3 months' jail for man who smuggled birds into Singapore

Channel NewsAsia 27 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: A 29-year-old Singaporean man was sentenced to three months’ jail on Thursday (Oct 27) for illegally importing three Red-whiskered Bulbul birds. Muhammad Farhan Abdullah was also given three months' jail for subjecting them to unnecessary suffering or pain.

Both sentences will run concurrently.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) alerted the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to the case in June, after officers discovered three live birds in the man's car at the Woodlands Checkpoint.

In a joint media release on Thursday, AVA and ICA said the birds were found hidden inside three small boxes beneath the carpet of the front passenger seat, as well as under the rear passenger seats of the Singapore-registered car.

Following investigations, AVA confirmed the Red-whiskered Bulbul birds were imported without an AVA permit. The birds were also tested and found to be free from avian influenza, and have been successfully rehomed at Jurong Bird Park, added AVA.

“Animals that are smuggled into Singapore are of unknown health status and may introduce exotic diseases into the country,” said AVA. Offenders who import any animals or live birds without an AVA permit are liable to the maximum penalty of S$10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to a year.

- CNA/xk

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Malaysia: Levels at Kedah's main dams at just 37 per cent; Mada to initiate cloud seeding

EMBUN MAJID New Straits Times 27 Oct 16;

ALOR STAR: The Muda Agriculture Development Authority (Mada) will use cloud seeding to fill the Pedu, Muda and Ahning dams in the state, where water levels are rapidly dwindling.

Mada general manager Fouzi Ali said the method was agreed upon with the Agriculture and Agro-Based Ministry after a visit to the dam with its minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek on Wednesday.

Fouzi said as of 8am today, the water level at Pedu dam is at 83.55 metres, with reservoir percentage at 33.84; while water levels at Muda dam is at 91.44 metres, or 29.6 per cent; and Ahning at 100.96 metres, or 58.83 per cent.

According to Fouzi, total water volume at the three dams is at 37.59 percent, which is lower compared to the same period last year.

“The low water level at the three reservoirs is due to less rain at water catchment areas,” he said. Fouzi added that cloud seeding at catchment areas will be done with cooperation from the Malaysian Meteorological Department soon and be carried out until the middle of next month.

He added that the cost for the operation will be about RM400,000.

Fouzi hastened to add, however, that the low water levels at the dams will not affect paddy cultivating activities in the state for the second season of 2016 that has just started.

“We hope paddy farmers will abide by the paddy-planting schedule for the second season and not waste the water supply,” he said.

The Pedu and Muda dams provide water for agriculture usage, while the Ahning dam is used by domestic consumers.

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Malaysia: Sg Semenyih pollution crisis -- Tests reveal presence of poison

FERNANDO FONG New Straits Times 27 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Selangor executive councillor for Tourism, Environment, Green Technology and Consumer Affairs Elizabeth Wong said the pollution level of Sungai Buah, Negri Sembilan, remains critical.

She said water samples taken from the river, which flows into the Sungai Semenyih Water Treatment Plant, contains the toxic 4-bromodiphenyl etherwater.

“We have already received expert advice on the content of the poison,” Wong told reporters when met at the Parliament lobby here today.

"The water samples emit an unpleasant odour with a Threshold Odour Number (TON) of four, which means the water must be treated,” Wong said, adding that dead fish were also found in the water where the samples were taken.

TON is the dilution ratio at which odour is detectable. "The water samples were submitted to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar,” said the Bukit Lanjan assemblyman, adding that the Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, has been notified about it.

Additionally, a police report was also made on Sunday. "Presently, the water is being pumped out into retention ponds to prevent it from contaminating the water supply for public use,” she added.

Previously, Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali said that five meter-high walls will be built by Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd at Sungai Buah to block the flow of polluted water into Sungai Semenyih.

The move is to ensure that the Sungai Semenyih Water Treatment Plant can operate as usual. Azmin noted that the pollution had interrupted water supply to 360,000 account holders in Selangor.

Sungai Buah still contaminated and poses serious health threat
MARTIN CARVALHO The Star 27 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Sungai Buah in Nilai which flows into Sungai Semenyih is still contaminated with a highly poisonous substance, 4-Bromo Diphenyl Ether, forcing the Selangor government to disrupt water supply for the third time this month.

"It is highly poisonous and that is why dead fish were found floating nearby," said Elizabeth Wong, executive councillor for tourism, environment, green technology and consumer affairs.

She said the contamination posed a serious health threat and the source of the contamination was a drainage system in Sungai Buah in Nilai, Negri Sembilan which flowed into Sungai Semenyih.

"It is not the smell that is the only concern but the pollutant which is causing it.

"Analysis by the Selangor Water Management Board (Luas) identified the substance as 4-Bromo Diphenyl Ether,” Wong told reporters after attending a Special Chambers proceedings in Parliament here.

She said water samples taken from Sungai Buah still emit a strong smell which had to be diluted four times for it to be odour free while water at the source of contamination in Nilai had to be diluted 20 times.

Wong said the pollutant is suspected to have been deliberately dumped into the drainage system near the Elite Highway.

She said the Selangor government had requested the Department of Environment (DOE) in Negri Sembilan to pump out the contaminated water from the river there and store it in bunds.

"The water is not to be used but will be stored at the bunds and treated with enzymes," she said.

Wong said Luas lodged a police report last Sunday on alleged sabotage of the water supply and handed over a sample of the water to the federal DOE.

The Sungai Semenyih Water Treatment Plant was forced to close temporarily on several occasions since September following contamination at Sungai Semenyih.

Sources of the pollution had been identified to come from an industrial site in Semenyih, including Sungai Langat, which gets water from Pahang.

The closures caused water disruptions that have affected over a million residents in the Klang Valley.

Water supply to USJ, Puchong to be fully restored by Oct 29
The Star 27 Oct 16;

PETALING JAYA: Water supply to USJ and Bandar Puteri Puchong areas will be fully restored by Oct 29, says Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas).

It said relief water supply will continue to be delivered by 14 water tankers and supported by four jumbo water tankers at filling stations in the two areas.

An additional six water tankers will be mobilized on Oct 28.

Syabas said in a statement on Thursday that several areas in USJ, Subang Jaya, Bandar Puteri Puchong and Puchong have been experiencing water disruptions since Oct 24 following a 30-hour shutdown of the Semenyih water treatment plant “due to odour pollution” in Sungai Buah in Nilai which flows into Sungai Semenyih.

“When the water treatment plant resumed operations, demand for water increased four folds to fill up service reservoirs, premises’ storage tanks, distribution pipes and ‘panic’ storage by consumers,” said Syabas.

It said water supply for USJ and Bandar Puteri Puchong under Zone 2 will be extended and restored in stages.

The Kuala Langat and Sepang Districts under Zone 2 have fully recovered, while the Zone 2 in Hulu Langat and Petaling Districts registered 98% and 80% recovery.

The public can receive updates from Syabas by using the “mySYABAS” mobile application, or by visiting their website at ww.syabas.com.my.

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Malaysia: ‘Let us better manage peatlands’

THO XIN YI The Star 28 Oct 16;

PETALING JAYA: International researchers and environmental NGOs are calling for better management of tropical peatland.

Following the 15th Inter-national Peat Congress in Kuching in August, 139 representatives of various institutions from 20 countries have come together to raise their concerns over the environmental impact of agricultural conversion of tropical peat.

In a letter to be published in an environmental science journal Global Change Biology, they claim that contemporary agricultural techniques on peatland – for land clearance, drainage and fertilisation – have significantly impacted the ecosystem.

In Sarawak, peatland is drained and converted into oil palm plantations. It was reported that 400,000ha out of 1.4 million hectares of oil palm plantations are on peatland.

Citing scientific studies, the letter says the carbon stored in drained peatland is lost through oxidation, dissolution and fire. The drained coastal peatland, it adds, also risks getting untenable with the intrusion of saltwater.

“The search for more responsible tropical peatland agriculture techniques includes promising recent initiatives to develop methods to cultivate crops on peat under wet conditions.

“While a truly sustainable peatland agriculture method does not yet exist, the scientific community and industry are collaborating in the search for solutions, and for interim measures to mitigate ongoing rates of peat loss under existing plantations,” it reads.

In a written reply to The Star, Malaysian Peat Society president Frederick Haili Teck disagreed with the claims in the letter, which he said “portray the oil palm plantations as the woes of tropical peatland”.

Malaysia, he says, has a long history of oil palm research and development and has been improving soil management since the 1920s.

“It is a key reason for Malaysia’s success in competing with other vegetable oil crops today.

“In fact, strong scientific and commercial evidences were provided at the congress that better peatland management has raised oil palm yields to similar or above those on suitable mineral soils, particularly after the first-generation planting,” he said.

He also stressed that only 27.5% of peatland in Malaysia was allowed to be used for oil palm cultivation.

“Malaysia has reached the target for this soil type and does not give out further concessions for oil palm,” he said.

Frederick dismissed the claim that oil palm on peatland is unsustainable as being “generalised, one-sided and inconclusive”.

“The implication of such a statement could be far-reaching as to disqualify the industry and deplete the livelihood of the communities concerned,” he added.

Debate rages over impact of tropical peat conversion
The Star 28 Oct 16;

PETALING JAYA: The environmental impact of agricultural conversion of tropical peat is a matter of intense debate.

Dr Reuben Clements, co-founder of Rimba, a non-profit research group registered in Malaysia, said the drainage and conversion of peatland to agriculture was largely responsible for forest fires that caused the annual haze.

“Research has shown that drained peatland will eventually sink below sea level and become flood-prone, so why establish plantations there anyway?” he said.

Rimba researcher Lahiru Wijedasa attended the recent peat congress in Kuching and is one of the authors of a joint letter calling for better management of tropical peatland.

Indonesia and Malaysia are among the world’s biggest palm oil producers and exporters, with Malaysia contributing to 39% of world palm oil production and 44% of world exports.

Consultant geologist Dr Paramananthan Selliah agreed that coastal peatland risked becoming unsustainable when drained and subsided below sea level.

However, he challenged the view that rapid loss of carbon is the primary concern of agriculture on peatland, adding that peat swamp emitted methane when it was under water.

“Methane is 18 times more detrimental than carbon dioxide for global warming, and if someone carelessly throws a cigarette butt during a prolonged dry period, it can cause a peat fire. So why blame it on oil palm?” he said.

On holding the conversion of peatland to agriculture responsible for forest fires, Dr Paramananthan said the annual haze resulted from all burning and not only peat fires.

A no-burn policy was practised by plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, he added, not discounting the possibility of unscrupulous planters who burned to clear their land to save costs.

He felt Malaysia needed to have a think-tank of qualified experts who could quickly respond to allegations.

He added that people should also not simply accept “half-truths” by NGOs that were largely funded by producers of other vegetable oil crops such as soyabean and rapeseed – the competitor to oil palm.

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Indonesia: W. Kalimantan authorities foil attempt to smuggle pangolins to China

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 27 Oct 16;

Security authorities in West Kalimantan have confiscated 40 scaly anteaters, locally known as trenggiling, from a suspect who attempted to smuggle them to China.

The Pontianak Environment and Forestry Agency’s security and law enforcement office revealed that the anteaters, weighing between 2 and 9.5 kilograms each, or around 200 kilograms in total, had been skinned. They were packed into plastic bags and stored at a cooler facility.

During the raid on Wednesday, authorities also confiscated one living scaly anteater weighing around 2 kilograms and a mouse deer that had been skinned.

The office’s head, David Muhammad, said the smuggling attempt was committed by a wildlife trade syndicate. David said the syndicate was significant because it could collect animals from areas across West Kalimantan and sell them to customers in China either via Jakarta or Sarawak, Malaysia.

“Scaly anteaters sell at high prices because it is believed that their meat can strengthen vitality and the scales are used for raw materials in cosmetics and drugs,” said David on Thursday.

Authorities have named a 34-year-old woman, identified by the initials LN, a suspect, and a man, identified as AB, 50, as a witness.

Scaly anteater meat is usually sold for around Rp 50,000 (US$3.84) per kilogram, and resold to customers abroad for Rp 300,000 per kilogram. For the scales, hunters can sell them for Rp 500,000 per kilogram domestically, and Rp 2 million per kilogram abroad. (ebf)

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Indonesia Introduces New Finance Facility to Meet Paris Climate Agreement Goals

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 27 Oct 16;

Jakarta. A new facility has been introduced in Indonesia that will be used to promote economic development to stimulate green growth and improve rural livelihoods.

The Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility, consisting of a loan fund and a grant fund, aims to achieve climate targets set under the Paris Agreement. It will make public funding available to finance renewable energy production and sustainable landscape management.

"This ground-breaking and innovative financial platform, a world first, can transform the lives and livelihoods of millions of Indonesians in rural areas that deserve it the most," Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility steering committee chairman Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said in a statement on Wednesday (26/10).

Through sustainable production of agricultural commodities, the facility will scale up investment in renewable energy to assist the rural poor.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry fully backs the facility as it falls in line with Indonesia's sustainable development aspirations.

"The Indonesian government realizes that we can only achieve the sustainable development goals through holistic policies, such as integrated landscape management," Coordinating Economic Affairs Minister Darmin Nasution said. "The facility aims to improve smallholder productivity while at the same time conserving our natural environment."

Along with the facility's steering committee, French bank and financial services company BNP Paribas and multinational investment manager ADM Capital will manage the loan fund.

"By joining in a partnership with the Tropical Landscapes Financing Facility in the capacity of capital markets and structuring adviser, BNP Paribas will help create innovative and collaborative financing mechanisms to bring private capital at scale and with good governance and risk management principles to fund long-term sustainable development projects," BNP Paribas Indonesia chief executive Luc Cardyn said.

The facility's secretariat will be managed by the United Nations Environment Program.

"The facility will trigger progress across several sustainable development goals, including saving the climate, protecting biodiversity and fostering renewable energy," UN Assistant Secretary General Elliott Harris said.

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Vietnam to lose 39% of Delta area by 2100

VietNamNet Bridge 27 Oct 16;

Viet Nam will lose nearly 39 per cent of the total area of the MekongDelta – the biggest rice granary of the country if the sea level rises 100cm by the end of the century.

Localities of Hau Giang, Kien Giang, and Ca Mau are expected to suffer the most with inundated areas up to 80 per cent, 77 per cent and 58 percent respectively.

It was released following the 2016 Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Scenarios for Viet Nam and by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on Tuesday at a high-level meeting held in Ha Noi.

The scenario said about 16.8 per cent of the total area of the Hong (Red) River delta and 1.47 per cent of the total area of central coastal provinces were predicted to be inundated if the sea level rises 100cm by the end of the century.

In the Red River delta, rising sea levels would cause an area loss of 58 per cent in Nam Dinh Province and 51 per cent in Thai Binh Province.

Additionally, three islands of Van Don, Con Dao and Phu Quoc as well as Tri Ton Island and Luoi Liem Island of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago were also facing severe flood risk, the scenario said.

Tran Thuc, deputy head of the consultancy board for Viet Nam’s National Committee on Climate Change, said data used to compile the 2016 scenario was updated until 2014.

Compared to previous scenarios, the 2016 scenario provided details of rising sea levels for 28 coastal provinces and Hoàng Sa (Paracel) Archipelago and Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago, he said.

The scenario also pointed out that geology changes and subsidence due to overexploitation of underground water were the two major reasons worsening flood risk for localities across the country, he said.

After the forecast was announced, the environment ministry ordered localities to improve their irrigation planning to adapt to rising sea levels and climate change.

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World body moves to curtail Japan's 'science' whaling

Channel NewsAsia 18 Oct 16;

PORTOROZ, Slovenia: The world's whaling watchdog moved on Thursday (Oct 27) to curtail Japan's annual whale hunt, conducted under scientific licence but blasted by critics as a commercial meat haul.

A resolution on "improving" the review of deadly research programmes, which Japan alone conducts, split the 70-year-old International Whaling Commission (IWC) into familiar camps - pro- and anti-whaling.

Just two days earlier, the pro camp defeated a bid to create a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic, which had required 75 per cent of IWC member votes.

Thursday's resolution, however, needed a simple majority to pass. It garnered 34 "yes" votes to 17 cast by the camp that includes Japan and commercial whalers Norway and Iceland.

Championed by Australia and New Zealand, it will lead to the creation of a permanent "working group" to assist the IWC and its expert scientific committee to assess whaling programmes conducted in the name of science.

The outcome was hailed by conservation groups which accuse Japan of abusing an exemption for research hunts under a 30-year-old moratorium, which also allows controlled aboriginal subsistence whaling.

"Today's vote shrinks the ... loophole that Japan has exploited ever since the global moratorium on commercial whaling came into effect," said Kitty Block of the Humane Society International.

"In defiance of the ban, Japan has issued itself a license to kill more than 15,000 whales under the guise of science" since 1986.

Resolutions are not legally binding on members of the commission, which has no policing function and cannot impose penalties.

"We will abide by the convention itself," Japan's commissioner to the IWC, Joji Morishita told AFP after the vote, referring to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, the IWC's founding document.

Japan's whaling is a deeply divisive and recurring quarrel at the IWC's biennial meetings.

Under the scientific exception, national governments determine their own catch limits and issue whaling permits.


In 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that permits issued by Japan were "not for purposes of scientific research" and instructed the country to halt its JARPA II programme.

Japan cancelled its 2014-15 hunt, only to resume it the following year under a new programme called NEWREP-A (New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean).

It killed 333 minke whales in the Southern Ocean that year - many of them pregnant, according to observers.

The Southern Ocean hosts one of two whale sanctuaries in the world.

The meat from Japan's hunts ends up on supermarket shelves and in restaurants, in line with an IWC stipulation that whales taken for research must be eaten.

Morishita defended Japan's whaling, insisting it was to gather science data, and did not violate the ICJ judgment.

In its ruling, "it is clear that the ICJ assumes there can be future research activities," the commissioner told fellow delegates.

"The ICJ also said ... that the use of lethal sampling per se is not unreasonable in relation to the research objectives."

But his New Zealand counterpart, Amy Laurenson, insisted that NEWREP-A was clearly "not in fact for purposes of scientific research. "Japan has still not justified the use of lethal sampling," she said.

Under the new resolution, a working group will be appointed to consider the reports of the IWC's scientific committee on all new, ongoing and completed scientific whaling programmes.

It will report to the commission, which will express itself on the validity of every programme.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare welcomed the move as a further obstacle to Japan "unilaterally" issuing its own permits.

"We all know that scientific whaling is sham science, and simply commercial whaling by another name," said the organisation's Matt Collis.

IWC members put their differences aside just long enough on Thursday to pass a separate resolution on trying to save the critically endangered vaquita - a small porpoise sometimes called Mexico's "panda of the sea".

There are fewer than 60 known individuals left in the Gulf of California, the vaquita's only home.

They perish in illegal nets used to catch totoaba, large fish whose swim bladders are believed in China to hold medicinal powers.

The vaquita decision urges IWC members to provide financial and technical assistance for Mexico to police a permanent gillnet ban, compensate affected fishers, and replace outdated fishing gear with safe alternatives.


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