Best of our wild blogs: 5 Nov 16

Parents who say Indonesia’s haze killed their children testify in citizen suit
Mongabay Haze Beat

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Reconsider 'eco-tourism' plans for Mandai

Straits Times 31 Oct 16;

Mandai Park Holdings' new measures to minimise the potential environmental damage by its developments in Mandai notwithstanding ("Mandai makeover to tread with care"; Oct 11), the planned relocation of Jurong Bird Park there and the new Rainforest Park are not in ecological harmony with the neighbouring Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

These so-called "eco-tourism" plans should be reconsidered.

Our major concern is the connectivity and integrity of the reserve's land along the north-western sector across Mandai Lake Road.

Although outside the reserve's boundary, the two development sites, with their secondary forests and other natural habitats, are critical to the natural connectivity and ecological viability of the reserve's land in the area.

We strongly propose extending the nature reserve's boundary to cover the project sites.

As to Mandai Park Holdings' mitigation measures, we are not convinced that the impact on biodiversity would be small, given the big reduction in natural habitats as featured in its concept plan and the drastic alteration of what remains by artificial structures, such as tight boundary fences, aviary cages and netted enclosures, as well as introduced non-native wildlife.

Even if implemented in stages, each requiring a prolonged period of time, the clearing and construction involved will cause significantly high stress for the resident wildlife, especially the less mobile species, even with temporary refugia catered for them.

The area boasts rich resident wildlife with 199 faunal species recorded, including the globally threatened Sunda pangolin, Raffles' banded langur, straw-headed bulbul and Malesian frog, to name just a few.

Instead of Mandai, we recommend that the Bird Park be incorporated into the new Jurong Lake District masterplan, which will help to enrich the area's redevelopment.

As for the Rainforest Park, we disagree with the idea of destroying natural habitats to create sanitised eco-themed parks.

Apart from rectifying the reserve's boundary gap, the proposed extension will support the existing biodiversity and any restoration programme for critically endangered species.

The remaining areas can be used as adventure centres with programmes allowing for significantly less invasive ecological education and appreciation tours of our regenerating natural forests.

Ho Hua Chew (Dr)
Conservation Committee
Nature Society (Singapore)

Committed to developing Mandai project with care
Straits Times 4 Nov 16;

We thank Dr Ho Hua Chew for his feedback ("Reconsider 'eco-tourism' plans for Mandai"; Monday).

One of Mandai Park Holdings' core objectives is to ensure Mandai is established as a strong habitat for our plants and animals, available to the public and managed sensitively to showcase the richness of Singapore's biodiversity.

The new Bird Park and Rainforest Park will be located on impacted land that was formerly occupied by a village, farmland and most recently, the Mandai Orchid Garden.

The plot was subsequently set aside by the Government for use.

The new wildlife parks will be a very good neighbour to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

We are committed to protecting Singapore's biodiversity in the project site for the long term, and we will continue our partnership with nature groups as we go forward.

Right at the conceptualisation phase, we commissioned an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to guide our master planning.

After consulting with nature groups and experts, we incorporated additional measures into the plans to reduce environmental impact, especially during the development phase.

We will continue to work towards this goal as the project evolves.

The EIA was guided by international best practices. The assessment of impact and mitigation measures was based on expert advice. Government agencies and nature groups were extensively involved throughout the process, and will continue to be.

Over the past two years, we met nature groups, including Nature Society (Singapore) members, and have discussed concerns such as loss of natural habitats, nature reserve fragmentation and wildlife displacement.

We shared some of the important measures already undertaken to safeguard important habitats, such as the design of an eco-link bridge to give animals a safe passage over Mandai Lake Road.

We agreed to the setting aside of buffers along the nature reserve to reduce edge effects, as well as a wildlife shepherding programme to protect animals.

The mitigation measures for the project have been captured in an environmental management and monitoring plan (EMMP).

An environmental advisory panel comprising experts from the scientific community, academia, nature groups and private sector has been set up to monitor the implementation of the EMMP during construction and operation. This is chaired by Professor Peter Ng, head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

As a responsible steward of nature, we remain committed to managing this process carefully as the project evolves.

Mike Barclay
Group Chief Executive
Mandai Park Holdings

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Tudor-style home in Pulau Ubin

The Chek Jawa Visitor Centre is modelled after the traditional Tudor-style homes of 16th-century England
Alyssa Woo Straits Times 5 Nov 16;

In the thick forests on the eastern part of Pulau Ubin is a charming vestige of old colonial history: a handsome Tudor-style building that served as a holiday home for a British official about 80 years ago.

Located next to the Chek Jawa Wetlands and now used as its visitor centre, House No. 1 was originally a resort home for British Chief Surveyor Langdon Williams.

It was built in the 1930s and modelled after the traditional Tudor-style homes of England during the first half of the 16th century.

This influence can be seen from the black timber frames with masonry infill walls, steep pitched roofs with clay tiles and a working fireplace in the sitting room on the ground floor.

The architect's attention to detail was such that even the techniques used to construct the home follow the traditional Tudor-style, says architect Alisdair Ferrie, senior partner at architecture firm James Ferrie And Partners.

He was the architect behind the restoration of Thian Hock Keng Temple in Telok Ayer.

His father, pioneering Singapore architect James Ferrie, was close friends with House No. 1's last owner, businessman Lee Thor Seng.

The younger Mr Ferrie often visited the home when he was growing up.

Pointing to the timber joints, the corner granite quoins (an exterior corner of two connecting walls) of the house and terracotta floor tiles, he says: "This house was probably built by Indian labourers who had experience and skill in building such homes."

The modest two-storey building is set on sprawling 43,324 sq ft grounds, complete with its own water tower and jetty.

The house, which occupies a gross floor area of 4,036 sq ft, has outdoor terraces for hosting and nooks and crannies where one can escape to for some quiet, surrounded by lush subtropical conifer trees.

The house changed owners through the years, eventually ending up in the hands of Mr Lee before it was acquired by the Government in the 1990s.

It was then left vacant for about a decade and the building deteriorated, with termite infestation in parts of the timber frames.

Over two years from 2005, restoration took place - timber frames and broken floor tiles were repaired and replaced and the inner walls were given a fresh coat of paint.

The house was gazetted for conservation at the end of 2003 and became the Chek Jawa Visitor Centre in 2007.



The striking frames support the stone-filled walls. Some frames had to be replaced because of termites, but the Urban Redevelopment Authority saved whatever it could during restoration works.


Such windows are seen in Tudor-style houses, but those here had double-frame layers with netting to keep insects out.


The quoins - usually the exterior feature corner of two connecting walls - used granite from Pulau Ubin. This technique of interlocking stones gives the building strength, says architecture firm James Ferrie And Partners' senior partner Alisdair Ferrie.


Terracotta tiles are common in Tudor-style homes, but the honeycomb- shape ones here are rare, says Mr Ferrie. Most tiles are well preserved.

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1 in 2 bird shops does not comply with AVA licence conditions: Survey

Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 4 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: An undercover investigation of 36 shops selling birds found that more than half of them did not comply with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority's (AVA) licensing conditions, the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) said on Friday (Nov 4).

The survey, conducted by ACRES from August to September this year, found that 19 of the shops breached at least one of the conditions governing the welfare of the animals. These include failing to provide housing in good condition and clean drinking water for the birds.

Thirteen of them displayed birds that suffered from feather loss or visible lesions on their bodies or tails, while 17 sold bird traps for about S$70 each - even though it is illegal to poach wild animals in Singapore.

ACRES deputy chief executive Anbarasi Boopal pointed out that one in three of the shops surveyed actually possessed an "A" grade under AVA's pet shop grading scheme.

She called for a review of the current licence conditions as well as stricter enforcement of existing regulations.

As part of the survey, ACRES also said it found 655 advertisements offering birds for sale on Facebook and three online platforms from June to August. There are no regulations governing the welfare and ownership of these animals, it added.


In a media release on Friday evening, AVA said it conducted a separate inspection of 27 bird shops that were also investigated by ACRES. AVA found that 15 of them did not comply with some of its licensing conditions and it will take action against those shops.

AVA's inspections were conducted in September and October. Its officers found nine shops which housed birds in dirty cages, four displayed sick birds, four did not provide clean drinking water to the birds and seven did not display their pet shop grade decals.

As for ACRES' finding of 655 online listings selling birds, AVA said 273 of them are related to birds protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). "AVA is working with ACRES to look into these listings," it said.

AVA said it conducts regular, unannounced inspections on all pet shops. It urged members of the public to report any cases of animal cruelty via its 24-hour hotline, 1800-476-1600.

- CNA/mz/dl

15 out of 27 pet bird shops flouted licensing conditions: AVA
Today Online 4 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — More than half of 27 pet bird shops investigated had flouted the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA)’s licensing conditions, said the authority on Friday (Nov 4).

The AVA had investigated the pet bird shops following alleged offences in an Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) report.

Enforcement will be taken against the 15 shops that had not complied with licensing conditions, for instance by not keeping cages clean and displaying sick birds.

The ACRES report had found that 13 pet bird shops failed to house birds in a good condition. The AVA said during unannounced inspections held in September and October, it found nine shops with cages with dried faecal matter, “which is indicative that the cages have not been cleaned for a long time”. The nine shops will be issued a composition fine. The cages at the four other shops were found to be clean.

While ACRES reported that 13 pet bird shops displayed sick birds and 11 shops did not provide clean drinking water for the birds displayed for sale, the AVA said sick birds were displayed at four pet bird shops and four shops were found with unclean water and containers. The shops will be issued a composition fine. The shops with the sick birds were also instructed to isolate them and send them for treatment.

Seven pet bird shops did not display their pet shop grade decals, while eight did not prominently displayed them or were obstructed, said the AVA. The former group will each be issued a letter of warning, while the latter group has been instructed to shift their decals to a more prominent location.

In response to ACRES’ identification of 655 online listings selling birds — 273 of which were related to birds protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) — the AVA said it is working with ACRES to look into these listings.

The AVA said it has met with ACRES to share its findings.

“We will not hesitate to take enforcement action against any licensees for any non-compliance detected by AVA. We will continue with our regular inspections on pet shops, including bird retailers, to ensure that they comply with our licensing conditions,” it added.

The public can report animal cruelty cases to the AVA via its 24-hour hotline, 1800-476-1600.

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Clean and Green Singapore kicks off with carnival based on green habits

Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 5 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: A walk around the Eco Fair at this year’s Clean and Green Singapore Carnival will take visitors through a day in their lives, and how they can incorporate green habits into each aspect.

Set up as an “Eco-Town”, visitors can learn tips like how to cycle safely in a car-lite Singapore, sort recyclable items in the right bins when they are outside, and how to save electricity and water when they are at home.

The three-day carnival, which takes place opposite Khatib MRT Station, was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Nov 5).

It marks the start of a month-long series of community activities to celebrate the annual Clean and Green Singapore.

For the first time, more partners are coming on board, like the Land Transport Authority and the Economic Development Board, as well as NGOs and community groups.

This is in line with this year’s theme, “Caring for Our Environment Together”, which hopes to enable these stakeholders to engage the community to contribute towards a sustainable and clean future.

This is especially important for Singapore, a small city-state that is constrained by limited land and natural resources.

Speaking at the launch of the carnival, Prime Minister Lee highlighted that with climate change, Singapore's environmental challenges will continue to grow.

"The next stage in our clean and green journey is sustainability. And with climate change, our environmental challenges are growing. Temperatures are rising. Droughts and water shortages are becoming more common. Linggiu Reservoir in Johor which supplies water to Singapore is very dry. Right now, less than one quarter full, only 22 per cent. And that's slightly improved because it rained last week," said Mr Lee.

That is why everyone has to play their part, with the Government leading the way through efforts like the Climate Action Plan and building more NEWater and desalination plants to increase water supply, Mr Lee added.

"We have done much over the past 50 years to create a clean and livable environment. But we need to further our mission to build a collective culture that is attentive to environmental issues, and where every individual takes active steps to show care for our environment”, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli. “Sustainable living needs to be part of the Singapore DNA”, he added.

There are exhibitions at the Eco Fair that showcase eco-products and sustainability-related programmes from green players like Repair Kopitiam. The NGO will demonstrate how to repair or reuse spoiled or old products instead of throwing them away.

Carnival-goers can also sign up to volunteer for upcoming activities organised by these 12 partners.

Mr Lee also did his part – by planting the Keruing Belimbing tree, a native but vulnerable species in Singapore. This is in keeping with the long tradition of planting trees to fulfil Singapore’s City in a Garden vision, which was started by the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The carnival this year is hosted by the North West District – a champion for green living. It launched a 10-year Eco Plan in 2009, which has reached out to more than 745,000 residents through some 80 programmes.

These include organising eco-trails, and getting residents to recycle while getting to know each other at recycling points. Since 2012, 108,000kg of recyclables have been collected.

Throughout the month, the public can also sign up for NParks guided tours to green spaces like community gardens in Bukit Panjang, where they can learn how to grow their own edibles. They can also go on a tour of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, which recently reopened after a two year restoration.

- CNA/mn

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Singapore to standardise emissions reporting system by 2017: DPM Teo

Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 4 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: By next year, there will be a standardised system for reporting greenhouse gas emissions across all industries, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Friday (Nov 4).

This comes after the National Environment Agency called a tender in April to develop measurement and reporting systems. Channel NewsAsia understands that the authorities are currently in consultation with companies.

Speaking at the award ceremony for the 2016 National Climate Change Competition, Mr Teo said the move will give big energy users information about their greenhouse gas emissions, thus helping them better monitor their energy efficiency performance. This will allow them to reduce the use of electricity and fuels and save costs, he noted.

"With more accurate data, companies can also incorporate energy and fuel efficiency considerations early in their decision-making processes and take action," Mr Teo added.

Currently, energy-intensive companies in the industrial sector are required to monitor and report their energy use and carbon dioxide emissions but do not know how much these contribute to national emissions.

The announcement is part of Singapore's commitment under the Paris climate change agreement to reduce emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking around the same time. The historic accord, signed by 195 nations, also took effect on Friday.

- CNA/mz

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Malaysia: Stop the killing and save our paddy frogs, says nature group

BALVIN KAUR New Straits Times 4 Nov 26;

GEORGE TOWN: Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has called on the federal government to completely ban the capturing, selling and killing of frogs, in view of the amphibian’s important role in our ecological system.

Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris said frogs are needed to control the insect population as they prey on mosquitoes, grasshoppers and flies, among others.

“Largely insectivorous, a frog can eat more than its weight (about 200 grams) each day and this can be translated into a significant amount of insects.

“Tadpoles feed on algae and plants, thereby keeping waterways clean, while some species feed on all mosquito larvae,” he said, adding that this includes Aedes mosquitoes which can carry the dengue and Zika virus.

“To control these diseases, we have to protect the frogs.”

Idris was speaking at a press conference at Jalan Kennedy here yesterday.

He pointed out in Malaysia there were two types of paddy frogs, Rana cancrivora and Rana limnocharis, which feed on insects in the paddy field ecosystem.

“The paddy crop serves as the insects’ food source and (the) frogs help to eradicate insect pests in rice fields. Frogs in the field reduce the population of stemborers and planthoppers, thus preventing rice sheath blight disease indirectly,” he said.

Idris said the frog population in Malaysia was already at risk with rampant jungle clearing and also environmental pollution.

“Being amphibians, toxic chemicals from the environment – both on land and in water – are easily absorbed through their thin permeable skin,” he said.

He added that polluted waterways have either killed them or cause grotesque mutation brought upon by endocrine disrupting chemicals.

“It is ironic that farmers appear to prefer spraying their fields with expensive toxic chemicals rather than use frogs for efficient pest control,” he said.

He is appalled that these paddy frogs are not valued for its role in pest control but caught and sold instead at the markets in Air Itam and Batu Lanchang.

“The Rana cancrivora is in great demand at the local restaurants. At the markets there is an irregular supply of frogs and they are readily snapped up whenever available.

“However, it is not known whether the voracious appetite for frogs has depleted the frog population in Malaysia as there has been no survey into their numbers,” he stated.

Idris also claimed that SAM is worried if the frogs sold in the market have been exposed to chemical pollutants, particularly endocrine disruptors, which could trigger cancerous tumours, birth defects, and other developmental disorders if consumed by the people.

He said the amphibian’s population has also been a serious concern lately as scientists and biologists worldwide have noted the mysterious disappearance of frogs and toads.

“In view of the benefit of keeping frogs and the dangers of eating them, the federal government should immediately impose a ban,” he stressed.

Ban sale of frogs, says SAM
The Star 7 Nov 16;

GEORGE TOWN: Frogs are being sold openly at markets here to the dismay of Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) which wants the Govern-ment to impose a ban on their capture, sale and killing.

SAM president S.M. Mohamed Idris said the amphibians should be protected as they played a role in reducing the mosquito population.

He said tadpoles fed on algae and plants, thereby keeping waterways clean.

He said the tadpoles of some frog species also ate the larvae and eggs of the Aedes mosquitoes.

“Mosquitoes carry diseases and kill 725,000 people worldwide per year. In Malaysia, there were almost 20,000 dengue fever cases last year alone,” Mohd Idris said in press release.

He also said that in Malaysia, there were two types of padi frogs — Rana cancrivora and Rana limnocharis — which were deemed ‘farmers’ best friend’ as they fed on padi pests such as stem borers and plant hoppers.

In demand: A trader seen selling frogs near the Air Itam market in Penang. (Inset) Farmed frogs being sold at the Batu Lancang market.
In demand: A trader seen selling frogs near the Air Itam market in Penang.
He said the number of frogs were decreasing due to the rampant clearing of jungles for cultivation and also due to pollu-tion from toxic chemicals which are easily absorbed by the am-phibians through their thin permeable skin.

“It is ironic that farmers prefer spraying their fields with expensive toxic chemicals rather than making use of frogs as efficient pest control.

“Herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers remain frogs’ biggest threat,” Mohd Idris said.

He said the Rana cancrivora was in demand by local restaurants.

“At the markets, there is an irregular supply of frogs and they are readily snapped up by housewives whenever available.

“However, it is not known whether the voracious appetite for frogs has depleted the frog population in Malaysia as there has been no survey into their numbers,” he said.

A check by The Star yesterday found frogs being sold openly at Air Itam and Batu Lancang.

A 45-year-old trader at the Batu Lancang market said he was selling about 20 frogs a day at RM12 each.

“I get my supply from a frog farm in Kedah,” said the man who has been in the business for four years.

A couple who sold frogs at between RM5 and RM20 each by the roadside near the Air Itam market said their customers included students who bought the frogs to be dissected in school for their studies.

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Malaysia: Highly unlikely 50m-high tsunami will hit Sabah -- Expert

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 4 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: It is highly unlikely that a 50m-high tsunami, generated by a massive undersea landslide, will hit Sabah's northern coast, says a geological expert.

"A 50m-high tsunami will only be produced if the whole mass of a submarine shelf falls at one go. This is quite a rare occurrence. I personally think the chance of this happening is very, very low,'' said Prof Dr Felix Tongkul from the University Malaysia Sabah's Natural Disaster Research Centre.

He said this after a Malaysian Meteorological Department official spoke of the possibility of a giant wave hitting the northern Kudat coast if a massive undersea landslip happened.

Dr Tongkul said the 50m-high tsunami prediction was based solely on a simulation of a giant undersea landslide of a submarine shelf in deep waters in the South China Sea near Brunei.

He explained that there was evidence of such landslides, these usually moved slowly and in stages, and a 50m-high wave would only occur in the "very, very worse scenario".

Dr Tongkul said that simulations of tsunami generated by earthquakes from the Manila Trench could produce waves of about one to two metres in height around the Kudat area, which was more likely the case.

He added that a group of Brunei researchers had conducted research on the marine trough offshore Brunei and had found evidence of landslides over an area measuring about 100km long and 70km wide.

"It is known as the Brunei landslide to researchers,'' he said.

Dr Tongkul explained this could be evidence of multiple smaller landslides occurring over time.

"It is a big one (shelf) and if it falls at one go, then it could trigger a massive tsunami.

"But landslips at the shelf have been occurring for thousands, if not millions of years and may be continuing today.

"That is why we believe that it would be very rare for such a massive landslip to occur,'' he said.

He emphasised that Malaysian researchers only did a simulation of what would happen if the entire shelf collapsed.

The tsunami issue has been abuzz in Sabahan social media circles after a meteorologist said it was possible during a television programme on RTM.

Tsunami threat looms over coastal Sabah, residents urged to be prepared
AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 5 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Coastal Sabah faces the possibility of being struck by a tsunami in the event of a massive underwater earthquake or catastrophic seabed erosion, says the Sabah Meteorological Department.

Its director, Azemi Daud, said the state has the potential of being struck by seismic sea waves, based on scientific studies carried out by researchers across the globe.

“The size (of the tsunami) will depend on the depth of the undersea quake. However, there is no way we can forecast when exactly that will take place.

“If we look back at history, the coastal district of Lahad Datu was hit by an earthquake 40 years ago.

We can expect (another earthquake in the future), but it’s (not definite),” he told reporters during a tsunami exercise at Dewan Sri Putatan here.

Commenting on claims that Kudat district, about 190km from here, is likely to be hit by a tsunami, Azemi pointed out that an underwater earthquake in the Philippines (Manila Trench) or the massive collapse of a seabed cliff off Brunei may create such a situation.

He also said Putatan, near here, is also among high-risk areas, as the small district is located by the sea.

This morning, about 1,000 Putatan residents from four villages, namely Kampung Contoh, Pasir Putih, Teluk Vila and Sri Pandan took part in a tsunami drill aimed at increasing awareness on the dos and don’ts of dealing with disaster.

Local authorities and enforcement agencies such as the fire and rescue department, the Civil Defence Department, the People’s Volunteer Corps, the armed forces, and the police were also mobilised to assist in evacuation during the mock emergency.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin was also present to monitor the level of preparedness among villagers and governmental departments in responding to tsunami warnings and alerts.

“I am satisfied with the commitment shown by the people, and I hope that they will gain valuable knowledge and put them into practice in an actual situation,” said Yahya.

UMS geologist says tsunami threat in Kudat "quite low"
AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 5 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Kudat folks have been advised to remain calm.

The possibility of the coastal district being slammed by a devastating tsunami is “quite low” said Universiti Malaysia Sabah geologist Prof Dr Felix Tongkul.

He explained that only massive underwater earthquakes measuring over 7 on the Richter scale could generate a threatening tsunami.

“The occurrence of big earthquakes is quite rare. Even if they do occur along the Manila Trench and generate tsunami, Kudat is located quite far away from the tsunami source.

“By the time tsunami waves reached Kudat, it would have decreased in energy and would be quite small, around one to two metres high only,” he said when contacted, adding the people should not be worried.

“For a worst case scenario, say, an earthquake of magnitude 9.3 occurs in the Manila Trench and generates a tsunami.

This will produce around three to four metres high tsunami waves along the west coast of Sabah. “Again, earthquake of this magnitude is extremely rare,” Tongkul stressed.

It was reported residents living in Kudat’s coastal areas have gone into panic mode following claims that a possible 50m high tsunami would hit the district.

The statement was made by Malaysian Meteorological Department deputy director general (operation) Dr Mohd Rosadi Che Abas in a recent television interview.

“This (50m high tsunami) is just an output of a computer simulation based on assumption that a huge underwater landslide can occur offshore Sabah.

“This gigantic underwater landslide can displace a huge amount of water that produces the 50m tsunami. However, like I explained earlier, this is unlikely to happen,” Tongkul emphasised.

Earlier during a tsunami drill in Putatan near here, Sabah meteorological department director Azemi Daud did not rule out possibility of a tsunami striking the state’s coastal areas in the event of a massive underwater earthquake or catastrophic seabed erosion.

He noted that an underwater earthquake in the Philippines or a massive collapse of the seabed cliff off Brunei can be factors creating a recipe for disaster.

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Malaysia: Penang hit again by floods, weary locals lash out at state government

BALVIN KAUR New Straits Times 4 Nov 16;

GEORGE TOWN: Flood-weary Penangites were hit with more inundation today.

Flash flooding was reported this morning in several areas in the southwest of the island, including Bayan Lepas, Bayan Baru and Baru Maung.

Checks by NST revealed that water levels rose after a heavy downpour which began at about 10.30am.

Flood waters, which rose to ankle level during the one hour downpour, only receded by 12.30pm.

Soaked Penangites are beginning to voice frustration with the authorities’ lack of action in mitigating constant flooding in the state.

Siti Hamziah Mat Salleh, 58, said she was tired of the constant flooding and living in fear of inundation.

"This time, the water did not go up so high, but the flooding frequency and fear of it is really taking a toll on us.

"We are not young or rich that we can easily clean up and buy new stuff every week.

"Some of my stuff is damaged beyond repair from two earlier floods this week," she said.

Hamziah said the authorities should stop making excuses and start finding a solution to the flooding problems.

"I am pleading with the state government to stop blaming the environment, the previous government or the federal government, and start doing the job we elected them to do," she said.

Heavy rain jams up Penang roads

GEORGE TOWN: A two-hour downpour caused a massive traffic crawl in several areas around Penang island.

Areas such as Jalan Mayang Pasir and Jalan Mahsuri in Bayan Baru; Taman Lip Sin in Sungai Dua; Bayan Lepas, Batu Maung and Permatang Damar Laut were hit by flash floods.

Floodwaters caused at least three cars to stall along Me­­dan Kam­pung Relau in Bayan Lepas.

Water levels started to rise from 10am yesterday.

Perak Road Fire and Rescue Department se­­nior officer Mohd Rizuwan Abu Hassan said that water levels rose to more than 0.6m but subsided quickly.

“We received a report about the stalled cars at about 11am but they had been shifted when we arrived at the scene,” he said.

Yeap Ban Choon, 54, who was attending a seminar at Alora Hotel in Bayan Lepas, said he was shocked to see the road flooded when he was exiting the hotel.

“I wanted to leave as I had an important meeting to attend, but unfortunately I was forced to stay put as the water level was too high.

“I had to wait in the hotel till it subsided at around 11.30am,” said the software company ma­­nager who was irked by the constant flash floods in the state.

Former Pantai Jerejak assemblyman Wong Mun Hoe said that many of his friends forwarded pictures of the flood to him.

“My friends always keep me informed to make sure none of us are stuck in the floods.

“Every time it rains, there seems to be a flood in Penang,” he said.

“It is a worrying matter and I hope the state government can seriously look into it.”

Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin said the unusual weather was a contributing factor to the flash floods.

“I will be requesting for allocations from the state government for flood mitigation projects in Bayan Baru and Batu Maung,” he said.

Batu Maung assemblyman Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim said many factors contributed to the flash floods in Batu Maung.

“The rainy weather, ongoing flood mitigation projects as well as road widening are some of the reasons for flash floods in Batu Maung.

“The drains have not been completed for the road widening project,” he said.

In Balik Pu­­lau, a waterspout was spotted near Kam­pung Perlis and another at Pu­­lau Betong.

Photographs of the waterspout, usually caused by unstable weather conditions and strong winds, went viral.

A witness claimed he saw two waterspouts at Pulau Betong.

“They happened at Pulau Be­­tong and luckily not near the coast which could have caused major damage to the villages.

“I immediately alerted the residents about the waterspouts,” he said.

Residents in Batu Maung and Permatang Damar Laut were also affected by floods on Wednesday.

On Deepavali day last Saturday, residents in Bandar Baru Air Itam, Taman Lumba Kuda and Jalan P. Ramlee suffered the brunt of torrential rains.

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Malaysian held in Indonesia for pangolin trafficking

FATIMAH ZAINAL The Star 5 Nov 16;

PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian was among three held following the bust of an illegal pangolin trafficking ring in Jambi, Indonesia.

Two tonnes of pangolin meat and some 650kg of pangolin scales were seized from the men when the district police stormed a warehouse which was believed to belong to one of the two Indonesian suspects.

Indonesian online news portal Tribun Jambi reported that the head of the Jambi police Supt Kuswahyudi confirmed the arrests were made on Thursday.

“We found 13 sacks of pangolin scales weighing 650kg,” he said, adding that following the arrests, one of the suspects revealed the where­abouts of their network in Batang­hari, a Jambi regency.

“Police immediately went to the scene and arrested two more suspects,” he said.

Traffic South-East Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said pangolin scales were largely used in traditional Chinese medicine and traditional medicine in the Indo-China region which spans Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

“In late October, authorities in West Kalimantan busted another ring and seized 40 dead pangolins, a live pangolin as well as a taxidermy pangolin, and arrested three people,” she said.

The syndicate took the pangolins from West Kalimantan and repor­tedly traded them abroad via Jakarta and Sarawak, revealed John.

“We urge the Malaysian authorities to work with their Indonesian counterparts in Borneo and Sumatra to weed out these pangolin traffic­king syndicates,” she said.

Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia director Dr Melvin Gumal said the estimated worth of the seized pangolin meat and scales in the Jambi case depends on the place it is being marketed to, as demand varies from country to country.

In Malaysia, he said, the price per kilo of pangolin meat was estimated to range between RM200 and RM220, while the scales come with a heftier price tag, at an estimated RM400 to RM440 per kilo.

“These are approximate values as they are illegal items. A tonne of pangolin meat is worth RM200,000, and since two tonnes were seized, the figure is double,” said Dr Melvin.

Once the exotic pangolin parts leave Indonesia, the value can go up to RM1,200 per kilo for its meat and an estimated RM12,000 per kilo for its scales, he added.

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Indonesia: Fighting for food self-sufficiency

Andi Abdussalam Antara 4 Nov 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - As an agriculture country, Indonesia was once self-sufficient in the production of rice, the staple food for its people of 250 million, but now it is importing some of the commodity and is struggling to regain its past glory in rice production.

Through the Ministry of Agriculture, the government has continued to improve regulations deemed to have been impeding Indonesias efforts to regain its self-sufficiency in rice production.

"We are improving all regulations, which are seen to be hindering the pace towards achieving self-sufficiency in food production," Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman said on the sidelines of a function held to observe the 36th World Food Day in Boyolali, Central Java, on Friday last week (Oct. 28).

So far, all procurements such as the procurement of high-bred seeds and fertilizers should be carried out through tenders so that efforts to increase food production are often made late.

According to the Agriculture Minister, Indonesia has been hit by the El Nino and La Nina weather phenomenon for two consecutive years. The challenges faced in 2015 were extraordinary and the heaviest ones along the history of Indonesia with an intensity of 2.44 percent.

The same phenomenon also affected the country in the 1997-1998 with an intensity of only 1.9 percent at the time, but Indonesia was forced to import 12 million tons of rice.

"With hard work, we have been able to pass the heaviest season over the past two years and imported only 1.9 million tons of rice. We hope will no longer face the same problem in 2017," said Minister Amran.

Even, now the government has two million tons of rice stock, which is adequate to meet the need for the commodity up to May next year. Moreover, in March, the rice harvest season will begin so that rice stocks are adequate.

In addition, all regional governments across the country have been asked to increase their regions rice production with assistance provided by the central government. If they fail to increase production, the assistance will not be provided in the following year.

In order to regain the countrys glorious food production, the government has overhauled various regulations in the food sector and repaired damaged rice infrastructure, which reached three million hectares. President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has asked the minister to finish the job in three years but the Minister of Agriculture said his side has been trying to accomplish it in one year.

The government is also improving the distribution of fertilizers and has taken action against those who distribute fake or mixed fertilizers, which disadvantage farmers.

"Self-sufficiency in food can be achieved through efforts to modernize agriculture, while in parallel we improve regulations and infrastructure. We have to work hard to boost production and control export and imports. Organic agriculture is very attractive and prices could increase ten times and that could improve the welfare of the farmers," he said.

The government has also distributed some 160 thousand units of agricultural machine tools to the regions. This is intended to cut production costs from Rp2 million per hectare to Rp1 million.

This year, Indonesia has planned to open up 200 thousand hectares of new rice fields. The plan to increase the acreage under rice farms in the country by 200 thousand hectares is expected to help the government achieve its target of unhusked rice production of Rp76 million tons.

By increasing the acreage of the countrys rice fields by 200 thousand hectares, the rice farms in Indonesia will cover about 9.0 million hectares.

As a country where rice is a staple food, Indonesia must always have adequate rice stocks, particularly in the face of two extreme dry and rainy seasons. During the rainy season, thousands of hectares of rice could be damaged while during the drought, thousands of hectares of paddy fields could also fail to produce any harvest.

On an average, the domestic need for rice in Indonesia is predicted to reach about 30 million tons per annum.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said Indonesia should be able to compete with other countries in the food, energy and water sectors.

"I should say that the competition among countries today has become really tough," Jokowi stated on the sidelines of the 36th World Food Day (HPS) 2016 celebrations at the Office Complex Square of the Boyolali Regional Government last weekend.

According to the President Jokowi, Indonesia, with its 17 thousand islands and fertile soil, should start preparing, planning for and anticipating the development in food sector. If the people worked hard to improve production, Indonesia will no longer have to import food commodities.

Jokowi believed that with a consistent approach, the country would no longer have to import foods such as maize by 2018.

Despite the fact that Indonesia is a big country with fertile lands, it has not been able to become self-sufficient in food. That means something is wrong. "Clearly, if such is the scenario, we need to improve. We are confident that Indonesia can be self-reliant in food in the future," the president underlined.

As of now, the government has assured that it would not import rice until the end of 2016 as there was sufficient supply of rice.

"I can assure there will be no rice imports until the end of this year. I said last year that supply during the September-October period was only 1.030 million tons but now it has reached 1.980 million tons," Jokowi disclosed while inspecting the rice harvest in the village of Trayu in Boyolali, Central Java.

Calculations made by the Ministry of Agriculture had found that the per capita consumption of rice in Indonesia is 124 kilograms per annum. So the government based its rice production target on the basis of a per capita consumption of 124 kilograms.

With a population of 250 million, the domestic need of the people for rice reaches some 31 million tons.

However, following a joint assessment conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) and the Ministry of Trade some time ago, it was found that Indonesias per capita consumption of rice is only 114 kilograms per annum.

So, based on this figure of 114 kilograms, the domestic need is pegged at only about 28.5 million tons.

Thus, if the target of 76 million tons of unhusked rice production is achieved this year, Indonesia will be able to become self-sufficient in rice production.

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Indonesia wants money for meeting carbon reduction targets

Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 4 Nov 16;

Last month, Indonesia officially ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

And at next week’s climate change meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, the government will challenge devoloped countries to act on their own pledge to provide financial incentives for countries that achieve substantial progress in reducing massive deforestation.

Indonesia, one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emmitters, has done its part, but developed countries have given little in return.

For instance, in 2010, Norway agreed to provide up to US$1 billion to Indonesia to fund forestry-related emissions reduction programs throughout the country.

A large portion of the fund will only be disbursed once Indonesia demonstrates tangible success in slowing its deforestation rate.

“In terms of finance, the commitment from developed countries has to be clear. Where’s the proof? In the past, they announced pledges. In Marrakech, we will demand to see the concrete evidence,” said Emma Rachmawaty, the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s climate change mitigation director, on Thursday.

She added that Indonesia would also seek additional support such as transfer-of-technology agreements and capacity building to help the country meet its target of reducing carbon emissions by 29 percent by 2029.

“Developing countries [like Indonesia] have the right to get help from developed countries,” Emma said.

The Paris Agreement is a consensus agreement stipulating that the increase in global warming must be limited to 2 degrees Celsius.

Apart from financial demands, Indonesia will also defend its stance on other issues such as that surrounding the aviation industry’s desire to offset its carbon emissions by buying carbon from the forestry sector.

Indonesia is strongly against the scheme.

Starting from 2020, any increase in airline CO2 emissions will be offset by activities such as tree-planting, which soaks up CO2.

The plan is stipulated in the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, which is part of the first deal limiting greenhouse gas emissions from the international aviation industry sealed in Montreal last month by national representatives from the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Emma said Indonesia should be wary of the carbon offset scheme as it had the potential to derail the country’s plan to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, also called REDD+.

“If carbon from the aviation industry is offset by REDD+, we don’t want that. If that’s the case, we can’t get the financial incentive [from REDD+],” she said.

Emma said she was worried that Indonesia would not get money from donors in its REDD+ programs even if had succeeded in achieving results, as the carbon bought by the aviation industry would neutralize the targets, well before Indonesia could claim the money.

“Maybe [in the future] Singapore Airlines will offset [its carbon] through our forests,” she said. “Offset means replacing, so we can’t get the financial incentive.”

The US, China and India are the largest emitters of CO2 in the world. As Indonesia industrializes, it has climbed up the rankings of the world’s carbon polluters, and presently sits in 11th place. The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry and the Environment and Forestry Ministry are the two government bureaucracies tasked with working through the problem.

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