Best of our wild blogs: 28 Sep 16

Our smooth-coated otters spark an excitement about our marine life!
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Changi dock's days may be numbered

The dock just beside Changi Point Ferry Terminal is used by Singapore and Malaysian fish farmers to unload their haul. Pulau Ubin residents also use it to transport bulky items.
Audrey Tan Straits Times 28 Sep 16;

The authorities are considering closing the dock beside Changi Point Ferry Terminal in the wake of a recent case of cigarette smuggling, The Straits Times has learnt.

The dock, located along Changi Creek, is used by Singapore and Malaysian fish farmers who come in every morning with their boats filled with live seafood.

The fish and prawn hauls are hoisted with rope or lorries with mechanical crane arms over a sea wall and onto the waiting trucks of restaurant suppliers. Residents of Pulau Ubin also use the dock to transport bulky items.

Fish farmers said they were told at a meeting with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) last week that it is considering closing the dock over "national security and safety concerns".

This includes concerns over how the dock - essentially a raised platform with a moveable rail on the sea wall - could be used as a smuggling conduit for cigarettes, narcotics and pets, for example.

The lack of a proper berthing area and high platform level were also cited as safety risks, according to PowerPoint presentation slides seen by The Straits Times. It is not known if any accident has occurred at the site before.

"AVA told us they wanted to close the dock within the next two to three months because someone was caught smuggling cigarettes there recently," said Mr Phillip Lim, 54, a Changi fish farmer who was at the AVA meeting. He said about 50 fish farms in the area use the dock to transport produce.

In July, Singapore Customs officers intercepted a lorry in Bukit Batok and found 15,960 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes in styrofoam boxes. Investigations showed the cigarettes were loaded at Changi Creek from a boat registered to a coastal fish farm. Four men and a woman were arrested by Singapore Customs and the Police Coast Guard for suspected involvement.

Mr Lim said the AVA suggested two alternative locations for fish farmers to use should the Changi facility be closed: the Lorong Halus jetty near Punggol and the Senoko Fishery Port in Admiralty.

While these locations offer facilities for mooring, loading and unloading, fish farmers say they have none of the amenities of Changi, such as hawker centres, coffee shops and provision shops.

Mr Ong Tian Huat, 60, who runs a fish farm a five-minute boat ride from Changi, said: "It will take me about two hours to reach Senoko. By then, all the fish would have died. Fuel costs will also go up."

He also said fish farmers who use the dock have taken measures such as hiring a security firm to send a guard to patrol the area from 7am to 7pm. He added: "If national security is truly a concern, the authorities should consider getting a policeman to patrol the area as well."

Pulau Ubin residents who use the dock to transport bulky items were dismayed to hear that it may close.

Ms Chew York Kuan, 55, one of the island's 37 residents, said the dock is important for business. She runs the family-owned Chew Teck Seng Provision Shop with her siblings. "We are not sure what our options are - if we have to use the passenger ferry terminal, we will have to hire more workers to carry the items up and down the steps," said Ms Chew in Mandarin. "If that happens, our costs will go up, and we may have to pass it on to the customers, who may complain."

Mr Lim said that instead of closing the dock, the authorities could install more closed-circuit television cameras and implement a neighbourhood watch system.

When asked, the authorities stated: "Due to the heightened security climate, various agencies such as AVA and Police Coast Guard are working together to engage stakeholders (for example, coastal fish farmers, fish traders, etc) on the security measures to be deployed at Changi Creek. (Their) feedback will be taken into consideration."

Beef up security instead of closing dock
Straits Times Forum 30 Sep 16;

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is reportedly considering closing the dock along Changi Creek due to a recent case of smuggling, as well as national security and safety concerns ("Changi dock's days may be numbered"; Wednesday).

I find this puzzling. Shouldn't maritime matters and security, and the operation of the dock, come under the purview of authorities such as Singapore Customs and the Police Coast Guard? In what capacity is the AVA exercising authority over the maritime facility?

Closing down the dock seems to be a knee-jerk reaction that is unhealthy for our country's economy and food security.

The Police Coast Guard is enhancing security at Marina Reservoir to support major events that are staged in that area ("Police beef up waterway security with 2 new boats"; Wednesday).

Couldn't it do the same for the waters around Changi, and protect the livelihoods of the fish farmers and support their efforts to contribute to our country's food security?

Jerome Teo Zhen Peng

Fate of dock at Changi Creek on the line
The dock at Changi Creek may close following a recent case of cigarette smuggling
Joseph Lee and Iskandar Rossali capture the mood at the dock The New Paper 4 Oct 16;

It's just a raised platform with a moveable rail on the sea wall.

But the simple Changi Creek dock is used by more than 10 different seafood trading companies for business daily.

Every morning, local and Malaysian fish farmers arrive at the dock - a stone's throw away from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal - with their boats laden with live seafood.

The fish and prawn hauls are then loaded onto waiting trucks of restaurant suppliers.

Residents of Pulau Ubin also use the dock to transport bulky items.

But all that could end - fish farmers said that the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) is considering closing the dock over "national security and safety concerns".

Once these trucks are loaded with seafood, they are deliver their cargo to restaurants. TNP PHOTO: ISKANDAR ROSSALI
This follows an incident in July, when Singapore Customs officers traced 15,960 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes in styrofoam boxes on a lorry in Bukit Batok to a boat registered to a coastal fish farm off Pulau Ubin.

The cigarettes were loaded onto the lorry at Changi Creek.

The authorities are now seeking feedback and working to engage stakeholders on the security measures to be deployed at Changi Creek. A decision by the authorities is yet to be made.

Mr Phillip Lim, 54, a Changi fish farmer, said the AVA suggested two alternative locations for fish farmers to use should the Changi facility be closed: the Lorong Halus jetty near Punggol and the Senoko Fishery Port in Admiralty.


Traders play a large role in the seafood trade as they buy seafood from fish farms and from more traditional fishermen and they sell them to seafood restaurants all around Singapore. TNP PHOTO: ISKANDAR ROSSALI
But Mr Ong Tian Huat, 60, who runs a fish farm a five-minute boat ride from Changi, said: "It will take me about two hours to reach Senoko. By then, all the fish would have died."

Ms Chew York Kuan, 55, who helps run the family-owned Chew Teck Seng Provision Shop, said the dock is important for business.

"If we have to use the passenger ferry terminal, we will have to hire more workers to carry the items up and down the steps," she said.

"If that happens, our costs will go up."

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Slight haze possible with dry weather expected in Sumatra: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 27 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: Dry weather conditions are expected over parts of northern and central Sumatra, Indonesia in the next few days, and Singapore could see slightly hazy conditions if the number of hotspots in Sumatra increase, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday (27 Sep).

In a media statement, NEA added that 13 hotspots were detected in Sumatra on Tuesday although no visible smoke plumes or haze was seen.

With thundery showers expected over parts of Singapore on Wednesday morning, the country's air quality is expected to remain largely unchanged over the next day: The one-hour PM2.5 concentration over the next 24 hours is expected to remain in Band I (Normal) and the PSI for the next 24 hours is forecast to be in the Moderate range.

- CNA/dt

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Singapore population rises 1.3% to 5.61 million

Channel NewsAsia 27 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: Even as more Singaporeans had babies last year, Singapore’s population growth remained low, rising 1.3 per cent to reach 5.61 million in June.

The statistics, released on Tuesday (Sep 27) by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) in its annual Population in Brief report, also showed that the number of citizens rose by 1 per cent to 3.41 million, through births and immigration.

The number of permanent residents (PRs) remained relatively stable at 520,000, compared to 530,000 in June 2015.

The non-resident population – largely comprised of foreigners working in Singapore and their families, as well as students – grew by 2.5 per cent to 1.67 million, compared to 2.1 per cent the previous year. Stronger growth was seen in the number of foreign domestic workers and Singaporeans’ dependents on long-term visit passes, the NPTD noted in its report.

Measures taken by the Government to mitigate the inflow of foreigners saw foreign employment growth from June 2015 to June 2016 – excluding foreign domestic helpers – remaining low at 27,000 after reaching a high of 77,000 in 2012. But the number was higher compared to a year ago, when 23,000 foreign employment – excluding maids – grew by 23,000.

“Foreign workforce growth will continue to be moderated to supplement our local workforce in a sustainable manner. To stay competitive in a tight labour market, businesses will need to re-design jobs and restructure to become more manpower-lean and productive,” the NPTD said.

There were 20,815 new citizens last year, largely unchanged from the previous three years. About 38.9 per cent of them were aged 20 and below, 13.4 per cent aged between 21 and 30, 27.1 per cent aged between 31 and 40, and 20.5 per cent aged above 40.

The majority (58.7 per cent) of the new citizens were from other Southeast Asian countries, while 35 per cent were from other parts of Asia and 6.3 per cent from other countries outside of Asia.

The Government takes a “calibrated approach to immigration”, and plans to continue taking in between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens each year to prevent the citizen population from shrinking, the report said.

- CNA/cy

Singapore’s population grows 1.3% to 5.6 million
AMANDA LEE Today Online 28 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s population grew 1.3 per cent to reach 5.6 million as of June, amid a spike in the number of births last year, while the citizen population continues to age, the annual population brief released on Thursday (Sept 27) by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) showed.

And despite the slowing economy, foreign employment growth increased by 27,000 from June last year to June this year, reversing the declining trend since 2011-2012 — from 77,000 that year, the figure moderated to 60,000, 33,000, then 23,000.

Analysts said this phenomenon was not unseen in other countries, and could be due to Singaporeans not taking up jobs in some industries, such as those that are labour-intensive.

The number of non-residents grew by 2.5 per cent to 1.67 million, mainly foreigners working here and their families, as well as international students. There was stronger growth in the number of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) and dependents of Singaporeans who are on Long-Term Visit Passes.

“The increase in FDW population growth reflects Singaporeans’ rising desire to augment their own care for their children and elderly,” said the NPTD.

There were 33,725 Singaporean babies born last year, the highest number in more than 10 years.

Nevertheless, the proportion of citizens aged 65 and above continued to grow, from 13.1 per cent in June last year to 13.7 per cent this June. The figure was 10.1 per cent in 2010.

“With increasing life expectancy and low fertility rates, our citizen population is ageing quickly,” said the NPTD. “There has been a significant increase in the number of citizens aged 65 years and above in the past decade, with more of our ‘post-war baby boomers’ entering their silver years.”

Sociologists cautioned against over-reliance on FDWs for the care of their elderly loved ones, given that these workers are “not particularly well-trained or equipped to handle (their) specific needs”, said Mr Christopher Gee, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies.

“This may be compounded if the eldercare responsibilities are combined with general household chores as well”, he added.

National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser added that apart from FDWs, Singaporeans could tap on other resources to look after the elderly, such as by mobilising their relatives or neighbours, or turning to daycare centres and the use of monitoring technology.

But Mrs Samantha Chung, 36, who has two domestic helpers at home, said she needs them to help look after her two young children.

“We are also not able to tap on our parents for help because my parents are helping to look after my nephew, while my husband’s mother is getting on in age,” said Mrs Chung, who works in the media industry.

“The only way in which I can see us having only one helper in the near term (perhaps for another two years) is if either my husband or I become a stay-at-home-parent or if we change to jobs with more family-friendly working hours,” she added.

The old issue of Singaporeans shunning certain jobs could explain the increase in foreign employment growth, said economists.

Noting that Singapore is an ageing society, CIMB Private Banking economist Song Seng Wun also pointed out that there is a demand for workers in the healthcare sector. “It is still a sector which continues to face shortage (of manpower) so therefore (these jobs have) to be (taken by) foreign professionals,” he said.

SIM University senior lecturer Walter Theseira pointed out that research from other cities shows that immigrants — foreign and domestic — also take up a substantial amount of employment relative to “locals”, even when the economy is not doing well.

“For example, when considering a global city such as London, migration can be from both external to the UK as well as ... from other British cities,” he said. “Singapore has no hinterland and so all economic migrants are foreign.”

Dr Theseira added that some jobs are “relatively undesirable” to Singaporeans or require specialised skills that few Singaporean jobseekers have.

“In such a case, refusing to hire the best qualified foreign applicant may make Singaporeans worse off, overall,” he said.

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Greenpeace block Malaysian palm oil company IOI at Rotterdam Port

Reuters 27 Sep 16;

Greenpeace activists on Tuesday blocked operations of Malaysian palm oil trader IOI at Rotterdam Port, accusing it of forest destruction and child labor, but other traffic at Europe's busiest port was unaffected, a port spokesman said.

Ten activists are blocking IOI, one of the world's biggest producers and traders of palm oil, from accessing its refinery, and the Greenpeace ship Esperanza is preventing oil from being unloaded from incoming tankers, Greenpeace said.

The action, which began mid-morning, was focused only on one mooring place used for palm oil coming from Indonesia and was therefore not disrupting other traffic, port spokesman Tie Schellekens said.

Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb had traveled to the spot in order to seek a compromise.

"There is no resolution yet," Schellekens said.

IOI could not immediately be reached for comment.

In April, the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) withdrew IOI's 'sustainability certification' after allegations the company had illegally chopped down rainforests in Indonesia and planted palm crops on peatland.

But the body announced in August that IOI had satisfied conditions for the suspension to be lifted, a move that has sparked sharp criticism from environmental groups.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

PM Najib allays German concerns over palm oil practices
A. JALIL HAMID New Straits Times 27 Sep 16;

BERLIN: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak used his rare visit to Germany to assuage concerns of the German government and the industry over the environmental impact of Malaysia's palm oil cultivation.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had earlier raised the issue over the sustainability of palm oil plantations during their bilateral talks at the Federal chancellery here.

At the joint press conference, Najib said he welcomed the visit of German lawmakers to Malaysia to see for themslves how Malaysia manages its palm oil industry.

“There is no such thing as slash and burn,” he told the media. “Our palm oil industry has been developed in a sustainable manner.

We need to develop it in a responsible and sustainable manner and this is exactly what Malaysia is doing.”

During the hour-long talks over lunch, both leaders spoke of the growing economic, trade and investment ties between the two countries. Merkel said Malaysia has been a success story economically and socially.

Najib said he regarded Germany as an important and strategic partner to Malaysia and hoped his first official visit as prime minister would help lift ties even further.

Both leaders also discussed the Syrian crisis, the refugee issue, global terrorism, the South China Sea issue, and the issues of rule of law and good governance in Malaysia.

Najib praised Merkel over her stance on refugee humanitarian policy, adding that it was a strong and “morally ethical” position by her.

Najib said the issue of Syrian and other refugees should be tackled at source and not to burden other countries. “Malaysia will play its part.

We are not a major power but certainly within the context of OIC.” Merkel said she raised the issue of corruption, the resumption of Malaysia-EU free trade talks, the situation in Asean as a whole, Malaysia-China relations and common challenges such as global security.

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Malaysia: High tide phenomenon to hit west coast this month and November

FAZLEENA AZIZ New Straits Times 27 Sep 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The high tide phenomenon is expected to hit the west coast of the peninsula from Oct 17 to 20 and Nov 14 to 17.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the recent floods in Selangor (Klang, Sabak Bernam and Kuala Selangor), Perak (Bagan Datoh) and Kedah (Kuala Muda) was the result of the high-scale tidal water phenomenon.

He said the phenomenon, coupled with high waves and strong wind, also contributed to the floods in the three states from Sept 16 to 21.

“Immediate action must be taken with structural and non-structural measures through fixing existing bunds, building rock bunds, and increasing the height of the bunds for the long term.

“For the short term, the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) will place sandbags in the affected areas,” he said after chairing the Central Disaster Management Committee meeting, today, He said evacuation would be carried out before the flooding and victims will be sent back home soon after flood waters subside.

Shahidan said mangroves and avicennia plants would be planted in high-risk areas to reduce the impact of the overflow of water.

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Indonesia: Millions flee homes as floods, landslides hit regions

Panca Nugraha and Ruslan Sangaji The Jakarta Post 27 Sep 16;

Floods have been hitting a number of regions across the country, displacing people, destroying agricultural fields and inundating hundreds of houses in the affected areas.

The National Mitigation Agency (BNPB) recorded 1,495 disaster incidents that have occurred across the archipelago from January to August, with floods (535 times), tornadoes ( 405 ) and landslides ( 323 ) as the most frequent ones.

The events, which claimed a total of 257 lives and injured 303, forced 2.1 million people to migrate from their areas as thousands of houses were destroyed.

Of the disasters, landslides were the deadliest having killing 126 people of the total lives claimed, more than floods, which killed 70 people, and simultaneous floods and landslides, which killed 41 people.

“We predict the number of flash floods and landslides to keep increasing until March next year,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told The Jakarta Post.

According to the agency’s data, 315 cities and regencies in Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra and Papua are vulnerable to flash floods, which threaten 63.7 million people.

In the West and Central Lombok regencies of West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), full-day heavy rains on Sunday caused floods in the two regions, inundating at least 300 houses, destroying over 120 hectares of agricultural fields and forcing some 500 people to evacuate.

The provincial Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD NTB) head, Muhammad Rum, said the floods hit Lembar subdistrict in West Lombok and Montong Ajan subdistrict in Central Lombok on Monday afternoon. “We have distributed aid to these two locations,” Rum said on Monday.

He said the flood in Lembar inundated around 200 houses due to an overflowing river and high tide occurring at the same time, while in Montong Ajan, a flash flood affected around 100 houses and forced over 90 people, including 30 children and 11 babies, to flee their homes.

“The two locations are recovering but the people are still taking shelter at safer places,” said Rum, adding that makeshift tents and public kitchens had been set up in the affected areas.

In Tolitoli, Central Sulawesi, rains of high intensity have caused floods to hit the regency twice last week.

The most recent flood occurred on Sunday, inundating Tuweley subdistrict, Baru subdistrict and other regions in the downtown area for between 60 centimeters to 1.5 meters, according to Tolitoli Regent M Saleh Bantilan.

The heavy rain was accompanied by lightning on Saturday that flattened a tree to the ground at an elementary school on Jl. Magamu, Baru subdistrict, paralyzing the traffic flow.

A local, Bahtiar, blamed the flood partly on the clogged drainage facilities, causing the water to overflow to the street and to people’s houses.

He urged local administration to find solutions and make flood mitigation a priority for its development program. “The rivers have to be dredged. The ditches have to be cleaned out,” he said.

Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) spokesman Harry Tirto warned citizens living in South Sumatra, Lampung, Greater Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, South Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Bali, Maluku, North Maluku and West Papua of potential rainfall of high intensity over the next three days.

He said the heavy rain would also be accompanied by lightning and strong winds, which could cause floods, landslides and bring down trees.

He warned operators of maritime transportation, including fishermen and beachgoers, to be vigilant as sea waves were predicted to reach up to 4 meters, including in the southern waters of Java, Bali and Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara.

“With the recent rains of high intensity, we urge the public to stay on alert for potential disasters. Fishermen also need to be extra cautious due to potential tidal waves,” he said on Monday. (fac)

Greater Jakarta: Less flooding so far this year: Agency
The Jakarta Post 28 Sep 16;

Despite recent rain that caused flooding in various places in the capital over the past few weeks, the Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) has recorded less flooding in the city this year than in 2015.

The agency revealed there were 700 cases of flooding between January and August this year, fewer than the 889 cases during the same period last year. Most incidents occurred in February, with 613 cases in 2015 and 231 this year.

However, BPBD operation unit head Denny Wahyu said on Tuesday there had been floods in every month this year while floods only occurred between January and May last year.

“Last year, El NiƱo made the weather drier, whereas this year we’ve had wet-dry weather,” he said as quoted by

The city has identified at least 57 subdistricts in the capital, mostly near the Krukut and Ciliwung rivers, prone to flooding.

They include Bangka, Kalibata, Ulu Jami and Bukit Duri in South Jakarta; Rawa Buaya, Cengkareng Barat, Grogol, Jelambar and Tanjung Duren Utara in West Jakarta; and Kelapa Gading Timur, Pademangan Barat and Pluit in North Jakarta.

President Jokowi Visits Flood-Ravaged Garut, Promises Low-Cost Apartments for Victims
Edo Karensa Jakarta Globe 29 Sep 16;

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo visited areas worst-hit by the recent deadly flash floods in Garut, West Java, on Thursday (29/09). The president monitored relief efforts in the areas and made a promise to build low-cost apartments for the flood victims.

According to a presidential statement, the president departed for Garut on an Air Force Super Puma helicopter on Thursday morning.

During his visit, the president said he is seriously considering a request from the Garut administration and residents affected by the flash floods to build low-cost apartments to house the flood victims permanently.

"If the residents agree, we could build two low-cost apartments, as soon as possible. Flood victims from Garut and Sumedang will have first priority to get a flat there," Jokowi said.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Willem Rampangilei told the president that at least 1,794 homes and 41 schools were damaged when flash floods hit seven subdistricts in Garut earlier this month.

More than 3,180 personnel from the BNPB, National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), National Police, Indonesian Military (TNI), Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) and a large group of volunteers are still taking care of thousands of flood victims in shelters around Garut and Sumedang.

As of Thursday morning, 19 people are still missing. Search and rescue teams are relying on drones to try to find them.

Tagging along in the president's entourage were Forestry and Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya, Infrastructure and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimoeljono, Health Minister Nila Moeloek and Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki.

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Indonesia: Lawmakers End Hearing on 2015 Forest Fires After Police Fail to Provide Answers

Alin Almanar Jakarta Post 27 Sep 16;

Jakarta. Lawmakers concluded a hearing to discuss last year's forest fires earlier than expected on Tuesday (27/09), after the police were apparently unable to provide detailed explanations for the termination of the investigation.

The members of the House of Representatives' special committee on land and forest fires summoned Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Supriyanto over the termination of investigations into 15 plantation companies for alleged land burning in the province last year.

Having taken up his current post only after the police terminated the investigation earlier this year, Supriyanto stopped short of citing a lack of evidence as the reason for the termination warrants.

The police could apparently not comply with lawmakers' demands to provide details of the warrants, after it was earlier concluded that there had been irregularities.

"There's nothing left for us to dig. We couldn't have the police chief further explain about the matter," committee member Arsul Sani told reporters after the hearing.

The police terminated their investigations earlier this year after receiving reports of the cases in September 2015, when Brig. Gen. Dolly Bambang Hermawan was still the regional police chief.

Arsul admitted that the committee was unaware of the change but said it had not made a mistake in summoning Supriyanto instead of his predecessor.

"We invited the police as an institution. If the current police chief could give answers in detail, we could have dug deeper. But when he couldn't do so, we should understand that," the lawmaker said.

Riau was among several provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan that experienced land and forest fires last year.

The fires blanketed parts of the country as well neighboring states in choking haze.

Riau Fire Probes Dropped on 'Flawed Testimony' House Committee Finds
Alin Almanar Jakarta Globe 28 Sep 16;

Jakarta. A working committee at the House of Representatives tasked with investigating terminated police probes into Riau wildfires has found the cases were dropped on the testimony of unqualified experts and marred by conflicts of interest.

Investigations into 18 plantation companies who allegedly burnt land in the province began late last year, with police eventually issuing warrants to terminate probes into 15 of the companies earlier this year.

Citing a lack of evidence in these cases, police defended the decision amid protests from environmental activists and provisional conclusions made by lawmakers that the cases had been bungled and were rife with irregularities.

Asul Sani, a member of the House of Representatives' working committee on land and forest fires, pointed to issues with experts invited by police to testify in the cases.

"The expert witnesses explained about land and forest fires. But the educational backgrounds of some of them are in public health," Arsul said on Tuesday (27/09), when the committee summoned Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Supriyanto.

Other witnesses include officials from the Riau Environment Agency which could create a conflict of interest, he said.

"The agency has indeed been tasked with overseeing the plantation companies all this time. So, if the officials say they have found recurring misdeeds their work would be called into question as well," Arsul said.

Land and forest fires are an annual issue in Sumatra and Kalimantan, with last year's fires causing choking haze across the western side of the country, Singapore and Malaysia. This disaster prompted the formation of the working committee last month.

The committee summoned Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya last week and is set to summon representatives from the plantation companies as well as expert witnesses in the terminated police investigations at upcoming hearings.

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Higher traffic in Malacca Strait raises concerns about accidents

Bambang Muryanto The Jakarta Post 27 Sep 16;

The increasing number of ships passing through the Malacca Strait is a cause for concern, said participants of a tripartite forum seeking to negotiate joint control measures to prevent maritime accidents.

Delegates from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, grouped under the Tripartite Technical Expert Group (TTEG), are gathering in Yogyakarta to talk about shipping safety and environmental protection in the Malacca and Singapore Straits (SOMS).

The parties have agreed that joint control measures would be the best way to reduce accidents to prevent marine pollution and decreased trade.

“SOMS is one of the most strategic straits in the world for shipping line[s],” Indonesian Transportation Ministry secretary general Sugihardjo said at the opening of the TTEG gathering on Monday.

He said that in 2007, more than 62,000 ships passed through the straits and the figure was predicted to reach around 140,000 in 2020.

Sugihardjo added that marine pilotage was important so that fully loaded ships passing through the shallow and narrow SOMS would not run aground. He said marine pilotage was still voluntary for the three countries.

Pilotage, he said, could be conducted separately by each of the three countries in their respective territories. “But I will not suggest this. I suggest [a] close relationship and cooperation between the countries in piloting the ships passing through the SOMS. This is the best way based on ASEAN brotherhood,” he said.

He said the three countries could copy the mechanism implemented by countries around the Baltic Sea, which also cooperated on marine pilotage.

Meanwhile, deputy director general of Marine Department Malaysia, Dato’ Rossid bin Musa, said marine pilotage had so far not been conducted in an orderly fashion. This, according to him, was a serious problem as ship traffic in the SOMS was very tight and some 60 million barrels of crude oil were transported through the straits annually. “The three countries continue discussing for the best rule,” he said.

Rossid also said the Malaysian government had given serious attention to environmental damage in the straits due to oil spills caused by ship accidents. He said his country had obtained new equipment to deal with oil spills and carried out assessments whenever an accident occurred.

“For supporting this agenda, Malaysia will share its effort and activity to protect the straits from oil spill pollution,” he said.

Separately, Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) Singapore chief executive Andrew Tan said some 60 ship accidents occurred in the SOMS in 2015. So far, he said, when a ship accident occurred, the country where the accident occurred led efforts to handle it.

“We have to work hard in addressing this situation,” he said, adding that his country was willing to organize training for marine pilotage through professional and sophisticated technology.

Apart from the delegates from the three countries with coastal areas located along the SOMS, delegates from SOMS user countries such as Australia, China, Germany, India, Japan, Denmark and other countries whose vessels regularly pass through the straits also joined the forum.

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Vietnam hit hard by rising sea levels

Vietnam was one of the most vulnerable countries to rising sea levels, said former prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
Vietnam Net 27 Sep 16;

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Southwest Steering Committee held a conference on climate issues and water resource management in the Mekong Delta region on September 26.

The event attracted the participation of Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue and former PM Nguyen Tan Dung who was head of the national committee on climate change adaptation.

Dung said rising sea levels had affected the Mekong Delta region faster than forecasted.

Meanwhile, the construction of many hydropower dams along upstream area of Mekong River had also seriously affected the region.

“It is necessary to update the climate change scenario to have suitable planning for the region’s development. The Mekong Delta plays a very important role in the country’s development, so, we need to cope up with climate change issues to save the region by any means,” Dung noted.

According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s forecasts, 45% of the region’s area could face salt intrusion in the coming time if hydropower dams curb the current and allow greater saline intrusion.

Ca Mau Province has suffered long drought and serious salt intrusion.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has issued four sea level rise scenarios by the end of the 21st century with the highest sea water rise of 75cm.

Deputy PM Vuong Dinh Hue said the fight against climate change issues needs the co-operation of different agencies from the local to central level.

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Paris climate targets to cost Asia US$300 billion a year, but will help save lives - research

Channel NewsAsia 27 Sep 16;

JAKARTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Developing economies in Asia will have to spend US$300 billion (£231.3 billion) a year until 2050 to meet targets set by the Paris climate deal, but can expect to save thousands of lives and avoid worsening poverty if they shift to low-carbon growth, research showed on Tuesday.

As part of the landmark accord reached in December, nearly 200 nations agreed to keep global temperature increases to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius to curb global warming.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said the economic returns of spending on the Paris climate targets far outweighed the costs in the developing region - one of the most vulnerable to climate change and disasters like typhoons and flooding.

The Manila-based bank's definition of developing Asia comprises 45 of the ADB's member countries in Asia Pacific including Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

"ADB estimates that the region can generate more than US$2 in gains for each US$1 of cost it bears to reach the Paris goal - if the right steps are taken," ADB's deputy chief economist Juzhong Zhuang said.

The extra cost for developing Asia is equivalent to the size of Denmark's gross domestic product (GDP) or the GDPs of Portugal and Morocco put together, according to World Bank data.

The ADB said by meeting the Paris climate deal goals, Asian countries would see better air quality and could avoid nearly 600,000 air pollution-related premature deaths.

Spending on renewable power, carbon capture and storage, and smart grids could also help communities who rely on climate-sensitive agriculture and land for their livelihoods from plunging deeper into poverty, it said.

"Developing Asia has some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable populations, whose livelihoods are fundamentally tied to natural resources," ADB said in the report.

"Unmitigated climate change could reverse decades of progress in poverty alleviation and jeopardise Asia's ambitions to pursue development that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable," the report said.

Three Asian countries - China, India and Indonesia - are among the world's top 10 greenhouse gas emitters, according to the World Resources Institute.

Six of Asia's developing economies are ranked among the world's top 10 countries most affected by climate risk based on frequency, death tolls and economic losses, according to the 2016 Global Climate Risk Index by think-tank Germanwatch.

The ADB warned that if no action was taken to tackle climate change, it could slash the region's economic growth by more than 10 percent by 2100.

ADB urged the region to slash its heavy dependence on fossil fuels, which currently contribute to over two-thirds of Asia's total emissions, and boost investment in renewable energy.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Katie Nguyen; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

- Reuters

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