Malaysia, Singapore conduct chemical spill response exercise

Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE: To test Malaysia and Singapore's readiness to tackle chemical spills, a joint exercise was held along the East Johor Strait on Thursday (Jul 28).

The exercise is part of the bilateral cooperation programme under the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a joint news release.

Thursday's exercise simulated a collision between a chemical tanker departing an oil terminal in Pasir Gudang, Malaysia, and a cargo ship departing an adjacent shipyard, resulting in the spillage of 30 metric tonnes of the chemical Styrene Monomer. Styrene Monomer is a flammable liquid which floats on water. Prolonged exposure to highly concentrated vapour could lead to unconsciousness, coma and death, MPA and NEA stated.

The drill also simulated two crew members of the cargo ship falling overboard as a result of the impact.

The Marine Department of Malaysia led response efforts, while MPA supported Malaysian authorities in areas such as spillage clean-up and search-and-rescue efforts. NEA also supported the exercise by monitoring air and water quality for signs of chemical contamination, information exchange with the Johor Department of Environment, and was ready to coordinate cleanup efforts along Singapore's shorelines.

In total, Singapore deployed four vessels, 30 officers and 10 observers to support the exercise, MPA and NEA said.

- CNA/dl

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Nature groups propose changes to alleviate environmental impact in Mandai

TOH EE MING Today Online 29 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE — With public consultation on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for development plans in Mandai underway, nature groups have suggested modifications to the proposals to further mitigate any potential impact, while some have also called for more clarity on the level of impact expected.

When completed in 2023, Mandai’s 126ha mega-nature attraction will see a new Bird Park, a Rainforest Park, as well as an eco-lodge and an education centre.

Wildlife consultant Mr Subaraj Rajathurai noted that the building of an eco-bridge for wildlife crossing across Mandai Lake Road — one of the measures that had been announced to safeguard wildlife in the vicinity — would help minimise traffic accidents.

However, he added that Mandai Park Holdings (MPH), which commissioned the EIA, could look into more “green connections” to help animals “safely move from one area to another with minimum risk”.

Such links could include putting up ropes and continuous canopies for arboreal species, such as monkeys, squirrels and civets, to move freely between the trees, and identifying passage ways to prevent animals from going in the wrong direction.

Mr Subaraj also pointed out that while there will be narrow buffer zones, measuring 45m to 50m wide — where no construction or human activity will take place — there still needs to be “sufficient landscape and greenery to play a part in animals’ foraging and moving”.

Nature Society (Singapore) president Shawn Lum said while there is “no magic wand” to compensate for habitat loss, the developers could look into various ways of designing the attractions, such as sinking down aviaries to prevent trees from being impeded by large structures, and to allow for wild birds to still roost in undisturbed canopies.

Local conservationist Mr Tony O’Dempsey expressed concerns about locating the bird park next to the nature reserve. This could give rise to scenarios such as wildlife escapees competing with native birds for habitat and food resources, or cross-infections between native birds and captive birds via vectors such as mosquito and lice, he said.

Mosquito fogging near the nature reserve would also affect native insect wildlife there.

“These are things that mitigations, such as cage design, cannot satisfy 100 per cent ... We are taking a big risk,” Mr O’Dempsey said.

More attention also needs to be paid to the existing band of mature fruit and secondary tree species in the area — which provide a conduit for native animals such the Colugo — which would be cleared to make way for the project, he added.

Such a move would leave the eco-bridge as the only connection across Mandai Lake Road.

Citing how trees planted within the eco-bridge and buffer zones might not be tall enough to support arboreal animals, Mr O’Dempsey said other solutions could be found, which “leave the existing forest in place while utilising the surrounding grass land for structures”.

Co-founder of Cicada Tree Eco-Place Vilma D’Rozario said: “To have two large attractions added in, and accommodation on-site so close to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve is a great concern ... These are not good practices.”

Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chair of the conservation committee at Nature Society (Singapore), noted that greater efforts are needed to quantify adverse environmental impact.

He felt that the EIA’s concluding statement that the majority of the impacts “can be reduced to a residual impact magnitude of small or below” to be rather vague or misleading.

“This means that there are some — maybe a few — that cannot be reduced to this level (small or below). What are these impacts? How serious are they? These, as I see it, are not made clear in the report,” he added.

He said he will be helping the Nature Society to provide a formal and detailed feedback.

Mr Lum added: “In the risk assessment, we can list each of the risks one by one, the results of those impacts, the likelihood of these things happening, and then you can work on a more ecologically sound mitigation ... That becomes a starting point to address these issues more realistically.”

Those interviewed said they were glad that some of the input given by the nature groups was incorporated into the EIA.

Mr Louis Ng, Animal Concerns Research & Education Society’s (Acres) chief executive, said: “It was a more collaborative process, where we involved local experts, people who really understood the animals. We were thankful for that.”

Mr Subaraj added: “We just need to push a little harder, and make the layman understand what we know from years of experience in the field ... (so) we can make it a better place for wildlife.”

Eco-Lodge at Mandai to be 400-room full-service hotel
SIAU MING EN Today Online 29 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE — Up to 400 rooms and family accommodation units — alongside a full suite of facilities for banquets and events, a swimming pool and a spa — could be available at the new Eco-Lodge in the mega nature attraction planned for Mandai, when development works are completed in 2023.

And the planned Planet Explorer and Sri Seletar Point education centre will feature an “indoor nature-themed entertainment hub” with galleries for permanent and temporary exhibitions, and function rooms to host workshops and mini-lectures.

Occupying a 4.65ha plot of land — about the size of six football fields — located next to the Upper Seletar Reservoir, the Eco-Lodge has been conceptualised as a full-service hotel with its own drop-off point, a lobby and reception, food-and-beverage facilities, as well as banquet and events facilities.

“The overall building form and height will be low-rise, respecting existing tree lines and well-integrated with the surrounding landscape. A 15m setback from the reservoir edge will allow for a buffer area of vegetation close to the reservoir to be retained,” stated the report, which was commissioned by Mandai Park Holdings (MPH), which manages the three wildlife attractions already in the area — the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari.

The company also shared last month that there are plans to build more permanent accommodation such as tents, rustic cottages and family rooms. The Singapore Zoo already offers overnight camps.

Though the design and construction footprint of the Eco-Lodge had yet to be finalised at the time the report was written, it noted that the construction work for the accommodation is expected to take about four years. The building will be no taller than four-storeys to limit its shading and edge effects on the surrounding forested areas.

Meanwhile, Planet Explorer and Sri Seletar Point will be housed in a three-storey building, and is expected to draw about 25,200 visitors at its peak each day. The exhibitions will feature themes such as conservation, sustainability, natural sciences and biodiversity.

There are also plans to have function rooms to host events, workshops and mini-lectures, as well as training rooms for staff and vets from visiting zoos. Children can also attend classes on conservation at the Forest Kindergarten.

Other facilities in the building include a library, retail stores and offices. Construction work for the Planet Explorer and Sri Seletar Point is expected to take about three years and will be ready after the second quarter of 2022. When completed in 2023, the 126ha mega nature attraction in Mandai will see a new Bird Park — relocated from Jurong — a Rainforest Park, along with the Eco-Lodge and the education centre.

On Tuesday, MPH shared how original plans were modified after the assessment found that the construction and operation of the attractions could have an impact on the habitats, wildlife and vegetation, and cause pollution.

For example, Planet Explorer and Sri Seletar Point were envisioned to be housed in separate buildings along the reservoir edge. But this was tweaked to house them in a single building on a site where a multi-storey car park now sits, to reduce building footprint and avoid any impact on the nearby forested area.

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Bicycle-sharing scheme to start in Jurong Lake District by end-2017

Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE: A self-service bicycle scheme will be piloted in the Jurong Lake District (JLD) by the end of 2017, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in a media release on Thursday (Jul 28).

The scheme, which will encompass more than 1,000 bicycles and 100 docking stations, will allow members of the public access to a bicycle around the clock. They can pick up the bicycles at any self-service docking station and return it to a station within the system's service area, LTA said.

The stations are spaced about 400m apart, and will allow residents to make short trips from their homes to nearby MRT stations and bus interchanges, where they can return the bicycle and continue their journeys on public transport.

LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong said: “We believe this will catalyse take-up of cycling as it provides a convenient and healthy way to commute between homes, nearby amenities and the MRT stations.

"Through the pilot, we will study the scheme’s feasibility and determine if and how it can be extended to other residential towns as well,” Mr Chew added.


LTA said they will call a tender to appoint an operator who will own, build, operate and maintain the pilot bicycle-sharing scheme in JLD for eight years, with options to bid to operate a bicycle-sharing scheme in Marina Bay/City Centre as well as Tampines and Pasir Ris.

This means there will potentially be around 2,300 bicycles and 230 docking stations in total across the three locations, LTA said.


For members of the local cycling community, the scheme is miles apart from previous attempts at fostering a bicycle sharing culture in Singapore, including the 12-bicycle strong Isuda scheme in 2012.

"The biggest difference is the scale of the implementation of the proposal,” said co-founder of cycling interest group Love Cycling SG Woon Taiwoon, who helped raise awareness of Isuda among the community.

“It allows a very big spectrum of people to use the facilities. This is a very good step forward, that the bicycle is not regarded as a purely recreational item."

But ultimately, it will still take time to foster a bicycle-sharing culture in Singapore, Mr Woon said.

"The design needs to be robust, needs to be temper-proof," he said. "Over the last few years a lot of good has happened.

"I think we need to give it time, time for the infrastructure, time for people to also accept cycling as a mode of transport."


To defray some of the costs involved in setting up and operating the bicycle-sharing pilot in JLD, LTA said they will provide a grant. The potential operators will bid for a fixed grant they need in each year of the contract.

Besides appointing an operator for the bicycle-sharing scheme, LTA will also call a tender to appoint a sponsorship consultant. LTA will work with the consultant to engage suitable sponsors, who will get naming and advertising rights to the bicycle-sharing system, similar to other bicycle-sharing systems in overseas cities such as Citibike in New York and Santander Cycle in London.

The bicycle-sharing scheme complements existing efforts to facilitate cycling and to improve first-and-last-mile connectivity to public transport nodes and key amenities, LTA said.

Under the National Cycling Plan, more than 700km of cycling paths will be provided islandwide by 2030.

- CNA/am

Bike-sharing scheme could extend to Tampines, Pasir Ris, Marina Bay and city centre
TAN WEIZHEN Today Online 28 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE — Two more areas — Tampines-Pasir Ris as well as Marina Bay with the city centre — have been identified as possible locations for a bike-sharing pilot scheme to extend to.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) revealed this on Thursday (July 28) as they gave details of the tender they will call on Friday for an operator to own, build, operate and maintain a 1,000-bicycle-sharing system with 100 docking stations in the Jurong Lake District for eight years, starting end next year.

Bidders for this tender will also have to propose plans to expand the bike-sharing scheme to Marina Bay and the city centre, and to Tampines-Pasir Ris as well. If the system is launched in all three areas, the total number of bicycles in the scheme is estimated to rise to about 2,300, with around 230 docking stations.

To defray part of the costs of setting up and operating the pilot in Jurong Lake District, the LTA will provide a grant. Potential operators will have to bid for a fixed amount of grant they need each year of the contract. However, money from private sponsors are expected to partially fund the operations.

Another tender will be called on Friday to appoint a consultant that will engage suitable sponsors who will be entitled to naming and advertising rights to the bicycle-sharing system.

Plans for the bike-sharing pilot at Jurong Lake District, which will run 24/7, were announced by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan last week.

How much it will cost to use the bicycles will be decided by the operator, said the LTA on Thursday. In some cities, commuters get to ride free for the first 30 minutes, while others operate on a system of a monthly or annual pass.

In New York, for instance, an annual membership costs US$155 (S$210), while a monthly one is US$14.95. A 24-hour pass costs US$9.95.

The tender will stipulate that operators should accept payment through EZ-link or debit and credit cards.

On how the LTA would decide whether to expand the scheme, a spokesperson said: “We will look at the quality proposals submitted by the tenderers to see if (they) have taken into account the unique characteristics of the respective districts. We will also look at the financial proposals to assess the extent of economies of scale that can potentially be reaped in the respective options.

“Concurrently, we will evaluate the level of sponsorship interest before eventually deciding which option to choose.”

Jurong Lake District was chosen for the pilot because it is set to be re-developed into Singapore’s second Central Business District, said the LTA on Thursday. The authority’s considerations for expanding to the two new areas would be different, added a spokesperson.

Tampines and Pasir Ris, as mixed residential, industrial and commercial-use towns, should see higher frequency of trips during certain hours as commuters may use the bicycles to commute to and from work or to run errands.

In contrast, usage is expected to be spread out throughout the day in the city centre and Marina Bay, partially because there are key tourist attractions there.

“This will expand the parts of the city one can access quickly and easily ... for both tourists and Singaporeans to explore the sights of the city. This may hence translate to less frequent but longer bicycle-sharing trips,” said the LTA spokesperson.

“Usage may also be more consistent during the weekends or even in the wee hours as recreational night-cycling becomes increasingly popular or when public transport services are not available late at night,” the spokesperson added.

As part of the planning process, the public will be consulted on where pick-up and drop-off points for the bikes should be.

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Malaysia: Falsified permits are fuelling global illegal wildlife trade

The Star 29 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: It’s so easy – and even legal – to own exotic animals. And this is fuelling the global illegal wildlife trade.

This is because the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permits can be and are often falsified.

In Malaysia, traders who wish to sell exotic animals and individuals who want to buy them need to have the CITES permit for each one they want to sell or keep.

Traffic South-east Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said the existence of fake permits, which state that the animals were bred in captivity when they were actuality taken from the wild, was a “long-standing issue”.

“Wildlife is often taken illegally from the wild and laundered into the global market via captive-breeding businesses.

“The animals are exported with paperwork falsely declaring them as captive-bred,” said John.

She said the responsibility was with potential buyers to check whether the exotic animal they wanted to buy was indeed captive-bred.

“Keeping exotic pets, especially those sourced from the wild, may contribute to the decline of a species in the wild.

“If in doubt, do not buy,” she said.

She added that the Government needed to ensure that exotic animals, such as the Indian Star tortoise recently seized in the country from an illegal wildlife trafficking ring, were actually bred in captivity.

“We strongly urge governments to consult with experts before allowing the import, to look into the likelihood of the species in question actually originating from a breeding operation,” she said.

Wildlife Alliance Science and Global Development director Dr Thomas Gray said the exotic pet trade, even if legal, contributed to animal poaching from the wild.

“In many circumstances, it is used to launder animals caught in the wild as ‘commercially bred’.

“Many CITES permits are fake as it is physically impossible for all the ‘captive bred’ reptiles traded globally to come from genuine and well-managed captive facilities,” said Gray.

He said the ownership of exotic animals as pets should be discouraged.

Referring to two types of tortoises – red-footed and pancake – that were seen being sold in two exotic pet shops here, Gray said both of types of tortoises were CITES-listed species whose populations in the wild have been seriously impacted by the exotic pet trade.

“Neither species is suitable as pets,” he said.

Just RM3 for a protected wildlife licence
The Star 29 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: From as low as RM3 for a one-year licence from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan), Malaysians can legally own animals whose numbers are declining in the wild.

Depending on the species, the licence fee varies from RM3 to own a scorpionidae, RM5 (Burmese python), RM10 (short-tailed parrot) to RM20 for animals protected under Malaysian laws.

The law stipulates that only exotic animals bred in captivity can be sold in shops. However, there appears to be little checks on this.

Traffic South-East Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said animals categorised under Appendix II of CITES could only be traded internationally with proper permits and licences.

(Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora states that the species will face extinction unless poaching from the wild is controlled.)

“We don’t know where the traders are getting it from,” she said, adding that pet shops should seek verification on the origin of the animals.

Under the law, when a pet owner buys an animal, he must take it to a veterinarian who would then insert a microchip in it. In cases of birds, a ring would be attached.

After that, the new owner only has to bring the animal, his identity card, the receipt for the purchase of the animal, a utility bill (if the owner is living on a landed property) or a letter from the maintenance office to Perhilitan to apply for a licence.

Despite these easy steps to get a licence, there seems to be no awareness or urgency from pet owners to obtain it.

“When you buy an animal from us, we will issue you a receipt. Just bring it (the receipt) to Perhilitan and you can apply for the licence,” said a trader during a visit by The Star to an exotic pet shop in Petaling Jaya.

A visit to another exotic animal shop in Kuala Lumpur showed a similar scenario.

When the seller was asked where his supply came from, he remained silent. He said the onus was on the buyer to apply for the licence to own the exotic animals.

“You don’t need to have a licence to buy the animal, you can buy it first and then apply for licence.”

“They (the authorities) won’t check your house lah,” he added.

They however, stated that they had the CITES permits, as required by Perhilitan, to sell them.

Perhilitan enforcement division director Hasnan Yusop said owners of these animals must have a licence to keep the pets.

“We will only issue licences for owners to keep wild animals bought from traders authorised by Perhilitan.”

“These traders have operating licences from Perhilitan and each transaction made by them must be recorded,” said Hasnan.

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Malaysia: 600,000 trees planted for Kelantan restoration works

The Star 29 Jul 16;

TUMPAT: Some 600,000 trees of various species were planted by the Kelantan Forestry Department since June as part of the 2014 restoration works in flood-hit areas.

Its deputy director (Administration and Finance) Nik Mohd Hasanuddin Hussin said the process had been implemented in stages and was now expanding into areas around the Lebir River in Gua Musang.

“Recently, we managed to plant trees along a 20km stretch in some declining areas around Lebir River.

“This replanting process will be continued in stages up to the Sungai Kelantan,” he told reporters at the Greening and Beautification programme of Bandar Tumpat at Taman Kemahkotaan Tumpat, here yesterday.

Nik Mohd Hasanuddin said they were targeting a total of 1.1 million trees to be successfully planted this year based on the current development of the project.

The tree-planting project was being implemented through the provisions of the 11th Malaysia Plan amounting to RM1.7mil under the restoration programme for the rehabilitation of the declining areas along the Kelantan rivers.

Nik Mohd Hasanuddin said they also received advice from the Orang Asli on the species of trees, suitable to be planted on the riverbanks, besides obtaining the seeds from the community.

He said the selection of seedlings was important to comply with the location so it could withstand the onslaught of natural disas­ters. — Bernama

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Indonesia to re-investigate 15 firms suspected of causing Riau forest fires

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo has instructed authorities to re-evaluate cases involving 15 companies who were let off after being identified as suspect for causing forest fires in Riau province last year.

Head of Presidential Staff Teten Masduki told reporters on Thursday (Jul 28) that he has informed the president about the cases, and that Mr Widodo has asked national police chief Tito Karnavian, and Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar to follow up on them.

“I have reported to the president, and the president asked me to speak with the national police chief, and the Environment and Forestry Minister. As this concerns the law, we have to be careful about any intervention because the law in the region is autonomous,” Mr Teten was quoted as saying by online news portal

Last week, Riau district police stopped investigations into the companies due to a lack of evidence.

Senior Commissioner Rivai Sinambela, Director for Special Criminal Investigation, Riau police district had said that the cases did not demonstrate intent nor negligence.

He added the fires happened on land which could be owned by the community, and not on areas belonging to companies.

Mr Teten said he visited Riau last week to ensure that measures are in place to tackle any incidents of forest fires, and he was surprised upon learning that police had stopped investigations into the 15 companies.

“If there is other evidence related to the cases, it’s possible for (the investigation) to be opened again," Mr Teten said.

- CNA/nc

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ASEAN agrees to stop blame game over haze issue

Antara 28 Jul 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Association South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has agreed to stop the practice of blaming each other over the haze caused by forest fires in the region, an official stated.

"We have already established cooperation that focusses on technical approaches to overcome this problem together in the framework of the ASEAN," Director for ASEAN Political and Security Cooperation at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs M. Chandra Widya Yudha noted after a press briefing here on Thursday.

The cooperation, through the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, was signed in June 2002 and reaffirmed during the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on July 24, 2016.

Yudha pointed out that the importance of the Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution was not only to share the burden but also to find ways to solve it regionally.

"We agree to view this (haze pollution) as a global challenge and not just the responsibility of one country," he emphasized.

The haze had severely polluted the Southeast Asian region from the end of 2015 to the early part of 2016 when some forest areas in Indonesia, mainly in Sumatra and Kalimantan, were engulfed by fires.

During that period, the haze not only affected the locals in Sumatra and Kalimantan but also became a cause of concern for neighboring countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia.

To handle the haze issue, the Singaporean government had taken serious steps, such as banning paper and pulp products made in Indonesia and had requested to take legal action against some plantation companies in Singapore, among others.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government had not remained silent and had undertaken serious measures to extinguish the forest fires and to overcome the haze.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla remarked at the commemoration of World Environment Day 2016 in Riau Province on July 22 that the Transboundary Haze Pollution Agreement was not only important for Indonesia but also for the world.

"I always said that the neighboring countries should be fair, as when the condition of forests is good, they get fresh air too. That is why during difficult times, we should share the burden too," he emphasized.

According to the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and Environment data, the hotspots detected in the forest areas had decreased by 65 percent from some one thousand in December 2015 to 205 in July 2016.(*)

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Northern Vietnam struck by powerful storm

Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 16;

HANOI: A powerful storm rolled across northern Vietnam on Thursday (Jul 28) killing one person, delaying flights and felling hundreds of trees in the capital Hanoi.

Tropical storm Mirinae, which barrelled across China's Hainan island before surging into Vietnam in the early hours of Thursday, brought high winds and more than 280 millimetres of rain as it pushed inland.

More than 32,000 people were evacuated ahead of the storm which struck six provinces and cities across the north, authorities said.

In Hanoi, one person was killed and more than 500 trees were brought down, bringing widespread traffic delays. "Many trees have come down onto people's houses and cars," said Hanoi resident Tran Dai Thang.

Photos of the downed trees - an unusual politically touchy subject in Vietnam - spread across social media on Thursday.

Plans by city authorities to cut down many of the city's trees sparked protests last year and a rare u-turn by the government in a country where environmental destruction has fuelled public anger in the past.

National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines said it had to delay more than twenty flights to and from Hanoi because of bad weather. Widespread powercuts were also reported in areas of Nam Dinh, Thai Binh and Ninh Binh provinces.

Vietnam is hit by an average of eight to 10 tropical storms every year, which often cause heavy material and human losses.

- AFP/ec

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Kenting National Park sees worst coral bleaching in 17 years

Focus Taiwan 28 Jul 16;

Taipei, July 28 (CNA) Coral reefs in waters around southern Taiwan's Kenting area have been hit by the worst bleaching in 17 years, as sea temperatures continue to exceed 30 degrees Celsius, the Kenting National Park Headquarters said Thursday.

"This is the worst bleaching in Kenting since the El Niño event in 1998," said Chen Jung-hsiang (陳榮祥), an official from the headquarters.

Usually, sea temperatures around Kenting reach no more than 29 degrees in the summer, and only portions of the coral reefs suffer bleaching, usually lasting for only around one week, Chen said.

The bleaching recedes once the bottom layer of ocean water with colder temperatures reaches the surface, he explained.

This year, however, ocean temperatures have remained above 30 degrees for a month now, Chen said, adding that some coral has died, because bleaching that lasts over a week can be fatal.

The area hit by bleaching extends from Maobitou in the north of the area, to the west side of South Bay, and around 30 percent to 40 percent of the coral in the area has been affected, Chen said.

"This is a dire situation," he warned.

He said coral near the west side of the South Bay is worst- affected, and the coral species most susceptible to bleaching include acropora and montipora.

Kenting, located in the southernmost county of Pingtung, is a popular tourist destination known for its tropical weather and white sandy beaches.

Tsai Yung-chun (蔡永春), an experienced diver in Kenting, estimated that 60 percent of the coral located within five meters of the surface of the ocean in Kenting, and 20 percent of the coral located five to 10 meters from the surface, have been hit by bleaching.

He said the extent of the bleaching is more severe than in 1998, and even coral species with higher resistance to heat, such as finger coral, have been damaged by bleaching.

The arrival of a typhoon could lower the ocean temperature and improve the situation, Chen said.

Hsu Mao-ching (徐茂敬), chief of the headquarters' conservation research division, said his division will continue to cooperate with a coral bleaching monitoring task force formed by environmentalists and academics to monitor the coral reefs in the Kenting area.

To protect the coral reef ecosystem, he urged the public not to capture or eat coral reef fish, and not to step on coral when swimming in the ocean.

(By Kuo Chih-hsuan and Christie Chen)

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