Best of our wild blogs: 25-26 Sep 16

Fun with mangrove flora ID!
The Leafmonkey Workshop

Towards a Circular Economy for Singapore
Green Drinks Singapore

Reservoir Dogs 3: Waxing LyricBills
Winging It

Wild Birds and Habitats-A Digital View
Singapore Bird Group

Tenpounder (Elops sp.) @ Chek Jawa
Monday Morgue

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Road to replace Changi Coast Road to open next year

Karamjit Kaur, Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Sep 16;

A new road to replace Changi Coast Road will open between April and June next year to facilitate works to give the airport a third runway.

The current 6km road will then close, as Changi Airport looks to handle more flights through the development of a new passenger terminal, Terminal 5, and the extra runway, a Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman told The Straits Times.

Works to link the third runway to the airport's two existing landing and take-off strips will include building a 40km network of taxiways.

Changi Airport Group has already awarded the first two contracts, worth more than $2.2 billion in total, for the runway works.

The project is expected to be completed by the early 2020s.

Based on air traffic projections, Singapore could handle 700,000 flights a year by the end of the next decade - double its current traffic.

The number does not include flights that fly over Singapore, which also come under the responsibility of air traffic controllers here.

Today, Singapore manages about 300,000 such flights a year.

The new road, which will hug the eastern coastline, will be wider and more scenic.

From a dual two-lane road, there will be three lanes on each side, the LTA spokesman said.

The project also includes the widening of Tanah Merah Coast Road.

Work started in 2014 and, to date, about 75 per cent has been completed, she said.

A new park connector running between Tanah Merah Coast Road and Aviation Park Road will also be constructed along the new Changi Coast Road to replace the existing connector.

Cyclist and retail manager Junaidi Hashim, 34, is looking forward to the new stretch.

"The current road is not ideal any more for cycling because of the many heavy vehicles that move up and down, dropping bits of debris here and there," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to a more pleasant ride along the coast when the new road opens."

However, the spokesman for LTA added: "Motorists and cyclists who use the road network in the area are reminded to obey all traffic rules and advised to exercise caution, as the area is expected to be heavily used by heavy vehicles for the airport's expansion works."

Works in Changi East are expected to last until the end of the next decade when T5 is slated to open.

By then, Changi Airport will be equipped to handle up to 135 million passengers a year, from 66 million today.

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30-ha forest to be cleared for new neighbourhood at Teacher's Estate

Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia 25 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: To make way for a new neighbourhood in the Teacher's Estate area, clearing work has begun at a large part of a 30-hectare secondary forest just off Yio Chu Kang Road.

Bound by Tagore Road, Upper Thomson Road, Munshi Abdullah Avenue and Yio Chu Kang Road, land preparation work will take about five years.

Currently, low hoarding of about three metres high has been put up and this could be extended to nine metres to shield residents from the dust and noise.

The area will eventually comprise a variety of private homes which are set to be developed over the next 10 to 15 years. This was made known in the 2014 Master Plan and will allow the new neighbourhood access to the upcoming Lentor MRT station which is set to be completed in 2020, as part of the new Thomson-East Coast Line.

The hoarding is also part of a wildlife management plan, to shepherd animals to nearby green areas before the land is cleared.

The Nature Society had previously said several nationally and globally threatened animals have been spotted in the site including the young banded leaf monkey, sunda pangolin and the sunda slow loris.

Authorities, however, hope that by closing off sections progressively, animals will be guided to a forested area in the north, or through an underground tunnel or drain culvert, to the nature reserve or the new Thomson nature park in the west.

Two vegetated areas near Munshi Abdullah Walk will also be kept for at least five years, as they are not affected by immediate work.

Updates on land preparation work and details about the new park were shared with residents by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and NParks at a dialogue this evening.

The new 50-hectare nature park is bound by Upper Thomson Road and Old Upper Thomson Road.

It's set to be completed in the second half of 2018 and currently stands on abandoned agricultural land.

The site also used to be an old Hainanese village in the 1970s and authorities say its traits will be incorporated into the design.

The park is one of four new nature parks which will serve as buffers to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

- CNA/xk

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Malaysia: Mangrove clearing leads to recent floods

SERI NOR NADIAH KORIS New Straits Times 25 Sep 16;

PANTAI REMIS: THE destruction of mangrove forests along the coastal areas is to be blamed for the recent floods that occurred during the high tide phenomenon in several states.

In fact, the problem had been predicted by environmentalists and green non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which had highlighted the importance of mangrove forests.

The forests act as buffer zones and natural “sponges” that reduce the impact of high tides and tsunamis.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) field researcher Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman said many years ago, the NGOs had raised the issue and had done so again in 2007, when the authorities gave the green light to clear mangrove trees at several areas nationwide.

“For instance, in Pantai Remis, about 70ha of mangrove forest were cleared for a reclamation project,” he said.

Checks by the New Sunday Times at several places here confirmed that mangrove trees could hardly be found and only Api-api trees, or the Avicennia species, could be found. As for the 70ha reclaimed area, most of it were covered with red soil.

Rows of double-storey terrace houses could be seen in the area. Villagers claimed that they were bought by outsiders.

There were also shrimp ponds located near the beach. The remaining vacant land had been marked for development into a new housing area.

“The high tide phenomenon is a normal phenomenon that occurs several times a year.

“However, heavy rain and the lack of buffer zones to absorb water from the sea and rivers will cause floods,” said Razak, who claimed that the clearing of the mangroves was the main reason for the recent floods here.

On Tuesday, 76 people from 15 families here were evacuated after the water level rose to 1.2m due to the high tide phenomenon.

Razak said the problem could be overcome by replanting mangrove trees to rejuvenate the ecosystem.

“After the tsunami in 2004, the authorities issued orders to preserve mangrove trees at least 500m from the shore,” he said.

He said during the 70th National Land Council meeting, it was agreed that the mangrove forests in permanent forest reserves should be maintained.

He said the meeting also agreed that the protected forests should be expanded with more land for mangroves under the state government gazetted, as it would become a “security of tenure” for such an important ecosystem.

Razak said although the reclamation here was already approved, the NGOs hoped that the state government would take action to stop the problem from worsening.

“We are fine with any development projects as long as Mother Nature is protected,” he said, refuting claims made by the authorities that NGOs were always opposed to development projects.

Sungai Batu Pantai Tin fisherman Rodzi Arop, 59, said the floods had worsened due to the reclamation project, adding that effluents from the shrimp farms, which began operation in 2006, had killed the mangrove trees.

“Previously, the high tide never hit our homes as the mangrove trees reduced the impact.”

He said the mangrove forest had protected the village from the impact of the 2004 tsunami.

“Although fishing boats and jetties were damaged by the tsunami, our village was intact, thanks to the thick mangrove forest,” he said.

Rodzi said the villagers were scared that their homes would be damaged by floods and tsunami if the mangrove forest were not protected.

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Indonesia: Conservation Efforts for Critically Endangered Rhinos Not Enough to Save Them -- WWF Indonesia

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 22 Sep 16;

Jakarta. The World Wildlife Fund has slammed conservation efforts to save Javan and Sumatran rhinoceros from extinction as "insufficient" in a statement released Thursday (22/09).

According to WWF Indonesia, the Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorinus sumatranus) population is not increasing and in a worse position than the Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) which, despite inadequate habitation, continues to grow.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry claims there are 63 Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon National Park in Banten, West Java, and 100 Sumatran rhinos in Kerinci Seblat National Park between four provinces — Jambi, Bengkulu, West Sumatra and South Sumatra .

While the Javan rhinos population has increased from 57 in 2014, the population has halved in 10 years.

"As the population of Sumatran rhinos in the wild is reaching critical levels, conservation efforts in Indonesia need to be directed towards semi-natural breeding programs, as habitat protection alone is not enough to save them," WWF Indonesia conservation director Arnold Sitompul said in the statement.

In 2015 the government launched a drive to protect wildlife and set a target population growth of 10 percent by 2019 for 25 of the country's near-extinct species.

WWF Indonesia will celebrate World Rhino Day on Sept. 22 at the Global March for Rhinos in Banda Aceh, Aceh, on Saturday with a series of educational events and newborn Javan rhino calves as the main attraction at Ujung Kulon park.

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Indonesia: ‘River schools’ aim to boost preservation, stop floods

Ganug Nugroho Adi The Jakarta Post 24 Sep 16;

In a bid to raise public awareness on the importance of rivers and how to deal with floods, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is developing river education centers, known as “river schools”, in flood-prone regions.

Once the public understands the importance of rivers, it will be easier to convince them to take part in river preservation programs.

The latest education center opened for the public is a river school in Sewu subdistrict, Jebres, Surakarta. The center was officially opened by the agency’s disaster risk reduction director Lilik Kurniawan.

Lilik said 23 regencies had established river schools so far and 50 others were expected to be established next year.

“We will continue this movement to preserve rivers,” Lilik said on Friday.

He added that the schools were expected to help improve people’s awareness on the importance of risk reduction, especially for floods.

“Of the 20 regions located along the riverbank of the Bengawan Solo River, 12 have expressed a commitment to preserving the river to control the risk of floods and landslides,” Lilik said.

Surakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Gatot Sutanto said river schools were different from schools in general. They were community-based learning programs on everything about rivers.

“In a river school, people will receive knowledge about river management, preservation and maintenance,” Gatot said.

Through river schools, he said, people were made aware of the potential dangers of rivers.

He said his side had prepared material for discussions, training and practical lessons to help volunteers learn at the schools.

“The point is, the people are given education on flood disaster risk reduction,” he said.

Sewu subdistrict head Henoch Sadono said over 100 volunteers had signed up for the schools. It is expected that the program will be attended by 1,000 volunteers next year.

He said in Surakarta the volunteers were divided into several groups, each with a supervised river. “Together with the community they will make the rivers healthy,” he said.

Henoch said river management in his area had actually been going on for the last year. Some river enthusiasts had even planted fragrant roots, horticulture and mapped out areas prone to flooding.

Separately, Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi “Rudy” Rudyatmo said his administration had prepared books on rivers and disaster mitigation and handling. He said the books had been provided in cooperation with the Surakarta-based Sebelas Maret University (UNS) and the BPPB.

Apart from that, he said every three months the Surakarta administration would also send a number of volunteers from river schools to participate in training on river management and disaster mitigation at the BNPB.

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Fiji: Minimal damage to reef from storm but extensive coral bleaching

Repeka Nasiko Fiji Times 26 Sep 16;

A POST-Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston reef assessment in the Mamanuca region has shown there was minimal damage caused by the Category 5 storm.

However, the survey carried out by the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) discovered a high amount of coral bleaching in marine systems under the care of the organisation.

MES project officer Marica Vakacola said the MES team carried out the in-house study for interested member resorts including those used for snorkelling by guests.

"The task objective is to assess the impacts of (Severe) Tropical Cyclone Winston together with the mass bleaching activity that has been reported to be occurring on resorts in-house reefs in the Mamanuca region," she said.

"The assessment team consisted of two MES staff that have carried out the assessment and saw minimal damage was done by TC Winston but 50 to 80 per cent of all surveyed reef have been affected by the bleaching activity.

"The method that was used in assessing the reef was done by using a one metre by one metre quadrant and randomly placed along the surveyed reef where the bleached corals present in the quadrant was tallied and recorded.

"It was evident that the Acropora species was greatly affected by the two natural threats — Tropical Cyclone Winston and global climate change which occurred side by side resulting in the degradation of the reef's health status in the region."

She said during the assessment, it was obvious that the number of common reef fish together with ornamental fish species were low. She added MES would like to thank its member resorts for their continuous support in the marine conservation work they had carried out in the Mamanuca region.

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