Best of our wild blogs: 23 Nov 16

Sisters' Island Marine Park Intertidal Trip
Offshore Singapore

69m people breathed toxic smoke from 2015 Indonesian fires: study

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askST: What is Singapore doing to deal with rising sea levels due to climate change?

Audrey Tan Straits Times 22 Nov 16;

Reader Pairoj Jirundorn had read about the trend of rising sea levels thanks to climate change and wrote in to askST: " The impact could be so serious that some major cities around the world could be drowned in the future. Will that really happen to Singapore ? If yes, how soon ? Are we fully prepared for such scenario ?"

Environment reporter Audrey Tan answered.

SINGAPORE - The symptoms of climate change are clear: Floods, droughts and heat waves are affecting countries around the world.

A warming Earth is also causing sheets of ice at the poles to melt, and a new study recently published in science journal Nature had predicted that a rapidly melting glacier atop East Antarctica is on track to lift oceans by at least 2m.

Singapore, being an island nation, would likely be affected by such a phenomenon, although a spokesman from the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) pointed out that sea level rise is expected to be a gradual process that will take place over several decades.

According to the projections from Singapore's Second National Climate Change Study, mean sea level is estimated to rise by up to about 1m by 2100.

Still, the Government has already introduced measures to help the city state adapt to climate change.

In 2011, for example, the authorities here raised the minimum reclamation level to at least 4 metres above mean sea level, which is an increase of 1 metre.

Selected roads, such as Changi Coast Road and Nicoll Drive, have also been raised to reduce the impact of flooding. To mitigate coastal erosion, seawalls and rock slopes near the coasts have also been installed.

"Given that climate science and projections are still evolving, the Government will continue to review our adaptation plans," said the MEWR spokesman.

For one, the Building and Construction Authority is currently conducting a Coastal Adaptation Study, which will provide long-term recommendations on how to better protect our coastal areas. The study is expected to conclude in 2017.

With the Paris climate pact now in force, Singapore is also doing its part to curb its emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases which cause climate change.

It plans to do so by promoting greater energy efficiency in the domestic and industrial sectors; pushing for more green buildings; aiming for the petrochemical industry to continually upgrade using the least pollutive and most efficient technologies available, as well as improving public transport.

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This pangolin's break-in at NTU has surprise ending

AsiaOne 22 Nov 16;

If you're listed as a critically-endangered animal, you'd best try not to get yourself in a tight spot you can't get out of, or at least be able to make a run for it if you get in trouble.

Then again if you're a pangolin, chances are you'll just curl yourself up in a ball and hope for the best. Why? It's because that's what pangolins do when a threat looms.

But one pangolin got lucky this morning when it found itself stuck in a communal room at the Nanyang Technological University's Hall of Residence 6.

According to students who found the alarmed animal around 8am, it had probably slipped through a crack in the closed wooden door of the room.

Evidence of this could be seen in the mess of wood chips and strips left in the animal's wake.

The students then called in staff from the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) who gently picked up the scaly creature, which shares characteristics with the anteater, and placed it a carrier.

Mr Kalai Balakrishnan, Acres wildlife group director, told AsiaOne: "The animal curled up like a ball but it stayed calm through out when it was picked up and placed in a carrier bag."

The insect-eating pangolin was later released safe and sound in a forested area nearby.

Mr Balakrishnan said it is quite common to see wild animals like boars, snakes, pangolins and birds of prey wandering into the premises of the university, which is surrounded by forested areas in the Jurong West area.

Of the eight species of pangolin found worldwide, the Sunda pangolin is the only one that can be found here, mainly in the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves, said Wildlife Reserves Singapore earlier this year.

Worldwide, the pangolin faces the threat of extinction due to poaching for the lucrative Chinese medicine industry and wildlife delicacy restaurants in China.

The National Parks Board estimates that there are more than 100 pangolins in the wild here. Although poaching is not an issue in Singapore, habitat loss as a result of urbanisation remains a threat for pangolins.

The slow-moving animals have been found injured or killed by vehicles when they stray onto roads here.

To report a sighting of a wild animal in places that are not their natural habitats, call the Acres' 24-hour wildlife crime and rescue hotline at 9783 7782.

To contribute towards ACRE's wildlife rescue efforts, visit their donation web page.

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Malaysia: Malaria cases in Gerik on the rise, now at 52

BERNAMA New Straits Times 23 Nov 16;

IPOH: The number of malaria cases in the Pos Kemar Orang Asli settlement in Gerik, 150km north of here, has increased to 52, with nine more cases detected yesterday.

Perak Health Department Datuk Dr Juita Ghazalie said the biggest number of cases, 44, was in Kampung Senangin, rising by seven from 37 the day before. One case was detected in Kampung Rantau, doubling the total number to two, while one case was detected in Kampung Lediau, she said.

She also said that the number cases in Kampung Akei and Kampung Ralak remained unchanged at four and one, respectively.

"The number of cases admitted to the Gerik Hospital remained unchanged from the 20 yesterday.

Efforts are being made to refer those verified as positive to hospital," she said when contacted.

Dr Juita said 622 cases of screening were carried out in 17 villages in the settlement, up from the 10 villages yesterday, to check the spread of the disease.

The State Health Department had also distributed 295 medicated mosquito nets to the Orang Asli villagers, she said.

The last reported cases of malaria occurred in the settlement in 2009. -- Bernama

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Malaysia: Bracing for wet season, Terengganu tells folks to be on alert for tidal waves

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 23 Nov 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Terengganu residents have been warned to be wary of late night tidal waves of up to 3.5 metres along its coastline during the on-going monsoon.

State secretary Datuk Wan Nawawi Wan Ismail said observation stations in Kuala Terengganu and Kemaman were keeping surveillance to warn the people of the hazard during heavy rainstorms.

“There are also 38 flood surveillance stations to monitor rain and flood level, 23 stations to sound the sirens to evacuate and eight stations equipped with web monitoring cameras,” he said.

The flood surveillance web cameras have been installed at Kampung Gong Terap and Sekolah Kampung Buluh in Setiu, the Jerteh bridge and Kampung La in Besut, Kampung Paya in Dungun, Kampung Kepah in Hulu Terengganu, and Kampung Baru Kemasik and Teladas Air Putih bridge in Kemaman.

Nawawi said flood relief supplies had already been distributed to 179 depots and forward-base stores, spread across in all the seven districts in the state.

“The total of 494 evacuation centres can accommodate 133,729 people.

We are prepared to mobilise 482 personnel from the police, armed forces, fire and rescue, civil defence, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Rela.

“These and other agencies collectively have 582 types of vehicles, including 111 boats, that are ready to be moved,” said Nawawi.

Of the 494 evacuation centres, 160 were schools which are closed for the year-end holidays.

Besut has the most number of such centres with 132, followed by Kemaman (80), Hulu Terengganu (87), Dungun (63), Kuala Terengganu (41), Setiu (35) and Marang (53).

The state government, he said, had allocated an estimated RM2 million for flood evacuation measures.

“All village welafare, security and community (J3K) committee heads have been briefed on the standard operating procedures and to liaise with the relevant agencies in times of need,” said Nawawi.

He advised the people to be prepared to be evacuated, to secure important personal documents and valuables, and follow the directives of the authorities during emergencies.

State Meteorolgical Department director Jenuwa Hussin forecasts a rainfall of between 410 and 900 millimetres from this month till March next year, in addition to thunderstorms and tidal waves.

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Malaysia: High concentration of heavy metals in Kuantan river

The Star 23 Nov 16;

KUANTAN: The Department of Environment (DOE) has discovered a high concentration of heavy metals in the river water at the bauxite mining area here.

According to the Auditor-General’s Report 2015 (Series 2), the analysis of samples based on three parameters – heavy iron metal, mercury and aluminium – at nine locations in Sungai Riau, Mabok, Penang, Kuantan and Kuala Sungai Karang found that the water had exceeded the National Water Quality Standard For Malaysia.

“The highest parameter for aluminium was 7.3mg/L in Sungai Kuantan in February 2016, while the highest parameter for iron was 10.32mg/L in Sungai Riau in August 2015,” said the report.

However, for mercury, the report showed no elevated level after August last year in all the locations.

The audit report stated that the chemical analysis on aluminium at Sungai Taweh and Sungai Rong also exceeded those standards, namely 1.5mg/L and 0.96mg/L, respectively.

“The results of the chemical analysis exceeded the standard of Group IV (0.5mg/L) of the National Water Quality Standard for Malaysia.

Subsequently, in March, the DOE conducted another inspection at Sungai Taweh and found the aluminium parameter also exceeded the standard,” the report said.

It also said the DOE’s schematic sketch map showed that the bauxite laundering activities near Sungai Taweh and Sungai Rong will contaminate the river water which flows into the Bukit Sagu and Bukit Goh water treatment plants.

As such, the report said the Land and Mines office and the Department of Mineral and Geosciences will control the deposition pool so that it will not overflow into Sungai Taweh by draining the water and covering the pool with soil.

The report, however, mentioned that the pool had yet to be shut down. — Bernama

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Malaysia: Culling of bull elephant a step backwards for conservation -- WWF

RUBEN SARIO The Star 22 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department's move to cull a bull elephant that had killed a plantation worker is a "step backwards" in conservation efforts of the endangered species, WWF Malaysia said.

WWF Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said other options are available in dealing with the male elephant.

In a statement Tuesday, he said that while there is no "one size fits all solution" to the complex human-elephant conflict, some possible mitigating measures include the use of electric fences at strategic locations.

Dr Sharma said setting up forest corridors between tracts of jungles will also help reduce the conflict.

"It is hoped that the recent culling will not be a precedent for human-elephant conflict cases in the future," he said.

"Borneo elephants are mostly found in Sabah and their population has dwindled over the years due to habitat loss and such conflicts. Therefore, the death of one member is a huge blow to the whole population," Dr Sharma added.

He noted that the department had confirmed that the culled bull elephant was in musth, a period when the males are known to exhibit aggressive behaviour, and consequently are susceptible to provocation.

"Therefore, those working or living in areas inhabited by elephants need to remain alert of their surroundings, particularly during dawn and after 3pm when elephants are known to be more active," Dr Sharma added.

"When confronting elephants, restraint must be practised and retribution avoided, as killing elephants merely addresses the symptoms of a problem," he said.

Dr Sharma said unsustainable land use planning in Sabah is also partly to blame for human-elephant conflict.

He said WWF-Malaysia is working with the wildlife and forestry departments as well as plantation companies on joint mitigation options to reduce conflicts via the Kalabakan human-elephant conflict working group in Tawau.

Wildlife department director Augustine Tuuga said the bull elephant was shot and killed late Sunday, a day after it trampled an Indonesian national to death on Nov 19.

Elephant culling does not solve Human-Elephant Conflict
WWF 22 Nov 16;

Kota Kinabalu: WWF-Malaysia does not condone the recent culling of a bull elephant in Tawau in a Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) by Sabah Wildlife Department ('Bull elephant that killed man in Sabah culled', The Star, 21 November 2016) as it greatly impacts the shrinking population of Sabah’s pachyderms.

Borneo elephants are mostly found in Sabah and its population has dwindled over the years due to habitat loss and HEC, therefore the death of one member is a huge blow to the whole population. Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) has confirmed that the culled bull was in musth, a period where male elephants are known to exhibit aggressive behaviour, and consequently are susceptible to provocation. Therefore those working or living in areas inhabited by elephants need to remain alert of their surroundings, particularly during dawn and after 3pm when elephants are known to be more active. When confronting elephants, restraint must be practiced and retribution avoided, as killing elephants merely addresses the symptom of a problem, which is HEC caused by unsustainable land use planning in Sabah.

It is unfortunate that both human and elephant lives were lost in the recent conflict, which highlights the sense of urgency for HEC to be mitigated strategically. WWF-Malaysia is currently working on joint mitigation options to reduce HEC with state agencies such as Sabah Wildlife Department and Sabah Forestry Department, and plantation companies via the Kalabakan HEC working group in Tawau. While its complex nature means that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for HEC, some of the science-based solutions that WWF-Malaysia have been recommending include strategic placement of electric fences and wildlife corridors that link fragmented forests.

One of the Sabah state government's latest commitments to conservation is its intention to create a wildlife corridor for Borneo elephants in the Heart of Borneo. Culling a threatened species when other options are available is a step backwards in the state's journey to sustainability. While WWF-Malaysia continues to collaborate with SWD and other stakeholders to mitigate HEC in the state, it is hoped that the recent culling will not be a precedent for HEC cases in the future.

Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma
Executive Director/CEO WWF-Malaysia

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Malaysia: Terengganu's jumbo-sized problems take centrestage at assembly sitting

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 23 Nov 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: 'Kecil bagi kita, besar bagi rakyat' (Something considered small to us but a big issue for the people).

Just like the slogan for the New Terengganu Transformation programe, an estimated 450 elephants in the state are causing havoc at plantations, farms and village properties.

Langkap Barisan Nasional assemblyman Datuk Sabri Mohd Noor highlighted the issue during question time at the state assembly sitting today.

In response, Jertih Barisan Nasional assemblyman Datuk Muhammad Pehimi Yusif said efforts have been made to shoo away the elephants through gunshots into the air, while animals which were caught were relocated to other natural habitats far away.

However, Sabri replied that such efforts were ineffective and suggested that the elephants be confined to national parks and that sentry watches be posted at villages, especially in the early hours of the morning when elephants are active.

Pehimi retorted that it is not possible to house all the elephants at national parks as there are just too many of them.

"The maintenance costs, including feeding, is very high and the national parks are not able to accommodate this.

“In view of the large areas in plantations and farms involved, it is also not possible to deploy watchmen.

We have erected electrical fences to deter the intrusion by the animals but they somehow seem to dodge them.

Some of the equipment have also become defective,” said Pehimi, who is state Agriculture, Agro-based Industries and Commodities committee chairman.

On another note, Bandar Terengganu PKR assemblyman Azan ismail asked how anyone could own up to 200 houses at a time when there was a shortage of affordable homes for the people.

In response, state Local Government and Housing Committee chairman Mohd Jidin Shafee, who is Permaisuri BN assemblyman, said all public housing scheme applications were vetted thoroughly and only first-time house buyers were eligible for government projects.

“Others may have bought it from private properties or via the private sector housing schemes, which do not place conditions as per government schemes,” he said, adding that a total of 5,287 government-initiated public scheme houses would be built next year for the people.

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Indonesia: Mangrove forest boosts ecotourism

Djemi Amnifu The Jakarta Post 22 Nov 16;

Initially serving as only a wave barrier, a mangrove forest of one hectare in Kupang Bay has been transformed into an ecotourism site that has gained in popularity among tourists in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara.

Tourists, both domestic and foreign, have been flocking to the site, situated in Oesapa Barat subdistrict, Kelapa Lima district in Kupang municipality, since the inauguration by Kupang Mayor Jonas Salean on Feb. 13.

“The location was once just a mangrove swamp to withstand the waves and where fishermen looked for crabs. After training was funded by the [United Nation’s] International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), it has now been serving as a mangrove ecotourism location,” neighborhood unit chief in Oesapa subdistrict Daris Foeh told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Daris said he did not expect a mangrove forest protected by local residents to actually benefit the local community after it was transformed into an ecotourism site.

A prohibition on cutting down mangrove trees helped protect the forest, he said, adding that the ban had been enforced on all people for generations and that anyone caught cutting a tree would face a fine of up to Rp 250,000 (US$19).

Local people and authorities agreed to transform the site into an ecotourism destination with help from IFAD in December 2015.

In order to facilitate tourists visiting the site, the local authorities built a 350-meter long boardwalk 2 meters above sea level across the mangrove forest. The cost of the boardwalk amounted to Rp 350 million.

“The entrance fee for each visitor will be used to build three houses for visitors to rest in,” he said.

None of the mangrove trees were cut during the construction, Daris said, adding that local residents recently planted 1,000 mangrove tree seedlings as part of efforts to preserve the area.

Entrance keeper Binwi Poy said around 20 to 30 visitors come to the site daily, a number he claimed could reach between 100 and 200 during the holidays.

Separately, Kupang Tourism Office head Esther Muhu said the Kupang municipal administration aimed to continue the preservation of the forest following a rise in popularity among tourists.

“It’s not only the responsibility of the government to organize tourism in Kupang city, but support from all parties, especially the people, is needed,” Esther said.

Besides the mangrove forest, the administration was also promoting its newly launched Batu Kapala beach tourism site in Nunhila subdistrict.

The local administration, she said, urged the local people to help boost the economy by taking an active role in developing the tourism sector by providing services near the tourism sites.

Indonesia is home to the world’s largest mangrove forests thanks to its rich coastal ecosystems. However, the ecosystems are also among the world’s most threatened — the country has lost 40 percent of its mangroves in the past 30 years from dredging, degradation of water quality, deforestation and aquaculture activities.

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Indonesia: Young elephants free themselves from trap

Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 22 Nov 16;

Rescue work: Volunteers medically treat two Sumatran elephants whose legs were injured by a steel trap in Pancasila hamlet, Sei Lepan district, Langkat North Sumatra, on Monday. The elephants freed themselves after four days of being snared by the mechanism.(JP/Apriadi Gunawan)

After being trapped in a steel snare for four days, two wild Sumatran elephants in the Mount Leuser National Park (TNGL) managed to free themselves from the trap, although their legs were severely injured and infected.

The mammals were trapped in a community-owned oil palm plantation in Sei Lepan district, Langkat regency, North Sumatra.

Garendel Siboro, head of technical affairs at the North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said both of the elephants were females.

Garendel added that they were considered relatively young, with the smaller one believed to be approximately eight years of age and the larger one estimated at 10 years.

The acting team leader of the elephant rescue operation said his office had received a report about two elephants caught in a trap set by local residents, but only after the animals had already managed to free themselves from the legholds, with their injured legs still entangled in steel cables.

Garendel said the BKSDA then dispatched a team including volunteers from several NGOs to look for the elephants. They were found in a critical state at the plantation in Sei Lepan on Friday.

The BKSDA enlisted the help of two veterinarians to remove the cables, which are as thick as a finger, from the elephants’ legs.

Citing the report from villagers, Garendel said residents had been afraid to approach the animals, because their mother, approximately 20 years old, had been watching closely.

Garendel added that before being trapped, the two young elephants had been with their mother in search of food on the plantation, in a herd with 11 more elephants. Along the way, Garendel said, the two young elephants were caught in traps deliberately built by farmers concerned about the large number of elephants near their plantation.

The official explained that the wild elephants had been forced out of their habitat in the TNGL area because their natural surroundings had been damaged by rampant illegal logging and the expansion of oil palm plantations.

“Many sections of the TNGL buffer zone area have been converted to oil palm plantation. As a result, elephants have lost their habitat and are forced to seek food outside of their habitat,” said Garendel.

North Sumatra BKSDA Conservation Section head Herbert Aritonang said the condition of the two injured elephants was improving after they received treatment from the vet team.

The elephants are now entrusted to a privately owned plantation until they recover and are able to walk normally.

“If they have fully recovered and able to walk normally, then we will release and escort them to their herd to meet the other elephants,” said Herbert.

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Indonesia: Flood inundates tens of homes in Muara Teweh, C. Kalimantan

Antara 22 Nov 16;

Muara Teweh (ANTARA News) - A flood inundated tens of homes in Muara Teweh, North Barito District, Central Kalimantan Province, following incessant heavy rain that caused Bengaris River to overflow.

"Several homes have been flooded since 4 a.m. local time, and the flood is expected to subside at noon," Hariadi, a local inhabitant, said here on Tuesday morning.

Heavy down pour began at midnight and lasted until 2 a.m. local time, triggering Bengaris River to spill over its bank.

Flood waters reaching a height of up to one meter submerged Mekar Indah and two other residential area.

Earlier, the National Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics agency (BMKG) had forecast that moderate to high intensity rainfall would hit areas across Indonesia this November.

South Sumatra, Bengkulu, Lampung, Bangka Belitung, North Sumatera, Banten, West Java, Jakarta and surroundings, Central Java, East Java, Central Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, Maluku, West Papua and Papua Provinces were to witness rainfall.

Therefore, the agency had urged people living in disaster-prone areas to remain vigilant and prepared to deal with any disasters to prevent casualties.

The country is, however, expecting the rainy season to peak in January and February 2017, especially in Jakarta and its suburban areas.

Three die from flood, lightning
The Jakarta Post 23 Nov 16;

A flood and lightning storm killed at least three people in Banyumas regency, Central Java, during high intensity rain in the area over the past three days.

The victims were Silan, 33, who was swept away by the flood in Watuagung village, Tambak district, Slamet Badi, 55, and Musirah, 58, residents of Wlahar Kulon village in Patikraja district who were struck by lightning while on their way to their rice fields on Tuesday.

“Heavy downpour had taken place since Saturday evening and caused several floods,” Banyumas Disaster Response chief Heriana Ady said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Floods have inundated at least 500 houses as well as numerous plots of paddy fields in the Tambak and Sumpiuh districts. Hundreds of people had been evacuated from their homes due to the torrential waters, Heriana said. The most severe flood, which reached up to 2 meters high, was in Prembun village.

Local authorities had warned residents to stay on alert due to the heavy rain, Heriana added.

Sumpiuh village resident Saridin, 45, said floods came and went and disrupted the livelihood and activities of the residents. He urged the Banyumas administration to focus on evacuating residents and to take preventive actions by repairing the river walls and by building a dam as a water catchment.

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Philippines: Red tide alert up again in Dauis, Tagbilaran City

Elvira C. Bongosia Philippines Information Agency 22 Nov 16;

TAGBILARAN CITY, November 22 (PIA) --The coastal waters of Dauis and Tagbilaran City tested positive again for algae that produces the red tide toxin, according to the regional office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR-7).

The advisory was relayed to the Bohol media on Saturday by BFAR-Bohol Information Officer Nimfa Mesina.

The BFAR bulletin said that the coastal waters of Dauis and Tagbilaran City tested positive for red tide toxin.

Gathering and selling shellfish from Dauis and Tagbilaran City sea waters are banned until further notice because they are still positive for paralytic shellfish poison that is beyond the regulatory limit.

It was only in March this year that the longest red tide alert in the province had been lifted by the bureau.

A similar red tide advisory covering Dauis and Tagbilaran areas ran from June last year to March this year.

However, BFAR-Bohol continued to warn local governments of Dauis and Tagbilaran City to remain vigilant and continue monitoring the coastal areas to make sure any resurgence of red tide toxins would be promptly acted upon.

By mid-October this year, BFAR-7 already warned Bohol consumers of the possible resurgence of red tide.

Red tide is the common term for harmful algal blooms, specifically when colonies of algae grow out of control and produce toxic or harmful effects on shellfish and other marine animals. (rmn/ecb/PIA7-Bohol)

- See more at:

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Vietnam abandons plan for first nuclear power plants

Mai Nguyen and Ho Binh Minh Reuters 22 Nov 16;

Vietnam's National Assembly voted on Tuesday to abandon plans to build two multi-billion-dollar nuclear power plants with Russia and Japan, after officials cited lower demand forecasts, rising costs and safety concerns.

The vote to scrap the country's first atomic energy project deals a blow to the global nuclear business and to Japan's drive to begin exporting reactors after the Fukushima disaster left its nuclear industry in a deep freeze.

The Vietnamese government said in a statement that the decision, made in a closed session of parliament after discussion of a government proposal, was taken for economic reasons and not because of any technological considerations.

Russia's Rosatom and a consortium of Japanese firms led by private utility Japan Atomic Power [JATOM.UL] were due to build the plants.

The estimated investment needed for the projects had doubled since 2009 to nearly 400 trillion dong ($18 billion), state media Tien Phong quoted Le Hong Tinh, vice chairman of the National Assembly's science, technology and environment commission, as saying earlier this month.

The Vietnamese government is fiscally strapped as public debt lingers near the permitted limit, curbing its ability to maintain Vietnam as one of Asia's fastest-growing economies through spending.

Growth in power demand in Vietnam is also forecast to slacken.

When the government approved plans for the two plants in 2009, growth in Vietnam's annual power demand was projected at 17-20 percent.

Duong Quang Thanh, chairman of state utility Vietnam Electricity group, was quoted by state-run Voice of Vietnam radio recently as saying that annual growth between 2016 and 2020 was now forecast at 11 percent, and 7-8 percent through 2030.

Vietnam's decision to scrap the project is a further setback for the nuclear industry as countries from Germany to Indonesia have decided to either pull out of nuclear energy or cancel development plans in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, the world's worst since Chernobyl in 1986.

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace, however, welcomed the decision to drop the nuclear plan, saying it would have been a waste of money when renewable energy alternatives are available.

"The project could also pose an environmental threat, and Vietnam cannot afford to risk another disaster after a toxic industrial leak triggered mass fish deaths earlier this year," Greenpeace Regional Campaign Coordinator Arif Fiyanto told Reuters.

A toxic leak sullied over 200 km (125 miles) of coastline in April. The country's worst environmental disaster, it killed more than 100 tonnes of fish and left thousands jobless.

The Japanese and Russian nuclear plants were due to have been located in central Ninh Thuan province. They would have had a combined capacity of 4,000 megawatts.

"We respect our customer's position, and we are ready to provide the full support to Vietnam when the country continues the implementation of its national nuclear power program," Russia's Rosatom said in an emailed comment.

Rosatom, however, is not fully pulling out of Vietnam. The state-run company said it would continue taking part in developing nuclear technologies and infrastructure, which should support peaceful nuclear energy in Vietnam, it said without elaborating.

(Additional reporting by My Pham in Hanoi and Svetlana Burmistrova in Moscow; Editing by John Chalmers and Susan Fenton)

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'Extraordinarily hot' Arctic temperatures alarm scientists

Danish and US researchers say warmer air and sea surface could lead to record lows of sea ice at north pole next year
John Vidal The Guardian 22 Nov 16;

The Arctic is experiencing extraordinarily hot sea surface and air temperatures, which are stopping ice forming and could lead to record lows of sea ice at the north pole next year, according to scientists.

Danish and US researchers monitoring satellites and Arctic weather stations are surprised and alarmed by air temperatures peaking at what they say is an unheard-of 20C higher than normal for the time of year. In addition, sea temperatures averaging nearly 4C higher than usual in October and November.

“It’s been about 20C warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, along with cold anomalies of about the same magnitude over north-central Asia. This is unprecedented for November,” said research professor Jennifer Francis of Rutgers university.

Temperatures have been only a few degrees above freezing when -25C should be expected, according to Francis. “These temperatures are literally off the charts for where they should be at this time of year. It is pretty shocking. The Arctic has been breaking records all year. It is exciting but also scary,” she said.

Francis said the near-record low sea ice extent this summer had led to a warmer than usual autumn. That in turn had reduced the temperature difference between the Arctic and mid-latitudes.

“This helped make the jet stream wavier and allowed more heat and moisture to be driven into Arctic latitudes and perpetuate the warmth. It’s a vicious circle,” she added.

Sea ice, which forms and melts each year, has declined more than 30% in the past 25 years. This week it has been at the lowest extent ever recorded for late November. According to the US government’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre, (NSIDC), around 2m square kilometres less ice has formed since September than average. The level is far below the same period in 2012, when sea ice went on to record its lowest ever annual level.

Francis said she was convinced that the cause of the high temperatures and ice loss was climate change. “It’s all expected. There is nothing but climate change that can cause these trends. This is all headed in the same direction and picking up speed.”

Rasmus Tonboe, a sea ice remote sensing expert at the Danish Meteorological Institute in Copenhagen, said: “Sea surface temperatures in the Kara and Barents seas are much warmer than usual. That makes it very difficult for sea ice to freeze.

“When we have large areas of open water, it also raises air temperatures, and it has been up to 10/15C warmer. Six months ago the sea ice was breaking up unusually early. This made more open water and allowed the sunlight to be absorbed, which is why the Arctic is warmer this year,” he said.

“What we are seeing is both surprising and alarming. This is faster than the models. It is alarming because it has consequences.”

Julienne Stroeve, the professor of polar observation at University College London said ice that should be growing at this time of year was retreating. “It’s been a crazy year. There is no ice at Svalbard yet. In the last few days there has been a decline in sea ice in the Bering sea. Very warm air has flooded into the Arctic from the south, pressing the ice northwards.

“Air temperature drives the formation of the ice. It has been really delayed this year so the ice is also much thinner than it usually is. The speed at which this is happening surprises me. In the Arctic the trend has been clear for years, but the speed at which it is happening is faster than anyone thought,” said Strove.

“Ice is very sensitive to weather. There is a huge high pressure over the Kara sea, and Eurasia and Canada. We are seeing very strong winds bringing warm air north.”

The significance of the ice forming late is that this affects its growth the following year, with consequences for climate. “Extreme wind and high air temperatures [now],” she said, “could see ice extent drop next year below the record 2012 year”.

She added: “The ice could be even thinner than it was at the start of 2012. This is definitely a strange year.”

Ed Blockley, the lead scientist of the UK Met Office’s polar climate group, said: “The sea ice is extremely low. It is freezing but very slowly. Last week the Barents sea reduced its ice cover. There was less ice at the end than the start.

“These temperature anomalies are not unprecedented but this is certainly extraordinary. We are seeing a continual decline in ice. It it likely to be a hiccup but it puts us in bad starting position for next year.”

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Climate changing "too fast" for species

Helen Briggs BBC News 23 Nov 16;

Tropical species are thought to be particularly vulnerable

Many species will not be able to adapt fast enough to survive climate change, say scientists.

A study of more than 250 plants and animals suggests their ability to adapt to changes in rainfall and temperature will be vastly outpaced by future climate change.

Amphibians, reptiles and plants are particularly vulnerable, according to US researchers.

And tropical species are at higher risk than those in temperate zones.

Some animals might be able to move geographically to cope with rising temperatures, but others live in isolated areas where they cannot move, such as in nature reserves or on mountains or islands.

Ecologists analysed how quickly species had changed their climatic niches (the conditions where they can survive) over time, and how these rates compared with that of global warming.

They analysed 266 populations of plants and animals, including insects, amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles.

Rates of change in climatic niches were much slower than rates of projected climate change, by more than 200,000 fold for temperature (on average), they said.

"Overall, our results show that rates of climatic niche change among populations of plants and animals are dramatically slower than projected rates of future climate change," said Tereza Jezkova and John Wiens, of the University of Arizona.

Double jeopardy

Mammals and birds might be better placed to survive than amphibians and reptiles, because they had the ability to regulate their own body temperatures, said Dr Wiens.

And, while some species might be able to move to higher latitudes or elevations to survive, "for a lot of organisms, that is not an option".

"It's a double jeopardy of climate change and habitat destruction," he told BBC News.

The research is published in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

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