Best of our wild blogs: 23 Apr 16

Results of ExxonMobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme Documentary Making and Poster Design Competition 2016
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

What really happens to the plastic you throw away – Emma Bryce (Ted-Ed, 2015)
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Read more!

Singapore spends $6m to relocate corals that were in the way of Tuas port development

2,300 colonies moved from Tuas to southern islands for port works
Christopher Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Apr 16;

Singapore has spent $6 million on relocating more than 2,000 coral colonies which were in the way of a port development in Tuas.

They were moved from Sultan Shoal, south of Tuas, to the waters off St John's and Sisters' islands as land reclamation necessary for the port development could destroy them.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said the expenditure, listed in the 2016 Budget Book, includes work started in 2013 and which will continue up to 2019.

A spokesman said it covers "coral relocation works, development of coral nurseries, including transplanting of the grown coral fragments to new locations, monitoring of coral health in the new recipient sites, and monitoring of the remaining corals at Sultan Shoal".

He said the project arose from an environmental impact study carried out in 2012.

Such studies are mandated by the Government, the MPA said, and the previous one was done before the Pasir Panjang terminals were built.

The Sultan Shoal coral relocation project was done with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and and the National Parks Board (NParks).

Some 2,300 out of 2,800 coral colonies were moved successfully and have survived.

"MPA continues to monitor the health and growth of the relocated corals," its spokesman added.

Between now and 2019, the authority will monitor the health of remaining corals at Sultan Shoal.

Some coral fragments were also transplanted to Kusu Island, Lazarus East and Lazarus West "to rehabilitate the degraded reefs, and to establish new reef communities at non-reef areas", he said.

SIM University senior lecturer Jason Morris-Jung said: "There is no benchmark to determine the dollars and cents' worth of any particular conservation project that I am aware of.

"They usually need to be calculated on a case-by-case basis, depending on the particular characteristics of an eco-system and its particular human benefits or uses."

He noted that coral reefs are important spawning and feeding grounds for fish, and hence they contribute to ocean fisheries.

"People also pay money to visit, snorkel and dive around coral reefs," he said, adding that reefs also protect against coastal erosion.

He cited a World Wide Fund for Nature study, which estimated the global economic value of coral reefs at US$30 billion (S$40.5 billion).

The World Resources Institute said the cost of destroying 1km of coral reef ranges between US$137,000 and $1.2 million over a 25-year period.

"Some years ago, Dubai paid US$10 million to relocate some 20,000 coral colonies," Dr Morris- Jung noted.

But he added that any financial analysis is inadequate because it is hard to put a value to an ecology that has taken "thousands or even millions of years to develop".

Other projects in 2016 Budget Book


$33 million to replace expiring and outdated Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) equipment. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that even as Singapore moves towards the next- generation ERP system by 2020, selected gantry equipment and parts in the current system need to be replaced.


$44.7 million for advanced engineering and consultancy services for a multi-storey bus depot. The LTA would not say where this depot will be, when it will be built, or even why it is looking to build such a depot.


$110 million to install lifts at 41 overhead pedestrian bridges near transport nodes. Out of these, works have been completed at five; the rest will be completed by 2018. Outside this budget, the LTA fitted lifts at overhead bridges next to six MRT stations in 2014. There are more than 500 overhead pedestrian bridges in Singapore.

Read more!

To fight haze, step up certification of palm oil firms

TAN YI HAN Today Online 22 Apr 16;

When Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya was reported as telling Singapore to “focus on its own role in addressing” the transboundary haze instead of “commenting too much on the part Indonesia is currently playing”, it unsurprisingly led to angry rebuttals by readers in Singapore.

Yet, such finger-pointing has not done anything to resolve an issue which has affected the region for years. The 2015 haze cost Singapore an estimated S$700 million, and affected many people. One of our volunteer’s 4-year-old son contracted a nose infection, causing his nose to bleed non-stop. His mother had to take the whole family overseas. The moment they left Singapore, the bleeding stopped.

Clearly, it would be wiser for all parties to rise above the bickering and look at how we can address the issue.

Palm oil has often been blamed for contributing to the haze problem. In 2015, while oil palm concessions occupied 3.5 per cent of Indonesia’s land area, they accounted for 10 per cent of the hot spots. Yet, while steps have rightly been taken to identify sustainable sources of paper, little has been mentioned about how we can ensure the palm oil we buy is not contributing to the haze.

Part of the reason could be how palm oil has been under the radar of consumers, hidden under labels like “vegetable oil” or sodium laureth sulfate, a widely used and inexpensive chemical found in many mainstream personal hygiene products.

But with people suffering and even dying from the haze, we need to ask how companies in Singapore can help clean up our air by cleaning up their palm oil?

Oil palm yields at least eight times more oil than other types of oil crops, so switching to other sources of vegetable oil, without changing the destructive practices, may lead to eight times more deforestation and fire.

Fortunately, oil palm can be grown in a haze-free manner. First, to prevent fire from starting, land should be cleared without burning and land conflicts should be minimised so that fire would not be used as a weapon. Next, deforestation and peat drainage should be avoided so that fire-prone landscapes are not created. Finally, fires should be detected and stopped early.

Do any palm oil growers follow these principles? Even if they claim to do so, how can we verify their claims? One way would be to make use of existing certification standards. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification is probably the only widely-available source of certified palm oil for consumer products and food, with 21 per cent of world’s palm oil being certified by RSPO.

In 2015, only 3 per cent of hotspots on palm oil concessions were found on RSPO-certified concessions, even though RSPO-certified areas represented 14 per cent of the palm oil plantations in Indonesia.

In terms of its certification principles and criteria, RSPO generally prohibits the use of fire and has rules on respecting land rights of local people. There is also some protection for forests and peat swamps although this is limited to primary forests and high-conservation value secondary forests, and a prohibition on “extensive” planting on peatland.

While there have been shortcomings in the audit process, RSPO’s willingness to improve its systems and punish errant members gives us hope. Just last month, IOI, one of the biggest palm oil suppliers in the world, was suspended by RSPO after non-governmental organisations caught three of its subsidiaries violating RSPO’s standards. The suspension created a domino effect as many of its customers terminated contracts with IOI and its share price dropped more than 10 per cent. Indeed, the extra scrutiny on RSPO members may be one of the biggest benefits of certification.

Could cost be a barrier for buying certified palm oil? Surprisingly, information from various sources have revealed that the additional cost of RSPO-certified palm oil is no more than 6 Singapore cents per litre.

Indeed, many global companies are moving towards buying 100 per cent RSPO-certified palm oil and are even committing to source from more stringent “zero-fire, zero-deforestation, zero-peat and zero-exploitation” standards such as RSPO-Next.

Meanwhile, none of Singapore’s retailers and consumer goods manufacturers – except for one (Aalst Chocolate) – are RSPO members.

It is time for companies in Singapore that buy palm oil such as food outlets, consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, to start by at least committing to go haze-free.

Consumers can then play a part by supporting these responsible companies. We all can play our part to make Singapore haze-free.


Tan Yi Han is from PM.Haze (People’s Movement to Stop Haze) which is holding a People’s Forum on Haze on April 23 at SIM University, with panel discussions on the causes of and solutions to haze.

Read more!

Tackling new mills a key way to stop the haze at source

Today Online 23 Apr 16;

A dozen environmental groups have published a report questioning Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) regarding the source of pulpwood for its giant mill under construction in South Sumatra (“APP’s new mill puts its green promise back in spotlight”; April 21).

And since it publicised its plans for the mill in 2013, the number of hot spots in APP’s concessions in Sumatra has increased.

Peatland drainage, for the cultivation of oil palm and the acacia tree (for paper), results in highly flammable dry peatland, where fires are difficult to put out.

Although concession companies have committed to zero-deforestation and peatland conservation, that new mills are being constructed without clear statements made about where their commodity supply will be sourced is what drives land clearance and fires.

This is regardless of whether the clearance is legal or who sets the fire.

Such problems can be resolved if a new mill can identify, before construction, that its raw materials are from existing plantations with increased yields or from expansion into non-forest and non-peat areas, for example.

With increasing pressure from non-governmental organisations and the public, companies tend to be more careful now on their plantations. Unfortunately, the opacity of the plantations of third-party suppliers gives room for illegal activities and fires.

We should not complain only when the haze hits; putting out fires early is necessary but does not address the root causes. We should aim to prevent fires and mitigate fire-prone conditions.

Tackling the mills, especially new mills, may be the most effective solution. For existing mills, most lands may have already been cleared for commercial crops prior to the mill begins operations. Nevertheless, influencing companies is still a challenge.

Will APP suspend the mill construction until it announces its source of deforestation-free and peat-free or peat-friendly pulpwood supply? Will companies ensure no sourcing of illegal commodities, even before the mills are built, to minimise the fire risk?

Will financial institutions request detailed plans for deforestation-free and peat-free or peat-friendly commodity sourcing prior to any investment deal or loan for mill-construction projects?

Will the Singapore Exchange request its listed companies in the agriculture and forestry sectors to publish information on their commodity sourcing in their sustainable reports?

Will local organisations that buy paper and palm oil demand the same level of information from their suppliers? These are tough questions. We will probably need stronger advocacy to demand such transparency.

In the past week, many fires in Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo occurred on peatland. Some had been around for weeks. We need people’s voices to end the haze.

APP committed to stopping haze and zero deforestation
Today Online 27 Apr 16;

We refer to the letter “Tackling new mills a key way to stop the haze at source” (April 23). We thank Mr Chris Cheng Chin Hsien for his views.

The haze, which blanketed the region last year, was a catastrophe for the environment, the economy and, most importantly, people’s lives.

As a company, we were deeply affected by the events last year, and have intensified our efforts to do whatever we can to ensure that such a tragedy is never repeated.

Forest fires are complex and rooted in a number of economic, social and political causes.

Above all, what is required is a multi-stakeholder approach towards seeking solutions.

We recognise the link between land clearance and the production of forest commodities. That is why Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) Group has been bound by a strict zero-deforestation commitment enshrined in our Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) since February 2013.

The policy includes a number of key pillars. Among them are that there be no further clearance of natural forests, including peat forests, and the adoption of peatland management best practices by all our pulpwood suppliers.

Over the past three years, we have worked hard to develop a reliable supply of 100 per cent plantation wood for our mills.

While the new mill at OKI in South Sumatra significantly increases APP’s production capacity, we are absolutely clear that our FCP commitments come first, over and above maximising our production. Any future increase in production will be subject to the availability of raw materials from our suppliers.

To ensure that our new mill can reach optimum levels of production while fully respecting our commitments made in the FCP, we are taking the following steps:

First, increasing productivity and yield in our plantations by working on improved control of pests and diseases, reducing mortality and wastage as well as increasing efficiency in our harvesting methods by using mechanisation techniques.

Second, research into new species in partnership with engineering and development consultancy firm Euroconsult Mott MacDonald to identify alternative plant species that can provide better yields and thrive in wetter peatland conditions.

Third, embracing community forestry into our supply chain according to government regulations and guidelines to adopt local wisdom, reduce poverty and enhance the alternative livelihoods of communities living in and around our concessions through agroforestry.

Fourth, sourcing woodchips from global suppliers if the measures above still prove insufficient, but only from suppliers that meet our Responsible Fiber Procurement and Processing Policy requirements.

The commitments we made in the FCP come first. The OKI mill entering into production will not affect our commitment.

In the meantime, we remain committed to working with all affected stakeholders to do everything we can to ensure last year’s events are not repeated.

Read more!

Receding water levels at Linggiu Reservoir expose Singapore’s vulnerability

SIAU MING EN Today Online 23 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s success in turning its vulnerability in water into a strength within four decades has been well documented. But the drought across the Causeway is raising serious concerns here: With the water level in Linggiu Reservoir in Johor rapidly falling to historic lows, the scenario where Singapore would be unable to import any water from its neighbours before the Republic becomes self-sufficient in 2060 is not as far-fetched as it may seem, experts say.

Built in 1994, the Linggiu Reservoir enables Singapore to reliably draw water from the Johor River by releasing water into the river to prevent saltwater intrusion from the sea into the river.

Salty water cannot be treated by the water plant further downstream from the reservoir.

Currently, water from Johor River helps to meet half of Singapore’s water needs. Under the 1962 Water Agreement between Singapore and the Johor state government — which expires in 2061 — Singapore can draw up to 250 million gallons of water per day (mgd) from the river.

On Friday (April 22), the water level at Linggiu Reservoir fell to yet another historic low of 35 per cent — down from 36.9 per cent about 1.5 weeks ago, the PUB said in response to TODAY’s queries. The level has fallen dramatically over the past year or so: At the start of last year, it was about 80 per cent. Eight months later, it receded to 54.5 per cent. This dropped further to 43 per cent in November last year, before falling to new lows in recent days.

Professor Asit Biswas, distinguished visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), said: “(In the) short term, I don’t see any problems unless there is a prolonged drought ... The only problem with nature is that it is so uncertain to predict.”

He added: “So if you have a prolonged drought for five, six months, it is very unlikely there will be any significant amount of water coming from Malaysia ... That could happen any day, it could happen from tomorrow, it could happen 40 years from today … And that is without (factoring in) climate change; that is simple climatic fluctuations that we have witnessed in the past.”

While Singapore and Malaysia enjoy good relations and have a treaty in place, Prof Biswas noted that the supply of water from Johor can by no means be taken for granted. Prof Biswas, who won the Stockholm Water Prize — considered the water industry’s Nobel Prize — a decade ago, noted that there is a high probability of the region experiencing a serious drought in the coming decades.

And if that happens, “would the politicians and people (in Malaysia) be willing to send that water to Singapore or say it’s an act of God, they really cannot send water and they need to use it themselves? I don’t know”, he said.

Apart from imported water, Singapore has three other “national taps”: Local catchment water, NEWater and desalinated water.

Singapore could become self-sufficient in water by 2060, a year before the water agreement with the Johor state government expires. By 2060, NEWater and desalination will be able to meet up to 85 per cent of water demand. Efforts are under way, including ramping up the purification of treated water — to produce NEWater — to meet more than half of the country’s water needs.

Currently, NEWater can meet 30 per cent of Singapore’s total daily demand of 430mgd. By the end of the year, Singapore’s fifth NEWater plant will be up and running.

Supply of desalinated water or treated seawater will also be increased. Singapore has two desalination plants that can produce a total of 100mgd of water to meet almost 25 per cent of the demand. By 2030, this will go up to 30 per cent. A third desalination plant in Tuas is due to be completed next year, while the fourth desalination plant in Marina East will be built by the end of 2019.

The Government recently announced it was looking at building a fifth desalination plant on Jurong Island.

Singapore also collects rainwater through a network of drains, canals, rivers and stormwater collection ponds before it is channelled to the 17 reservoirs across the island for storage. The country’s water-catchment areas currently take up two-thirds of the island and PUB hopes to expand this to 90 per cent by 2060.


The jury is still out on whether the changes in weather patterns are due to climate change or the El Nino phenomenon, which comes along every two to seven years.

El Nino refers to the abnormal warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, which can potentially wreak havoc on weather conditions. In the case of South-east Asia, it can lead to prolonged drier and warmer weather.

Dr Cecilia Tortajada, a senior research fellow at the LKYSPP Institute of Water Policy, said: “We don’t know (whether) what is happening now or even the last year ... could be a trend. It could be a climatic event related to El Nino but not necessarily (in line) with these big trends that may change completely the patterns of rainfall 
in Singapore.”

Dry weather conditions in the region were worsened by El Nino, which developed in the middle of last year and is gradually weakening. Still, regardless of the underlying causes, the impact of extreme weather on a small island-state such as Singapore is significant, she said.

“Singapore is very small, so that means that ... if there is less rainfall, then it’s going to impact the entire land and the entire surface that is used for the reservoirs,” said Dr Tortajada. “The amount of water we have in Singapore as a tropic city-state is very high. But if you have less rainfall, it will have an impact because we don’t have any other sources (apart from NEWater and desalinated water). There is no snow, for example. So if it rains less, it’s going to affect everybody.”

PUB deputy chief executive (Policy and Development) Chua Soon Guan told TODAY that climate change is not the only factor affecting the national water agency’s long-term planning. “We have to look at a whole set of other considerations, in terms of land constraint, in terms of national development and so on to see what is best for Singapore. Also, resilience is not just against climate change, we want to be resilient against all sorts of contingencies. So (the) question is, which source is more resilient? That part we do have to think through,” he said.


Just last week, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli spoke about his “personal worry” that the extreme weather patterns due to climate change would pose new challenges to Singapore’s water sustainability.

Dr Rajasekhar Balasubramanian, from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, noted that climate change could affect the intensity and frequency of rainfall, where dry spells get drier and wet seasons wetter. Rising temperatures would also mean more water evaporating, thus affecting the water levels in the Linggiu Reservoir as well as Singapore’s water-catchment areas, added 
Dr Balasubramanian.

As the weather becomes warmer, water temperatures will also rise in tandem. This could lead to the thermal stratification of water, which prevents the mixing of waters, resulting in the accumulation of chemical pollutants and potentially causing 
algal bloom. Heavier rainfall will also lead to greater runoffs that can carry with them chemical and biological pollutants or suspended particles. All of these could lower the quality of water collected in local catchments, making it more costly for Singapore to treat surface water, added 
Dr Balasubramanian.

A key challenge of climate change is the adequacy of water supply during periods of dry weather, said Professor Ng Wun Jern, executive director of Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute at the Nanyang Technological University. “Our reservoirs collect water from surface runoff — (for example) rivers. So if there is a dry spell, surface runoff shrinks and less gets into the reservoirs,” he said.

While Prof Ng felt that the dry weather will have little effect on water reclamation and practically no effect on desalination — since the sea is an “infinite” water source — Dr Balasubramanian noted that the quality of coastal waters could be affected with longer dry spells.

There could be a higher concentration of chemical pollutants and microorganisms in the coastal waters, which will require the authorities to enhance the capabilities and technologies being used for desalination to meet the stringent standards for drinking water, added Dr Balasubramanian.


Singapore’s current water infrastructure was planned around, among other information, the projections from the first phase of the Second National Climate Change Study. “The planned infrastructure is to cater for a certain set of weather scenarios, then we are confident that whatever we have planned for, we are resilient against these scenarios,” Mr Chua said.

On climate change, he noted that it does not occur suddenly. “So far it’s not a disruptive change, as far as what we understand ... (but) it’s important that we review and update our planning assumptions regularly,“ he said, adding that PUB could not predict all possible scenarios caused by 
climate change.

For existing water infrastructure and systems to better handle the effects of extreme weather, the experts TODAY spoke to raised various ideas to improve Singapore’s water technology and management.

PUB is currently looking into other desalination technologies, including electrodeionisation, where ions carrying either a positive or negative charge are separated from the water when they are attracted to electrodes of the opposite charge.

It is also studying biomimetic and biomimicry techniques. An example is the development of a biomimetic membrane that has high permeability to water but rejects organic molecules and salts.

Assistant Professor Pat Yeh from NUS’ Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering suggested that more water could be collected from local catchments. This can be achieved by expanding or deepening the current reservoirs, he said. Instead of letting large volumes of water flow over the surface before storing it in reservoirs, Dr Balasubramanian proposed harvesting rainwater directly, such as on roofs, to use it for non-portable purposes.

He also suggested the idea of decentralised or cluster water-treatment systems, which would collect rainwater at different locations, treat them and use them at the same place concurrently. This would remove the need to transport the water through pipes and improve cost-effectiveness, added Dr Balasubramanian, who has done preliminary research in this area. He noted that a decentralised system will allow different treatment facilities to be set up according to the needs of the areas, which may not all require high-quality water.

PUB has previously said it is studying the possibility of drawing on “naturally occurring aquifers and groundwater” in western and eastern Singapore — possibly creating the fifth national tap. Aquifers are underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials, such as sand, from which groundwater can be extracted.


Instead of looking for new sources of water supply, Prof Biswas and his wife Dr Tortajada felt that Singapore should do much more to reduce 

“It’s the missing tap, the tap that (Singapore is) not considering very seriously,” Prof Biswas said. He added: “If you reduce demand by 1 cubic metre, that means you do not have to produce 1 cubic metre of water.”

Last year, Singapore’s per capita domestic water consumption inched up to 151 litres per day, from the 150 litres in 2014. It also bucked the downward trend of per capita domestic water consumption since 2004. The Government’s target is to reduce the figure to 140 litres by 2030.

Prof Biswas said: “There are, of course, countries (that use) much more than Singapore, but Singapore cannot afford to do that because 50 per cent of its water is still coming from Johor.”

He felt that the 2030 domestic consumption target was “too conservative”, citing how some European cities such as Barcelona and Zaragoza have, for several years now, reduced their water consumption to less than 100 litres each day. Singapore should strive for a target of between 110 and 115 litres per day, he added.

To reduce water consumption, some experts, including Prof Biswas, have suggested raising water prices. But others disagree, citing the low price elasticity of water.

In Singapore, water is priced to recover the full cost of its production and supply as well as to reflect its scarcity value. The price has remained the same since 2000.

Currently, households pay about S$1.93 per cubic metre, including Goods and Services Tax (GST), for those using 40 cubic metres of water or less per month. They also have to pay a sanitary appliance fee of S$3 (including GST) per appliance each month.

Prof Biswas said: “A vast majority of Singaporeans haven’t (got) a clue what their water bill is. They know their electricity bill. You ask anyone what is their water bill, 90 per cent will have no idea ... because it’s so little.”

He added: “Everything else has gone up, electricity prices have gone up, but the water prices have remained the same.”

Agreeing, LKYSPP vice-dean (Research) Eduardo Araral noted that water prices here have not been adjusted for inflation. In real terms, Singapore’s water prices have declined by 25 per cent over the years, he said.

“Increasing water prices is basically buying insurance against climate change,” he said. With more extreme weather, greater energy will be used to produce more NEWater and desalinated water. “Somebody’s got to pay for that,” he pointed out.

He added that prices should reflect the scarcity of water, such as factoring in the cost of building and operating new desalination plants. He noted that PUB has been trying to improve conservation of water through education and engineering solutions, among other things. “In the past 15 years, those efforts are no longer enough to convince people to reduce consumption,” said Assoc Prof Araral.

But water economist Joost Buurman stressed that changes in water prices would not make a big difference in consumer behaviour. “The price elasticity of water is very, very low, so you need to increase the price very drastically for people to use less water,” he said.

Pointing out that water bills make up a very small proportion of the average Singaporean household income, Dr Buurman said a slight reduction in consumption would only affect a household’s water bill by “50 cents or a dollar”. Most people “won’t be bothered”, said Dr Buurnam, although he acknowledged that raising the price of water would have a “psychological effect” on people.

Prof Biswas pointed to how charging for the use of plastic bags at supermarkets in the United Kingdom has succeeded in reducing usage, even though the charges do not add up to much. “We are not having a discussion on these (behavioural) issues,” he said.

Singapore might also want to consider incentives to get people to conserve water, suggested Prof Biswas. The Spanish public utilities department, for example, would reduce a household’s utility bill by 10 per cent for a corresponding cut in water consumption, he said. “The focus in most parts of the world, including Singapore, has been on technology ... We now have to think of how to modify human behaviour,” he added.

PUB’s Mr Chua said that as desalinated water and NEWater meet more of the country’s water needs, the cost composition —including energy, manpower, land and capital — may be affected. “I don’t think we can say that climate change will cause the price to change, we have to recognise other factors. Even though now energy price is on the low side, you’ll never know, it can go up,” he said. “If it goes up, then our cost will go up.”

Alluding to the prevalent view that Singapore is a victim of its own success when it comes to water, Dr Buurman noted that PUB “is always very careful in letting people have the confidence that we can handle any bad situation”.

But the Government should also prepare Singaporeans, who are “always very much in a comfort zone”, for the worst-case scenario.

With Linggiu Reservoir drying up, the message could not be starker. “What if Linggiu Reservoir dries up and there won’t be any rainfall or very little rainfall for a few subsequent years?” Dr Buurman questioned. He added: “(What) happens during dry periods is that people actually start using more water — they want to water their plants and maybe take more showers because it’s hot. So that is actually the opposite of what you should do during a drought.”

Indeed, when the worst-case scenario strikes, Singaporeans’ behaviour and water-consumption habits could be brought to a test — and as the experts point out, hopefully it would not be too late then.

Read more!

Water security, energy use a difficult trade-off

SIAU MING EN Today Online 23 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE — While ramping up the nation’s water security by increasing its capacity to treat used water and seawater over the next few decades, the Republic could also expose itself to another form of vulnerability — an over-reliance on energy for water.

Within the next 14 years, the combined capacity from NEWater and desalinated water will be able to meet up to 80 per cent of the population’s water demands, up from the current 55 per cent. By 2060, these two sources of water can provide up to 85 per cent of the nation’s water needs. However, this will also mean Singapore is becoming increasingly reliant on energy consumption to meet its water security goals.

Speaking to TODAY, distinguished visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) Asit Biswas pointed out that while half of Singapore’s water supply is generated from its own sources — local catchments, NEWater and desalinated water — 100 per cent of the energy used to treat the water comes from outside.

“Singapore has no energy … As Singapore becomes more and more self-sufficient (in water), it is becoming, energy-wise, more and more not self-sufficient. More and more energy (has to be) input in order to sustain the water sector,” added the world-renowned water expert.

Back in September 2013, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, then-Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, spoke about how there has been a substitution of one critical vulnerability — water — with another critical vulnerability — energy — globally “simply because the process of reverse osmosis is energy intensive”.

Reverse osmosis is the process used to treat seawater at desalination plants — making desalinated water the most energy-intensive of Singapore’s four sources of water. Apart from water from local catchments and NEWater, the fourth source is imported water.

According to some international reports, the desalination process burns up more fossil fuel than sourcing for the same amount of fresh water from fresh water bodies. This makes desalination both a reaction — and one of the many contributors — to global warming, noted an article from Scientific American magazine.

Desalinated water can currently meet 25 per cent of Singapore’s water needs. From 2030, it will be able to meet 30 per cent of future water demands.

The next-most energy-intensive “tap” comes from NEWater, which requires about a quarter of the amount of energy needed by a desalination plant.

Currently, NEWater can meet up to 30 per cent of Singapore’s water demands, and the figure is set to increase to 50 per cent and 55 per cent by 2030 and 2060, respectively.

Dr Rajasekhar Balasubramanian, from the National University of Singapore’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, noted that energy security, fresh water security and climate stabilisation are “competing goals”. For instance, Singapore tries to overcome extreme weather effects on its water resources through desalination.

“Desalination of seawater is an energy-intensive process. However, we are (also) trying to reduce our carbon footprint,” he added.

Professor Ng Wun Jern, executive director of Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University, felt that the difficulty lies in the fact that “the link between water and energy and Singapore is constrained in both aspects”.

“We have few sources of fresh water and no fossil-fuel reserves, having to import fuel and rely on renewable energy to meet our energy needs,” he added.

The reliance on energy can get more costly even though current energy prices are very low, said Dr Joost Buurman, senior research fellow at LKYSPP’s Institute of Water Policy.

And with Singapore using more NEWater and desalinated water in future, he added: “If energy prices are going up significantly, it might also have an impact if your water supply system is more dependent on energy.”

However, national water agency PUB noted that the energy used to treat water here takes up a small percentage of Singapore’s overall energy consumption.

PUB is currently producing energy through biogas at its water reclamation plants and will be expanding its energy production from solar. It is also investing in water research and development to bring down the energy consumption levels of the desalination plants here, among other things.

For example, there is the electrodeionisation technology in desalination, where ions carrying either a positive or negative charge are separated from the water when they are attracted to electrodes of the opposite charge.

This process uses about 1.65kWh to 1.8kWh of electricity for every cubic metre of desalinated water, about half the amount of electrical energy needed with the conventional reverse osmosis method.

Another method includes biomimetic or biomimicry techniques, which are currently being studied. One example is the development of a biomimetic membrane that uses water channel proteins (aquaporin) found in cell membranes to filter organic molecules and salts.

Biomimetic and biomimicry-based research aims to use about 1kWh per cubic metre of electricity.

Read more!

FairPrice supermarkets slash food waste by 41 per cent

Pang Xue Qiang, The Straits Times AsiaOne 22 Apr 16;

Supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice generated a total of 1,300 tonnes of food waste last year, a 41 per cent drop from 2,200 tonnes in 2014.

In a press release yesterday, it said the amount made up 0.2 per cent of total food waste in Singapore, down from the previous year's 0.3 per cent.

To quantify and track its waste reduction efforts, FairPrice last year developed a Food Waste Index which is derived from total food waste over total retail space. This measure is not affected by opening of stores, for instance.

The index dropped 39 per cent from 11.9kg per sq m in 2014 to 7.2kg per sq m last year.

Food categories such as tropical fruits, exotic fruits, vegetables and fresh fish or seafood registered the highest wastage.

A total of 210,000kg of fruits and vegetables were saved through the Great Taste Less Waste selection, where fruits with slight blemishes and cut vegetables were repackaged and sold at marked-down prices to reduce waste.

The initiative was piloted at all seven FairPrice Xtra stores in May last year.

Another 64 FairPrice stores have taken up the initiative since the end of last year.

In a partnership with Food from the Heart charity, FairPrice now donates a total of $20,000 worth of unsold but still wholesome groceries each month from all its 131 stores islandwide to 41 charities.

- See more at:

Read more!

Singapore signs Paris Agreement on climate change

The Republic will "now turn to making the necessary domestic preparations to enable us to ratify the agreement and to achieve the objectives under our NDC (nationally determined contributions)", Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Balakrishnan said as part of the national statement.
Channel NewsAsia 23 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan represented Singapore at the signature ceremony of the Paris Agreement on climate change at the United Nations in New York, announced the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Saturday (Apr 23).

Dr Balakrishnan also delivered Singapore's national statement at the signature ceremony on Friday to "affirm Singapore's support and commitment for the Agreement", added MFA.

In the statement, the Minister noted that Singapore ranks 123rd in emissions intensity out of 142 countries worldwide, but promised that the country will "continue to do more".

"Within the geographical constraints we face, we will pursue renewable energy in the form of increased solar PV (photovoltaic) deployment," he added. "This will supplement our substantial energy efficiency efforts and other mitigation measures to lower our Emissions Intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, and to stabilise our emissions around 2030."

"We take our pledge seriously, and will now turn to making the necessary domestic preparations to enable us to ratify the agreement and to achieve the objectives under our NDC (nationally determined contributions)."

According to the United Nations, 175 states signed the agreement, while 15 of those states also ratified it. The signature ceremony, organised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, was the largest ever one-day signing of an international agreement.

While in New York, Dr Balakrishnan also held meetings with American strategic thinkers, including Dr Henry Kissinger, said MFA. Additionally, he attended a dinner hosted by the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg.

The minister was accompanied by officials from the MFA.

- CNA/av

Paris climate deal set to be signed by record number of states
About 170 countries are expected to sign today in a move the UN hopes will ensure early ratification of the deal
Suzanne Goldenberg The Guardian 22 Apr 16;

About 170 countries gathered at the United Nations for a ceremonial signing of the landmark Paris agreement on Friday, in a powerful display of global efforts to fight climate change.

A dozen countries – mainly the small island states at risk of being drowned by rising seas – said they would take the additional step on Friday of ratifying or granting legal approval to the agreement.

The renewed commitments, and the personal appearance at the UN by about 60 heads of state, delivered a sense of momentum to efforts to bring the agreement into force far earlier than had originally been hoped.

The agreement reached in Paris by 196 countries still needs formal approval from 55 countries representing 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions to come into force. In some cases, that means a vote in parliament.

The US, China and India - the three biggest climate polluters - have all committed to join the agreement, possibly as early as this year.

Leaders said the events on Friday were a sign that governments, business leaders and campaign groups were aligned with trying to move swiftly to phase out the use of fossil fuels and move almost entirely to clean sources of energy by the middle of the century.

“Today’s signing ceremony reaffirms the commitments made last December and delivers a jolt of energy to international climate efforts,” Felipe Calderón, the former president of Mexico, said.

The signature ceremony, kicked off by François Hollande, as host of the Paris climate talks, will be an elaborate affair. Leaders will make their way one-by-one in alphabetical order to a special podium at the General Assembly to sign the single copy of the agreement, translated into six languages.

Amid the celebratory atmosphere, with Leonardo DiCaprio scheduled to appear, leaders and scientists agreed: the measures covered by the Paris agreement still fall far short of reaching the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5C to 2C above pre-industrial levels, and time is running out.

Last year was the hottest year since record keeping began in 1880. Temperatures for the first three months of this year have already demolished that record – confounding scientists by the scale and pace of temperature rise.

In the Arctic, there was almost no winter, with temperatures at the North Pole rising above freezing even in December, the depths of the polar night. Temperatures were 30C above normal.

On Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, some 93% of coral showed evidence of bleaching, because of long term ocean warming due to carbon emissions, and the El Niño weather phenomenon.

Read more!

Malaysia: Klang Valley haze due to forest, peat fires

FAIRUZ MOHD SHAHAR New Straits Times 22 Apr 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The haze enveloping several areas in the Klang Valley today is due to the forest and peat fires in the central part of the peninsular such as Selangor and Pahang.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the emission of carbon dioxide from vehicles and industries in the Klang Valley were also among the main contributors to the haze.

"The forest fires in Bekenu and Marudi, Sarawak has caused haze in Miri. "The hot and dry weather has caused an increase in fire cases which lead to haze.

"The Fire and Rescue Department is continuously battling fires and open burning cases and so far, the situation is under control." he said in a statement.

As of 12 noon, the Air Pollutant Index reading in Pelabuhan Klang and Miri breached unhealthy levels at 105 and 143, respectively.

Wan Junaidi said the Environment Department has been monitoring the fire cases from January.

The fire locations are at Mukim Beris Lalang and Mukim Beoh, Kelantan; Kuala Langat Selatan Forest Reserve, Selangor; peat swamp fire in Gunung Arong Forest Reserve, Johor; forest fire in Kampung Durian Guling, Terengganu; and forest fire in Bekenu and Marudi, Sarawak.

He said there is no influence of transboundary haze as the country is still in the monsoon transition season, expected to last until middle of May.

He reminded all parties to not carry out open burning or let their lands and premises be trespassed by irresponsible parties to conduct open burning.

KL smog caused by local fires, not Indonesian haze: Minister
Today Online 22 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR — The haze enveloping Kuala Lumpur since mid-week was due to peat and forest fires in several areas on the outskirts of the capital city, said a Malaysian minister on Friday (April 22), amid worries that the annual transboundary haze might be back.

Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the fires in Kuala Langat and Sepang in the state of Selangor were under control. But the situation was aggravated by the hot and dry weather, causing the pollutants to float in the air, he added.

“Currently, there is no influence of trans-boundary haze because the country is still in the inter-monsoon season that is expected to last until mid-May,” national news agency Bernama quoted him as saying early on Friday morning. “The fires are being doused by the Fire and Rescue Department, and they are under control.”

Transboundary haze caused by widespread fires in Indonesia blanketed the region from September to November last year and affected tens of millions of people.

The Pollutant Standards Index breached 2,000 in Central Kalimantan at one point, forcing affected Indonesian families to flee their homes for other cities. In Malaysia, schools were closed when the air quality reached unhealthy levels across many Malaysian states.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo had pledged to take tough action to tackle the annual haze problem, ­including issuing a moratorium on new permits for oil palm plantations. He had also vowed to sack local military and police chiefs for uncontrolled fires in their provinces.

In recent days, large parts of the Klang Valley — which includes ­Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur, the country’s administrative capital of Putrajaya and much of Selangor — were shrouded in haze.

Port Klang, located in Selangor, registered an unhealthy reading on Malaysia’s Air Pollutant Index (API) on Friday. Earlier this week, the ­areas of Batu Muda, Cheras and Petaling Jaya — all located in the Klang Valley — registered unhealthy API readings, though they returned to moderate levels on Friday. An API reading of ­between zero and 50 indicates good air quality. API readings above 100 are considered unhealthy.

“The haze is really smelly and is giving me a headache, even though I’ve closed all the windows in my house. When is this problem ever ­going to be solved?” said ­Selangor ­resident ­Anisah Shurfa.

The hazy conditions prompted ­Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to urge the public to exercise caution and reduce outdoor activities.

“I notice that the haze has returned in several areas. I hope everybody will be careful, especially those who work or have to be outdoors. Wear masks and such. Outdoor physical activities, especially for the elderly and children, should be reduced in areas with bad haze,” he wrote on Twitter. AGENCIES

Port Klang, Miri record unhealthy readings
The Star 23 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: Port Klang and Miri have recorded unhealthy air reading under the Air Pollutant Index (API).

As at 5pm yesterday, the API readings for Port Klang stood at 106 and Miri at 144.

An API of between 0 and 50 is considered good, 51 to 100 (moderate), 101 to 200 (unhealthy), 201 to 300 (very unhealthy), 301 and above (hazardous).

Areas which registered moderate levels were Cheras (86), Shah Alam (90), Nilai (84), Banting (82), Petaling Jaya (79) and Putrajaya (75).

Air quality in East Malaysia was generally good with Sandakan recording an API reading of 32 and Tawau (30).

In a statement released by Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Jaafar, it said the haze in the Klang Valley was chiefly due to peat fires in Selangor and Pahang.

As for Miri, the haze had been attributed to forest fires in Bekenu and Marudi.

Firemen are working hard to put out the fires.

PM advises caution over haze
The Star 22 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Following the emergence of the haze in several areas of the country, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has advised the people to exercise caution and cut down on outdoor activities.

"I notice that the haze has returned in several areas. I hope everybody will be careful, especially those who work or have to be outdoors. Wear masks and such.

"Outdoor physical activities, especially for the elderly and children, should be reduced in areas with bad haze," he said in his Twitter account.

The Department of Environment portal Friday reported unhealthy air quality in Port Klang, Selangor, and Miri, Sarawak, with the air pollutant index at 105 and 146, respectively, at 11am.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said in a statement Thursday night that the haze in the Klang Valley was caused by fires in several areas in the peninsula, including peatland forests in Kuala Langat and Sepang. - Bernama

Haze hits KL, Selangor as heatwave continues to grip Malaysia
As Malaysia continues to be in the grip of the hottest weather it has ever experienced, parts of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur have now been hit by the haze.
Sumisha Naidu Channel NewsAsia 22 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia continues to be in the grip of the hottest weather it has ever had. In the past few weeks schools have been closed, water supplies are being rationed – and now the haze has returned to Kuala Lumpur.

But this time it is fires in peninsula Malaysia - and not neighbouring Indonesia - that are being blamed for the haze in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

An aggravating factor is the searing heat - temperatures that have sent the mercury soaring for weeks now in Malaysia. Temperatures exceeded 37°C for more than three days in the state of Perlis and parts of Pahang, forcing schools there to close on Friday (Apr 22) - not for the first time this year.

As water levels in dams dip, states like Johor in the south have begun water rationing as well - and more in the north may soon be forced to.

"We will keep the state governments informed,” said Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Malaysian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment. “Then it's up to the states to decide whether or not water rationing is required."

Steps are being taken to keep the agriculture sector afloat a well. Hundreds of water pumps and tube wells have been sent to states like Kedah and Perlis, known for their paddy fields.

Up to 65 per cent of domestic demand for rice is met by local suppliers. More than half of that is provided from Kedah in Perlis, considered to be the rice bowl states of Malaysia. So this heat could really pose a problem to the industry.

El Nino has been taking the heat for the soaring temperatures. It is a naturally occurring climate cycle that causes extreme weather conditions - but scientists say global warming caused by human activity has exacerbated El Nino's effects.

It is a concept that has made little sense to farmers in Kedah, who live far away from the carbon emissions of factories and big cities.

“They say humans haven't taken care of the environment so it's become like this,” said a farmer in Kedah. "No, this is in God's hands, we don't determine things, it's not like we wanted this to happen."

In Kuala Lumpur, the heat is also making itself felt, and residents have responded by blasting their air-conditioners to such an extent that electricity consumption has hit an all-time high.

- CNA/rw

Read more!

Malaysia: Water supply issues could remain critical until September

KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 22 Apr 16;

TUARAN: Water supply issue could still be critical in certain areas in the country until September due to the coming southwest monsoon season.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Madius Tangau said the El Nino phenomenon is expected to dissipate by June, but the new monsoon season which happens annually from May to September is known to be the dry season.

Speaking to reporters after a National Science Centre programme at Tamparuli here, he said areas known to suffer water level issues at catchments are the Telibong and Penampang districts in Sabah, while Perlis and Kedah in the Peninsular are the ones at critical level.

He said cloud seedling operations at selected places nationwide would be continued from time to time as long as there are no technical issues.

However, he said there is a low chance of success of in water catchment levels from the rain harvesting activities.

Penang Chief Minister calls for more drastic action to combat water crisis
Today Online 23 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR — Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (picture) yesterday called on Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, to hold an emergency National Water Resources Council (MSAN) meeting to help avert a looming water crisis in four northern Malaysian states due to the ongoing drought.

In a letter addressed to Mr Zahid, who chairs the council, Mr Lim suggested irrigation activities be halted to optimise dam water usage and to intensify cloud-seeding efforts in the northern peninsular region.

“As we know, the Super El Nino phenomenon has prolonged the dry season more than three months. Rain in the area for the month of April 2016 is much less than that recorded in 2015, whereby it has dropped by 70 per cent,” said Mr Lim in the letter. “Because of that, water storage of dams in the northern states is dropping fast and approaching critical levels.”

Malaysia, especially its northern states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak, has been enveloped in a sweltering heatwave — affecting up to four million people — resulting in the temporary closure of schools, as well as slowing vegetable production, leading to price hikes.

Paddy fields, and durian and rubber plantations have also been affected by the severe temperatures, and water levels at dams and water treatment plants have been decreasing.

The drought has forced some states, such as Perlis and Johor, to impose water rationing, but Penang has yet to do so.

Mr Lim said yesterday that based on reports, the Muda and Beris dams, which supply water to both Kedah and Penang, can last only 30 days, while the Malaysian Meteorological Department predicted El Nino is going to last until June.

“Therefore, we call on your intervention, as the chairman of MSAN, to avoid a crisis from happening that will become a burden and an inconvenience to the people in their daily activities and businesses in the area,” he added, referring to Mr Zahid.

Penang State Health, Agriculture, Agro-based and Rural Development Committee chairman Afif Bahardin said the meteorological department had already started cloud-seeding operations in the northern region.

“Penang has even offered to fund the cloud seeding and for it (to) be done in Kedah because it’s the water basin of the north, but eventually the meteorological department did it with their own funding,” he said.

In Selangor, Chief Minister Azmin Ali assured residents yesterday that proactive measures were being taken to prevent water shortages, after a Member of Parliament warned on Tuesday that the Klang Valley — which includes Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, the country’s administrative capital of Putrajaya and much of Selangor — could face a crisis in 43 days if the state’s water reserves drop below the critical level of 40 per cent.

Mr Azmin said the state is monitoring dam water levels and will increase the frequency of clouding-seeding exercises, if there is a need.

“We have taken some proactive measures with Horas (hybrid off-river augmentation system) and also cloud seeding, which we have embarked for the last few months,” he said, in reference to the storm-water harvesting system. “And if there is necessity to increase the number of flights for the cloud seeding, we will do so.”

He added that the matter was discussed during the state’s Economic Action Council meeting on Thursday.

“It was one of the issues that we deliberated, and we are monitoring closely all our dams and rivers in Selangor.” MALAY MAIL ONLINE

Read more!

Malaysia: Agriculture Dept to continue to help farmers affected by El Nino

The Star 23 Apr 16;

ISKANDAR PUTERI: The Agriculture Department will continue to give assistance to all farmers in Johor especially during the current El Nino phenomena that has plagued the country, said state Agriculture and Agro-based Industry committee chairman Ismail Mohamed

He said the assistance that was given to affected farmers included agricultural tools to help rehabilitate affected crops during the hot spell.

“The department will continue to give help to local farmers here including giving water pumps and mobile tanks as the cost is much lower compared to constructing tube wells.

“However, tube wells will be given to mega agricultural projects where it gives huge contribution to the nation’s food productions,” he said in his winding up speech during the Johor assembly sitting held at Bangunan Sultan Ismail here on Thursday.

Ismail said that last year, the Agriculture Department helped build 15 tube wells at the vegetables commercial project at Bukit Gambir near Tangkak involving a cost of nearly RM1mil in a 240ha land with 120 farmers.

He added that according to the drought report as of this month, 28ha of paddy fields in Kluang are badly affected due to the phenomena involving three farmers with an estimated loss of around RM14,000.

Ismail also said about 0.1ha of mushroom plantation in Mersing is also affected, involving one entrepreneur with losses of up to RM9,000.

“For fruits, about 67.40ha of land in Mersing and Segamat is affected, with 41 farmers with losses amounting to RM215,000.

“About 54 vegetables farmers in Mersing and Segamat, with 70.41ha are also affected due to the drought with losses of RM230,000,” he said.

He stressed that the government would continue monitoring the situation and ensure such assistance would be given to ensure Johor remains the largest food producer in the country despite the hot spell.

Padi farmers hit by drought to adopt alternative method
The Star 23 Apr 16;

BUTTERWORTH: Some 4,000 padi farmers in north Seberang Prai who do not have water supply for irrigation will adopt the dry-seeding technique known as ‘serak kering’ to plant padi seedlings.

State Agriculture, Agro-based Industry, Rural Development and Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said that use of the alternative method, which depends on rainwater rather than irrigation for the seeds to sprout, would start on May 10.

He said there were a total of 3,935 farmers with padi fields covering 6,730.61ha in north Seberang Perai without water supply currently.

“We will try this method as a pilot project and if found to be successful, it will be introduced in other districts,” he said after attending a weekly meeting with the state Agriculture Department and state Drainage and Irrigation Department officers at the Integrated Agricultural Development Area (IADA) in Sebe­rang Jaya near here yesterday.

Dr Afif, who is also the Seberang Jaya assemblyman, said the farmers will start preparations to use the alternative method next week.

He added that the technique was last used here in 1998, but it is still being used by farmers in Perak.

“A technical team of 10 officers from the state Agriculture Depart­ment have already visited Perak to study the method,” he said, adding that with the dry-seeding method, padi fields are ploughed and dampened before the seeds are planted.

It does not need to use irrigation but depends on rainwater for the seeds to sprout, whereas the usual method involves flooding the paid fields with water and sowing the seeds into the water.

He added that there are a total of 4,765 farmers in Penang with 8,622.61ha of padi fields, who do not have water supply for irrigation.

Meanwhile, Dr Afif said the Penang state government was willing to sponsor for cloud seeding exercise, which can cost RM15,000, to be done in Kedah.

Read more!

Malaysia: Over RM30k aid given out to victims of animal attacks from Jan to Mar

BERNAMA New Straits Times 23 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: A total of RM35,800 was given out to 22 victims or their next-of-kin for attacks by wild animals via the Victims of Wild Animal Attack Aid Fund from January to March this year.

Social Welfare Department director-general Datuk Zulkiply Ramli said the number involved cases where victims were injured during the attacks. However, there were no death cases this year.

“The highest number of cases involved snake attack with 19 cases, and one case each involving wild boar and monkey,” he told Bernama here today.

Some 257 cases were recorded last year amounting to RM839,200 in aid. Of the number, 23 of them involved fatalities.

Most cases involved snake (187) followed by wild boar (25), crocodile (23), monkey (16), elephant (3) and one each for monitor lizard, wasp, bee and bear.

On April 19, Nuriey Nadhirah Roslan,7, of SK Dato’ Hashim 1 in Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan died after she was bitten by a snake at school.

Following the incident, several blogs highlighted the fund which can be claimed by victims or next-of-kin since many were still unaware of it.

The fund approved by the Cabinet in 2004 provides a maximum aid of RM20,000 for death cases or permanent disability due to animal attacks.

For partial loss, the rate is determined by the percentage of injury.

A claim can only be made if the animals are categorised as wild by the Wildlife and National Parks Department.

Fifteen species of wild animals that fall into the category include elephant, crocodile, seladang, wild boar, bear, tiger, python, poisonous snakes and primates.

The other animals include all kinds of wasp, bee, fox, civet cat and pig.--BERNAMA

Read more!

Indonesia: Raja Ampat curbs diving to protect mantas

Jerry Adiguna The Jakarta Post 22 Apr 16;

Protected species: A snorkeler chases a manta ray in Manta Ridge, Raja Ampat, West Papua.(Courtesy of Conservation International/Shawn Heinrichs)

Raja Ampat regency in West Papua, designated as the first manta ray sanctuary in the world, will impose restrictions on the frequency of visits, especially dives, to improve conservation efforts.

A working group comprising the local administration, local communities, NGOs, academics and marine tourism service providers are currently drafting the details of the restrictions that will be applied in some areas, especially where manta rays are bred and raised.

“Several regions will be declared prohibited areas to maintain the population of manta rays,” said Raja Ampat Tourism Office head Yusdi Lamatenggo during a discussion on Raja Ampat conservation in Jakarta.

Policies formulated by the working group were based on data from Conservation International (CI), which was attained through collaborative research initiatives involving the tagging of manta rays in a number of locations in Indonesia.

Data from the Raja Ampat Tourism Office shows that the frequency of visits, especially to watch the manta rays, is very high, especially when the manta ray migration reaches its peak.

In a single dive, more than 40 divers can be found chasing and watching manta rays up close in a specific area.

With such a high number of divers, said Yusdi, there were fears the manta rays would suffer stress and leave their habitat.

“It is also necessary for tourists to know to not get too close, let alone touch the manta rays and disturb their peace in their favorite spots, such as at Manta Sandy in Raja Ampat,” he said.

Yusdi said they would also prepare strict sanctions against dive operators and marine tourism service providers if they violated the regulation.

“We will revoke their permits if the dive operators and marine tourism service providers remain uncooperative,” said Yusdi.

Known as one of the world’s best diving destinations, Raja Ampat is home to around 75 percent of all known coral species, 1,470 reef fish and, still counting, eight types of whales and seven types of dolphin.

In 2015, the Raja Ampat Tourism Office recorded more than 17,000 tourists visiting the islands.

Every tourist visiting the marine conservation areas in Raja Ampat is required to buy an environmental service card that is good for a year. Indonesian citizens are charged Rp 500,000 (about US$37) for the card; foreign tourists are charged $100.

Proceeds from the card sales are used to boost local revenues and improve the management of conservation areas, community patrols and surveillance.

The government has also made efforts toward manta ray conservation by, for example, including manta ray protection in the 2016-2020 National Action Plan. The government has also banned manta ray fishing under the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministerial Decree No. 4/2014 on the establishment of full protection status for manta rays.

CI Indonesia marine program director Victor Nikijuluw said protecting manta rays from extinction is a challenge for Indonesia.

“A manta ray gives birth to one offspring within a period of between two and five years with a gestation period of about 12 months. Moreover, the threat of population decline is increasing along with the high demand for manta gill plates from China as a main ingredient for traditional medicine,” he said.

According to data released by the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, extensive illegal fishing of manta rays is still taking place from the Tanjung Luar Strait in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, to the Cilacap regency in Central Java.

Read more!

Indonesia: Flood Hits Thousands of Homes in Jakarta, Bekasi

Edo Karensa Jakarta Globe 22 Apr 16;

Jakarta. Flood has hit around 5,000 homes and affected at least 9,000 residents in Jakarta’s satellite city, Bekasi, as heavy rains fell on Thursday morning (21/04), the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said.

Water started rushing into residential areas at 5.30 a.m. through broken embankments on the Bekasi River, mostly in the subdistricts of Jatiasih and Pondok Melati. The flood hit the densely populated housing estates of IKIP, Nasio Indah, Mustika Gandaria Setu, Lotus Chandra and Pondok Gede Permai.

BNPB reported various depths of inundation, from 30 centimeters to 5 meters.

“The residents have been evacuated to safe shelters. Around 500 homes are lightly damaged and the streets are inundated. No fatalities were recorded in this flood,” said BNPB spokesman, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

Hundreds of BNPB, police and military personnel, as well as Search and Rescue Agency (SAR) workers have been deployed to help with evacuation using inflatable boats.

Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said his ministry and the Bekasi administration will soon build a 1.2-meter high embankment on the Bekasi River near Pondok Gede Permai, the worst affected housing complex.

The administration has allocated around Rp 5 billion ($380,000) this year to build river embankments in the area.

BNPB predicted heavy rains will continue over the weekend in nine provinces, including Jakarta, Banten and West Java. The rainy season is expected to end in May.

Bekasi residents trapped in homes as river bursts banks
Agnes Anya The Jakarta Post 22 Apr 16;

When the rains came: Water inundates a street in the Gunung Sahari area of Central Jakarta on Thursday. Parts of the city were submerged on Thursday after heavy rain fell the night before.(JP/Jerry Adiguna)

Residents of Bekasi, West Java, had difficulty going about their daily activities on Thursday morning after the Bekasi River burst its banks inundating several neighborhoods following an eight-hour downpour in the city.

Suriaman Moerdani Pandjaitan, a resident of Jati Bening, was unable to get to work as the first floor of his house was flooded from 5 a.m. until 1 p.m.

He initially thought that the flood was caused by the excessive rain, which poured on the city from 1 a.m. until 8 a.m. However, he later learned that the flooding, up to 3 meters in parts, was the result of a burst embankment.

“I was barely able to sleep once the rain began to pour. At 5 a.m., my mother told me that the water was coming inside my house,” Suriaman told The Jakarta Post.

“We immediately picked up important belongings, including our dogs, and rushed up to the second floor,” he added.

He called on the Bekasi administration to immediately fix the embankment in anticipation of further floods amid the heavy rains that have hit in the city in recent days.

Bekasi Mayor Rahmat Effendi said that he had ordered his officials to open a sluice gate on Jl. Mayor Hasibuan in South Bekasi to ease the flooding in the inundated areas.

He said details regarding the management of the embankment were actually the responsibility of the directorate general of water management at the public housing and public works ministry.

However, he added, he had to make a quick decision to prevent more severe flooding.

He wanted the Bogor administration to also keep him informed about water levels in upstream areas so Bekasi could decide whether to open or close the sluice gates.

“We want to manage the embankment with other officials as water from Bogor will reach Bekasi within six hours via the Cikeas and Cileungsi rivers,” Rahmat said as quoted by, adding that Thursday’s flooding was mostly caused by excess water from Bogor, rather than the local rain.

Burst dams and river banks are a frequent problem in Greater Jakarta. In 2013, a high volume of water caused the Ciliwung River broke its banks at Jl. Latuharhary following heavy downpours. The incident led to flooding in several major locations in the capital, including Jl. Sudirman and Jl. MH Thamrin in Central Jakarta, killing two people.

On March 27, 2009, the Situ Gintung Dam in South Tangerang, Banten, burst, sending a huge volume of water onto nearby neighborhoods, killing at least 99 people.

After this tragedy, Situ Gintung was left empty to prevent a recurrence.

Rains have poured over Greater Jakarta in the past few days causing incidents in several areas.

In Tangerang, Banten, a section of the roof in the Aeon Mall collapsed under the weight of water on Wednesday evening, injuring dozens of shoppers.

In South Jakarta, two teenagers, identified as Anggi, 14, and Siswanto, 17, were swept away by the heavily swollen Krukut River on Thursday morning. As of Thursday evening, the police and search and rescue (SAR) team were still searching for the youths.

Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) chief Andi Eka Sakya said that the heavy rain during Wednesday evening and Thursday morning was a result of a confluence of winds from southern Sumatra and western Java, which resulted in massive rain clouds forming.

He added that heavy rain was likely to continue in Greater Jakarta until Sunday.

Thousands flee their flooded homes in Karawang, West Java
Antara 23 Apr 16;

Karawang, W Java (ANTARA News) - Thousands of people fled their flooded homes in five villages in Karawang district, West Java, on Friday.

"The floods struck on Thursday (April 21). Some 1,053 residents or 438 families evacuated to higher ground after the flood water inundated their houses," secretary of the Karawang District Disaster Mitigation Board (BPBD) Supriatna said.

The evacuees hail from the five villages of Karangligar, Parungsari, Tanjungmekar, Karawang Kulon and Tanjungpura.

He said the floods hit hardest the Karangligar village where 187 houses were inundated and 606 residents evacuated to higher ground.

The flood inundated 25 houses at Parungsari village, forcing 68 residents to flee their flooded houses.

In Karawang Kulon village, 132 houses were flooded, forcing 227 residents to take refuge.(*)

Read more!