Best of our wild blogs: 4 May 16

Oil spill at Pulau Busing on 30 Apr 2016
wild shores of singapore

FREE Guided Herp Walks at Dairy Farm Nature Park
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Coastal works at rich Changi shore (1 May to 31 Oct 2016)
wild shores of singapore

Herps in the Sky? – Part 3
Herpetological Society of Singapore

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Study to be conducted to assess impact of 2015's haze in ASEAN

Singapore's Minister for Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli says he expects “something substantive” to come out within a year, as data on the impact of haze already exists.
Monica Kotwani and Liyana Othman Channel NewAsia 4 May 16;

SINGAPORE: A study to assess the economic, health and social impact of the 2015 haze on Southeast Asia will be conducted, with the ASEAN Secretariat tasked to collate information from the various countries.

This was announced by Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister, Masagos Zulkifli, at the end of the 18th Meeting of the ASEAN Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution on Wednesday (May 4). The meeting, attended by ministers from Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, was held in Singapore and chaired by Mr Masagos.

Channel NewsAsia understands the regional study was proposed by Malaysia, with the aim of assessing the impact of last year's haze, which reached record Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) levels, and cost billions in economic damage to the region.

Elaborating on the study, Mr Masagos said countries that were affected by the haze have been collecting different information, depending on how they were impacted. For example, Singapore has been studying the impact of haze on tourism, while Indonesia saw a reduction in the yield of crops. This is information the ASEAN Secretariat will collate.

The Singapore Minister said he expects “something substantive” to come out within a year, as data already exists.


Mr Masagos also spoke about the ASEAN Haze Monitoring System (AHMS), which was developed in 2012 by Singapore, to monitor hotspots and identify errant companies engaging in irresponsible practices to clear land. So far, no maps have been provided by any MSC country.

He said progress in implementing the system is key in tackling haze. “Without it, we cannot, as a region, be able to monitor the hotspots”, said Mr Masagos, adding that the AHMS is crucial in how countries cooperate and enhance information sharing with one another.

The AHMS currently uses maps provided by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and companies which are able to put up maps of their concessions. Mr Masagos said “this is just the beginning”, and steps will be taken “one inch at a time”.

What is more important, however, is accessing and sharing information among member countries to make the AHMS more effective, he added. But the minister noted that there are restrictions holding back progress, such as the ability for countries to disclose or get hold of such information.

Mr Masagos highlighted Indonesia’s One Map efforts to get maps, which are now in “disparate systems”, into one database. These two, put together, will “enable the ASEAN Transboundary Haze Agreement to be more effective”, he added.

The Minister, at the conclusion of the meeting, said the tone of this year’s meeting was more urgent, in light of the record haze last year, and following the historic Paris Climate Change talks, where countries agreed to undertake unprecedented action in dealing with climate change.

He said: ”Many countries have realised that if you leave something unattended, and when unforeseen things happen, it can have disastrous results”.

- CNA/kk

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Malaysia's Felda pulls environment certificates from 58 palm mills

Reuters 3 May 16;

Malaysia's Felda Group, the world's third-largest palm plantation operator, has withdrawn certificates of environmental sustainability from all of its 58 processing mills that had them, it said on Tuesday.

The group said it and subsidiary Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd had withdrew the certificates granted by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

"This exercise allows a more inclusive certification between commercially managed plantations by Felda Global Ventures and FELDA smallholders," it said in a statement filed to the local stock exchange, without elaborating.

The RSPO suspended certificates for Malaysian plantations company IOI Group on April 1 over allegations it violated sustainable policies in three of its subsidiaries' concessions in Indonesia.

The RSPO is a body of consumers, green groups and plantation firms that aims to promote the use of sustainable palm oil products, and is used by many European buyers as the international sustainability benchmark.

Felda remains a member of the RSPO and said it was currently addressing all sustainability issues along the supply chain.

"We voluntarily withdraw from RSPO principles and criteria certificates to address the sustainability issues in our supply chain," said Felda group president and CEO Zakaria Arshad in a separate statement on Tuesday.

"Based on the recent developments in the sustainability arena, we foresee some potential risks in our supply chain. Therefore we intend to make some structural changes in our RSPO certification approach and also review certain policies."

The exercise, which will only affect upstream mills and not downstream refineries or kernel crushing plants, will affect less than 1 percent of FGV's revenues, Arshad said.

The group's recertification plan is expected to take up to three years.

Felda, which has 71 mills in Malaysia, will still be able to sell its uncertified crude palm oil (CPO), said Ivy Ng, regional head of plantations at CIMB Investment Bank.

"They can sell, but the impact on their earnings is the loss in (sustainability) premiums of CPO sales," said Ng.

"We see minimal impact on Felda's share price and earnings, because we expect them to use this opportunity to improve on the sustainability process and get themselves certified again."

(Reporting by Emily Chow; editing by Christian Schmollinger and Mark Potter)

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Malaysia: Sungai Layang Dam now at critical level

The Star 4 May 16;

JOHOR BARU: The water level at the Sg Layang Dam has dropped to a critical level. The dam will only be able to supply water for between two and three weeks if the present weather persists.

So far, the authorities have not started any water rationing or scheduled water cuts for about 500,000 residents who get their supply from the dam.

The dam supplies water to those in Pasir Gudang and Johor Baru.

National Water Services Commission (SPAN) chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Ridhuan Ismail said that there was a high possibility of water cuts being implemented if the situation did not improve.

“The water level at Sungai Layang is now at 19.58m which is way below critical level of 23.5m.

“It is alarming because the level seems to be consistently dropping by about 0.03/0.04 metres per day,” he told reporters after visiting the Sungai Layang water treatment plant here.

Commenting on the scheduled water rationing in Mersing and Kota Tinggi, he said that the exercise may have to be extended beyond May 15 as initially scheduled, due to the dry spell in the area which is expected to persist.

SPAN commission member Datuk Roger Tan Kor Mee urged the public to conserve water and use it wisely because if the current trends continued, it would affect many people in parts of Johor Baru and Pasir Gudang.

Pasir Gudang, JB might face water rationing in 2-3 weeks
CHUAH BEE KIM New Straits Times 3 May 16;

PASIR GUDANG: Water rationing will take place in Pasir Gudang and some parts of Johor Baru if the water level at the Sungai Layang dam drops to 19 metres.

This is expected to take place within two to three weeks if the dry spell continues.

National Water Services Commission Malaysia (SPAN) chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Ridhuan Ismail told this to reporters after visiting the dam, which supplies raw water to the Sultan Iskandar water treatment plant.

The water level at the dam was registered at 19.55m today, which is below the critical level of 23.5m. Ridhuan urged the public to start conserving water immediately.

"Every drop of water counts," said Ridhuan.

The team also visited four other dams in the state, including the Congok dam.

Also present was SPAN commissioner Datuk Roger Tan

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Malaysia: Terengganu firemen forced to tackle four fires within seven hours

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 3 May 16;

KUALA BERANG: Terengganu firemen were pushed to the limit yesterday, having to tackle four fires within the span of seven hours as the hot and dry spell continues.

Their most dramatic call involved a restaurant, whose patrons were left scurrying when a fire destroyed an adjacent boutique at the junction of Jalan Sekayu at 7.25pm.

Kuala Berang Fire and Rescue Department station chief Assistant Superintendent Mohd Zamri Omar said they received a distress call at 7.31pm, after the fire broke out in one of the boutique’s rooms at the first floor.

Zamri said the station despatched a team of five firemen, headed by Senior Fire Officer II Mohd Nor Ali, to the scene.

“The room was used to store mattresses and clothes and members of the public had helped prevent the flames from spreading by the time our men reached the scene. “We managed to completely douse the fire in half an hour,” he said.

Zamri said his station first responded to a fire at a one-hectare farm in Kampung Temir at 12.40pm, followed by a bush fire in Kampung Chapu two hours later, and one at a bamboo growth in Kampung Tengkawang an hour later.

Meanwhile, Kuala Nerus Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department head Mohd Arff Tengah said carelessness and apathy by humans was a main contributing factor for many fires.

Ariff said that at times, his team was involved in putting out about 10 bush fires a day, made worse by the El Nino heatwave.

Among the areas prone to bush fires in his district were Bukit Berangan, Tepuh and Kampung Padang Kemunting in Batu Rakit.

“These areas, some as large as six hectares, experienced repeat fires, raising suspicion that mischievious persons were involved in deliberately setting them.

“They are literally playing with fire as it can threaten the safety and health of residents, and someday, will pay for their actions,” he warned.

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Malaysia: Sabah hunts the hunters in fight against bushmeat trade

RUBEN SARIO The Star 3 May 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department is going after hunters in its bid to curb illegal trade of bushmeat in the state.

Its enforcement chief Augustine Tuuga said they arrested two groups of hunters last week as part of this effort.

He declined to provide details of the arrests but said the hunters were found to be in possession of wild boar, barking deer, pangolin and civet cats.

“We are going after the suppliers of bushmeat and we think this is the best approach in dealing with this problem,” he told The Star on Tuesday.

He said they were of the view that going after people selling wildlife meat at "tamu" (farmers markets) in interior districts such as Nabawan can lead to dangerous situations for enforcement staff.

“The worry is that the situation can suddenly turn awry when our staff seize the bushmeat. There are not only the vendors but also hundreds of people at the markets,” Augustine added.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun had said that department personnel had been threatened when carrying out checks at the Nabawan tamu.

It was also reported last November that a conservationist was threatened when he tried taking photos of bushmeat on sale at the market.

On Tuesday, the media here received an anonymous e-mail questioning why the department had not taken action against the rampant sale of bushmeat in Nabawan.

A group calling itself Wildlife Watchers of Sabah also sent to the media photos of bushmeat sale in Nabawan as recently as April 30.

Dept goes after hunters in Sabah
RUBEN SARIO The Star 4 May 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department is going after hunters to curb the illegal trade of bushmeat in the state.

Department enforcement chief Augustine Tuuga said they arrested two groups of hunters last week as part of this effort.

He declined to provide details of the arrests but said the hunters were found to have had in their possession wild boar, barking deer, pangolin and civet cats.

“We are going after the suppliers of bushmeat and we think this is the best approach in dealing with this problem,” he said in an interview yesterday.

He said they were of the view that going after people selling wildlife meat at the tamu or farmers’ market in the interior districts like Nabawan could lead to dangerous situations for their enforcement staff.

“The worry is that the situation could suddenly turn nasty when our staff seize the bushmeat,” Augustine added.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun had said that the department personnel had been threatened when carrying out checks at the Nabawan tamu.

It was also reported last November that a conservationist was similarly threatened when he tried taking photos of bushmeat on sale at the market.

Yesterday, anonymous emails were sent to the media here questioning why the department was failing to take any action against the rampant sale of bushmeat in Nabawan.

A group calling themselves Wildlife Watchers of Sabah also sent to the media photos of the sale of the bushmeat in Nabawan as recently as April 30.

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Malaysia: Carcass of de-tusked elephant found near Tasik Pedu

The Star 3 May 16;

ALOR STAR: A group of anglers stumbled upon the carcass of an elephant with its tusks removed near Pedu Lake on May 1, most likely killed by poachers.

The elephant died about two weeks ago, according to anglers who had passed by the Charok Jit area on their way to the lake.

Amir Wahab, secretary of the Tasik Pedu Fishermen, Breeders and Tourism Association cooperative, said he was told of the dead animal by a member of his staff, Faizuan Abu Hashim, 22.

Amir, 43, said he went to the area at about 3pm and found the elephant.

He said poachers could have hidden behind an illegal jetty in Tasik Pedu to attack the elephant when it emerged from the jungle for water.

"During the current El Nino phenomenon, wild animals such as elephants emerge from the jungle to drink from the lake," he said.

Fishermen in the area do not harm wildlife because they are focused on catching fish and only use jetties approved by local authorities, said Amir who operates a boathouse on Tasik Pedu.

He hoped that the state government and relevant authorities will act against poachers in the lake area.

Kedah Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department director Mohamad Hafid Rohani, when contacted, said a post-mortem will be done on the elephant to determine its cause of death.

He said there were two cases of elephant deaths in the area several years ago from poisoning. - Bernama

Jumbo death stirs up big flap
G.C. TAN The Star 4 May 16;

KUALA NERANG: Photographs of the carcass of an elephant minus its tusks lying on the bank of Pedu Lake near Hujung Kampung Pinang have gone viral.

It was quickly shared by Rizalis’ friend Christine Das who wrote: “I am so so sad today...Sigh! I truly hate humans who kill such innocent animals for greed and their selfish reasons...Yes..I hate. I really hate this part of mankind.”

The posting attracted wide reaction from social media users. Among them was SyauQi Beverly who asked: “Adakah gajah mati dulu baru org ambik gading?” (Did the elephant die before someone took its tusks?)

Boatman Abu Othman Ibrahim, 60, said that he saw the elephant looking healthy about two months back.

“I don’t think poachers killed it as some fishermen had noticed the elephant was sickly and walking with difficulty about two weeks ago,” he said.

A team from the Kedah Wildlife and National Parks Department took away a small part of the tusk yesterday.

Was elephant near Lake Pedu killed for its tusks?
MASRIWANIE MUHAMADING New Straits Times 3 May 16;

PADANG TERAP: The discovery on an adult elephant carcass near the shore of Lake Peru here has raised speculation that it could have been killed for its tusks.

Pedu Lake Fishermen and Breeders Cooperative Association secretary Amir Wahab said the carcass, located about an hour away from the Charok Air Keroh jetty, was discovered by a group of men fishing in the area on Sunday (May 1).

"Based on the condition of the carcass with its face and tusks hauled off, we believed that it was killed for the ivory.

"It is not surprising that the culprits managed to escape as there have been no security personnel guarding the area.

"The hunters may have used the jetty of the old resort near here to avoid being caught," he said.

Amir said this was the first time that an elephant carcass has been found in the lake area.

"For as long as I can remember, I think this is the first such case in the Pedu lake," he said.

Meanwhile, Kedah Wildlife and National Parks Department director Mohamad Hafid Rohani said they have received a report on the incident from the locals and are investigating the matter.

Wildlife Dept probing elephant’s death
G.C. TAN The Star 5 May 16;

KUALA NERANG: Samples from the elephant carcass found in Pedu Lake were obtained by the Wildlife and National Parks Department forensic team to determine the cause of death.

Its state director Mohamad Hafid Rohani said, when contacted, that the team took the samples back to its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur for further examination.

“We are still in the dark over the elephant’s death,” he said.

The Star visited the site where the carcass was found, accompanied by 60-year-old fisherman Abu Othman Ibrahim who said he had seen many elephants roaming the area.

“I think I spotted that particular elephant two months ago and it seemed heathy at that time.

“Two weeks later, I found it dead and floating in the lake.

“Last week, I came across the carcass again. This time it was at the riverbank in an area called Charok Jaik.

“I found many elephant footprints leading to the carcass, I believe the animals were checking out their dead comrade,” he said.

Abu Othman said it was unlikely that poachers had killed the elephant as a few fishermen had spotted an elephant walking in an unsteady manner and appearing sick about two months back.

Meanwhile, state Environment committee chairman Datuk Dr Leong Yong Kong said the carcass was left untouched in accordance with the Wildlife Department’s standard operating procedure.

He added that a check showed no gunshot wounds on the carcass.

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Malaysia: Controversial Baram Dam project scrapped days before polls in Sarawak

The mega project, would have seen the government build a dam along the second longest river in Malaysia which would have resulted in the displacement of hundreds of native Dayak communities in the area.
Sujadi Siswo Channel NewsAsia 3 May 16;

SARAWAK, Malaysia: A controversial project in the state of Sarawak has been scrapped by Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional just days ahead of state elections.

The mega Baram Dam project, which would see the government build a dam along the second longest river in Malaysia, was meant to enhance investment opportunities in Sarawak.

However, the project would have also resulted in the displacement of hundreds of native Dayak communities in the area, as well as destroyed the bio-diversity along the 400km long river.

“There are a lot of people who have said (the move) is an election gimmick,” said Peter Kallang, Chairman of Save rivers, a conservation group that has protested against the building of the dam for the last three years.

“But for me, I give the Chief Minister the benefit of the doubt. The guy could be genuine. For now, the villagers can go back to (their) normal (lives),” he added.

The Sarawak government has denied that it was under pressure to scrap the project before the May 7 state elections.

“The reason (for scrapping the dam) is that I have examined the matter. There’s no need to have another big dam,” said Adenan Satem, Chief Minister of Sarawak, “We can have mini dams and so on. But not a big dam especially when we don’t supply west Malaysia anymore,” he added.


The project was first mooted in 2008, six years before Mr Adenan took office. Despite the announcement of cancellation, the activists are still not convinced. Save Rivers had originally erected a blockade to stop the construction of an access road leading to the site of the proposed dam on the Baram River.

The group says the blockade will remain despite the announcement to cancel the Baram dam project as it is still not confident that the cancellation will be permanent because the previous administration had changed its mind on earlier dam projects.

“His campaign line is 'Give me 5 more years', (but) 5 years doesn’t mean anything because if you look at the Bakun (dam) during Mahathir’s time they stopped it twice because of the Asian economic downturn,” said Kallang.

“There was a delay of 10 years, after that they built Bakun again. So that is what I’m very wary about. I don’t know what the next guy will do. Probably they will build it again.”

Kallang added that the government should work with Save Rivers to explore alternative energy sources such as solar and smaller-scale hydroelectric projects so there will be no need for the Baram dam.

The 1,200 megawatt Baram Dam was one of 12 dams to be built under a state government multi-billion dollar programme.

Hydro-electricity power from these dams was planned to be used to develop the state and spur investment in heavy industry. At least four dams have already been built, including the controversial Bakun Dam.

- CNA/yt

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Indonesia: Dry season arrives in Jambi

Jakarta Post 3 May 16;

Despite rain still pouring over a number of regions, and even causing flash floods and landslides, the provincial office of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency ( BMKG Jambi ) claims the transitional season has now arrived for the province.

BMKG Jambi head Nurangesti Widyastuti said the transition from the rainy to the dry season, was expected to take place from May 2 to June 2. “This year, the nature of the dry season is not the same as last year. This year will be more normal,” said Nurangesti on Monday.

It will be different from 2015 because the El Niño weather phenomenon caused extreme drought.

According to Nurangesti, the dry season starting did not mean there would not be rain, as rain will still likely occur but with lower intensity compared to the previous months.

To anticipate the change, the Jambi Disaster Management Agency ( BPBD Jambi ) stated that drought this year would not happen simultaneously.

In some parts of Jambi, the dry season will arrive sooner and rainfall will be lower, but in other regions, rainfall is predicted to remain high in early May, so people are asked to be on alert for possible flooding.

BPBD Jambi head Arief Munandar said drought would begin in eastern Jambi, such as Jambi city and East Tanjung jabung, West Tanjung jabung and Muaro jambi regencies in early May. “However, in the west, rainfall will remain high,” he said.

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Indonesia: Orangutans rebound after forest fires

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 3 May 16;

An orangutan rehabilitation center in Ketapang regency, West Kalimantan, has succeeded in evacuating and rehabilitating over 160 orangutans, 50 of which have been released back into national parks.

The latest success by Yayasan Inisiasi Alam Rehabilitasi Indonesia ( YIARI ) on Monday saw four orangutans released at the Bukit Baka Bukut Raya National Park on the border of West and Central Kalimantan.

Covering an area of 1,810 square kilometers in the heart of Kalimantan, the park is the habitat of 817 endemic flora and fauna including orangutan and honey bears ( Helarctos malayanus euryspilus ).

The four primates had undergone a rehabilitation program at YIARI’s shelter for several months. They were all victims of a forest fire that occurred at the end of 2015, where they were rescued at the beginning of 2016.

“The four were all still wild but they only needed two to three months at the rehabilitation center,” YIARI’s program director Karmele Liano Sánchez told The Jakarta Post.

The shelter began operations in November 2009 on a plot of almost 60 hectares. Currently, the facility has 25 animal nurses and is equipped with 15 cages, a clinic and an orangutan school.

Apart from YIARI’s shelter, another orangutan rehabilitation facility has also been operating in Sintang, West Kalimantan, managed by Yayasan Kobus.

Every orangutan evacuated by the West Kalimantan Natural Resource Conservation Agency ( BKSDA ) is rehabilitated at either of the shelters depending on the distance from where the orangutan was rescued.

This year alone the agency has evacuated 12 orangutans. Three of which were sent to the Sintang shelter and the rest were sent to YIARI.

Head of the agency’s forest ranger unit, Azmardi, said the time needed to rehabilitate the orangutans depended on how long the animals had been under human care. As they need adequate treatment to get them prepared for the life back in the wild.

“If [an orangutan] still has wild characteristics when rescued, a lengthy rehabilitation program is not necessary,” said Azmardi.

He added that in 2015, his organization rescued 49 orangutans. Of them, seven were rehabilitated at Sintang, 34 were treated at YIARI shelter and the remaining eight were promptly released to their natural habitat.

Investigations and data collection on the ownership of protected animals have been conducted by the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program ( GPOCP ) in Ketapang regency. They do so by visiting and monitoring villages, especially those located close to forests as well as mining sites and plantation concession areas.

GPOCP’s animal protection manager Edi Rahman said that 2015 investigations and monitoring activities revealed 13 orangutans were being kept by residents in Ketapang and Kayong Utara. Rescue measures have been conducted in cooperation with local authorities, as nine of the orangutans were evacuated in March.

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Indonesia: Norway to develop peatland-friendly agriculture in Indonesia

Antara 4 May 16;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Norwegian Ambassador to Indonesia, Stig Traavik, has said his government is ready to help Indonesia to develop peat land-friendly agriculture.

"Well help Indonesia in mastering how to cultivate plants without drying the peat lands, and how to increase the value added of the plants. There are some plants that can grow without drying the peat, such as sago," Traavik said here on Tuesday.

He added that the Norwegian government will also help to market the commodities produced through peat-friendly agricultural practices.

The Ambassador said in principle, Norway is ready to support all efforts to prevent damage that land and forest fires cause.

According to him, the important thing to prevent forest fires, especially in peat lands, is not to let the lands dry up.

"If the land becomes dry, then no technology in the world can cope with it. And if it burns, Indonesia will have a very big problem," he explained.

Traavik said Norway strongly supports every effort to restore peatlands. According to him, land and forest fires occuring in Indonesia now have the attention of his country.

During his visit to Pekanbaru, the Norwegian Ambassador was accompanied by the Chairman of the Indonesian Peat Land Restoration Agency, Nazir Foead.

The Ambassador visited Rimbo Panjang village, which witnesses land and forest fires every year.

During the visit, the ambassador, the agency, as well as the representatives of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry inaugurated 50 boreholes which serve to moisten the lands.

Earlier, in February 2016, the government of Norway had allocated a grant of US$50 million to help the peat lands restoration program in Indonesia. Meanwhile, the US government has also allocated a grant of $17 million.


BRG, Norway review drilling of borewells in Kampar Regency
Antara 3 May 16;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The Peat Restoration Agency (BRG), Riau provincial government, and Norwegian Ambassador to Indonesia reviewed the construction of deep borewells in Rimbo Panjang Village, Kampar Regency, Riau Province.

The review was conducted within the framework of Integration for Preventing Forest Fires and Land and Restoration Action through drilling borewells and reinforcing canal bulkheads.

"I was amazed at Riaus achievement of reducing hotspots by 89 percent during the January-April 2016 period as compared to the same period last year, and it was good," Norwegian Ambassador to Indonesia Stig Traavik stated here on Tuesday.

The ambassador lauded Acting Governor of Riau Arsyadjuliandi Rachman and all parties who had been working hard in preventing forest fires and extinguishing them swiftly.

On the same occasion, BRG Head Nazir Foead revealed that the Norwegian representatives were on a visit to Rimbo Panjang Village to review the construction of deep wells in peatland areas.

"The governor has provided the latest data on some seven to eight thousand canal bulkheads that have been built in Riau Province, and this figure is the highest among all provinces in Indonesia," he pointed out.

Foead affirmed that the current visit was aimed at reviewing the process of building deep borewells in Rimbo Panjang Village as the area was annually ravaged by fires.

"As the area is prone to fires, the smoke always engulfs the airport, so the Indonesian National Armed Forces and Indonesian Police have built canal bulkheads, and we plan to add more deep wells," he explained.

He noted that the deep wells will help to anticipate the extent of current water deficit when land and forest fires raged.

Foead explained that Norway had, since last year, offered assistance several times to prevent fires and restore peatland areas as well as to construct canal bulkheads.

"Norway has provided significant help in the reinforcement of canal bulkheads through a non-governmental organization, and the construction was carried out in line with the technical guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry as well as the provincial and local regency governments," he remarked.

He noted that Norway had lent support to conserve forests, restore peatlands, and prevent forest fires in Indonesia.

In February 2016, the Norwegian government had agreed to allocate a grant of US$50 million to help restore Indonesias peatlands, while the United States had contributed $17 million.

Deputy of Operation Construction and Maintenance for Restoration of Peatlands Alue Dohong stated that the construction of deep wells and the reinforcement of canal bulkheads in Rimbo Panjang Village had begun by drilling 50 deep wells and installing five pumps.

"Thus, later on, there would be a symbolic delivery of the pumps during the direct construction of deep wells," he remarked.

(Reported by Fazar Muhardi and Diana Syafni/Uu.M052/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

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Indonesia: Attractive saltwater lakes in Raja Ampat

Otniel Tamindael Antara 4 May 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Dozens of attractive saltwater lakes on several islands of Raja Ampat in the Indonesian province of West Papua add to its charms as a tourism destination.

Raja Ampat is rich in a diverse range of coral reefs, sea-grasses, mangrove forests and has unique and beautiful small islands.

Some of the islands in Raja Ampat have dozens of saltwater lakes with unique biota such as jellyfish.

Even in the Misool conservation area, there are more than 40 saltwater lakes and most of them are inhabited by jellyfish which do not sting.

The saltwater lakes with marine biota in Raja Ampat are not widely known and still need further research to determine their condition and functioning in detail.

Lately, the lakes with jellyfish have started to attract local and foreign tourists.

Those saltwater lakes are expected later to be an ideal setting for outdoor activities like rafting, canoeing, swimming and even fishing.

The existence of the lakes in Raja Ampat is expected to give maximum benefit to the local society and to attract more and more domestic and foreign tourists.

Unfortunately, some tourists have assessed that the tour rates offered by Raja Ampat were expensive and it may affect other travelers keen on visiting this tourist area.

"Raja Ampat is much more beautiful than Bali, but the tour rates are more expensive when compared to Bali," Sami Ninggoroh, a tourist of Indian descent who visited Raja Ampat along with some Japanese tourists, stated on Tuesday.

According to Ninggoroh, the Raja Ampat tour rates should be reconsidered as these are quite high, and may negatively impact visitors traffic.

"We have been to Bali and found that the services offered there were better while the travel rates were cheaper as compared to Raja Ampat," he pointed out.

Further, Ninggoroh opined that tourists visiting Bali will certainly want to revisit it, but visitors to Raja Ampat will think twice before planning another trip as it is quite expensive.

He noted that besides being costly, other issues in Raja Ampat also need to be addressed, especially with regard to the services, so that every visitor feels comfortable and craves to come back.

"The services offered by the people of Bali to the tourists are very good as they highly value the tourism sector. They serve the tourists in as best a way as possible. Similar approach should also be applied in Raja Ampat," he emphasized.

Ninggoroh stated that Raja Ampat, as a marine tourism attraction, was already popular across the world, but the tourism packages being offered should be made cheaper.

"The local governments must lower the tour rates and improve the tourism supporting facilities," he added.

Known as the most biodiverse marine habitat on earth, Raja Ampat is an ideal destination for both local and foreign tourists to relax and unwind.

The visitors to Raja Ampat have the opportunity to witness a multitude of marine habitats and coral reefs at one glance without having to swim a stroke.

Raja Ampat comprises four large islands and hundreds of dots and specks off the fragmented western corner of the land of Papua, the worlds second-largest island.

Most visitors arrive in Raja Ampat through Sorong, a city on the far west coast of Papua, which has an airport, army barracks, and a karaoke bar called Happy Puppy.

In less than two hours from Sorong, the visitors can reach Raja Ampat, where they can indulge in activities such as swimming, diving and snorkeling, or just relax.

Reaching Raja Ampat has now become easier as the Bahari Express fast boat, a public transportation service, is offering rides to foreign tourists from Sorong city to visit the tourist attractions there.

Raja Ampat is home to a multitude of attractions and experiences.

With thousands of people visiting Raja Ampats marine and natural attractions, visitors can skip the crowds and experience it all aboard the Bahari Express fast boat.

"Our ship serves not only the local passengers but also foreign tourists who want to visit Raja Ampat," explained Erwin, a Bahari Express crew member.

The ticket prices of Bahari Express from Sorong to Raja Ampat are only Rp125 thousand per person for economy class and Rp220 thousand per person for business class, and these rates are applicable for both local passengers and foreign tourists alike.

There is high interest among foreign tourists to take a ride on the Bahari Express boat as the services offered are satisfying and enjoyable.

"Every day, several tourists from different countries board the Bahari Express boat from Sorong to Raja Ampat," Erwin stated, adding that the ship serves the Sorong-Raja Ampat route twice daily.

There, the tourists can enjoy not only the beautiful marine biodiversity but also enjoy the scenic beaches and gain local insights into the history of Raja Ampat.

In terms of historic relevance, in the 15th century, the Raja Ampat Archipelago was part of the reign of Tidore Sultanate, a great kingdom centered in the Maluku Islands.

To run its government, the Sultanate of Tidore appointed four local kings to rule the islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool, which are the fourth-largest until this day.

The term "Four Kings" who ruled the islands became the basis for the name Raja Ampat, which comprises some 610 islands, with a 753 kilometers long coastal line.(*)

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Wave of dead sea creatures hits Chile's beaches

Giovanna Fleitas AFP Yahoo News 4 May 16;

Santiago (AFP) - Heaps of dead whales, salmon and sardines blamed on the El Nino freak weather phenomenon have clogged Chile's Pacific beaches in recent months.

Last year, scientists were shocked when more than 300 whales turned up dead on remote bays of the southern coast. It was the first in a series of grim finds.

At the start of this year, a surge in algae in the water choked to death an estimated 40,000 tons of salmon in the Los Lagos region, where the Andes tower over lakes and green farming valleys down to the coast.

That is about 12 percent of annual salmon production in Chile, the world's second-biggest producer of the fish after Norway.

This month, some 8,000 tons of sardines were washed up at the mouth of the Queule river. And thousands of dead clams piled up on the coast of Chiloe Island.

Authorities blamed a "red tide" of algae.

They banned fishing in the affected region, putting thousands of fishermen out of work.

"We have red tides every year in southern Chile, but this time it reached further north," said Jorge Navarro, a researcher at the marine institute IDEAL.

"It affected bivalve populations (such as clams) that had never before been exposed like this" to the algae, he said.

On the shores of Santa Maria Island off the center off Chile's long coast, cuttlefish have been washed up dead in the thousands.

Various beaches in the center of the country were closed meanwhile as the specimens of the dreaded Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish, normally foreign to the area, floated nearby.

- Shifting oceans -

Scientists largely blame the anomalies on El Nino, a disruptive weather phenomenon that comes with warming sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.

With its 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) of Pacific coastline, Chile is particularly exposed to the effects of El Nino, which strikes every few years.

"We think that a common factor in the deaths of creatures in southern Chile, in the salmon farms and in fish off the coast is the El Nino phenomenon," said experts at the Chilean fisheries institute IFOP.

The current El Nino "has been classed as one of the most intense in the past 65 years," they told AFP in a statement.

Warmer sea water can lead to greater quantities of algae. They kill others species by consuming oxygen in the water or filling it with toxins.

"The Chilean ocean is shifting and changing," said Sergio Palma, an oceanographer at Valparaiso Catholic University.

"There has been a series of events that indicate an El Nino which is making its presence felt in many ways."

- Fish farming impact -

But scientists also suspect other causes for the mass destruction of the sea creatures.

The huge toll of whales last year "could be caused by a natural ecological process" that may be nothing to do with what killed the sardines and clams, said Laura Farias, an oceanographer at Concepcion University.

"There is no ecological, oceanographic or climatic explanation" linking the whales to the other incidents, she said.

She suspects the growth of fish farming in Chile's southern Patagonia region is to blame for killing the salmon and clams.

"There are studies indicating that in Patagonia the greater occurrence of toxic blooms could be a consequence of aquaculture."

Various scientists have said the current El Nino seems to be subsiding, causing the surface of the sea to cool slowly.

The mass destruction of sea life has been a wake-up call, however.

"Chile still lacks information about the sea," said Valesca Montes, a fisheries specialist at the Chilean branch of the World Wildlife Fund.

"It has to invest in oceanographic studies, so that we can predict certain events" and be better prepared for climate change.

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Global water shortages to deliver 'severe hit' to economies, World Bank warns

The Middle East, north Africa, central Asia and south Asia due to suffer biggest economic hit from water scarcity as climate change takes hold, report finds
Suzanne Goldenberg The Guardian 3 May 16;

Water shortages will deliver a “severe hit” to the economies of the Middle East, central Asia, and Africa by the middle of the century, taking double digits off their GDP, the World Bank warned on Tuesday.

By 2050, growing demand for cities and for agriculture would put water in short supply in regions where it is now plentiful – and worsen shortages across a vast swath of Africa and Asia, spurring conflict and migration, the bank said.

Water shortages could strip off 14% of GDP in the Middle East and nearly 12% of GDP in the Sahel – without a radical shift in management, according to the bank’s projections.

Central Asia could lose close to 11% of GDP and east Asia about 7% under business-as-usual water management policies, according to a new report.

Taking into account all regions, the mid-range toll of water shortages on GDP was about 6%.

“There is a severe hit on GDP,” said Richard Damania, lead environmental economist for the Bank and author of High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy.

Governments have grown increasingly concerned about the threat to water supply because of a combination of climate change and increasing demand.

Barack Obama invited business leaders to the White House last March for a business summit aimed at protecting California from the next drought – by mobilising investment in data and other technologies that would promote more efficient use of water.

The biggest economic hit due to water deficits were expected to occur in the Middle East, north Africa, central Asia, and parts of south Asia, the report found. There would be virtually no impact on the economies of North America and western Europe.

Much of the world faces a hotter and drier future under climate change, according to scientists. Rainfall – including the monsoons that fortify agriculture in south Asia – will become more unpredictable. Storm surges could contaminate freshwater reservoirs.

But there will also be pressure on water supply from rising populations – especially in cities – and increased demand from agriculture. “It turns out that economic growth is a thirsty business,” Damania said.

Some cities could see water availability drop by two-thirds by 2050, the report found. Water shortages could have rebounding effects on food production, public health, and household incomes – with families forced to pay more for a basic necessity.

But, the report said, encouraging more efficient use of water could make a big difference in the mid-century economic scenarios for regions threatened by water shortages.

In some countries, about two-thirds of water is lost to old and leaky pipes.

Good water management policies would add more than 11% to the GDP of central Asian countries and blunt the impact of water shortages in the Middle East, the report found.

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