Best of our wild blogs: 15 Oct 16

Short Night Walk Along Pasir Ris Road (14 Oct 2016)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Singapore takes aim at microbeads in products

Authorities studying their environmental impact and how to stop them entering waters
Samantha Boh, Straits Times AsiaOne 16 Oct 16;

The exfoliating facial wash that makes your skin feel smooth can cause a host of problems down the food chain. They contain tiny balls of plastic, called microbeads, which can kill marine life and may even pass toxic chemicals to humans.

Several countries have vowed to ban products like facial washes, toothpaste and cosmetics that contain them. Now, the authorities here are studying their environmental threat and ways to prevent them from entering surrounding waters.

The National Parks Board told The Sunday Times it is "currently looking into assessing the status and impact of marine debris and microplastics on Singapore's marine environment". The National Environment Agency is monitoring international developments in legislation and domestic research on microplastics.

Last December, a law was passed in the United States to ban the production of personal care products and cosmetics containing plastic microbeads from 2017. Last month, Britain said it would follow suit.

Microbeads typically range in size from 1mm - about the size of a pinhead - to 1 micron or 100 times thinner than a strand of human hair. They are able to evade wastewater treatment filters and end up in rivers, seas and oceans. There, they are eaten by marine organisms, including fish and seabirds, blocking or damaging feeding appendages and digestive tracts.

Microbeads can also absorb and concentrate harmful compounds, said Associate Professor He Jianzhong from the National University of Singapore's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The compounds include organic pollutants that can cause conditions like cancer. When eaten by fish, the toxins remain in them and can later be passed to humans.

But there are few large-scale studies with concrete findings on how chemicals in microplastics affect human health. A United Nations Environment Programme Frontiers 2016 Report said, for now, "the risk to human health appears to be no more significant than via other exposure routes". Still, it said harmful and persistent substances can amplify as predators eat prey.

Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said its food safety tests include chemical contaminants found in microplastics. It said it will keep a close watch on the microplastics issue and "will enhance or implement appropriate food safety programmes" if necessary.

According to Dr Jeffrey Obbard, who published a study on microplastics in Singapore's coastal marine environment in 2014, tiny plastic fragments including microbeads can be found in beach sand, seawater and drainage canals.

National water agency PUB gave the assurance that no microplastics are in Singapore's drinking water as any collected in reservoirs will be clumped with other impurities, which will sink and get filtered out.

But it said a small amount may enter the marine system when excess treated used water is discharged into the sea. It is looking into upgrading its water reclamation plants to filter out particles as small as 0.1 to 0.4 micron in diameter.

Singaporeans should be worried about plastics seeping into surrounding waters. "The microplastic might shift to Malaysia or Indonesia waters where people do fish and where we might get our fish too," Prof He said.

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PSI to be in high end of moderate range on Sunday as slight haze moves towards Strait of Malacca: NEA

AsiaOne 16 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE - Singapore may experience slightly hazy conditions on Saturday (Oct 15) night and on Sunday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said.

"Smoke plumes and slight haze from hotspots in central Sumatra were observed to be blown by the prevailing west-southwest winds towards the Strait of Malacca," NEA said in an advisory issued on Saturday evening.

A total of 20 hotspots were detected in Sumatra, the agency said.

On Sunday, the air quality is expected to worsen, but it is not likely to reach unhealthy levels.

The Pollution Standards Index (PSI) is forecast to be in the high end of the moderate range.

The one-hour PM2.5 concentration is expected to fluctuate between 'Normal' and the low end of 'Elevated'.

Thundery showers are forecast for Singapore in the early morning of Sunday.

Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, everyone can continue with normal activities, NEA said.

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Singapore welcomes global deal to phase out super greenhouse gas

Channel NewsAsia 15 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: The Republic joined about 170 countries to welcome a landmark agreement to phase down a category of dangerous greenhouse gases widely used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

In a press release on Saturday (Oct 15), the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said the agreement to phase down the use of hydroflorocarbons (HFCs) was made at the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MOP-28). The meeting was held from Oct 10 to 14 in Kigali, Rwanda.

HFCs are widely used in refrigerators, air-conditioners and industrial appliances as replacement to ozone-depleting substances, but while their use is beneficial for the ozone layer, they inadvertently contribute to global warming, said MEWR.

In her statement at the meeting, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Amy Khor encouraged countries to work together and resolve the challenges in phasing down the use of HFCs.

She pointed out that a possible solution is to review and develop alternative technologies to HFCs that will be technically and economically viable, as well as suited to the various circumstances of countries.

“Notwithstanding the challenges associated with the present issue of alternatives, Singapore’s market players have been monitoring the situation and are willing to introduce viable, low or non-GWP alternatives whenever possible or available,” she said. “While we uphold high public safety standards, our authorities also strive to accord flexibility to industries as they move towards developing more climate-friendly appliances.”

MOP-28 on Saturday adopted the amendment to include HFCs as a controlled substance and phase down the production and consumption of the greenhouse gas. A freeze date of 2019 and 2024 was agreed upon for developed and developing countries respectively, followed by gradual phase down steps until 15 per cent by 2036 - with 2013 as the base year – for developed countries and 20 per cent by 2045 – with 2022 as the baseline year – for developing countries.

Under the Montreal Protocol, Singapore is classified as a developing country.

“Given that many countries are still reliant on HFCs for domestic and industrial uses, and currently few technically feasible and economically viable alternatives are available, the Kigali Amendment provides for flexibility where appropriate,” said MEWR. “Even as the freeze date and phase down schedule have been agreed upon, work will continue on the implementation details and in addressing the challenges in the phasing down of HFCs.”

In Kigali, Dr Khor also met United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Erik Solheim and United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.

- CNA/ek

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Animal shelters in Pasir Ris to move by end-2017

Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 15 Oct 16;

It may be one of the largest animal "migrations" across the island.

By the end of next year, more than 1,000 stray or abandoned dogs and about 800 cats housed in shelters in Pasir Ris Farmway will have to leave. The authorities want the land for industrial development.

The dogs, which make up the bulk of rescued ones here, will likely move to Sungei Tengah in Kranji, where the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is located.

Tenants of Pasir Ris Farmway were told by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) in a letter last week, which The Straits Times has seen, that the land must be returned to SLA by Dec 31 next year.

The Straits Times understands that SLA has been sending letters monthly to tenants about the Dec 2017 deadline since July.

But it did not provide details on when the Sungei Tengah sites will be available for tender or how big the plots are, causing uncertainty for the animal welfare groups.

"The process of bidding for the land and waiting to be successfully awarded will take time," said Mr Derrick Tan, president of Voices For Animals, which has more than 100 dogs.

"Preparations and building a new shelter will take months. If all these are not done in time, the animals have no place to go."

In a joint statement to The Straits Times, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and SLA said details of the tender will be provided when ready.

There are 14 farms in Pasir Ris - eight are ornamental fish farms, five are pet farms and one is a food fish farm. There are seven animal welfare groups - including Voices For Animals, Animal Lovers League and SOSD - located in some of these farms, said the authorities.

Individual volunteers, who are not affiliated with any groups, also house rescued animals in commercial boarding facilities there.

Housewife Lee Lee Sim, 54, who rescued three dogs from the streets, said: "For me, I can find another commercial boarder to house them, but what about the animal welfare groups with more dogs?"

Cost is another issue.

Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of animal welfare group SOSD, which cares for about 100 dogs, said AVA officers had suggested to him during preliminary discussions that the new shelters should be at least two-storey high.

But multi-storey shelters are more expensive to build, said Animal Lovers League founder Cathy Strong. With at least 300 dogs and 200 cats, Animal Lovers League is the largest shelter in Pasir Ris.

To give a rough idea of cost, SPCA's single-storey facility in Sungei Tengah cost $7 million, Ms Strong pointed out.

She added: "Our operating cost is already at least $60,000, which we have to pay every month on top of the construction fees. Where will we get the money from?"

Voices For Animals' Mr Tan said that while it would be more ideal for dogs to be given more space to run about in the sun, a multi-storey shelter in land-scarce Singapore could work. He added that there were such shelters in London.

The affected animal welfare groups in Pasir Ris also worry whether they can afford to compete with commercial entities, such as pet farms, in a tender, which could push up prices.

They have twice submitted proposals to the Ministry of National Development (MND) for animal welfare groups to bid for land under a separate category from commercial entities. An MND spokesman told The Straits Times that it is considering their request.

Dr Siew said: "They have not gotten back to us. The situation is urgent. All we ask for is an answer. If we do not get more information soon, moving out by next year is not a viable option."

Animals at Pasir Ris shelters won't be left stranded: MP
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Oct 16;

Rescued animals housed in Pasir Ris Farmway will not be left stranded when their shelters are moved at the end of next year, according to Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC.

He gave this assurance to volunteers last Saturday during a dialogue on animal welfare held at Nee Soon East Community Club.

Participants raised concerns following a Straits Times report that some 1,000 stray and abandoned dogs and 800 cats will have to leave the area as the authorities want the land for industrial development.

But Mr Ng, who founded wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, stopped short of giving details on a solution for the seven animal welfare groups in the area.

When contacted, Mr Ng would say only that the Ministry of National Development will announce plans at a later date.

Tenants of Pasir Ris Farmway were told by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) in a letter on Oct 4 that the land must be returned to SLA by Dec 31 next year.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and the SLA later told The Straits Times in a joint reply that alternative sites in Sungei Tengah will be made available for interested parties to tender.

But the authorities did not provide details on when the Sungei Tengah sites will be available for tender or how big the plots are, causing uncertainty for the animal welfare groups, which worry that new shelters will not be able to be built by the deadline.

Mr Derrick Tan, president of Voices For Animals, one of the affected animal welfare groups, said volunteers will be assured that their animals "will not be left stranded" only when they are presented with concrete plans.

Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of SOSD, another animal welfare group, said: "The animals will not be left stranded, but the question is how much we have to pay for them to have a place in Singapore.

"If the animal welfare groups are made to rent from commercial farms, there will be no guidelines on the rental price.

"And if shelters are expected to be at least two storeys, it is natural that the rental will increase. By how much, we do not know."

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Malaysia: Going Against the Palm Oil Controversy

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 14 Oct 16;

Kuala Lumpur. Asia's palm oil industry remains a hot topic among environmental conservationists and the private sector profiting from the business, a Malaysian conference has shown this week.

Despite the negative campaigns run by various NGOs worldwide, the deputy minister of Malaysia’s ministry of plantation industries and commodities is not backing down.

“Malaysia has never neglected the environment, it has in fact made the industry more resilient in going against the claims,” said the deputy minister, Nasrun Datu Mansur, in his address at the Malaysian Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday (12/10).

In 2015, global palm oil production recorded 61 million tons, compared to 21.6 million tons at the beginning of the decade, calling for the industrial resilience to cater for the growing demands of palm oil derivatives.

This statistic highlights Malaysia’s confidence and determination in fulfilling rising global demands, particularly as the sector accounts for 600,000 jobs across the country.

Meanwhile, as various NGOs around the globe call for either the outright banning palm oil production or developing ethical palm oil production, international food security and trade policy expert Vijay Sardana questions the agenda against developing countries, including his home country India, as well as Malaysia and Indonesia.

According to Sardana, environmental NGOs have been campaigning against development in India as the country’s population continues to grow, without providing an alternate food security or energy security plan in order for India to be globally competitive.

“Population is the fundamental index for consumption and developing markets will dictate consumer trends and market demands due to population growth,” he stated. “These NGOs never raised issues in developed countries, like massive food waste, which contributes to climate change.”

He believes that activists and NGOs are just like every other business, where money talks and there is nothing sentimental.

He said it is a game plan of NGOs to target developing markets in becoming self-sufficient through development as it would work against the business interests of their donors and their economy.

While he took India as his primary example, he pointed out that palm oil is being targeted due to the change in the status quo.

As palm oil is continuously highlighted as the highest yielding and most sustainable crop, the expert cited the Unesco-IHE Institute for Water Education in Netherlands when stating that oil palm has a smaller average global water footprint, compared to olive and sunflower oils.

With that, he calls into question as to why no NGOs has campaigned against olive oil, or the milk fat, and milk trade from developed economies. According to him, this would in turn lead to using low cost labor from developing markets to benefit from.

The expert continued by saying that NGOs should not just highlight the problems but provide alternative solutions which are logical and affordable. He also argued the issue of sustainable palm oil certification and economies of scale.

“The limited money in developing economies could be used for something else, which may be more pressing, like health, and education,” he said.

Sardana said that to resolve the issues faced by developing countries, particularly those which NGOs campaign against, the co-existence model must be maintained as resources are limited.

“Whatever you want to do, let us have a proper study. Have a proper documentation, look at every aspect, don’t pick and choose your own dimensions and while in your study, involve all the stakeholders,” Sardana stated.

He believes that if NGOs want to be part of the solution, they must face all the stakeholders with unbiased facts and evidence.

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Malaysia: Perak Gazetted 997,604 Hectares As Permanent Forest Reserves

Bernama 15 Oct 16;

LUMUT, Oct 15 (Bernama) -- An area of 997,604 hectares of forest in Perak has been gazetted as permanent forest reserves as of last month, said State Tourism, Culture, Communications and Multimedia Committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohamed Radzi.

She said of the total, 42.223 hectares were categorised as the Mangrove Permanent Forest Reserve which recorded an increase after the state government gazetted 616 hectares of mangrove area in Kinta and Manjung as Lekir Permanent Forest Reserve last year.

She was speaking to reporters after officiating the Bridge of Knowledge and the planting of 10,000 mangrove seedlings at Parit Haji Dollah in Lekir here today.

According to Nolee Ashilin, the increase of permanent forest reserve was proof that the state government was committed in preserving these forests for the benefit of the people and nature.

She said since 2005 the state had replanted over 14 million mangrove trees and other suitable trees involving an area of 3,710 hectares.

The tree planting programme was supported by the federal government which allocated RM143,000 through the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia to Perak State Forestry Department.

Meanwhile, Manjung District Officer, Mohamad Fariz Mohamad Hanip said his office was focusing on research and ways to conserve the mangrove forest in the area.

"We often received statements from certain parties as if we were destroying the forests without them checking the facts and information first.

"I want to stress that we often make indepth research and no element of deforestation occurred here in Manjung area," he said.


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Malaysia: Perhilitan investigating viral pix of people with dead tiger

SIMON KHOO The Star 14 Oct 16;

PETALING JAYA: The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) is investigating images of several individuals posing next to a dead tiger that have gone viral on social media.

"We take a serious view of this matter and have ordered a probe to be carried out to check the authenticity of the images," said Perhilitan director-general Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim.

"Investigations into the case will be done under Section 68(2)(c) of the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 for hunting tigers without a special permit," he said in a statement to The Star Friday evening.

The offence carries a jail term of up to five years and a maximum fine of RM500,000, upon conviction.

Abdul Kadir said his officers were now going all-out to track down those responsible and verify the exact location where the photo was taken.

Tigers are a protected species and it is illegal to kill or maim them, unless in a life-threatening situation.

He urged those with information on the case to call the Perhilitan hotline at 1-800-88-5151 (8am to 6pm) or to file a report on its website at

Viral images of butchered tiger may have come from Pahang
JAMES SIVALINGAM New Straits Times 14 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Graphic images of a dead Malayan tiger being dismembered, which had been making its round on social media since yesterday, have left netizens reeling in shock and disgust.

The images show several men posing for pictures with the tiger’s carcass. One of the images also shows the tiger’s belly being slit open.

While the origin of the pictures remain unconfirmed, the authorities believe that the poaching activity may indeed have taken place in Malaysia.

Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) Enforcement Acting Director, Rozidan Md Yasin told NST Online that initial information gathered suggests that the incident took place in Pahang.

“Investigations are ongoing and at this stage, it is difficult to confirm the location and when it took place,” he said.

Malaysian Nature Society President Hendry Goh, yesterday told a local portal that the tiger was killed with a snare trap, commonly used by the Orang Asli community.

Wildlife poachers, he said, have begun enlisting the Orang Asli community to hunt Malaysian wildlife for them.

“The poachers will give a bit of money to the Orang Asli to kill the animals. In return, they make thousands in US dollars by selling the skins and other organs on the underground international market,” he was quoted as saying.

The existence of this practice was confirmed by Rozidan.

“Yes, it does happen. The rural communities, especially the Orang Asli, are often ‘used’ by unscrupulous parties for their own interest,” he said.

In the wake of this incident, Rozidan assured the public that Perhilitan is stepping up its surveillance in relevant areas.
He urged members of public who may have more information to come forward to assist investigations.

Malayan tigers are classified as ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It is estimated that there are less than 350 in existence.

The species is protected under the Protection of Wildlife Act 2010, which carries a maximum five-year jail term and a RM500,000 fine on offenders.

Meanwhile, Kanitha Krishnasamy of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia (TRAFFIC), an international wildlife trade monitoring network, said poaching and illegal trade pose an urgent threat that does maximum damage in a short time.

The tiger population, she said, has dwindled in many parts of their former habitat due to illegal hunting, mainly for their skin, bones and other body parts.

“It’s a worrying concern because we don’t have as many tigers as we thought we had.

“Malayan tigers are critically endangered, which means we’re one step away from it being extinct in the wild,” warned Kanitha.

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Malaysia: Coastal residents bracing for floods during high tide

NABILA AHMAD and ALLISON LAI The Star 16 Oct 16;

JOHOR BARU: Residents here, who are used to floods hitting their homes, are bracing for the worst – a possible high tide.

They have began packing and moving their belongings to higher ground.

Kampung Sri Serdang villager Norsofia Arshad, 33, said her family was prepared this time as they had gone through it for more than 15 years.

“I was born and raised in this house. When flood hits our house, we will prop up the furniture on bricks and move household items to a higher ground,” said the housewife at her home yesterday.

Kampung Sri Jaya resident committee member Md Yusop Abdullah, 59, whose house is located next to a ditch that connects to the Sri Rahmat River, said flood water would rise to ankle level during heavy rain.

“The last time the flood water reached knee-high was in 2006. We had to evacuate the house and some of our electrical items were damaged,” he said.

Trader Aishah Qayim Ali, 41, said it usually took her a week to clean up the house after the floods.

Areas like Kampung Pasir, Kampung Sri Jaya, Kampung Sri Serdang, Kampung Mohd Amin, Kampung Belantik, Kampung Bunga Ros, Kampung Kenangan and Jalan Tun Fatimah in Kangkar Tebrau are expected to experience floods as the Meteorological Department warned of a high tide from today to Thursday.

Johor Civil Defence Department operating officer Nurrul Azle Ab Jabar said they were also on standby in Pontian, Muar and Batu Pahat.

Johor Baru mayor A. Rahim Nin said the high tide was expected to reach a maximum height of 3.9m on Tuesday.

“The Johor Baru City Council has set up a flood disaster committee and an operation room at Dataran Bandaraya Johor Baru,” he said.

For reports and inquiries, call the operation room at 07-228 1989, 07-228 1939 or 1-300-88-0146.

In Klang, residents who are at risk of flash floods are not taking the high tide lightly, which has been forecast to start from this morning.

Siti Nadiah Rusman, 37, registered her fa­mily at an evacuation centre in Klang yesterday.

Painful memories from last month’s flood are still fresh on her mind.

“The flood damaged some of our furniture, the fridge and also the TV. My husband and I have been moving our furniture and electric appliances to a higher spot in our home,” she said.

Selangor Disaster Management Committee secretary Kol Ahmad Afandi Mohamad said many residents went on their own to the Dewan Kg Tok Muda evacuation centre.

“It can accommodate up to 50 families,” he said.

He said partitions were arranged for the evacuees with each family assigned to one space.

“Separate space for breastfeeding mothers is also provided,” he said, adding that a place to cook was available too.

Seventeen evacuation centres have been activated so far in Selangor.

In George Town, Malaysian Civil Defence Force state operation officer Muhammad Aizat Abd Ghani said there were no strong winds or heavy rain so far in the state.

Perak coastal folks warned over high-tide phenomenon
IVAN LOH The Star 14 Oct 16;

IPOH: The people staying in coastal areas have been warned over the high-tide phenomenon that is expected to hit between now and Oct 19.

Hilir Perak acting district officer Zulhisham Ahmad Shukori urged those staying in high-risk areas to relocate to temporary shelters that have been provided should their houses be flooded.

Among the areas identified are Kampung Batak Rabit, Kampung Esso, Kampung Batu 7 1/2, Kampung Batu 6, Teluk Intan, Kampung Terengganu and Jalan Sungai Nibong.

“Flood victims are to evacuate their homes to the nearest shelter.

“The shelters are at SK Dato’ Laksamana Raja Mahkota, SMK Sains Teluk Intan and Dewan MPTI at Jalan Speedy,” he said.

Those who need assistance could call the Fire and Rescue Department at 05-622-1444, the Civil Defence Department (05-621-9010) or the police (05-622-1222).

Residents in the Kerian district have also been urged to be alert for floods caused by tides as high as 3.4m.

The high-risk areas include Kuala Bagan Tiang, Bagan Utara, Tanjung Piandang fishing village, Bagan Selatan, Kuala Kurau fishing village, Bagan Cina Kuala Gula, Kampung Raja Bashah, Kampung Sungai Protan, Kampung Jalan Gula, Kampung Sungai Baru, Kampung Sungai Petani Selinsing, Kampung Lubok Buntar, Kampung Depan Balai Bagan Serai and Kampung Teluk, Bagan Serai.

Village chiefs have been notified to inform villagers to keep their important documents safe and to follow instructions during floods.

High-tide phenomenon: Selangor evacuees rise to 312 as of 6.30pm
HARIZ MOHD New Straits Times 15 Oct 16;

KLANG: The number of Selangor residents evacuated ahead of an anticipated high-tide phenomenon has risen to 312 people from 75 families as of 6.30pm today.

So far, only three evacuation centres – two in Sabak Bernam district and another in Kapar – have been affected.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department (SFRD) assistant director (operations) Mohd Sani Harul said the centre at Kapar’s Kampung Tok Muda community hall received 179 evacuees from 40 families, while centres in Sabak Bernam – Sungai Air Tawar community hall and Parit Baru community hall - received 111 and 22 evacuees respectively.

It is learnt that authorities have put 25 evacuation centres on standby mode to face any eventuality during the high tide phenomenon, which is expected to hit coastal areas of the Peninsula's west coast as early as tomorrow morning.

At Kampung Tok Muda here, evacuees include 19 toddlers aged below 2 and six senior citizens.

Some 80 officers from multiple agencies including the Armed Forces, the police, the SFRD, the Civil Defence Force and the Health Ministry were deployed at the hall to assist evacuees.

Ten areas in Penang at risk due to high tide phenomenon
BALVIN KAUR New Straits Times 14 Oct 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Civil Defence Department has identified 10 areas at risk of flash floods sparked by the unusual high tide phenomenon expected to take place at the end of this week.

Its director Pang Ah Lek said the 10 areas were the same areas that had experienced flash floods due to the same phenomenon last month.

The 10 area are Batu Ferringghi, Tanjung Bungah, Teluk Bahang, Teluk Kumbar, Balik Pulau, Penaga, Pantai Bersih, Telok Air Tawar, Pulau Aman and Sungai Udang.

“We have 1,020 officers, with most of them already stationed at the 10 areas to provide 24-hour surveillance. Various equipment such as boats and five-tonnes lorries are also on standby to tackle any problems," he told a press conference here today.

Other than Penang, three other states - Perak, Selangor and Kedah - are expected to be hit by the high tide phenomenon, which began yesterday and is expected to last until Oct 19. The sea level is expected to rise by up to three meters.

Pang said the department would be increasing surveillance this weekend when the sea level is expected to be at its highest.

“The high tide in the state are expected to occur at 11am and 1am. Based on the information received, the water would be at high tide on Oct 17 about 1am, at three metres. On Oct 19, the water is expected to be at 2.9 metres," he said.

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Indonesia: Peatland fires rage across dozens of hectares in Riau

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 14 Oct 16;

Dozens of hectares of peatland in the Rangsang Timur district of Meranti Islands regency, Riau, are on fire despite the recent onset of the rainy season.

Meranti Islands Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) head Edy Afrizal said the fires had been raging for four days and did not only burn the bushes but also damaged rubber and coconut plantations belonging to local farmers. “We estimate the burned area is about 50 hectares,” he said Friday.

Edy could not confirm the cause of the disaster but said the police had begun an investigation.

“This repeated fire on peatland is very unfortunate, because we have dispersed enough information that everyone here knows setting fire to land is a crime punishable by jail,” he said.

He added that a joint team of personnel from his office, the Indonesian Military and the National Police as well as locals was trying to extinguish the fires, but they were facing difficulties due to the lack of water and a strong wind blowing from the west, helping the fire spread.

“Haze is emitting from the burning land,” he said. (evi)

Island focus: Dozens of hectares of peatland burned
The Jakarta Post 15 Oct 16;

The rainy season has arrived but land and forest fires continue in Riau, destroying hundreds of hectares of land and forests across the resource-rich province.

On Friday, dozens of hectares of peatland in Telesung and Tanjung Kedabu villages, Rangsang Timur district, Meranti Islands regency, were razed by fire.

Meranti Islands Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edy Afrizal said the fires, which burned for four days, not only affected vegetation but also ravaged rubber and coconut plantations.

“The area burned by the fire is estimated to reach 50 hectares,” he said.

Local police are investigating what caused the incident and a joint team from the BPBD, Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police is working to localize the fires.

“It was hard to contain the fires because there was no source of water,” Edy added.

In 2014, fires burned hundreds of hectares of sago plantations belonging to private companies and local people, reportedly causing haze in Riau.

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Indonesia: A haze-free Asean region by 2020

RINI ASTUTI New Straits Times 15 Oct 16;

ON Sept 21, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Peatland Restoration Agency (PRA) of Indonesia organised a Peatland Investment Dialogue to discuss a potential business opportunity for the private sector, where companies are urged to invest in the national effort to restore 2,000,000ha of degraded peatland. The restoration is a comprehensive effort to repair the peatland’s hydrological and vegetation condition and revive its primary ecosystem function.

Peatland restoration is an important key to achieving a haze-free Asean by 2020. The approach requires not only a high political pledge and harmonious policies, but also financial commitment and the participation of non-state actors, including the private sector through mobilisation of financial support and investment.

According to the Centre for International Forestry Research, restoration of a hectare of degraded peatland costs around US$2,500 (RM10,500). The PRA states that around US$11.2 billion is needed to restore 2,000,000ha of degraded peatland in the next five years. Making infrastructure development the top priority, the Government of Indonesia has to limit state budget allocation for other sectors, including for environment and forest management. This is where private financing is expected to close the gap, not only to achieve the imperative 2,000,000ha target in Indonesia but also to cover a wider landscape of degraded peatlands in Southeast Asia that in 2006 alone had reached 12,000,000ha.

In addition, the call for private sector contribution is also driven by the public’s desire to hold corporations, especially plantation-based companies, responsible for causing the haze crisis. Companies’ mismanagement and illegal clearing of forests and peatland by drying and burning have been identified as the primary cause of the annual haze in the region.

Based on McFarland’s (2015) analysis and lessons learnt from forest carbon projects in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia, the private sector can participate in peatland restoration financing through four avenues.

First, by developing peatland restoration projects, using the concession for ecosystem restoration (RE). The permit will give the private sector the legal right to manage and use the peatland for environmental or forest carbon project. There is, however, the concern on the complexities of obtaining the RE concession, as it is still a system ridden with rent-seeking practices by corrupt government officials.

Second, the private sector can provide funds to nonprofit organisations, such as those involved in environmental issues, to develop peatland restoration projects.

Third, the private sector can commit to a dedicated fund for peatland restoration and implement sustainable management practices on the concessions that they hold. And the private sector can play the role of carbon offset buyers or fund environmental services project.

There is high expectation in private financing as a mechanism to fund climate change mitigation projects and to stimulate the green economy. However, there is a huge difference between what is expected and the actual financing commitment made. The WEF calculates that by 2020 the world needs to shift US$5 trillion worth of business-as-usual practices into low-carbon-investments. Reports from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) shows only 46 per cent of total investment required for climate mitigation were channelled to developing countries annually.

Countries in Southeast Asia suffer from common problems such as unclear spatial planning where there is no clarity in land and forest-zoning system. The Indonesian government has tried to address this through the One Map Policy. A Presidential Instruction supports the policy by giving mandates to various ministries to work together to produce common spatial data. The clarity over spatial planning will provide legal certainty required for the green economy investment to thrive. The next step will be to address social conflicts due to overlapping claims on land with a long history of unequal land struggles between states in the region and marginalised indigenous communities.

The second biggest challenge is weak law enforcement and corruption in the forestry sector. The high rate of deforestation and peatland degradation in the region has been linked to illegal business practices facilitated by corrupt officials. A stronger effort has to be initiated at the national level to reinforce the legal system.

The Indonesian government has started to introduce a multi-door approach, a platform to prevent and apprehend environmental offenders by ensuring that they are held accountable, not only for the environmental degradation caused, but also subjected to investigation based on other laws, such as on money laundering. This approach is expected to adequately punish environmental offenders and reduce the rate of deforestation and peatland fires.

The Indonesian government has also imposed a moratorium on the opening of new plantations and mining sites on peatland until May next year. This will provide time to review private concessions and land disputes and resolve the political economic problems.

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The Great Barrier Reef is under severe stress – but not dead yet

Reports the famed 1,400-mile network of reefs ‘passed away in 2016 after a long illness’ are greatly exaggerated despite mass bleaching, scientists say
Oliver Milman The Guardian 14 Oct 16;

Reports of the death of the Great Barrier Reef have been greatly exaggerated, scientists have said, after the publication of an “obituary” for the vast coral ecosystem.

The famed 1,400-mile network of reefs “passed away in 2016 after a long illness”, wrote food and travel writer Rowan Jacobsen in an article for Outside magazine. According to Jacobsen, the reef’s demise followed the “most catastrophic bleaching event in its history, from which it would never recover”.

Despite the rather tongue-in-cheek nature of the obituary various news outlets, including the Sun in Britain and the New York Post in the US, and social media users have rushed to mourn the supposed passing of the Great Barrier Reef. The ecosystem lies off the east coast of Australia and is the largest living entity on the planet.

But scientists have stressed that while the Great Barrier Reef, like most coral structures around the world, is under severe stress, it hasn’t quite snuffed it yet.

“This is a fatalistic, doomsday approach to climate change that isn’t going to engage anyone and misinforms the public,” said Kim Cobb, a coral reef expert at Georgia Tech. “There will be reefs in 2050, including portions of the Great Barrier Reef, I’m pretty confident of that. I’m put off by pieces that say we are doomed.”

A mass bleaching event, fueled by warming oceans, has swept corals around the world but has proved most visibly destructive on the Great Barrier Reef. Almost a quarter of the reef’s coral has died off, with the previously pristine areas of the ecosystem’s north the worst affected.

Bleaching occurs when prolonged high temperatures cause coral to expel their symbiotic algae, turning them into snow-white skeletons. Corals can recover from this but some simply die. Divers on the Great Barrier Reef have spotted large areas with degraded coral, with some reporting the smell of rotting, dying coral when they emerge from the deep.

While almost all parts of the Great Barrier Reef suffered bleaching, not all have died. Scientists hope that large parts of the ecosystem will recover, although the long-term warming and acidifying of the oceans pose a grave threat to reefs around the world.

Research has shown that some corals may be able to adapt but the pace of the warming means that genetic engineering may be required to repopulate reefs, which are critical for thousands of marine species and a drawcard for millions of tourists.

Media coverage suggesting that the Great Barrier Reef is finished may even prove harmful. Russell Brainard, head of the coral reef ecosystem Program at Noaa’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, told the Huffington Post that some people “are going to take it at face value that the Great Barrier Reef is dead”.

Cobb added: “I have studied corals off Christmas Island in the Pacific where 85% of them have died, it was a graveyard. But even there, I was shocked to see remarkable resilience. Amid the graveyards of the reefs there were areas that looked like nothing had happened.

“There is a lot we can do to minimize climate change and we need to get going on that. To say reefs are finished and we can’t do anything about it isn’t the message we need going forward.”

Australian government: Great Barrier Reef 22 percent dead
Ryan Maass UPI 14 Oct 16;

Mass bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef has been linked to a sharp uptick in coral reef deaths. Photo by Wagsy/Shutterstock
CANBERRA, Australia, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- A significant portion of coral on the Great Barrier Reef has died, the Australian government announced as its assessment of the area entered its second phase.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority began its follow-up investigation into the extent of coral bleaching in early October. The project aims to analyze the level of damage caused by the worst mass bleaching event on record.

An initial survey of the landmark revealed 22 percent of coral on the reef died as a result of exposure. Officials report 85 percent of this mortality occurred in the area between Cape York and Lizard Island.

Average coral reef mortality was found to be 50 percent in the Far Northern Management Area, 16 percent in the Cairns-Cooktown Management Area, and 3 percent in the Townsville-Whitsunday Management Area. No bleaching-induced deaths were found south of Mackay.

Officials note studies were completed in the Cairns-Cooktown Management Area in March, and mortality levels are likely higher than initially recorded.

Mass bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef has been linked to a sharp uptick in coral reef deaths. Australian researchers used a microscope, camera and smart tablet to examine how organisms in the area responded to the heat stress in August, marking the first time behaviors specific to bleaching were captured on film.

News of the coral deaths and subsequent investigation come as scientists refute viral claims the Great Barrier Reef has "died." While experts concede the extent of the damage is severe, they note a large portion of the area remains intact.

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Philippines: One dead as the country faces 'most damaging typhoon'

Channel NewsAsia 15 Oct 16;

MANILA: At least one person was killed and three were missing as the Philippines faces what could be "the most damaging" storm this year in the approaching Typhoon Sarika, officials said Saturday.

A man was found dead on the seashore while three fishermen were reported missing in the eastern island of Catanduanes as Sarika, packing maximum winds of 180 kilometres (112 miles) per hour, passed nearby, the civil defence office said.

Although the storm did not hit the island directly, its strong winds and heavy rains still knocked out all power and telephone lines for the more than 246,000 residents of Catanduanes, the office added.

While the typhoon is not the most powerful to hit the country this year, it could cause the most damage as it will cross heavily-populated areas just north of Manila, said government weather forecaster Benison Estareja.

"We can see from the radar that the storm is very destructive. It can destroy wooden houses, it can topple trees. It can possibly rip off roofs," he told AFP.

"This could so far, be the most damaging typhoon this year," Estareja said.

Sarika is forecast to hit the province of Aurora on the east coast of the main island of Luzon before dawn Sunday, he said.

It is expected to cross central Luzon before heading out to sea by Sunday evening, he added.

"This one will have an impact because most of the people are in (that part of) Luzon. Even Metropolitan Manila will be affected," he warned.

These areas will experience strong winds and heavy rains, with coastal areas at risk of storm surges of up to two metres (more than six feet), the forecaster said.

Low-lying areas will be at risk of flooding while mountainous areas could suffer landslides.

Although the storm did not hit the eastern region of Bicol, that area experienced heavy rains as it passed nearby on Saturday, said civil defence spokeswoman Rachel Miranda.

More than 400 people were evacuated from their homes and sea and air travel in these areas has been suspended as a safety precaution, officials said.

The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean. The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit land, smashed into the central Philippines on Nov 8, 2013, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.

- CNA/ek

Philippines evacuates thousands as typhoon slams northern region
Channel NewsAsia 16 Oct 16;

MANILA: The Philippines evacuated almost 12,500 people before a Category 3 typhoon hit land early on Sunday, dumping heavy rains and unleashing strong winds on northern rice-growing areas, disaster officials said.

Weather forecasters said Typhoon Sarika, which was packing winds of up to 150 kph (95 mph) before making landfall, was potentially the most destructive this year. They expected it to move west and cross the central province of Luzon on Sunday.

"Typhoon Sarika has weakened while crossing the rugged terrain of central Luzon," the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in a report, but the storm was still expected to bring moderate to heavy rainfall.

As many as 2,552 families, or 12,496 individuals, had been pre-emptively evacuated, it added.

Sarika's wind speeds subsided to about 130 kph (81 mph) after the landfall, said the weather bureau, adding that it was watching another storm, Haima, that could enter the Philippines on Monday, after forming south of Guam on Saturday.

Typhoon Sarika forced the cancellation of about 160 domestic and international flights on Sunday and stranded more than 6,500 travellers in seaports, disaster officials said.

Storm warning signals had been raised in the capital, Manila, and more than 20 provinces by Sunday morning.

Damage to farm crops, mostly rice and corn, was estimated at 53.5 million pesos (US$1.1 million), the officials said.

Some areas were left without power, and major dams were being closely monitored for possible overflow, while floods and landslides blocked five roads in the northern and southern provinces of the main island of Luzon.

Sarika is moving towards the South China Sea, weather officials said, but the risk of flooding, power outages and wind damage could still increase along its path.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

- Reuters

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Vietnam: Floods kill 11 people in central Vietnam, storm approaching

Channel NewsAsia 15 Oct 16;

HANOI: Floods in Vietnam's four central provinces have killed at least 11 people and displaced thousands, with a storm in the South China Sea approaching the central coast.

Flooding from very heavy rainfall brought by a tropical low pressure system since Wednesday have cut food supplies to thousands of people and blocked north-south traffic, the government said in a statement on Saturday.

Seven people drowned or were electrocuted in Quang Binh province, four others were killed in three nearby provinces, and at least 30,000 homes were submerged, state-run Vietnam Television (VTV) said, citing government reports.

"It is our priority now to save people's lives," Chairman Nguyen Huu Hoai of the provincial People's Committee in Quang Binh said on a VTV bulletin.

Dozens of foreign tourists were among passengers stranded on 22 trains in the affected region, prompting provincial authorities to provide food and water, while many flights to the region were cancelled, VTV said.

Tropical storm Sarika, now in the Philippines, is moving toward Vietnam's central region, and could bring more rain to the affected areas, the website Tropical Storm Risk and VTV said.

(Reporting by Ho Binh Minh; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

- Reuters

Floods kill 21 people in Vietnam, next storm due soon
Channel NewsAsia 16 Oct 16;

HANOI: At least 21 people have been killed by floods in Vietnam's four central provinces in the past week and eight are still missing, the government said on Sunday (Oct 16) amid preparations for another tropical storm to hit the country.

Fifteen of the victims were in Quang Binh province, the region expected to be hit by typhoon Sarika by Wednesday, it said.

"We need to focus on searching for the missing," Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung told a meeting on preparations for the typhoon, according to a Vietnam Television (VTV) broadcast.

Dung urged authorities in 22 coastal provinces to reinforce key infrastructure projects and prepare evacuation plans, and assured them the government would provide food relief in flooded areas.

State-run VTV warned viewers that many reservoirs were nearly full now and could burst at any time. It showed footage of people stranded on the roofs of their homes.

Around 500,000 people have been displaced and more than 100,000 houses submerged and damaged by floods, according to a government report.

- Reuters

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