'Haze smell' reported in parts of Singapore

Channel NewsAsia 26 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE: A burning smell was detected in parts of Singapore on Friday morning (Aug 26). Several people took to social media and called in to Channel NewsAsia to say that they could smell the haze from different parts of the country.

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading at 9am was 46-58 in the Good to Moderate range.

This was a jump from the 40-54 reading at 8am, which was also in the Good to Moderate range.

The corresponding 3-hour PSI at 9am was 90, up from 68 at 8am.

The 1-hr PM2.5 has been increasing during the morning. In the northern sector it rose from 20ug/m3 at 7am to 100ug/m3 at 9am.

Channel NewsAsia has reached out to NEA for comment.

Back in March this year, when a burning smell was detected in some parts of Singapore, the NEA said it could have been caused by some local vegetation fires.

It added that fires and some wind convergence over Singapore could have also contributed to the deterioration in the air quality in some parts of the island.

- CNA/mn

Reports of burning smell in air as PSI readings creep up
Today Online 26 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE — Many Singaporeans fear the haze may be back after waking up to the smell of smoke in the air on Friday morning (Aug 26).

Although the three-hourly Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings were below 100, or the unhealthy level, #sghaze was the trending topic on Twitter. One user, Amita Natverlal, wrote: “you know the haze is back when you wake up and a burnt smell hits your nose.”

The overall 24-hour PSI reading went up from 40 to 54 at 8am, to 46 to 58 at 9am. But the hourly PM2.5 reading for finer particles went from 54 at 8am to 100 at 9am in the North.

Haze to linger for rest of Friday
Today Online 26 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE — Hazy conditions are expected to persist in Singapore for the rest of Friday (Aug 26), likely blown in by westerly winds over Singapore, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a press advisory issued around noon.

The NEA has forecast that the overall 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading over the next 12 hours is likely to remain in the high end of the “moderate” range.

The hourly PM2.5 reading for finer pollutants is also expected to remain in the “elevated” and “high” ranges over the next six to 12 hours.

NEA’s health advisory said that “everyone can continue with normal activities”. However, the elderly and children, or those who are feeling unwell or suffering from chronic conditions, should seek medical attention.

Singapore woke up to the smell of smoke burning in the air on Friday morning, and it quickly became one of the top trending topic on Twitter and Google searches.

NEA added in its advisory that three hotspots were detected in central Sumatra on Thursday, with the low hotspot count due to cloudy conditions. Localised smoke plumes were visible from the hotspots. The latest satellite image on Friday morning showed some hotspots still observed in central Sumatra.

Besides the haze persisting, NEA also forecast cloudy conditions over most of Singapore.

The hourly PM2.5 reading was highest in the west at noon, with a reading of 216. The reading for the rest of the regions ranged between 137 and 176.

With drier weather expected for the rest of the region, NEA will commence issuance of daily haze advisories from Friday (Aug 26).

The NEA said it will give an updated forecast in the afternoon.

One-hour PM2.5 concentrations of 55 micrograms per cubic metre and below are “normal”; readings of 56 to 150 are “elevated”; readings of 151 to 250 are “high”; and anything above 250 is “very high”.

But the one-hour readings are not tied to health advisories, which apply only to 24-hour PSI readings because studies on sub-daily PM2.5 exposure still do not provide a sufficient evidence base, the NEA said in June.

The 24-hour PSI forecast will also continue to be used for major decisions such as the closure of schools.

#SGHaze trends on social media as air pollution readings hit 'high'
Today Online 26 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE — Many Singaporeans fear the haze may be back after waking up to the smell of smoke in the air on Friday morning (Aug 26).

The overall 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings had been slowly creeping up to 58 to 80 at 12pm, from 34 to 51 at 6am. Meanwhile, the 3-hr PSI reading climbed from 31 at 6am to 165 at 12pm.

The hourly PM2.5 readings for finer pollutants, which the National Environment Agency (NEA) introduced bandings for in June this year, hit 216 in the West of Singapore at 12pm, in the "high" range. At the same time, the North, Central and South of Singapore also entered the "high" band at 172, 159, and 176 respectively.

In an advisory issued at 11.51am, the NEA said that the 1-hr PM2.5 concentration for the rest of the day is expected to remain in the Band III (High) and Band II (Elevated) range. Overall, the PSI for the next 12 hours is also forecast to be in the high end of the Moderate range.

"Given the air quality forecast for the next 12 hours, everyone can continue with normal activities. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention", said the NEA.

Although the PSI readings have yet to hit alert levels, which is when the 24-hour PSI is above 100, or goes into the unhealthy range, Singaporeans are already searching for information online.

Haze was among the top trending topics on Twitter and Google, with over 5,000 searches on Google Singapore on "PSI Singapore". Related searches include 'PSI level in Singapore today', and 'PSI in Singapore now'.

Under #sghaze, Twitter users were quickly sharing photos of the views from their respective locations, and comments on the return of the annual plague.

One Twitter user, Ms Lynette, wrote: “Overheard on the radio: Singapore has 4 seasons – durian season, dengue season, monsoon season and apparently, it’s now haze season.”

One-hour PM2.5 concentrations of 55 micrograms per cubic metre and below are “normal”; readings of 56 to 150 are “elevated”; readings of 151 to 250 are “high”; and anything above 250 is “very high”.

But the one-hour readings are not tied to health advisories, which apply only to 24-hour PSI readings because studies on sub-daily PM2.5 exposure still do not provide a sufficient evidence base, the NEA said in June.

The 24-hour PSI forecast will also continue to be used for major decisions such as the closure of schools.

Read more!

Singapore air quality worsens overnight as Indonesia fire arrests jump

Huileng Tan CNBC.com 26 Aug 16;

Indonesian men put out a fire in Ogan Ilir, southern Sumatra on October 22, 2015.
Southeast Asia is bracing itself for its annual, uncomfortable tryst with haze as raging fires at Indonesian plantations worsen pollution in the region.

On Friday, Singapore woke up to a deterioration in air quality overnight, as a thin cloak of haze hung over the city-state. The country's environment agency said that its 3-hour Pollution Standards Index hit the unhealthy level at 10am SIN.

Neighboring Malaysia had already been feeling the effects of the drifting smog since mid-August, local media reported.

The latest bout of pollution comes even as Indonesia steps up efforts against the 'slash-and-burn' technique of cutting down vegetation on a patch of land, then burning off the undergrowth to make space for new plantations.

The country has arrested 454 individuals in connection with forest fires so far this year, more than double the 196 arrests made in 2015, Reuters reported, citing police data released on Thursday.

The 'slash-and-burn' method is prevalent in Indonesia as it the easiest, fastest and most cost-effective way to clear land. According to the World Bank, about 35 percent of the Indonesian workforce is employed in agriculture, with palm oil and pulp-and-paper industries key contributors.

In 2015, Singapore experienced its worst pollution episode on record when the environmental agency's gauge was pushed into hazardous territory.

In 2015, Singapore experienced its worst pollution episode on record when the environmental agency's gauge was pushed into hazardous territory.
The use of fire has been deemed illegal by the Indonesian government due to its detrimental environmental impact.

Earlier in August, a sago plantation company was fined 1.07 trillion Indonesian rupiah ($81 million) for its link to widespread fires last year-- the biggest fine imposed on a plantation business so far.

In 2015, the pollution cost Southeast Asia economic powerhouse Singapore S$700 million ($517 million), the country's environment and water resources minister said in March.

The smog got so bad it led to school closures as well as air and sea traffic disruptions.

Indonesia, where most of the thick cloud originated, suffered even more economically, with the World Bank estimating damages at $16.1 billion in 2015.

It is "difficult and tricky" to put a dollar value on damages this year, as what is at stake is often intangible, such as loss in productivity, delayed construction activities and sovereign risk reputation to tourists, said ANZ economist Ng Weiwen.

Singapore hosts the Formula One Grand Prix night time motorsport event in September yearly and concerns have surfaced in previous years over visibility.

There's hope that the pollution will not be as bad as last year in terms of duration and intensity as the weather forecast for the rest of the year points to a La Nina weather phenomenon, which is likely to result in increased rainfall, said a weather expert.

"Of course, this assumes the non-meteorological factors like land clearing through burning by humans don't increase in significance," said Winston Chow, a professor at the National University of Singapore's geography department.

According to the Asean Specialized Meteorological Centre based in Singapore, the number of hotspots (locations with active fires) in Indonesia hit a high of 184 on August 18 due to the ongoing dry spell, but that figure has since eased as rains doused the fires.

On Thursday, there were 17 hotspots in Indonesia.

Read more!

Man on a mission to lure players to real-life Pokemon

NUS undergrad uses popular game to create awareness of island's biodiversity
Audrey Tan Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Aug 16;

Like many Pokemon Go players, National University of Singapore life sciences undergraduate Sean Yap, 24, goes out as often as possible.

But, unlike such gamers whose eyes are glued to their phones in an effort to catch the virtual characters, Mr Yap looks up and around - at plants, birds and, especially, insects. The insect researcher is now on a mission to get others to do the same and learn to appreciate local biodiversity, and his strategy is to ride on the current popularity of the mobile game.

He has produced a Facebook album - called Real Life Pokemon of Singapore - that shows the similarities between Pokemon characters and native plants and animals.The water Pokemon Staryu, for example, resembles the knobbly sea stars that dot Singapore's shores, and the plant Pokemon Victreebel looks like the Raffles pitcher plant.

Mr Yap's comparisons include a tongue-in-cheek write-up about the native plant or animal.

He says, for instance: "Like Victreebel, pitcher plants are living toilet bowls, complete with a lid and a disgusting rim/seat... Except (they) eat bugs. Some species of pitcher plants even have symbiotic, resistant insects that live in the liquid and feed on the drowned bugs, and the pitchers get the nutrients from their excrement, so they are actually toilet bowls."

He points out that numerous Pokemon are based on real plants and animals, many of which can be found in Singapore. City dwellers often do not realise this, he says, and he hopes his project will enlighten them and prompt them to look out for these plants and animals.

"If Pokemon Go can be used as a marketing tool for shopping malls to attract customers, then it can probably do the same for science and biodiversity," Mr Yap said.

Besides raising awareness of Singapore's native biodiversity, he wants to highlight the plight of wildlife too. For example, in writing about Sandslash, a Pokemon which resembles the critically endangered Sunda pangolin - which is native to Singapore - he says: "Unlike Sandslash, the pangolin's large claws are not used for combat but for digging into ant or termite nests. And while Sandslash's signature move, Defense Curl, may work against predators like tigers (before they went extinct here), humans can just pick them up.

"It is humans that make the pangolin such a rare Pokemon worldwide: Poaching is the No. 1 threat to their existence."

Project manager Adriane Lee, 41, said he never knew that real animals were the inspiration for Pokemon until he saw Mr Yap's album.

"Sean's project is a refreshing take on educating a person on local biodiversity, as Pokemon is the latest craze and the game draws audiences normally not knowledgable of or interested in nature to have a more intimate knowledge of the topic," he said.

Nature groups such as the Herpetological Society of Singapore, which studies reptiles and amphibians, also plan to use Mr Yap's project at the upcoming Festival of Biodiversity educational fair to be held at the Singapore Botanic Gardens next weekend. The society's co-founder Sankar Ananthanarayanan said: "We want to show that Singapore has biodiversity that is pretty cool too, and that appreciating wildlife is just as fun and interesting as playing the game."

Mr Yap has so far matched about 40 out of the 721 characters in the Pokemon universe with native flora and fauna. He hopes to do so for as many Pokemon as possible.

But unlike the Pokemon Go game in which the aim is to catch them all, he stressed that handling and capturing wild animals in Singapore is illegal.

He cautioned: "Do not try to catch them. Do observe and marvel from a respectful distance. You can join guided walks, many of which are free, for a higher chance of seeing these real-life Pokemon."

Although he has been a fan of the Pokemon universe since he was a boy, Mr Yap does not play Pokemon Go. In fact, he deleted the app barely four hours after he first downloaded it on the day of its launch.

"I realised I was walking in the forest and constantly checking my phone instead of looking out for wildlife," he explained.

During a recent visit to Pasir Ris Park for a glimpse of a rare spotted wood owl, Mr Yap said he saw many people who missed the majestic bird because they were busy catching Pokemon.

But getting people out in the open is a first step, he pointed out.

"Some people may not visit the parks in the first place, and completely miss the opportunity to see our native wildlife, but having them outside presents us the opportunity to reach out to them."

Mr Yap's album can be found by searching "Real Life Pokemon of Singapore" on Facebook.

Read more!

Malaysia: Thank you Indonesia, for the absence of haze this year

BERNAMA New Straits Times 25 Aug 16;

PUTRAJAYA: Immediate action by the Indonesian authorities to put out forest fires before it spread managed to curb the recurrence of cross border haze this year.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said rainfall in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia also prevented forest fires.

He said Indonesia's President Joko Widodo and his Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Siti Nurbaya Baka had promised Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who recently contacted them on their efforts to deal with the forest fires and haze.

“Indonesia is keeping their promise. I hope the conditions will continue up to October when the wind changes (from the southwest to the northeast).

One more month to go, hopefully nothing worse than this happens,” he told the media after attending his ministry's monthly gathering here today.

According to the Department of Environment (DOE) portal, 12 places recorded moderate Air Pollutant Index (API) readings and 35 good API readings up to 1 pm today.

Last year forest fires in Indonesia caused cross border haze to badly hit the country, aggravated by the prevailing southwest monsoon wind.

On the female baby panda Nuan Nuan, Wan Junaidi said the ministry and Zoo Negara had not held discussions to extend the period of keeping the offspring of giant pandas Xing Xing and Liang Liang from China after next year.

"Operating costs may be high and not worth it in terms of visitors' return. They (Zoo Negara) should approach and discuss with us if they think they cannot afford to maintain the panda," he said. He said it was also a symbol of Malaysia-China diplomatic relations and the decision to extend the panda's stay or otherwise would be made by the Cabinet.

According to the Giant Panda Protection and Research Programme agreed by Malaysia and China, Zoo Negara has to pay a one-off cost of rental amounting to US$600,000 (RM2.4 million) for the baby panda which does not include its annual insurance premium at RM200,000. - BERNAMA

Indonesia reducing transboundary haze
MAZWIN NIK ANIS The Star 26 Aug 16;

PUTRAJAYA: It looks like Indonesia is keeping its word to contain incidents of transboundary haze with just a small number of hotspots found in the country.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said there had been positive response and commitment from Indonesia in addressing the haze situation.

He said compared with previous years, only a few hotspots were found in Sumatra and West Kaliman­tan so far this year.

“Indonesia is keeping its word to ensure forest fires and slash-and-burn activities on agricultural land are not rampant. We are pleased to see real efforts being made to minimise transboundary haze, which has affected its neighbours for years,” Dr Wan Junaidi told reporters after the ministry’s monthly gathering.

He added that significant rainfall was also helping the Indonesian authorities to minimise the haze.

The Air Pollutant Index for 27 locations in the country was good, with six recording moderate readings and most other areas recording very good readings.

Indonesia had given its assurance to Malaysia to tackle the issue during discussions held between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and President Joko Widodo.

During the recent Asean environment ministers’ meeting, Indonesia said 3,000 military and police personnel had been put on watch to monitor forest fires and open burning.

On another matter, Dr Wan Junaidi said there had yet to be any discussion to extend baby panda Nuan Nuan’s stay here after next year.

“We are aware of the costs incurred by Zoo Negara to keep the baby panda, but the decision to either return (to China) or extend its stay needs to be done by the Cabinet,” he said.

Read more!

Indonesia: Residents’ health at risk as haze lingers in West Kalimantan

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 25 Aug 16;

Haze is causing concern for people in West Kalimantan where fires have razed land and forests for the past two weeks.

Residents are enduring the effects of smoke that usually appears each morning and evening, disrupting activities at airports and endangering people’s health.

Pontianak Health Agency head Sidiq Handanu told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that over recent days the air quality had worsened at certain times of the day.

“Various logistics have been prepared at every community health center, such as drugs and masks, and medical workers have been asked to be on alert,” said Sidiq, adding that air quality deteriorates from 7 a.m. until 12 p.m., then gradually improves in the afternoon.

Air quality can be monitored on the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) website at bmkg.go.id to determine the content of air particulates in real time.

At Pontianak’s Supadio Airport, haze in the morning interrupted flights and caused delays of 30 to 45 minutes. State-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II’s Supadio Airport head, Bayuh Iswantoro, said the earliest flight schedule for 6:15 a.m. was affected by haze that left visibility at only 500 meters. Takeoffs and landings could only be carried out after 7 a.m. when visibility improved to 1,000 meters.

“Flights will be interrupted at a visibility of only 500 meters, but only briefly. Without haze, normal visibility is around 5,000 meters,” said Bayuh, adding that visibility below 800 meters was categorized as disrupting takeoffs and landings.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s (BNPB) data, information and public relations head, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, mentioned in a press release that the highest number of hot spots in Sumatra and Kalimantan would be defected from August to October, with its peak in September.

Six provinces have enacted emergency status for forest and land fires: Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.

The West Kalimantan provincial administration, which previously declared emergency status from June 1 to Sept. 1, reported that the status would be extended until November.

The status will ease access for the BNPB and each regional disaster mitigation agency (BPBD) to mobilize resources, including deploying eight helicopters and two planes for water bombing, as well as two aircraft to induce artificial rain.

“The BNPB is preparing to send a helicopter for water bombing and an aircraft to make artificial rain in West Kalimantan,” said Sutopo.

The West Kalimantan BPBD’s logistics and emergency response head, Bosman D. Hutahaean, said that eight of the 14 regencies and cities in the province had declared land and forest fire emergency status, while Ketapang, North Kayong and Sambas regencies and Singkawang and Pontianak cities were in the process of doing so.

He cited 135 villages prone to land and forest fires, located in the regencies of Kubu Raya (18 villages), Mempawah (five), Landak (three), Sintang ( 34 ), Sanggau (three), Bengkayang ( 10 ), Sambas ( 10 ), Ketapang ( 45 ) and North Kayong (seven).

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Malaysia: Water rationing in Mersing as water level in dam is depleting

Congok Dam water level depleting, necessitating scheduled water supply for Mersing
CHUAH BEE KIM - New Straits Times 25 Aug 16;

JOHOR BARU: The water level of the Congok Dam near Mersing which supplies raw water to the Tenglu water treatment plant is depleting and is unable to accommodate the needs of the plant.

Sungai Mersing, which channels water to the Sungai Mersing water treatment plant, is also unable to meet the demand of the Tenglu water treatment plant in the supply of treated water.

Both the water treatment plants were built to support the needs of one other. However, the water level of the Congok Dam is at 2.70 metres today, declining 0.04m daily, compared to the critical level of 4.50m.

The scheduled water supply exercise is still ongoing in some areas in Mersing until Sept 15, with 41,000 consumers getting a day's supply of water every two days.

In a statement issued by Syarikat Air Johor (SAJ) today, the company said the frequency would depend on the conditions of the river and the dam.

SAJ Chief Executive Officer, Abdul Wahab Abdul Hamid said the current situation in both raw water sources is unstable and this will force SAJ to distribute treated water to all users either via pipeline or mobile tanker truck.

"Up to now, SAJ has mobilised 85 static tanks and nine lorries to transport water tanks to distribute treated water to the affected areas.

"Priority will be given to centres that provide dialysis, houses of worship, hospitals, boarding schools, and a few others," he said.

SAJ urged the public state-wide to refrain from water wastage.

For more information, call the SAJ Online Info Center through 1800 88 or Friendly SMS 7474 or 019 772 7474 or via e-mail customer.care@saj.com.my 24 hours.

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MPA scheme to help with cost of sustainability reports

The MPA’s co-funding initiative will help Singapore-listed companies with the cost of their sustainability reports, footing 50 per cent of expenses – up to $50,000 per company.
Straits Times 23 Aug 16;

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) yesterday announced a co-funding initiative to help Singapore-listed maritime companies with the cost of their sustainability reports.

It will foot 50 per cent of the costs - up to $50,000 per company - and reimburse the first 10 approved applications.

Companies which take up the co-funding offer will have to publish their sustainability reports before Dec 31 next year, to world standards such as those laid out in the Global Reporting Initiative Guidelines.

Singapore Exchange's (SGX) new sustainability reporting rules require listed companies to publish sustainability reports for the financial year ending on or after Dec 31, 2017.

The co-funding initiative is part of the MPA's new Green Awareness Programme to share knowledge of the possible ways of carrying out sustainable shipping. Said MPA chief executive Andrew Tan: "MPA is the first local maritime organisation to publish both an integrated report and sustainability report last year, and we hope to encourage the rest of the maritime industry to adopt the best practices and mitigate any risks to the environment arising from their operations."

Ms Yeo Lian Sim, special adviser to SGX, said: "With MPA's Green Awareness Programme, shipping companies have every encouragement to become early adopters of sustainability reporting and lead the way in raising transparency and communication standards in the maritime sector."

Read more!

Malaysia: Only three Sumatran Rhino left in Malaysia

BERNAMA New Straits Times 26 Aug 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The clock is ticking for the critically endangered Sumatran Rhino with their numbers down to just three in Malaysia.

xecutive Director of Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) Datuk Dr John Payne said there were only one male rhino and two female rhinos in Sabah.

He said conservationists were on a desperate mission to save the country’s remaining Sumatran rhinos.

“The three Sumatran rhinos left were caught and have been placed in captive breeding programmes until today,” he said after a media preview screening on ‘Uncover Malaysia’ about the ‘Operation Sumatran Rhino’ documentary at Sunway Pyramid here, today.

Dr John Payne said the biggest threat the Sumatran rhino faced was poaching which had caused their number to dwindle to only three in Malaysia.

He believed the species can be saved via In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) among the rhinos left, adding that the next IVF process would take place on November this year.

“BORA has been fighting an uphill battle trying to save Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhinos.

The only way this could be done was to capture all the remaining specimens in the wild - which was a dangerous and costly operation and to breed them,” he added.

According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Sumatran rhinos are described as the smallest of all rhinos and it is the only Asian rhino with two horns.

Sumatran rhinos give birth to one calf at a time, every three to four years and their pregnancies last around 15 to 17 months.

To drive public awareness for the rhino’s plight, the National Geographic Channel, Astro and efforts led by BORA produced the ‘Uncover Malaysia’ documentary on current efforts to save the critically endangered Sumatran rhinos.

The documentary will be aired on National Geographic Wild, Astro channel 550 at 8.40pm on Sept 19.

Meanwhile, in conjunction with World Rhino Day on September 22, the documentary will be on National Geographic Wild, National Geographic Channel, Astro channel 553 and HD channel 573 at 7pm.

Operation Sumatran Rhino is part of the larger Uncover Malaysia campaign that takes a look at different aspects of Malaysia, featuring stories on culture, culinary arts and conservation. -- Bernama

Read more!

Indonesia: Reef Destruction Could Cost Indonesia Over $30 Billion in Annual GDP

Megan Herndon Jakarta Globe 25 Aug 16;

Jakarta. In a country where two thirds of the population live within 50 kilometers of the coast, coral reefs aren’t just a tourist attraction, they’re the source of livelihood for millions of people.

Researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) partnered with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), along with representatives from 22 countries to map over 1,000 kilometers of coral reefs and examine the economic impact of their destruction.

“[Coral reefs] are not just a lovely place,” the project’s chief scientist, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, said. “It’s not about environmentalism, it’s about economics. Its about the livelihoods and food systems of people.”

Hoegh-Guldberg said that Indonesia’s reefs produce $30 billion annually in gross domestic product, which is a conservative estimate when you take into account the number of fishery products that don’t go through formally recorded markets.

If coral reefs continue to die in Indonesia and around the world, the fisheries that support 500 million people will also be gone, costing seven percent of the livelihood of the world’s population.

Hoegh-Guldberg stressed the need to put natural capital, things like coral reefs, seagrass beds and terrestrial habitats, into the balance sheet along with other business assets. He used the example of mangroves, a small coastal forest, to illustrate this.

“Some people think best thing you can do with [mangroves] is cover them in concrete and put a resort on them,” he said. “But a lot of people don’t understand that mangroves are worth a trillion dollars in asset value when you take into account their contribution to fisheries. We’ve got to put natural capital into the same spreadsheet as we put our normal economic things, our earnings from X, Y, and Z.”

He explained that global warming, along with coastal pollution and over fishing, has caused the loss of 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs since the 1980s. To stop this, he said, the world needs to commit to following the Paris Agreement on climate change, where nations around the world will work to slow climate change through implementing more sustainable practices.

In Indonesia, he said creating and enforcing systems of marine spatial planning, reduction of plastic bag use, and having active community advocates could create healthier coral reefs that will sustain generations to come.

“Many people have been living on these coasts, have been fishing there for generations,” he said. “They might say ‘who is this fancy scientist to tell me to change my ways.’ But if we have a discussion, once they understand the impact, it's quite powerful because then they tell their friends, their fishing buddies and colleagues. We can get to a better place through education.”

UQ’s mapping project aims to collect baseline data, to understand the current state and path to recovery of the world’s reefs. They have taken over 600,000 images and mapped over 1,000 kilometers of coral reefs in the last four years.

In 2007, Indonesia's coral triangle has been named by the World Wildlife Fund as one of their conservation priorities. The coral triangle covered more than 6.5 million square kilometers and has been a living place of 600 coral reef species, or nearly 75 percent of the total species in the world. There's also around 3000 species of fish, including whale and a living fossil coelacanth who live in the deep water of Sulawesi.

Hoegh-Guldberg explained the project is aiming to inform the public, as there is only less than one percent of the world’s population who has seen a coral reef and don't realize how important it is to protect them.

To raise awareness, UQ teamed up with Google Maps to create a “virtual diving” map where anyone with Internet access can explore these reefs akin to using street view to explore cities on Google Maps.

“Understanding the challenges that coral reefs face is an important mission,” the lead scientist of the project’s shallow reef component, Manuel Gonzalez-Rivero, said. “Equally important, is bringing as many people as possible on the scientific journey through outreach and engagement. Without that, science may have little impact.”

Read more!

Indonesia: Boat hits whale shark in Jayapura waters

The Jakarta Post 25 Aug 16;

A whale shark, measuring around 4 meters in length, was killed after it was struck by a boat in Jayapura waters, Papua, on Thursday morning.

The police chief of Jayapura Seaport area, Adj. Comr. Abraham Soumilena, said the KM Labobar vessel hit the endangered species on its way from Serui in Yapen Islands regency to Jayapura.

“There has been two times during the last three years a ship hits a whale shark in Jayapura waters,” said Abraham as quoted by kompas.com on Thursday.

Jayapura Seaport’s fisheries quarantine coordinator Izaak Andrie said his institution had coordinated with the ship’s captain to dispose the body of the animal in the high seas.

“The shark’s corpse should not be released in Jayapura waters because it can spread illnesses. The corpse will be brought to the high seas so its decomposition process will not create any problems,” said Izaak.

Reportedly, the Labobar's crew members managed to fish out the whale shark from the water and put it on the ship's prow, 10:30 a.m. local time.

Local residents in Papua often refer to whale sharks as gurano bintang. The whale shark is one of the biggest fish in the world. It can measures up to 20 m in length while the smallest whale shark can measure just 55 centimeters.

Whale sharks can easily be found in Kwatisore waters, West Papua, and its surrounding areas. The diet of a whale shark consists of prawns, squids, small fish and tuna. (ebf)

Read more!

Economic growth doesn't have to wreck the planet

Megan Rowling Thomson Reuters Foundation 24 Aug 16;

"Human footprint" maps show people's impact on the environment has slowed

When researchers started looking at whether countries could expand their populations and economies without using up more of the Earth's limited natural resources, they expected the answer to be “no”. But their findings suggest it can be done.

A set of maps released this week show that people’s impact on the environment has been rising at a rate slower than that of economic and population growth.

While the world's population grew 23 percent and its economy 153 percent between 1993 and 2009, the global footprint of humans grew only 9 percent, calculated a team of researchers from the University of Northern British Columbia, the University of Queensland, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and six other universities.

Oscar Venter of the University of Northern British Columbia, the lead author of the study published in Nature Communications, called the results "encouraging".

"It means we are becoming more efficient in how we use natural resources," he said.

Some places even saw small decreases in environmental pressures as they got richer.

That happened in the wealthiest countries and those with strong control of corruption. They included Britain, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, large parts of France, and some areas of the United States, Australia and southeast Africa.

Eric W. Sanderson, a conservation zoologist with the WCS who worked on the original "Human Footprint" study in 2002, noted the results were the same after taking into account the effects of international trade, proving those countries have managed "in some small measure to decouple economic growth from environmental impacts".

Venter said the researchers' data sent clear messages about how the world could achieve sustainable development. "Concentrate people in towns and cities so their housing and infrastructure needs are not spread across the wider landscape, and promote honest governments that are capable of managing environmental impacts," he said.


By contrast, the areas subject to the highest environmental pressures tended to be forests: the temperate broadleaf forests of Western Europe, the eastern United States and China; the tropical dry forests of India and parts of Brazil; and tracts of Southeast Asia’s tropical moist forest.

Overall, around 70 percent of the world's different ecological regions saw marked increases of over 20 percent in their human footprints. That was measured by looking at the extent of developed areas, crop land, pasture land, human population density, night-time lights, railways, roads and navigable waterways.

The researchers said one of the main drivers of growing human impact on nature is the use of less-than-prime land for agriculture.

Areas moderately suitable for farming have seen a rapid increase in human use since 1993, likely due to the expansion of agriculture and other human pressures into these more marginal lands, they added.

Globally, a worrying amount of damage has already been done both to the landscape and the wildlife it sustains.

The maps show three quarters of the planet has been significantly altered, and 97 percent of the most species-rich places on Earth have seriously changed.

"There is little wonder there is a biodiversity crisis," said James Watson who leads the WCS' climate change programme.

Maintaining biodiversity will require extensive restoration to remove and reduce existing pressures in biologically valuable regions, the study said.

Among the remaining most unspoiled lands are the Sahara, Gobi and Australian deserts, and the most remote moist tropical forests of the Amazon and Congo Basins, it said.

But while the Amazon basin is still a largely intact ecosystem, it is susceptible to accelerated deforestation and other pressures following recent policy changes in Brazil, the study warned.

The researchers' findings will inform discussion at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which brings conservationists and world leaders together once every four years, in Hawaii from Sept. 1 to 10.

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Coastal land expands as construction outpaces sea level rise

The Earth has gained coastal land equivalent to the size of Jamaica in the past 30 years
* China, Dubai among places where coasts expand
* Net land equivalent to Jamaica to coasts added since 1985
* Engineering keeps sea level rise at bay
Alister Doyle Reuters 25 Aug 16;

OSLO, Aug 25 (Reuters) - The Earth has gained coastal land equivalent to the size of Jamaica in the past 30 years with man-made construction outpacing erosion caused by rising sea levels, mapping data showed on Thursday.

Expansion of ports off China, construction of luxury resorts off Dubai or land reclamation in the Netherlands were among causes of coastal expansion, according to a study by Dutch research group Deltares.

Using satellite data with Google Earth, Deltares said coastal regions had gained a net 13,565 square kilometres (5,237 square miles) of land since 1985, roughly the size of Jamaica or the U.S. state of Connecticut.

Overall, coasts added 33,700 square kms of land and lost 20,135 square kms to water, it said. Loss of land included erosion dotted around coasts from Vietnam to the Mississippi delta in the United States.

"We expected on average the coast to shrink ... as sea level has risen," said Fedor Baart of Deltares, an author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. "But the coasts are actually growing."

"We have a huge engineering power," he said. Off China, "the coastline all the way from Hong Kong to the Yellow Sea has almost been redesigned."

A U.N. panel of climate scientists says world sea levels have risen by about 20 cms (8 inches) in the past century, and links it to a warming driven by man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are thawing ice from Greenland to Antarctica.

Inland, the data also show big shifts to lakes such as the shrinking Aral Sea in central Asia and showed changing courses of rivers including the Amazon and the Ganges, sometimes linked to natural variations.

In other areas, human influences were clear. In Myanmar, for instance, there were more reservoirs and dams than previously known. North Korea also has a reservoir on the Rimjin River that does not appear on maps.

Including both coasts and inland areas, the Earth's surface gained 173,000 sq kms of land and 115,000 sq kms of water in the past 30 years, it said.

The scientists said the freely available data could help countries sharing the same river to monitor their neighbours' dams or help planning by U.N. agencies to prevent floods.

Also, anyone planning to buy a beachfront home could check the local coastline for signs of erosion.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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