Best of our wild blogs: 11 May 16

Night Macro Photography Workshop @ Pulau Ubin, 28 May 2016
Macro Photography in Singapore

Reefy East Coast Park with seagrasses and mangroves too!
wild shores of singapore

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Crossing lines at The Substation

The Developing MacRitchie installation at Each Blade Of Grass Each Shrub Each Tree, which arises from the Cross Island Line debate on whether it should cut across the MacRitchie nature reserve.
DIOS VINCOY JR Straits Times 10 May 16;

Arts centre explores the Cross Island Line issue in its first exhibition under new artistic director Alan Oei
Huang LijieArts Correspondent

The Substation's first exhibition under its artistic director Alan Oei responds to a hot-button issue.

Each Blade Of Grass Each Shrub Each Tree, which runs till Sunday, takes off from public debate about the Cross Island Line and whether it should cut through Singapore's largest nature reserve at MacRitchie.

The show features nine artists and academics, including artists Susie Wong and Robert Zhao and Associate Professor Timothy Barnard of the National University of Singapore, who specialises in the environmental and cultural history of islands in South-east Asia. The works on display include photographs, drawings and installations.

The show's focus on nature and the urban environment is a departure from the arts centre's year-long programming theme which, until recently, was on memories, history and nostalgia. It was changed to an exploration of the centre's role and relationship to the arts community following public furore from some in the community about Mr Oei's plans for the centre (see other story).

The timing of this topical show "needed to be now", says the 39-year-old.

"If the timing is right, the way you come to an exhibition can feel so much more profound and loaded because of a real issue elsewhere."

He adds: "We do not take on just things that are highly programmed and planned beforehand, but also look at what is topical and necessary, especially when artists have been engaging with these sorts of themes about nature."

Artist Geraldine Kang, for example, has been photographing fences around construction sites in Singapore. Her work emphasises how these structures may be seen as banal, commonplace objects here, where building continually happens, but they are also, in their own right, things of beauty and veils that render the landscape mysterious to passers-by.

Her work, By Unit Of Measurement III (2016), is made up of about 200 photographs of construction fences snaking around the walls of The Substation's gallery, forming a border within the enclosed space.

Artist Chu Hao Pei, on the other hand, has been exploring the loss, as well as possible loss, of Singapore's nature and cultural heritage through his works, which range across various mediums.

His immersive installation, Developing MacRitchie (2015), directly references the Cross Island Line issue and challenges the notion that development must take the form of new constructions.

Mr Oei says that while the idea for this show was sparked by a specific topic, the exhibition and the works in it seek to expand on that premise and invite viewers to consider people's relationship with nature and the city.

"We're not trying to galvanise a position for activists to come together to petition the Government," he says.

"I'm bringing together different people who have different ways of thinking about nature in the same space and it's up to (the viewers) to see where they want to go from there."

He adds: "Artists can be as dissonant and strong-minded about where they want to stand but, for us, being an interphase with the public, our curatorial responsibility is to keep positions open."

WHERE: The Substation Gallery, 45 Armenian Street

WHEN: Till Sunday, noon to 8pm


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Malaysia: Water rationing may be extended in time and area

Johor seeks approval from SPAN for move due to shortage of raw water
ZAZALI MUSA The Star 11 May 16;

JOHOR BARU: Scheduled water rationing in the Kota Tinggi and Mersing districts may be extended and even include other areas due to the alarming situation of raw water supply here.

SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd is waiting for approval from the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) for the extension.

Its corporate communications head Jamaluddin Jamil said SPAN would consider the request by SAJ Holdings, considering the latest data on river levels and water treatment plants in both districts.

“Due to the alarming situation of the current raw water supply from rivers and water treatment plants in Kota Tinggi and Mersing, the possibility of extending the rationing is higher,” he said yesterday.

Jamaluddin said the rationing might be extended for another month from May 16, a day after it was to end on May 15.

The rationing, which started from April 18 and affected 85,000 consumers, was put into place after levels at the four water treatment plants in the two districts reached critical stage. The plants are in Lok Heng and Sungai Gembut in Kota Tinggi, and Sungai Mersing and Tenglu in Mersing.

“This is the best measure to ensure that we will be able to supply water to users in the affected areas,” he said.

During the exercise, he said consumers would be able to have water supply for a day, followed by two days without water.

Jamaluddin said the level at Sungai Sedeli Kecil, which supplied water to Lok Heng and Sungai Gembut, was critical.

A similar situation, he said, was also brewing at the Sungai Mersing and Tenglu plants where the level has been dropping daily.

“We are also closely monitoring the level at the Sungai Layang dam, which is now at 19.28m, below the critical level of 23.5m,” he said.

The level at Sungai Layang which supplies water to the Layang dam, he added, was also dropping at the rate of 0.04m daily.

He said that should the situation not improve in the coming days, rationing will be implemented again in the Pasir Gudang and Masai areas, and parts of Johor Baru.

Some 575,000 consumers in Pasir Gudang, Masai and parts of Johor Baru were affected by rationing from Aug 16 to Sept 15 last year, which was later extended to the end of the year.

Although heavy rains were recorded in several parts of Johor in the past weeks, it only rained in places like Batu Pahat, Pontian, Gelang Patah and Muar, and not in areas where the river water was receding, said Jamaluddin.

Water tankers on standby
The Star 11 May 16;

JOHOR BARU: As many as 130 water tanker are on standby to help fight fires in any area experiencing water shortage, said the Fire and Rescue Department.

Department director-general Datuk Wira Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said each tanker, which can carry 20,000 litres of water, can be used for fire-fighting for 20 to 30 minutes.

“The tankers will be used as an alternative to supply water to fire hydrants in areas where there is water shortage.

“The shortage can affect the water supply to the hydrants,” he said after the World Firefighter’s Day celebration at the Persada International Convention Centre yesterday.

The event was earlier launched by Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.

Wan Mohd Nor explained that fire hydrants for residential or commercial users shared the same water source from treatment plants.

He said about half of the total of 280 fire stations nationwide were equipped with water tankers and were not facing any water shortage currently.

On another matter, Wan Mohd Nor said a request for an increase in monthly allowances for firefighters has been submitted to the Public Service Department.

He said it was timely for the allowances to be raised due to the long shifts put in by the 18,000 firefighters in the country compared with other professions.

Firefighters currently receive an incentive aid of RM110 monthly as they are not allowed overtime allowances. Those in special teams, such as divers, the Malaysia Emergency Response Services and special taskforce, receive RM100 each month, he added.

The event showcased a parade of some 2,000 officers, including firemen, emergency response teams, fire cadets, and airport and army fire services personnel. About 60 fire-fighting vehicles were also displayed.

In his speech, Urban Well-Being, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan thanked Sultan Ibrahim for his generosity in allowing eight of his antique fire engines to be displayed in conjunction with the event.

He also said that firemen deserved much credit for the time, energy and lives sacrificed in ensuring the safety of the people and country.

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Malaysia: States brace for wet weather as river levels rise following rainstorms


PETALING JAYA: The weather has gone from extremely hot to extremely wet. Now, several major rivers passing through townships such as Shah Alam, Subang and Sungai Buloh are threatening to burst their banks.

Following heavy downpours over the past week, the water levels at these rivers have shot up, sparking fears of flooding.

An afternoon downpour yesterday caused the reading at Sungai Damansara in Kampung Melayu Subang to rise to 17.72m at 5pm, exceeding the danger level of 17.4m. It ebbed to 16m at 8pm, just shy of the alert level of 16.4m.

Last Thursday, the river level was only 14.69m, according to the Drainage and Irrigation Depart­ment’s flood information website.

The water level at Sungai Kelang in Tugu Keris, Selangor, has reached 3.63m, just below the danger level of 3.9m.

It was only 2.25m at 4pm before rising due to the heavy showers. On Saturday, the river level was 2.44m.

Sungai Buloh in Sri Aman measured 6.97m, exceeding the warning level of 6.8m. Its danger level is 7.5m.

In Johor, Sungai Lenik in Segamat rose to 5.6m as of 5pm yesterday, above its alert level at 5m. Its danger level is 6m, according to the same website.

Two locations along Persiaran Kayangan in Shah Alam were hit by flash floods yesterday, according to Star Radio Traffic.

The two spots were near Concorde Hotel and Darul Ehsan Aquatic Centre.

The Shah Alam police also confirmed that Persiaran Damai was hit with floods which started at 5.20pm and receded by 6pm.

Last Saturday, strong winds and thunderstorms wreaked havoc in parts of the Klang Valley, causing flash floods and trees to fall, as well as leading to traffic jams and blocked pathways.

Putrajaya was not spared either as two vehicles were trapped in flood waters in Precincts 3 and 4.

The Meteorological Department website yesterday said scattered thunderstorms are expected this afternoon in practically all the states, from Kedah to Sarawak.

The department’s director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail said the rains marked the inter-monsoon season which began in the first week of April and will last until the third week of this month.

“During this season, there will be frequent rain in many parts of the peninsula, western Sabah as well as western and central Sarawak.

Selangor is now preparing to handle any flash flood and to divert excess water off the roads during downpours.

The state’s task force on floods met on Monday to discuss the flood mitigation projects, said the state exco man in charge of infrastructure, Zaidy Abdul Talib.

“All flood mitigation projects now underway will be hastened.

“The mitigation work includes widening drains and water channels, deepening the flood retention ponds as well building new ponds,” he said.

He said the 2016 budget to counter flash floods had been increased to RM80mil and the relevant agencies were fully prepared for floods.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar admitted that there had been a lot of “planning mistakes” relating to irrigation and drainage.

“I have taken note of the incidents of flash floods in the country. It is the result of human intervention. Nature is disturbed and it is fighting back.

“As far as we are concerned, we want to educate the local councils on the lack of foresight in planning.

“We have to tell them that mistakes have been made all over the country (in planning for irrigation and drainage), which has caused flash floods,” he said.

The minister wants a seminar to bring the attention of all state government planners, local councils and the private sector to discuss the impact of proper planning.

Drainage dept ready for action in case of floods

George Town: The Drainage and Irrigation Department is ready to spring into action should floods occur.

Its deputy director S. Ratna Raja said all rivers had been designed with a 100-year Average Recurrence Interval (ARI) of rainfall.

“As we live on an island, we have to deal with high tides as well.

“We will pump water from the rivers into the sea to ensure that there is no major flooding,” he said yesterday.

Ratna Raja said the department would also carry out regular maintenance of the rivers and monsoon drains to ensure they were functioning normally.

In Butterworth, the Seberang Prai Muni­cipal Council’s “Special Squad” is tasked with responding to and operating during emergency situations.

“The squad will clean up the drains and ensure that they are not clogged. They are also trained to chop down trees,” said council secretary Rozali Mohamud yesterday.

In Alor Setar, state Housing and Local Government Committee chairman Datuk Badrul Hisham Hashim said Merbok needed another water plant to solve the water issue.

“We can no longer rely on the Gunung Jerai reservoir because the population here is growing.

“It’s a long-term plan to build the plant, which will have a different mechanism from the Tupah and Merbok plants.

“In the meantime, we are looking for sources of water to be channelled to the Tupah and Merbok plants pending the construction of a new plant,” he told a press conference after launching the Mangrove Tree Planting Programme in Merbok yesterday.

More than 10,000 people here had complained about their water supply in the last two months due to the El Nino phenomenon.

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Indonesia: Govt to Issue Peatlands Restoration Guidelines

Edo Karensa Jakarta Globe 10 May 16;

Jakarta. The government has prepared guidelines to boost peatlands restoration programs after disastrous forest and land fires affected some provinces last year, an official said on Tuesday (10/05).

The newly-established Peatlands Restoration Agency, or BRG, has gone further by preparing the roadmap and guidelines for peatlands management and restoration programs which will be coordinated with authorities and stakeholders in affected areas.

Budi Satria Wardhana, planning and cooperation deputy director at the BRG, said the roadmap and guidelines will be issued next June to help local administrations and firms review peatlands management.

“We will issue the guidelines on canal blocking programs, its development strategies, peatlands restoration and consideration of social economy aspects for local residents,” Budi said at the sidelines of Peatland Paludiculture workshop in Jakarta on Tuesday (10/05).

The provincial-level Peatlands Restoration Agency will use the guidelines to take suitable steps and efforts according to its peatlands condition, Budi said.

However, he noted that only four of seven provinces have formed provincial-level peatlands restoration agencies although the central government has pushed the efforts since last January. They are South Sumatra, Riau, Jambi and Central Kalimantan.

BRG targeted three other provinces — West Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and Papua — to establish its own provincial agencies on peatlands restoration by the end of this year, Budi said.

Paludiculture practices

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO, suggested the government consider the use of wet peatlands ecosystem practices, dubbed paludiculture, as an alternatives for sustainable practice.

“While maintaining peatland ecosystem services, people practicing paludiculture also produce traditional agricultural commodities such as food, feed, fibre and fuel, while also generating the other raw materials,” said Mark Smulders, FAO representative in Indonesia.

He added that further research and piloting project is required to identify appropriate paludiculture options for the country, adding a monitoring system on the long term impacts of selected species and practices, both on food security and climate change.

BRG plans to include paludiculture system in the guidelines of peatlands restoration programs, but the implementation will depend on the analysis and situation of each regions' peatlands, Budi said.

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Indonesia: Most Customers Welcome Paid Plastic Bag Policy: Survey

Ari Supriyanti Rikin & Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 10 May 16;

Jakarta. Three months after the Ministry of Environment and Forestry implemented a rule requiring customers to pay for plastic shopping bags, the policy continues to be monitored.

The policy was adopted in 22 cities across Indonesia and five areas in Greater Jakarta, to reduce waste and promote environmental conservation.

Surveys have shown that most customers welcome the policy, with 97 percent of respondents agreeing that plastic waste has a particularly negative impact on the environment.

Sudirman, the director for waste management at the environment ministry, stated that the policy has been monitored from the first day of implementation on Feb. 21 until the end of April.

"The results indicate that people are aware that plastic waste plays a role in environmental pollution and endangers the health of others," Sudirman said on Monday (09/05).

He added that some respondents even suggested that retail outlets should be banned from providing plastic bags to customers altogether.

Additionally, he said that since the policy was implemented, the use of plastic bags was reduced by 30 percent.

The environment ministry has asked the Ministry of Finance to consider a tax on all plastic packaging materials, including beverage bottles.

"From a technical standpoint, we will support this [tax on plastic packaging materials]. The finance ministry is currently coordinating that. The collected taxes will be used to support the Public Service Agency's industry of environmentally friendly recycled plastics," the director said.

The paid plastic bag policy applies to all retailers, including supermarkets, stores and vendors at traditional markets.

The cost of plastic bags differ between cities and regions, but the ministry has placed a minimum tax of Rp 200 per bag.

A recent study showed that Indonesia dumps between 500,000 and 1.3 million metric tons of plastic trash into the sea every year, making it the world's second-largest polluter after China.

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Indonesia: NGOs against expansion of coal mining industry

Antara 10 May 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - A number of non governmental organizations including Wahana Lingkungan Hidup (Walhi), Jaringan Advokasi Tambang (Jatam) and Greenpeace Indonesia expressed their opposition to expansion of coal mining industry in the country.

"Expansion of coal mining industry to increase coal production for exports and for domestic consumption has made the country more dependent on the unclean energy," Walhi spokesman Khalisah Khalid said.

"Whereas, the country has in abundance sources of clean energy that could easily be accessed by the people," Khalisah said here on Tuesday.

He said the country could not afford to wait much longer before turning to clean energy and stop using coal, one of the main pollutants in the country.

Coal mining industry has caused extensive ecological disasters, he said.

Meanwhile, Jatam coordinator Hendrik Siregar said fundamental change must be made immediately such as by amending the national energy policy and electrification ratio which is based on fossil energy.

The change in policy would prove the government commitment in climate change, which more and more extreme, he said.

The government should abandon projects that would benefit only a few people in favor of projects which benefit the majority of the people, he added.

Chairman of Greenpeace Indonesia Longgena Ginting said the government needs to set a more ambitious target in renewable energy development.

"Indonesia should not follow the Chinese and Indian model of development which now cause big problem of pollution threatening the public health. The two countries have built their energy industry dependent on coal," he said.

Indonesia, therefore, should immediately start large scale development of renewable energy before it is too late, he said.(*)

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