projects on Monday. Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar (left) also attended the meeting.(JP/DON)

The central government and the Jakarta administration have agreed to suspend the multimillion-dollar reclamation of land in Jakarta Bay to allow officials time to disentangle the legal knots binding the megaproject.

The decision was made after Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli. Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar and Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama met for an hour at Rizal’s office on Monday afternoon.

“We demand the reclamation project be halted until we can come up with a clear legal framework,” Rizal told a press conference after the meeting.

They also agreed to establish a joint team to review the regulations and the project development.

The construction of 17 artificial islets off the northern coast of Jakarta has been mired in controversy since the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested Jakarta city councillor Mohamad Sanusi for allegedly accepting bribes from property giant PT Agung Podomoro Land to influence the drafting of bylaws on zoning in the project area.

The antigraft body later also arrested the company’s president director, Ariesman Widjaja.

Despite continued opposition on environmental grounds to the reclamation, the Jakarta administration and related developers have carried on with the projects for two decades.

It is estimated that developers of the 17 islands have poured at least Rp 1.5 trillion (US$114 million) into the megaproject.

Developer Agung Sedayu Group, which has even begun marketing properties on the islets it is developing, has meanwhile seen president director Sugianto “Aguan” Kusuma slapped with a travel ban for apparent involvement in corruption.

Siti recommended that all of the reclamation projects be discontinued pending coordination between the government and local administrations, including those of Tangerang in Banten and Bekasi in West Java.

The minister has yet to issue the relevant decree, however; she and her officials will first analyze the projects’ effects on the environment and local people and collect related documents from developers.

Acknowledging that developers might be reluctant to comply, Siti said she would not back down. “I have many ways [to force them to comply] if they refuse,” she warned.

The ministry’s standpoint is in line with that of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, which has revealed that reclamation in Jakarta Bay is illegal, as the city has yet to obtain the required permits from the ministry.

Siti added that the decree would be a binding regulation forcing regional administrations to halt the projects. “We will freeze their environmental permits. Developers will be unable to continue construction,” she said.

She revealed that her ministry had already found indications of environmental damage and potential loss to people who live or make their livings in the coastal area.

Those islets already under construction will be the initial targets of the ministry’s investigation, while the environmental impact of those yet to begin will also be analyzed.

The chair of House of Representatives Commission IV overseeing agriculture, forestry, fisheries and the environment, Edhy Prabowo of the Gerindra Party, said that the House applauded the minister’s initiative, calling on her to remain firm and impose sanctions on any party — whether developers or regional administrations — proven to have violated Law No. 32/2009 on environmental protection and management.

The commission plans to form a special inquiry to investigate the projects in greater depth.

“Reclamation has become a national and cross-sectoral issue. We should seek more information on the history behind the megaproject and look for links to the current irregularities,” Golkar Party lawmaker Ichsan Firdaus said, to the applause of fellow commission members.

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WWF urges Asian consumer goods companies and their financiers to offer more sustainable products

WWF 15 Apr 16;

15 April 2016, Petaling Jaya: WWF presented “Asian Fast Moving Consumer Goods – A Sustainability Guide for Financiers and Companies” today and urged companies and their financiers to join market leaders in offering consumers more sustainable products. The guide was released at the 3rd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources organized by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Asian Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) – defined as food and beverage, household and personal care – are an important economic growth sector for Asia and a crucial component of financiers’ portfolios, due to a growing middle class population and urbanization. But companies risk serious environmental and social impacts over coming years if their supply chains are not well-managed, especially those relating to ‘soft’ commodities (agriculture, forestry, palm oil and seafood), water and packaging.

“Climate change, water and food crises are already causing increasing problems in the region. Events such as the regular haze in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are not only unacceptable but also avoidable, and informed consumers are increasingly pointing the finger at companies they see as responsible,” says Jeanne Stampe, co-author of the guide and WWF’s Asia Finance and Commodities Specialist.

WWF’s Asian Fast Moving Consumer Goods Sustainability Guide is the first-ever review of public data on soft commodities, water and packaging from 26 companies in nine Asian countries.* It identifies key risks, sets out the business benefits of sustainable practice, and provides practical recommendations for improvement.

“Overall, Asian FMCG companies have a low awareness of environmental, social and related business risks compared to Western FMCG companies that are leading on sustainability. They have made limited progress in managing risks due to less scrutiny from customers, financiers and civil society. Corporate disclosure, investor engagement and due diligence by lending banks are also low in the region, though this is starting to change,” points out Stampe.

Ben Ridley, Asia Pacific Head of Sustainability Affairs at Credit Suisse, which supports WWF’s guide, says, “The FMCG sector’s vulnerability to extreme weather events and water and food crises emphasizes the need for companies and financiers involved in the sector to better understand and manage such risks. Active participation through multi-stakeholder platforms to jointly develop, implement and promote practicable and acceptable sustainability standards has now become imperative.”

As part of its Market Transformation Initiative, WWF is working with major soft commodity buyers, supply chains and financial actors to show that commodities can be produced at affordable costs with measurably reduced environmental and social impacts.

“On the local front, WWF-Malaysia is engaging with companies manufacturing and producing in Malaysia to source and produce sustainably and to adopt sustainability in their business practice,” explained Thiagarajan Nadeson, WWF-Malaysia’s Head of Education and Markets.

Through the launch of this guide, WWF is challenging Asian FMCG companies, including Malaysia to implement sustainable sourcing policies based on credible, international certification schemes with time-bound targets and regular progress reports. WWF is also calling on companies to demonstrate sound leadership in water risk management using WWF´s Water Risk Filter, and to develop packaging strategies that meet product needs while providing maximum benefit for the system as a whole.

“Companies alone do not have the means to move towards more sustainable products. Support from their financiers through active investor engagement and due diligence by lenders is also essential,” says Stampe.

WWF recommends financiers of regional FMCG companies assess their portfolio companies, banking clients and potential new investments as a priority, linking costs and access to capital to more sustainable practices.

“The role of the finance sector in addressing these long-term sustainable development challenges is crucial. We play a very important part given the impact of our capital allocation decisions. Our role is that of an investor and we will certainly find the guide useful in our dialogue with Asian FMCG companies and support them in their development of an approach to these important sustainability issues,” says Amanda McCluskey, Stewart Investors.

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'Airpocalypse' soon? Hanoi choking in toxic smog

Ray Yeh Channel NewsAsia 19 Apr 16;

HANOI: Smog-filled skies have a cast a pall over the otherwise flourishing Vietnamese city of Hanoi. “If you come to the city in the daytime, everyone wears a mask and you try to protect your face and body from the environment,” said Associate Professor Pham Thuy Loan, deputy director of Vietnam’s Institute of Architecture under the Ministry of Construction.

“You hardly see blue sky,” said Thanh Nguyen, a former urban planner who now owns a wedding planning business. “On Facebook, everyday, people post the air pollution index from the American Embassy that shows Hanoi in very bad condition. People are really concerned.”


Last month, on Mar 1 at 9am, the US Embassy in Hanoi recorded an unprecedented Air Quality Index (AQI) of 388, a reading in the “hazardous” level.

“For that much pollution, people should not leave the house,” said Mai Hoang Nam, an employee of the State Bank of Vietnam. “But in Hanoi, people still move around. Even on the motorbike, sometimes they do not wear masks.”

In 2012, a French pollutant analysis company ARIA Technologies ranked Hanoi the most polluted city in Southeast Asia, and among the worst in Asia when it comes to air quality. Officials are reluctant to acknowledge this.

“It’s not precise to say Hanoi is as badly polluted as Beijing, though it’s a very worrying situation,” said Hoang Duong Tung, deputy general director of the Vietnam Environment Administration told local media.


Vietnam’s Centre for Environmental Monitoring reported that 70 per cent of Hanoi’s air pollution is created by the endless stream of traffic, a problem that only came into existence in the last 20 years.

Up to the mid-1990s, the bicycle was still the dominant mode of transport in Vietnam. However, fuelled by one of the world's fastest expanding economies, bicycles have almost entirely given way to motorcycles.

Official data shows that there are now 5.3 million motorbikes and 560,000 cars in Hanoi, with figures set to increase at 11 per cent every year for motorcycles and 17 per cent for cars.

“Almost everyone has a motorcycle, while public transport is limited and not very popular,” Tung said. “The habit of walking is anything but common here. People use motorbikes even for very short distances.”

By 2020, there will be nearly one million cars and seven million motorbikes plying the city’s streets.


Citing statistics from healthcare agencies, Khuat Viet Hung, vice chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee, said air pollution kills around 44,000 people in Vietnam every year.

The problem is apparently worse in the capital than in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam’s largest city.

According to statistics from the transport ministry's health department, Hanoi has a bigger respiratory disease issue and its residents spend twice as much money on respiratory treatments than their counterparts in the southern metropolis.

“Frequent and prolonged traffic congestion is another contributor to the increasing air pollution level," said Professor Le Huy Ba, head of the Institute for Science, Technology and Environment Management under HCMC’s University of Industry.


The rapid increase in vehicle numbers has far outpaced the government’s effort to expand and upgrade Hanoi’s transport infrastructure, resulting in ever-worsening traffic congestion.

The problem is compounded by the existence of many narrow streets and alleys often too tiny for cars to pass through.

These lanes are “not meant for cars”, explained Thanh, the former urban planner. “The development happened a long time ago. The roads were just designed for two lanes. But there are so many people and vehicles, so there's a demand for wider roads but the city just cannot provide such space because the cost of compensation is super expensive.”

Even when new roads get built, officials said it is "alarming” that they get overcrowded just a couple years after being opened to traffic. To catch up with the surging growth of vehicles, they estimate that Hanoi will need to invest around US$20 billion in the next five years to further expand its road network.

There are also other plans in the pipeline to help improve air quality, including implementing more stringent emission standards for both cars and motorcycles, as well as a move to cleaner fuel.


Another measure that was adopted in January this year: A 200 per cent tax on automobile purchases. Ironically, some observers said driving up car prices makes them more attractive to own.

“During the 1990s, having a motorcycle was such a fortune. You can have an apartment with around VND30 to 40 million (US$1,300 to US$1,800), and a motorcycle cost just a little less than that,” said Thanh.

“Now, to have a car you have to pay VND500 to 600 million (US$22,400 to US$26,900), and for an apartment you just need two to three times more. But people keep buying new cars.”

Mai Hoang Nam: "When I ride the bike, I can suffer quite a lot. My nose gets stuffy, and when I go home I have to take a shower."
Nam, who drives a car his in-laws purchased, said many car owners “just want to show off”. “They want to show other people that they are successful and have a lot of money. That’s the main reason,” he said.

However, Assoc Prof Loan believes there might be another explanation, especially for parents with young children. “I don’t like cars at all,” she said. “But I need the car to protect my kids. I take them to school and I have to keep them safe (from pollution).”


The solution, according to Assoc Prof Loan, is not to “make better roads” and “give priority to cars”. Rather, the authorities should keep focused on developing public transport. “First can be the bus - rapid bus - then trams, subway or metro.”

For now, buses are the only form of public transport available in Hanoi, serving a paltry 3 to 10 per cent of the population. Passenger numbers are falling as lack of investment makes the service inconvenient.

“If there is good public transport, I will choose to travel by public transport, rather than travelling by motorbike or car,” said Nam.

Up to eight metro lines have been planned for the capital city. The project is being coordinated and financed by several organisations including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the European Investment Bank.

Construction for two lines began several years ago. One is Chinese-built while the other one is being worked on by Koreans. Progress has been slow on both fronts, with projects dogged by fatal accidents, deferred deadlines and cost overruns.


Environmental experts are warning of an impending “airpocalypse” if air quality continues to deteriorate.

When asked what he can do as a resident to help avert the scenario, Nam said: “I have no other choice than to say that I give up.”

He added: “The government needs to be willing to reduce air pollution and ignore the economy a little bit. But I think this will probably never happen.”

Nguyen Huy Phung, the owner of a motorcycle workshop, put it even more succinctly: “That is a problem for the government, not mine.”

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Economic losses from natural disasters counted

Jonathan Amos BBC 19 Apr 16;

Natural disasters around the globe have resulted in economic losses of roughly $7 trillion since 1900, according to a new calculation from scientists.

Their database, which contains some 35,000 events, reveals the catastrophes have also resulted in more than eight million deaths.

The analysis should assist governments with crisis planning and response, the researchers say.

Their results were presented at the European Geosciences Union meeting.

$7tn is equivalent to about £5tn or €6tn.

The team, led from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, scoured the media and old records for all the information it could find on floods, droughts, storms, volcanoes, earthquakes, and wildfires.

Reports in more than 90 different languages were assessed for the group's Integrated Historical Global Catastrophe Database.

Over the 1900-2015 period, roughly 40% of economic losses are ascribed to flooding. Earthquakes accounted for about a quarter; storms for about a fifth; 12% was due to drought; 2% to wildfire, and under 1% to volcanic eruptions.

But although the economic losses in absolute terms have increased during the past century, these losses actually now represent a smaller fraction of the total value globally of buildings and other infrastructure.

It means, say the scientists, that in many instances, we are now doing better at mitigating the consequences of natural disasters.

Country by country, circumstances vary, of course.

Indeed, when the team took the historic costs in each nation and summed them in 2015 US dollars, it was clear that not even the nature of the disasters is spread evenly.

For example, in the UK the largest losses tend to be from floods; Chile and New Zealand have to count their greatest losses from earthquakes; in large parts of central Africa and South America, it is losses from heatwaves and drought that tops the impacts.

And using data just from more recent decades, the global patterns shift as well. Big efforts have been made in places like China to improve flood defences, which means losses from water inundation are not the factor they once were.

"If we just take data from 1960, we see a change in the trend; we see that storms are having a bigger piece of the pie," the civil/structural engineer and geophysicist James Daniell told BBC News.

"About 30% of all losses are due to storms and storm surge these days. Earthquake as well is still around the 26% mark."

Dr Daniell says analysing the economic consequences of past disasters can help governments and aid agencies better assess the scale of the needed response in current and future events.

For example, it permits a rapid assessment of the likely costs of Saturday's quake in Ecuador. Economic losses there could top $2bn, according to the group's modelling.

Likewise, the losses from Japan's big tremor on Friday are probably going to be in the region of $12bn.

On mortality, in terms of the absolute numbers, total deaths from natural disasters remain reasonably constant (around 50,000 people per year on average). However, again, relative to the population of the globe as a whole, which is growing, deaths from such catastrophes are declining, according to Dr Daniell.

The researcher emphasises that all the numbers he quotes have quite a wide range. For total economic losses since 1900, this is between $6.5 trillion and $14 trillion, and depends on the particular metric used to convert "event dollars" to current 2015 US dollars.

Similarly, it is very hard to get definitive death statistics. Numbers will very frequently be over-estimated or under-estimated.

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