Best of our wild blogs: 18 May 16

The full moon of the fourth month on Ubin
The Long and Winding Road

Operation No Release 2016 – an annual exercise to prevent the release of the wrong animals in the wrong place!

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Otterly-cute: Family of otters spotted in Singapore’s CBD

According to an onlooker, the otters later made their way back to the riverside, which suggests that it could have been where they came from.
Xabryna Kek Channel NewsAsia 17 May 16;

SINGAPORE: A family of 10 otters was spotted at the Central Business District in Singapore on Monday evening (May 17).

According to Mr Lionel Mattey, who was walking home from work, the otters were playing at Bayfront Avenue on the grass verge about 50 metres from the river, near The Float@Marina Bay.

“I thought it was a very nice thing to see bearing in mind it’s the CBD, during rush hour,” he said.

Mr Mattey added that curious onlookers also gathered around to take photos of them, including some bystanders at the top of the bridge.

The otters later made their way back to the riverside, which was likely where they came from, he said.

While this is Mr Mattey’s first encounter with the otters, otter spotting in Singapore has been more common in recent years. Most recently, an otter was almost hit by a car when it tried to cross the road at East Coast Park.

- CNA/xk

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Malaysia: Veggie prices up due to heat and dry spell brought on by El Nino

YEE XIANG YUN The Star 18 May 16;

JOHOR BARU: The extended spell of hot weather due to El Nino has taken a toll on the crops, causing the prices of vegetables to rise by between 30% and 50%.

A local supply shortage, brought on by heat and lack of water, has resulted in the price increase.

Federation of Malaysian Vegeta­ble Farmers’ Association president Tan So Tiok estimated a 20% drop in the local vegetable supply since last month.

“This has affected both leafy vege­tables like mustard leaves, watercress and cabbage and non-leafy vegetables such as long beans, chilli, cucumber, pumpkin and bitter gourd,” he said.

Tan said the shortage had also affected supply to Singapore by about 20%. The worst-hit state, he said, was Johor which produces some 60% of the nation’s vegetables.

“Countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, from where Malaysia imports vegetables, are also cautious about their vegetable supply as they are also facing shortages due to climate effects,” he said.

Looking at the bright side, Tan said the situation was improving with more rain these days.

However, it would be difficult for the supply to return to normal as a dip was anticipated in the up­­coming Ramadan month, he said.

“Indonesian farm workers will usually head back to their hometowns for the fasting month, which leaves us shorthanded.

“The situation is made worse by the freeze on foreign workers because we can’t take in labourers from other countries to replace those heading home,” he said.

In Ipoh, round cabbage, Chinese cabbage, spinach and capsicum were among the vegetables found to have almost doubled in price.

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong said the rest of the greens were also affected, though not as much.

He said production for the vegetables had declined since mid-March, and prices were up by 50%.

“The output at the highlands has been down by between 30% and 40%,” he said.

Chay noted the difference between the current and old prices of four types of vegetable – the round cabbage costs close to RM3 per kg in the market compared to about RM1.50 previously.

Chinese cabbage is now at RM2.50 per kg. It was RM1.50 before.

Spinach is priced between RM3.50 and RM4 while previously, it was RM2.

Capsicum now costs between RM7 and RM8 per kg. It was about RM5 two months ago.

Chay said about 80% of the vegetables were for the local market and the rest were exported to Singapore.

“Vegetable production is getting slightly better with the recent rain, but if it rains excessively, it could also affect the harvest,” he said.

“The weather can’t be too hot, and there should not be too much rain. Both could spoil the crops.”

Seeing red in Malacca over rising cost of greens
The Star 18 May 16;

MALACCA: Consumers in the state are seeing red over the increase in vegetable prices by between 50% and 100%.

A check at the Malacca Central wet market and Batu Berendam wholesale market has shown that, with traders blaming the hike on the hot spell and intermittent rain.

The increase is apparent in red chilli (from RM12 to RM23 per kg), cili padi (RM8 to RM16), green mustard (RM3 to RM6.50), spinach (RM1.50 to RM3) and kangkung sawi bunga (RM4 to RM8).

Vegetable trader S. Karuppiah said the price could return to normal by mid-June “once the weather conditions stabilise”.

“Vegetable prices have been unstable since March due to short supply.

“The middlemen were left with no choice as the farmers couldn’t meet demand because of the dry spell,” he said.

A trader at Central Market, Lye Ming Zhu, said the middlemen were now charging them extra due to the shortage.

He said even the prices of chicken had gone up due to insufficient supply from farms.

“Customers are venting their frustration on us but we are in a bind too due to supply shortage,” he added.

Malacca Coffeeshop and Restau­rant Owners Association chairman Wong Teu Hoon said its members were advised to absorb the cost for now.

“We can’t burden the customers and we will maintain our pricing until the prices of vegetables are back to normal,” he said.

Restaurant owners: Import vegetables to stabilise prices
RAHIMY RAHIM The Star 18 May 16;

PETALING JAYA: As restaurant owners and food operators feel the after effects of El Nino, some of them are calling on the Government to import more vegetables from neighbouring countries to temporarily stabilise prices.

Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk R. Ramalingam Pillai said the authorities should consider importing greens from Indonesia, Vietnam or Thailand so that the local industry would be spared the adverse effects of the price chan­ges.

“We have received complaints that the prices are too high,” he said yesterday.

According to Ramalingam, the wholesale price of spinach had shot up to RM3.80 per kilo, red chillies to RM18 per kilo, and RM8 per kilo for long beans.

He said the restaurants had no choice but to absorb the cost as there would not be any increase to the food prices.

“If the authorities do not act on this, many may close shop when the operational cost gets too high,” he said.

Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association president Ho Su Mong said they were already hit by a vegetable shortage and other factors such as the Goods and Services Tax and the high cost of living.

“We will wait and see if we need to increase the prices of our food,” he said.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Noorul Hassan Saul Hameed said although they were feeling the impact of the vegetable price hike, he felt that it was just temporary due to the weather.

Restaurants operators, he added, would not want to raise their prices and put off their customers.

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Malaysia: Relief for Kerian farmers as water released for agricultural activities

M. HAMZAH JAMALUDIN New Straits Times 17 May 16;

BAGAN SERAI: The Irrigation and Drainage Department (DID) has resumed water supply for agricultural activities in the Kerian district after the water level at Bukit Merah dam reached 7.8 metres today.

The department has temporarily stopped releasing water for plantation and padi field irrigation since April 25, when the Bukit Merah lake was seriously affected by the drought brought about by the El Nino phenomenon.

State Public Utilities, Infrastructure, Energy and Water Committee chairman Datuk Zainol Fadzi Paharudin said the affected farmers can now replant their padi fields with new seedlings.

"Although the water level is still within the precautionary range, DID has already released the water from the Bukit Merah dam to the padi fields," he said after launching a road safety campaign at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Mudzaffar Shah Semanggol, near here today.

The programme is part of the state government's four-day "pemukiman" (meet-the-people) programme at Kerian district from today.

Zainol said continuous rainfall over the past weeks had helped increase the water level at Bukit Merah dam between 15cm and 17cm daily.

To overcome the problem in the future, he said the state government had several plans including building a water channel from Sungai Perak to Sungai Kerian, which costs RM300 million.

At the same time, he said the Perak Water Board also planned to implement the river bank filtration system to help derive underground water in the affected area in Kerian.

The recent El Nino phenomenon has adversely affected 22,000ha padi fields and more than 200,000 people in the Kerian district when the water level at Bukit Merah lake, which is the main water source here, dropped to critical level for several months.

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Thailand: Coral reef bleaching in Gulf of Thailand shocking

Thai Visa 18 May 16;

BANGKOK: — Continuous warming of sea water in the Gulf during the past several days has caused widespread coral bleaching with 80 percent of the coral reefs at Maprao island off Chumporn province having bleached, said Mr Tunya Netithammakul, director-general of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation.

Coral bleaching has been reported at Chumporn islands marine park, Khao Laemya-Koh Samet, Petra and Ang Thong marine parks with 50 percent coral reef bleaching at Ngam Noi and Kula islands, 10-25 bleaching at Bulone Don and Rang islands, 40 percent bleaching at Thalu and Kuti islands, 20 percent bleaching at Samsao island.

Ms Suthilak Veeravan, director-general of Marine and Coastal Resources Department, said the department had kept a close watch on coral reef bleaching phenomenon since 2011 and found 33 coral bleaching spots – 17 in the Gulf and 16 in the Andaman sea. The severity of the bleaching ranges from 10-80 percent.

She admitted that bleaching incidence was shocking with 80 percent coral reefs in the sea off Nakhon Si Thammarat and Pattani remaining in good conditions out of a total of 16 provinces where the conditions are worse with only 10 percent in good conditions in 11 provinces.

Move to protect coral zones after 33 spots with bleaching found

OFFICIALS are preparing to ban several activities in coral-reef zones after bleaching hit 33 marine sites around the country.

"Of the 33 spots affected by coral bleaching, 25 are inside national parks zones," Suthiluck Raviwan, director-general of the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, said yesterday.

Phuket's Racha Yai Island is among the hardest hit along with six islands off Chumphon.

The rest are scattered across parts of Chumphon, Rayong, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Surat Thani and Satun.

The department plans to ban activities harmful to coral reefs in nine spots outside national parks next week.

"Among the nine spots are the Racha Yai and Mai Ton islands off Phuket, Man Nai Island off Rayong and Samaesarn Island off Chon Buri," he said.

Banned activities include dropping anchor, fishing and polluting.

Coral bleaching occurs when coral loses algal pigmentation due to water temperatures rising above 30 degrees Celsius, pollution or freshwater runoff.

Bleached coral can recover if the cause of bleaching is relieved, but it will die if it is bleached for a long time and the stress on the coral is not resolved.

"Our survey has found that at some spots, the seawater temperature is up to 33 degrees Celsius," he said.

Pinsak Suraswadi, a senior official at the department, said his agency would closely monitor the situation because seawater temperature had continued to rise even though summer was coming to an end.

"We will try to enforce measures to better protect the marine environment," he said.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, deputy dean at the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University and a leading marine biologist, said coral reefs in other areas such as Samui and Samet islands and some parts of the Andaman Sea had also started to show bleaching spots.

"What we have to do is to keep people out of the bleaching area to let the coral recover. It is very essential that we should not interfere with the coral during this sensitive period or it will eventually die," he said.

The National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department and Marine and Coastal Resources Department will restrict human activities in 40 spots to preserve healthy coral to be breeders.

Tachai Island in Phang Nga's Mu Koh Similan National Park is also closed indefinitely to let the island's environment recover from intensive tourism in recent years, national park head Nut Kongkasorn said.

"I cannot say when we will allow tourists to visit the island, but before we open the island again, the number of tourists must be limited and the tourism activities must not harm the island's environment," he said.

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Thailand to close Koh Tachai island over tourism damage

BBC 17 May 16;

Tourists were causing "irreparable damage", reports said

Thai authorities are set to close the island of Koh Tachai, saying heavy tourism is negatively affecting natural resources and the environment.

The island, off Phang Nga province, is part of the Similan National Park.

Almost all Thai marine national parks close to tourists from mid-May to mid-October for monsoon season but Tachai will not reopen, the Bangkok Post says.

The park is popular with tourists and divers - who will still have access to a few dive sites in the area.

"We have to close it to allow the rehabilitation of the environment both on the island and in the sea without being disturbed by tourism activities before the damage is beyond repair," Tunya Netithammakul, director general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation, told the Post.

Local media cited experts saying a beach on Koh Tachai could hold about 70 people, but sometimes the number of tourists was well over 1,000, along with food stalls and tour boats.

That was far in excess of the island's sustainable capacity and was causing damage that threatened to become irreversible, reports said.

Thailand draws tens of millions of tourists a year, many of them to its beautiful beaches and islands.

Paradise Lost: Other beauty spots adversely affected by tourism:

Phi Phi Islands in Thailand - since becoming the backdrop for the Hollywood film The Beach, this tropical paradise has come under increasing pressure as a result of an uncontrolled tourism boom.

Cozumel island, Mexico - this has become the world's second most popular holiday destination for cruise ships, causing huge damage to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador - the unique ecosystem on this isolated island is extremely sensitive not only to growing numbers of tourists, but to the invasive species they are bringing with them.

Steve Downing from the UK snorkelled and dived on the island last year.

"It's a miniature paradise - so long as you can get away from the crowds," he said.

"Unfortunately a lot of inexperienced snorkelers tend to ruin the fragile reef systems by bashing into the corals, poking about, trying to take the best photos of fish by feeding and chasing after fish."

"People aren't interested in preserving the wildlife, they're only interested in taking photographs," he added.

Thailand to close Koh Tachai island for indefinite period over tourism damage
Today Online 17 May 16;

BANGKOK — The shoreline, beaches and coral reefs around Koh Tachai island in the Similan National Park off Phangnga province will be off-limits to all visitors for an indefinite period, starting Oct 15, according to authorities, as reported by the Bangkok Post.

The closure aims to ease negative effects on natural resources and the environment as a result of heavy tourism activities in the Similan National Park, a natural conservation area, said Mr Tunya Netithammakul, director general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation.

The measure is part of the masterplan for marine resource management in the Andaman Sea, he added.

All marine national parks are closed from Monday to Oct 15 during the monsoon. But after Oct 15, Koh Tachai of the Similan Islands National Park will remain closed indefinitely, he said.

However, two deep dive sites in the Similan Islands remain open to divers and tourists.

“Thanks to its beauty, Koh Tachai has become a popular tourist site for both Thai and foreign tourists. This has resulted in overcrowding and the degradation of natural resources and the environment.

“We have to close it to allow the rehabilitation of the environment both on the island and in the sea without being disturbed by tourism activities before the damage is beyond repair,” said Mr Tunya.

He said since the closure of Koh Tachai was declared more than three months in advance, tourists should watch out for some tour companies which might try to sell trips to the island after Oct 15.

Assistant Professor Thon Thamrongnawasawat, deputy dean of the Faculty of Fisheries of Kasetsart University, said when he was a guest speaker at a tourism fair organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand on Sunday he found that 14 tour companies were still selling their tour packages to Koh Tachai.

“In fact, Koh Tachai is preserved as a primitive zone, not a tourist site. A beach on the island can hold up to 70 people. But sometimes the number of tourists was well over 1,000 on the beach, which was already crowded with food stalls and tour boats. This caused the island to quickly deteriorate. If it’s not closed now, we’ll lose Koh Tachai permanently,” he said.

Mr Panapol Cheevaserichol, chief of the Tatutao Islands National Park off Satun province, said like other marine national parks, Tarutao would be closed from May 16 to Oct 15.

As a result, all popular tourist spots including Koh Adang, Koh Rawi and Koh Hinngam, as well as diving spots have been closed.

However, Koh Lipe remains open as usual, Mr Panapol said. BANGKOK POST

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Indonesia: Green pigeon in danger of extinction due to hunting

Markus Makur The Jakarta Post 17 May 16;

The widespread hunting of birds in Flores has left many bird species, some endemic to the area, on the verge of extinction. Local bird species are mostly found in the Ndora-Aegela forest, a vital water catchment area and their main habitat. The forest around Ulupulu village, in Nagekeo regency, East Nusa Tenggara, is a vital habitat and requires protection. Among others, the green pigeon, locally known as punai, has long been considered a favored catch among local residents for the dual purpose of consumption and trade. Locals also poach eagles and crows.

On March 14, Samuel Rabenak, of the Burung Indonesia conservation group, visited the area and reported that several Flores pigeon species were at risk of extinction.

“Burung Indonesia members are conducting a study in the forest for the purpose of environmental protection and public awareness. Residents must not poach birds in the forest,” Rabenak told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Nagekeo regent Elias Djo said the local administration had prohibited citizens from hunting birds. The Ndora-Aegela is a protected forest and residents are prohibited from hunting in the region, he said.

“Bird hunting is prohibited in the forest. I’ve forwarded the information to the Nagekeo Forestry Office to patrol the Ndora-Aegela forested area,” said Elias.

The Natural Resource Conservation Center, located in Flores, said Monday that all wildlife species in conservation areas and protected forests have been listed as protected in order to maintain sustainablilty and balance in the ecosystem. Birds function to pollinate flowers and disperse seeds.

“Ensuring that people are aware that it is important not to hunt is very important, for the sake of sustainability and for the preservation of the forest ecosystem. Birds are vital to human survival. The government continues to inform people to not hunt birds in the forest,” Elias said.

The Burung Indonesia team recently identified two prized endemic bird species in the Ndora-Aegela forest; the Flores crow ( Corvusflorensis ) and Flores serindit/parrot ( Loriculus flosculus ). The Flores serindit is currently listed as critically endangered.

The discovery of the Flores serindit in the Ndora-Aegela forest is good news for bird lovers as well as biodiversity conservationists.

These findings can provide a new alternative for bird watching activities in Flores. The Ndora-Aegela forest is oft dismissed by bird enthusiasts who tend to visit the Mbeliling forest and Ruteng Nature Park in West Flores.

It seems the local community is less aware of the importance of the region both from the standpoint of biodiversity as well as water catchment.

“Flores is an international bird watching destination, a place to explore the jungle and observe birds endemic to Flores. Crowds of international bird watchers visit Flores Island, attracted by some of the rarest endemic birds in the world,” he added.

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More sea turtles survive with less beach debris

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences ScienceDaily 16 May 16;

Clearing the beach of flotsam and jetsam increased the number of nests by as much as 200 percent, while leaving the detritus decreased the number by nearly 50 percent, report scientists at the conclusion of their study.

Conventional wisdom says removing beach debris helps sea turtles nest; now, as sea-turtle nesting season gets underway, a new University of Florida study proves it. In the study, clearing the beach of flotsam and jetsam increased the number of nests by as much as 200 percent, while leaving the detritus decreased the number by nearly 50 percent.

Sea turtles in Florida are classified as either endangered or threatened, depending on the species. Restoring their nesting habitats is critical to keeping them alive, said Ikuko Fujisaki, an assistant research professor of wildlife ecology and conservation with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

With humans encroaching on their natural habitat, sea turtles face an uphill climb to stay alive, said Fujisaki, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the sea, but they rely on sandy beaches to reproduce.

From May 1 to Sept. 1 of each year, from 2011 through 2014, Fujisaki and her colleagues conducted an experiment along the Gulf Coast near Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle. They sought to understand the effects of large debris on sea turtle nesting activities. The study area has one of the highest nesting densities of loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The debris in the area were both natural, such as fallen trees and stumps, and human-made, including concrete, pipes and metal fencing that remained on the beach after old military structures were demolished.

During the experiment, researchers recorded locations of nests and false crawls, defined as the number of times that sea turtles emerge from the Gulf waters but do not lay eggs. Researchers also removed large debris. They found sea turtle nests increased where scientists removed debris.

After researchers got rid of debris, sea turtle nest numbers increased 200 percent, and the number of false crawls increased 55 percent, the study showed. In beach sections where debris was not removed, the number of nests declined 46 percent.

"Our results showed that the presence of large debris on a sandy beach could alter the distribution of sea turtle nests by influencing turtle nest site selection," Fujisaki said.

Fujisaki's findings are published online in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey helped Fujisaki with the study

Ikuko Fujisaki, Margaret M. Lamont. The effects of large beach debris on nesting sea turtles. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 2016; 482: 33 DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2016.04.005

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Desperation grows as drought grips Cambodia

Jack Board Channel NewsAsia 18 May 16;

PHNOM PENH: Under a gloomy, heavy sky, Huot Ka paces slowly clutching her fidgeting young granddaughter.

“I don’t believe there will be any rain,” she says. “I don’t think there will be any rain for months.”

The 48-year-old is a farmer in a small village – Bandey – in Kampong Thom province north of Phnom Penh. Like many around the country, she is in the grip of one of the worst national regional droughts in recent memory.

Communities throughout Cambodia are desperately waiting for rain to end the prolonged dry season, which has resulted in cracked riverbeds, exhausted drinking water supplies and ruined food production.

Many regions have not received significant rain since late last year - in Kampong Thom locals do not recall heavy rain for about a year. About two-thirds of the country now has insufficient drinking water.

Most locals in Kampong Thom now need to buy their water from other villages.

The season’s first monsoon was expected Tuesday evening (May 17) and with it the hope of great relief following the drought caused by the current El Nino cycle of extreme weather.

But those so anxious for a downpour to replenish their fields, river and wells can hardly afford to believe in any imminent relief.

It is expected that badly affected areas will need heavy rainfall for several consecutive months to restore normal drinking water levels.

Huot Ka stares down into a small well in the dusty yard in front of her home. It is nearly completely empty and any water that can be salvaged is undrinkable and is used only to wash her cow.

“It’s so bad this year.” Next to it are pools of slimy stagnant water. It is for the ducks, she says.

Stagnant water sits beside an empty well outside the home of villager Huot Ka.

One of her village neighbours is Yean Oeun, a rice grower who believes this drought is the worst she has ever experienced.

“We haven’t had fresh water for three months,” she says. “Whenever we need water we have to go to another village. I need to buy the plastic bags to put the water in and then I need to get the water filtered.”

“My wells have never had no water in them before. But this year is different.”

A community well outside her home is normally used by 20 families in the village. Now, the water is the colour of rust and no one here knows when they will be able to drink from it again.

Wells in Kampong Thom are running dry and water left inside is dirty and undrinkable.


Cambodia is not alone. As temperatures have hovered in the high 30s and low 40s for months, smashing historical records, the whole region from Myanmar to Vietnam has been left praying for rain.

Animals have been badly impacted, with farmers across the country reporting deaths of hundreds of cattle and water buffaloes, while monkeys and fish have also been lost in significant numbers.

Non-government organisations such as CARE Cambodia and People In Need (PIN) are combining efforts to distribute aid including water tanks, fresh water and water filters to households.

They are focusing on coastal areas around Koh Kong, where seawater has contaminated normal drinking sources, in a region that is traditionally not seen as a major drought-risk area.

Much of the land is cracked from months of no rain.

“Cambodia is used to annual flooding and many emergency preparedness plans focus on flood relief and faster onset disasters. This current drought is a slow onset disaster and far from a normal annual event,” said PIN Disaster Management Programme Manager Paul Conrad.

“The severe nature of this year’s water shortages has had such an impact that people are getting into debt to cope,” he said.

Both Huot Ka and Yean Oeun’s families have taken out loans from local banks to stay afloat. In fact, they believe every family in the village has done so.

It helps them in the short term but neither have much optimism about their next crop yields, which will be crucial to paying back the money.

Farmers like Kun Kim are running out of money and many have taken out loans to buy food and water.
“I won’t try to grow rice if there is no rain,” Oeun says. “That means I’ll have to buy rice from other people to eat.”

She said there had been no assistance from NGOs or the government here.

There are also medical concerns. At the Prey Kuy Health Centre more and more sick children and elderly residents are in need of treatment.

“There are many patients coming to the health centre, especially for diarrhea, caused by a lack of food and clean water,” said medical practitioner Lim Nim.

“This is the worst year for the children I have seen.”

UNICEF Cambodia says malnourishment and disease is already a prevailing problem for children in the country. Although there is no data to show the drought has worsened these levels, spokesman Meas Bunly says there are inherent risks for children in extreme conditions.

"Children are amongst the most vulnerable in situations of water shortages as they could be exposed to water-borne diseases and their nutritional status could be jeopardised by disease or reduced water and food intake," he said.

He added that many children have not been attending school in order to support struggling families.

Children are suffering from diarrhea due to a lack of clean drinking water.


As rain slowly began to drizzle then pour from the sky in Kampong Thom that day, there was hardly a commotion from people on the street.

Indeed, they saw no reason to celebrate.

A few showers, like they had witnessed increasingly over previous days and weeks, would not break this drought and could potentially even cause more problems.

“People should take caution amid the phenomenon of thunderstorms, lightning and heavy winds that will occur from May 17 to 25,” the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology said in a statement on Sunday.

As quickly as the rain came, it was gone. It seems that the wet season is just teasing.

Despite some heavy showers, it will take months of persistent rain to break the drought.
Prime Minister Hun Sen last month instructed the country to band together. “Do not leave any people at risk of their lives because of this shortage of water,” he said. “This is my absolute order.”

People are united in their struggle and help each other where they can. But they know that true salvation will only come from Mother Nature, and she is being as unpredictable as ever.

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Sri Lanka flood toll hits 11, thousands more homeless

Emergency workers in Sri Lanka on Tuesday found the bodies of a woman and two children killed in a landslide, taking the toll from two days of heavy rain to 11, with thousands more forced to flee their homes.
Channel NewsAsia 18 May 16;

COLOMBO: Emergency workers in Sri Lanka on Tuesday (May 17) found the bodies of a woman and two children killed in a landslide, taking the toll from two days of heavy rain to 11, with thousands more forced to flee their homes.

Another five people are missing across the island, parts of which have been underwater since Sunday, a spokesman for the Disaster Management Centre said.

"Over 200,000 individuals have been displaced by the floods and are being looked after at several welfare centres," Pradeep Kodippili said.

The northern district of Kilinochchi received the highest rainfall of 373 millimetres in the 24 hours ending Tuesday morning - more than a quarter of the annual average rainfall in the region.

The government has deployed troops to evacuate people living on slopes or in flood-hit areas and the navy and the air force have also been called in to help with relief operations.

The meteorological department says the heavy rains could continue until Wednesday.

- AFP/de

Sri Lanka landslide buries three villages; death toll unknown
A landslide in Sri Lanka, triggered by more than three days of rain, buried three villages in a central district and the death toll is yet to be determined, government officials and area residents said on Tuesday.
Channel NewsAsia 17 May 16;

COLOMBO: A landslide in Sri Lanka, triggered by more than three days of rain, buried three villages in a central district and the death toll is yet to be determined, government officials and area residents said on Tuesday.

Torrential rains have forced more than 137,000 people from their homes so far and killed at least 11.

Rohan Dias, a deputy police inspector, said rescue operations at the villages in the central district of Kegalle was continuing in the night.

"There were about 150 families in those villages and we don't know how many survived," Dias told Reuters.

"There are about 800 people gathered in the nearby temples including the people from the neighbouring villages fearing their villages could also be affected. There are another 400 people in the roads who have come to see their relatives."

W.M. Abeywickrema, Kegalle district secretary, told a local private channel that around 400 people had been rescued so far.

"I saw a whole rock came down and buried many houses. There are people inside," one middle-aged woman told the channel.

Military Spokesman Jayanath Jayaweera said 174 service personnel and 8 army officers had been deployed to the rescue area in Aranayaka in Kegalle district.

Troops also have launched rescue operations in inundated areas of the Indian Ocean island, with boats and helicopters pulling more than 200 people trapped in the northwestern coastal district of Puttalam to safety, officials said.

"This is the worst torrential rain we have seen since 2010," said Pradeep Kodippili, a spokesman for the disaster management centre. Nineteen of Sri Lanka's 25 districts have been hit.

Heavy rains have also struck the neighbouring Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. More than 100 houses were damaged in coastal Kerala and about 50 families had been shifted to a relief camp in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, a state official said.

The weather department has forecast heavy rains across Tamil Nadu over the next two days and warned fishermen not to go out to sea.

Flooded roads and fallen trees led to traffic jams in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. Trains were halted as water submerged railway tracks, officials said.

Flooding and drought are cyclical in Sri Lanka, which is battered by a southern monsoon between May and September, while a northeastern monsoon runs from December to February.

(Writing by Shihar Aneez; editing by Ralph Boulton)

- Reuters

200,000 flee capital as Sri Lanka flood misery worsens
Sri Lankans clambered onto rubber dinghies and makeshift rafts Friday to flee their flooded capital as fresh downpours elsewhere hampered relief efforts.
Channel NewsAsia 20 May 16;

COLOMBO: Sri Lankans clambered onto rubber dinghies and makeshift rafts Friday (May 20) to flee their flooded capital as fresh downpours elsewhere hampered relief efforts.

The heaviest rains in a quarter of a century have pounded the island since last weekend, sparking huge landslides that have buried victims in up to 50 feet (15 metres) of mud.

Officials have urged those living in affected areas to leave immediately, with more than 60 people known to have died so far and fears that number could yet spike with many more reported missing.

Large parts of Colombo were evacuated overnight in an operation led by the military, involving boats and helicopters.

The national Disaster Management Centre said that around 200,000 people had been moved from the low-lying capital while 400,000 people have been forced to flee to state-run relief camps.

The worst-hit areas were in Colombo's northeastern suburbs along the Kelani river, which began bursting its banks on Thursday evening.

Residents in the Kolonnawa district of the capital built jury-rigged rafts using plastic barrels to ferry marooned residents to high ground while the navy used rubber dinghies to help others to safety.

Some people appeared reluctant to move despite promises from the office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that the army would prevent looting.

The Lion Brewery, which has the local licence to produce Carlsburg, said its factory in an industrial area on the edge of Colombo was under water.

Thousands of empty gas cylinders were also washed away by the floods, images in Sri Lankan media showed.

It was raining in Colombo on Friday morning, with heavier downpours to the north of the capital that officials said would further swell the Kelani.

Three people have been killed in flood-related incidents in Colombo but the national toll since the weekend now stands at 63.

The district of Kegalle, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Colombo, has been worst-hit, with the toll from two separate landslides rising to 34 after troops pulled another body from the mud overnight.

A police officer in the area said that 144 people, including 37 children, had been reported missing since the landslides on Tuesday evening.

"We can't definitely say if all these missing people were actually in their homes at the time of the disaster," said the officer, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The officer said that there was no realistic hope of finding any survivors in landslides that buried two villages in up to 50 feet of mud.

"This is turning into a recovery operation," the officer said.

There was more heavy rain in Kegalle overnight and reports of fresh mudslides, although it was not known if anyone was killed.

The meteorological department has said the heavy rains have been caused by a depression in the Bay of Bengal, ahead of the arrival of the southwest monsoon.


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