Best of our wild blogs: 10 Jun 16

Mass coral bleaching at Terumbu Hantu
wild shores of singapore

Galearia maingayi: Remembering James Franklin Maxwell at MacRitchie
Flying Fish Friends

Bidadari Hillock to be retained as a Bird Sanctuary
Singapore Bird Group

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Johor River getting saltier

Jalelah Abu Baker Straits Times 10 Jun 16; and AsiaOne

Malaysia's Johor River is becoming more salty while levels at the Linggiu Reservoir are decreasing, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday. Linggiu, which was built upstream of the Johor River in 1994, collects and releases rainwater into the river.

It is operated by Singapore's national water agency PUB and helps to meet half of Singapore's water needs. The reservoir is about 33 per cent full, a historic low. It was 40 per cent full in April, and 80 per cent full at the beginning of last year.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Stamford Detention Tank, which is being built to improve flood protection in Singapore, Mr Masagos said: "To wash off the salinity is a challenge. The salinity of the river is increasing and intrudes into our water works."

PUB supplies Johor with 16 million gallons of potable water a day, but increased this amount last Saturday by 6 million gallons at the request of Badan Kawalselia Air Johor, Johor's water regulatory body.

"In providing water to Malaysia, we first ensure that we have adequate supply," said Mr Masagos. "We are able to extract our 250 million gallons per day, on average, over the month, although we are always challenged because of the same weather challenges that both countries are facing." He added that Singapore has asked the Malaysian authorities to look into other ways to top up the Linggiu Reservoir.

The Straits Times reported on May 27 that Johor is looking at two rivers - Sayong River and Ulu Sedili Besar River - for water. Either one of the river projects would take at least two years to complete.

Jalelah Abu Baker

S’pore has enough water supply, says Masagos

SINGAPORE — Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli yesterday assured the press that Singapore has an adequate supply of water even though it started supplying more potable water to Johor at the request of the Malaysian state’s water regulatory body. He also said the Government has asked the Malaysian authorities to look at other ways to top up the depleting Linggiu Reservoir.

National water agency PUB operates the reservoir, from which both Singapore and Johor draw water. Since June 4, PUB has pumped in an extra six million gallons of potable water a day to Johor.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a PUB site visit yesterday, Mr Masagos said Singapore has still been able to extract 250 million gallons of water a day on average for the month despite facing the same weather challenges as Malaysia. “But we have asked the Malaysian authorities to look at other ways to top up the Linggiu dam, including putting up dams across Sayung, pumping systems at Sayung river, as well as (Ulu Sedili Besar River) so that it can augment the volume in Linggiu (Reservoir), and at the same time both help Singapore and Johor,” he said.

Dry weather conditions have brought water levels at Linggiu Reservoir to an all-time low of 33 per cent, down from 40 per cent in April. Badan Kawalselia Air Johor, the state’s water regulatory body, had asked for the extra water for a month to supplement the supply in areas served by Johor’s Sungai Layang dam, which has been hit severely by the continuing dry spell. LAURA PHILOMIN

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Why the icy Arctic matters to Singapore

JASON TAN Today Online 10 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — The Arctic may be remote, but melting ice caps caused by climate change will have far-reaching effects, submerging coastal areas in places such as Singapore and altering global shipping routes.

This has driven Singapore’s participation as a permanent observer in the Arctic Council in the last three years, and prompted preparations to adapt, said Minister of State (Prime Minister’s Office and Manpower) Sam Tan in an interview with TODAY.

“We have been given first-hand information by scientists that if the current trend continues, sea levels may rise by half a metre within the next 50 years, and by a metre within a century,” said Mr Tan, who has been the political office-holder representing Singapore in Arctic Council meetings.

“If this really happens, many nations around the world, including Singapore, would be at risk from having parts of their country submerged under the water.”

What is more, global warming could open new shipping routes in the Arctic, affecting Singapore’s position as a shipping hub and one of the world’s busiest ports.

“The possibility of the Arctic sea routes becoming a seasonal complement to traditional trade routes presents Singapore with both challenges as well as opportunities,” he said.

While the new routes are likely to change maritime transportation patterns, Singapore’s marine industry has built up capabilities over the years in sectors such as shipbuilding and repair, offshore engineering, and marine support services, and is well-placed to provide enabling technology for Arctic development, he added.

“Some of our companies are developing Arctic capabilities to leverage on the economic potential of the region,” said Mr Tan.

Keppel Corporation, for one, has constructed a number of ice-class vessels, including the first icebreakers built in Asia in 2008, and is now working with oil majors and drilling contractors to develop the world’s first Arctic-grade, environmentally friendly “green” rig.

“Singapore has real and substantive interests in the Arctic, and we believe that in the past three years, we have made positive contributions to the Arctic Council’s work,” he said.

For instance, Singapore has shared its experience in oil spill management and as one of 22 countries positioned along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway for migratory birds, is also working on the conservation of migratory shorebird populations threatened by overharvest and habitat alteration outside the Arctic.

Singapore has also supported the council’s work promoting education and public interest in Arctic issues amongst Singaporeans and in the region.

Last year, the Republic hosted the Arctic Circle Singapore Forum which discussed the governance of Arctic sea routes, infrastructure development in the Arctic, and the role of science and research in enabling Arctic shipping.

Two more Arctic-related events are coming up here. The first is a conference in August on issues such as remote access to energy, maritime infrastructure and shipping and the transition to renewable energy.

Then in January next year, Singapore will host the 9th Meeting of Partners of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership, the main framework to promote dialogue and cooperation on conservation of migratory waterbirds along the flyway.

Below is an extract from the interview with Mr Tan:

It has been three years since Singapore became a permanent observer in the Arctic Council. What are some of the highs and lows so far for Singapore’s participation as an observer? What are some challenges that Singapore has had to overcome?

Our decision in 2011 to apply for observer status in the Arctic Council took many people by surprise, as the connection between Singapore and the Arctic region is not readily apparent.

For example, in February 2013, the Economist published an article which questioned whether the presence of new observers in the Arctic Council might promote stability or disruption in the Arctic.

However, as a small country, we have no interest in any territorial or resource claims in the Arctic region.

Rather, we are driven by our desire to deepen our understanding of the Arctic as global warming and rising sea levels will have a profound and direct impact on low-lying Singapore.

The opening of Arctic shipping routes could also impact Singapore’s position as a shipping hub. In this regard, Singapore has real and substantive interests in the Arctic, and we believe that in the past three years, we have made positive contributions to the Arctic Council’s work.

We are also grateful for the support that Singapore has received from among the Arctic States and Permanent Participants for our observership and our participation in the various meetings and working groups of the Arctic Council.

Apart from our participation in the meetings of the various Senior Arctic Officials’, Working Groups and Task Forces, Singapore has been invited to various Arctic-related events.

I have personally attended the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region (CPAR) in 2012 in Akureyri, Iceland and 2014 in Whitehorse, Canada; the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2013 and 2014; the Arctic Frontiers Conference in Tromso, Norway in 2015 and January 2016, and most recently the Arctic Circle Greenland Forum in Nuuk last month.

In addition to demonstrating Singapore’s sustained interest in Arctic affairs, these meetings were useful opportunities to deepen Singapore’s engagement with businessmen, researchers, leaders and officials from the Arctic states and indigenous peoples, as well as non-Arctic stakeholders.

We understand that Singapore’s role as a permanent observer will be assessed after four years. What happens after that?

The assessment of Singapore’s observership is an internal procedure for the Arctic Council. As per usual practice, Singapore will submit a “report card” to the Chairman on our relevant activities and contributions to the Arctic Council ahead of the biannual Arctic Council Ministerial Meetings. Regardless of the assessment, Singapore is committed to working with the Arctic states and PPs to contribute positively and constructively to its sustainable growth and the empowerment of its peoples.

Can you please share with us some of Singapore’s upcoming initiatives and plans in the Council?

We are planning to host two Arctic-related events in Singapore. In August 2016, the National University of Singapore’s Energy Studies Institute will organise a conference on Arctic science, technology and policy in Singapore, entitled “Energy Transitions and a Globalized Arctic: The Role of Science, Technology and Governance”.

This conference will focus on issues such as remote access to energy, maritime infrastructure and shipping, renewable energy transitions and the role of research and development. The conference is envisaged to foster dialogue among relevant expertise from within and outside the Arctic, as science and technological collaboration and the sharing of best practices in energy governance is one way to tackle common challenges.

In January 2017, Singapore will also host the 9th Meeting of Partners (MOP) of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership, the main framework to promote dialogue and cooperation on conservation of migratory waterbirds along the flyway. The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group has expressed interest in holding a workshop back-to-back with the 9th MOP in Singapore, and we welcome them to do so as Singapore strives to develop capacity for the management of wetland and migratory birds in the region.

One area of focus for the council appears to be improving the lives of the Arctic people. Is there a role for a country like Singapore to play there?

Singapore recognises the need to engage the Arctic indigenous peoples, who are most affected by the changing Arctic landscape. Our former Special Envoy for Arctic Affairs Ambassador Tony Siddique visited several Arctic capitals to better understand the concerns and needs of the indigenous peoples. I myself have visited the Sami Parliament in Karasjok, Norway, where I met with President of the Sami Parliament of Norway Aili Keskitalo and personally experienced the Samis’ way of life in bitter cold temperatures of close to minus 50°C. Through these visits, we have gained a deeper appreciation of the Arctic, and hope to use our newfound knowledge to contribute more effectively to the Arctic and to its peoples.

We have since developed the Singapore-Arctic Council Permanent Participants Cooperation Package, where Singapore provides scholarships for representatives from the Permanent Participants to participate in short-term courses on various aspects of public policy and administration, as well as post-graduate scholarships in maritime law and public policy at Singapore institutions. We have also invited representatives of the Permanent Participants to visit Singapore to learn about our experience in governance and development.

How concerned should Singapore be with regards to the melting of polar ice and opening of new Arctic maritime routes which some analysts say could threaten Singapore’s status as a maritime and transshipment hub? How can Singapore position itself in such a scenario?

As a low-lying coastal nation, Singapore is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Much of Singapore lies only 15m above sea level, while 30 per cent of the island is less than 5m above sea level.

If global temperatures continue to rise, many parts of Singapore could eventually be submerged under the water. Singapore has started making preparations to adapt to the impact of a rise in sea levels. For example, Nicoll Drive, which runs for 1km along Changi Beach, is being raised by up to 0.8m. In 2011, the minimum height for land reclamation projects was raised from 3-4 m above the mean sea level. At the same time, a warmer Arctic will result in the opening of new water channels, which will significantly reduce travel time between Asia and Europe by two or three weeks.

The possibility of the Arctic sea routes becoming a seasonal complement to traditional trade routes therefore presents Singapore with both challenges as well as opportunities.

On the one hand, Singapore has one of the world’s busiest ports and these new routes are likely to change maritime transportation patterns.

At the same time, our marine industry has built up strong credentials in sectors such as shipbuilding and repair, offshore engineering, and marine support services, and we are well-placed to provide enabling technology for Arctic development.

Some of our companies are developing Arctic capabilities to leverage on the economic potential of the region. For example, Keppel Corporation has constructed a number of ice-class vessels, including the first icebreakers built in Asia in 2008, and is now working with oil majors and drilling contractors to develop the world’s first Arctic-grade, environmentally-friendly “green” rig.

You have spoken publicly of some of your personal experiences attending Arctic Council meetings. What are some of the things that strike you?

My take is that if countries do not look at the possible global challenges that may emerge 30 to 50 years down the road, their eventual preparations would be inadequate to deal with these challenges when they do strike.

One of Singapore’s key strengths is our ability to scan the horizon and start preparing solutions to these challenges, sometimes 50 to a hundred years before they surface. If we lose this important survival instinct, we will become history when the challenges strike us in our face.

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Singapore Aims to Prosecute Indonesian Polluters Under Haze Law

David Roman Bloomberg 10 Jun 16;

* Environment minister says Singapore can fine Indonesian firms
* Singapore ‘standing on high moral ground,’ minister says

Singapore is prepared to prosecute any Indonesian companies found responsible for the fires that produced hazardous ash clouds last year, a minister said, standing his ground even as recent efforts to take firms to account drew ire from the country’s largest Southeast Asian neighbor.

Under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act of 2014, Singapore has ordered six suppliers of Indonesia’s Asia Pulp and Paper Group to provide information on steps they are taking to prevent fires on their land, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said in an interview on June 7. APP, one of the world’s largest paper producers, didn’t reply to e-mailed requests for comment, while its parent company didn’t reply to calls for comment.

“We are standing on high moral ground," said Masagos. "We have the support of the international community. We are not doing anything criminal nor wrong. We are just asking for the companies and the directors to own up and be accountable for what they’ve done.”

The six companies have been told that Singapore has the right to bring their directors to court, and firms involved in haze-producing fires face fines of up to S$100,000 ($74,000) a day for every day of fire, the minister said.

Singapore, often among the worst hit by haze from forest fires that periodically envelope swathes of Southeast Asia for weeks at a time, enacted the 2014 law to address the pollution as Indonesia struggles to prevent the flares. Caused mainly by palm oil planters and pulp and paper companies using fire to clear peat swamp land in South Sumatra and Kalimantan, the haze has become a public health issue in Singapore, pushing the city-state’s Pollutant Standards Index to dangerously high levels at times.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, backed Singapore’s plans to wield heftier fines against overseas polluters as long as sovereignty is respected, before he took office in 2014. Last year, severe haze from fires in Indonesia caused Singapore’s three-hour index to peak at 316, near the 321 level reached in 2013.
The pollution forced Singapore to shut down schools and cost the economy an estimated S$700 million in 2015, Masagos said in March. Besides prompting school closures and disrupting sea and air travel in the region, the smog also forced some in Indonesia to flee their homes and cost Southeast Asia’s biggest economy $16.1 billion of losses, according to World Bank estimates.

Giving Opacity

Masagos, 53, a former minister of state at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he doesn’t believe that pressuring Indonesian companies to comply with Singapore laws will hinder bilateral relations with Indonesia.

“We do respect Indonesia’s sovereignty, even their right not to divulge the information we have asked for," he said. “However, by doing that they give opacity, they give cover to these companies and indirectly encourage such acts to continue, and in the end their own industry can be affected.”

Last month, Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar told an environmental news website that some joint collaborations with Singapore on forestry and haze issues could be terminated after a review. She made the comments days after Singapore issued a court warrant to detain an Indonesian company director who failed to appear for an interview with authorities in Singapore.

Singapore this week said it is offering assistance including aircraft to Indonesia to support its fire mitigation efforts, as it has every year since 2005.

Backlash Risk

Singapore is currently focused on its own legal approach, though if that doesn’t work, the city state can look at international avenues, said Masagos when asked about other options. Malaysia is considering a similar law to Singapore’s on haze, he said.

According to the Washington-based World Resources Institute -- which has worked with Google Inc. and forestry agencies in Indonesia to use satellite imaging to pinpoint and respond to wildfires -- at the peak last year Indonesia’s daily emissions of pollutants were the same as the U.S. because of the haze and the fires.

Kotaro Tamura, an adjunct professor at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said that Singapore may find it hard to prosecute Indonesian companies and risks a backlash from its neighbor. In the end, both countries may find it easier to opt for arbitration by a third party such as the United Nations, or the International Court of Justice, he said.

“It’s tricky, the bilateral approach," Tamura said. "I think he is just showing a strong intention, by going public,” he said, referring to the Singapore minister.

Indonesia rebuffs Singapore offer of haze assistance
Today Online 10 Jun 16;

JAKARTA — Responding to Singapore’s offer to help Indonesia combat forest fires, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said on Thursday (June 9) environmental issues needed to be dealt with through a regional agreement, not a bilateral one, according to a report by the Jakarta Globe.

“If the air is clean, all people in Asia — and Singapore — will be able to ­enjoy it. Therefore, if (the environment) is destroyed, we have to fix it ­together,” said Mr Kalla at the opening of the 20th Environmental and Forestry Week in Jakarta.

Jakarta has rejected previous ­bilateral offers since 2005, insisting all Asian countries — including Singapore — were responsible for environmental damage.

Mr Kalla noted that the Indonesian government accepted some offers of help for last year’s severe forest and peat land fires, including helicopters from Singapore.

A team comprising 40 Singapore Armed Forces and Singapore Civil Defence Force officers spent more than 10 days battling forest fires in Palembang in October. Malaysia and Japan also rendered assistance.

In 2005, Indonesia had accepted Singapore’s offer of providing high-resolution satellite pictures, one C-130 aircraft for cloud-seeding operations and a contingent of fire fighters.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya said her country could accept help only in ­accordance with regional agreements in South-east Asia.

“There is no bilateral (arrangement) for work or help to mitigate forest fires,” said Ms Nurbaya. “It is through the Asean (Association of South-east Asian Nations) agreement,” she said, referring to the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution signed in 2002. “Therefore, it is not true that a special bilateral partnership has been established.”

According to the agreement’s protocol, assistance can be provided only if a country has requested it in an emergency situation.

Malaysia has mooted the idea of a bilateral mechanism with Indonesia to tackle the yearly phenomenon.

Last year’s forest fires in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua, which lasted three months, created severe haze throughout the region. It was the worst-ever haze episode in the region, affecting tens of millions of people and costing Indonesia an estimated US$16 billion (S$22.1 billion) and Singapore about S$700 million.

Ahead of the annual dry season in Indonesia, Singapore this week ­renewed its offer to help combat forest fires with an assistance package that includes C-130 planes, firefighters and high-resolution satellite imagery.

“Every year since 2005, Singapore has offered assistance packages to support Indonesia in its fire mitigation efforts,” said the Ministry of the ­Environment and Water Resources in a statement on Tuesday.

“This is part of the Singapore Government’s broader commitment to assist the ­Indonesian government in its efforts to deal with the land and forest fires in the run-up to the traditional dry season from June to October.”

The statement added that “the Singapore Government remains committed to working with the Indonesian government and other like-minded partners to find more permanent solutions to this regional problem”.

However, media ­reports last month said Indonesia would scrap some ongoing and upcoming collaboration projects with Singapore on ­environment, forestry and haze-related issues as part of a unilateral review on bilateral cooperation that Jakarta was conducting.

Ms Nurbaya claimed on Thursday she was not aware of the offer from Singapore. “I haven’t read the (offer) letter. I will check,” she said. AGENCIES

Kalla Seeks Regional, Not Bilateral, Solution to Forest Fires
Novi Setuningsih & Eko Prasetyo Jakarta Globe 9 Jun 16;

Jakarta. Vice President Jusuf Kalla has responded to Singapore's offer to assist Indonesia in mitigating forest and land fires by saying environmental issues needed to be dealt with through a regional agreement, not a bilateral one.

"If the air is clean, all people in Asia – and Singapore – will be able to enjoy it. Therefore, if [the environment] is destroyed, we have to fix it together," Kalla said at the opening of the 20th Environmental and Forestry Week in Jakarta on Thursday (09/06).

The government has rejected previous bilateral offers since 2005, saying all Asian countries – including Singapore – were responsible for any environmental damage.

Kalla said Indonesia had accepted some offers of assistance for last year's severe forest and peat land fire, including helicopters from Singapore.

Meanwhile, Environmental Minister Siti Nurbaya said any offer of assistance had its own mechanisms. The minister said Indonesia could only accept help that was in accordance with regional agreements in Southeast Asia.

"There is no bilateral [partnership] for work or help to mitigate forest fires," Siti said.

"It is through the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] agreement.

"Therefore, it is not true that a special bilateral partnership has been established."

According to the agreement's protocol, assistance can only be provided if a country has requested it in an emergency situation.

Siti said she was not aware of the offer from Singapore.

"I haven't read the [offering] letter. I will check," she said.

Last year's forest fires on Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua, which lasted three months, created severe haze that affected several neighboring countries.

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Increase in midges at Bedok Reservoir due to hot and wet weather: PUB

Some businesses and residents say they have noticed an increase in midges, although intensity is lower than the swarms that plagued the area in 2012.
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 9 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: The pesky insects that plagued residents and shop owners along Bedok Reservoir are back - a "localised increase in the presence of midges" that can be attributed to the hot and wet weather, said national water agency PUB in a statement to Channel NewsAsia on Thursday (Jun 9).

Some residents Channel NewsAsia spoke with said they noticed an increase in the number of midges entering their homes in the last two weeks, although numbers are nowhere near the swarms seen in 2012.

A resident living in a HDB unit opposite Bedok Reservoir Park said: "Every morning when I walk into my balcony, I see a cluster of dead midges on the floor. It has become worse these last few days." A staff working at a nearby condominium told Channel NewsAsia that residents have been giving feedback about the growing population of the insects.

Some businesses have noticed the increased presence. Ms Saadiah, who works at the Mr Prata outlet at Block 746 Bedok Reservoir Road said the midges appear just before it rains.

She said: "When our lights are on, it gets worse. It's pretty scary, a whole 'family'... they would stick to the wall, get into the kitchen. It really affects our business. Last month, we had to close for about 15 minutes, cover all our food, turn off the lights, and clean the area." Owner of Burp Kitchen & Bar, Sarah Lim said her customers sitting outside initially thought they were mosquitoes. She said: "They thought the insects were mosquitoes. When we went to take a closer look just to make sure we were not breeding mosquitoes, we realised they were very small flies."

In its statement, PUB said it has received more than 10 "pieces of feedback" from residents. A spokesperson for the agency said: "As midges are small, light and weak fliers, they tend to concentrate in areas in the direction of the wind and the recent southward winds may have blown the midges to nearby residential estates." The agency said it has stepped up its control measures since May. It carries out daily fogging around the reservoir every morning and five times a week in the afternoon to control the adult midge population. It has also increased the application of a biological larvicide in reservoir waters to prevent the growth of the larvae into adults. PUB said other measures include planting shrubs to act as barriers, as well as installing spotlights at the reservoir pumping station to divert the insects from residential areas. It reiterated that while midges can pose a nuisance to park users and residents, they do not bite or spread diseases.

Following the surge in the midge population in 2012, PUB commissioned a study, together with National University of Singapore researchers, to help the agency understand the midge population and identify intervention measures.

Researchers identified the species as Tanytarsus oscillans, a minuscule green species that inhabits deep waters in the central part of the reservoir. Based on this information, PUB modified the applicator of the larvicide, so that the chemical can also be applied to the reservoir bed in the central part of the reservoir, when it would normally be applied along the banks.

- CNA/mo

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Indonesia: Kalla Calls for End to Illegal Ivory Trade, Stresses Environmental Conservation

Novi Setuningsih, Ari Supriyanti Rikin & Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 9 Jun 16;

Jakarta. Vice President Jusuf Kalla has called for action against the illegal trade in ivory and stressed the importance environmental conservation practices in the archipelago during the opening of the Indonesia Environment and Forestry Week 2016 conference in Jakarta on Thursday (09/06).

The 20th conference, hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, follows a theme of "Conserving Plants and Wildlife for Life," in line with United Nations Environment Program's (UNEP) international theme of "Go Wild for Life."

The vice president spoke about the importance of endangered wildlife conservation and prohibiting the trade of ivory by enforcing legal consequences both domestically and internationally. He also explained that ivory should not be seen as a symbol of pride.

"Firstly, it is a crime to cut off an elephant's tusk for commercial purposes [or otherwise], and secondly, it also leads to the destruction of forests. Ivory should not be allowed anymore. Globally, the ivory trade has been banned and anybody found selling ivory is a criminal," Kalla stressed. "It used to be a symbol of pride in every home and even in the State Palace, but now it is banned."

In his speech, the vice president talked about the importance of conserving wildlife as it plays a vital role in the preservation of the environment.

"If we still have elephants, orangutans, anoa, butterflies, it means the forests are healthy. If the forests are healthy, it means the water is healthy. If the water is healthy, means rice fields are harvesting – it means there is life," Kalla added.

At the forum, he also emphasized that in order for environmental goals to be realized, the public must join in the battle against climate change, or all calls for action will be in vain.

"We must work together for a better life and for our grandchildren. If not, we will be at risk of having no access to healthy food or water," he said.

The vice president also urged law enforcement agencies to act strongly against environmental offenders, including companies who do not have sustainable waste management practices at their factories.

Additionally, transnational organized crime involving wildlife has become a multi-billion-dollar industry, and Indonesia has pledged to fight this.

"As the vice president has mentioned, our habitat must be well-maintained and as well as our waters. The public campaign of environmental management is crucial as it helps to raise awareness for everyone and to help people understand and care more about the environment," Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said.

According to a recent study published on the environmental website Mongabay on Wednesday, the UN and Interpol estimated that global environmental crime amounted to $258 billion in 2015, compared to $213 billion in 2014.

Animal Trafficking on the Rise With 50 Cases Reported Annually
Vento Saudale & Mikhael Tamosee Jakarta Globe 14 Jun 16;

Jakarta. Over 50 cases of animal trafficking are reported to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry each year, with that number expected to climb, an official said on Saturday (11/06).

Rasio Ridho Sani, directorate general of law enforcement at the ministry, said the average number of cases the ministry deals with annually is 50, with investigators reporting an increase in trafficking.

Sixteen cases of animal trafficking have been reported in the first half of 2016, with the tally expected to rise throughout the year, Rasio said.

In a recent case, investigators foiled an attempt to smuggle 1,220 pig-snout turtles at the Timika airport in Papua.

“In West Jakarta, we found 30 preserved animals. Some were adult and baby tigers, bears and birds. We are still investigating the owner,” Rasio Ridho said in Bogor.

Trafficking is increasingly stemmed from the internet, via social media and online shops, making it difficult to track suppliers and shoppers with most purchases coming from international customers, he said.

In the fight to stop wildlife crimes, the ministry has increased security in regional areas, especially in conservation areas of national parks. Rasio added that the police force must expand as currently it cannot cover all forest areas.

“The influence from locals is very crucial in forest conservation, which is the root of poaching,” Rasio said. “Other than enforcing the law, we also make sure the locals understand how important it is to protect the animals, and to prevent hunting or trading animals.”

Last week, Vice President Jusuf Kalla called for action in the illegal trade in ivory and stressed the importance of environmental conservation practices.

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Earth's super-sized El Nino is over; coming up, La Nina

SETH BORENSTEIN Associated Press Yahoo News 9 Jun 16;

WASHINGTON (AP) — This year's monstrous El Nino, nicknamed Godzilla by NASA, is dead. It heated up the globe, but didn't quite end California's four-year drought.

In its monthly update Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the El Nino has ended, 15 months after its birth in March 2015. El Nino is a natural warming of parts of the central Pacific that changes weather worldwide.

"There's nothing left," NOAA Climate Prediction Center deputy director Mike Halpert said. "Stick a fork in it, it's done."

Halpert said this El Nino triggered droughts in parts of Africa and India and played a role in a record hurricane season in the Pacific. It also added to man-made warming, as Earth has had 12 straight record hot months and is likely to have its second straight record hot year.

Halpert said this will go down as one of the three strongest El Ninos on record, along with 1997-1998 and 1982-83.

In parts of the central Pacific, ocean temperatures were even hotter and caused more harm than 1997-98, leaving scars "written in the geography and appearance of global reefs for decades to come," said Georgia Tech climate scientist and coral expert Kim Cobb .

"This El Nino has caused some of the worst coral bleaching and death of any event we've ever seen," said NOAA coral reef watch coordinator Mark Eakin. "We've had enough of this."

Some in California had hoped that the drought would be busted by the El Nino, which generally brings more rain to California and the South. But even at the start, NOAA had cautioned that the rain deficit was too big for the El Nino to fix. And while it was rainy, it wasn't enough, Halpert said.

Earth is now in the neutral part of the natural cycle of El Ninos, which includes the cooler flip side, La Nina. But don't expect that to last. NOAA forecasts a 50 percent chance of La Nina by the end of the summer and 75 percent chance by the end of the fall.

La Ninas generally bring more hurricanes to the Atlantic instead of the Pacific, but doesn't have much impact on summer temperature or rain in the United States. It often features drier-than-normal conditions in the U.S. Southwest and wetter conditions in the Pacific Northwest.

In the winter, La Nina often brings lots of rain to parts of Australia and Indonesia and cooler temperatures in parts of Africa, Asia, South America and Canada.

Cobb said her work has found some evidence, not enough to be conclusive, that man-made global warming is causing bigger El Ninos more often.

Global temperatures with the El Nino that just ended have been about 0.8 degrees warmer (0.45 degrees Celsius) than the 1998 El Nino, according to NOAA.

"This has been a bellwether event," Cobb said.

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Urgent action needed to stop terrifying rise in air pollution, warns OECD

Toxic air set to cause as many as 9 million premature deaths a year around the world in the next four decades, with economic costs rising to trillions a year
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 9 Jun 16;

Air pollution is becoming a “terrifying” problem around the globe, one of the world’s leading economic organisations has warned, and will get much worse in the coming decades if urgent steps are not taken to control the pollution.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Thursday that pollution of our air from industry, agriculture and transport was set to cause as many as 9 million premature deaths a year around the world in the next four decades, and the economic costs are likely to rise to about $2.6 tn (£1.8tn) a year over the same period.

“The number of lives cut short by air pollution is already terrible and the potential rise in the next few decades is terrifying,” said Simon Upton, environment director for the organisation. “There will also be a heavy economic cost to not taking action. We must prevent these projections from becoming reality.”

India and China are likely to suffer the most, but the problem is increasing in many developing countries, where economic growth is lifting people out of poverty but where regulations on emissions have lagged behind. In developed countries, the problem is seen as likely to stabilise, though still with a high number of illnesses.

If current trends continue, one person will die prematurely every four or five seconds from air pollution by 2060.

The cost of 1% of global economic output every year by 2060 would equate to about $330 per head of population, arising from sick days, healthcare costs and lost productivity. Bronchitis and asthma are on the rise, fuelled by our dirty air, and the most vulnerable people are children – whose lungs can be permanently stunted by early exposure to pollution – and the elderly.

The warning is the latest in a series of revelations about the dire state of the world’s air, which is being polluted from sources including cars, the over-use of agricultural fertilisers, and heavy industry such as coal-fired power plants.

Earlier this year, the UK’s Royal College of Physicians warned that air pollution was claiming more than 40,000 lives a year in the UK alone. The World Health Organisation said last month that air pollution had risen by 8% in five years, chiefly in fast-growing cities around the world, which it said was “alarming”.

Last year, the cost of the problem was reckoned at about $21bn by the OECD, but this is set to double in coming years, and continue to rise after that. At least 3 million premature deaths were owing to air pollution in 2010, the report found, with particulate matter and harmful gases arising as the main culprits.

Crop yields are also likely to suffer from increased pollution, the OECD found, exacerbating potential food shortages as population growth puts more pressure on food sources.

In the UK and Europe, the rapid increase in the number of diesel vehicles on the road – encouraged by lower tax rates, because diesel cars produce smaller amounts of greenhouse gases than their petrol-driven counterparts – has been one of the main factors, even as pollution from industry has come under greater control. Farming is also an important source, with recent research finding it had become the single biggest cause of air pollution. That is because gases arising from fertiliser use can combine with pollution from traffic to form bigger particles that lodge in people’s lungs.

Politicians around the world have been slow to respond to the problem, particularly in cities. In London, the previous mayor Boris Johnson covered up a report into the blight of pollution on schools, particularly in deprived areas, the Guardian revealed. The new mayor, Sadiq Khan, has promised a series of measures on the issues, though campaigners are concerned that they will not be enacted soon enough.

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