Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jun 16

Sisters' Islands Marine Park: Walks resume in the midst of mass coral bleaching
Sisters' Island Marine Park

Johor reclamation at Tanjung Piai gets go ahead
wild shores of singapore

Moult of Stone Crab (Myomenippe hardwickii) @ Beting Bronok
Monday Morgue

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Malaysia, Johor: Plan to rejuvenate Sungai Segget

‘Gem of Johor Baru City’ set to make the place vibrant
ZAZALI MUSA The Star 27 Jun 16;

JOHOR BARU: The on-going multi-billion ringgit project to rehabilitate and rejuvanate Sungai Segget into the new 1.2km waterway in Johor Baru city centre is progressing as scheduled, according to Iskandar Malaysia Regional Development Authority chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim.

Dubbed as the “Gem of Johor Baru City”, it is also a new tourist attraction which is poised to transform the city into a vibrant place within the next five to seven years.

The opening up and cleaning of Sungai Segget was an ambitious plan to transform the city centre, Ismail said adding that the “RM270mil is part of the RM1.8bil allocation by the Federal Government to be utilised for the rehabilitation and rejuvenation work of the river including its beautification.”

Works on the river will start either in the third or fourth-quarter of the year including landscaping its surrounding.

Ismail said Johor Baru denizens could look forward to a “new Sungai Segget” which would be transformed and fully-functional by the end of 2017.

He said phase one of the work involved the construction of centralise sewerage treatment plan to enhance water quality through reducing pollutant loads to Straits of Tebrau.

“It is vital to transform the Johor Baru city centre in tandem with its position as one of the five flagship development zones in Iskandar Malaysia,” added Ismail.

First phase of Johor Baru river rejuvenation to complete by year-end
CHUAH BEE KIM New Straits Times 22 Jun 16;

JOHOR BARU: The first phase of the Sungai Segget rejuvenation project comprising two packages is expected to be ready by the end of the year.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim urged the public to bear with the inconveniences for now.

"The Sungai Segget rejuvenation and upgrading works is part of Johor Baru City Transformation Plan, which is one of the five flagship projects under the long-term Johor Baru Transformation Plan," Ismail said.

"The river cleaning and flood mitigation which is under Package 1 and Package 2 of the first phase should be ready, hopefully by the fourth quarter of the year.

"Following the completion of the river cleaning and flood mitigation will be the landscaping works which will take a few more months," said Ismail after the launch of the third Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA), an annual event to give recognition to the unsung heroes who have contributed to the local community.

Traders and workers in the city centre have been affected by the ongoing works to re-open Sungai Segget, which is part of the river's rejuvenation project.

The works has reduced the four-lane main thoroughfare of Jalan Wong Ah Fook into a one-lane street.

Sundry shop owner Heng Siew Hoon, 57, said her business dropped by 50 per cent since the works began two years ago.

"Luckily, I still have food operators in the vicinity who walk to the shop to get their supplies from me. If not, my shop would have to close down.

"Many customers do not come to the shop any more because they cannot find any nearby parking," Heng said, when interviewed by the New Straits Times.

S. Pranay, 39, who works in one of the shopping malls nearby, said he faced difficulty getting a taxi to work.

"A taxi driver once told me he tries to avoid using Jalan Wong Ah Fook since the four-lane road was reduced to a single lane. I don't drive. The lack of taxis plying the route has forced me to car pool or take a bus," Pranay said.

Package 1 of the Sungai Segget rejuvenation project, which comprised river cleaning and construction of an underground sewage treatment plant, was initially slated for completion by the end of 2015. Package 2 involved flood mitigation and beautification project.

IRDA was tasked with the RM220 million project to carry out the works.

It was delayed due to a design change and site coordination issues, and was supposed to have been completed this month.

However, IRDA advisory council member Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad later said the project will only be fully completed by 2017.

Changing the face of Johor Baru
SALLEH BUANG New Straits Times 23 Jun 16;

Johor Baru residents are facing exciting times ahead as their city is being transformed from its hodge-podge landscape of uneven development today into a world-class metropolis of tomorrow.

Last November, in conjunction with his 57th birthday celebrations, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar officially launched the Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD) at the Persada Johor International Convention Centre. Johor Corporation (JCorp), as master developer, plans to turn the 101ha IIBD site into a “metropolis of international standard”.

Simultaneously launched was a mixed-use development called Coronation Square, the first project under IIBD, with a gross development value (GDB) of RM3 billion, to be completed in 10 years. It comprises six towers (a hotel, a hotel with residences, an office, high-rise medical suites and two serviced apartment towers) and a mall with an estimated gross floor area of 80,000 sq ft. It will be yet another landmark in a city now mushrooming with other mega landmarks reaching for the sky.

This new IIBD master plan is now on public display at Komtar JBCC until July 3. According to JCorp president and chief executive, Datuk Kamaruzzaman Abu Kassim, Johor residents are invited to see the plan for themselves and give their views on four major issues — business, green, heritage and connectivity. “We want Johoreans to play their role and be part of this development,” he had said.

In respect of land use, IIBD will not be dominated by its commercial area (51 per cent) because there is also significant room for green and open spaces (21 per cent), institutions (14 per cent), residential areas (nine per cent) and parking spaces (two per cent).

Kamaruzzaman said the cost of the IIBC transformation plan ranged from RM20 billion to RM25 billion. No deadline has been set for the completion of the entire transformation plan. The area covered by the IIBC is bordered by Jalan Ayer Molek (in the west), Jalan Tun Sri Lanang (in the south), Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (in the east) and Jalan Seri Lalang (in the north).

The transformation plan will bear in mind the “rich tapestry of heritage and culture which reflects Johor Baru’s rich history dating over 150 years”, said Kamaruzzaman. Steps will be taken to safeguard, preserve and conserve the old parts of Johor Baru city, allowing for a beautiful blend of the old and new.

He assured the public that JCorp would continue to engage with all stakeholders, including the Johor Baru City Council, Johor Economic Planning Unit and Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) to ensure the smooth implementation of the project in the years ahead.

Johor Baru residents have long endured their city of haphazard narrow streets with old shophouses, and in recent years, dotted by newly-built structures such as Komtar, JBCC and City Square.

An attempt by the authorities to beautify and upgrade the dirty and smelly Sungai Segget a decade ago met with limited success. In late 2013, the reopening of Sungai Segget was undertaken through the JB Transformation blueprint of IRDA, in collaboration with the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB). Work is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

Not many Malaysians know that Johor Baru was formerly known as Tanjung Puteri or Iskandar Puteri.

Founded in 1855, it was renamed “Johor Baru” in 1862, becoming the capital of the Johor sultanate and its administration centre. Modern development came during the reign of Sultan Abu Bakar. Johor Baru was granted city status on Jan 1, 1994.

Nik Ramly (not his real name), a city planner who knows a great deal about the IIBD transformation plan, told me recently that the IIBD was envisaged as a liveable city in the same class as Vancouver, Sydney and Newcastle of England.

It is planned to be a smart city, integrating the features of a people city, a green city, a connected city, a knowledge city, a business city and a creative city. It is a city not of brick and mortar, but a city with a soul, “the soul of Bangsa Johor”, he said.

Within its 101ha site, there will be a retail district, financial district and cultural district, with sufficient room for a new commercial development, lifestyle development, transit station, waterfront, high street and health hub. Existing landmarks, such as Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim, will be preserved as heritage sites.

The IIBD site lies in the heartland of the much larger MBJB, measuring 21,468 ha. The latter is within Flagship A (one of the five Flagships of Iskandar Malaysia), consisting of the JB City Centre, JB Central Business District (now transformed and renamed as IIBD), JB Conservation & Heritage Zone, and Danga Bay.

Iskandar Malaysia, established on Nov 8, 2006, has an even larger area, 2,217 sq km in size. It is administered by IRDA under the IRDA Act 2007 (Act 664).

In short, IIBD’s future development must take into consideration various legislation and instruments already in place. These include (other than Act 664) the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Act 172), the Local Government Act 1976 (Act 171), the Johor Structure Plan, the MPJB Local Plan, and two Comprehensive Development Plans (CDP 2006-2025 and CDPii 2014-2025) prepared under Act 664.

MBJB is the local authority under Act 171 and the local planning authority under Act 172.

Whether IIBD will be made a distinctive legal entity in the future remains to be seen.

Salleh Buang formerly served the Attorney-General’s Chambers before he left for practice, the corporate sector and, then, academia

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The World’s Disappearing Sand

VINCE BEISERJUNE New York Times 23 Jun 16;

MOST Westerners facing criminal charges in Cambodia would be thanking their lucky stars at finding themselves safe in another country. But Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, who is half British and half Spanish, is pleading with the Phnom Penh government to allow him back to stand trial along with three Cambodian colleagues. They’ve been charged, essentially, with interfering with the harvesting of one of the 21st century’s most valuable resources: sand.

Believe it or not, we use more of this natural resource than any other except water and air. Sand is the thing modern cities are made of. Pretty much every apartment block, office tower and shopping mall from Beijing to Lagos, Nigeria, is made at least partly with concrete, which is basically just sand and gravel stuck together with cement. Every yard of asphalt road that connects all those buildings is also made with sand. So is every window in every one of those buildings.

Sand is the essential ingredient that makes modern life possible. And we are starting to run out.

That’s mainly because the number and size of cities is exploding, especially in the developing world. Every year there are more people on the planet, and every year more of them move to cities. Since 1950, the world’s urban population has ballooned to over 3.9 billion from 746 million.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, in 2012 alone the world used enough concrete to build a wall 89 feet high and 89 feet wide around the Equator. From 2011 to 2013, China used more cement than the United States used in the entire 20th century.

To build those cities, people are pulling untold amounts of sand out of the ground. Usable sand is a finite resource. Desert sand, shaped more by wind than by water, generally doesn’t work for construction. To get the sand we need, we are stripping riverbeds, floodplains and beaches.

Extracting the stuff is an estimated $70 billion industry. It runs the gamut from multinational companies’ deploying enormous dredges to villagers toting shovels and buckets. In places where onshore sources have been exhausted, sand miners are turning to the seas.

This often inflicts terrible costs on the environment. In India, river sand mining is disrupting ecosystems, killing countless fish and birds. In Indonesia, some two dozen small islands are believed to have disappeared since 2005 because of sand mining. In Vietnam, miners have torn up hundreds of acres of forest to get at the sandy soil underneath.

Sand miners have damaged coral reefs in Kenya and undermined bridges in Liberia and Nigeria. Environmentalists tie sand dredging in San Francisco Bay to the erosion of nearby beaches.

People are getting hurt, too. Sand mining has been blamed for accidental deaths in Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Gambia. In India and Indonesia, activists and government officials confronting black-market sand mining gangs have been killed.

Stronger regulations can prevent a lot of this damage, and do in most developed countries. But there’s a downside. Sand is tremendously heavy, which makes it expensive to transport. If you forbid sand mining in your backyard — as many American communities are trying to do — then it has to be trucked in from somewhere else. That drives up the price. Concrete is relatively cheap; if the cost of making a new building or road were to double, it could hit the economy hard.

Not to mention the extra truck traffic and pollution. California state officials estimated that if the average hauling distance for sand and gravel increased to 50 miles from 25 miles, trucks would burn through nearly 50 million more gallons of diesel fuel every year.

We can make more sand, but crushing rock or pulverizing concrete is costly, and the resulting sand is ill suited for many applications. We can use alternative substances for some purposes, but what other substance can we possibly find 40 billion tons of, every year?

The fishing villages in the mangrove-rich estuaries of Cambodia’s Koh Kong province might be the canaries in the global sand mine. For years, villagers have complained that rampant sand mining is wiping out the crabs and fish that provide their living. Locals told me on a recent visit that families have had to send members to work in Phnom Penh garment factories, or have simply moved away. The dredging also threatens endangered native dolphins, turtles and otters.

Last year, members of Mother Nature, an environmental group led by Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson and others, began a campaign to rein in the mining, organizing villagers to blockade and board the dredging ships. The government, which had expelled Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson a few months earlier for blocking road access to government officials trying to reach a hydropower dam in the province, arrested three of the activists, charging them with threatening to damage dredging boats, an offense that could mean two years in prison (Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson was charged in absentia as their accomplice a few months later).

Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson, who lives in Barcelona, is petitioning to be allowed back to attend his own trial. Meanwhile, the three jailed Cambodians have been denied bail for the past 10 months. Their trial has finally been scheduled for the end of June.

There’s an urgent question of justice for them. For the rest of us, there’s a profound lesson. Hardly anyone thinks about sand, where it comes from or what we do to get it. But a world of seven billion people, more and more of whom want apartments to live in and offices to work in and malls to shop in, can’t afford that luxury anymore.

It once seemed as if the planet had such boundless supplies of oil, water, trees and land that we didn’t need to worry about them. But of course, we’re learning the hard way that none of those things are infinite, and the price we’ve paid so far for using them is going up fast. We’re having to conserve, reuse, find alternatives for and generally get smarter about how we use those natural resources. That’s how we need to start thinking about sand.

Vince Beiser, a journalist, is working on a book about the global black market in sand.

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Malaysia: Normal for animals to cross to Singapore -- Malaysian Nature Society

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 27 Jun 16;

JOHOR BARU: Wild animals in southern Johor are crossing to neighbouring Singapore in search of food and shelter.

Malaysian Nature Society Johor chairman Vincent Chow said the clearing of jungles in the Tanjung Langsat area near Pasir Gudang and Pengerang in Kota Tinggi was the main reason why some of the wildlife had been forced out from their homes and they swam across to Singapore.

“The good news is that they don’t often stay in Singapore for long. After a few days, they cross back to Johor,” Chow said yesterday when he was asked about a Malayan tapir that was seen roaming near the coast of Changi in Singapore.

Lianhe Zaobao, a Singapore newspaper, reported the sighting of the nocturnal animal at about 4.30am on Friday. The image was captured by a reader of the city-state’s Chinese newspaper.

When Singapore’s Animal Con­cerns and Education Society was alerted, the animal had disappeared into the sea.

Chow said rapid development and land reclamation in south Johor had also forced endangered animals to emerge from their habitat.

“Wild animals are sensitive to drastic changes in their natural habitat and instincts will lead them to other places which are similar to their natural habitat,” Chow explained to the media.

Singapore, he added, also reported an increase in the number of hornbills in recent years. The birds flew from Johor to mate and nest in the republic.

He said dugongs from Johor could also be seen around the Che Jawa coastal line in Singapore, which is rich in seagrass – the main diet of the sea cows.

State Wildlife Department director Jamal Nasir Ibrahim said it was normal for wildlife to cross over to Singapore and back to Johor.

“About 20 years ago, an adult elephant swam across the Johor Strait and it was brought back to Johor as requested by the Singapore authorities,” he said.

On the runaway tapir, Jamal believed that it probably thought Singapore was part of its territory.

“It was able to swim with the help of its snout which acted as a snorkel,” he said.

Asked whether the tapir would be returned to Johor if it was captured by the authorities there, he said it was unlikely as the animal was now Singaporean.

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