Best of our wild blogs: 31 Oct 16

R.U.M. takes Ubin mangroves to the city!
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Lumpy Rock Crab (Euxanthus exsculptus) @ Tanjung Rimau
Monday Morgue

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Eco tours in high-rise Singapore

Lea WeeThe Straits Times AsiaOne 31 Oct 16;

Kayak through the tranquil mangroves of Ubin, embark on a night walk to spot owls at Bukit Brown Cemetery or dive in the waters around Pulau Hantu to explore its rich marine life.

These are just some of the experiences offered by specialist nature tours in Singapore.

There are now 18 licensed tourist guides specialising in nature and at least three organisations that offer eco-tours here.

This is a far cry from 26 years ago, when nature guides and tours were non-existent, says freelance licensed tourist guide Subaraj Rajathurai, 53.

Since 1990, he has been taking Singaporeans and foreigners on tours to various nature areas in Singapore, including Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

He believes nature tours are getting more popular among Singaporeans because nature has become a rare commodity in the urbanised city state.

"Those who grew up in kampungs especially miss nature."Tourists, too, are increasingly open to the idea of eco-explorations here.

Mr Rajathurai says: "People say there is little nature in Singapore and we cannot compete with the bigger national parks in neighbouring countries.

But not everybody wants to go to such parks, which take many days to explore. Some want an experience that combines many things in one day, for instance, a city tour with food stops and a little nature thrown in.

"And it is possible to achieve this in Singapore, he says, where one can go from a five-star hotel in the city to a rainforest or mangrove swamp in less than 30 minutes.Mr Leong Kwok Khuen, 49, from Edu Outdoor Activities, which leads nature walks, agrees.

"Many of our participants are often amazed that there's still so much nature to be seen in urban Singapore."

The Sunday Times talks to three organisations that offer eco-tours here.


Pulau Ubin's rich heritage and rustic charm make it a natural home ground for outdoor adventure company Asian Detours.

The company has been leading mangrove kayaking and cycling trips there since 2010.The expeditions combine a good workout and nature appreciation, with professional guides pointing out flora and fauna and historical landmarks, says Ms Nicole Chua, 36, the company's director of sales and marketing.

Its three-hour cycling trip takes participants to what is called the German Girl's shrine, which used to hold the remains of a young woman who lived on the island before World War I; Butterfly Hill, a knoll created out of wasteland to conserve butterflies; and the Chek Jawa wetlands.

Those who want more out of their trip can hike up to the highest point at Puaka Hill to get a bird's eye view of the Ubin Quarry.

Another trip takes kayakers on a 2 1/2-hour journey through mangroves in the western part of Ubin, where they might spot kingfishers, hornbills, otters and monitor lizards.

The more challenging four-hour "bisect kayaking" session follows a north-to- south route "bisecting" the island, with a short stretch where participants have to lift their kayaks overland.

Each trip is limited to about 10 to 30 people, depending on the activity, to minimise the disturbance to the delicate natural landscape, says Ms Chua.

As mangrove kayaking must be done during high tide, the company introduced a 31/2-hour trip round the nearby Ketam island. This can be done at any time and takes up to 40 people.

Mr Marcus Tun, 44, an operational project manager in a financial institution, went mangrove kayaking with his wife and two daughters, aged seven and 11, in June.

He says: "It was interesting to understand the make-up of the mangroves, their uses, how they propagate and their ability to prevent coastal erosion.

"One of the biggest takeaways was that the kids saw a part of Singapore they had never seen before, even though it is not far from where we live.

"Price: Mangrove Kayaking Adventure, $79.50 (adult) and $59 (child); Ubin Bisect Kayaking Adventure, $95 (adult and child); Round Ketam Kayaking Adventure, $85 (adult) and $65 (child); Ubin Bike Trail Adventure, $79.50 (adult) and $64 (child)



If you dive deep into the waters around Pulau Hantu, you might come across sea stars, sea turtles, sea horses, shrimp and sponges.

A great way to explore the rich marine eco-system is to follow a dive tour led by non-profit, volunteer-run group Hantu Blog, which has been leading regular trips there since 2003.

The organisation uses the money it earns from the dives - it costs $110 a person - to fund its public education work.

Pulau Hantu is south of Sentosa and a 45-minute boat ride from the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club.From the club, volunteers take participants out on a chartered boat to the waters around Pulau Hantu.

Because the boat is small, each group is limited to eight divers.

To ensure the safety and quality of the dives, all buddy pairs have their own guide.Day dives are done at least once a month and night dives about once a year.

Private and corporate charters are also available.

Hantu Blog was founded by photojournalist Debbie Ng, 34, in 2003.

She says: "Participants not only get to dive, but they also learn the value of protecting Singapore's natural shores and get the chance to meet rare and secretive animals such as octopuses, cuttlefish and sharks."There are two dives a trip.

An educational talk is given on the boat before the first dive.

In between dives, participants are taken to the shores of Hantu to look at crabs, mudskippers and other wildlife there.Price: A trip, which includes two dives, costs about $110



Not many would know that the former quarry at Dairy Farm is now a grassland or that you can spot owls at night at Bukit Brown Cemetery.

These nuggets of information are shared by guides at Edu Outdoor Activities, who have been leading walks to these places as well as better-known ones such as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the Rail Corridor .

The private company, which has three full-time guides and 15 part-timers, was started in 2001 by a group of nature lovers.

One of them, Mr Leong Kwok Khuen, 49, says: "Most of us grew up in kampungs. Nature was our playground.

But we feel that not many Singaporeans want to, or know how to, appreciate nature and we want to change that."

The company also runs nature camps and expeditions in Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong. It owns a campsite called Mawai Eco Camp in Johor.

Engineer Wong Kum Hong, 48, who went on a guided walk to Dairy Farm last year, says he learnt more from the guides at Edu Outdoor Activities than he would have if he had gone on his own.

He says: "I learnt which plants are edible and which are not and why lichens grow on one part of the tree and not another.

"He has since joined the company for trips to Mawai Eco Camp and Gunung Panti in Johor.

Price: A nature walk costs $20 to $40 a personInfo: Go to or call 9681-0491Kayaking through the mangroves at Pulau Ubin. Go to

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New 8.8km cycling path network opens in Punggol

Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 30 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: With an 8.8 kilometre-long network of cycling paths completed some months ahead of schedule, cycling enthusiasts in Punggol can now get around the neighbourhood more easily on their bikes.

Launched on Sunday (Oct 30) by MPs for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Ng Chee Meng and Janil Puthucheary, the cycling network was originally slated for completion in the first quarter of next year.

Besides connecting residents to nearby amenities, like the new Waterway Point mall and SAFRA Punggol, the dedicated cycling paths also link to the Punggol Park Connector Network, allowing residents to cycle to Sengkang. And once the first phase of the Round Island Route is completed, cyclists can get to as far as Gardens by the Bay East on their bikes, via Pasir Ris, Changi, and East Coast Park.

Punggol is the seventh cycling town - after Sembawang, Tampines, Pasir Ris, Yishun, Changi and Taman Jurong - to be launched, as part of the Government’s plans to promote greener ways of travelling and a ‘car-lite’ Singapore.

But even as the Government provides and improves on the infrastructure for cycling, it is important for everyone to play their part to make cycling safe for all, said Mr Ng, who is also Senior Minister of State for Transport and Acting Minister for Education.

“Cyclists and users of personal mobility devices must be considerate of pedestrians at all times in order for us to share our limited space safely," he added.

The cycling network will make the commute to train stations a seamless one for residents. In addition, there will be provision for bicycle parking at Punggol MRT station. Since 2013, the Land Transport Authority has increased the number of lots around the station by 40 per cent, bringing the total to more than 300. This number will continue to grow to meet demands, said Mr Ng.

Parking facilities at LRT stations and residential blocks in Punggol will also be enhanced. For instance, the Housing Development Board (HDB) will be adding 2,400 dual bicycle racks at HDB blocks.

According to Mr Ng, the Active Mobility Patrol Scheme - where volunteers will conduct patrols and promote a sharing culture - will be introduced in the constituency. He also announced that a programme on safe cycling will be rolled out progressively at community centres, schools, and migrant worker dormitories by next year.

The programme teaches “safe cycling practices, the proper use of cycling infrastructure and the new rules and code of conduct for cycling”, he said.

- CNA/ll

Punggol joins growing list of ‘cycling towns’
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 31 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE — With Punggol joining the ranks of cycling towns, now seven in total, the authorities have surpassed the halfway mark of building a cycle path network totalling 700 kilometres by 2030.

Punggol’s 8.8km of dedicated cycling paths, launched on Sunday (Oct 30), will connect residents to key public transport nodes, such as its MRT and LRT stations.

Residents will also have a more seamless ride to nearby amenities such as the Punggol Waterway Point shopping centre and to the neighbouring Sengkang town via the Punggol park connector network.

When the first section of the Round Island Route — a continuous 150km park connector — is ready, cyclists can ride from Punggol to Gardens by the Bay East, zipping through Pasir Ris, Changi and East Coast Park en route.

Work on the first stretch of the route is set to begin by year end.

Before Punggol, cycle paths went up in Sembawang, Tampines, Pasir Ris, Yishun, Changi and Taman Jurong as part of the Land Transport Authority’s efforts to make journeys to and from public transport facilities more seamless.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng, who is a Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, said Punggol’s network will promote a healthier lifestyle among residents and provide good first- and last-mile connections.

“It’ll make car-lite Singapore a possibility in future,” he added, referring to the Republic’s vision of weaning people off cars.

More bicycle facilities have also been added: There are 325 bicycle parking spaces at Punggol MRT station, 40 per cent more than in 2013.

And Mr Ng, who is also Senior Minister of State (Transport), said he has asked the LTA to explore the possibility of installing racks around LRT stations.

“Some residents have fed back to me that they do cycle from their homes to LRT stations before they continue their journeys,” he said, adding that bicycle parking has been catered for at other amenities, such as Punggol Safra.

Residents who spoke to TODAY said the completed cycle paths could nudge them to cycle more often.

Bank technology manager Jonathan Tan, 49, said that the safety of the designated paths could spur him to cycle to work at least thrice a week.

It takes him more than an hour to cycle to his Shenton Way office, compared with 40 minutes on public transport. But he is willing to make the sacrifice: “I enjoy cycling, and I go to work fresher when I cycle.”

The new paths could also nudge public servant Foo Siang Huat into cycling to Punggol MRT station from his Punggol Field home, instead of taking the LRT. This would raise his fitness, he said.

On an island-wide scale, the Housing and Development Board will be adding 2,400 dual-bicycle racks in existing blocks and installing new racks for its new developments, Mr Ng said.

Meanwhile, the LTA unveiled a new website on Sunday to push for active mobility. Called Move Happy, the portal features articles and videos, including stories of people who have adopted such modes of transport daily.

But even as Singapore ramps up its cycling infrastructure, Mr Ng said it was important for everyone to play a part in making cycling safe.

“Cyclists and users of personal mobility devices must be considerate of pedestrians at all times in order for us to share our limited space safely,” he said.

On Thursday, two men, one of them only 18, were killed along West Coast Highway after a trailer truck left their power-assisted bicycles in smithereens.

When asked what the authorities would do to protect users’ safety, Mr Ng said educating users of personal mobility devices, including e-bikes, in areas such as road rules was key.

“But I’ve also asked LTA to look at upping our enforcement so that people are more aware of what are the right things to do,” he added.

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Car-Free Sunday returns after hiatus, bigger than before

Leong Wai Kit Channel NewsAsia 30 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: After a hiatus of two months, the Car-Free Sunday initiative has returned with an extended route and longer road closure hours.

On Sunday (Oct 30), 5.5km of roads around the civic district and Central Business District were closed – up from 4.7km in previously – between 8am and 11am for the public to take part in activities such as cycling and mass workouts.

People showed up with their bicycles, inline skates and pets in tow, and Government agencies took the chance to reinforce their messages to the public during the event.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which organised the event, said its eventual goal is to encourage more people not to drive and for roads to be opened up for other purposes such as holding community events.

The Land Transport Authority, on the other hand, said it hopes to use the event to reinforce safety messages to cyclists and users of personal mobility devices like e-bicycles and e-scooters. Some of these devices were available at the event for members of the public to try out.

For the first time, the National Parks Board also organised walking trails along Ann Siang Hill and Telok Ayer Green, where participants can learn about the lives and trades of Singapore's early immigrants.

There were also events organised by volunteers, such as those from Thian Hock Keng temple in Telok Ayer Street. They gave guided tours to explain the significance of the island's oldest and most important temple to the early Fujian community in Singapore.

The URA also encouraged members of the public to contribute suggestions and feedback for activities and programmes to be included in Car-Free Sundays.

Car-Free Sunday is typically held on the last Sunday of every month. The second edition of the initiative will end in April next year.

- CNA/cy

Car-Free Sunday back with extended routes, longer road closure hours
TOH EE MING Today Online 31 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE — The usually quiet streets of Telok Ayer came alive yesterday morning with the return of Car-Free Sunday SG, as cyclists arced through the conservation area, while passers-by posed for photographs and thronged the Thian Hock Keng Temple for a slice of history.

A focus on history was a draw in yesterday’s seventh edition. It had returned after a hiatus of more than two months — with new community-driven activities and an extended route that incorporated Telok Ayer.

For example, the activities included volunteers ferrying the elderly around the Civic District in specially built trishaws. The rain held off, but the winds provided a cool respite for cyclists and joggers.

Regular participants such as Mdm Amelia Ching, 61, felt that the extended route, with more roads in the Central Business District also fully closed to vehicles, provided a chance to “appreciate the surroundings”.

“Usually, the stretch in the CBD ... there’s nothing much to see,” said Mdm Ching, who runs a higher education academy. “It’s a good idea to also close off more roads fully, so it’s better for cyclists who don’t have to worry about safety.”

Another regular, Mr Jason Lee, 56, who was with his long-time university friends and avid cyclists, felt that this edition was more “fun” and had more “historical value”.

“In the past, (the route) was more of a concrete jungle, but today there’s a mixture of old and heritage sites to (visit). Now, we stop to take more pictures,” said the art programme director. “This place gives a better feeling because of its ambience.”

Several cafes made special arrangements to catch the morning crowd. Mr Franck Hardy, 46, owner of My Awesome Cafe, said his staff came in as early as 7am to bake croissants and bread to catch the “first big wave”.

While the cafe typically opens at 9am on Sundays, it opened an hour earlier yesterday and rolled out a special breakfast set at a cheaper rate of about S$10. “In our first hour, we had 100 breakfast orders,” he said. “We’ve never had a Sunday like this.”

Others, however, felt that there could be more publicity in advance to draw more spillover crowds from the Padang area. They said that the authorities had approached them to collaborate only a week earlier.

Ms Cindy Leong, 32, owner of The Cold Pressed Station, acknowledged that Car-Free Sunday SG had brought more buzz to the area. The store had specially opened from 8am to 3pm and rolled out a new drink for the occasion.

“Youngsters don’t usually drop by here, unless they are the (drinking crowd),” she said. “At least now in broad daylight, I see Singaporeans exploring, taking pictures.”

It was still a bit “quiet” for her, and she hopes for potential tie-ups with yoga companies in future, so they can hold sessions at the Telok Ayer stretch to attract the younger crowds.

At Thian Hock Keng Temple, volunteer Darren Lim, 43, who led the tours there, said the public’s response was encouraging. “During the week, you don’t usually see locals; more than 80 per cent are tourists, so it’s a good chance for Singaporeans to learn about the temple,” he said.

Echoing his views, volunteer guide Victor Woo, who led a two-hour tour for 20 participants, felt that it was a good way to breathe life into the stories of Singapore’s immigrants and pioneers, especially for the younger generation.

“Nowadays, everyone is on their handphones,” he said. “Hopefully, (with more partnerships), more people can get the knowledge and pass it down to their grandchildren ... so that our history won’t go down the drain.”

He suggested that future tours could also be held at conservation areas such as Chinatown and Beach Road, though he admitted that diverting the bus routes might be difficult. Toh Ee Ming

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Malaysia: Johor needs better management of water resources to prevent crisis

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 31 Oct 16;

JOHOR BARU: A water crisis is looming in the state if the Federal and Johor Governments fail to find long-term solutions to overcome and manage existing water-related problems in Johor by 2018.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said Johor has to come out with plans to ensure there was sufficient water supply in the state beyond 2018.

“The clock is ticking fast and we have to put in more effort to better manage our water resources to prevent the crisis from happening,” he said after witnessing the signing of Corporate Integrity Pledge between SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd and its 350 business associates at Persada Johor Internatio-nal Convention Centre here.

Also present at the event were SAJ Holdings chief executive officer Abdul Wahab Abdul Hamid and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Johor director Datuk Simi Abdul Ghani.

Hasni said if the water crisis took place in Johor, Iskandar Regional Development Authority would no longer be able to attract new investments into Iskandar Malaysia from 2018 onwards.

“We don’t want this crisis to happen or else Iskandar Malaysia will not develop into an international metropolis by 2025 as planned,” added Hasni.

He said the authorities could no longer depend on the rivers in the state as the main source of raw water, as most of the rivers were polluted due to human economic activities.

Hasni said the existing 1,700 million-litre water production capacity, daily, would not be able to cater to demand from domestic and industrial users especially in south Johor where Iskandar Malaysia is located.

“About 40% of the total production is being channelled to Iskan-dar Malaysia and this demand for water is growing,” he added.

Hasni said plans were already in place to start exploring underground water reserves in the Mersing and Kluang districts as new water resources for Johor.

He said the state government would allocate funds to conduct studies by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Japan Water Forum for underground water exploration.

“At the same time, consumers should also use water wisely and prevent wastage otherwise the efforts taken by the relevant authorities to prevent the crisis will go down the drain,” said Hasni.

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Malaysia: All set for major floods to hit


KUALA LUMPUR: Major floods are about to hit the east coast prompting emergency agencies to prepare for the worst.

Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu will bear the brunt of the lashing north-east monsoon season in mid-November.

But the agencies are planning to be on top of things this time around.

Residents will be evacuated before the flood waters rise to dangerous levels.

The Civil Defence Force will act as secretariat to oversee flood relief operations.

Also gearing up are the police, Welfare Department and Fire and Rescue Department, besides the other relevant bodies.

The Pahang Meteorological Department warned of exceptional high tides on Nov 14 and Dec 14, with a total of 385 areas in the states being prepared for floods.

A total of 107 forward bases will have food stockpile for up to three days beginning Nov 7.

A department spokesman said early warnings would be issued 48 hours in advance.

“We expect rainfall from the second week of November with heavy rains from December to January, next year. If there is continuous rainfall, massive floods are likely,’’ he said.

Should a major flood occur, parts of the East Coast Highway (near the Temerloh rest area) and Jalan Ubai in Pekan will be cut off.

Mudflows are also expected in Bukit Goh, Bukit Satelit in Beserah and several bauxite mining areas in Kuantan.

A total of 118 locations in Pahang have been identified as possible landslide areas, with Maran being the most exposed.

In addition, 666 temporary relief centres to house 165,650 flood victims have been identified, and the centres will be increased if the situation worsens.

Leave for flood rescue personnel have been frozen for three months beginning Nov 15.

Pahang Crisis Relief Squad of MCA (CRSM) chief Datuk Chang Hong Seong said all its members were on standby.

“We will assist in distributing aid and help in evacuation efforts. Most of our members have received training and have the experience of dealing with major floods,’’ he added.

Kelantan Civil Defence director Lt Kol Zainuddin Hussin said via telephone from Kota Baru: “Everything is in place and we are all ready.

“Flood drills have been conducted many times and canned food, water and blankets have been stocked up.”

Lt Kol Zainuddin urged residents in affected areas to give their full cooperation to rescue teams.

“We have to act before the situation gets worse,” he added.

Terengganu Civil Defence director Lt Kol Che Adam A. Rahman said community leaders at flood-prone areas were also ready.

“We conducted flood simulation exercises for them, teaching them how to react and where to go to in case of floods,” he said, adding that 500 places, including schools and community halls, had been registered as flood evacuation centres.

Terengganu CRSM chief Datuk Lua Choon Hann said its branches in the east coast states had been activated.

“We are maintaining close contact with the relevant agencies, including the National Security Council and Welfare Department,” he added.

Lua said the squad was updating its database on logistics and equipment support.

Natural Disaster Management Agency deputy chairman Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said flood victims would be evacuated before the situation got dangerous.

“This way, we can cut down on the need to use boats for evacuation,” he said.

“The boats can be used to distribute aid instead.’’

Perak better prepared than ever for monsoon season floods
NABILAH HAMUDIN New Straits Times 1 Nov 16;

IPOH: About 1,178 firemen in Perak are on standby for the year-end monsoon season.

Perak Fire and Rescue Department assistant director (operations) Hasrin Hasbi said the department has enhanced its logistics capabilities with new vehicles to assist the public in the event of a disaster.

"We have a new vehicle to be used for the coming rainy season called the Amphibious All-Terrain Vehicle (AATV), which operates in both water and on land.

"All our equipment and assets are checked daily during (drills).

The number of personnel is sufficient to aid victims during a flood “We have gone through this before and we are now better prepared,” he said, adding that 640 personal floating devices will also be allocated for the state.

Hasrin said the department conducted special training for firemen at Tasik Banding on two occasions to increase their confidence level.

"We wanted to familiarise them with emergency situations, and the training sessions were tailored to be as close to the real situation as possible.

During the training, the firemen has to cross to Pulau Pangkor from Tasik Banding along the Sungai Perak," he said, adding that the training was conducted for the scuba diving team.

Hasrin stated that the department has identified high-risk areas for floods, namely, Teluk Intan, Pantai Remis, Sitiawan, Bagan Datoh, Bagan Serai, Bukit Merah, Alor Pongsu, Gerik, Lenggong and Taiping. Perak Civil Defence Force (APM) director Colonel Mohd Noor Hassan Ashari said it has 800 personnel ready to be deployed during floods.

"We have been well prepared since August, when the high-tide phenomenon hit the state in Sept and Nov," he said, adding that the identified coastal hotspots were Kerian, Larut, Matang, Selama, Perak Tengah, Hilir Perak and Bagan Datoh.

The authorities here have been improving their readiness since the 2014 flood, which was one of the worst to ever hit the state.

Effects of La Nina to occur in coming months
The Star 31 Oct 16;

PETALING JAYA: Heavy rains are set to hit the east coast but Perlis, Kedah, Penang and northern Perak are expected to receive lower than normal rainfall between December and January next year.

The Meteorological Department said the north-east monsoon will arrive some time in November.

In Sarawak, normal rainfall of between 300mm and 450mm is expected to fall until the end of the year.

Between January to February 2017, Kapit and Belaga are expected to receive slightly below normal rainfall. The other areas are expected to receive the normal rainfall.

For Sabah, most parts are expected to receive normal rainfall until January 2017, while Kudat and Sandakan will receive below normal rainfall from February to March 2017.

A weak or neutral La Nina is expected to occur until early next year.

La Nina leads to a cooling of seawater and often takes place after El Nino.

Both situations lead to unusually heavy rainfall in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere.

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Malaysia: Experts blame over-development for Penang flooding

The Star 31 Oct 16;

GEORGE TOWN: Environmental activists are worried Penang is being over-developed while the state government is upset with the Federal Government for delaying the disbursement of RM350mil for flood mitigation.

“Sea water did not rush upriver to stall the rain runoffs that submerged large tracts of George Town,” said Malaysia Nature Society Penang branch advisor D. Kanda Kumar.

Kanda also called on the state not to blame the tides or global warming on the Federal Government, as it was low tide when the four rivers here broke their banks on Saturday.

“It’s development. By allowing top soil to be cleared off and covering hectares of land with concrete and asphalt ... where will the rain go?”

He said while financial aid from the Federal Government slowed the flood mitigation plans, the state government should not allow property construction without sufficient rainwater dispersal planning.

Environmentalist and academician Datuk Dr Leong Yueh Kwong said over-development caused both floods and droughts.

“When rain cannot seep into the ground, the water runoff will flood the surface while the earth beneath stays dry. When the rainy season is over, drought will set in quickly because little of the rain reached the water table underground.”

Dr Leong also called for greater attention to hill cutting and clearing.

“One study by Universiti Sains Malaysia had shown that the development of Bukit Gambier had directly contributed to flooding on the campus and in the Minden Heights area.”

Penang Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow urged the Federal Government to approve the RM350mil flood solution.

“The first phase of the Sungai Pinang flood mitigation project was completed more than 10 years ago.

“The second phase cannot take place without that allocation.”

Air Itam Dam overflow played no role in Penang's flash floods, says PBAPP
PHUAH KEN LIN New Straits Times 30 Oct 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The flash floods that inundated 14 areas on the island and affected parts of the mainland yesterday were not related to the Air Itam Dam. Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa denied that the dam had anything to do with the floods.

"The flash floods that occurred in Paya Terubong valley, Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Masjid Negeri and Sungai Pinang yesterday were not related to the Air Itam Dam. "PBAPP recorded about 135mm of rainfall at the dam yesterday.

There was a minimal overflow of 12mm of water at the dam at about 7.10pm.

"Any overflow from the Air Itam Dam will go into Sungai Air Itam only," he said in a statement today. Jaseni stressed that a 12mm overflow is insufficient to cause widespread floods in George Town, adding that the flash floods occurred before 7.10pm.

He added that heavy rain had caused a landslide near the Kek Lok Si Temple along a stretch of road leading to the Air Itam Dam. "No one was injured, but debris, including a boulder, caused the road to be temporarily impassable to cars.

"The debris has been cleared by PBAPP, together with the Fire and Rescue Department," Jaseni said.

Penang wants speedy approval of RM360mil flood mitigation project funds
ANTHONY TAN The Star 30 Oct 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang state government has urged the Federal Government to expedite the approval of a RM350mil allocation for the second phase of the Sungai Pinang flood mitigation project here in the wake of Saturday's floods here.

Penang Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the flash floods that hit various places along Sungai Pinang and its tributaries highlighted the importance for the project's immediate implementation.

"The first phase was completed more than 10 years ago. However, the second phase could not proceed because of the failure to get an allocation from the Federal Government," he said in a press statement on Sunday.

Chow claimed that the state government had raised the matter with the prime minister and minister in charge many times since 2008 but had yet to get the money.

He said the state drainage and irrigation department had already resettled more than 200 families living along the Sungai Pinang river reserve for the second phase to be implemented.

"The state government urges the Federal Government to quickly approve the RM350mil allocation to solve the flood problems along the Sungai Pinang basin, which is an important basin as it passes through places with high residential and development density like Paya Terubong, Bandar Baru Air Itam, Jalan Air Itam, Jalan Lumba Kuda, the Jelutong area including Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Dato Keramat dan Jalan Sungai Pinang," he added.

Penang gov't: Federal gov't yet to approve grant for flood mitigation project
PHUAH KEN LIN New Straits Times 30 Oct 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The state government has blamed the federal government for not approving a RM350 million grant to mitigate Penang’s chronic flash flooding woes.

According to State Local Government and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow, the local administration said federal agencies had delayed the completion of the flood mitigation project by not approving the funds.

"Phase two of the project undertaken by the state government has been stalled due to the failure of the federal government to grant fund approval.

"We have been bringing up the matter since 2008, but no allocation has been given by the federal authority," he said in a press statement today.

Chow urged the federal government to approve the allocation to ease the recurring flash floods.

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Malaysia: ‘Harsh penalties for river polluters’

NICHOLAS CHENG The Star 31 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Federal Government is considering enlisting the Special Branch to track down those responsible for the contamination in Sungai Buah, which cut off water supply to millions in the Klang Valley.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar also called for a review of water treatment plant procedures so that odour could be detected faster and future shutdowns prevented.

At one of the chemical dump sites in Dengkil, repair works are continuing on a 20m bund holding the contaminants in Sungai Buah from flowing into Sungai Semenyih. Three more bunds are being built along the river.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the water in Sungai Buah was being treated with activated carbon, which bound the contaminants to the surface of the river.

“My ministry and the Department of Environment (DOE) are working with the Selangor government in an in-depth investigation to find the source of this pollution and the people responsible for it.

“I give the assurance that harsh punishment will befall individuals or companies that have so carelessly affected the welfare of the public.

“I am not ruling out asking the help of the Special Branch to track down those responsible and bring them to justice,” he said in a statement here yesterday.

Dr Wan Junaidi also called for a review of the standard operating procedure in the state’s treatment plants, which so far did not include odour detection in their parameters.

“Only Pengurusan Air Selangor (Air Selangor) and the Health Ministry monitor odour in raw water. The DOE also doesn’t include odour in its parameters under the National Water Quality Standard.

“We will have to immediately review these odour sampling methods and see whether the procedure used by Air Selangor is the way forward or if it should be changed,” he said.

The contaminant, which has been identified as 4-bromodiphenyl ether, is used as a fire retardant and is so corrosive that it has charred swathes of grass on the banks of Sungai Buah.

The minister also called for the cooperation of the Elite Highway operator to report any accident that involved chemical spillage that could flow into the river nearby, so that the DOE would be able to immediately monitor clean-up works.

Selangor exco member Elizabeth Wong continued to accuse Negri Sembilan of being uncooperative in helping to treat polluted water on its side.

Activated charcoal in the state, she said, was almost running out, with 10 tonnes already being used in Sungai Buah.

“We want Negri Sembilan to treat the site so that the polluted water does not flow into Sungai Buah,” she said, adding that if this was not done, Selangor might be forced to buy more activated carbon.

As of 4pm yesterday, Syabas announced that water supply in all areas affected by the shutdown was almost fully restored, leaving only Hulu Langat and Kuala Langat.

Review of SOPs urged for water treatment plant operators in wake of Semenyih pollution
FAIRUZ MOHD SHAHAR New Straits Times 30 Oct 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is recommending that water treatment plant operators review their standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be able to identify types of odours emitted from water.

Its minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said this is to enable them to swiftly shut down operations when necessary to ensure that consumers are not exposed to contamination.

"So far, only the Selangor Water Management Authority (Luas) monitors the odour parameter, although this is not required in raw water supply monitoring by the Health Ministry.

"The Environment Department (DOE) also does not have the odour parameter under the National Water Quality Standard for river water.

"(So) our integrated team will immediately re-assess the odour sampling methods implemented by Luas to check whether it complies with the recommended standards," Wan Junaidi said in a statement today.

He was commenting on the odour pollution crisis in Sungai Buah in Nilai, Negri Sembilan, which affected the Sungai Semenyih Water Treatment Plant, forcing it to be shut down.

The closure of the plant had affected some 1.6 million Selangor residents.

Wan Junaidi said the ministry has taken several measures to resolve the problem, aided by a joint task force from the DOE, Luas, the federal and Selangor governments and local authorities.

The measures include repairing a broken retaining wall to prevent overflow from Sungai Buah into Sungai Semenyih. "Repair works on the broken retaining wall are still ongoing.

"Three more walls will be built, after which, the water will flow through a small channel at the first wall and overflow from the following walls. "We have also placed activated carbon filters, to reduce the odour pollution, at each wall," he said.

Wan Junaidi also suggested that Luas study the use of activated carbon as a best engineering practice, as applied by other water treatment plants.

He added that he has instructed the DOE to work with the Selangor state government to conduct a thorough investigation to identify the cause of the Semenyih plant contamination and those responsible for the incident.

"We will ensure that the ministry and the DOE work continuously with relevant agencies, including with the local authorities.

"We will also make sure that legal action is taken against individuals or companies responsible for affecting the welfare of the people," he said, adding that the ministry would not hesitate to work with the police to arrest the culprits.

Wan Junaidi also urged highway operators to immediately report to the DOE any incidents of chemicals or harmful substances spilling from roads and flowing into water channels.

“The DOE will monitor the cleaning works and give advice when necessary to avoid untoward incidents," he said.

Water supply disruption in Petaling, Hulu Langat, Sepang: Syabas
BERNAMA New Straits Times 26 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Several areas in the Petaling, Hulu Langat and Sepang districts would experience water disruption as the Sungai Semenyih Water Treatment Plant (LRA) has yet to achieve its optimum level.

Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) in a statement tonight said some of the affected areas were those which had its water supply scheduled to be restored in stages since 4pm today.

Yesterday, it was reported that the LRA resumed its operations after it was closed on Sunday due to odour pollution from the Nilai industrial area, in Negeri Sembilan.

“The restoration of the water supply has been delayed as the water retention pond has not achieved its optimum level,” said the statement.

The affected areas in the Petaling district are Bandar Puteri, Seri Kembangan 1 to 13, Serdang Utama, Bukit Serdang, Megaria Apartment, Bayu Apartment, Puchong Hartamas and Wawasan Puchong. In the Hulu Langat district, areas involved are Bandar Sunway Semenyih; Taman Semenyih Parklands; Desa Serdang; Gitu Bayu; Mines Resort; Heritage Apartment The Mines; Kajang Utama Persiaran Damai and Section 3; Sasapan Minangkabau; Kampung Rinching Tengah; Branang PKNS housing; Section 1 of Bandar Baru Bangi; Flats at Section 2,3, and 4 of Bandar Baru Bangi; Branang Industrial Park and Mahkota Branang.

In Sepang the areas involved are Section 11 of Bandar Baru Bangi, Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN) and Taman Ayer Hitam Permai. Syabas said all efforts were ongoing to stabilise and expedite the restoration of water supply in the affected areas, including delivering water supply using tankers. -- Bernama

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Malaysia: Belum Rainforest Summit

100 world experts highlight four points to conserve, manage heritage site
NAIM ZULKIFLI New Straits Times 30 Oct 16;

GERIK: THE inaugural Belum Rainforest Summit this year (BRainS), during which 100 conservationists, scientists and policymakers worldwide discussed pressing topics on the environment, closed last Saturday with the adoption of the “Belum Rainforest Blueprint”.

BRainS was held at the Belum Rainforest Resort in Pulau Banding, here from Oct 17 to Oct 22. Titled “Blueprint for Local Action to Protect and Sustainably Manage the Belum-Temengor Rainforest”, the document was the culmination of six days of expert dialogue that highlighted four areas of vital importance to the Belum-Temengor Rainforest.

Pulau Banding Foundation chairman Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Mohamad said the blueprint was the main purpose of the summit and he wanted BRainS to not be a mere “talk shop” but a proper meeting of minds to ensure measurable actions would be taken as a result.

“A lot of thought and discussion with local and international experts went into the development of the blueprint,” he said.

To address the issues systematically, experts were invited to speak on five focus areas — biodiversity conservation, climate change, funding opportunities, payment for ecosystem services and sustainable resource management.

Among them were International Union of Forest Research Organisations president Professor Dr Michael Wingfield, University of Surrey Centre for Environmental Strategy director Professor Dr Richard Murphy, BirdLife International senior adviser Martin Hollands, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Climate Change Secretariat programme director Dr Jenny Wong, and Jane Goodall Institute Nepal executive director Manoj Gautam.

Fifty-nine papers were deliberated, addressing five current issues as sub-themes — biodiversity conservation, climate change, funding opportunities, payment for ecosystem services and sustainable resource management.

“Although there are many issues of concern, we have kept the blueprint narrow and distilled it down to four vital points,” said Latif.

“The first area of the blueprint addresses the tiger population in Belum-Temengor Rainforest. It outlined steps to be taken to increase the tiger population by 20 per cent within four years by strengthening enforcement on poaching, increasing the amount of prey in the tigers’ home range and conserving the salt licks, which are vital to their survival.

“The second focuses on sustainable management of Belum-Temengor Rainforest. Using the concept of payment for ecosystem services, which has been successfully applied in other countries, it recommends collaboration with the Federal Government to produce a biodiversity fund that can be used to preserve and maintain the rainforest complex.”

Internal stakeholder management formed the core of the third area, where the blueprint called for the formation of new bodies, such as a Belum-Temengor Rainforest Council and a Joint Operation Force to ensure available resources related to the rainforest are optimally used for more effective governance of the rainforest, as well as assisting the Royal Belum state park to achieve the status of a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The final area touched on the importance of youth as key players in the conservation movement, where it pushes for more awareness among youth in Malaysia about the issues faced by rainforest conservationists and urged them to get involved in conservation through participation in activities at the community, state and national levels.

“In its first instalment, the blueprint is naturally very much focused on Malaysia, but we hope that in years to come, it will grow into an international blueprint,” said Latif.

The fact that Pulau Banding Foundation was serious about its intention to mobilise youth in rainforest conservation was highlighted by a parallel youth summit titled “Green Rangers Malaysia — Voices of Youth”, held from Oct 20 to Oct 22 at the Belum Adventure Camp.

EMKAY Group executive director Ahmad Khalif Mustapha Kamal, who is also a trustee of the Pulau Banding Foundation, said the younger generation had an important role in conservation.

“The Green Rangers will continue to reach out to youth as we want to spread the message of conservation as far and wide as possible among the younger generation.”

He said one of the points indicated in the blueprint was the establishment of Green Ranger clubs or similar organisations in schools.

On the final day, participants of Voices of Youth submitted a wish list of what they wanted to see being carried out for rainforest conservation to the main panel of BRainS.

The list will be handed over during the United Nations Environment Programme conference from Dec 12 to Dec 15 in Bangkok.

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Malaysia: Bacteria to bite back at mosquitoes

LOH FOON FONG The Star 31 Oct 16;

PETALING JAYA: A research programme is underway to use a type of bacteria that fights mosquito-borne viruses, including the dengue virus.

The pilot project, which costs RM3.836mil, will be carried out by the Institute of Medical Research (IMR). The programme will be funded by the Wellcome Trust Fund.

IMR is collaborating with Lancaster University, Britain, and the Melbourne University, Aus­tra­lia, to work on a project to infect the aedes aegypti mosquito with Wolbachia bacteria, he said.

“When they are released into the wild, they will spread the Wolbachia into the aedes aegypti mosquito.

“The Wolbachia will block the dengue virus from replicating within the mosquito,” he said in an interview.

According to by Melbourne Uni­versity scientific collaborators, Wolbachia are bacteria that live inside insect cells and are naturally occurring in up to 60% of all insect species, including butterflies, dragonflies, moths and many mosquito species, but not aedes aegypti.

Wolbachia reduces the ability of insects to become infected with viruses.

“Since there is no cure or specific treatment for dengue, the main strategy is to attack aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits the virus,” he added.

He said the effect of Wolbachia on disease transmission will be evaluated continuously after release.

The project will end in 2020, but this may be subject to changes, he added.

Dr Noor Hisham also said that common insecticides, such as organophosphate (temephos) and pyrethroids (permethrin) have lost much of their effectiveness as the mosquitoes were found to have developed resistance while bed nets are not effective since the aedes aegypti are daytime biters.

Asked on the success rate of the method, he said studies have shown that Wolbachia had reduced the ability of mosquitoes to transmit chikungunya, dengue and Zika viruses.

“A dengue-mitigation project in 2014 in Brazil showed that it was able to reduce the spread of Zika and chikungunya viruses,” he added.

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