Task force set up to fight rat menace

Chitra Kumar, The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Apr 16;

The authorities are trying out a new approach to tackling the problem of rat infestation, by setting up a task force of parties such as town councils and eatery or mall operators to coordinate rat control works.

Four areas - namely Redhill Close, Bedok Central, Clementi Avenue 3 and Bangkit Road in Bukit Panjang - were chosen for the pilot, as 40 to 130 burrows were found in each area, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

In each place, the stakeholders will engage pest control operators and coordinate rat control plans to manage the overall situation.

The trial aims to "ensure that a holistic and coordinated effort is undertaken to deny rats food and harbourage", said the agency.

It said early results have shown a 15 to 70 per cent reduction in the number of burrows in each area.

The rat menace has grown in recent years. About 43,000 rat burrows were found in public areas last year, up from about 42,000 in 2014, according to NEA figures.

Over the two years, an average of about 85 per cent of the burrows were found in housing estates managed by town councils. More than 80 per cent of these were found near bin chutes and bin centres.

Earlier this month, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Amy Khor, said in Parliament that breaches involving rat infestation in areas run by town councils will lead to stricter enforcement.

In response to Straits Times queries on how enforcement will be stepped up, NEA said town councils now face a $150 fine for a first offence for poor refuse management in their bin centres and central refuse chutes. From July, an additional fine of $200 will be issued - under the Control of Vectors and Pesticides Act - if signs of rat infestation are found in bin centres, central refuse chutes and bin chutes.

Depending on the severity of the problem, town councils may be ordered under the Act to take measures to deal with the rat infestation, on top of the fine, said the spokesman. They may face a fine not exceeding $20,000 if they fail to comply, said NEA.

The Straits Times understands that while these penalties are not new, there would be stricter enforcement. Town councils that ST spoke to welcomed the move.

Chairman of Marine Parade Town Council Lim Biow Chuan, also MP for Mountbatten, said it will "work hard" to clear places under its charge if there are rat infestations.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, chairman of Chua Chu Kang Town Council, welcomed the move but raised concerns about how rat nests may be in areas not run by town councils. "Rats don't recognise boundaries. They cross boundaries," said Mr Zaqy, also an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC.

A six-month pilot by the Holland- Bukit Panjang Town Council from last October to last month in Bangkit Road has seen results.

About 60 shop owners, four coffee shop owners and a Chinese temple in Bangkit Road took part.

Vegetable seller Low Mui Tong, 54, said he used to catch "a lot of rats" half a year ago. "But for the past few months, I haven't seen any rats," he said.

Likewise, the East Coast-Fengshan Town Council has seen results since its pilot started in January.

Public relations manager Danielle Theodora Loh said its weekly rodent treatment programme was intensified. She said there are now fewer rats in common areas such as bin chutes and carpark drains.

Read more!

Malaysia: Forest fires and open burning adding to air pollution


PETALING JAYA: Several places in Selangor, Terengganu and Pahang have become contributors to the air pollution due to forest fires and open burning.

Most of the open burning were in illegal dumpsites and plantations, said Selangor Fire and Rescue Department deputy director-general (Operations) Datuk Soiman Jahid.

“There are three cases in Selangor, one is a forest reserve in Kuala Langat, Tanjung Sepat while the other is an illegal dumpsite in Jalan Kuari Bukit Kapar.

“The third case is in Bukit Kemandul, which is a plantation. These cases are man-made problems because they have been clearing the vegetation,” he said.

Soiman said the department has been conducting operations round the clock to control the situation.

He said the department was working with other agencies and departments such as the Geoscience and Mineral Department, local councils, Malaysian Civil Defence Department, Rela and the various state forestry departments.

Thus far, Soiman said, the situation was under control, however, open burning has been ongoing at an illegal dumpsite in Jalan Kuari since April 18.

Soiman said that in Pahang, Ladang Felcra Serambi and Nenasi have also contributed to the air pollution with land clearing in these two plantation areas.

In Terengganu, there have been cases of peat fires in four areas, namely at Kampung Alor Tempoyak, Dungun; Kampung Chabang, Kerteh; Teluk Kalong in Kemaman and Kampung Durian Guling.

There was also a forest fire recorded in Jalan Mersing Endau, Johor.

According to Soiman the cloudy weather and cloud seeding efforts have been helpful for the operations.

“The rain will not completely douse the fire but it is helping our officers by preventing them from getting heat stroke,” he added.

Soiman advised people to stop open burning, adding that the El Nino phenomenon would cause the fire to spread.

The air pollutant index (API) as of 5pm yesterday showed good and moderate readings nationwide.

Meteorological Department director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail said the department was expecting more afternoon rain and thunderstorms during the inter-monsoon season, which was expected to last at least until mid May.

She said cloud seeding was still being carried out, especially in the peninsular.

Read more!

Malaysia: Bukit Merah dam water shortage 'the worst in history'

RAJA KHALIDATUL ASRIN New Straits Times 25 Apr 16;

BUKIT MERAH: About 250,000 people in Kerian district will face water rationing if the water level at the Bukit Merah dam drops to 5.1 metres.

State Public Utilities, Infrastructure, Energy and Water Committee chairman Datuk Zainol Fadzi Paharudin said if the present dry condition persists, it would only take only 23 more days for the water level at the man-made lake to reach critical level.

“The water level at the lake has reached 5.97m today (Monday), which is very alarming.

“This is the worst in history," he said after visiting the lake here today. Although the authorities had been conducting the cloud seeding since April 12, it had failed to produce rain due to a lack of suitable clouds.

“We have also stopped releasing water from the dam for agricultural activities as the focus now is for domestic use.

“At present, the reservoir is supplying 120 million litres of water daily to two treatment plants in Gunung Semanggol, which is lower than the previous 150 million litres daily before," he said.

Bukit Merah Laketown Resort assistant director (sales and marketing) Aslina Ahmad said they have been significantly affected by the El Nino phenomenon, with the number of visitors dropping 50 per cent in the past few months.

Although the Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island was closed for more than two weeks when it became inaccessible by boats, she said the resort and its water-theme and eco-adventure parks are still open as usual.

“The only activities that had to stop are the ones at the lake," she said.

‘Study needed before declaring Bukit Merah a disaster area’
The Star 26 Apr 16;

IPOH: A thorough study should be done before declaring Bukit Merah, about 90km from here, a disaster area because of the receding level at Tasik Bukit Merah Dam.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, said that normally, a location would be declared a disaster zone if it was hit by a calamity like floods or large-scale fire.

“When such a declaration is made, it means they (the affected residents) have the right to receive aid such as compassionate payment,” he said when contacted yesterday.

The minister said if the dwindling level in a dam adversely affected farmers, it would be the responsibility of the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry to study the situation and take follow-up action.

However, Shahidan said, he would be visiting the affected areas at Bukit Merah soon to see for himself the effects of El Nino.

He was asked to comment on the statement by Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Zambry Abd Kadir on Sunday that the state government would apply to the Federal Government to declare Bukit Merah a disaster zone.

Zambry said with such a declaration, he hoped the National Security Council (MKN) could assist farmers in the Kerian area to assess the losses due to the depleting water in Bukit Merah Dam.

However, MKN secretary Datuk Seri Alias Ahmad said that it was no longer the agency responsible for assessing any damage or losses incurred by any party in a disaster.

Instead, he said, that responsibility was taken over by the National Disaster Management Agency which was set up last year. — Bernama

Water rationing likely in Perak
CHRISTOPHER TAN The Star 26 Apr 16;

KERIAN: Water rationing will be imposed in Kerian and several areas in Taiping and Kamunting, if the Bukit Merah Dam level hits the critical 5.18m mark.

“The level at the dam is now 6.06m but may go down within 23 days if the current dry weather and consumption pattern continue,” said Perak Public Amenities, Infrastructure, Energy and Water Committee chairman Datuk Zainol Fadzi Paharudin.

He said should water rationing be imposed, some 250,000 consumers in the area would be affected.

“Bukit Merah Dam, which is also Bukit Merah Lake, supplies 120 million litres per day to the Semanggol water treatment plant.

“The level at the dam is now classified as Critical Stage Three (below 6.40m).

“Critical Stage One is when the level is 7.01m while Stage Two is 6.70m,” he told a press conference at the Bukit Merah Laketown Resort yesterday.

“The Perak Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) is preparing additional water pumps for padi farmers to recycle their existing water supply for their farms,” he said.

He added that the Kerian District Office would be meeting today to evaluate the water issue before tabling it to the Perak government.

“We will then decide if there is a need to present it to the National Disaster Management Agency for them to address the damage or losses incurred due to the dry weather,” he said.

He stressed that the matter only concerns northern Perak and not the entire state.

30,000 Kuantan residents to experience water cuts from Thursday
NIK IMRAN ABDULLAH New Straits Times 25 Apr 16;

KUANTAN: Water supply disruptions will affect 30,000 subscribers here on Thursday and Friday as there will be upgrading works by state water authority and Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) during the period.

In a statement today, Pahang Water Management Bhd (Paip) said works to link distribution pipes would be carried out in Indera Mahkota (IM) 15 on April 28-29. "Water supply will be cut off from 8pm on Thursday until 8am on Friday," it said.

Paip said the affected areas include Astana Golf, Bukit Istana, Kota SAS, Taman Alam Perdana and Taman Damai.

Also affected will be IM 13, 14 and 15, Kampung Padang, Taman Impian, Mara Professional College, Bukit Kuin and Bukit Bakong.

Paip said works to upgrade systems by TNB would affect areas in Felda Lepar Hilir 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, Taman Saujana, Gambang Water Park, Pulau Manis, Matriculation College and Community College.

Kedah seeks new dam and canal to solve water woes
The Star 26 Apr 16;

ALOR SETAR: Kedah plans to build a RM650mil dam and a 23km canal as a long-term measure to overcome water shortages in the Rice Bowl state.

The RM650mil reservoir, to be named Nauk Dam, straddles Pendang and Sik districts and will be the state’s fifth dam.

The canal, dubbed Jeniang Transfer which will form the main artery for water out of Beris Dam, connects with other waterways and could add to Penang’s water woes when it becomes a physical reality.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah said water from Beris Dam flows directly to Penang “but would be diverted through the canal for use in the state”.

“Kedah needs a new dam. The four major dams – Ahning, Beris, Muda, and Pedu – in the state are not enough and the new dam project is estimated to cost about RM650mil.

“The projects are on the drawing board and we would like to proceed with them immediately.

“The Economic Planning Unit is now discussing the dam and canal projects with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry and relevant agencies.

“However, the state needs the cooperation and financial support from the Federal Government for the projects. It is a massive undertaking,” he told a press conference after the third sitting of the third term of the 13th State Legislative Assembly Meeting held at Wisma Darul Aman here yesterday.

Bashah said the Kedah e-Tutor, an online education portal launched by his predecessor Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir in 2015, had been suspended due to cost factors.

The RM18mil initiative by the state government was for the benefit of Year Four to Form Five students in the state.

Under the project, students in the state had free access to 80 different subjects on the e-Tutor portal.

Bashah said the state government would look at other ways to help students with their studies.

Earlier when winding up the emergency motion tabled by Ahmad Saad @ Yahya (PAS-Alor Mengkudu) on water supply in the state, Ahmad Bashah (BN-Bakar Bata) said “the state is proposing to turn sand mining sites to store water to ensure sufficient supply of water”.

Takong Lake slowly coming back to life
The Star 26 Apr 16;

GERIK: Slowly but surely, water is pooling again in Takong Lake, much to the relief of Pengkalan Hulu folks.

A stream feeding the lake, which locals call Sungai Selarong, is holding up against the drought with a small but constant flow to refill the lake.

“I have lived here all my life and the stream has never dried up,” said civil servant Ahmad Asri Ismail, 35, who lives in Kampung Selarong.

On April 16, The Star highlighted the lake on its front page as among the first in the country to bear the brunt of El Nino.

After the lake shrank, the local authority further drained it and held a rarely done community fishing event called Pesta Gagau.

A check yesterday showed that water was starting to stream into the lake again.

Pengkalan Hulu district secretary Mohd Shah Nizam Abdul Aziz said the district council had also released the remaining water to repair a broken monsoon drain that lowered the lake’s level during the rainy season.

“El Nino does play a role. But it did not suddenly dry up. We are now upgrading the monsoon drain at a cost of RM190,000,” he said yesterday.

Taps run dry, and sweltering Malaysians run out of patience
SUE-CHERN LOOI Today Online 26 Apr 16;

PERLIS — In all his 76 years, Perlis resident Sharif Saad has never felt so hot. The taxi driver bathes five to six times a day, and keeps his three fans switched on the whole day in his village house that has no air-conditioning.

To cope with the sweltering, almost suffocating, heat, he also wraps himself in a wet towel to cool off during the day and even at night to help him sleep.

“The towel would be dry in just two or three hours,” he said.

Many Malaysians are struggling to live in this sauna – a prolonged heatwave engulfing northern states – that is caused by the Super El Niño phenomenon. Temperatures have soared to 38 and 39°C on some days.

The Malaysian government warned over the weekend that the hot and dry weather, started in January, could stretch to September, resulting in depleting water reserves, more forest fires and worsening haze.

TODAY visited three northern states - Perlis, Penang and Kedah - that have been bearing the brunt of the unbearable heat last week, and interviewed residents, farmers and officials to find out how they have been adjusting to the searing temperatures. Many were frustrated yet seemed resigned to their scorching fate, while also concerned about the impact on their livelihood and living environment.

Mr Sharif’s home in Kampung Kolam in Padang Besar, Perlis, near the Malaysia-Thai border is now undergoing water-rationing.

Located on higher ground, the water pressure is too low to send water there.

Since April 16, after the area’s Timah Tasoh Dam water level dropped to a dangerously low level of 26.2m, residents have had to wait with their pails for water to be delivered to their front gates by lorries sent by state water supplier Syarikat Air Perlis.

“This is the first water-rationing in the village since it was established 37 years ago,” said housewife Mariyana Mansor.

“Many were caught unprepared and didn’t have large containers to collect and store water. Even the hardware shops nearby have run out of stock.”

Yet, not all residents are aware of the need to conserve water, she said, despite the authorities constantly sending out messages, via mobile phones and radio announcements, to remind residents not to waste water.

Mrs Mariyana, 41, said it was tedious not having enough water.

“If I need to do the laundry, I wait for the water pressure to improve. If it gets too troublesome to cook, my family eats out,” she told TODAY.

But there were times when her home ran out of water, like last Wednesday when her youngest child skipped school due to insufficient water for bathing.

The heat is disrupting education. Schools in Perlis had closed a few times last month due to the heatwave. Last Friday, Perlis schools were again ordered by the Education Ministry to close after the temperature exceeded 37°C three days in a row.

“Kids are getting ill. Some have complained of itchiness, migraine and nausea. It is just too hot,” added Mrs Mariyana.

Primary school teacher Aizat Faizal, 29, who teaches in Kuala Perlis, said his school had stocked up bottled water for pupils to buy should they need extra water.

Many outdoor and after school programmes were disrupted by the hot weather, he said, adding: “PE (physical education) classes can only be held until 10am. Extracurricular activities in the afternoons are all conducted indoors now.

“Fans are not good enough anymore and we need air conditioning. This is climate change.”

The weather is also affecting crops. University students Mohd Rohafizan Mohd Hanapiah and Mohd Arif Ibrahim, both 21, sell mangoes at a roadside stall during their current semester break.

“It is difficult to get rain. That is why the harum manis mangoes grow well here. They need a hot climate to grow, but not this hot,” said Mr Rohafizan, who studies plantation management.

“This time, the temperature is too high, so the harum manis season is disrupted, making the fruit more expensive.”

It is not the first time for such scorching heat, he added, pointing out that temperature in Perlis reached 40.1 degrees Celsius in 1998 when El Niño last hit Malaysia.

What worries residents and farmers this time is how fast the state’s only dam is drying up.

When the dam’s water level dropped to 26.78m late last month, it was then the lowest level it had been since it started operating in 1992. Two weeks later, it dipped to 26.2m, triggering the water-rationing exercise. Over this past weekend, the water level has dropped further to 26.19 m, Bernama reported, compared to the normal level of 29.1m. The critical level is 25m.

In neighbouring Kedah, which is dotted with rice fields, many farmers were still waiting to start seeding their fields that had all dried up in the heat.

Kedah rice farmer Abdul Talib Taib, 64, keeps up to date on the dwindling water supply from watching the news.

“We hear all sorts of reports on television – that the dams have no water in Perlis, Kedah, Perak. So it is not possible to start planting. People need water to drink so they cannot give us water for the fields,” he said.

However, the rice planting season in Kedah is on schedule despite the heatwave and water supply woes, said Mr Othman Aziz, chairman of the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada), an agency that promotes rice production and increasing the income of farmers.

The water for irrigation had been released in three stages – on March 30, April 9 and 19 – for over 100,000 hectares of rice fields in Kedah and Perlis, he told TODAY.

“There is no problem. The water for irrigation comes from the Muda, Pedu and Ahning Dams. They have about 60 per cent capacity, which is 900 million cubic metres (MCUM) of water,” he said.

“It is more than enough, as one planting season needs only 500 MCUM and 300 MCUM has been released.”

Meanwhile, bracing for hot and dry days to drag until later this year, Penang has suspended all irrigation activities last week for its water supply to go to domestic consumers.

This is bad news for rice farmer Ho Wing Fook, 56, who lamented that his fields are “all dried up”. All he can do now is hope for heavy rains.

Penang relies on the Muda River, which flows out of Kedah, for 84 per cent of its water supply.

Authorities in Penang had expressed worries in recent weeks following reports that Kedah’s Beris and Muda Dams, which release water to sustain the Muda River water level, were to last for 30 and 50 days respectively.

Penang residents are not overly worried for now. The absence of water-rationing plans could mean that there is no immediate concern about water supply at this time, said Mr Yan Lee, 53, a legal counsel.

But he has another fear.

“My concern would be the problem of haze. Will this haze situation be worse than last year with all this dry (weather) ... will there be more burning?” he said, citing the bad smog situation that hit Penang and other states last year following forest fires and burnings in Indonesia.

Read more!

Indonesia: Javan gibbon returned to forest around West Java’s Mount Tilu

Arya Dipa The Jakarta Post 25 Apr 16;

Into the wild: Female Javan gibbon Tomtom leaves her habituation cage as she is released back into the wild by the Primate Rehabilitation Center at Mount Tilu Nature Reserve in Bandung regency, West Java.( JP/Arya Dipa )

Having spent three years at the International Animal Rescue ( IAR ) Primate Rehabilitation Center, Tomtom, an adult female Javan gibbon, has returned to the forest in the Mount Tilu Nature Reserve in Bandung regency, West Java.

Prior to the move to Mount Tilu, 6-year-old Tomtom had progressed to a habituation cage, a cage built in the forest to allow time for acclimatization to wild conditions, and when the cage door had been opened from afar, Tomtom is said to have shown no hesitation in leaving. Once Tomtom was outside the cage, she had leapt nimbly from one tree to another.

Sigit Ibrahim, an animal keeper at the rehabilitation center, explained that wild Javan gibbons were known use their arms more actively than their legs, adding that they survive in tree tops and rarely descend to the forest floor.

“They are very dependent on trees as they lead an arboreal life. So their arms are longer than legs,” said Sigit after Tomtom’s release.

The decision to release Tomtom back into the wild was based on her age as her fangs and genitals had sufficiently matured.

Sigit explained that Tomtom was not the first primate that the center had released back into the wild, having previously released six Javan gibbons and Surili Javan Leaf monkeys into the nature reserve.

Sigit said that the center had first begun to release primates at the Dewata Block in the Mount Tilu Nature Reserve in 2014.

“Tomtom was the first female gibbon released there, a male was released first. Now there is a couple” said Sigit, adding that, before she underwent rehabilitation, Tomtom had been kept as a pet by a resident until the age of three.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature categorized the Javan gibbon, a monogamous primate, as critically endangered.

Each pair usually has one or two offspring, with a gestation period of between 197 to 200 days and a pregnancy gap of three to four years between the first and second offspring.

“Before being released to the wild, the animal is required to have met certain criteria,” Sigit said.

“Firstly we need to ensure that the animal is free from contagious and deadly diseases; second, the animal must be familiar with forest surroundings and be accustomed to eating natural food as, once released, they can no longer depend on humans or animal keepers.

“A team will monitor Tomtom every day for the next six months using a radio transmitter installed underneath the skin on her back,” Sigit said.

Mount Tilu Nature Reserve head Didi Rustandi said that diversity remained quite high at the 8,000-hectare natural reserve. Based on camera traps, leopards have been observed in healthy condition, as have deer, wild boars and primates, including the Javan gibbon and Surili Javan Leaf monkey.

“Such releases are beneficial for the environment because wild animal can help preserve nature in the reserve,” said Didi.

Mekarsari village chief Atep Kurniawan agreed, saying that the reintroduction of the Javan gibbon or Javan silvery gibbon into the wild could help support the preservation of forest located in the upper part of the village.

“We villagers also depend on nature. People need water and if the forest is damaged we would be in trouble,” said Atep who issued a village regulation on the preservation of protected forest in the village in 2011.

Read more!

Indonesia: Gorontalo village finds profit in shark-watching tourism

Syamsul Huda M.Suhari Jakarta Post 25 Apr 16;

Botubarani, a village in the Bone Bolango regency, Gorontalo, has been getting more popular as a tourist destination in the province. Every day, the fishing village on Gorontalo's southern coast is crowded with domestic and foreign tourists come to watch the whale sharks in its waters.

Seven whale sharks have appeared in Botubarani waters in the last two years, generating economic benefits for locals. Housewives are selling cakes and snacks to visitors while house owners turn their yards into parking lots. At least 50 boats belonging to Botubarani villagers are ready to bring visitors around the waters to watch the whale sharks.

“Hopefully, the whale sharks can continue to be a blessing for all of us here,” Botubarani villager Risno Ismail told thejakartapost.com.

Risno, who is also a fisherman, has also rented his boat to visitors. The boat rental fee is only Rp 15,000 ( US$1.14 ) per person.

The Bone Bolango administration is now handling the management of the shark-watching tourism in Botubarani village. Earlier, the tourist attraction was left unmanaged. Many visitors used motorboats to go around the waters while others fed the tame whale sharks with whatever they had. Some visitors reportedly rode on the protected, endangered species in disregard of the the consequences. Recently, a male whale shark reportedly suffered 14 slash wounds. It was suspected it was struck by a boat propeller.

The Bone Bolango administration closed the tourist attraction for one week but it has re-opened for the public since April 17. All visitors are required to adhere to shark-watching rules.

Bone Bolango Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Agency head Sutrisno said the composing of the shark watching rules involved several involved parties, such as the Tourism Agency, researchers, diving organizations and residents.

He said the administration had determined a 10,000-square-meter area in the Botubarani waters to be the playing ground of the whale sharks.

Both visitors and local fishermen are not allowed to enter the whale sharks’ playing ground, which is located close to the shoreline and the fishing village. Only officers responsible for feeding the whale sharks are permitted to enter the zone. They feed the sharks with fresh shrimps and prawn heads three times a day – morning, noon and night.

The use of motorboats is also prohibited. Each diver must pay a diving fee of Rp 50,000, from which part of the fee will be put into the village fund. The Bone Bolango Police deploy a number of tourism police to safeguard the tourist attraction. Garbage bins have been placed in several locations to ensure the area stays clean.

Whaleshark Indonesia project leader Mahardhika Rizqi Himawan said the shark-watching tourism in Botubarani village should be regulated by one agency while at the same time, the wild side of the protected, endangered species must also be paid close attention to. ( ebf )

Read more!

Indonesia: Reclamation has reached ‘point of no return’

Dewanti A. Wardhani The Jakarta Post 25 Apr 16;

Despite criticism and alleged foul play by developers, the Jakarta administration has said that the land reclamation projects — now under moratorium — cannot be undone.

Assistant to the governor for spatial planning and environment, Oswar Muadzin Mungkasa, said that the project had reached “a point of no return”, as several islands had already been formed. Thus, he said, the city administration could now only monitor the development in order to minimize the negative impact of land reclamation.

“The land reclamation projects in Jakarta have reached a point of no return. Therefore, all we can do is make sure that negative impact is minimal,” Oswar told The Jakarta Post recently.

Much like Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, Oswar argued that the project had a firm legal basis, citing Presidential Decree No. 52/1995 on land reclamation regarding the Jakarta coast issued by then-president Soeharto. Thus, he said, the city administration would not be able to simply cancel the project or revoke those permits which had been issued.

Oswar said that Islet D developer PT Kapuk Naga Indah, a subsidiary of Agung Sedayu Group, had started to develop buildings — despite a lack of bylaw to regulate zoning in the islets, which is a violation. The city administration do not plan to destroy the buildings developed on islet D just yet, emphasized Oswar, adding that the buildings’ location “may be in line with the zoning bylaw”.

Indonesian Center for Environmental Law researcher Rayhan Dudayev said that although the moratorium was a positive step, he urged both the central government and the city administration to take legal steps to stop the project. Rayhan said that the government and the administration had every right to cancel the project and revoke land reclamation permits, as was stipulated in Law No. 30/2014 on public administration.

Article 64 of the law states that a decree may be revoked if there are flaws in authority, procedure or substance.

Rayhan, however, acknowledged that the government might be faced with consequences such as a declining business climate and costs associated with repairing the environmental or social losses triggered by the project thus far.

Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said that the land reclamation project had no effect on the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development ( NCICD ) phase A project, which was to build and repair the existing 90 kilometer seawall on the shores of Jakarta Bay. The project has been made a priority project by President Joko “Jokowi’’ Widodo.

“NCICD phase A has nothing to do with land reclamation so it will not be affected by the moratorium,” Basuki said recently.

The Indonesian Traditional Fishermen’s Association ( KNTI ) advisory board head Riza Damanik said that the land reclamation project was not just a mere administrative or procedural issue, but was a larger problem concerning the constitutional right of every resident to a decent living, clean and healthy environment and waters, and the right to participate in developing the city.

Moratorium imposed on Jakarta Bay reclamation
Fardah Antara 25 Apr 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli announced on April 18 the governments decision to impose moratorium on Jakarta Bay reclamation till the pros and cons of the multi-billion reclamation deal are studied.

"We request that the construction work be suspended until all requirements and legal regulations are fully met," Minister Rizal Ramli, who was accompanied by Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya and Jakarta Governor Basuki Purnama Tjahaja (Ahok), told the press.

A special joint committee is to be formed to look into the matter, Minister Rizal Ramli said.

The committee will comprise senior officials from related ministries.

They will include two director generals and two directors of the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Forestry, two director generals and two directors of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, two director generals of the Home Affairs Ministry, two directors of the Maritime Affairs Coordinating Ministry, and a representative of the cabinet secretary.

The Jakarta administration will send its deputy governor, development assistant, regional secretary, marine agency and the local governments team.

The joint committee will also be handling the cases of overlapping regulations connected with the project, according to Minister Rizal Ramli.

The team is expected to make public the results of its work next month or within two months.

Minister Siti Nurbaya said among the problems to be solved are those related to an environmental impact analysis which needs to be completed.

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

Nine developers, including state-owned companies and major private real estate companies, have received permits to build a total of 17 islands which will cost an estimated Rp 150 trillion ($11.4 billion) in investment on Jakarta Bay.
The Jakarta Bay reclamation project has become controversial after a bribery case concerning the mega project came to light. 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, Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, several legislators and NGO activists.

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

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

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

The ministrys director general for maritime spatial management issued a letter number B 204/PRL/IV/2016 on April 15, 2016, ordering that the reclamation project be temporary stopped.

The letter was sent to the Jakarta provincial secretary and copied to the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the Minister of the Environment and Forestry, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Jakarta Governor.

In the meantime, leading economist and former environment minister Emil Salim said reclamation of the northern coast of Java could transform the area not only into an economic growth center, but also into a maritime, fishery and shipbuilding industrial center.

However, he warned that reclamation of the Jakarta Bay must not neglect the environmental impact aspect.

Reclamation should be through a natural process through sedimentation of mud brought by rivers that empty into the Jakarta Bay, he said.

It is a wrong way of reclamation by digging coral reefs around the One Thousand Islands to create new man-made islands, he said, referring to reclamation by giant companies PT Agung Podomoro and Agung Sedayu Group in the Jakarta Bay.
The destruction of the corals will affect the ecosystem, change the sea currents, dam
age the environment, and even cause some of the One Thousand Islands to disappear, he said.

While lauding the moratorium, Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi), the countrys leading environment NGO, however, criticized that the move may not have any significant impact and termed it only a political moratorium because it lacked a legal basis for imposing sanctions against companies found violating the moratorium.

"If there are no sanctions against the perpetrators, this will only be sweet nothings to everyones ears," Head of the Walhi Jakarta Chapter Moestaqiem Dahlan was quoted as saying by Tempo on April 23.

Dahlan claimed that the reclamation process used stolen materials including sand among other things from the Banten Province.

At the end, the project will not only harm the environment of the Jakarta Bay and surrounding areas but also destroy the ecology of Banten.

The reclamation project has affected some three thousand fishermen, and resulted in eviction of 3,579 families during the 2000-2011 period.(*)

Jakarta reclamation project must not break laws: President
Antara 27 Apr 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said here on Wednesday that the reclamation project in Jakarta must not break any existing laws or regulations.

"There must not be any violation of existing laws and regulations in the implementation of this project," cabinet secretary Pramono Anung said after a limited cabinet meeting on Jakarta reclamation project at the presidents office.

In this context, the President has asked all ministries/state institutions concerned, including the Ministry of Environmental Affairs, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Order/head of National Land Agency to synchronize their work so as to avoid legal problems in the future.

He said the President also requested that a key master plan be prepared clearly to respond to any environmental problems that may affect sea biota, mangroves and other aspects.

"The President emphasized that the project would be useless if it does not benefit the people, especially the local fishermen," he said.

Pramono said the project must be fully controlled and directed by the government, in this case the central government and regional governments (Jakarta, Banten and West Java).

"The reclamation activity carried out so far will be reviewed following a temporary moratorium. In this connection, the governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java must synchronize their decision making, integrate all regulations and submit these to the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) to be incorporated into the joint master plan," he said.

The meeting was attended by governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java, Vice President Jusuf Kalla and the concerned cabinet ministers.
The project will later be called "Garuda Project." Pramono said the project is actually different from the Jakarta Bay reclamation project covering 17 isles.

President Joko Widodo has issued directives and asked the National Development Planning Board to complete the big project during the six-month moratorium to be integrated with the 17-isles reclamation project.

The project had triggered a controversy after a regional law maker was caught receiving bribes from a developer involved in the project.(*)

Jakarta Bay project against the law: KPK
Haeril Halim The Jakarta Post 27 Apr 16;

The Corruption Eradication Commission ( KPK ) says its investigation into the multitrillion-rupiah Jakarta Bay reclamation megaproject has confirmed that the project contravenes the law.

KPK legal experts had been examining regulations relating to the reclamation following the arrest of PT Agung Podomoro Land ( APL ) director Ariesman Widjaja on suspicion of bribing Jakarta city councillor Mohamad Sanusi to expedite the issuance of a zoning bylaw regarding the reclamation area.

The regulations in question include Presidential Decree No. 52/1995 on land reclamation regarding the Jakarta coast issued by then president Soeharto, Law No. 27/2007 on coastal area and islet management, Law No. 54/2008 on spatial planning management in Jakarta, Depok, Tangerang, Puncak and Cianjur and Presidential Regulation No. 122/2012 on reclamation of coastal areas and islets, issued by then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Despite a lack of necessary bylaws, including zoning regulations, the Jakarta administration, now led by Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, has since 2014 issued a number of permits for developers, including APL, to start construction on the reclaimed land.

KPK commissioner Laode Muhammad Syarif said that after thorough study of the regulations, commission investigators had concluded that the Jakarta administration had no right to issue permits for the Jakarta Bay reclamation projects.

Laode further said that the projects came under the jurisdiction of two provinces, namely Jakarta and neighboring Banten; as such, it is related ministries, including the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry and the Environment and Forestry Ministry, that have the right to issue permits for the project, rather than the Jakarta administration.

“According to the most updated regulations, if a reclamation project covers more than one province, then it must be handled nationally and the leading institutions are related ministries,” Laode said on Tuesday.

The Jakarta administration, he added, should have studied the related regulations before issuing permits for development.

Laode lauded the recent joint decision by Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry officials and Ahok to temporarily halt the projects and disentangle the legal mess.

The commission, he went on, expects related institutions to consider economic, environmental and social aspects in settling the legal disputes plaguing the controversial projects.

In addition, KPK chairman Agus Raharjo said that following the arrest of Sanusi and Ariesman, the antigraft body had shifted its attention to scrutinizing the legality of other reclamation projects underway across the country.

“We’re not just looking at Jakarta, we’re also looking at Makassar and Bali. We hope the projects in those provinces do comply with existing regulations,” Agus said.

On Friday, Siti said the environmental impact analysis ( Amdal ) on the Jakarta reclamation project was deeply flawed, failing to take into account the environmental degradation caused by sand dredging in coastal areas of Banten.

Besides inadequate environmental assessment, Siti also pointed out that despite the megaproject, divided into 17 islets from A to Q, having incomplete Amdal documentation, construction was already up and running.

A KPK investigation into the bribery allegations surrounding the projects has so far seen Ariesman and Sanusi named suspects, as well as two other APL employees. In the days subsequent to the arrest of Ariesman, the commission moved to impose travel bans on PT Agung Sedayu Group ( ASG ) owner Sugianto “Aguan” Kusuma and his son and ASG president director Richard Halim Kusuma, as well as a special advisor to Ahok, Sunny Tanuwidjaja.

The KPK implicated Aguan in the case after collecting preliminary evidence that his company had also bribed Sanusi to ensure the swift issuance of the zoning bylaw, which as been left in limbo by the arrest of the councillor.

Read more!

Indonesia: Drought hits East Nusa Tenggara

Otniel Tamindael Antara 25 Apr 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - A drought has parched parts of East Nusa Tenggara Province in Indonesia and is feared to cause crop failures, slow down economic growth, and disrupt water supply.

Some parts of the province are now reeling under the impacts of a serious drought, and it will be a challenge for these areas to meet their water requirements in the upcoming months.

Therefore, numerous pumps should be installed for pumping ground water to rice fields for irrigation in order to avert harvest failure.

In addition, the drought is feared to trigger acute respiratory tract infections among thousands of residents, and thus, the local people and government should stay on alert.

It is also advisable for the locals to lead a healthy lifestyle and follow clean living practices to avoid contracting respiratory infections.

Acute respiratory infections are a major concern as they affect normal breathing and usually start as viral infection of the nose, trachea, or lungs.

If such infections are not treated properly, they can spread to the entire respiratory system.

Therefore, the local community must be wary of the symptoms, such as running nose, cough, sore throat, body ache, fatigue, breathing difficulty, dizziness, low blood oxygen levels, and loss of consciousness.

East Nusa Tenggara has one of the highest poverty rates in Indonesia and is prone to drought.

It has poor infrastructure, and its people suffer from malnutrition and hunger, low levels of schooling, and inadequate access to health-care facilities.

Unemployment is high, and the government is facing the challenge of how to tackle these problems and ensure a prosperous future for the people of the province.

Three sub-districts in East Flores District are reported to have experienced crop failures due to the drought.

East Flores Agriculture Office Chief Anton Sogen pointed out that the sub-districts of Ile Boleng, Wotan Ulumado, and Demon Pagong were now experiencing crop failures.

In addition to these three sub-districts, numerous villages on the Solor Island had borne the brunt of crop failures due to erratic rainfall.

Anton Sogen claimed to have conducted real-time monitoring of the drought-hit villages and found that almost all the crops, including both maize and rice, had failed.

"I monitored several villages a month ago, and I saw that the agriculture there was in a very worrisome state," Sogen remarked.

However, Sogen said he had coordinated with relevant agencies such as the Marine and Fisheries Department, Public Works Department, and the Department of Social Affairs to find a way out, so that the problem could be resolved.

He also recorded the losses incurred by the farmers experiencing harvest failure in order to offer compensation to them in the form of rice aid.

"We are also working closely with the district and village heads to assess the condition of the farmers who had experienced crop failure to later offer them assistance in the form of rice aid as a short-term measure, and in the medium term, we will provide them seeds for the next planting season," he explained.

In the Wotan Ulumado Sub-district, the agricultural conditions are in an alarming state as all the corn crops had dried up and had failed to bear fruit due to uneven rainfall.

The El Nino weather phenomenon has frequently spelt disaster in East Nusa Tenggara, causing widespread harvest failure and leading to livestock deaths owing to starvation.

Not only food crops but also thousands of livestock are facing the impacts of serious depletion of life-giving water after a prolonged drought in the province.

El Nino causes not only harvest failure in millions of hectares of farm lands, but it can be the end of the world for tens of thousands of livestock in the middle of dry and empty grazing fields.

In Sumba Timur, the livestock farmers have also almost lost hope as fodder is no longer easily available in the fields to feed their livestock. Hundreds of cattle have already died of starvation.

The farmers are compelled to sell their cattle at cheap prices rather than letting them die in the fields.

In the districts of Nagekeo and Timur Tengah Selatan, the farmers are also suffering from the effects of prolonged drought and food shortages.

Therefore, the people there are in dire need of humanitarian assistance and long-term aid, and thus, an emergency response team is expected to supply clean water to them.

The drought has reduced the quality of life in some parts of East Nusa Tenggara and has led to a water crisis in addition to harvest failure and food scarcity.(*)

Drought, food crisis hit NTT
Jakarta Post 25 Apr 16;

Drought and food shortages affecting several regions in East Nusa Tenggara ( NTT ) are the result of low rainfall, with the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency ( BMKG ) saying the dry season arrived early this year.

“It is still raining in other areas, such as West Manggarai, Mangarai and Ngada regencies, but unevenly, so NTT is predicted to be hit by food shortages,” NTT Disaster Mitigation Agency ( BPBD ) head Tini Thadeus told reporters in Kupang on Sunday.

Besides food insecurity, added Tini, a water crisis could occur amid the lack of rain. In East Flores regency, two villages have been hit by drought and are being supported by the local BPBD with a budget of Rp 1.1 billion ( US$81,000 ).

“Rp 900 million has been allocated for the construction of artesian wells and Rp 200 [million] for water supplies for residents for several months,” she said.

The BPBD, she added, had sent formal letters to BPBD offices in other regencies and cities, and to the central government, to convey information about the drought.

Read more!

Indonesia: Flood emergency status declared in Manokwari district

Antara 25 Apr 16;

Manokwari, W Papua (ANTARA News) - The Manokwari disaster mitigation office (BPBD) has declared a flood emergency status for the district following flash floods that hit several regions.

Incessant heavy rains since the past week have caused several rivers to overflow, BPBD Manokwari Head Raymond Yap noted here, Monday.

Since mid-April, Manokwari has received very high rainfall and is forecast to continue for the next several days.

The office is currently optimizing its mitigation efforts to help the flood victims.

Wosi River has overflown its banks since last week and has inundated several regions, particularly in the Transito, Tanimbar and Bugis kampongs in Wosi Village.

The floodwaters reached a height of up to a meter in certain areas.

The deluge damaged several public facilities and houses.

Floodwaters, reaching a height of up to 1.5 meters, have also hit the transmigration areas in Prafi, Masni and Sidey Sub-districts, destroying several houses, bridges, and roads.

Manokwari District Head Demas Paulus and his deptuy, Edi Budoyo, visited the flood victims and distributed relief aid.(*)

Read more!