Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jul 16

From the lens of a rookie birdwatcher
Singapore Bird Group

Beach-Comber, Wave-Watcher
A self-described “professional beach bum,” Wong Poh Poh was one of the first geographers to carve out a niche in coastal tourism
Grace Chua Asian Scientist Magazine

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EIA report details impact of Mandai park construction on animals and their habitats

SIAU MING EN Today Online 27 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — Construction of a mega nature attraction in Mandai, to take place over the next seven years, could affect groundwater quality, disrupt certain habitats and species, and raise noise and vibration levels, among other environmental issues.

These were revealed in an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report released on Tuesday (July 26), which has been gazetted and is available for public consultation (

Plans for two new parks to join the trio of wildlife attractions in the Mandai area — Singapore Zoo, River Safari and the Night Safari — were revealed last month by Mandai Park Holdings (MPH), which commissioned the EIA. They are the Bird Park (to be relocated from Jurong) and a Rainforest Park. By 2023, the 126-ha mega attraction is expected to be ready.

Given that the area to be developed is located near Upper Seletar Reservoir and other surface streams within the Sungei Mandai Water Catchment Area, there could be spillage, issues with waste control, contaminated run-off and other discharges from the construction site. Drains would have to be maintained to capture run-offs, among other measures, the report stated.

Higher dust levels are expected during construction and when transporting construction materials, and these will be managed by using water to suppress dust and enclosing buildings that are to be demolished.

Construction work could also reduce habitat resources, disturb and displace wildlife and restrict their movements, the report noted.

For instance, the site clearance might affect the population of certain species of wildlife, such as the Lesser Mouse Deer, the Malayan Colugo and the Sunda Pangolin. Mitigation efforts include a “phased relocation” of the targeted animals, to cut down the disturbance they will face.

Before the construction work, the targeted fauna will also be shepherded towards adjacent refuge habitats to preserve existing populations.

Measures would be put in place to reduce the possibility of animals getting hit, or habitats being destroyed by the accidental release of pollutants or introduction of invasive species.

To prevent displaced animals from moving towards the main roads and getting into accidents with vehicles, hoardings can be put up along Mandai Lake Road during construction, and speed limits can also be introduced.

When the new attractions are ready, there could be an increase in vehicle traffic along Mandai Lake Road and Mandai Road — resulting in higher volumes of air pollutants — more waste and litter, and potential human-wildlife conflicts, the report said.

An increase in visitors may result in more of them picking or damaging the flora, although the report noted that the impact would be small if this is managed by educating visitors and building physical barriers.

Unforeseen events such as fire, accidental spills and overflow of stormwater from the surface water drainage system are also potential sources of environmental impact.

For the wildlife, the built environment might become barriers to their movement. There could also be a higher risk of introducing invasive species and diseases to the native population.

Animal escapes was a key concern raised by nature groups, the report said, because incidents like these may negatively affect the ecosystem, such as potential breeding with native species, or the animal escapees could become competition for these species.

The proposal was to have enclosures designed with double gates and locking procedures, motion sensors, or measures to track birds that have a higher likelihood of escaping.

Mr Joseph Koh, an authority on spiders who was consulted for the EIA, was cheered by the engagement process during the assessment. “It was not a token consultation, not just a one-way traffic,” he said.

“We did not get everything we wanted, but we were glad that we were given an opportunity to be briefed in advance… In other words we were not presented with a fait accompli… It could have gone the other way, in a nightmarish scenario, HDB (public housing) flats would have (come up) and taken its place, but that was avoided. So there was a good compromise,” he added.

Mr Ben Lee, founder of Nature Trekker, a nature conservation group, was particularly pleased with the Eco-Link bridge, which will be constructed to connect the two parcels of nature reserves on either side of Mandai Lake Road and to facilitate wildlife movement in the reserves.

“It’s a wonderful idea. If you have that, you give (animals) the leeway to run away from the devastation and destruction, (instead of) confining (the animal) to one corner where it doesn’t know where to run… (The size of the bridge) is reasonable, as animals in Singapore are very small, like mousedeer, squirrels, pangolins, Banded Leaf Monkey, Common Palm Civet, even leopard cats… Larger animals you can find are wild boars and Sambar Deers.”

However, Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chairperson of the conservation committee from the Nature Society (Singapore), said that it was “most disappointing” that the Bird Park would be relocated to the mega attraction site.

“Apart from captive breeding for conservation purposes, the goal of using captive animals (in zoos, bird parks, aquarium) for nature appreciation is to inculcate an appreciation of wildlife in their natural habitat. This objective has not been achieved if a bigger or more such places are or need to be created, as the people have not been weaned from such spectacle,” he said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TOH EE MING

Mandai plans altered to limit environmental impact
SIAU MING EN Today Online 27 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — Original plans for the mega nature attraction in the Mandai area were modified, after an assessment found that the construction and operation of the attractions could have an impact on the habitats, wildlife and vegetation, and cause pollution.

The Bird Park, expected to draw 14,300 visitors a day at its peak, was initially envisioned for the northern side of Mandai Lake Road, but will be built on the southern side instead, as it is “predominately cleared”. “Greater disturbance” is expected from the development of the Bird Park because of the construction of nine aviaries, according to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) commissioned by Mandai Park Holdings (MPH), which was made public on Tuesday (July 26).

The rainforest-themed adventure park will be built on the northern end, which would allow for better protection of the existing forest area.

MPH also decided to build two arrival areas instead of the originally planned single entry, to divert some visitors from environmentally sensitive areas around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR).

The public areas around each arrival point are expected to see about 10,200 visitors at its peak each day when development works are completed, according to the EIA.

Commissioned in March last year, the EIA was conducted by consultancy firm Environmental Resources Management. The findings have been gazetted for public consultation until Aug 22. The measures detailed in the 398-page EIA are expected to help reduce the potential environmental impact linked to the development to “a residual impact of small or below”. This means that the impact would not be as significant, and “animal(s) as a population will survive”, said marine biologist Leo Tan of the National University of Singapore, which provided technical advice for and oversight of the EIA.

Without mitigation, the impact of construction work on certain areas, such as the surface water quality and ecological resources due to the disturbance and displacement of fauna, would be large, the EIA stated.

Speaking at a media briefing on the EIA findings on Tuesday, MPH group chief executive officer Mike Barclay said the firm had initiated the assessment early into the planning and design processes, “to bring on board feedback and comments at a very early stage to inform our master-planning”.

The final siting of both wildlife parks was revealed last month. The two new parks will join the Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari already in the Mandai area. By 2023, the 126ha mega-attraction will be home to a nature-themed education centre and eco-sensitive lodging.

Plans for the education centre also saw tweaks. Expected to draw peak-day visitorship of 25,200 when completed, it will be housed in a single building on a site where a multi-storey car park now sits, instead of along the reservoir edge as initially planned, as there was concern about the impact on a patch of forest. Meanwhile, a development-free buffer zone measuring 45m to 50m wide will be set aside between the eastern edge of the development and the CCNR. The planned eco-link bridge to allow wildlife to move between the central and northern reaches of the nature reserve will be built in this zone.

The various mitigation measures and monitoring requirements will be laid out in an Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan, with an Environmental Advisory Panel made up of experts and members of nature groups to keep tabs. The authorities will also check in on these plans, said Mr Barclay.

Professor Tan acknowledged that human activity would impact the environment, “but it does not mean that impact is bad”. “It’s just that you have to manage it, and that’s the reality of life. We are starting with already-impacted land, and that’s the key,” he said.

After the public consultation closes, MPH will incorporate public feedback in the final EIA report and development plans, before seeking the Government’s approval.

Changes made to Mandai development plans to reduce environmental impact
Kimberly Spykerman, News 5 Channel NewsAsia 26 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE: To reduce its impact on wildlife and vegetation, changes were made to the future Mandai eco-tourism hub's plans, the project’s developer announced on Tuesday (Jul 26).

The area is now home to the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari, but will soon be developed into a nature and wildlife destination with two new attractions – the Bird Park, which will be relocated from Jurong, and a Rainforest Park. The development is expected to be completed by 2023, with the groundbreaking expected to take place at the end of 2016.

An Environmental Impact Assessment was commissioned by developer Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) to assess the project’s potential environmental effects and consider protection measures.

Among the changes made is the location of the new Rainforest Park, which was originally slated to be built in the southern area of Mandai Lake Road. The park will now be moved to the northern side to better protect the existing forest, as the mature trees can be integrated into the park’s design, MPH said.

The Bird Park will occupy the former Mandai Orchid Gardens, located in the south side of Mandai Lake Road. The land there, previously home to some villages and farmland, was "predominantly cleared", said the developers.

Changes were also made to the visitors’ arrival area. Initially, the plan was to have a single arrival area for the public at the eastern side of the project area, adjacent to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

But to avoid introducing a large number of visitors to a single arrival area next to the nature reserve, two arrival points were created – one to the west and the other to the east. This means visitors will be sorted out and diverted away from sensitive areas around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, MPH said.

Another change was to the design of the nature-themed indoor education centre. It was originally designed to be housed in two different areas, but will now be combined into a single building on the site of an existing multi-storey carpark to reduce its footprint and avoid making an impact on an area of important vegetation.

"We want sustainability and conservation to be at the heart of the Mandai project. As we are committed to being a responsible steward for nature, we made a conscious effort to conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment at the concept stage of the project to allow key mitigation measures to be built into the design of the new Mandai project," said MPH Group CEO Mike Barclay.

During the project’s development period, buffer zones – where no construction or human activity will take place – of between 45m and 50m wide will be provided between development areas and the nature reserves, to minimise disturbance to flora and fauna.

An eco-link will be constructed in the buffer zone to connect two parcels of the nature reserve, on either side of Mandai Lake Road. This will allow wildlife to move safely across.

"The moment you have human activity in anything, you will create an impact," said Professor Leo Tan, director of special projects at the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Science. "But it does not mean that impact is bad. It's just that you have to manage it, and that's the reality of life.

"That's why we're starting with already impacted land, and that's the key. This project avoids the central nature reserve completely and even provides a buffer - which means it eats into the development site of this project and therefore, we have to ensure it's commercially viable as well."

"It's not just a simple, straightforward 'somebody says must protect, and we protect'. We will protect sensibly and rationally," Prof Tan added.

- CNA/cy

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Malaysia: Plans to upgrade Congok dam to resolve water woes

NABILA AHMAD The Star 27 Jul 16;

JOHOR BARU: The state government hopes to upgrade the Congok dam and increase its capacity to allow it to hold more water and address the issue of water disruption in certain areas.

Johor Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said that they hope to start on the upgrading works by the end of this year.

“Our state water regulatory body (Bakaj) is already doing a feasibility study including identifying the sources of water and the areas that will be affected,” he said, adding that at the federal level, the necessary documents and tender process was ongoing.

As to the cost of the project, he said that it has yet to be finalised.

Hasni was speaking to reporters during a press conference after attending the Volt-Tech programme organised by engineering students at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) on Monday.

The Congok dam supplies water to Mersing.

He stressed that the present rainy season was “helping” to ensure all the dams and water treatment plants statewide were operating without any disruption.

“We hope to address the issue at the Sungai Layang dam through our RM100mil water transfer project which will be ready next year,” he said, adding that the issue of water shortage at the Sg Lebam dam was addressed through the channelling of water via the raw water supply project (PAMER) from the Petronas multi-billion ringgit Pengerang Integrated Complex.

During the event, a total of 114 Form Five students who are doing a course in electrical and electronic engineering participated in the four-day seminar.

Students from SMK Kuala Lumpur, SMT Alor Setar, SMT Bukit Piatu, SMT Johor Baru, SMT Kuantan and others attended the seminar as a preparation for their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination.

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Malaysia: Over 1,000 exotic turtles worth RM600,000 seized in sting operation

SIMON KHOO The Star 26 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: The Wildlife Crime Unit has seized more than 1,000 exotic turtles and detained four foreigners during a sting operation here and in Kuala Lumpur.

The seizure is worth an estimated RM600,000.

In announcing this, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said four Indian nationals have been detained to assist in investigations.

Dr Wan Junaidi said two suspects were detained in the first raid at a house in Petaling Jaya at about 7pm on Monday.

"A total of 1,011 Star tortoises and 23 Indian Roofed turtles were seized.

"In a follow-up at a budget hotel in Kuala Lumpur, two other suspects were picked up early today (Tuesday)," he said.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the enforcement officers found 36 Black Pond turtles in four bags.

Checks showed all the four suspects did not possess any licence from the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) to keep the reptiles.

The suspects will be investigated under Section 68 of the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 for keeping wildlife without a special permit.

The offence carries a jail term of up to three years, a maximum fine of RM100,000, or both upon conviction.

Turtles worth RM600,000 rescued
SIMON KHOO The Star 27 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: They were destined to be sold to keen buyers. But thanks to the Wildlife Crime Unit, over 1,000 endangered and exotic turtles were rescued from their captors and will be shipped back to their country of origin soon.

The animals are now under the pro­­tection of the Wildlife and Na­­tional Parks Department (Perhilitan) after being smuggled into the country by air in luggage bags.

They were kept in a rented house awaiting orders – made online –before they were supposed to be shipped out by syndicate members with wide international links.

Sources said buyers, both Ma­­lay­­sians and foreigners, were willing to pay between RM300 and RM1,000 each for the reptiles to be kept as pets.

The unit has been monitoring the syndicate and its online transactions for several months before moving in to nab the culprits.

The raid resulted in the ar­rest of four Indian nationals, aged between 32 and 39, and the seizure of the reptiles worth about RM600,000.

In announcing the success, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said it was the biggest seizure of exotic turtles and tortoises by Perhilitan in recent years.

“The suspects will be investigated under Section 68 of the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 for keeping wildlife without any proper documentation,” he said, adding that Perhilitan was tracking down other syndicate members.

The offence carries a jail term of up to three years, a maximum fine of RM100,000 or both upon conviction.

During Monday’s 7pm raid at a house in Taman Aman here, two suspects were detained while 1,011 Indian Star tortoises and 23 Indian Roofed turtles were rescued.

Some of the reptiles were ready to be shipped out via air and placed inside luggage bags.

In a follow-up raid at a budget hotel in Jalan Tun Perak, Kuala Lumpur early yesterday, two more suspects were detained.

This time, enforcement officers found 36 Black Pond turtles stuffed inside four bags, awaiting transportation out of the country.

A special permit is required to keep these exotic reptiles.

A Google search showed that the Indian Roofed turtle is a popular victim of illegal wildlife trade because of its oddly-shaped shell and tiger-patterned belly.

The Indian Star tortoise is popular as a pet and a spiritual symbol, largely because of its striking shell that has a star-like radiating pattern of yellow and black.

These tortoises command pre­mium prices in international market and their high sale value in South-East Asian markets also makes them a top-traded species.

According to wildlife monitoring group Traffic, the Black Pond turtle is facing extinction as demand for it as an exotic pet booms.

This relatively rare species can only be found in rivers in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan and regarded as one of the most attractive turtles because of its spotted skin and boldly patterned shell.

Both the Indian Star tortoise and Black Pond turtles are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, meaning that international trade in these species is prohibited.

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Malaysia: Johor proposes ferry services to Singapore

YEE XIANG YUN The Star 26 Jul 16;

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin (pic) said the proposal was to help ease the traffic congestion at the Causeway and the Second Link faced by road users and commuters who travelled between Malaysia and Singapore via Johor Baru.

He said the ferry terminal would offer services from Kong Kong in Pasir Gudang to Singapore’s Changi Ferry Terminal, which offers ferry services to Tanjung Belungkor in Desaru here and Batam, Indonesia.

“The proposed ferry terminal, which includes water taxi services, would enable those staying in the east of Johor Baru like those in Pasir Gudang and working in Singapore to cut down on travel time,” he said on Tuesday.

Mohamed Khaled said this when attending the Johor Baru-Singapore Taxi Services Terminal Management Hari Raya open house.

Johor wants 'water taxi' service between Kong Kong, Pasir Gudang and Changi
AHMAD FAIRUZ OTHMAN New Straits Times 26 Jul 16;

JOHOR BARU: The Johor government is seeking to set up a 'water taxi' service for passengers and vehicles between Kong Kong, Pasir Gudang and Changi, Singapore.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said a feasibility study would be conducted by the Federal government on the service, that will involve the usage of ferries to ply the 20-minute route.

He said the service will connect the eastern part of Johor with Singapore, and would benefit travellers coming to and from Pengerang, which is an upcoming oil and gas hub in southeast Johor.

"There is a proposal to operate a water taxi from Changi to a new terminal in Kong Kong that will connect Singapore to eastern Johor within 20 minutes.

"It is not only a passenger ferry, but one that will transport vehicles.

This has been brought to the Federal government for consideration.

"It is much welcomed and should be promoted because it could overcome and reduce the usage of the Causeway and Second Link," Khaled told reporters after attending an Aidilfitri event organised by Johor Baru-Singapore taxi driver operators.

Johor proposes water taxis from Pasir Gudang to Singapore
Channel NewsAsia 26 Jul 16;

JOHOR: The Johor state government has proposed to introduce water taxi services between the Kong Kong terminal in Pasir Gudang and Singapore's Changi terminal.

This was announced by Johor's Chief Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin at a Hari Raya event on Tuesday (Jul 26), according to local media reports.

A feasibility study will be conducted on the service, which will involve 20 ferries plying the 20-minute route, the New Straits Times quoted the chief minister as saying.

The ferries will not only carry passengers, but will also be able to transport vehicles, he said, adding that the proposal should be welcomed as it would help "overcome and reduce the usage of the Causeway and Second Link".

The Changi ferry terminal currently offers ferry services to Tanjung Belungkor, which is a 15-minute drive from tourist attraction Desaru. There are also boats to take passengers from Changi Point ferry terminal to Pengerang in southeastern Johor.

- CNA/Bernama/hs

Facility in Pasir Gudang will help reduce congestion and boost tourism, says Johor MB
The Star 28 Jul 16;

JOHOR BARU: Johor has proposed for a ferry terminal in Pasir Gudang as a means to help reduce congestion as a large volume of commuters are travelling between Malaysia and Singapore through the Causeway and Second Link.

The new terminal, to be set up in Kong Kong, would include water taxi services besides vehicles to ferry them to Singapore’s Changi Ferry Terminal, said Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

“With this service, we hope to at least reduce the congestion at the two existing routes to and from Singapore.

“I cannot say for sure by how much we can cut down the traffic at the existing routes as that would need to be studied first,” he said when attending the Johor Baru-Singapore Taxi Service Terminal Management Hari Raya open house on Tuesday.

He added that the proposal would be submitted to the Federal Government soon to consider and once given the green light, the project would start next year.

He said the proposed terminal was also an alternative mode of transportation for those staying in the east of Johor Baru such as Pasir Gudang as it would cut down on travelling time to Singapore.

“It takes about 20 minutes from the proposed terminal to Changi and this is convenient as commuters need not go all the way to the city centre (for Causeway) and Gelang Patah (for Second Link),” he said.

He added that the terminal would also create job opportunities, such as businesses and for public transportation like taxi services.

“Once we launch Pengerang and Desaru as the next tourism attraction next year, more Singaporeans would be visiting Johor.

“This increases the need for such a terminal to be set up here,” he said.

The island republic’s ferry terminal currently offers services to Tanjung Belungkor in Desaru here and Batam, Indonesia.

No request from Johor authorities on ferry services to S’pore yet: MPA
Today Online 28 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE — More connections - including ferry services - between Singapore and Malaysia are welcome, but no request has been made by the Johor authorities yet, said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in response to media reports that Johor was keen on ferry links to ease traffic congestion at the land checkpoints.

On Tuesday (July 26), The Star reported that the Johor state government had suggested setting up a ferry service as an alternative transport option for commuters travelling to and from Singapore.

Johor Chief Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin had told reporters that a proposed ferry terminal could offer services from Kong Kong in Pasir Gudang to Singapore’s Changi Ferry Terminal.

In response to queries, an MPA spokesperson said: “Singapore welcomes enhanced connectivity between Malaysia and Singapore, including ferry services. MPA has yet to receive any request from Johor Port Authority regarding additional ferry services to new destinations from Changi Ferry Terminal. When we receive such a request, MPA will assess its feasibility.”

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Indonesia: Sampit`s urban forest to feature peat swamp

Antara 26 Jul 16;

Sampit (ANTARA News) - The urban forest in Sampit, Central Kalimantan province will be featuring peat swamp as its defining characteristic, the Head of Forestry and Plantation Office, Sanggul Lumban Gaol, said here on Tuesday.

"Our urban forest is different from those generally developed in high altitude areas. Spread over an area of 296 hectares, ours is the largest such forest developed in the middle of a city," he added.

The development of the urban forest involved an expert team from Gadjah Mada University (UGM) that had drawn up the master plan.

The master plan will be a reference for formulating a forest development policy.

The forest will be a tourist research site and an icon of Sampit, whose peat layers reach at least four meters.

This year, the government will make trenches and construct a dam to prevent any fires from occurring in the urban forest. Last year, most of the urban forest area was burnt.

"We have to preserve the germplasm such as typical swamp timber. We will develop the forest according to the directions of the research team," Sanggul noted, adding that the project will be completed in five years.

"We are expecting the urban forest will be ready and will be available for tourism and study purposes within five years," he stressed.

Sanggul informed that the office is also cooperating with the Indonesian Science Institute (LIPI) and the management of Bogor Botanical Garden to build the Sampit Botanical Garden.

The spokesman of the UGM experts, Kaharudin, mentioned that the team has surveyed the lands for urban forest. It will have a 500 meter wide buffer of forest belt surrounding the area.

During the survey, the team found 42 species of plants and abandoned orangutans nests.

"The urban forest can function as peat swamp and germplasm conservation site, a tourist site, and a research and study site. In addition, it is also the citys natural landmark," he concluded.

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Indonesia: Police need to explain halting investigation on forest fires -- Lawmaker

Antara 26 Jul 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Deputy chairman of Commission III of the House of Representatives Benny K Harman said police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian has to give reason for halting investigation of cases of forest fires involving 15 companies in Riau.

"The police chief has to openly give reasons for issuing order to halt investigations (SP3) of the forest fires," Benny here on Tuesday.

He also asked President Joko Widodo (Jokowi)to summon the police chief to explain the decision to issue SP3 as the cases have national and international dimension.

He said the forest fires have destroyed the environment and claimed lives that the public began to raise question as to "why police is that easy to issue SP3."

He said without immediate explanation, the SPT decision could spawn a lot of prejudices in the public.

"There are already rumor that the president has ordered the police chief to issue the SP3 order on pressure from big companies," he said, adding, therefore, explanation is necessary.

He said the Commission III would monitor the process of how the cases would be handled.

Law enforcement must not be firm only when dealing with ordinary members of the community, he said.

The Riau police chief has issued an order to stop investigation of forest and peat land fires in Riau on "lack of evidence."

Police chief spokesman Ins.Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said police would not take side among companies charged with forest fires that devastated wide rain forests in Riau in 2015.

"I see there are a number of cases going to court. Therefore, not all are stopped with SP3," Boy said.

He said the reason could lack of evidence to charge the 15 companies, adding "we will give full explanation of the SP3 cases.

Earlier, a non governmental organization in Pekanbaru, Riau, asked President Jokowi to evaluate the performance of Riau police chief Brig. Gen. Supriyanto for issuing the SP3 order.

The call by the Riau Forest Safety Work Net (Jikalahari) came when Jokowi summoned all regional police chiefs and heads of high prosecution office to Jakarta to hear the presidents evaluation of their performance over the past year.

Jikalahari said the Riau police chief has issued SP3 on 11 of 18 companies accused of setting fires on forest and peat lands in the province last year.

The 11 companies are PT Bumi Daya Laksana, PT Siak Raya Timber, PT Perawang Sukses Perkasa Industri, PT Hutani Sola Lestari, PT Bukit Raya Pelalawan, KUD Bina Jaya Langgam (HTI), PT Pan United, PT Riau Jaya Utama, PT Alam Lestari, PT Parawira and PT Langgam Inti Hibrido, Coordinator of the organization Woro Supartinah said.

So far there were only two cases were brought to court and the suspects were individuals instead of the corporations.

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On first International Day, UNESCO calls for protection of mangrove ecosystems

UN News Centre 26 Jul 16;

26 July 2016 – Mangroves are rare and vital ecosystems that help to protect coastlines and mitigate the effects of climate change, but their survival is being jeopardized, the United Nations cultural agency said today, calling for greater preservation efforts as the international community marks the first ever International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem.

“Mangroves are rare, spectacular and prolific ecosystems on the boundary between land and sea. They ensure food security for local communities. They provide biomass, forest products and sustain fisheries. They contribute to the protection of coastlines. They help mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather events,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a message to mark the Day.

“This is why the protection of mangrove ecosystems is essential today. Their survival faces serious challenges – from the alarming rise of the sea level and biodiversity that is increasingly endangered. The earth and humanity simply cannot afford to lose these vital ecosystems,” she added.

Mangroves – ecosystems located on the interface of land and sea in tropical regions – can play an important role in reducing vulnerability to natural hazards and increasing resilience to climate change impacts, by acting as a form of natural coastal defense. However, mangroves are disappearing three to five times faster than overall global forest losses, with serious ecological and socio-economic impacts, UNESCO said.

The proclamation of the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem – which was adopted in November 2015 by the General Conference of UNESCO – underlined the importance of the mangrove ecosystem as a “a unique, special and vulnerable ecosystem, providing by virtue of their existence, biomass and productivity substantial benefits to human beings, providing forestry, fishery goods and services as well as contributing to the protection of the coastline and being particularly relevant in terms of mitigation of the effects of climate change and food security for local communities.”

UNESCO noted that it has always been on the frontline of promoting new and harmonious relations between humanity and nature, where the preservation of mangrove ecosystems carries “special importance.” To this end, the agency is working with partners on an open initiative on mangroves and sustainable development.

“On this first International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, UNESCO's message is clear. Taking forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development means forging new sustainable pathways to development in harmony with the earth. This means preserving all mangrove ecosystems,” said Ms. Bokova.

UNESCO's World Network of Biosphere Reserves has 86 sites out of 669 that include areas of mangroves. Many are in developing countries and Small Island Developing States – such as La Hotte Biosphere Reserve in Haiti and the island of Principe in Sao Tome and Principe, as well as the Can Gio Mangrove in Viet Nam.

In addition, the UNESCO World Heritage List includes the Sundarbans, the largest unbroken mangrove system in the world, shared between Bangladesh and India and home to the iconic Royal Bengal Tiger.

The UNESCO Global Geoparks Network also has mangrove sites, such as the Langkawi Global Geopark of Malaysia.

Sri Lanka prime minister: Mangroves curb climate threat
Mark Kinver BBC News 26 Jul 16;

Sri Lanka's prime minister has said mangroves' ability to swiftly absorb carbon make the forests vital in the fight against climate change.

His comments come on a day marking the first anniversary of a project to protect all of the nation's mangroves.

As well as storing carbon, the forests provide habitat for fish and protect communities from tsunamis and cyclones.

Also on Tuesday - World Mangrove Day - Sri Lanka's president will open the world's first mangrove museum.

The museum will act as a hub for conservation training for adults, and educating children about the value of mangroves. It is

The Sri Lankan government has also included mangrove forest conservation into its national curriculum.

The museum is a central pillar of a five-year programme to protect all of the island nation's mangroves.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said: "Mangroves swiftly absorb carbon dioxide and inject oxygen into the atmosphere, maintaining an ecological balance vital for the environment.

"It is my belief that the mangrove restoration project will generate much needed awareness among key stakeholders such as the community, leisure sector personnel, tourists, and the general public."

He added: "It is my hope that this will be the beginning of a long-term effort to sustain the mangroves for greater conservation benefit."

In partnership with island conservation organisation Seacology and local NGO Sudeesa, the Sri Lankan government has identified all of the nation's 15,000 hectares of mangrove forests, and has surveyed almost half of them.

Ministers have also introduced legislation to protect the habitats and have assigned forest officers to help guard them.

Green gold

Seacology executive director Duane Silverstein explained that although the project required US $3.4 million of funding, the sum was dwarfed when the ecosystem services provided by Sri Lanka's mangrove forests were taken into account.

"In last year, research has been published looking at the economic value of mangrove in Asia," he said.

"It has concluded that each hectare has a value of US $194,000 - that would put an economic value of our project at US $2.9 billion."

He told BBC News that mangroves were critical in a number of areas, socially as well as environmentally.

"Firstly, they provide nurseries for young fish, which are protected among the mangrove roots," he explained.

"Secondly, and increasingly important, they provide protection from natural disasters such as tsunamis and cyclones. They disperse the energy in the sea and waves, therefore the villages that have intact mangroves suffer significantly less damage.

"Thirdly, and most importantly, mangrove forests sequester far much more carbon than other times of forest. A recent UN report estimated that mangroves store about 1,000 tonnes per hectare in their biomass and underlying soil. There is a minimum of 15,000 hectares of mangrove in Sri Lanka, meaning that the country's mangroves are sequestering 15 million tonnes of carbon."

Global problem

One of the threats facing mangrove forests around the world is the emergence of shrimp farms in order to meet the growing global demand for shrimps/prawns.

In order to build saltwater ponds needed to rear the crustaceans, mangroves - which grown in the intertidal area of shorelines - are felled, either legally or illegally.

This practice has been identified by the United Nations as one of the main drivers for the loss of the valuable and most at-risk habitat, with more than half of mangroves being lost or felled over the past century.

However, the development of shrimp farms in Sri Lanka had resulted in a significant fall in fish catch yields, say local conservationists.

This resulted in local fishing communities losing incomes and livelihoods, making them aware of the importance and value of healthy mangrove forests, and keen to protect them.

Mr Silverstein said that the conservation model adopted in Sri Lanka could be rolled out to other mangrove-rich nations, however he added that "one size would not fit all".

"However, it is very clear that we are demonstrating that a nation can preserve all of its mangroves, and still improve the economic quality of people's lives.

"Although the Sri Lanka project has four more years to run, it does take many years of planning. We are looking at working with another nation to do something similar."

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