Best of our wild blogs: 7 Nov 16

12-13 Nov (Sat-Sun): Wild shores at the Singapore Eco Film Festival
wild shores of singapore

Tanker ran aground off Raffles Lighthouse, 4 Nov 2016
wild shores of singapore

Larval Host Plant for Butterflies: Common Chinese Mistletoe
Butterflies of Singapore

Twin-barred Tree Snake (Chrysopelea pelias) @ Upper Peirce
Monday Morgue

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Cambodia digs into sand mining industry as beaches and crabs vanish

Chris Arsenault Reuters 3 Nov 16;

KOH SRALAU, Cambodia, Nov 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - C ambodian officials have promised to investigate problems in the sand mining business following complaints from fishermen that dredgers have been stealing the shore beneath their boats on an industrial scale.

"Serious actions" will be taken against anyone inappropriately exporting sand, Cambodia's Ministry of Mines and Energy said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The ministry's move came after the release of U.N. trade data compiled by campaigners this week, showing Singapore has imported more than 72 million tonnes of Cambodian sand since 2007.

The Cambodian government reported less than 3 million tonnes of sand exports during that period.

The discrepancy, worth more than $740 million, led a coalition of campaign groups to call on Monday for an investigation into what has happened to around 69 million tonnes of missing sand.

"The amount of illegal mining is massive," said Som Chandara, an activist with Mother Nature, one group questioning the government's accounting of sand exports.

"It's making a bad situation for the communities by polluting the water," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, standing on top of a pile of sand.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy pledged to investigate the cause of the difference between the U.N. data and its own.

The government maintains it has "completely eradicated lawless sand dredging" but said in a statement posted on Facebook that the industry still "faces some challenges".

As cities across Asia expand, and demand for construction materials rises, campaigners say large-scale sand mining has seriously impacted coastal ecosystems and the land itself.


"Seven beaches have already disappeared because of the mining," said Louk Pou, a fisherman on Koh Sralau, an island that is a hotspot for sand extraction 300 km (186 miles) west of Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh.

"They're just gone and the people can't enjoy them anymore," Pou told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Residents in the village of stilted wooden homes, narrow concrete footpaths and colourful small boats say sand dredging has plunged their once reasonably prosperous fishing community into poverty.

Large cranes and barges began appearing in the coastal region of bright green mangrove forests in 2000, Pou said.

Before dredgers - licensed to politically connected Cambodian businessmen and often operated by Vietnamese firms - began plunging into the waters to extract sand from the bottom, Pou said he earned more than $50 a day fishing for crab from his small motorboat.

Now his daily income is less than $10, and he can no longer afford to send his children to school - complaints echoed by other villagers.


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"There have been big changes in fish stocks here," said fisherman's wife Neak Sopheap.

Dredging machines and sand barges dump their waste directly into the river, fishermen say. They blame "sticky oil", which now covers their nets, for decimating the crab population.

"The land has been disappearing and some of the mangrove forests have collapsed," Sopheap said during an interview on the patio of her wooden home jutting into brackish water where a river flows into the sea.

Her neighbour, Ek Sophal, nodded in agreement as she mended a plastic fishing net.

"Families are borrowing a lot of money and going into debt because there isn't enough fish," Sophal said. "The government needs to stop this dredging."

Local media reported on Thursday the government had temporarily halted sand exports by companies that hold valid permits while officials investigate campaigners' allegations.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy did not respond to requests for further comment from the Thomson Reuters Foundation. It provided no details of how its investigation into sand mining would be carried out, nor when it would be concluded.

Government officials have previously said sand dredging is sustainable and can actually help local ecosystems by preventing landslips.

Travel support for this reporting was provided by, an initiative of the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment. (Reporting By Chris Arsenault; editing by Megan Rowling; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit

Dredging by the numbers
Bun Sengkong and Yesenia Amaro Phnom Penh Post 7 Nov 16;

Analytical figures posted anonymously on the Facebook page of the pro-transparency group Integrity Cambodia on Saturday estimates that if the UN data on sand exports to Singapore are accurate, Cambodia missed out on about $35 million in potential revenue.

The UN data show that since 2007, some $752 million in sand was imported by Singapore from Cambodia. The Kingdom has only reported about $5 million in exports to the small island nation during the same time period, prompting accusations of corruption and mismanagement in the much-maligned sector.

The $35 million estimate consists of $9 million in royalties, $15 million from tax on exports and about $11 million from tax on profits, the figures say. But the calculation uses several assumptions, including that the price of sand in Cambodia is one fifth of the price of sand in Singapore.

An anonymous contributor to the page characterised the numbers as a way to spark “critical thinking” on the potential for lost state revenue.

Meng Saktheara, spokesman with the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said the ministry had not been aware of the page, but said he had looked into the figures.

The calculation approach as presented “is rightly depicting Cambodia fiscal regime on this business”, he said. It’s a good way to “roughly estimate” potential state revenue, he added, while noting that the data wasn’t perfect.

“Based on my experiences and understanding of the global mining sector, the calculation on that page gives a good indication, although it has so many assumptions,” he said.

Meanwhile, the ministry on Saturday suspended the sand-dredging activities of Udom Seima Company around Koh Kong province’s Koh Smach island after it received a complaint that the company was operating too close to the riverbank, Dith Tina, secretary of state for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, confirmed.

Following the complaint, the ministry sent officials to check the area and found that the company’s operations were indeed too close to the riverbank, Tina said. “We ordered them to stop,” he said.

The ministry was waiting for a report from its provincial counterpart in Koh Kong to determine whether the company violated the provisions in its licence, he added. Tina also said the ministry had issued a letter to the company to suspend its export activity to review their contract information.

Sun Mala, an activist with the environmental NGO Mother Nature, said that on Thursday and Friday, activists with the organisation and a number of villagers observed Udom Seima was operating too close to a nearby mangrove forest, causing some parts to collapse.

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Product tanker Spottail ran aground in Singapore Strait

Maritime Herald 5 Nov 16;

The product tanker Spottail ran aground in Singapore Strait on half mile off Pulau Takong Besar, Indonesia. The vessel left Singapore en route to Sri Lanka under cargo, but after failure of the steering gear hardly stuck with the portboard into a rocky shallow. The crew was unable to refloat the ship and requested assistance from the local authorities. At the scene of the troubled product tanker were dispatched tug and rescue boat, which should make an underwater inspection and estimate the damages caused by the grounding. The investigation for the circumstances and root cause of the accident are under way.

There were no injured people during the accident and no report water pollution. The salvage will be prepared carefully, due to high danger for causing breaches into the tanker’s hull. The towing will be done after assessment of the damages and at high tide, probably late today.

The product tanker Spottail (IMO: 9409479) has overall length of 228.00 m, moulded beam of 32.00 m and maximum draft of 8.50 m. The deadweight of the ship is 74,997 DWT and the gross tonnage is 40,975 GRT. The vessel was built in 2009 by Minaminippon Shipbuilding in their shipyard in Usuki, Japan. The product tanker Spottail is operating under the flag of Marshall Islands and managed by Prime Tanker Management.

M/T Spottail Incident
Prime website 7 Nov 16;

Our M/T Spottail with IMO No.9396672, ran aground at Pulau Takong Besar Island (Indonesia) at the coordinates Long. 103 42.7E and Lat. 01 07.3N on the 2nd of November 2016 at 01.10 hours local time, while sailing in ballast to Fujairah.

There have been no reports of any injuries or pollution and after taking soundings, the Master reports that there is no water ingress.

Salvage Company has been appointed for the refloating operations. Two Managers’ Superintendents together with a Salvage Master from the H&M insurers and a Salvage Master from the Salvage Company have boarded the vessel to evaluate the situation and to prepare the refloating plan, while two tugs with divers are on the scene. Divers inspection completed on the 7th of November.

Having obtained the required approval by the Port Authorities, re-floating operations are expected to commence on the 8th of November.

A comprehensive incident investigation has commenced in order for the contributing factors and root cause analysis to be determined. Based on the analysis of facts, this is not an incident attributed to equipment failure.

We will regularly update our website on further developments.

M/T Spottail Successfully Refloated
Prime website 2 Nov 16;

M/T Spottail was successfully refloated on the 8th of November at 14:27 hours local time and sailed to the NIPA Transit anchorage for inspection.

As soon as the incident investigation is finalised, the full investigation report will be available in the OCIMF incidents database.

M/T Spottail: Inspection after Refloating
Prime Website 9 Nov 16;

Underwater and tank internal inspection has been carried out today – in the presence of NK Surveyor – in way of the area that touched bottom. Vessel was found free of any apparent damage affecting Class.

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Malaysia: Ministry flexing muscles to protect water sources

JUNE MOH New Straits Times 6 Nov 16;

IN an interview with New Sunday Times, its minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, says that the frustration of millions of consumers over poor water supply management and pollution of the resource must be addressed with the greatest political will.

Q: Why do we need to replace the Environmental Quality Act 1974 (EQA)?

A: EQA was enacted when the country was transforming from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial economy. The current provisions of our environmental law are not able to regulate activities which were not included then.

The rapid development of our country since the 1980s has impacted the load capacity of our rivers. The pollutants that enter the river are accumulating year by year, hence, the quality of river water is deteriorating.

Industrial waste makes up of 20 per cent of the total source of pollutants in the river, while 80 per cent of pollutants come from other sources such as surface run-off, agriculture, farming, development of land, commercial and other activities that are not regulated under EQA.

From January to September this year, the Department of Environment (DOE) had taken 148 cases to court due to water pollution under the EQA’s jurisdiction. These court cases involved parties in Selangor, Johor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan and Terengganu.

Q: What are the recommended buffer zone guidelines in industrial areas for rivers and water treatment plants?

A: Through DOE, we will introduce the Siting and Zoning of Industries and Residential Areas Guidelines. This introduces the concept of a buffer zone, which is the physical distance separating the industrial areas and sensitive receivers, such as residential areas, schools, places of worship and water treatment plants.

The industries will be categorised into five areas: high-risk industries must have a buffer zone of at least 1km or more, heavy industries are required to have a 300m buffer zone or more, medium industries must have a 150m buffer zone or more, light industries are required to have a 50m buffer zone or more, and cottage industries’ buffer zones can be around 10m or less.

By enforcing this, it will prevent pollution to the environment.

Q: Are development and commercial activities around raw water sources (for example, Kampung Sungai Buah in Dengkil) adhering to the buffer zone guidelines?

A: There is no buffer zone in Sungai Buah. It is costly to maintain a buffer zone because we develop every inch of the land.

This is why a proper study has to be conducted before creating industrial areas. When we started our industrial economy, we did not plan and design industrial areas properly.

We did have buffer zone guidelines before, but nobody had adhered to it because the guidelines are not law. But DOE cannot enforce guidelines, it is up to the local authority to decide on the enforcement.

The recent incident (on the Sungai Semenyih river pollution) has taught us a good lesson on the importance of the enforcement of buffer zones.

In the new guidelines, we propose that a non-pollutant industry be used as buffer zone for the pollutant industry due to space constraints.

Q: What are some of the loopholes in the current standard operating procedures (SOP) for water treatment plant operators?

A: The SOP of water treatment plants are not standardised throughout the country. Shutting down a water treatment plant is solely the decision of the operator. Furthermore, some of the technology used by the operators are outdated.

The criteria and parameters used by the operators to shut down the plants have to be reviewed too. In the case of Semenyih, the detection of the odour must be specified first. Operators must ensure the parameters of odours that could lead to the shutdown of the water treatment plant.

The shutdown process cannot depend solely on the presence of odours without identifying the type of smell. Odour analysis should follow the provisions of the new guidelines.

Q: When will the SOP be reviewed?

A: Water treatment plants come under the jurisdiction of the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry (KeTTHA) and the National Water Services Commission. We are proposing to KeTTHA to review the SOP to accommodate the current industrial and environmental requirements.

Q: What are some of the things that will be added to strengthen the new SOP?

A: We will emulate European practices, where there is central waste processing and cleaning system, where all industrial waste has to be sent to before being disposed of, in every industrial estate.

This plant’s function is to clean the waste before disposing them accordingly.

This is easy for the authorities to monitor waste disposal activity.

Q: If pollution at Sungai Semenyih continues, it probably will not survive over the next three years. How can we stop the pollution?

A: Under the 11th Malaysian Plan, DOE has been given a mandate to conduct a study on Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which is the value of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards.

The TMDL approach is expected to yield a positive outcome to improve water quality of the river and ensure water resources are free from contamination.

Q: What are the best practices across relevant authorities that should be adopted to ensure incidents similar to this will not recur?

A: We will form special teams in every state which will comprise the state DOE, local authorities and (in the case of Selangor) the Selangor Water Management Authority. The special team will work together to investigate water pollution cases and take comprehensive action under the law.

In the case of Sungai Buah, we recommended that the existing operators constantly review the water intake.

Besides, new treatment plants need to be completed with alternative water treatment methods such as activated carbon or other appropriate treatment to reduce the impact of odours.

It is necessary for the authorities to think about alternative sources of raw water that can be used in case of an emergency.

Q: Do you think there is a need for the authorities to publish their water quality results (like air quality index) on their websites?

A: The ministry is in the process of improving the river water quality monitoring system, particularly for monitoring the quality of river water which is the source for water treatment plants. This includes display of real-time information on water quality for the public.

However, at this moment, the status of water quality in Malaysia can be found in the annual Environmental Quality Report issued by DOE or by contacting the nearest DOE office.

Q: Could the fertilisers used by farmers be the source of contamination of Sungai Buah?

A: Agricultural activities could possibly contaminate the water quality if farmers use pesticides or chemicals excessively during heavy rain seasons.

This could cause surface run-off which brings pollutants to the river.

In this case, agricultural activities were not the source of water pollution.

Q: DOE stated that there were 14 factories that released their industrial waste into Sungai Buah. Previously the state government disclosed that the pollutant was octabromodiphenyl ether. Has the ministry identified which of these factories used this chemical?

A: We have not identified the factory that used octabromodiphenyl ether.

The Chemistry Department is assessing the sample.

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Malaysia: Sabah villagers head for higher ground as river levels rise following downpour

AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 6 Nov 16;

KENINGAU: Villagers residing along the Pampang and Apin-Apin rivers here have been advised to move to higher ground as water levels are rapidly rising due to a continuous heavy downpour.

District fire and rescue operation chief Asip Kaidin said heavy rain since 3pm has caused Sungai Pampang to rise by as much as three metres. "Several houses were inundated. The flood is at knee-level and some villagers have started to pack and move to safer ground.

"We have despatched several personnel to monitor the situation at several villages, particularly along the river,” he said. Asip said for the moment, no evacuation is being carried out, but the department is prepared to respond to an emergency.

"(The water) is not at a dangerous level yet, but it can get worse if rain continues to pour,” he added.

Asif said that the department had earlier received a distress call about a van being swept away by floodwaters near Sungai Apin-Apin.

"We were told that the owner was washing his van at the river when the water overflowed and swept the van away.

"We could not retrieve the vehicle as we were unable to locate it," he said, adding that the rain has stopped, but the sky remains cloudy.

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Malaysia: 'Rapid development, hillslope cutting irrefutably cause of Penang floods'

PHUAH KEN LIN New Straits Times 6 Nov 16;

GEORGE TOWN: A university environment specialist has dismissed the Penang government’s claim that extensive development in the state was not the cause of flash floods that happened three times in a week here.

On the contrary, said Professor Chan Ngai Weng from Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) School of Humanities, it was rapid development and unscrupulous hillslope cutting that contributed to environmental degradation.

Chan, who specialises in environment hazard management, told the New Sunday Times that development in Penang was moving at a swift rate and flood mitigation measures were not prioritised.

“It is unwise to dismiss rapid development and hillslope cutting as the cause of flash floods.

“In fact, changing land use from green areas to urban built-up areas reduces permeable surfaces,” he said, taking the DAP-led state government and even the previous administration in Penang to task for “not doing enough”.

“Cutting hillslopes weakens soil structure and leads to erosion, forcing sediments to flow into rivers.

“These are certainly part of the reasons behind the slew of floods statewide.” River encroachment also posed another problem, he said.

“Development happens very close to rivers, leaving river water no room to manoeuvre,” he said.

Chan said low-lying areas close to rivers were also undergoing rapid development, causing high rates of surface run-off that was not being absorbed into the ground.

Urban drainage was also poorly planned, he said, with much irrigation still depending on the open monsoon drain system, although the Irrigation and Drainage Department had adopted the environmentally-friendly urban drainage model called the urban storm water management (MSMA).

Chan added that contractors did not follow the MSMA drainage system because it was costly.

He also blamed litterbugs and poor enforcement by the authorities, which had caused clogged drains and rivers.

Citing an example, Chan said the USM engineering campus was built on a MSMA drainage system and rainwater was allowed to seep into the ground and flow into the river.

“Of course, climate change has also contributed to an increase in rainfall, but we cannot solely blame nature. When it rains, it only floods in urban and suburban areas, and not forested areas.”

Flooding, landslides hit Penang again; SPM students stranded in homes
BALVIN KAUR New Straits Times 7 Nov 16;

GEORGE TOWN: Major flash flooding and landslides here have prevented hundreds of students from reaching their schools and sitting for the first day of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations.

Many students were trapped in their homes, while others were seen being transported to schools via boat courtesy of the Fire and Rescue department.

Flash floods are once again causing havoc across the island. Massive traffic gridlock has been reported in various parts of the city, with waters inundating Jalan P. Ramlee up to waist level – the fourth time the major artery has experienced significant flooding since Oct 29.

A Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said they received a distress call at 4.22am about a landslide at Jalan Ujung Batu in Teluk Bahang here.

He said five firemen from the Teluk Bahang fire and rescue station were sent to the scene of the incident.

"The firemen said (a portion of) the road along the hillslope has collapsed, and that a (large) tree has fallen across another stretch of it, covering some 50 square feet.

"Police have closed the road to the public and are diverting traffic," he told reporters here today.

He added that one person was injured in the landslide after being hit by a falling stone.

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