Best of our wild blogs: 27 Oct 16

Weekend of 05-06 Nov 2016: Clean & Green Singapore Carnival @ opposite Khatib MRT Station
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Hectare by hectare, an indigenous man reforested a jungle in Indonesia’s burned-out heartland

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Contracts awarded to 2 firms for Cross Island Line's site investigation works

Yuen Sin Straits Times 25 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE - The authorities have appointed two companies to conduct site investigation works to see if a train tunnel can be built under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) for the upcoming Cross Island Line.

This comes after nature groups had expressed worries about the environmental harm that can be caused by the construction and operation of an underground MRT line through Singapore's largest nature reserve.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has appointed Tritech Engineering & Testing (TET) (Singapore) and Ryobi Geotechnique International (Ryobi G) to carry out investigation works for the the alignment that shows the upcoming Cross Island Line cutting under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, it said in a press release on Tuesday (Oct 25).The tender to conduct these works was called in June 2016.

The site investigation works will start in December and are expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

The 50km Cross Island Line was first announced in 2013 as a link between Changi and Jurong. Preliminary plans showed it cutting through primary and secondary forests in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve near MacRitchie Reservoir.

Nature groups reacted by raising concerns and suggested that the line be built along Lornie Road instead, in an alternate route that skirts around the reserve.

The LTA started an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of both routes in July 2014.

The findings of first phase of this assessment, which looked at the soil works and how to reduce their impact, was announced in February 2016. Some mitigating measures announced then include reducing the number of boreholes required for soil testing from 72 to 16, and to gather the data needed through geophysical surveys instead.

Geophysical survey methods require contractors to go off-trail into the forest and do not call for drilling, unlike the boreholes of about 10cm in diameter, which will be drilled into an existing trail.

Site investigation works into the alternative option that skirts around the reserve started in May 2016 for the Government to analyse and determine soil conditions and engineering feasibility. Findings from the works into the direct and skirting options will provide input for the second phase of the EIA.

The longer 9km skirt around the CCNR will incur an extra travel time of six minutes, compared with the more direct 4km route running underneath the reserve, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan had said in March 2016.

The Government will decide on the alignment only after it takes into consideration the concerns from all stakeholders and the potential impact on the CCNR, and after the completion of the investigation works and Phase 2 of the EIA .

In the latest site investigation announced, TET will carry out the borehole drilling works. It has extensive experience in borehole drilling, including in environmentally-sensitive areas, the LTA said. It was involved in borehole drilling operations for slope stabilisation studies at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Bukit Batok Nature Park.

Ryobi G, supported by its subcontractor Geophysical Services, will carry out geophysical survey works within the CCNR. It has carried out geophysical surveys on Government projects like the Thomson-East Coast Line and the Rail Corridor. To reduce the impact on the environment, it will be using wireless equipment for the works.

The appointed contractors have to put in place additional measures to reduce the impact on the forest environment during the soil works. These include engaging a certified arborist (tree expert) to ensure that trees are not damaged during the works and requiring contractors to conduct trial runs and rehearsals of borehole operations and off-trail surveys off-site, before they venture into the forest, to ensure equipment is fully functional and within the stringent requirements of working with the reserve.

A team of LTA officers and the contractors will work closely with the National Parks Board and nature groups to ensure that all mitigating measures are "rigorously implemented", said the LTA.

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Singapore's Zika journey: Two months on

Oct 27 marks two months since the first locally transmitted Zika case was reported in Singapore. Channel NewsAsia’s Lianne Chia looks back at the concerns and anxiety that gripped the nation, and how Singapore has progressed in its fight against Zika.
Lianne Chia Channel NewsAsia 27 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: It was around 7.30pm on Saturday, Aug 27 when the news broke.

An emailed press release from the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced Singapore’s first confirmed locally transmitted case of Zika: A 47-year-old Malaysian woman living at Block 102 Aljunied Crescent had developed a fever, rash and conjunctivitis two days earlier.

She had tested positive for the Zika virus – and as she had not travelled to affected areas, there could be only one conclusion.

She had caught the virus in Singapore.

Newsrooms went into overdrive and social media caught fire, as anxiety spread across the island.

Few people knew how to react to the news that Zika, especially with its reported link to microcephaly, was now circulating in the midst of Singaporeans.

But it was perhaps inevitable. Singapore had, after all, already had its first imported Zika case in May, in a 48-year-old man who had returned from Brazil.


The anxiety heightened as more cases of the virus were announced. By the end of August, there were 82 confirmed cases of Zika, and authorities warned that the number of cases would likely go up as more testing was carried out.

Countries like Australia and the UK began issuing advisories about visiting Singapore. Questions were raised about whether the Zika threat would affect the upcoming Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.

And, not surprisingly, sales of mosquito repellent soared islandwide.

Authorities spearheaded an intensified battle against the Aedes mosquito. About 100 National Environment Agency (NEA) officers were deployed to the vicinity of Aljunied Crescent in the immediate aftermath of the first case. Thermal fogging, drain flushing and public outreach were among the actions carried out.

The area’s MP, Tin Pei Ling, began walking the ground in MacPherson almost immediately, giving out mosquito repellent and speaking to pregnant women. Aside from sharing a written advisory, she also gave her pregnant constituents contacts they could reach out to if they had feedback on mosquito breeding or questions relating to the virus.

“As a mother, of course I would be concerned but I believe that everyone is doing our best, including Government agencies like MOH and NEA,” she told reporters on the sidelines of a house visit on Aug 30. “So for now, we have to have the same faith and confidence in them.”

MPs in non-affected constituencies also geared up.

MP for Jalan Besar GRC Lily Neo said when news first broke about the virus, the first thing she did was to call a meeting with all her grassroots leaders. “The most important thing for us at the time was to make sure we could control the Aedes mosquito population,” she told Channel NewsAsia this week. “So we started planning straight away … we went house to house to give out mosquito patches, and put up posters at the lift landings and in the lifts.”

The community also rallied together in the midst of all the anxiety: One couple posted on Facebook offering pregnant women living in Zika-affected areas a place to stay.

The concern was brought up to the highest level: In Parliament on Sep 13, two ministers – Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli – delivered statements on Zika.

Mr Gan said the Government would no longer isolate or hospitalise Zika patients because Zika is a mosquito-borne disease with a majority of those infected asymptomatic.

He added that pregnant women who tested positive for Zika would be referred by their doctors to an obstetric or maternal-foetal medicine specialist for counselling and subsequent follow-up.

“Regular ultrasound scans will be carried out to monitor the development of the foetus. Zika infection does not always result in abnormal foetal development,” he said, adding that microcephaly has been tracked by the National Birth Defects Registry since 1993, and that MOH will work with doctors to monitor the outcomes of babies born to women with Zika.

By the end of September, 16 pregnant women were reported to have been infected with Zika.


Two months on, the spread of the virus appears to have abated. And anxiety may have eased.

While the week of Sep 11 to 17 saw 62 reported cases of the virus, the weekly numbers fell sharply in subsequent weeks, with numbers ranging from four in the week of Oct 2 to 8, to 11 in the next week, according to NEA data. As of Oct 26, a total of 435 cases have been reported.

And the country’s first and biggest local cluster in the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive area, which accounts for about three-quarters of Singapore’s cases, was declared closed earlier this month.

“When news of Zika first came out, people were really anxious about it,” said general practitioner Dr Lye Tong Fong. “They would ask if it was safe for them to get pregnant, and about the chances of the baby potentially developing complications. But while some people still bring up the topic now, they aren’t too concerned about it,” he added. “It’s just like another infection.”

It was a similar experience for another GP, Dr Chew Chun Yang. “During the first few weeks of the outbreak, we received several queries asking about tests for Zika, and the availability of mosquito repellent at our clinic,” he said. “But in general, the anxiety level among the public has lessened.”

One possible reason for this could be that Singaporeans are now much more aware about Zika. “There are more avenues to read up and understand more about the virus and the situation,” said Dr Chew.

Dr Lye added that the Government’s efforts in raising public awareness has been “commendable”. “The general public is aware, but they aren’t too anxious or hyper-reactive,” he said.

“I think that’s a good thing. We want the people to be aware of the situation, but we don’t want them to go into panic mode and suddenly, tap on all the healthcare resources.”


Even as anxiety appears to have abated, infectious diseases specialists like Gleneagles Hospital’s Dr Wong Sin Yew believe people should not become complacent.

“I don’t think we are near the end of Zika in Singapore, and I don’t think we are going to be able to eradicate the virus completely,” he said. “We continue to have three ongoing clusters in the past two weeks, and I continue to worry that Zika will remain in the community.”

Just last week, Dr Chew, whose clinic is in the Serangoon area, saw his first confirmed case of Zika.

“Although the patient was not living or working in any of the listed Zika clusters, we did not rule out the possibility of a Zika infection,” he said. “It will not be surprising if we encounter more of such cases in future.

“We are being updated regularly by MOH about the disease, and the challenge would be to keep up with all the information available, while providing patient care on a daily basis,” he added.


Indeed, controlling the mosquito population remains the cornerstone of Singapore’s fight against Zika.

“Our key strategy for dengue control, and now Zika, is source reduction – the detection and removal of breeding habitats and larvae,” said Mr Masagos in his ministerial statement last month.

“This integrated vector management strategy is in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendations, and remains especially critical now as we are in the traditional dengue peak season,” he added.

But it is clear that there are challenges on the ground.

Dr Neo cited instances of mosquito breeding sites she has seen on her house visits. One resident left a large barrel of water outside his unit, saying that he could water his plants daily without having to go into his house. Another woman left six to eight uncovered bottles of water outside her flat for the same reason.

“Sometimes they live like that for so long, and this is their daily habit … so they’re not conscious about it,” Dr Neo said.

Within 10 days of the first case in August, Dr Neo and her grassroots volunteers had completed house visits to the more than 70 blocks under her charge. But even though there have been no confirmed cases of Zika among her residents, efforts are still ongoing.

“Every week, we have some form of outreach,” she said, highlighting block parties where residents are invited to come and meet her and her grassroots volunteers. “At least this way I can spend an hour to explain everything slowly to them, and in detail.”

“I think the virus is unfortunately going to be entrenched in Singapore, but I hope the numbers will remain persistently low,” said Gleneagles Hospital’s Dr Wong. “But I think if we continue putting in effort to control the mosquito population, I hope we can be successful.”

He is also hopeful about the Government’s project with Wolbachia mosquitoes. Last Tuesday, NEA released 3,000 bacteria-carrying mosquitoes at Braddell Heights estate in a six-month trial to tackle Singapore’s mosquito population.

“Think about our two other mosquito-borne infections in Singapore - dengue and chikungunya,” he said. “In the past three years, we’ve had an excess of 10,000 cases of dengue every year, sometimes going up to almost 20,000 cases. On the other hand, we’re getting about 20 cases a year of chikungunya.

“So obviously we hope that the Zika numbers will come down and remain at similar numbers as chikungunya.”

- CNA/lc

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Malaysia: Johor exco man urges water sufficiency

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 26 Oct 16;

JOHOR BARU: Johor will face a major water crisis if the state fails to develop sustainable water management by 2018.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said Johor has less than two years to start exploring new water resources.

He said present water production capacity of 1,700 million litres daily will not be enough to meet consumer demand, which is expected to double by 2018.

Hasni said if this happens, new investments in the state, especially in Iskandar Malaysia, will be affected.

"About 40% of the 1,700 million litres daily is being used by domestic and industrial users in south Johor where Iskandar Malaysia is located," he said.

Hasni said the state will have to ensure that new investments continue to flow into Iskandar Malaysia after 2018 by ensuring adequate water supply in the economic growth corridor.

He told reporters this in a press conference Wednesday after witnessing the signing of the corporate integrity pledge between SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd and its 350 business associates.

Hasni said the state government already has plans to start exploring for underground water to ensure that Johor will not face a water crisis.

"We are working with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Japan Water Forum to conduct research on underground water reserves in the state," he added.

Hasni said the Mersing and Kluang districts have been identified as where exploration for underground water reserves could be conducted.

He said the state government will also look at other options, including building desalination plants.

Hasni said the developer of the multi-billion-ringgit Forest City project in Gelang Patah is required to build a desalination plant because of the scale of the project.

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Malaysia: Joint task force to fight river pollution

ALLISON LAI The Star 27 Oct 16;

SHAH ALAM: A joint task force will be formed by the Federal Government and Selangor state administration to tackle river contamination issues.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said both have to step out of their silos and start working together whenever incidents such as the contamination of Sungai Semenyih occur.

“We must work together tackling issues like this.

“This is what we have agreed to in principle.

“Details on the formation of the task force will be finalised by ministry and state officials soon,” he said after an hour-long meeting with Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali here yesterday.

Also present during the meeting were Selangor exco member Elizabeth Wong, Department of Environment (DoE) director-general Datuk Ahmad Kamarulnajuib Che Ibrahim and his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Azimuddin Bahari.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the task force would see close and long-term collaboration between the DoE, local councils and the Selangor Water Management Board.

“All these agencies will work together so that whenever a situation crops up, they will come together as a team and do their job, as past incidents of river contamination also involved Pahang and Negri Sembilan.

“Therefore cooperation between the Pahang and Negri Sembilan DoE must also be formed, although the focus is on Sungai Semenyih now,” he said.

Dr Wan Junaidi also noted that all investigation results, findings and evidence by the Selangor state administration on river contamination would be submitted to the DoE for inclusion with findings acquired from other departments.

This, he said, would enable a joint probe to be carried out so that punitive action could be taken against those responsible.

Azmin said the investigation papers on Sungai Semenyih’s contamination have been completed by the DoE.

“I was told that the papers will be submitted to the Attorney-General’s Chambers soon for legal action to be taken.

“We are gathering evidence on the river contamination in Pahang and Negri Sembilan, and will be sending them to the DoE with all other findings,” he said.

Describing the meeting as positive and successful, he said the joint task force was the way forward to combating river contamination, which he says cannot not be solved by just one party.

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Malaysia: Negri Sembilan might undergo water rationing in two weeks

SARBAN SINGH and ZAZALI MUSA The Star 27 Oct 16;

SEREMBAN: Several districts in Negri Sembilan may have to undergo water rationing in two weeks time due to falling dam levels follow­ing a prolonged dry spell.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said the authorities were left with no choice but to resort to rationing, as rainfall in many parts of the state had fallen by half compared to the same period last year.

The affected districts include Kuala Pilah, Jempol, Tampin, Jelebu and also Seremban.

“Please use water prudently as the level of raw water in our dams is falling sharply.

“We hope to get more rainfall by then to avert a water cut,” he said, adding that levels at several rivers dropped drastically.

He said the state had been forced to release some 100 million litres of water from Talang dam to replenish the supply in Ulu Sg Muar over the past three weeks.

There are five treatment plants along the river that supply treated water to tens of thousands of consumers in districts in the northern and eastern parts of the state.

Meanwhile, Johor may face a major water crisis if it fails to develop a sustainable water management system by 2018.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said Johor had less than two years to start exploring new water resources.

He said the present water production capacity of 1,700 million litres daily would be insufficient to meet demand, which was expected to increase by two-fold by 2018.

Hasni said if this was the case, Johor would have to stop getting new investments into the state especially into Iskandar Malaysia.

“About 40% of the daily water capacity is used by domestic and industrial users in south Johor, where Iskandar Malaysia is located,” he said.

Hasni said the authorities would ensure that new investments continue to flow into Iskandar Malaysia by ensuring adequate water supply in the economic growth corridor.

He was speaking to newsmen after witnessing the signing of the Corporate Integrity Pledge between SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd and its 350 business associates.

Hasni said the state government planned to start exploring underground water resources as a long term measure to ensure Johor would not face a water crisis.

“We are working with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Japan Water Forum to research underground water reserves,” he added.

Hasni said Mersing and Kluang districts had been identified as having underground water reserves which could be explored.

He said the state government would also look at other options including desalination plants.

Hasni said the developer of the multi-billion ringgit Forest City project in Gelang Patah was required to build its own desalination plant for the large scale project.

Negri Sembilan to ration water supply in two weeks if poor rainfall continues
ZAIDI ISHAM ISMAIL New Straits Times 26 Oct 16;

SEREMBAN: Negri Sembilan may start to ration water supply in two weeks time if rainfall in the state continues to dwindle.

Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said rainfall to date has dropped 50 per cent compared to last year and if this situation continues, the state has no choice but to impose scheduled water rationing as early as two weeks from now.

"Many rivers in the state are either drying up or are at low levels, to the point that we have to release water from the dam so that water treatment plants can operate.

"If there is still no rain in the next two to three weeks, there is a huge possibility that we will impose scheduled water rationing at night," he told reporters after chairing the state exco weely meeting today.

He said among the affected areas are in eastern Negri Sembilan which include Kuala Pilah, Jempol, Gemas, Tampin, Jelebu and later on, possibly Seremban.

On another note, Mohamad denied claims by Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali that the water pollution case in Selangor was due to an act of sabotage and originated from Negri Sembilan.

"I have received the technical report from the state's Department of Environment as well as the Forestry Department, which concluded that the source of water pollution in Selangor did not originate from Negri Sembilan.

"The departments used drones to investigate and we found no traces of pollution or sabotage." "Negri Sembilan is a small state and we can't afford to sabotage a big state like Selangor.

The matter should not even be uttered from the mouth of a leader such as Azmin," said Mohamad.

He added the allegations were unfair and leaders should help find solutions and solve problems rather than blame others.

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Malaysia: Wet, wet Penang is dam full of water

The Star 26 Oct 16;

GEORGE TOWN: Penang is flushed with water while Selangor and Malacca face dry taps.

A check on Air Itam Dam showed that it was filled to the brim of its spillway tower.

As of yesterday, the dam is 96.9% full, while Teluk Bahang Dam is at 65.3% and Mengkuang Dam on the mainland 88.1%.

Teluk Bahang Dam, which is seven times larger than Air Itam’s, is a little over 10% fuller than it was about a month ago.

Going by Air Itam Dam, Penang is at its wettest since 2014 because Penang Water Supply Corporation chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said the fullest this dam ever got was 84.1% in 2014 and 91.1% in 2015.

The bad news is that Penangites are being wasteful.

“People here use 291 litres per person per day in 2015. The national average is 209 litres. We would like this figure to be reduced to ensure a sustainable water supply,” he said.

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Malaysia: Crop insurance to be introduced in 2017

EMBUN MAJID New Straits Times 26 oct 16;

PENDANG: The crop insurance aimed at protecting farmers in the event of natural disasters will be introduced by the end of next year.

Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the ministry is fine-tuning the insurance module and will table it to the Cabinet before introducing it to farmers.

He said, at the moment, the proposed insurance scheme is still being drafted and many factors need to be considered including feedback from the farmers and insurance companies, before it can be implemented.

Shabery said the crop insurance was first proposed to the ministry by Agro Bank to be included under the 2017 Budget.

However, there were many weaknesses to the draft which needed to be reviewed, he added.

“I have asked Agro Bank to look into the draft and the latest date that the ministry hopes to implement the insurance is end of next year,” he told reporters after presenting aid to farmers affected by natural disasters in Kedah and Perlis.

A total of 1,893 farmers affected by natural disasters in both states received a total of RM2.097 million cash aid this morning.

Shabery said the ministry would also get feedback from agriculture authorities including Muda Agriculture Development Authority (Mada) and state governments on the proposed insurance scheme to ensure better implementation.

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Malaysia: Terengganu preps for year-end floods, RM5 million allocated

ZARINA ABDULLAH New Straits Times 26 Oct 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: The state government here has allocated a total of RM2 million in preparations for the floods this year.

State Secretary Datuk Wan Nawawi Wan Ismail said adding to this number is another RM3 million allocation from the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s Social Welfare Department.

He said a total of 494 evacuation centres have been listed state-wide and they will be able to hold 133,729 flood victims.

“We are ready with twenty relief centres with a higher capacity which can accommodate 46,700 victims,” he told reporters after the State Disaster Management Committe meeting at Wisma Darul Iman, today.

This is on top of 160 schools which will accommodate 50,460 people and 317 community halls and centres to house another 36,569 flood evacuees.

Nawawi said 3,182 officers from related agencies such as the state’s Fire and Rescue Department, RELA, armed forces and Civil Defence Department will be on standby to help during the flood season.

Terengganu Health, Women’s Development, Family and Community committee chairman Roslee Daud was also present at the meeting.

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Malaysia: RM7mil saved via waste separation programme

LOSHANA K SHAGAR The Star 26 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Solid waste separation at source has not only encouraged recycling, but has saved the Government about RM7mil in costs.

Deputy Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Halimah Mohd Sadique said separation at source is done by households in seven states that have enforced the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007.

“It involves 53 local authorities, 1.6 million landed premises and more than 535,000 multi-storey premises, and since June 1, we have recycled 1,724 tonnes of waste.

“We have saved a total of 237,230 tonnes of solid waste from being thrown away, cutting down solid waste collection to 1.55 million tonnes after the programme.

“Considering the current estimated cost of landfill management, which is RM30 per tonne, we have saved RM7mil,” she said in reply to a question from Datuk Rozman Isli (BN–Labuan) in the Dewan Rakyat Wednesday.

Malaysians threw an estimated 38,000 tonnes of solid waste per day in 2015, compared to 33,000 tonnes a day in 2012.

The country aims to hit a 22% recycling rate by 2020. As of this year, the rate is 17.49%.

Halimah said that while communities have welcomed the programme, including those in the suburbs, the ministry is not bringing the programme to rural areas because the Act is only being enforced in local authority areas and those served by Solid Waste Management and Public Cleanliness Corporation (SWCorp).

“However, the ministry encourages suburban and rural communities to also practise separating solid waste at home or at work,” she said.

The seven states involved in the waste separation programme are Johor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Kedah, Perlis, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

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Indonesia: Gorontalo declares flood emergency

Antara 26 Oct 16;

Gorontalo (ANTARA News) - The Gorontalo authorities have declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after floods hit nine sub-districts.

The flood-affected sub-districts were Limboto, West Limboto, Tolangohula, Tibawa, Asparaga, Bilato, Dungaliyo, Tilango and Boliyohuto, Doni Lahatie, head of local disaster mitigation office (BPBD), said here on Wednesday.

Three rivers, namely Marisa, Bionga and Moloopu, overflowed and flooded residential areas following incessant heavy rains that have been lashing the region since Tuesday.

Some 3,000 houses were inundated, affecting 15 thousand people in 20 villages in the nine sub-districts, he informed.

A number of flood victims in West Limboto, Limboto and Tibawa were evacuated to higher grounds.

"We have distributed packets of instant food and set up public kitchens in several places affected by flooding," Lahatie informed.(*)

Gorontalo hospital flooded, dozens of patients moved
Syamsul Huda M.Suhari The Jakarta Post 27 Oct 16;

A major flood in Gorontalo regency, Gorontalo province, hit more than a thousand houses on Wednesday including Dunda Limboto Hospital, forcing the management there to move 80 patients to several emergency shelters such as meeting hall Kasmat Lahay.

The flood affected 4,296 people form 1,222 families, Sucipto Abdullah of the Gorontalo Social Affairs Agency said Wednesday.

Heavy rains from Tuesday to Wednesday caused rivers to overflow and a broken embankment, which left houses inundated with water as high as 1.2 meters in several places. Nine districts were hit by the flood, namely Asparaga, Bilato, Boliyohuto, Dungoliyo, Limboto, Limboto Barat, Tibawa, Tilango and Tolangohula.

The flood in the hospital reached an adult’s ankle.

Besides Gorontalo regency, Bone Bolango and Boalemo regencies were also hit by flood.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has warned about heavy rains from Oct. 25 to 27 in West Java, Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi, Central Java, East Java, South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, West Sulawesi, North Sulawesi, Gorontalo, North Maluku, Southeast Maluku regency, West Papua and Papua. (evi)

Flood displaces thousands in Gorontalo
Syamsul Huda M.Suhari The Jakarta Post 27 Oct 16;

Heavy rain for two days has caused rivers and a lake to overflow in Gorontalo, flooding thousands of houses in three regencies.

Gorontalo Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD Gorontalo) recorded the three affected regencies as Bone Bolango, Boalemo and Gorontalo.

Gorontalo is the worst-hit regency with at least nine districts inundated with floodwater to a depth of up to 1.2 meters displacing 4,296 people.

“The floods have affected 1,222 families. Some are remaining in their houses,” Sucipto Abdullah, an official at the Gorontalo Social Affairs Agency, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

The nine districts affected are Boliyohuto, Asparaga, Bilato, Limboto, West Limboto, Tibawa, Tolangohula, Dungaliyo and Tilango.

In Tibawa district, people were evacuated to higher roadsides. In West Limboto, two residents had to be rushed to hospital after being hit by a falling tree.

The floods also hit a local police station and the regency-owned Dunda Limboto Hospital from Tuesday night until Wednesday morning.

The hospital was forced to move 80 patients to several locations including the Kasmat Lahay hall near the regent’s office as ankle-deep floodwaters inundated the wards.

The floods mostly have subsided but some regions including Bolihuangga are still inundated. The flooding hit Bolihuangga after the nearby Lake Limboto, the biggest in Gorontalo province, overflowed.

In Bone Bolango regency flooding hit Bulango district after the Bulango River broke its banks.

In Boalemo regency, flooding hit a number of subdistricts. At least 390 houses and 612 hectares of agricultural fields were inundated up to a depth of 2 meters.

“It was relatively challenging for us because we don’t have a mobile public kitchen that can reach remote areas,” said Mus Soha, the head of Boalemo disaster agency.

Gorontalo environmental activist Rahman Dako said that apart from the extreme weather, the widespread floods were caused by extensive environmental destruction in the region.

He cited as an example that the 3,301-hectare Lake Limboto had at least 86,861 hectares of hinterland.

However, he said, the hinterland currently had only some 10 percent of forestry. The remaining 90 percent had been converted into other functions ranging from agriculture, oil palm plantations, production forest and mining sites to residential complexes.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) previously issued an early warning on potential heavy rain for Oct. 25 to 27 in Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, West Sulawesi, North Sulawesi, Gorontalo, North Maluku, Southeast Maluku, Papua and West Papua.

Sudden flooding hit some parts of the city of Bandung, West Java, on Monday afternoon, including Jl. Dr. Djunjunan (better known as Jl. Pasteur and Jl. Pagarsih), sweeping away several cars and causing the death of a resident.

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Indonesia: Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Might Save Indonesia's World Heritage Sites

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 26 Oct 16;

Jakarta. With three of Indonesia's national parks having been included in the World Heritage in Danger list since 2011, the Indonesian government and the Unesco World Heritage Committee have been scrambling to find a way to save them.

The parks in question are the Mount Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, which all form part of the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS), one of the biggest conservation areas in Southeast Asia.

Among the measures undertaken by the government and the Unesco World Heritage Committee to get the TRHS out of danger is with a five-year action plan, known as the Desired State of Conservation. The plan involves a monitoring program and corrective measures.

According to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, seven main indicators listed in the action plan must be prioritized to save the parks.

"Forest cover conditions, population trends of key species, road building, mining, regional boundaries, law enforcement and landscape management are what we need to prioritize," Heri Subagiadi, the ministry's director of conservation areas, said in a statement on Tuesday (25/10).

Heri said the Desired State of Conservation plan and the corrective measures have served as a manual for efforts to conserve Sumatra's tropical rainforest heritage sites since their implementation in 2013, and that there have been major improvements since then.

Illegal mining sites have been closed in Kerinci Seblat National Park, while various palm oil plantations in Mount Leuser National Park have been eliminated. Patrols and monitoring teams have also been established in the three national parks.

Despite the good news of increasing tiger populations and fewer incidents of poaching, the Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program has called for stronger efforts with the help of inter-ministerial cooperation along with nongovernmental organizations.

The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool, or Smart, was originally designed to address poaching and law enforcement issues, but has since become a promising tool used to collect, store, analyze, evaluate, and report results of activity in the field.

"Overall, Smart can assist managers to develop strategies and plans to improve the effectiveness of conservation efforts, but the tool must be developed and adapted to the characteristics of the local conservation area," said Noviar Andayani, country director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program.

The Wildlife Conservation Society believes it is crucial for the Indonesian government to get the three national parks out of the World Heritage in Danger list, as it will ruin the country's reputation as home to some of the world's most biodiverse areas.

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Irrawaddy dolphins functionally extinct in Laos

WWF 26 Oct 16;

Bangkok -- The population of critically endangered Mekong River Dolphins -- also known as Irrawaddy Dolphins -- in the Cheuteal trans-boundary pool between southern Laos and northern Cambodia has shrunk by 50 per cent this year alone and the population is functionally extinct in Laos, according to WWF.

WWF survey teams from Laos and Cambodia conducted a dolphin abundance survey and confirmed the current number and breeding status of the dolphins in the transboundary pool. Down to just three individuals – from six just earlier this year – there is now little hope for a reversal of the situation, as the small population is no longer viable.

“Functional extinction” results when there are too few potential breeding pairs available to ensure the survival of the population.

The use of gill nets -- especially unmanned gill nets -- is thought to be one of the main reasons for the demise of the dolphins. Gill nets are vertical panels of netting set in a straight line across a river to catch fish. Being large aquatic mammals, Mekong River dolphins – as well as other endangered aquatic species-- are often caught in gill nets, and drown as a consequence.

The use of gill nets in the Mekong River is prohibited in Cambodia – where there are an estimated 80 dolphins – but not in Laos. Only the actual deep pool off Hangsadam Village, where the dolphins are, is protected. Gill nets are, however, used directly outside of the pool where the dolphins often swim and risk being trapped.

WWF calls for an immediate ban on all gill nets for a two kilometers radius around the Cheuteal Pool and increased enforcement against violators. The size of banned nets would increaase to 4 km during the rainy season. WWF also calls for increased enforcement of gillnet bans in other Mekong River dolphin pools to protect the remaining dolphin populations.

“The alarming decline of Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins in Laos that we have witnessed this year is tragic. At this stage, we fear that in a year or two, there may be no more dolphins in Laos,” said Teak Seng, WWF Conservation Director for the Greater Mekong.

“The loss of this iconic species for Laos is even more tragic given that it was entirely preventable through strict enforcement against gill net fishing,” Seng added.

The Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River have long been a favorite attraction among travelers and tourists in southern Laos. Their feared disappearance from Lao waters may cause a hard blow to eco-tourism in the area.

Irrawaddy dolphins can be found in some coastal areas in Asia but there are only three freshwater subpopulations, in the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar, the Mahakam River in Indonesia, and the Mekong River in Cambodia and the Lao PDR.

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World on track to lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020, major report warns

Living Planet Index shows vertebrate populations are set to decline by 67% on 1970 levels unless urgent action is taken to reduce humanity’s impact
Damian Carrington The Guardian 27 Oct 16;

The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends.

The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.

The creatures being lost range from mountains to forests to rivers and the seas and include well-known endangered species such as elephants and gorillas and lesser known creatures such as vultures and salamanders.

The collapse of wildlife is, with climate change, the most striking sign of the Anthropocene, a proposed new geological era in which humans dominate the planet. “We are no longer a small world on a big planet. We are now a big world on a small planet, where we have reached a saturation point,” said Prof Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, in a foreword for the report.

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF, said: “The richness and diversity of life on Earth is fundamental to the complex life systems that underpin it. Life supports life itself and we are part of the same equation. Lose biodiversity and the natural world and the life support systems, as we know them today, will collapse.”

He said humanity was completely dependent on nature for clean air and water, food and materials, as well as inspiration and happiness.

The report analysed the changing abundance of more than 14,000 monitored populations of the 3,700 vertebrate species for which good data is available. This produced a measure akin to a stock market index that indicates the state of the world’s 64,000 animal species and is used by scientists to measure the progress of conservation efforts.

The biggest cause of tumbling animal numbers is the destruction of wild areas for farming and logging: the majority of the Earth’s land area has now been impacted by humans, with just 15% protected for nature. Poaching and exploitation for food is another major factor, due to unsustainable fishing and hunting: more than 300 mammal species are being eaten into extinction, according to recent research.

Pollution is also a significant problem with, for example, killer whales and dolphins in European seas being seriously harmed by long-lived industrial pollutants. Vultures in south-east Asia have been decimated over the last 20 years, dying after eating the carcasses of cattle dosed with an anti-inflammatory drug. Amphibians have suffered one of the greatest declines of all animals due to a fungal disease thought to be spread around the world by the trade in frogs and newts.

Rivers and lakes are the hardest hit habitats, with animals populations down by 81% since 1970, due to excessive water extraction, pollution and dams. All the pressures are magnified by global warming, which shifts the ranges in which animals are able to live, said WWF’s director of science, Mike Barrett.

Some researchers have reservations about the report’s approach, which summarises many different studies into a headline number. “It is broadly right, but the whole is less than the sum of the parts,” said Prof Stuart Pimm, at Duke University in the US, adding that looking at particular groups, such as birds, is more precise.

The report warns that losses of wildlife will impact on people and could even provoke conflicts: “Increased human pressure threatens the natural resources that humanity depends upon, increasing the risk of water and food insecurity and competition over natural resources.”

However, some species are starting to recover, suggesting swift action could tackle the crisis. Tiger numbers are thought to be increasing and the giant panda has recently been removed from the list of endangered species.

In Europe, protection of the habitat of the Eurasian lynx and controls on hunting have seen its population rise fivefold since the 1960s. A recent global wildlife summit also introduced new protection for pangolins, the world’s most trafficked mammals, and rosewoods, the most trafficked wild product of all.

But stemming the overall losses of animals and habitats requires systemic change in how society consumes resources, said Barrett. People can choose to eat less meat, which is often fed on grain grown on deforested land, and businesses should ensure their supply chains, such as for timber, are sustainable, he said.

“You’d like to think that was a no-brainer in that if a business is consuming the raw materials for its products in a way that is not sustainable, then inevitably it will eventually put itself out of business,” Barrett said. Politicians must also ensure all their policies - not just environmental ones - are sustainable, he added.

“The report is certainly a pretty shocking snapshot of where we are,” said Barrett. “My hope though is that we don’t throw our hands up in despair - there is no time for despair, we have to crack on and act. I do remain convinced we can find our sustainable course through the Anthropocene, but the will has to be there to do it.”

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Nations push to protect Antarctica's 'last ocean'

Matt McGrath BBC 27 Oct 16;

Campaigners believe a proposal to establish a vast marine reserve in the seas around Antarctica will finally be accepted this week.

An international commission is looking to safeguard a massive section of the Ross Sea, home to penguins, petrels and killer whales.

The proposed marine protected area (MPA) would ban fishing and drilling in a region dubbed "the last ocean".
Experts say it could set a precedent for other areas of the high seas.

Consisting of 24 countries plus the European Union, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established in 1980 with a mission to protect the common resources of the Southern Ocean.

While Antarctica itself is protected by the Madrid Protocol which declares the region a "natural reserve, devoted to peace and science", the surrounding waters have increasingly become the focus for commercial fishing fleets, attracted by vast quantities of krill and toothfish.

One of the first attempts to limit these activities came from the UK which proposed the creation of the South Orkney Marine Protected Area at CCAMLR in 2009.

While this was successful in limiting fishing in an area of some 94,000 sq km around the South Orkneys, attempts since then to give protection to much larger bodies of water around Antarctica have gotten bogged down in political disputes.

At the end of negotiations last year, Russia was seen as the one country holding out against a consensus on the Ross Sea.

Other proposal for MPAs in East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea are also on the table this year but there is a growing belief that Russia will support the Ross Sea option this time round.

President Putin has designated 2017 as the Year of Ecology and the country has recently expanded an MPA around Franz Josef Land in the Arctic.

"People have come into it feeling very positive that this could be the year," said Cassandra Brookes, a phd student at Stanford University who has recently published a study on the workings of CCAMLR.

"Despite the US and Russian tensions in other parts of the world, historically countries have worked wonders in the Antarctic and I hope this will be a case where we see science and diplomacy working."

While the Ross Sea, its shelf and slope only comprise 2% of the Southern Ocean they are home to 38% of the world's Adelie penguins, 30% of the world's Antarctic petrels and around 6% of the world's population of Antarctic minke whales.

The region is important to the rest of the planet as the upwelling of nutrients from the deep waters encounter currents which carry them around the world.

Krill are a staple food for species including whales and seals, and their oil is critical for salmon farming. However there are concerns that overfishing and climate change are having significant impacts on their numbers.

The current proposal, introduced by New Zealand and the US, would see a general protection "no-take" zone where nothing could be removed including marine life and minerals.

There would also be special zones where fishing from krill and toothfish would be allowed for research purposes.

"Right now, 24 countries and the EU are negotiating what could be the first-ever large-scale marine sanctuary in international waters," said Mike Walker, from the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, a coalition of environmental campaigners.

"An agreement would be an historic move to protect the ocean," he said.

One of the key questions in the negotiations is how long the MPA should last. China is on the record as stating it believes that 20 years is long enough. Many conservationists say this is far too short, given the lifespan of creatures that life in the Ross Sea, such as whales.

"We'll see what it is," said Cassandra Brooks.

"It will have value for the times it's in place but can it meet its objectives in such a short duration? That's something that a lot of people are worried about."

One of the other big concerns that could halt the Ross Sea proposal is the fact that it might set a precedent for other high seas negotiations around the world, such as in the Arctic and in attempts by the UN to develop a new marine biodiversity treaty.

"For some states it comes down to economics, for others it is about setting a precedent," said Cassandra Brooks.

"For others it might be cultural, a lot of people might say that MPAs are a very western thing so there could be some breakdown there.

"I am optimistic, sometimes it just takes time and the political window of opportunity - are we in that? It remains to be seen."

Deal struck for world's biggest marine reserve in Antarctica
Martin Parry AFP Yahoo News 28 Oct 16;

Sydney (AFP) - The world's largest marine reserve aimed at protecting the pristine wilderness of Antarctica will be created after a "momentous" agreement was finally reached Friday, with Russia dropping its long-held opposition.

The deal, sealed by the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) at an annual meeting in Hobart after years of negotiations, will see a massive US and New Zealand-backed marine protected area established in the Ross Sea.

It will cover more than 1.55 million square kilometres (600,000 square miles) -- the size of Britain, Germany and France combined -- of which 1.12 million square kilometres will be a no fishing zone.

"The proposal required some changes in order to gain the unanimous support of all 25 CCAMLR members and the final agreement balances marine protection, sustainable fishing and science interests," New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said.

"The boundaries of the MPA, however, remain unchanged."

Moscow was the last government opposing the move, due to concerns over fishing rights, after China offered its support last year.

"When we came to Hobart we didn't know the result and it was Russia that needed to come on board," Evan Bloom, head of the US delegation at the meeting, told AFP.

"We had a lot of talks with them. Secretary (John) Kerry reached out to Russian President (Vladimir) Putin and (Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov and I think that helped a great deal to convince Russia to come on board.

"This decision is very important not just for the Antarctic but for efforts to promote world marine conservation," he added.

- 'Just the start' -

But time ran out to reach agreement on a second proposed protected area on the meeting's agenda -- the Australia and France-led East Antarctica sanctuary covering another one million square kilometre zone.

Both reserve proposals have been on the table since 2012 with CCAMLR -- a treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean.

Consensus is needed from all 24 member countries and the European Union.

A third German-proposed plan is also in the works to protect the Weddell Sea, which extends from the southeast of South America over an area of some 2.8 million square kilometres.

The Ross Sea is one of the last intact marine ecosystems in the world, home to penguins, seals, Antarctic toothfish, and whales. It is also considered critical for scientists to study how marine ecosystems function and to understand the impacts of climate change on the ocean.

"For the first time, countries have put aside their differences to protect a large area of the Southern Ocean and international waters," said Mike Walker, project director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, calling the outcome "momentous".

"Although there was not a decision on the proposed protection of the Weddell Sea and the East Antarctic this year, we are confident that these areas will be protected in the coming years, adding to the system of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean."

The agreement culminates years of pressure by conservationists, including a campaign by the global civic movement Avaaz which was kickstarted by Hollywood superstar Leonardo DiCaprio and supported by over two million signatures from across the world.

"There’s massive momentum in the world right now to protect our oceans," said Avaaz campaign director Luis Morago.

"The Ross Sea is just the start."

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