Best of our wild blogs: 2 Sep 16

A look back at Pesta Ubin 2016
Pesta Ubin 2016

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Local Zika infections jump to 151; new cases found in Tagore, Yishun, Harvey Crescent

Channel NewsAsia 1 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: 31 new cases of locally transmitted Zika were confirmed on Thursday (Sep 1), including three cases not linked with any existing cluster, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) in a joint statement.

These three patients live in Tagore Avenue in Upper Thomson, Yishun Street 81 and Harvey Crescent, which is in Simei.

Shortly before the new cases were identified, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned that Singapore "must assume Zika is elsewhere in (the country)" apart from Aljunied and Bedok, where the majority of cases so far have been.

An additional five cases were detected as a result of MOH’s look-back testing of previous cases. The authorities added that the look-back exercise is now completed. A total of 236 samples were taken, of which 52 tested positive, and 184 were negative.

Thursday's update brings the total number of locally transmitted Zika infections in Singapore to 151.

The new cases include the second pregnant woman in Singapore to be diagnosed with Zika. Like the first case, which was confirmed on Wednesday, the woman is living in the Sims Drive/Aljunied Crescent cluster, authorities said.


NEA said that vector control remains key to reducing the spread of the Zika virus. "NEA takes a systematic and holistic approach to arrest mosquito borne transmission in Singapore, through surveillance, prevention and control, outbreak management and outreach. The objective is to keep mosquito-borne disease incidence low through reducing the mosquito population and breaking the disease transmission chain."

The agency added that it not only conducts checks for mosquito-breeding habitats based on cases, but also takes a preventive and risk-based approach through pre-emptive checks in areas assessed to be at higher risk, even in the absence of cases.

This is similar to its approach to dengue cases, NEA said.


The agency added that it is continuing with vector control operations to control the Aedes mosquito population in the existing Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive cluster.

49 breeding habitats – comprising 26 in homes and 23 in common areas or other premises – have been detected and destroyed, it said. Indoor spraying, misting and oiling were conducted, and daily misting of common areas is ongoing. Two rounds of thermal fogging have been completed and another round will be conducted this week.

NEA added that its officers and grassroots volunteers have completed outreach efforts to distribute Zika information leaflets in the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive cluster, and have begun their outreach in the expanded cluster areas in Paya Lebar Way/Kallang Way.

NEA also conducted vector control operations and outreach efforts in Bedok North Avenue 3, Punggol Way and Joo Seng on Thursday.

It called for residents to cooperate fully with NEA and allow its officers to inspect their premises for mosquito breeding and spray insecticide to kill any mosquitoes. NEA added that to ensure any breeding spots are destroyed quickly, its officers may use force to enter premises that are not accessible to them, after serving requisite notice on the premises' owners.

Second pregnant woman found to have Zika, 36 more confirmed cases
TOH EE MING Today Online 2 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — While the Zika strain in local infections is still yet to be analysed — a process that will take weeks or months to complete — the authorities have assessed that it is likely to have come from the region, as 36 more cases were confirmed on Thursday (Sept 1), including a second pregnant woman.

The cases have also spread further afield, with three of the new cases in Tagore Avenue, Yishun Street 81 and Harvey Crescent.

Speaking during a joint briefing at by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) at MacPherson Community Club on Thursday, Dr Derrick Heng, group director for Public Health at MOH, pointed out that Zika is present in 57 other countries.

“If you factor in the travel volume, it is more likely that the virus came from within the region rather than from far away… But we decline to speculate further until the lab results are out,” he said.

In an update on Thursday night, the MOH said 31 of the 36 cases were new, and five were “look-back” cases — cases that were previously reported to have shown symptoms but were not tested for Zika. The ministry also said the look-back exercise has been completed.

A total of 236 samples were taken for the look-back exercise, of which 52 tested positive. Including the look-back cases, the number of locally-transmitted Zika cases in Singapore stands at 151.

The MOH said the pregnant woman whose case was confirmed on Thursday is linked to the Aljunied Crescent-Sims Drive cluster. “Her doctor is following up closely with her to provide support and counselling,” the ministry said.

The active transmission here has led to several countries issue advisories cautioning on travel to Singapore, among them Indonesia, Australia, and the United States. As of Wednesday noon, 57 of the infected are foreigners who live and work in Singapore. These comprise 10 Bangladeshis, 23 Chinese, 15 Indians, one Indonesian, six Malaysians, one from Myanmar, and one from Taiwan.

Commenting on the factors that could have contributed to the spread of Zika in Singapore, Infectious diseases expert Professor Leo Yee Sin, who was at the media briefing, said a “naive” population — a term used to describe a population lacks immunity — like Singapore’s would be more suspectible, as fewer have been treated for Zika.

Having a vector population like Aedes mosquitoes, along with Singapore’s highly “open environment” and high human traffic could have spurred the faster spread of Zika, she added.

On whether the virus has undetected remained in recovered patients, Prof Leo said that Zika is relatively new to the scientific world, and to more time is needed to carry out “intense research”.

“From what we know, a person who has Zika can overcome the infections, the immunity should stay within in them… Whether or not some part of the body will hold the virus for some time… Zika is new in Singapore, and we have the research community, and all of us are hungry to know about Zika in Singapore,” she said.

Mr Derek Ho, director-general of public health at NEA, noted that Singapore is still in the midst of its traditional peak dengue season, and stressed that for now, the key to tackling the problem is vector control targeting the “outbreak areas”, and looking at potential breeding sites like construction sites.

Apart from the Aljunied Crescent-Sims Drive and the Paya Lebar Way-Kallang Way clusters, the NEA also conducted vector control operations and outreach efforts in Bedok North Avenue 3, Punggol Way and Joo Seng on Thursday.

Asked whether the Zika outbreak had reached epidemic levels and if emergency measures are needed, Mr Ho said there was “no need to press the panic button”.

“As long as we have got the vector control, we need to continue with these efforts to ensure the mosquito vector is kept under control,” he said.

As suspect cases continued to be tested for Zika on Thursday, patients were kept waiting in separate quarters as they waited for test results, which typically take three to four hours.

Retiree Tam Ying Chee, however, found himself waiting far longer. Discovering that he had broken out in rashes at around 8am on Thursday, the 52-year-old headed to Geylang Polyclinic, and was transferred to the Communicable Diseases Centre (CDC) for tests. His test was done by 2pm but as of 10.30pm last night, he was still awaiting the results in a private ward at the CDC.

The Paya Lebar Way resident was unperturbed by the wait. “They said from two to three hours, then maybe four to eight hours, then maybe tomorrow.. But (it’s fine),” he said.

Foreign nationals account for 50% of Zika cases in Singapore
Today Online 1 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — Half of the Zika cases in Singapore are foreigners who live or work here, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday (Sept 1).

Out of 115 cases, 57 are foreigners. The largest group is 23 people from China, followed by 15 from India and 10 from Bangladesh. Six cases are Malaysians, and one case each from Indonesia, Myanmar and Taiwan.

"All had mild illness. Most have recovered while the rest are recovering well," said the MOH spokesperson.

Earlier on Sunday (Aug 28), the MOH said that 36 foreign workers at a construction site at 60 Sims Drive had been infected.

The ministry announced Singapore’s first case of locally-transmitted Zika on Saturday, involving a 47-year-old Malaysian woman who lived in Block 102 Aljunied Crescent.

Meanwhile, Malaysia reported its first Zika case on Thursday, involving a 58-year-old woman who visited her daughter in Singapore on Aug 19. Her daughter, a resident in Paya Lebar which has seen Zika cases, was confirmed as being infected with the mosquito-borne virus on Aug 30.

In Singapore, efforts to contain Zika’s spread continued on Thursday morning with thermal fogging operations observed in the areas surrounding Aljunied Crescent and Bedok North Ave 3, which has emerged as a potential cluster after three confirmed cases were reported. Health and environment officers were also spotted lifting drain covers to check for any breeding sites.

Residents in Bedok who spoke to TODAY on Thursday were largely unruffled by the latest development.

“Life still goes on... It’s just a pity that the virus has hit our island and spread like wildfire,” said Mr Stephen Gomez, 61, a resident at Blk 402 Bedok North Ave 3.

Housewife Madam Zhao Hai Ying, 27, said she would take more precautions by checking if her two young children had any mosquito bites. “But you can’t be so (fixated) on this, we just have to be a little more careful,” she added.

Office manager Sally Lim, 43, said that Zika was not “as serious” as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and that there was “nothing to be worried about”.

However, she noted that some of her relatives who had originally intended to visit her this weekend at her home in Bedok had decided to cancel the visit. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TOH EE MING

Challenging to contain Zika virus: Health experts
Lim Jia Qi Channel NewsAsia 1 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: As the Zika virus spread from one area to a new potential cluster at Bedok North Avenue 3, medical experts told Channel NewsAsia that it may become increasingly difficult to contain the virus.

The authorities identified the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive area as the initial Zika cluster after more than 41 people working and living in the area tested positive for the virus.

But on Wednesday (Aug 31), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the area around Bedok North Avenue 3, which is about five kilometres away from Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive, could be the site of a new cluster.

As of Thursday, a total of 151 locally transmitted Zika infections were confirmed in Singapore, including three cases not linked to any existing cluster. On the same day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned that Singapore "must assume Zika is elsewhere in (the country)" apart from Aljunied and Bedok, where the majority of cases so far have been.

Dr Asok Kurup, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said the spread was not surprising as Singapore is a small country and people can get around easily. He added that the virus could have already spread to other parts of Singapore.

“We are all very physically mobile within the country. It’s not unusual to find areas, clusters outside of there. Someone who works there can live in another part of Singapore; someone who has no symptoms can easily be a prey of the Aedes mosquito and it can spread to individuals in other neighbourhoods,” said Dr Kurup.

The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. Symptoms of Zika include fever and rash as well as red eyes or joint pain. The disease can also cause microcephaly - a congenital condition in which the head size is much smaller than usual for a baby of the same age, race and sex.


If Zika continues to spread across Singapore, Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, is concerned that it may be difficult to eradicate the virus.

“The bigger the area to cover, the more difficult it will be to eradicate the virus. It means having to put more people on the ground, searching premises by premises and some of them are locked. Given this scenario, we will have more premises that are unchecked and more places where breeding can occur. When there are more areas for breeding, we are going to see a larger population of mosquitoes. This will translate to more cases of Zika and more cases of dengue,” said Dr Leong. "It will become inevitable that Zika may just take up permanent residence in Singapore."

His views were echoed by Dr Kurup, who said that apart from focusing on intensive vector control measures, other strategies including vaccines and the use of technology will be needed in the battle against Zika.

“We will not be able to eradicate Zika,” said Dr Kurup. “We have a huge challenge in that. We have no vaccine; we have no drugs; we have no targeted measures apart from what we have already done for dengue.”

Dr Wong Sin Yew, an infectious diseases specialist at Gleneagles Hospital, said the difficulty in eradicating the virus is that the majority of Zika cases are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.

“Eighty per cent of the people who are infected don't have any symptoms so it's possible for somebody who did not seek medical attention to be a source for mosquitoes to bite and infect others and these so-called 'silent carriers' could form a source of infection elsewhere and then develop other clusters,” said Dr Wong.


Vector control operations are underway in the Sims Drive/Aljunied Crescent cluster and Bedok North Avenue 3. This has been extended to Punggol Way and Joo Seng, where two isolated cases have been found.

NEA has inspected about 5,500 premises in the Sims Drive/Aljunied Crescent cluster which covers Aljunied Crescent, Sims Drive, Paya Lebar Way and Kallang Way. The cluster has about 7,000 premises.

More than 300 personnel were deployed each day between Aug 27 and Aug 30 to carry out vector control operations and outreach efforts.

On Thursday, MOH and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that 49 breeding habitats - comprising 26 in homes and 23 in common areas or other premises - have been detected and destroyed in the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive cluster.

Indoor spraying, misting and oiling were conducted, and daily misting of common areas is ongoing. Two rounds of thermal fogging have been completed and another round will be conducted this week.

Even as authorities conduct vector control activities in the affected clusters, the community should also play an active role to prevent mosquito breeding, said Dr Wong.

“Every citizen should make sure that their house does not breed mosquitoes. If we reduce mosquito breeding throughout Singapore, we have a huge impact of reducing not just Zika but also dengue,” he said.

“The control efforts have been instituted and they are adequate. I would say that (in) two to three weeks ... we will be able to tell whether the number of cases will drop,” Dr Wong ventured.

Singapore must assume Zika is elsewhere too, aside from Aljunied and Bedok: PM Lee
Channel NewsAsia 1 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned that Singapore "must assume Zika is elsewhere in (the country)" as well, even as authorities tackle the 115 cases that have been confirmed in Aljunied and Bedok.

In a Facebook post on Thursday (Sep 1), Mr Lee wrote: "The cases so far have been in Aljunied and Bedok, but we must assume that Zika is elsewhere in Singapore too."

The Prime Minister said: "We have been tracking Zika for a while now, and knew it was only a matter of time before it reached Singapore."

He added that scientists are still learning about this new disease. "But we know that for most people it is mild, and in fact often causes no symptoms at all. Pregnant women are at risk, as they are with other viral infections like dengue and chicken pox. Do take precautions and get tested if you show symptoms.

"Our best defence is to eradicate mosquitos and destroy breeding habitats, all over Singapore. Do the 5-step Mozzie Wipeout. Let's all do our part to fight Zika, and dengue as well."

Chinese nationals, Bangladeshis, Malaysians among Zika cases in Singapore
Channel NewsAsia 1 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: A total of 57 foreign nationals including Bangladeshis, Chinese, Indians and Malaysians who live and work in Singapore are among the 115 people who tested positive for Zika, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

The breakdown of foreigners who have been infected is as follows:
- Bangladesh: 10
- China: 23
- India: 15
- Indonesia: 1
- Malaysia: 6
- Myanmar 1
- Taiwan: 1

Said MOH of the cases: "All had mild illness. Most have recovered while the rest are recovering well.”

Malaysia announced its first local case on Thursday (Sep 1). One of its citizens, a 47-year-old woman living in Aljunied Crescent, was the first case to be announced by Singapore authorities on Saturday.

The Bangladesh High Commission, Chinese Foreign Ministry and Indonesian Foreign Ministry said they have been notified of the cases by Singapore authorities.

"We have also been informed that the patients are presented with mild symptoms and have either recovered or recovering. We are in touch with the Ministry of Health in this regard," said Mahbub Uz Zaman, High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Singapore.

- CNA/mn

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Batam-Singapore ferry accident: Ferry ran aground after taking shortcut, MPA says

Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 1 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: A Batam passenger ferry heading to Singapore ran aground last year after taking a shortcut, the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said on Thursday (Sep 1).

The Indonesia-registered ferry “Sea Prince” was previously reported to have hit a floating object after leaving the Nongsapura ferry terminal in Batam. A total of 97 people, including 51 Singaporeans, had to be rescued.

“The captain had taken a detour, taken a shortcut, which led to the grounding of the vessel which then took in water. And the life-rafts – two of the three did not inflate properly,” said MPA chief executive Andrew Tan in response to questions from Channel NewsAsia.

He added the MPA has shared its preliminary findings into the incident with its Indonesian counterparts, and is working with the ferry operator on areas of improvement. On its part, the MPA has stepped up detailed inspections from 16 times a year to 45 times a year. Ferries with greater lapses will also be inspected more often.

“We’ve formed a working group with the ferry association to look at further improvements to the whole system itself. So we’re taking seriously this subject of safety, and we hope to see more improvements made in the coming months.”

Mr Tan was speaking on the sidelines of this year’s FEREX exercise – a drill involving a simulated collision between two passenger ferries. The exercise involved more than 15 craft and 450 personnel from 15 agencies, including the Singapore Civil Defence Force, the Health Ministry and the Police Coast Guard, and aimed to test their readiness in ferry mishaps.

This included the deployment of resources at sea for evacuation and rescue operations, manning of the emergency operations centre at MPA’s Port Operations Control Centre, and the landing of casualties and rescued persons at HarbourFront Centre Terminal.

The exercise was observed by Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, maritime safety agencies from Europe, Asia and Small Island Developing States, and the International Ferry Safety Association among others.

- CNA/cy

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Wet conditions expected in the next fortnight

Today Online 1 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — Singapore is to experience wet conditions in the first fortnight of September, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said in a statement.

Over the next two weeks, Singapore can expect five to seven days of short-duration thundery showers mostly in the late morning and afternoon, due to strong solar heating of the land areas coupled with wind convergence.

Low level winds are forecast to blow predominantly from the south-east or south-west, and are expected to blow from the west on a few days.

In addition, thundery showers with occasional gusty winds can be expected on one or two days between the pre-dawn hours and morning. This is due to squall lines moving eastwards from the Strait of Malacca.

As such, the rainfall for the first fortnight of September 2016 is “likely to be slightly above normal”, the MSS said in the statement.

However, dry and warm weather conditions can still be expected on a few days. On these days, the daily maximum temperatures could reach around 34°C. On most days, the daily maximum temperatures are forecast to range between 32°C and 33°C.

The MSS also said that in August, the Changi climate station recorded the mean daily maximum temperature for the month at 31.8°C, the highest mean daily maximum temperature recorded for August in the last 10 years.

Furthermore, the mean monthly temperature recorded in August was 28.9°C, approximately 1°C warmer than the long-term August mean temperature. Rainfall for Singapore was below normal for August, with the highest rainfall of 213mm recorded around the Choa Chu Kang area.

For updates of the daily weather and haze forecast, visit you can visit the MSS website (; the NEA website (; the haze microsite ( or through the myENV app and the Weather@SG app.

Rainy September forecast after warmer-than-usual August
Channel NewsAsia 1 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: Rainy weather, with several days of short thundery showers can be expected in the first half of September, said the Meteorological Service on Thursday (Sep 1).

Over the next two weeks, Singapore can expect five to seven days of short thundery showers mostly in the late morning and afternoon, said the Met Service in its media statement, adding that this was due to strong solar heating of land areas coupled with wind convergence.

In addition, thundery showers with occasional gusty winds can be expected on one or two days between the predawn hours and morning.

Rainfall for the first fortnight of September is forecast to be slightly above normal.

However, the Met Service added that dry and warm weather conditions can still be expected on a few days where the daily maximum temperatures could reach around 34°C. On most days however, the daily maximum temperatures are forecast to range between 32°C and 33°C.


The Met Service also noted that Singapore saw a few warm days in the first half of August. The highest daily maximum temperature recorded in August ranged between 29.1°C and 35.4°C, it said.

At the Changi climate station, the mean daily maximum temperature for August was 31.8°C, which is the highest mean daily maximum temperature recorded for August in the
last ten years.

In addition, the mean monthly temperature recorded was 28.9°C, approximately 1°C warmer than the long-term August mean temperature.

The month also saw below-normal rainfall, although there were more rainy days in the second half of the month.

The Met Service noted that on Aug 24, a Sumatra squall brought heavy rainfall to many parts of Singapore. The heaviest rain that day fell over Jurong Island where a total of 69.2mm of rainfall was logged.


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Malaysia: First Zika patient getting better

The Star 2 Sep 16;

PETALING JAYA: The first Zika patient in the country is recuperating well at the Sungai Buloh Hospital.

The hospital’s infectious disease head Datuk Dr Christopher Lee said the symptoms that the 58-year-old woman suffered from, including rashes, had also cleared up.

“We will be doing a blood test on her today and if it turns out to be negative, we can let her go home in a few days’ time,” he said yesterday.

He said her mild rashes cleared up in two or three days and the last blood test was negative but the hospital decided to keep her for a little longer just to ensure there would be no transmission to other people.

The blood test today was to reconfirm that she was free of Zika, he said.

The woman and her husband had visited their daughter in Singapore on Aug 19 and returned on Aug 21.

A week later, the woman developed rashes and fever, and sought medical attention at a private clinic in Klang.

She was referred to the Sungai Buloh Hospital, and on Aug 31, her urine sample tested positive for the Zika virus.

Her daughter, who works and lives in Paya Lebar, Singapore, has also been infected.

The woman’s husband and other family members who lived in the same house in Ambang Botanic have yet to show any symptoms of the infection.

Dr Lee said the most common symptoms of Zika were fever, body aches, rashes and red eyes which would normally clear up within a few days.

He said that if a woman was infected by Zika, the vaginal fluids might contain the virus for up to two months after she had recovered.

“So, if she has sex with a man within the two months, the man can be infected with Zika.

“The virus can also stay in a man’s semen for up to six months after he has recovered.”

Infected pregnant women face the risk of delivering a child with microcephaly, while others might suffer from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition.

According to the American National Institute of Neurological Disorder’s fact sheet, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralysed.

Dr Lee recommended that pregnant women who have travelled to affected countries like Brazil and Singapore go for check-ups at nearby hospitals.

Klang woman is first Zika case
The Star 1 Sep 16;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia recorded its first case of Zika infection after a 58-year-old woman in Bandar Botanic in Klang was suspected to have been infected on Wednesday.

She and her husband had visited their daughter in Singapore on Aug 19 and returned to Malaysia on Aug 21. He daughter was confirmed as being infected on Aug 30.

The Health Ministry said the woman started exhibiting symptom of rash on Aug 28 and sought medical attention at a private clinic in Klang on Aug 30.

“As the patient had travelling history to Singapore and her daughter was confirmed to have Zika virus infection on Aug 30, the private general practitioner had diagnosed her as "suspected case of Zika".

“On the same day, the patient was refered to Sungai Buloh Hospital and the result of the urine PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test on Aug 31 found positive for Zika virus.

“However, the patient’s blood test result is still pending,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said the source of infection “is suspected to occur in Singapore since the patient had started experiencing signs of Zika infection on the same day with her daughter in Singapore.” Her husband showed no signs of being infected.

Below is the press statement from the Health Ministry:


On 29th of August 2016, the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) has made an announcement advising those who have been to any country with reported cases of Zika and experiencing the symptoms of this infection are expected to come forward for a medical attention. Following this, the MOH have received report of a patient suspected with Zika virus infection on the 31st August, 2016. This patient is a 58 years-old woman residing in Bandar Botanic, Klang, Selangor and is the mother of a female confirmed with Zika infection in Singapore. The patient, together with her husband had visited their daughter in Singapore on 19th August 2016 and returned to Malaysia on 21st August 2016.

The patient started exhibiting symptom of rash on 28th August, and she sought medical attention at a private clinic in Klang on the 30th August 2016. As the patient had traveling history to Singapore and her daughter was confirmed to have Zika virus infection on 30th August 2016, the Private General Practitioner had diagnosed her as “suspected case of Zika”. On the same day, the patient was refered to Sungai Buloh Hospital and the result of the urine PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test on 31st August 2016 was found positive for Zika virus. However, the patient’s blood test result is still pending.

The source of infection is suspected to occur in Singapore since the patient had started experiencing signs of Zika infection on the same day with her daughter in Singapore. The patient’s husband and family members who lived in the same house with her, has yet to show any symptoms of Zika infection. For the period from 21st - 28th August 2016 when the patient was returning from Singapore, she had visited several areas in the district of Klang and Kuala Lumpur.

Based on the findings from the investigation, the MOH has already started vector control activities in the residential area of the case and other places that the patient had visited. Control activities carried out include eliminating Aedes breeding sites, larvaciding and fogging. In addition, close contacts to the patient will be examined whether they have any fever or other Zika symptoms.

Information obtained from the Ministry of Health Singapore, revealed that there are 5 Malaysians residing and working in Singapore that has also been confirmed to be infected with Zika virus. For the period from 27th to 31st August 2016, there has been 115 confirmed Zika cases reported in Singapore. Due to the rapid spread of Zika virus infection, Aedes monitoring and preventive activities are continuously performed and intensified in all states, especially in the state of Johor and Selangor.

Malaysians, must focus on cleaning the Aedes breeding places, protect themselves from Aedes mosquito bites and seek early medical attention if they have signs such as fever, rash and conjunctivitis. From the first reported case of Zika, we can conclude that it is rather easy to get infected by the virus when visiting places that has outbreak, including Singapore. The MOH once again call upon any individuals whom had visited countries that reported Zika infection, to come forward to seek immediate medical attention if they are experiencing any symptom as mentioned above. Proactive action from the community can help stop the spread of Zika virus in Malaysia. No Aedes: No Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya.



1st September 2016

Malaysia confirms first Zika case in woman who visited Singapore
Today Online 1 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — Malaysia confirmed on Thursday (Sept 1) its first case of Zika in a woman who recently travelled to Singapore for three days to visit her daughter.

Malaysia's health minister said the woman tested positive for Zika on Wednesday after she experienced a rash and fever for a week after her return from Singapore.

Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said her daughter, who is in Singapore, had tested positive for Zika on Tuesday.

The woman, 58, from Bandar Botanic in Klang, Selangor, is suspected to have been infected while she and her husband visited their daughter in Singapore from Aug 19 to Aug 21.

She started exhibiting symptoms of rash on Sunday, and she sought medical attention at a private clinic in Klang two days later, said a press release from the Malaysia Ministry of Health.

The health ministry said that the woman's husband and relatives who live with her has yet to show any symptoms of the Zika infection. Before she returned home after her visit to Singapore, she had visited several areas in the district of Klang and Kuala Lumpur.

The ministry said it has already started vector control activities in the residential area of the case and other places that the woman had visited. Such activities include thermal fogging, which aims to prevent mosquito breeding.

Singapore has 115 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne disease, five of whom are Malaysians residing and working here.

Among other foreign nationals in Singapore who have been infected with Zika are 21 Chinese nationals and 13 Indian nationals.

The High Commission of Bangladesh in Singapore said on Thursday that six Bangladeshi nationals are among those with Zika. WITH AGENCIES

It will spread but we must put a stop to it, says minister
The Star 2 Sep 16;

PUTRAJAYA: With the first Zika case confirmed, the number of infections is expected to increase and both the authorities and the public will have to work together to prevent its spread.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said they had intensified “anti-Aedes activities”, including in Bandar Botanic in Klang, where the first victim – a 58-year-old woman – stayed.

“Dealing with the Zika virus is done the same way we deal with dengue, which is by controlling the spread of Aedes mosquitoes.

“But to do so, we need the support of all Malaysians. The ministry and local authorities cannot do it alone. The Aedes mosquito breeds in houses, so everyone needs to play a role in preventing the spread of the virus.

“If the vector control people come to your residential area to conduct fogging, allow them to enter your house. Very often, we come across cases where people will not allow this,” said Dr Subramaniam at a press conference here.

Besides focusing on cleaning Aedes breeding places, the minister said Malaysians must protect themselves from Aedes mosquito bites through the use of repellents or by wearing long-sleeved clothing, particularly at dawn and dusk.

His predecessor at the ministry, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, said Malaysia was more than capable of handling the Zika infection.

Having served as minister during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, Liow said they had successfully contained the spread of that.

“We have a very good surveillance system and can detect those infected at an early stage,” he said during a meet-and-greet session hosted by the International Malaysian Society of Maritime Law.

As Transport Minister, Liow said his ministry would support the Health Ministry in stepping up screening at all entry points into country, especially at international airports and the Causeway.

A new virus can spread like wildfire, he said, and must be nipped in the bud.

Doc: Clean up your act
The Star 2 Sep 16;

PETALING JAYA: Stop throwing rubbish, clean your homes and surrounding areas, and protect yourself from mosquito bites. That’s the only way Malaysians can prevent a high number of Zika cases and microcephaly, said a paediatrician.

Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital’s department head and senior consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh said he had not come across any microcephaly cases related to Zika in newborn babies but with new Zika cases entering the country, it was possible for cases to emerge in about a year’s time.

“We have a window period now. If we do something now, the spread will be less and we can lower the number of babies affected,” he said.

Microcephaly is an abnormal smallness of the head in babies, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.

Dr Amar said Malaysians must change their dirty habits.

“It’s time the authorities come down hard on people who throw rubbish indiscriminately,” he said, referring to rubbish ending up containing rainwater and becoming mosquito breeding grounds.

He said South Korea and Taiwan had cleaned up their countries and Malaysia should do likewise.

People should also reduce the risk of getting bitten by mosquitoes by protecting themselves and their homes by using mosquito repellents and nets, he said.

Pregnant women and men involved in sexual relationships, too, must take precautions as Zika can be transmitted from mother to foetus and through sex, he said.

Universiti Malaya virologist Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said Zika was difficult to monitor and those working and travelling to Singapore daily and those returning from countries with Zika cases need to be very responsible and protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes.

“Do all you can to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by using repellent, and wear light-coloured clothing especially in the morning or evening so you don’t spread to others, especially if your wife is pregnant,” he said.

Dr Sazaly said while people worried about Zika, they should also be concerned about dengue as it kills.

“It’s the rainy season now and there are lots of mosquito breeding grounds,” he said.

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Indonesia: Riau alarmed as Zika spreads in Singapore

Fadli The Jakarta Post 1 Spe 16;

Recent cases of Zika in Singapore have caused concern among the people of Riau Islands, who rely on foreign currency from visitors transiting in the province.

Those traveling to Batam, Bintan and Karimun usually transit there.

The chairman of the Batam branch of the Association of Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (Asita Batam), Andika, said the impacts of warnings issued by Taiwan, South Korea and Australia against traveling to Singapore would be felt within the next 15 days.

“The impact is not being felt yet because the warnings have only just been issued,” Andika, who runs VIP tour and travel agency, Batam, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said tourists from the countries that issued travel warnings would initially still go to Singapore because they had paid for their bookings, but those who had not paid yet would reconsider going to Singapore.

Andika said South Koreans and Taiwanese were potential tourists for Batam and other regions in the province.

“We hope Singapore can quickly handle the virus problem because the longer it takes, the more difficult it will be to address the problem here,” Andika said.

Meanwhile since Monday, the Health Ministry has prepared 139 port medics stationed at eight seaports serving routes to Singapore from Batam, Bintan and Karimun in anticipation of passengers with Zika entering the country.

As such, passengers coming from Singapore are obliged to undergo a thermal scan to measure their respective body temperatures.

They are also given health alert cards following the finding that 41 people had contracted Zika in Singapore.

The head of Riau Islands Tourism Agency, Guntur Sakti, assured that a Zika outbreak in Singapore would impact tourism in the province because 99 percent of some 2 million foreign tourist visiting the region annually came through Singapore.

“Moreover, among the countries issuing the travel warnings were South Korea and Taiwan, the province’s potential tourism markets,” Guntur said.

He said the province’s target to have 2.6 million foreign arrivals this year was unlikely to be achieved because of a number of issues that deterred tourists from visiting.

Providing examples, Guntur said the province had been rocked by bomb threats in July, followed by a foiled terrorist attack in August and now the Zika scare from Singapore.

“These issues have made foreign arrivals in the province fall far below that expected,” Guntur said.

He added that the number of foreign arrivals in the province in the first half of this year was only 970,000, far below the targeted 1.3 million.

“Considering the numerous aspects influencing foreign arrivals, I am pessimistic that the target will be realized,” said Guntur.

Last year, Guntur added, 2.03 million tourists visited, almost reaching the 2.1 million target.

“The target would have been achieved or even exceeded if the haze disaster hadn’t happened,” Guntur said, adding that Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indians, Taiwanese and South Koreans were the five top foreign arrivals in the province.

Indonesian woman infected with Zika in Singapore
Marguerite Afra Sapiie The Jakarta Post 1 Sep 16;

An Indonesian woman has been infected with the Zika virus in Singapore, in the first case of the disease affecting an Indonesian national, the Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said the information was communicated by the Singapore Ministry of Health to the Indonesian Embassy. The woman, whose name and age were not disclosed by officials, is currently receiving treatment at a hospital in Singapore.

Arrmanatha told journalists that the patient had tested positive for Zika. However, out of concern for her privacy, Singapore’s Health Ministry had only stated that she was Indonesian and female, he said.

The ministry had yet to receive information on whether the woman was pregnant, which could be dangerous as the disease can cause microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with small heads. Arrmanatha said further details would be immediately sought by the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore.

He added that the ministry was coordinating closely with Indonesia’s Health Ministry over a plan to issue health advice for Indonesian nationals in Singapore, in an effort to raise awareness so that people could protect themselves from the virus.

The Health Ministry’s disease control director general, Muhammad Subuh, said on Monday that immigration officials would start requiring people arriving from Singapore to fill in health alert cards to assist with early detection of the virus and to limit its spread. (dmr)

Read more!

2.6 billion people in Zika-risk areas in Africa, Asia: Study

Channel NewsAsia 2 Sep 16;

PARIS: At least 2.6 billion people, over a third of the global population, live in parts of Africa, Asia and the Pacific where Zika could gain a new foothold, researchers warned on Friday (Sep 2), with 1.2 billion at risk in India alone.

These are people who reside in as-yet unaffected parts of the world with the right climate and abundant mosquitoes for the virus to settle, spread and propagate an epidemic like the one besetting the Americas and Caribbean, they said.

"According to our most conservative scenario, populations living within the geographical range for Zika virus were highest in India (1.2 billion people), China (242 million), Indonesia (197 million) Nigeria (179 million), Pakistan (168 million), and Bangladesh (163 million)," said a study.

This is a theoretical possibility, however. Whether or not the mosquito-borne virus would take off in any of these countries would be determined largely by a crucial unknown factor: Do the people there have immunity?

Sporadic cases of Zika have previously been reported in Africa and Asia, but nobody knows whether they were widespread enough for populations to acquire resistance to the virus.

Another mystery is whether immunity to the African Zika strain would offer protection against the Asian strain currently in circulation.

"If Zika immunity is widespread, introduced Zika will fizzle out fast," Derek Gatherer of Lancaster University said in a comment on the study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

"On the other hand, if it enters another unprotected population, we may see a repeat of what we have already seen in Brazil and other parts of Latin America."


The research team used air travel data, maps of mosquito spread and climate conditions, and information on population density and health spending to draw up an epidemiological risk model.

Benign in most people, Zika has been linked to a form of severe brain damage called microcephaly which causes newborns' heads to be abnormally small, and to rare adult-onset neurological problems such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which can result in paralysis and death.

In an outbreak that started mid-2015, more than 1.5 million people have been infected with Zika in Brazil, and more than 1,600 babies born with abnormally small heads and brains. Seventy countries and territories have reported local mosquito-borne Zika transmission, with Brazil by far the hardest hit.

Seventeen countries have reported cases of microcephaly or other central nervous system malformations in babies, and eighteen signalled an increase in GBS, according to the World Health Organization.

There have also been rare cases of person-to-person sexual transmission.

"As the Zika virus epidemic in the Americas intensifies and expands, hundreds, and possibly thousands, of infected travellers are now transporting the virus to distant regions of the world," the researchers wrote.

If an infected person arrives in an unaffected country, Zika can spread if a local mosquito feeds on that individual, picks up the virus, and transfers it to another human with its next blood meal.

"The potential for epidemics to occur in parts of Africa and the Asia-Pacific region is particularly worrying given the vast numbers of people who are potentially susceptible to Zika virus and are living in environments where health and human resources to prevent, detect and respond to epidemics are limited," said the paper.

A key risk area identified was Angola, due to its strong cultural ties, and travel links, with Brazil.

The southern African country has an ongoing epidemic of yellow fever, caused by a virus which, like Zika, is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

In Asia, India was particularly at risk, the team found.

China received many times more travellers per year from Zika-affected parts of the Americas, but spent more on healthcare.

The study authors "have produced a helpful guide to where our surveillance should be concentrated," said Gatherer.

- AFP/de

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Indonesia probes why police dropped case against 15 haze-linked companies

Francis Chan, Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Sep 16;

A helicopter operated by Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) sprays water on a fire in Kampar, Riau province on August 29, 2016.

Indonesian lawmakers are investigating a controversial decision by the police to drop charges against 15 companies allegedly behind forest fires in Riau province last year.

A working committee set up by the parliamentary commission for law, human rights and security will be leading the probe, reported Kompas news yesterday.

Mr Masinton Pasaribu, from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P), said they will examine why police investigations against the 15 Indonesian firms were terminated earlier this year.

The Straits Times understands that members of the Riau provincial police as well as representatives of the companies have been summoned to give evidence before the committee next week.

Smoke from fires raging over forest and concession land in Riau as well as other areas in Kalimantan and Sumatra had led to record air pollution levels in South-east Asia last year.

The government has come down hard on errant individuals and companies that use fire to clear land but its enforcement effort against companies has had mixed results.

The case against the 15 companies was initiated earlier this year by the Environment and Forestry Ministry, but news broke in July that the police had halted their investigations.

The issue came to a head last week when Tempo news, quoting the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and the Riau Forest Rescue Network, reported that fires were recently detected on land owned by eight of the 15 companies.

The eight mentioned in the report are Dexter Perkasa Industri Indonesia, Siak Raya Timber, Bina Duta Laksana, Perawang Sukses Perkasa Industri, Ruas Utama Jaya, Huta Sola Lestari, Suntara Gajah Pati and Sumatera Riang Lestari.

Walhi executive director Riko Kurniawan said the police decision to drop the case against the firms "was a big mistake, as proven by the repeat of their wrongdoing".

National Police chief Tito Karnavian on Tuesday defended the move, saying the decision was based on different reasons, including findings that some of the fires had originated from outside concessions.

"Not all cases of forest and land fires were terminated; many were also tried in court," said General Tito.

Indeed, 30 companies have been sanctioned over last year's fires, while about 10 companies are still facing civil suits initiated by the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

The ministry also scored a minor victory on Aug 12 when a high court overturned an earlier decision and found pulpwood firm Bumi Mekar Hijau guilty of illegally setting fires on its concession in 2014.

Green groups such as Wahli on Tuesday hailed the latest verdict as a "small win" for Indonesia's conservation efforts.

- See more at:

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Korean palm oil firm accused of illegal forest burning in Indonesia

Some of the world’s biggest buyers have stopped trading with Korindo after the emergence of footage claiming to show illegal burning in Papua province
Arthur Neslen The Guardian 1 Sep 16;

A Korean palm oil company has been dropped by buyers after footage emerged that allegedly shows the illegal burning of vast tracts of tropical forest on lands it holds concessions for in Indonesia.

Some of the world’s biggest palm oil trading producers including Wilmar, Musim Mas and IOI have stopped using palm oil sourced from Korindo, much of which is destined to meet European demand.

Korindo’s alleged deforestation of pristine woodland in Papua province also threatens to destroy the last sanctuary of several birds of paradise and the tree kangaroo, according to a report by a new environmental alliance called Mighty.

The group has collected evidence from drones, remote sensors, GPS satellites, and videographers and photographers on the ground, which it says proves that Korindo has flouted Indonesia’s no-burning laws and violated responsible sourcing requirements.

Bustar Maitar, Mighty’s campaign director in Papua, told the Guardian: “Korindo is clear-cutting forests and then starting fires to clear the land of remaining biomass. That is forbidden by Indonesia’s regulations but during last year’s forest fires, most of the blazes in the Papua region happened in Korindo’s concessions.”

“There are a lot of animal species and flora here that haven’t even been discovered yet,” Maitar added. “If these kinds of land clearing activities continue, they may never be.”

But Koh Gyeong Min, Korindo’s head of sustainability, denied that the firm had been responsible for any illegal forest burning. “It is not true actually,” he said. “We followed all of the Indonesian regulations and acquired all the proper licences from the government for all areas of operation within our group.”

“I also would like to ask: do the local NGOs or residents have any evidence about our company that they have brought to the Indonesian government or the local courts? As far as I know there have been no cases of that.”

The allegations come as south-east Asia’s 2016 burning season is just beginning. On 30 August, the Indonesian government warned that haze from fires on Sumatra and Kalimantan could reach Malaysia and Singapore in the days ahead.

More than 3,000 hotspots have been detected in the Indonesian archipelago in the last month, with maps released by Greenpeace of Riau and West Kalimantan showing that many are occurring on industrial plantation concessions in the same areas that burned last year.

Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace Indonesia’s forest campaigner said: “Companies that refuse to take steps to prevent fires have not just ash, but blood on their hands.”

Wildfires in Indonesia’s tropical forests last year are thought likely to have contributed to the premature deaths of more than 100,000 people, and to have emitted more CO2 than the whole of the UK that year.

Korindo is active in Indonesia’s north Malaku region as well as Papua, holding around 620 square miles of forest concessions in total. The company, whose promotional video calls on viewers to “make the Earth green”, has already cleared around 193 square miles of forest.

Maitar said that Korindo had not responded to letters sent by the new alliance, and that the new report was aimed at putting pressure on the Indonesian government.

Several major buyers of Korindo’s palm oil acted to cut the firm out of their supply chains after hearing of the allegations.

A spokeswoman for Musim Mas told the Guardian that it wanted to see Korindo engage with civil society groups and adopt a “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” (NDPE) policy. “During this period we will continue to stop buying the palm oil temporarily and monitor Korindo’s progress,” she said.

NDPEs have become a palm oil industry standard in south-east Asia but the Mighty campaign argues that they are not working. Glenn Hurowitz, Mighty’s US campaign director, said that Korindo had been able to deforest 113 square miles of land since 2013, despite clearly visible satellite evidence of 894 hotspots in that period.

“This investigation shows the true face of the palm oil industry in Indonesia even after No Deforestation policies,” Hurowitz said. “The current, mostly confidential company-by-company system is inadequate. We urgently need a transparent, systematic approach, as well as further action by government and prosecutors.”

One of Malaysia’s largest palm oil companies, IOI – which was itself suspended from a sustainability scheme for not doing enough to prevent deforestation - said that its third party suppliers had also “decided to temporarily stop sourcing from Korindo” after hearing the allegations.

The palm oil giant Wilmar told the Guardian that it too had contacted Korindo after a heads up about the new evidence. “Due to a lack of progress from the supplier, and in view of the serious allegations, Wilmar has ceased procuring from Korindo with effect from June 2016,” a spokeswoman said.

None of the companies would reveal how much money they spent on ensuring that third-party palm oil suppliers did not cause environmental damage.

Gyeong Min said that after a demand from Wilmar earlier this year, Korindo began a “high-carbon stock assessment” which would be published later this month. “We also announced a temporary moratorium for our remaining plantation area,” he said.

Last month, a Korindo subsidiary called PT Tunas Sawa Erma declared a three-month suspension of new forest clearings across 25,000 hectares of territory, while it developed a NDPE policy.

But Mighty says that the moratorium did not extend to all Korindo operations. “A couple of months ago we visited their concessions and the land clearing was still happening,” Maitar said. “In our experience with other companies, all activities involving the cutting down of forests should be stopped, while they are doing these sorts of assessments.”

S. Korean company accused of deforestation in Papua
Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 2 Sep 16;

Following activity in Sumatra and Kalimantan, palm oil companies have begun expansion in Papua, which houses Indonesia’s only remaining virgin forests as other parts of the country have largely been converted to plantations.

One such company is Korindo Group, a Korean-Indonesian conglomerate and Papua’s major palm oil company. In 2013, Korindo began its aggressive clearing of tropical lowland forests for oil palm plantations in Papua.

The massive deforestation and illegal burning of pristine rainforests by Korindo was uncovered in a recent investigative report by global environmental organization Mighty, Indonesian humanitarian organizations SKP-KAMe Merauke and PUSAKA, Transport & Environment, Rainforest Foundation Norway and the Korean Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM).

In total, Korindo has cleared more than 50,000 hectares of tropical lowland forest in Papua and North Maluku, an area approximately the size of Seoul. Since 2013 alone, it has cleared 30,000 ha of forest in the two provinces, 12,000 ha of which were primary forests.

“The extent of Korindo’s clearing of Indonesia’s pristine rainforest is downright tragic,” said Bustar Maitar, Southeast Asia director for Mighty.

Korindo denied the allegations of slash-and-burn practices.

“Our hypothesis is that indigenous people who have access to our concessions have caused the fires to hunt wild animals living in the forests,” the company said in an official statement.

According to the report, slash-and-burn practices were apparent as there were no less than 894 hotspots recorded within the Korindo subsidiary company’s concession boundaries from 2013 to 2015.

Korindo was clearing forest and land in two concession areas in 2013, in three concessions in 2014 and in four concessions in 2015, the report said.

“What’s shocking is Korindo’s systematic use of fires to clear land for its plantations. Not only is this illegal, but these fires were also a major contributor to last year’s haze crisis,” Bustar said.

According to the report, Korindo had been able to get away with systematic clearing and burning for oil palm plantations with almost no accountability because Papua is a remote province with restricted access for media and civil society.

Furthermore, local indigenous groups have little access to media for reporting illegal practices.

Last year, the seventeenth regional military command (Kodam XVII) Cenderawasih received two units of excavators to help the military open up agricultural lands in Merauke regency, Papua, from Korindo, according to media reports.

Furthermore, the government had been focusing its effort on preventing and extinguishing forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, thus largely neglecting Papua, despite the fact that it hosts the largest area of previously untouched primary tropical rainforests in Indonesia.

“We will check everything back because last year, we focused on fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, especially in peat areas,” the Environment and Forestry Ministry law enforcement director-general, Rasio Ridho Sani, said when asked if the government was aware of Korindo’s alleged crimes.

Currently, 75,000 ha of untouched forest remain in Korindo’s palm oil concessions that are at imminent risk of destruction.

Korindo Responsible for Human Rights Violations, Deforestation, Haze Explosive Environmental Report Finds
Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 2 Sep 16;

Jakarta. While wildfires rage across Kalimantan and Sumatra, Papua has fallen prey to the illegal slash-and-burn practices which devastated the two western islands, environmental watchdog Mighty has revealed in a new report.

Mighty's investigative report "Burning Paradise," which includes satellite images, hotspot data, photos and videos, accuses Korean-controlled conglomerate Korindo of burning native forests and of human rights violations in Papua and North Maluku.

Mighty was founded by Washington-based think tank the Center for International Policy and joined hands with several established organizations — strategic communications company Waxman Strategies, research organization Aidenvironment, local humanitarian organizations SKP-KAMe Merauke and Pusaka and the Korean Federation for Environmental Movements — to produce the report.

"The continuous increase in global demand for palm oil has become an opportunity for many companies in Indonesia to widen their concessions, especially for palm oil, sacrificing the very little of forests we have left," Mighty Southeast Asia director Bustar Maitar said on Thursday (01/09).

Mighty's team ventured into Korindo's remote palm oil plantations in Papua to document the company's actions with the report including the live footage.

The conglomerate, controlled by the Korean-based Seung family, was established in Jakarta in 1969 with the headquarters remaining in the city since. The group's business includes wood chip production, operating palm plantations to financing and real estate.

The report found that over 50,000 hectares of tropical lowland forests – comparable to the size of Seoul – have been devastated by the group. Satellite imaging indicate Korindo was responsible for illegal forest fires, with 164 hotspots observed, at Korindo's Donghin Prabhawa palm oil plantation in Merauke, in 2015.

The unique and endangered wildlife endemic to Papua, such as the birds of paradise and tree kangaroos, are threatened by the constant habitat degradation.


Conflict among local tribes have been triggered by the loss of access to the forest, particularly with regards to land compensation. Rights abuses highlighted in the report found Korindo failed to obtain consent from local communities to build concessions upon their land.

Pastor Anselmus Amo, a religious leader and director of SKP KAMe Merauke, said many of the licenses obtained by palm companies on Papua are signed by people who do not represent local communities. In other cases, consent is forced through military pressure.

"Most of the times they come with the military to scare the locals. Their presence is not even necessary, the locals don't mean to do any harm, so why are they there?" the pastor told the Jakarta Globe during the press briefing in Jakarta on Thursday.

Corporate social responsibility programs are run by Korindo, with schools, clinics and housing built in some areas. Many communities affected y the concessions miss out.

"Business is business, but it still needs to follow the principles of human rights. They cannot be covered up by the corporate social programs. It's a social responsibility, not a blanket for human rights violations," Amo said.

Papuans traditionally rely on sustenance hunting and so shy away from the agrarian customs forced by palm companies.

"Papuans should be the kings on their own land. If they become laborers, they become slaves of theses corporations," he said.

Pusaka, a local NGO protecting the rights of Indigenous communities in Merauke, said the loss of forests is the same as losing the livelihood of the Papuan people.

"Many of the forests have been cleared out for palm oil concessions, the people of the Awiwi tribe have no source of food left, which means they are heading towards extinction," Pusaka director Y.L. Franky said.

Franky suggests that for companies to be credible they must develop a mechanism for conflict resolution to prevent future cases of violence similar to those reported across Korindo concessions.

"Last year we made a report on the military violence in the area. This is not the right way of conduct for the companies if they seek sustainable investments there," Franky said. Call for sanctions Bustar, an activist at Mighty, said the revelations in the report of Korindo's violations is a "cry for help" for the future of the country's forests.

“We just don’t want this to continue and let Papua share the same fate as the forests in Kalimantan and Sumatra,” Bustar, a former Greenpeace forest campaigner, said.

He urged ministries and relevant government authorities to sanction those who are proven to still practice slash-and-burn tactics in forest management, and stressed the importance of "free, prior and informed consent," as it is important for communities to be involved in the understanding and agreeing with new developments to be built on their land.

“We also ask customers of Korindo to stop, until they realize that they have to transform their unsustainable practices,” Bustiar said.

Korindo's Responses In a written response published on Wednesday, Korindo denied the accusations and claimed to have "zero burning" policies in all palm plantations.

According to Korindo's statement, the hotspot images in Mighty's report were satellite images from the Aqua and Terra satellites taken after September 2015, when Indonesia suffered a long drought which caused wildfires across the country, including concession areas.

All palm plantations are registered and have secured necessary licensing from the government, the response said, adding that it has provided adequate compensation to local communities.

"The company also develops a plasma plantation [smaller plots of palm within plantations] of which 20 percent is for the local communities as a direct contribution to boost their revenues," the statement said.

Korindo, known to employ about 20,000 employees all over Indonesia, also denied its operations have increased the haze from forest fires, claiming it has burnt less than 0.1 percent of the total amount of forests burnt in Indonesia in 2015.

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Indonesia: Fourteen still hospitalized after eating green mussels

Andi Hajramurni The Jakarta Post 1 Sep 16;

Fourteen people were still being treated at hospitals in Jeneponto regency and Makassar (South Sulawesi) as of Thursday, after eating green mussels taken from a local beach.

The food poisoning incident killed two people and caused symptoms in 63 residents from Mallasoro village in Bangkala district, Jeneponto, South Sulawesi, on Tuesday. The fatalities were Muna Daeng Angki, 45, and Daeng Bombong, 40.

The Jeneponto administration has called on residents not to consume green mussels for a period of time.

Hajrah, 43, said she ate green mussels for breakfast on Tuesday morning. Soon afterward, she felt dizzy, her lips thickened and her arms and neck felt stiff. She said she had eaten green mussels since she was a child, but it was the first time she had been fallen ill from them.

An official at the Jeneponto Health Agency, Suryaningrat, said cases of food poisoning began to be seen on Sunday but peaked on Tuesday.

Suryaningrat said on Wednesday that he had sent samples of green mussels to a laboratory.

Jeneponto Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Joko Sumarno, meanwhile, said he had sent samples of vomit to the South Sulawesi forensics lab.

However, not all residents who ate the shellfish were poisoned.

“Until Tuesday afternoon, I was still eating the same batch of green mussels. But I am fine,” said Marintang, 39, also from Mallasoro.

Villagers said this year’s green mussels season was the biggest in history. They had been harvesting mussels since June, collecting them on the beach when the tide receded. “We could take a sack of mussels home this season,” Mustari, 36, said. (evi)

Two die after consuming green mussels
Andi Hajramurni The Jakarta Post 1 Sep 16;

At least two people died and 63 others were rushed to hospitals and clinics after consuming green mussels in Mallasoro village, Bangkala district, Jeneponto, South Sulawesi, on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday, 24 people were still being treated at three hospitals and two clinics in Mallasoro, Bangkala, Jeneponto and Makassar.

Jeneponto Deputy Regent Mulyadi Mustamu said local people in Bangkala had consumed green mussels for generations, but this time they fell ill.

“This is an extraordinary incident. This is the first time people have been poisoned and two died,” he said.

Two weeks ago, 14 residents of Bonto Ujung village also fell sick after consuming mussels, but no one died. In an anticipatory measure, the regency administration has temporarily banned people from eating mussels.

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Indonesia: Conservation aimed at saving bird from extinction

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari The Jakarta Post 1 Sep 16;

Increasing threats from natural predators such as lizards — and humans too — have put Maleo birds (Macrocephalon maleo) on the brink of extinction.

Lizards often eat Maleo eggs laid in holes in the ground by the female birds, while people hunt the birds for consumption.

Given these rising threats, activists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have initiated efforts to preserve the birds, which are endemic to Sulawesi.

Conservation efforts are centered in the Hungayono conservation camp that borders the Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park in Gorontalo, northern Sulawesi.

The 3-hectare conservation camp, initiated by the Wildlife Conservation Society in cooperation with the TNBNW Center, is equipped with four incubators and surrounded by hundreds of gaping holes where the Sulawesi bird can place its eggs to hatch.

“Not all the holes hold eggs, and it requires carefulness to spot those that are filled with eggs,” said WCS conservation officer Muyun Kasibu, 37.

Every day, in the morning or late in the afternoon, Muyun and his colleague Guspan Wadipolapa, 26, inspect the holes dug by the birds.

The eggs taken from the holes are then brought to the incubators. It is one of the ways to save the Maleo bird species from extinction at the Hungayono conservation camp, because if the eggs are left neglected, natural predators, such as the monitor lizard, will eat them.

A Maleo bird incubates its eggs in a hole between 50 centimeters and 1.5 meters in depth before covering it up. The egg, its size triple that of a chicken egg, will stay inside the soil before hatching within two months.

Maleo birds, often hunted by people, lay eggs in the morning and afternoon.

The Hungayono conservation camp has become a natural home for the birds given its geothermal energy required for Maleo birds to incubate their eggs. The average temperature required for an egg to hatch is 33 degrees Celsius.

No fewer than 7,000 Maleo bird chicks have successfully been released into the Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park since 2003.

Thousands of the birds that have been released into their natural environment were originally saved while still in egg form at the Hungayono conservation camp.

Based on research, Maleo birds can survive up to 12 years. A female is capable of laying up to 165 eggs throughout its life. The bird is also known to be faithful and monogamous.

The area is also home to numerous wildlife species endemic to Sulawesi, such as the Sulawesi hornbill (Rhyticeros cassidix), the Sulawesi monkey (Macaca Heckii), the babirusa, also known as the deer-pig, and the tarsier.

In addition to conducting research, the Hungayono conservation camp also serves as an ecological tourist site.

Read more!

Record-Low Arctic Sea Ice Is the 'New Normal,' NASA Says

Kacey Deamer, Live Science Yahoo News 1 Sep 16;

The Arctic has experienced a trend of thinning and melting ice for more than a decade, and NASA scientists now say these worrisome depleted ice levels are the "new normal."

Melt season in the Arctic Ocean has consistently experienced record lows in recent years. This year, a record low for the sea-ice extent (the area of ocean covered by the ice) was set in March, with relatively rapid ice loss continuing through May, according to NASA scientists. Although the melting slowed in June — likely keeping this year's summertime sea-ice minimum extent from setting a new record low — the Arctic ice is not bouncing back, the scientists said.

"Even when it's likely that we won't have a record low, the sea ice is not showing any kind of recovery. It's still in a continued decline over the long term," Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement. "It's just not going to be as extreme as other years, because the weather conditions in the Arctic were not as extreme as in other years." [Images of Melt: Earth's Vanishing Ice]

Whereas a decade ago, this year's extent would have set a new record low, these low levels of sea ice are now "the new normal," Meier said.

Consistently hotter temperatures have taken a toll on the Arctic. This year, sea-ice cover north of Russia opened in April, weeks ahead of schedule, NASA reported, and by the end of May, sea-ice cover was more comparable to end-of-June levels.

Weather conditions also affect Arctic ice, according to NASA. As the weather changed in June, sea-ice loss slowed due to low atmospheric pressure, cloudiness and winds. However, as of mid-August a strong cyclone was moving through the Arctic, and NASA tracked the rate of ice loss as it increased again.

"This year is a great case study in showing how important the weather conditions are during the summer, especially in June and July, when you have 24 hours of sunlight and the sun is high in the sky in the Arctic," Meier said.

Along with sea-ice cover, the thickness of the ice is also important in determining the health of the Arctic. Thorsten Markus, chief of NASA Goddard's cryosphere lab, said scientists know very little about the sea ice's thickness.

Research vessels and submarines can measure ice thickness directly, and some airborne instruments take readings, but satellites haven't been able to provide a complete look at sea-ice thickness.

NASA is planning to launch the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2 — a satellite equipped with lasers to measure the elevation of the ice cover compared to the water level — in 2018. These measurements, combined with calculations of the nine-tenths of sea ice that lies below the water's surface, will help create a more complete picture of sea-ice thickness, the agency said.

"If we want to estimate mass changes of sea ice, or increased melting, we need the sea-ice thickness," Markus said. "It's critically important to understanding the changes in the Arctic."

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