Best of our wild blogs: 24 Oct 16

Drawing Straws At Dairy Farm
Winging It

Bird Watching for Beginners 2 Oct 2016
Singapore Bird Group

Awesome October at Ubin
wild shores of singapore

Sat 05 Nov 2016 PM – Public Forum on Plastic Disposables (Zero Waste SG & Young NTUC)
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Male Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros) being scavenged by Yellow Crazy Ants (Anoplolepis gracilipes)
Monday Morgue

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Warming seas cause longest coral bleaching in Singapore

This year's event more severe than two previous incidents, but some recovery seen
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Oct 16;

Warming seas caused Singapore's underwater gardens to lose their colour earlier this year, but the good news is that some corals are starting to recover from what is the longest bleaching incident to hit the Republic so far.

Preliminary assessments by scientists here have shown that this year's event is more severe than two other major bleaching events in 1998 and 2010. This year, as with both the other years, is an El Nino year. This refers to the phenomenon linked to prolonged warmer weather.

Corals depend on symbiotic algae, called zooxanthellae, for food. Bleaching occurs when abnormally high sea temperatures cause corals to expel the zooxanthellae living in them, turning them white.

In 2010, the bleaching event started in June and ended in September, said Dr Karenne Tun, director of the coastal and marine division at the National Parks Board's (NParks) National Biodiversity Centre.

And in 1998, it lasted from June to August, said coral expert Chou Loke Ming, an adjunct research professor at the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute.

This year, however, water temperatures began exceeding the bleaching threshold of 31.14 deg C from end-April.

Water temperatures have since dropped to just below 30 deg C, which is still above the average temperature of 29.6 deg C expected at this time of the year.

"The sea surface temperatures dipped to just below the bleaching threshold from early June, but continued to remain above the maximum monthly mean till early October," said Dr Tun.

She added that scientists observed this month that recovery from bleaching is still ongoing. "But we are hopeful that the remaining bleached corals will recover within the next one to two months if the sea surface temperatures continue on their downward trend," she said.

A bleaching event is considered to have ended when sea surface temperatures go back to normal, said Prof Chou.

NParks has implemented measures to aid in the corals' recovery. For instance, it has closed the dive trails at the Sisters' Island Marine Park since June to minimise additional stress to the corals. The dive trails will remain closed until the end of this month.

Prof Chou said scientists are now following up on coral colonies affected to assess the survival rate. He added that while this year's bleaching event was the worst in terms of duration, it was too soon to compare the impact.

Mortality was about 20 per cent in 1998 and 12 per cent in 2010. But in both cases, he said, recovery was seen.

Coral bleaching is not just restricted to Singapore.

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is also affected. But contrary to a recent "obituary" for the world's largest coral reef system published in Outside Magazine, it has not died.

The coral reef system is too large to simply die off, said Prof Chou. He added that while some parts of the system may die, it is also possible to end up with reefs with a different composition of coral species, depending on which can thrive under the changed conditions.

He added: "Singapore reefs have recovered from both bleaching events... and I take heart in reef resilience."

Related links
Mass coral bleaching in Singapore: why should I care? on wild shores of singapore

Community observations of mass coral bleaching in Singapore in 2016

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Doc gives up 5-figure salary to save street dogs

Animal homes at Pasir Ris Farmway have till end-2017 to move, leaving owners and volunteers worried
ELAINE LEE The New Paper 24 Oct 16;

He gave up his five-figure salary as an aesthetic doctor to volunteer full time at an animal welfare group.

Another animal lover sold her property to get some money to look after her charges and create a shelter.

These are the people who work behind the scenes at the seven animal shelters at Pasir Ris Farmway 2.

But an uncertain future looms.

By the end of next year, the shelters will have to leave as the authorities want the land for industrial development, reported The Straits Times.

The dogs are likely to be moved to Sungei Tengah in Kranji, where the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is located.

The people behind the shelters told The New Paper that they have always had their leases renewed every year.

Last year, they were told that the leases would no longer be renewed and from June this year, the owners have been getting letters reminding them about it.

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


But the lack of details is making the animal groups unsure how to move forward.

Dr Siew Tuck Wah, 37, president of Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD), quit his cushy job last September to work with the shelter.

"My parents were very worried and thought I was crazy," he said.

After quitting, he quickly realised that money ran out fast, he said.

"I had a bit of savings and I sold some shares in order to pay for all my bills," said the dog lover, who has been volunteering at SOSD since 2012.

"At first, I just had four dogs, and because there was no space to house the dogs, I bought a small kennel for $400 and placed the dogs at my home.

"But I realised that there was a lot to be done... I felt there was a lot of public education to be done about this issue."

He said he is seeing positive change.

"We see more people coming to our adoption drives...

"We also conduct talks at schools, hospitals and old folks' homes to reach out to the masses."

Today, SOSD has over 100 animals at its facility.

The group has to raise $40,000 to $60,000 each month to keep the shelter going. It expects that relocation will require some funds too.

Dr Siew admitted there is much uncertainty going forward.

He said: "The longer (the authorities) take to give us an answer, the shorter time we have to prepare for the relocation."

He has started his own aesthetic clinic to bring in some money so that he can continue working with SOSD.


Ms Mary Soo, 69,echoed Dr Siew's concerns.

A decade ago, she said she sold her house and pumped over a million dollars from the sale into Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter, which looks after 150 dogs.

Ms Soo, a former high-flying bank employee and vice-chairman for the SPCA, said: "When I saw how the dogs suffered, I thought, somebody must do something for them."

It costs about $10,000 a month to run the shelter, and while there are donations, about $5,000 a month still has to come from her own savings, said the retiree.

When asked about the relocation, she said: "Within a year, how are they supposed to get things done?

"We still have to set up a new facility. How are we going to build a new animal shelter in time?"

The Animal Lovers League's (ALL) shelter, which takes up the space of about half a football field, has close to 400 dogs and over 200 cats.

ALL co-founder Cathy Strong said: "We are already spending $60,000 a month, including medical bills.

"With this impending move, we need to raise the funds needed for the construction of the new shelter.

"Even with the help of our supporters and volunteers, we can hardly make ends meet, let alone put aside money for the move."

She sells flat to house animals

She spent her life savings to care for over 200 cats and 75 dogs at Mdm Wong's Shelter. Now, owner Chaya Koi Kim, 70, is worried about her animals.

Madam Chaya said: "I only knew about the new relocation site from reading the newspapers, and I'm really worried about my animals."

On Oct 15, Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, told volunteers that the Ministry of National Development (MND) will announce plans later for the seven animal welfare groups at Pasir Ris Farmway that have to move out.

However, Mdm Wong's Shelter is a private shelter and not one of the seven official groups.

But she will have to move as she rents a space about the size of a three-room flat from Ericsson Pet Farm, which will be relocated.

The former seamstress sold her five-room flat in 2001 and used most of the money from the sale to pay for the shelter's rent. She and her husband then moved in with her son in his four-room-flat.

She spends about $8,000 a month to upkeep the shelter. The money comes from donations or from her children, who give her between $2,000 and $3,000 a month.


Helping her at the shelter are volunteers such as Mr Derrick Tan, 35, who is also president of Voices For Animals, one of the shelters affected by the changes.

He told The New Paper he would bring home stray cats, even as a child.

Madam Chaya, who started taking care of animals when she was in her 20s, said in Mandarin: "I always thought that the cats and dogs on the streets are very pitiful.

"I'm very frugal and have never once taken a plane before.

"All I do every day is complete my chores at home and go down to the shelter to take care of the animals.

"And I plan to do that until I die."

When asked if she had sought assistance, she replied that she had yet to.

When contacted, Mr Ng, who founded wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), told TNP that none of the animals will be left stranded.

Mr Ng said: "MND is looking through all the options, as well as the ones submitted by the animal welfare groups.

"We would like to assure the animal shelters - whether you are registered as an animal welfare group or a private shelter - will be treated fairly and provided with options for the animals under their care."

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Reducing food waste: Getting Singaporeans to embrace 'ugly food'

Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: More than 790,000 tonnes of food waste was generated in Singapore last year – almost the equivalent of throwing away two bowls of rice every day.

There are no official figures on the breakdown of food waste in Singapore, and also how throwing away blemished or oddly-shaped food may contribute to the problem. But studies have shown that globally, 46 per cent of fruits and vegetables never make it from farm to fork.


It seems that people in Singapore are not too keen on ugly food either.

In a survey involving 1,000 people, household appliance company Electrolux found that 83 per cent of Singaporeans would only buy fruit and vegetables that look fresh and good. It also revealed that a quarter of them will never eat “ugly food”.

“Ugly food is aesthetically not appealing, and there’s always a psychological barrier that when people spend money, they would want the most perfect-looking ingredient. We live in an Instagram world now, where everything has to look perfect,” said Electrolux’s in-house chef Eric Low.

"When it doesn't look perfect, the mindset is that, that means it doesn’t taste good, which is a very wrong perception”, he added.

To test this, Channel NewsAsia visited supermarkets to ask consumers to pick between two tomatoes – one that was red and smooth, and another that was blotchy and blemished.

Needless to say, the former came up tops.

But is a perfect-looking fruit or vegetable really tastier or healthier?

That is a “huge myth”, said nutritionist Sheeba Majmudar.

“You’ll find that most of the time, organic produce is slightly misshaped – for example, cauliflowers and tomatoes that are discoloured. But actually, almost always, the nutritional value is the same. They are also equally sweet and juicy,” Ms Sheeba said.


So besides the fact that “ugly food” is just as good for us, why should people start choosing them?

Zero Waste SG is a not-for-profit organisation aiming to help Singapore eliminate the concept of waste. Its Executive Director Eugene Tay said choosing ugly ingredients will go towards the overall reduction of food waste.

“For a long time, cosmetic filtering of ugly food is a problem. Ugly food is still food, and a lot of resources go into growing the food. If we throw it away just because it doesn’t look nice, then I think we are wasting these resources,” Mr Tay said.

Food waste also makes up 7 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a major cause of global warming.

To solve this problem, NTU’s sociology professor Md Saidul Islam said it will require the commitment of retailers and manufacturers.

"Business is basically done on the basis of quality and abundance. So let's say a supermarket doesn't have a few elements or commodities in abundance. Then the consumer definitely won’t come to the same store again. They also want to provide quality food. If there are any scars on the food, consumers don't want to buy them”, said Associate Professor Saidul.

To get a feel of the situation on the ground, we visited Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, where produce from neighbouring countries and all around the world arrive every day to supply Singapore’s markets and restaurants with the freshest ingredients.

But a quick walk around the market showed that retailers mainly carried perfect-looking vegetables and fruit. Bruised or misshapen ingredients were a rare sight.

Retailers said one of the reasons they were thrown away was because they did not look fresh or green enough for their customers.

This is why experts say tackling the problem of food waste should also include consumers.

"Consumers demand nice looking food, so retailers have to accept that,” said Mr Tay. “So they only sell nice-looking food to consumers. Embracing ugly food and reducing food waste starts with consumers who are willing to accept that food that looks ugly is still edible if you turn it into a nice dish."

Some companies are already trying out new ways to get their customers to buy ugly food. One of them is supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice, which has put up signs to discourage customers from handling fruit and vegetables too aggressively. It also trims and repackages ugly produce and sells them at a cheaper price.

For example, a bag of blemished fruit goes for a discounted price of S$2. As a result, FairPrice said it saved 250,000 kilogrammes of fruit and vegetables in just a year.

This is part of a food waste framework that the supermarket launched last year. It has helped to cut total wastage by nearly 40 per cent, from about 2.2 million kilogrammes in 2014 to 1.3 million kilogrammes in 2015.

NTUC FairPrice CEO Mr Seah Kian Peng said he hopes this will get its customers to start embracing ugly food.

"I hope we can accept some fruits and vegetables that have some blemishes and bruises, we can buy them as it is. Obviously the prices should be different. But over time I hope consumers in Singapore will be able to embrace and adopt this kind of consumption,” said Mr Seah.

FairPrice is also making sure that each outlet orders just enough to meet demand.


But it is not just fruit and vegetables that get thrown out – canned food, too, are a major contributor of food waste in supermarkets. FairPrice donates those that are slightly dented or are nearing expiry dates to Food from the Heart, which gives them out to the needy.

Mr Anson Quek, who runs the charity, said this reduces food waste, and also helps those who genuinely need food.

"When we first started, we recognised that there are needy families who need food and are eating just one meal a day. But on the other hand, there are organisations and individuals who are throwing away good but unconsumed food. So we thought, it’s a waste, it’s environmentally unfriendly as well”, said Mr Quek. “That’s why we started Food from the Heart,” he added.

The charity, which was set up in 2003, now has many companies and organisations on board, including food manufacturers and bakeries with excess stock. It has just installed a cold room, so it hopes to receive more donations of fresh food, such as meat, dairy products, or ugly fruit and vegetables.

But Mr Tay from Zero Waste SG said the Government, too, should play its part. He suggested that Singapore should enact legislation similar to the United States’ Good Samaritan Act. Under the Act, when a company donates edible food to charities, they are not liable for anything that happens to those who consume that food.

“The Government can come in to introduce some form of Good Samaritan legislation and give companies assurance that if they donate food, they are not liable for it, or look into giving those who donate food some incentives or tax rebates,” Mr Tay said.

He also believes that it should be made mandatory for companies to declare the amount of waste they produce.

- CNA/dl

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Government to run smart metering trial for electricity, water and gas

SIAU MING EN Today Online 24 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE — In the future, a quick tap of the phone could tell you if you are using too much electricity or water each month.

The authorities are calling for proposals to trial a system that can read electricity, gas and water meters remotely so that consumers can use such data to better manage their consumption patterns.

In a media statement released on Monday (Oct 24), the Energy Market Authority, national water agency PUB and the Singapore Power said they were issuing a call for proposals to develop technical solutions for a smart metering trial.

“This trial is aimed at enabling electricity, gas and water meters to be read remotely, and providing more timely usage data to consumers to help them better manage their utility consumption,” the agencies said in the joint statement.

At present, most of the electricity meters are cumulative ones that are read manually once every two months, together with the gas and water meters. The call for proposal will have parties develop and trial smart solutions that can remotely read all three meters reliably and cost-effectively.

In addition, interested parties will also have to develop a mobile application to provide consumers with timely information on their electricity, water and gas consumption through their mobile phones and tablets. This will improve consumers’ awareness of their consumption patterns, the agencies said.

Interested parties have till February next year to submit their proposals and more details will be available on SPRING’s website from Nov 2.

Chief Executive of EMA Ng Wai Choong noted that with more timely information, hopefully consumers will be able to better manage their energy and water consumption and hence, reduce their utility bills.

It was announced in August that the utilities bill has been redesigned to help residents track and reduce energy and water consumption. The layout allows consumers to view their utility usage, and compare it against the average consumption of their neighbours living in similar housing types or streets, among other things.

Singapore Power’s Group Chief Executive Officer Wong Kim Yin noted that the trial would build on the smart electricity metering system Singapore is deploying island-wide, to help consumers save energy and cost.

“The next-generation solutions will complement initiatives like the redesigned utilities bill and our public education programmes to encourage everyone to make energy-saving a way of life,” he added.

App to help households gauge energy use slated for 2018 trial
SIAU MING EN Today Online 24 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE — In two years, a quick tap on your phone could tell you if you are using too much electricity, gas or water each month.

The authorities are calling for proposals to develop technical solutions for a smart metering trial that can read electricity, gas and water meters remotely so that consumers can use such data to better manage their consumption patterns.

Interested parties have to develop and test solutions that can remotely read all three meters reliably and cost-effectively at half-hour intervals. They will also have to develop a mobile application to provide consumers with timely information on their electricity, water and gas consumption through their mobile phones and tablets.

“This trial is aimed at enabling electricity, gas and water meters to be read remotely, and providing more timely usage data to consumers to help them better manage their utility consumption,” the Energy Market Authority, national water agency PUB and the Singapore Power said on Monday (Oct 24) in a joint statement.

The interested parties have till February next year to submit their proposals, and more details will be available on Spring’s website on Nov 2. The trial is expected to start in early 2018 and will run for six months.

In his opening remarks at the Singapore International Energy Week held at Marina Bay Sands on Monday, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran said the trial results will help the authorities assess whether and how they can deploy advanced metering solutions nationwide, which is in tandem with plans to have full retail contestability in the electricity market by 2018. In a fully contestable market, consumers could choose whether to buy from electricity retailers under customised price plans, or from wholesale electricity markets.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the event, Mr Iswaran said: “If you’re able to know your energy consumption, your water consumption, your gas consumption, if you’re allowed to access the information through a mobile platform, it allows you to then heed price signals, take appropriate actions and with a more contestable electricity market, it also means you have more flexibility in the kinds of contracts you choose as well.”

At present, most electricity meters are read manually once every two months, together with the gas and water meters, and show cumulative data. Only contestable consumers — currently large consumers like commercial building owners — are using a smart electricity metering system.

Smaller-scale trials with households have been conducted in the past, including one in 2012 where smart meters were installed in some 1,900 households in Punggol as part of the EMA’s Intelligent Energy System (IES) Pilot. Some households also received an in-home display unit that provides real-time information about their electricity consumption.

Some residents of Yuhua, designated a smart town by the authorities, are also testing a Utilities Management System that can help households monitor energy and water usage through a mobile application.

Asked about takeaways from the Punggol and Yuhua trials, EMA director of Market Development and Surveillance Department Soh Sai Bor said the IES was an “initial effort”. The Punggol trial provided “useful learning points” for the current platform for contestable consumers, which has seen close to 90,000 advanced meters installed, he added without elaborating.

As for whether he was encouraged by the outcomes, Mr Soh said these are “little efforts” that put together will have bigger impact. “So everyone has a part to play, a few per cent here and there will certainly help to mitigate the need to invest in more energy infrastructure to meet demand growth,” he said.

Speaking to TODAY, executive director at the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University Subodh Mhaisalkar noted that you “cannot improve what you cannot measure”. Consumers here, he added, are already used to such systems, such as those who use apps to monitor their mobile data consumption.

He suggested that the new smart metering system have features that provide feedback or nudge users whenever they exceed certain usage limits, to be more effective in changing consumer behaviour.

Wanted: Solutions that will help consumers better manage utility use
Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: To help households better manage their energy consumption, Singapore is exploring a trial to allow electricity, gas and water meters to be read remotely and provide consumers with more timely usage data.

On Monday (Oct 24), the Energy Market Authority (EMA), national water agency PUB and Singapore Power issued a call for proposals to develop technical solutions to enable this smart metering trial.

Most of the electricity meters in Singapore are cumulative meters, and are read once every two months manually together with gas and water meters.

The call is for interested parties to develop and trial smart solutions for remotely reading all three meters reliably and in a cost-effective manner, they said.

The trial also includes the development of a mobile application to provide consumers with timely and useful information on their electricity, water and gas consumption. "This will enhance consumers’ awareness of their consumption patterns," the agencies said.

Details of the call for proposals will be made available on SPRING’s website on Nov 2. The deadline for submissions is midnight on Feb 1, 2017. Eligible companies will get funding support from SPRING’s Capability Development Grant.


In a separate announcement on Monday, the EMA said it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with 16 partners for a pilot programme to optimise energy consumption by managing their demand.

The pilot, named Project OptiWatt, was announced by Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran at the Singapore International Energy Week 2016.

According to EMA, energy consumption can be shifted from peak to non-peak hours. This reduces the maximum load that the energy system needs to cater to, which could result in system-wide benefits.

Based on a study by Professor Frank A Wolak, Director of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development in Stanford University, every megawatt reduction of peak demand in Singapore could translate to system-wide savings of about S$1.6 million, EMA added.

The 16 partners include:

Institutes of Higher Learning
1. Institute of Technical Education
2. Nanyang Polytechnic
3. Ngee Ann Polytechnic
4. Temasek Polytechnic
Government Agencies
5. Agency for Science, Technology and Research
6. JTC Corporation
Electricity Retailers
7. Diamond Energy Merchants Pte Ltd
8. Red Dot Power
9. Seraya Energy
10. Air Liquide Singapore
11. Applied Materials South East Asia
12. Eltek Power
Research Institutions
13. ENGIE Lab Singapore
14. Nanyang Technological University [Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N)]
15. Program on Energy and Sustainable Development (Professor Frank A. Wolak from Stanford University)
Electricity Grid Operator
16. SP PowerAssets
- CNA/kk

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Schools, govt agencies to find ways to cut electricity use during peak hours

SIAU MING EN Today Online 24 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE — Selected schools and government agencies here will be working with private sector players take the lead in shifting their electricity use to off-peak hours, to make the energy system more efficient.

For example, during contingencies like power failure or disruption to energy supplies, participating consumers can cut back on a pre-agreed amount of electricity use, and the capacity can be routed to where it is most needed, minimising the need to power up additional generators.

Called Project OptiWatt, Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, the Institute of Technical Education, JTC Corporation and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) will be working on managing their energy consumption.

Supporting such efforts will be companies like electricity retailers and those making equipment and materials for the energy sector, which offer programmes and solutions. For example, electricity retailer Red Dot Power has an incentive scheme that pays participating consumers to reduce electricity use during certain periods.

The aim of the project, launched by Trade and Industry (Industry) Minister S Iswaran at the Singapore International Energy Week on Monday (Oct 24), is to test the viability of demand-side management (DSM) measures for the energy industry.

“Through DSM, energy consumption can be shifted from peak to off-peak hours. This reduces the maximum load that the energy system needs to cater to, yielding system-wide benefits,” the Energy Market Authority (EMA) said in a press release.

A study by Professor Frank A Wolak, director of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University, found that every megawatt (MW) reduction of peak demand in Singapore could mean system-wide savings of S$1.6 million, the authority said.

Already, a trial at A*STAR managed to shift 0.3 to 0.4MW of electricity load to non-peak hours without affecting its operations. This was done by adjusting the timer of its washers and sterilisers to run outside the peak hours of 11am to 2pm.

And a preliminary trial at NYP to study how its energy consumption could be reduced to respond to real-time system conditions found that the school could cut back the energy consumption of its chillers, which make up 7 per cent of its total consumption, for up to half an hour, with minimal impact on user comfort.

Also taking part in Project OptiWatt is SP PowerAssets Limited, which will explore how DSM technologies can be incorporated into the gird network planning process. “Reduction in peak demand and help manage the costs to expand the grid network and resource needs such as land,” said the EMA. In all, Project OptiWatt will involve 16 partners.

In June, some four years after it held a consultation exercise on introducing a Demand Response programme in Singapore, the EMA rolled it out in the wholesale electricity market. It allows consumers to reduce their electricity demand in exchange for a share of the benefits enjoyed by the system as a result, namely a reduction in wholesale energy prices.

The 16 partners:

Institute of Technical Education
Nanyang Polytechnic
Ngee Ann Polytechnic
Temasek Polytechnic
Agency for Science, Technology and Research
JTC Corporation
Diamond Energy Merchants
Red Dot Power
Seraya Energy
Air Liquide Singapore
Applied Materials South East Asia
Eltek Power
ENGIE Lab Singapore
Energy Research Institute @ NTU
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University
SP PowerAssets Limited

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Malaysia: Water disruption affects 1.6 million in Selangor

SIRA HABIBU The Star 14 Oct 16;

PETALING JAYA: More than 1.6 million people in four districts in Selangor will have to depend on relief water for an indefinite period, as another wave of river pollution forced the closure of the Sungai Semenyih treatment plant.

Kumpulan Air Selangor Corporate Communication Department chief Amin Lin Abdullah said they have no choice but to wait until the odour pollution, believed to originate from Nilai Industrial Park in Negri Sembilan, was cleared.

“As we have no other alternative to switch the source of raw water supply, we have to wait until the odour goes off before resuming plant operations,” he said.

The Semenyih plant was closed at 7.30am yesterday, causing water disruption to 456 locations in Petaling, Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang districts.

It is the third wave of water supply disruption in Selangor caused by river pollution in recent weeks.

On Sept 22, the Semenyih water treatment plant was closed due to river pollution caused by an illegal factory along Jalan Sungai Lalang.

The Langat and Cheras water treatment plants were closed earlier this month due to odour pollution in Semantan River originating from Pahang.

However, the two plants were up and running almost immediately as the source of raw water supply was switched from Semantan River to Sungai Langat dam.

Amin said relief water would be sent in tankers to affected areas, and critical premises including hospitals and dialysis centres.

He said consumers could obtain the latest information through the “mySYABAS” mobile phone application, or

Air Selangor also expressed regret for the inconvenience posed by the plant closure.

Semenyih assemblyman Datuk Johan Abdul Aziz lambasted the Selangor government for initially delaying the approval of the Langat 2 water treatment plant project.

“If they did not play politics, the Langat 2 would be up and running by now.

“We would not have to suffer like this if we have alternative plants,” he said.

Selangor Tourism, Environment, Green Technology and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong who confirmed that the source of pollution was from Nilai, said upstream waterways there which flow into Sungai Buah leading to the Semenyih Intake Point was found to have strong unusual odour.

“Dead fish have also been spotted around the area,” she said.

Wong said Air Selangor and the Selangor Water Management Board (LUAS) had sent river surveillance teams to narrow down the source of the odour.

Water supply disruption in Petaling, Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang
The Star 23 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Several areas in the Petaling, Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang districts are experiencing water supply disruption due to the closure of the Sungai Semenyih Water Treatment Plant (LRA).

Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) in a statement Sunday said the LRA was closed at 7.30am due to odour pollution from the Nilai industrial area, in Negri Sembilan.

The affected areas in the Hulu Langat district are Bangi, Bandar Bukit Mahkota, Kajang, Semenyih and Rinching.

For the Kuala Langat district, the areas involved are Morib, Banting, Bandar Saujana Putra, Bandar Rimbayu and Telok Panglima Garang.

In Petaling the areas involved are USJ 1-27, Puchong, Seri Kembangan and Serdang while in Sepang, the affected areas are Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Bandar Nusa Putra, Putra Heights, Pulau Meranti, Kota Warisan, Bandar Bukit Puchong and Sungai Merab.

Syabas said delivery of water supply to the affected areas and critical premises such as hospitals and dialysis centres was being carried out. – Bernama

Source of Semenyih pollution narrowed down to Nilai, taps still dry in many districts
DAWN CHAN New Straits Times 23 Oct 16;

SHAH ALAM: The source of odour pollution that caused the shutdown of the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant this morning has been roughly pinpointed as Nilai in Negri Sembilan, the Selangor state government has confirmed.

Selangor executive councillor for Tourism, Environment, Green Technology and Consumer Affairs Elizabeth Wong said upstream waterways in Nilai were found to have an unusually strong odour as they flow into Sungai Buah, which leads to the Semenyih intake point.

"Dead fish have also been sighted in the area. River surveillance teams from Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Air Selangor) and the Selangor Water Management Board (Luas) were deployed this morning to narrow down the source of the odour.

“This afternoon, the teams were joined by a unit from the National Water Services Commission (SPAN)’s central office. "As of 4pm, the odour at Nilai is still evident, and all efforts are ongoing to pinpoint the contributing source.

We have conveyed information to the Negri Sembilan Department of Environment (DoE) through the Selangor DoE and Luas," said Wong in a statement today.

Several areas in the Petaling, Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang districts are experiencing water disruptions following the closure of the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant at 7.30am today.

In the Hulu Langat district, the affected areas are Bangi, Bandar Bukit Mahkota, Kajang, Semenyih and Rinching.

In the Kuala Langat district, the areas are Morib, Banting, Bandar Saujana Putra, Bandar Rimbayu and Telok Panglima Garang.

In the Petaling district, the areas are USJ 1- 27, Puchong, Seri Kembangan and Serdang.

In the Sepang district, the areas are Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Bandar Nusa Putra, Putra Heights, Pulau Meranti, Kota Warisan, Bandar Bukit Puchong and Sungai Merab.

Wong said relief water supply is being delivered by tankers to affected areas and critical premises, such as hospitals and dialysis centres.

Semenyih water treatment plant closed again over pollution woes, taps go dry in numerous areas
SITI NURSURAYA ALI New Straits Times 23 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Several areas in Petaling, Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang are experiencing temporary water disruption due to the closure of the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant following another case of odour pollution at 7.30am today.

The odour pollution is believed to have originated from the Nilai industrial area in Negri Sembilan.

In a statement, Syabas Head of Corporate Communications Amin Lin Abdullah said the main areas experiencing temporary water disruption are – Hulu Langat district: Bangi, Bandar Bukit Mahkota, Kajang, Semenyih and Rinching; Kuala Langat District: Morib, Banting, Bandar Saujana Putra, Bandar Rimbayu and Telok Panglima Garang; Petaling District: 1-27 USJ, Puchong and Serdang.

Meanwhile, in Sepang district, areas affected are Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Bandar Nusa Putra, Putra Heights, Pulau Meranti, Kota Warisan, Bandar Bukit Puchong and Sungai Merab.

A full list of affected areas is available online at Amin said that emergency water supply is being sent with the help of tankers to affected areas and critical premises, such as hospitals and dialysis centres.

"We have also sent water tankers to Serdang Hospital which is being affected by the disruption," he added.

Consumers can get the latest information and details of areas affected via the Syabas smart phone application "mySYABAS".

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Malaysia: Water rationing ends in Mersing

The Star 24 Oct 16;

JOHOR BARU: Some 50,000 residents in Mersing can heave a sigh of relief as the six-month scheduled water supply exercise ends today following an improvement in the Congok dam’s water level.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said water rationing has come to an end with rainfall and effective measures taken to solve the water issue.

In a statement, he said although the water level at the dam was still below the critical level, Saj Holdings Sdn Bhd was confident that the Tenglu water treatment plant could help ensure regular water supply.

Hasni added that the RM3.56mil raw water transmission project from the Nitar water treatment plant, which is expected to be completed by the end of November, would also relieve the problem at Mersing.

Saj and the Johor Water Regulatory Board had studied the rainfall pattern in the area, he added.

However, Hasni said water rationing might resume if the dry spell returns.

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Malaysia: Selangor going all out to fight dengue

The Star 23 Oct 16;

SHAH ALAM: Alarmed by the 45,013 dengue cases in Selangor that have resulted in 66 deaths so far this year, the state is on an all-out mission to combat the outbreak.

Selangor Housing Committee chairman Datuk Iskandar Abdul Samad said the government was serious in its effort to clean up the state from the outbreak.

Iskandar said this during a joint anti-Aedes operation initiated by the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council at the Angsana Apartment in Pandan Indah yesterday.

He explained that the only way to combat dengue was for Malaysians to start being responsible for their neighbourhood by getting involved in cleaning up their drains and not adopt foreign workers’ culture of discarding rubbish everywhere.

“People’s attitudes need to change to ensure we have a clean and safe environment.

“MPAJ was chosen for the operation because it is the local council with the highest number of dengue cases.

“This year, MPAJ recorded 3,391 cases up to Oct 19 in which two areas – Angsana Apartment (13 cases) and Pandan Indah 940 apartment (19 cases) – were hotspots for dengue,” he said.

Meanwhile, Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh led a team of enforcement personnel from the Petaling Health Department, Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) and residents from USJ11 in a joint search-and-destroy Aedes mosquito operation.

She said the residents and the personnel were divided into 11 teams before they went around the area which had been one of the hotspots in Subang Jaya.

“The operation was concentrated mainly at the backlanes because residents have a tendency to dump all sorts of stuff there,” she said.

The fact that the backlanes were common properties, she added, required additional supervision because it would be difficult for the enforcement team to act on culprits who caused the Aedes breeding.

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Malaysia: 85 households issued notices for not separating waste


KOTA TINGGI: Eighty-five households have been issued notices for failing to separate their waste in accordance with the separation-at -source policy.

Deputy Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique said the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp) had checked about 150,000 homes in six states and two Federal Territories from June 1 to Oct 20.

“We do not want to force people to obey the rules of waste separation by taking stern action such as fines, but to encourage them to adopt it as a culture,” she said.

The notices served to the errant ones did not carry any punishment.

Halimah was speaking to reporters after attending the SWCorp separation-at-waste programme at Sri Saujana flats in Taman Sri Saujana here yesterday.

Since Sept 1 last year, it was compulsory for households in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Pahang, Johor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Perlis and Kedah to separate their waste.

Halimah said SWCorp and its appointed concession company must continue carrying out more campaigns to raise awareness on waste separation.

Commenting on Budget 2017, Halimah said the ministry would plan the People’s Housing Scheme (PPR) according to the needs of each state within their allocations in Budget 2017.

The ministry would build 9,850 PPR houses with RM134mil.

A total of 11,250 PPR houses are being built with RM576mil.

The budget also allocated RM300mil for 1Malaysia Main­tenance Fund to repair facilities at flats and 113 PPR.

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Indonesian villages rewarded for not burning to tackle annual haze crisis

Jewel Topsfield Sydney Morning Herald 23 Oct 16;

Riau, Sumatra: Haji Muhammad Yunus is in a cantankerous mood.

A diminutive man in a peci cap and blue batik shirt, Yunus is the head of a tiny village, Sering in the Sumatran province of Riau, one of the areas worst affected by last year's deadly haze crisis.

This toxic haze, which chokes South-east Asia year after year, is caused by fires on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

Most are deliberately lit because burning is the cheapest and easiest way to clear land for palm oil and other crops.

But there will be no fires in Sering if Yunus has anything to do with it.

Last year Sering was one of nine villages that signed up to a program that promised lucrative rewards if the community did not burn over the dry season – July to October in Indonesia.

Alas, it missed out. A fire on the outskirts of the village last October destroyed 11 hectares of peatland forest and the community's dream of winning up to 100 million rupiah ($10,000) towards a sports centre.

"Now no money, we can't plan," scowls Yunus, his shoulders slumped as he stands outside the desolate village office, flanked by piles of gravel and ugly scrubland dotted with blackened tree stumps.

Humiliatingly, the village chief had to stand by as neighbouring villages jubilantly asked for their reward money to be spent on a local market, security booths, a mosque and fire-fighting equipment.

Yunus blames the Sering fire on opportunistic "outsiders" who burned without the permission of the village. "It cost us … we regret such behaviour."

But the program goes for two years and this fire season the community of Sering has been vigilant. A sign warning forest burning carries a maximum 15-year jail sentence has been erected on the site of last October's transgression.

With just days to go before the end of the fire season, Yunus is hopeful this time Sering will win the coveted reward. "Inshallah [if Allah wills it], there is no fire so far," he says.

The Fire-Free Village Program aims to prevent fires by providing incentives to villagers to stop burning their land.

What makes it especially interesting is that it is funded not by the government or an NGO but by one of the world's biggest pulp and paper companies.

On the face of it, this seems a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas: forestry giants are widely blamed for being a major contributor to the annual fires.

An analysis of World Resources Institute data in September last year, for example, found 37 per cent of the fires in Sumatra were on pulpwood concessions.

But in recent years the world's major pulp and paper companies have been desperate to fight their green villain reputations.

In 2014 Indonesian pulp and paper behemoth APRIL invited Craig Tribolet, a charismatic Australian forester and firefighter from Bathurst, to have a look at the company's fire management at its plantation in Riau.

The rangy, silver-haired Tribolet was pleasantly surprised by the company's "terrific" fire-fighting capacity.

It spent $US2 million a year on 260 full-time firefighters, helicopters, airboats, water pumps, lookout towers, you name it.

But like Indonesia as a whole, APRIL was focused on what Tribolet calls, in his laconic Aussie way, "putting the wet stuff on the red stuff".

"One thing that had been missed was the concept of prevention – literally stopping fires before they happen," Tribolet says. "Give me $1 in prevention and I will save you $5 in suppression."

Tribolet enthusiasm is contagious. After a 15-minute pitch, APRIL asked him to devise a $US1 million a year fire prevention program.

The Australian selected nine villages to trial the program that were just outside the company's plantation in Riau and identified as being at high risk of fire.

"The vast majority of fires we were going to were from community burning either just within or just outside of our concession," Tribolet says.

Under the Fire-Free Village program, the nine villages were offered assistance to clear their land using machinery instead of fire.

Village crew leaders were paid a salary to buzz around in red shirts emblazoned with the company logo spreading the no-burn message.

Rewards were offered to those villages that did not burn, children were taught "Smoke-free is cool!" as part of a community education campaign and the air quality was monitored.

Ironically, a plume of smoke greets us as we drive into one of the villages.

Last year Pelalawan almost reached fire-free status. The village received a half-reward of 50 million rupiah because a small blaze – probably caused by a cooking fire – wiped out less than a hectare of land.

We discuss whether today's admittedly small fire, used to clear land for a vegetable garden for the women's association, will see the village again penalised.

"This is not really burning land, it's like burning garbage," argues village crew leader Afrizal. "We know the regulation, which is why we are doing it in stages."

Tribolet is sympathetic. It's a controlled, supervised burn at the beginning of the wet season and there is no way the fire could get out of control.

But technically it's still a fire, so it will be reported, and an independent panel will decide if a breach has occurred.

This is all potentially embarrassing in front of the media, but Tribolet is unflappable. "If I only tell you the good news one thing people miss is the heterogeneity of communities," he says.

Before Tribolet came to work for APRIL he had never heard of the expression "greenwashing" – a form of PR spin to deceptively make an organisation appear environmentally responsible. He loves the term: "That's why I tell the guys not to oversell this."

But an independent review of the Fire-Free Village Program by Singapore-based company Carbon Conservation would suggest he is being modest about the success of the program in reducing fire.

The review, commissioned by APRIL, found the amount of burned area within the nine villages had shrunk from 531 hectares in 2014 to just 53 hectares in 2015.

This is despite the fact that last year's fire season in Indonesia was one of the worst on record: fires raged through 2.1 million hectares of land resulting in catastrophic haze across south-east Asia.

Dry conditions, exacerbated by the El Nino effect, and flammable drained peatland, led to what has been described as an "eco-apocalypse".

The Indonesian government puts the death toll at 24 but a recent study suggests more than 100,000 may have died prematurely because of exposure to fine particle pollution.

More than 500,000 cases of acute respiratory tract infections were reported, schools and airports were closed and about a third of the world's remaining orangutans were threatened. The haze contributed to about 3 per cent of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.

"Considering the seriousness of the fire and haze crisis I was surprised to find the Fire-Free Village Program as the most comprehensive and programmatic solution that I have seen in the nine years we have worked in conservation and climate change," writes review author Dorjee Sun.

An Australian entrepreneur, Sun's work trying to persuade firms to invest in a carbon trading solution to tackle the problems of deforestation in Indonesia was chronicled in the 2008 film The Burning Season.

In 2012, a Fairfax investigation revealed a deal Sun had set up with the government of Aceh to develop a carbon credit scheme had stalled indefinitely, leaving the community bitterly disillusioned.

But "rather than a lofty goal ideal like carbon credits", Sun writes in the review, village leaders expressed their support for No-Burn Village Rewards because "they were provided a clear, tangible and achievable goal".

"We believe the Fire-Free Village program is beginning to really address the root cause of the fires."

Greenpeace, however, is more critical. "It is a good program in terms of the company now trying to engage with the community but that is not enough," says forest campaigner Yuyun Indradi.

Yuyun believes the program is trying to subtly divert blame to the villages when it is the draining, clearing and planting on peatlands that has made them so fire-prone in the first place. "It is strengthening the stigma that fires are caused by the community."

In June 2015 APRIL announced it would stop using wood from natural forests and forested peatland and only use the wood grown on its acacia and eucalyptus plantations.

However Greenpeace says existing plantations on drained peatland continue to do damage and peatlands should be restored to their natural condition. "Ultimately, companies like APRIL have to find alternative species that are endemic to peat or wetland-tolerant," Yuyun says.

In pride of place on the wall of a gappy wooden shack in Pelalawan is a photo of eight-year-old Tengku Muhamad Marcel. He wears a mortarboard and poses with a globe of the earth. These photos, common in homes across the archipelago, reflect the pride Indonesians take in their children's education. However last year Muhamad's school closed as concentrations of air pollutant PM10 reached as high as 2000 in Riau (the World Health Organisation guideline is 50).

"We were very concerned for our oldest son, who had to stay out of school for two months," says his father Tengku Antonia. "It really had no effect because the moment he didn't have school he just went outside to play."

Many of the local kids tore through the ochre haze on their bikes without wearing face masks. Tengku insisted his son only remove his mask inside. But their shack is open to the elements and it too filled with haze. Tengku's wife was heavily pregnant at the time. "Since everyone was suffering, how do you explain it?" Tengku says. "Morning, night, afternoon, it was just the same, all dark. We had difficulty breathing. You couldn't see very far – you could only see two to three metres."

Pelalawan villagers triumphantly show us the motorised water pump they bought with their half-reward. "It is a good program so of course we accepted it," Tengku says.

He owns two hectares of undeveloped land but even after the program ends, Tengku insists he will not burn it to plant crops. "There are other ways of doing it," he says. "If not APRIL, maybe the government will assist. Maybe not with money, but help to open the land in a safe way that doesn't endanger others."

Sustainable agricultural assistance is the one area the review found the Fire-Free Village Program only achieved "low success", although it noted there was high potential.

The target was ambitious. The program offered to prepare up to 20 hectares of land for agriculture in each of the nine villages. Experts from the University of Riau would advise on the best crop. "However in execution it appears that this project has had limited success," the review says.

In late 2015 when the review was conducted only 80 of the promised 270 hectares had been cleared. Most of the plots were small – under half a hectare – and the excavators on offer were simply too big.

"We couldn't get community interest," Tribolet says. This year the villagers were offered chainsaws, brush cutters, fertilisers and hand tractors, which better suited farmers' needs. "We are learning as we go along."

Yunus, the village head of Sering, complains of delays obtaining permits to clear land. Land ownership in Indonesia is often unknown or murky, with overlapping claims, which bog down the permit process. Restrictions on clearing in some areas, such as within 200 metres of a river, cause further headaches.

"The Fire-Free Forest Program will fail in the long-term without alternative sustainable income from agriculture without the need for burning," the review warns.

One solution may be to move to other sources of income such as swallow houses. Swallow nests, which are held together with bird saliva, are a delicacy in Chinese cuisine with a bowl of bird nest soup costing up to $100 in high end restaurants. They are also used in Chinese medicine.

Tomjon, the leader of Kuala Panduk village, says in the review he has been encouraging investment in community owned swallow houses. "They can produce two kilograms per house per month and then sell … for 8.5 million rupiah per kilo for high quality [nests]."

Seven villages have now received the full reward of 100 million rupiah and five villages have received half-rewards. For the most recent fire season APRIL extended the program to 18 villages. "Villages are phoning us now," Tribolet says.

In March this year APRIL formed the Fire-Free Alliance with a group of companies including palm oil giants Wilmar and Musim Mas, and NGOs including the Singapore-based People's Movement to Stop the Haze.

"The goal is that within three to five years the Fire Free Village program will be rolled out successfully in 100 villages," Sun tells Fairfax Media.

In 2017, the first nine villages will graduate from the program and become what is optimistically dubbed "fire resistant".

"The true test is whether villages remain fire free," Tribolet says.

He is exploring ways of helping them stay on track, such as microloans for swallow houses or fish farms.

Scale Up, a non government group that assists rural communities engage with government and companies that have licenses overlapping with community land, warns farmers will revert to burning unless they have an effective alternative.

Burning is a cheap and effective method – sometimes the only method – for poor farmers to clear land in order to support their families.

"Only when our bellies our full can we worry about social issues," Pelalawan village leader Edi Hanafi says in the review.

Scale Up chief executive Hary Oktavian believes the Fire-Free Village Program is yet to provide a viable long-term alternative to burning.

"The reward should be a farming technology applicable to their conditions - the current reward is not providing that," he says.

"The Fire-Free Village Program could be applied nationally, but only if it provides an alternative way of clearing land."

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Indonesia: Ratification of Paris Agreement not enough : NGO

Antara 23 Oct 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The decision of the House of Representatives (DPR) to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change should be followed with policy to be implemented in natural resource management, environmentalists said.

"Ratification is not enough as the country has the responsibility to meet its pledge, to meet its commitment of reducing 29 percent of greenhouse gas emission by 2030 and to prevent ecological disaster," the non governmental organization concerned with environment Wahana Lingkungan Hidup (Walhi) said in a statement here on Saturday.

Walhi called on the government to gradually phase out the use of fossil energy such as coal in favor of renewable energy.

In addition, the ratification decision should also be followed with a halt to expansion of mono-culture plantations such as oil palm plantations and industrial timber estates.

Walhi blamed expansion of oil palm plantations and Industrial Timber Estates for deforestation and forest fires, which have devastated millions of hectares of the countrys tropical forests.

It said ratification should mark a serious and concrete move to improve the management of natural resources by the government, which already started with moratorium.

A law maker from the Commission IV of the Parliament Akmal Pasluddin called on the government to make the climate change as a central issue as Indonesia has been in the center of international attention for its pledge to slash 29 percent of carbon dioxide emission by 2030.

"The world looks to Indonesia for reducing carbon dioxide emission , hoping that Indonesia would succeed in bringing to reality its commitment," Akmal said.

The international expectation is natural as Indonesian forests are among the largest ten in the world, he said.

Indonesia has the 8th largest forests in the world after Russia, Brazil, Canada, The United States, China, Australia , the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Based on the Forestry Ministry, Indonesia has tropical forests the second largest in the world after Brazil.

"What worrying us is the rapid cut in size of our forests that need more serious addressing by the government, Akmal said.

He said destruction of forests in various parts of the world including Indonesia has significantly contributed to climate change.

"Therefore, it is urgent for the government to make the climate change as a priority issue to be handled," he said.

The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.

The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015.

It was opened for signature on 22 April 2016 (Earth Day) in a ceremony in New York City.

As of October 2016, 191 UNFCCC members have signed the treaty, 84 of which have ratified it. After the European Union ratified the agreement in October 2016, there were enough countries that had ratified the agreement that produce enough of the worlds greenhouse gases for the agreement to enter into force.

The agreement will take effect on 4 November 2016.

The head of the Paris Conference, Frances foreign minister Laurent Fabius, said this "ambitious and balanced" plan is a "historic turning point" in the goal of reducing global warming.

Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said the Parliament is fully aware of the important of ratifying the Paris Agreement.

Earlier, Dewi Coriyati, a Commission VII lawmaker, urged the government to immediately ratify the Paris Agreement as it concerns climate change that need serious addressing.

"The ratification is important for Indonesia, being a country of group of islands. Otherwise some of our islands could sink below the sea surface," Dewi was quoted as saying.

The Indonesian government signed the Paris Agreement on April 22 in 2016 in New York. As an implication, Indonesia has to ratify the agreement into law.(*)

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UN Habitat III summit aims to shape future urban living

Mark Kinver BBC News 21 Oct 16;

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on city leaders to make "tough decisions" in order to provide safe and sustainable cities in the future.

Mr Ban made his remarks in an address at the UN Habitat III conference that is only held once every 20 years.

Many urban areas, which are home to more than half of the world population, continue to grow unplanned and unregulated, experts warn.
An estimated 35,000 people attended the three-day gathering in Quito, Ecuador.

"Mayors are at the forefront of the battle for sustainability," Mr Ban told an audience at the world assembly of mayors, which was being held at the Habitat III conference.

"You are faced with the immediate daily demands of your people; for housing, transport, infrastructure and sustainable urban development."

But, he added, they also had to "make the tough decisions on what issues to prioritise" because they had to operate within tight budgets.

Mr Ban told the city leaders and politicians that they were at the heart of delivering global agreements, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.

"Take strong ownership of this vital agenda - stand up for the people you represent," he urged them.

'The forgotten agenda'

The conference, which the UN described as one of the largest in the organisation's history, was focused on adopting a blueprint that would help shape and deliver urban development over the next 20 years.

The New Urban Agenda recognised that urbanisation had to be seen as a tool for development in the 21st Century, explained Joan Clos, UN Habitat's executive director and the conference's secretary general.

He said that recent events, such as the global financial crisis and the urban revolts during the Arab Spring, had highlighted the importance of sustainable urban development.

"It's a proposal to revisit urbanisation," Dr Clos observed, "and avoid the mistakes that have been developing in the past 20 years.
"When we look at the statistics, (where) the level of planned organisation has decreased, the quality of the planning has also decreased.

"That has created a very deadly situation where a lot of people are suffering in many cities for a lack of urban design, a lack of adequate management and a lack of urban finances. We need to recover that," he said.

He said there was a need to go "back to basics" and called on delegates not to see the document as a new agenda but to see it as a blueprint for the "forgotten agenda".

20th Century legacy

Habitat III is formally known as the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development.

It is the third in a series of global gatherings that are held once every 20 years. The first was staged in Vancouver, Canada in 1976, and the second was hosted by Istanbul, Turkey, in 1996.

During that time, the world's human population has shifted from being a rural population to being an urban one, with an estimated 54% of people now living in urban areas. Projections forecast that percentage is set to reach 66% by the middle of this century.

In 1950, less than one-in-three people lived in urban areas. The world had just two so-called "megacities" with populations in excess of 10 million: New York and Tokyo. Today, there are more than 20.

Greater Tokyo, the world's biggest urban area, has expanded from 13 million residents in 1950, to today's figure of 38 million.

It is estimated that almost 200,000 people each day are moving to urban areas. Developing nations are shouldering the vast majority of this burden, leaving them struggling to cope with the huge influx of people. Some cities' populations are 40 times larger than what they were in 1950.

This has resulted in the rapid expansion of unplanned and unregulated "slums" on the edge of cities.

Organisers of the Habitat III conference observed: "It is now well understood that slums and the related informal settlements are a spontaneous form of urbanisation, consisting of a series of survival strategies by the urban poor, most borne out of poverty and exclusion."

The adoption of the New Urban Agenda by delegates from 167 nations on Thursday is an attempt to reverse the "legacy of the 20th Century": uncontrolled urbanisation and urban poverty.

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