Best of our wild blogs: 28 Nov 16

11 Dec (Sun): Merry Mangrove Mapping with R.U.M. at Pulau Ubin
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Coastal Horseshoe Crab (Tachypleus gigas) @ Tanah Merah
Monday Morgue

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7 marine research projects awarded under R&D programme

Lianne Chia Channel NewsAsia 28 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has one of the most urbanised marine environments in the world. And yet coral reefs are thriving in its waters, with more than 200 species of reef-building corals and about 200 species of fishes documented on reefs here.

A research project by the National University of Singapore (NUS) hopes to find out why these reefs have managed to survive.

The project is one of seven awarded by the Government under the National Research Foundation’s (NRF) marine science research and development programme. Deputy Prime Minister and NRF chairman Teo Chee Hean made the announcement at the official launch of the St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory on Monday (Nov 28).

NRF will invest S$25 million over five years in the programme, which hopes to develop more talent in marine science research by training research scientists, engineers and PhD students in the field. There will also be internships and collaborative partnerships with industry for technology development and applications.

"As a low-lying island, global warming and the rise in sea levels and temperatures can pose challenges to our marine ecosystems," said Mr Teo, adding that the environmental health of Singapore's waters will also affect Singapore's water supply, which is partly from desalination. "It will also impact aquaculture which provides a local food source.

"Therefore, it is important for Singapore to build up a good understanding of tropical marine science and our marine environment."


The seven awarded projects cover a variety of topics including the development and decline of algal blooms in Singapore, the ecological engineering of seawalls to enhance biodiversity, and how Singapore’s coral reefs could be affected by planned development projects.

These projects will address "pertinent national challenges", Mr Teo said.

NRF said it received 30 white papers since the call for projects under the programme was launched in October last year. An international evaluation panel recommended awards to the seven projects based on their quality and relevance to Singapore.

A well-equipped marine science facility like the St John's Island National Marine Laboratory will also complement Singapore's research and development the manage and conserve its waters and coastline, added Mr Teo.

The laboratory, which is Singapore’s only offshore marine research facility, was designated a national research infrastructure in March. This means that the laboratory will be open to all researchers in Singapore and international partners.

The facility will also be upgraded with new equipment to support emerging research areas. A skilled core team of scientists and technicians will also train and guide new researchers in marine science, Mr Teo said.

The laboratory will also undertake outreach and education initiatives to share research outcomes with the public. "Activities such as nature walks and residential training workshops will enhance understanding of our marine environment," added Mr Teo.

- CNA/lc

7 research projects awarded under marine science R&D programme
Today Online 29 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — The National Research Foundation (NRF), a department within the Prime Minister’s Office, has shortlisted seven new research projects to jump-start a S$25 million programme, to address pertinent national challenges such as enhancing the resilience of Singapore’s coral reefs and understanding the cause of algae blooms, among other areas.

Apart from building up new knowledge, the national marine science research and development programme aims to develop a new generation of marine scientists and researchers, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday at the official opening of the St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory.

Among the seven awarded projects is one that will study how coral reefs in Singapore managed to survive while coping with stressors such as land reclamation due to the island’s urbanisation.

The study’s outcome will allow researchers to exploit these habitats’ utility as real-time biological monitors of environmental change.

In another project, researchers will study the viral composition of algal blooms, which are a growing problem in Singapore waters, often causing economic losses to industries such as fish farming and tourism.

The team will study how algal blooms rise and later decline in tropical waters, to hopefully develop tools for risk assessment of environmental conditions that lead to their growth.

Mr Teo, who is chairman of NRF, said: “As a low-lying island, global warming and the rise in sea levels and temperatures can pose challenges to (Singapore’s) marine ecosystems.

“The environmental health of our waters will affect our water supply, which is partly from desalination. It will also impact aquaculture, which provides a local food source. Therefore, it is important for Singapore to build up a good understanding of tropical marine science and our marine environment.”

The National University of Singapore (NUS) would manage this programme, but it is designed for different universities and research institutes to work together with public agencies and industry players to address common challenges, Mr Teo said.

Mr George Loh, NRF director of programmes, pointed out that stresses caused by heavy shipping, urbanisation and climate change affect the marine environment, and new knowledge discovered from research could be translated into effective solutions to ensure the environmental sustainability of Singapore’s coastal area.

The programme will look into four main fields: Marine ecosystems and biodiversity, environment impact and monitoring, coastal ecological engineering, and marine technology and platforms.

Professor Peter Ng, the programme director, said that the seven selected projects had gone through “very rigorous screening” by local and international scientists.

The call for projects was launched in October last year, and 30 white papers were received.

In opening the laboratory yesterday to complement marine research efforts, Mr Teo said that the facility may now be used by all researchers in Singapore and international partners.

First launched in 2002 as an NUS research facility, it will be upgraded with new equipment, while a skilled core team of scientists and technicians will train and guide new researchers in marine science.

The lab will also share research outcomes with the public through educational outreach and activities such as nature walks.

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Another lost pangolin this week, found in NUS this time, rescued and released into the wild

Derek Wong AsiaOne 28 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE - Days after a pangolin was found in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on Tuesday (Nov 22), another one showed up at the National University of Singapore (NUS) on Saturday (Nov 26).

A video uploaded by student Ong Kah Jing on Facebook on Saturday night with the caption "Pangolin visiting NUS Utown" showed the critter gingerly finding its way down a flight of stairs at University Town in NUS.

Rescuers from the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) turned up at NUS around 10.45pm as the pangolin was making its way towards a railing in the area.

By then, the nocturnal animal had gathered its own entourage - a small, very excited crowd had converged around it.

The animal was "calm and just kept walking", according to Acres wildlife group director Kalai Balakrishnan. It was given a quick visual check for injuries before being placed in a carrier and handed to the zoo for it to be microchipped and placed in a safe, suitable habitat.

It's not clear if the pangolin was a male or female, but Mr Kalai estimates that it is of sub-adult to adult age and larger than the one found at NTU.

Pangolins are not aggressive animals, said Mr Kalai.

"But if they feel threatened, they will protect themselves by rolling into a ball," he added.

If you do see one, call the Acres wildlife rescue hotline at 9783-7782.

"Follow it to keep track of where it goes. Photos are good too - they provide clues on whether the animal is injured or whether Acres might need to prepare some rescue tools if they are stuck somewhere," said Mr Kalai.

In cases where they are in danger of getting run over by vehicles, get help to divert oncoming traffic away from the animal if it is possible and safe, while waiting for Acres to arrive, advised Mr Kalai.

While pangolins are safe from poaching in Singapore due to strict laws, it is endangered in many other places due to wildlife trafficking.

Pangolins are sought after in China and other parts of Asia for their meat, skin and scales. The skin and scales are used in traditional medicine.

"It is a good thing to know these animals are still surviving here, but they are critically endangered animals so we need to do more to protect them," said Mr Kalai, who estimates that there are about two to three pangolin cases a month which Acres handles.

The National Parks Board (NParks) estimates that there are more than 100 wild pangolins here.

The pangolin also stirred some excitement as it is examination season in NUS. Facebook user Raze Seah felt it boded good fortune to those who chanced upon it. "All A for exam", she wrote.

Another user, Michael Lim, joked that the pangolin was done with school: "The lecture was so boring, I'm going home now..."

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Water sport activities in Marina Reservoir suspended after 'crocodile' sighting

Channel NewsAsia 27 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: National water agency PUB confirmed on Sunday (Nov 27) that water sport activities in Marina Reservoir have been suspended after reported sightings of a creature resembling a crocodile in waters near the Sports Hub on Saturday morning.

The Singapore Dragon Boat Association, Sports Hub and People's Association have all suspended activities in Marina Reservoir this weekend, a PUB spokesperson said on Sunday.

PUB also contacted researchers from the National University of Singapore to identify the creature.

"Preliminary findings indicate that it is likely to be a monitor lizard," the spokesperson added.

The Marina Reservoir area is popular for activities like dragon boating and canoeing.

The Singapore Dragon Boat Association posted on Facebook on Sunday that it will cease all dragon boat activities in Marina Reservoir indefinitely.

The Kallang Water Sports Centre and the Kallang Dragon Boat Nursery will be closed with immediate effect, the association said.

PUB warned those who continue with activities in the reservoir to exercise caution and not immerse in the waters. They should also not go near the creature if they spot it.

- CNA/am

Water sports activities in Marina Reservoir suspended after ‘crocodile’ sighting
Today Online 27 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — Water sports activities in Marina Reservoir have been suspended after a “creature resembling a crocodile” was sighted near the Sports Hub.

National water agency PUB said it first received reports of the creature’s sighting on Saturday morning (Nov 26). The agency added that it is now investigating and patrolling the waters to search for the creature.

“We are in close contact with Sportshub and requested them to alert us if it is spotted again,” said a spokesperson in a statement on Sunday.

“We have also contacted researchers from the National University of Singapore to identify the creature. Preliminary findings indicate that it is likely to be a monitor lizard.”

Among the groups that have suspended activities include the Singapore Dragon Boat Association (SDBA). In a Facebook post, the SDBA said it would be extending the cease order on all dragon boat activities in Marina Reservoir “indefinitely and until further notice”.

Other organisations that have suspended activities this weekend include the Sports Hub and People’s Association.

The PUB warned members of the public not to go near the creature if they spot it. The public can report sightings with photos/videos and its location by calling PUB at 1800-2255-782.

The PUB added that people to continue activities in the area “should exercise caution and not to immerse in the waters”.

Water sport activities at Marina Reservoir to resume; no new ‘crocodile’ sighting
Today Online 29 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — Water sport activities can resume at the Marina Reservoir as there have been no new sightings of the “creature resembling a crocodile”, the PUB said on Tuesday (Nov 29).

Following reports of a ‘crocodile’ sighting on Saturday, the PUB contacted researchers from the National University of Singapore to identify the creature. The agency also checked with experts from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore, ACRES and the Singapore Zoo, and all share the view that the creature is most likely a monitor lizard.

Nevertheless, the PUB said it will continue to patrol the waters to look out for the creature.

Water sports activities in the vicinity had been suspended for the last three days as the PUB patrolled the waters to search for the creature. The PUB had also warned members of the public to “exercise caution” in the area and not to go near the creature.

Among the groups that were affected included the Singapore Dragon Boat Association (SDBA), the Sports Hub and People’s Association.

The public can also report sightings with photos/videos and its location by calling PUB at 1800-2255-782.

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NEA launches drive to get people to cut food wastage

TAN WEIZHEN Today Online 28 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — The North East District kicked off an initiative yesterday to encourage people to reduce food wastage, one that will provide residents with a comprehensive guide on how to do so.

The “I Love My Food @ North East” drive was launched by the National Environment Agency (NEA), in partnership with the North East Community Development Council.

Talks will be held in schools to educate pupils on the issue, and the North East CDC will hold meetings with residents from next month.

Besides talks on food waste reduction, there will be cooking demonstrations of healthy eating.

Ambassadors will also be trained to spread awareness of reducing food waste, at events such as cooking classes and roadshows.

“The amount of food waste generated in Singapore has increased by about 45 per cent over the past 10 years, and can be expected to rise further,” NEA chief executive officer Ronnie Tay said. “Hence, there’s a need to minimise the amount of food waste generated, so as to reduce the amount of waste incinerated and subsequently the amount of ash sent to Semakau Landfill.”

Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli mentioned the initiative at the opening of Phase 1 of Our Tampines Hub, a new integrated facility with a shopping centre, sports and childcare facilities, and other amenities. He added that the facility is also equipped with an eco-digester. It can convert up to two tonnes of food waste daily — more than the 1.4 tonnes expected — into fertiliser and non-potable water.

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Malaysia: Johor to look for new water sources

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 28 Nov 16

ISKANDAR PUTERI: Johor is fa­­cing a major water crisis if it relies on existing resources and does not start exploring new alternatives.

“The time has come for Johor to explore underground water reser­ves and harvest rainwater on a large scale,” said state Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Commit­tee chairman Datuk Hasni Moham­mad at the state assembly sitting here yesterday.

He was replying to a question from Datuk Syed Sis Syed Abdul Rahman (BN-Tanjung Surat) on the progress made by the state authorities on exploring new water resources.

Hasni said Johor was too depen­dent on surface water that supplied 99% of consumption, with only 1% from underground water.

“We are working with two universities in Johor and the Japan Water Forum to conduct research on underground water reserves in the state,” said Hasni.

He said the state government had allocated RM1mil to identify several locations in Johor where exploration for underground water reserves could be conducted next year.

It is part of the RM79.7mil allocation under the state’s Budget 2017 for 14 initiatives to develop sustainable water management in Johor.

He said the state would be adopting Japan’s Kumamoto City in Kumamoto prefecture as the model where some 780,000 residents had used underground water for more than 20 years.

“We will be conducting an in-depth study on the potential usage of underground water with an expert from Kumamoto for a master plan on its usage until 2050,” added Hasni.

He said the state government would also look at other options, including building desalination plants for new development projects along the coastal areas and those located far from existing water supply facilities.

Hasni said the developer of the multi-billion ringgit Forest City project in Gelang Patah was required to build a desalination plant because of the scale of the project.

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Malaysia on track to achieving global sustainable development goals agenda

BERNAMA New Straits Times 28 Nov 16;

ASHGABAT: Malaysia is on track to achieving the global sustainable development goals (SDG) agenda, particularly in the transport sector, based on the country’s current development strategies and goals.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Ab. Aziz Kaprawi said in supporting the SDG agenda on climate change, Malaysia was committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 43 per cent by 2030.

“The commitment is conditional to technology transfer and financial support from developed countries,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the Global Sustainable Transport Conference here, today.

While Malaysia’s development plans are extensive, Aziz said it was also important to examine areas where the SDG could further enrich it.

“This is to ensure Malaysia’s development aspirations are aligned comprehensively to the post 2030 agenda,” he added.

Aziz was one of the speakers at the plenary session of the conference.

In his speech, he stressed four key areas that Malaysia would be focusing in pursuing green growth for sustainability and resilience.

They are, strengthening the enabling environment for green growth, adopting the sustainable consumption and production concept, conserving natural resources for present and future generations and strengthening resilience against climate change and natural disasters.

“The transportation sector in Malaysia accounts for about 35 per cent of the total energy consumed nationally, and produced nearly 50 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2015, second only to power generation.

“Of this, 85.2 per cent of transportation emissions came from road transport.

“This is due to the high rate of personal automobile ownership, where cars account for about 59 per cent of the overall emissions from transport, while freight contributed 27 per cent,” Aziz said.

In facing these challenges, he said a strategy adopted for the sustainable consumption and production concept under the 11th Malaysia Plan, was to encourage low carbon mobility.

“This, is in line with SDG’s goal of making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, as well as taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.” he added.

Organised by the Turkmenistan government, the two-day conference from last Saturday, gathered key government stakeholders from more than 80 countries, the United Nations and international organisations.

They engaged in dialogue and exchanged knowledge, made commitments and discussed plans on implementing sustainable transport. -- Bernama

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Malaysia: Three held for hunting without licence

The Star 28 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife officials have detained three men for allegedly hunting without a licence at an oil palm estate in Tawau.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said the men were arrested during a road block at the area at about 5am yesterday.

Initial investigations found the men in possession of three carcasses of a deer and two wild boars in their four-wheel-drive vehicle, he said in a statement.

The men were not able to produce their hunting licence when asked, he said, adding that a rifle and eight shells were recovered from them.

The men faced charges under the Wildlife Conservation Enact­ment 1997 and if found guilty, they could be fined RM30,000 to RM50,000, or jailed six months up to three years, or both.

Augustine said although deer and wild boar were not on the verge of extinction, the animals were listed as protected to prevent over-hunting.

Deer and wild boar are much sought after animals among natives and exotic food lovers.

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Indonesia: Floods Hit 96 Villages in Bojonegoro

Tempo 27 Nov 16;

TEMPO.CO, Bojonegoro - Bojonegoro subdistrict’s Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPPD) reported that 96 villages in 15 districts in the area were struck by flood due to overflow of Bengawan Solo river with 14.82 meters of water level (flood warning) on Saturday at round 2 o’clock in the afternoon (26/11).

"The flood from the river does not only inundate rice field areas, but also residential areas with 0.50-1 meter high of water," Bojonegoro’s BPPD head Andik Sudjarwo said in Bojonegoro, East Java on Saturday (26/11). Based on BPPD data, the 96 villages are located in districts of Padangan, Trucuk, Malo, Dander, Kota, Balen, Kapas, Kanor, and Baureno.

He further estimates that the water level in Bnegawan Solo will continue to rise up to 15.30 m high due to floods in the upstream areas. Such estimation means that floods will hit 146 villages in 16 districts.

"We are currently still collecting data on the impact of Bengawan Solo overflow," he added.


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Cambodia: Rural villagers defiant in face of looming hydropower flood

Jack Board Channel NewsAsia 27 Nov 16;

STUNG TRENG, Cambodia: “I will die here.” These are the words, emblazoned in red, now painted across the front of several wooden homes in a remote Cambodian village.

Sre Kor is a peaceful place. But turmoil and uncertainty flow through this community with the same power as the adjoining Sesan River.

Soon, the hundreds of families living here, many of them for generations, will be moved elsewhere. About half have already agreed to relocate. Others have said they will not. Not for anything.

By next year, however, it is expected that the plains upon which this settlement sits will be engulfed as the nearby Lower Sesan 2 hydropower dam project begins operations.

In just moments, a landscape that has taken millennia to form will be dramatically reshaped.

This is permanent. Culture and memory will be swallowed by floodwaters, a deluge designed to power Cambodia’s future. There is no time for sentiment; the past will be swept aside in the name of progress.

Still, those who call Sre Kor home, like thousands of others along these tributaries of the mighty Mekong, cling on, unwilling to accept a future anywhere else.
“This village (has been) my homeland since my ancestors' (time),” said Pa Vi, a 52-year-old elder. “The life of my family and other residents is very good and peaceful. We rely on the river, the nature and the environment,” she said, sitting cross-legged in one of the houses with the message of defiance painted on the exterior.

She is one of many refusing to give up their land and home. Negotiations are ongoing with the government and dam developers, but it remains unclear if any sum of money can usurp nostalgia.

“The culture and tradition are really important to the community. We have been through the genocide regime,” she said.

“The important thing is the graves of my parents. Even if they give me $100,000 to buy the land where I buried my parents, I would still reject it. I’d rather die with my parents in this land.”

She is not alone in holding such strong feelings.

Fellow resident Fout Kheoun speaks with romanticism about a simple life by the river, “the blood vessel in a person’s life”. “We have rice fields and we can do farming. We have enough vegetables. If we want to catch fish, we can just take the net,” he said.

But change is coming; it is all around him. As he tightly grips the oars on his long boat and paddles slowly against the flow, his eyes are full of anguish.

“Some residents were forced to move out and some were not allowed to live along the river. For me, I will definitely not move out even if I die. I will never move out from my river.”

Yet, there seems to be no holding back the tide.


When it comes to hydropower, the Lower Sesan 2 project, across the Sesan and Srepok rivers - tributaries of the mighty Mekong River - is Cambodia’s most ambitious. It spans eight kilometres, will have a dam wall standing 75 metres tall and is meant to generate 400 megawatts of power.

The reservoir behind it will be more than 30,000 hectares, much of it forest that is being ferociously cleared for profit. Nearly 5,000 people have been or will be shifted from their upstream homes.

The dam has been developed through a tie-up between Cambodia’s sprawling conglomerate Royal Group Co. Ltd. and Hydrolancang International Energy Co. Ltd. - the two owners of the project. The developing Southeast Asian nation’s insatiable thirst for electricity, combined with a mutual desire for major infrastructure investment, saw US$816 million being earmarked for the project back in 2012.

Objections to the environmentally controversial project began almost immediately. Consultation with local people was light; proper environmental impact assessments were generally absent.

Officials are aware of the conflicting dynamics that such developments bring.

“The environment is the first priority for the government for all projects,” said Tun Lean, Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Mines and Energy. “We have to balance the economic aspects with the environmental aspects.”

But there are serious, unresolved concerns about the impact of the project on the local river ecosystem, especially on the migration of fish, which provide food to millions of Cambodians who live along the Mekong and by the downstream Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake.

“From the beginning, it was not transparent or accountable,” said Oudom Ham, EarthRights International’s Cambodia Coordinator. “The Lower Sesan 2 is one of the sensitive cases. Many people told us they were not well-informed and were not properly consulted and their concerns were taken away.”

Today, the dam site is abuzz with activity. Chinese workers sit perched on skeletal scaffolding above the monumental walls, their angle grinders dancing with fire. The Lower Sesan 2 is about two-thirds complete now.

A new road has been constructed through parched grasslands into the heart of the project - it is noticeably smoother than any other around Stung Treng. Halfway along the way is the rather plush, resort-style accommodation being used by the developers. The modern structure is one of many near the dam project. Hundreds of villagers now live in newly created contemporary community hubs.

These are the people who have agreed to move. And they face a drastically different life from what they have experienced before.


Row upon row of identical concrete homes, all painted yellow with blue corrugated iron roofs, present a snapshot of how this part of rural Cambodia is being transformed.

This new estate - called Sre Sronuk Thmey - looks very different from the communities which its inhabitants have come from.

As dark clouds threaten overhead and heavy raindrops started to fall, the curated dirt street outside turned to quagmire and children playing on their bicycles rushed back to the sheltered patios built at the front of each house.

The houses would not look out of place in any town in Middle America - they are like nothing seen in these parts before and offer a potential standard of accommodation far beyond what most people in the area could normally afford.

It was difficult to hear Bay Kuy over the cacophony above his head as the downpour grew stronger. But the former-soldier-turned-rice-farmer was relaxed as he sat on the floor of his new home.

Bay agreed to be compensated with this new piece of land and house, abandoning his old village, which lies directly in the hydropower dam's flood path.

He is still adjusting to his new surroundings - he moved just weeks before - but said this type of house is something he could never have built or afforded on his own. The community, he said, is not used to living in “Western-style” houses though.

“I don’t know if it is easy or difficult to live because I haven’t gotten used to living here yet,” he said. “I don’t think about my old village because now I am in the new village.”

He and others here have access to the main road to Stung Treng’s main market, a brand new school and eventually a connection to the power being generated by Lower Sesan 2.

However, the 49-year-old lamented that he no longer has what he needs to survive - namely food and water - readily available like before. The river, which he could see from his old home, is now far away, about as far as the rice fields he will work at during harvest season.

“I remembered that when I lived at my old house, I had many fruits and vegetables around my house. We could sell and eat them. It was easy.”


The Cambodian government is steadfast in its defence of the negotiation process with locals and the generosity of its compensation.

“Everything is better than before and it's only the spirit of the old place they miss,” said the government’s Tun Lean.

“They need to progress, why do they still live there, with no school, no electricity? How to learn? How to get the information from radio or TV? In the new place their lives will improve. “

He said that all of the families had already agreed to relocate when the project was first raised with them, and he blamed non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for changing their minds.

The team at the Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT) - one of those NGOs - tries to help deliver agreeable outcomes for both the relocated communities and the dam developers and government, a lengthy and trying process that is still ongoing in many cases.

Its coordinator in Stung Treng, Mony Chenda, suggested that disagreements have arisen due to a lack of consultation and a perception the project was going ahead, regardless of the feelings of locals.

“All the problems that the community have raised, we tried to persuade the government or the company to solve the problems for the residents,” he said.

“The information is not broadcast widely, so the community didn’t know much. They should not hide any information. They should share the information with each other,” he said.

Tun said the government was learning from this process, taking its cues from Vietnam’s past experiences of negotiating relocations, and that overall there was no doubt people would be better off now.

“We have to (find a) balance - the project or moving people or the effects on the environment,” he said. “Some people only know how to cut trees and fishing - (they have) no skills. We are training people to learn.”

Oudom Ham, who has also been closely monitoring the negotiation process, said there have been major missteps.

“In every step, the community or affected peoples should still have a chance to talk and negotiate,” he said. “But it’s not the case with Lower Sesan 2. The dam is already going ahead and you cannot go back. Their voices haven’t been heard.”

The villagers of Sre Kor are trying to change that. After all, they consider this fight one of life and death.

“This river is like mother’s milk,” Fout Kheoun said, as waves gently splashed against the side of his wooden boat on the Sesan. “Without it, we can’t live.”

Explore the whole series: Power Struggle - Damming the Mekong. Follow Jack Board on Twitter: @JackBoardCNA

- CNA/jb

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Australia: Thunderstorm asthma kills sixth person in freak medical outbreak

Three people are still in a critical condition after the storm hit Melbourne on Monday night
Katie Forster The Independent Online 27 Nov 16;

A sixth person has died in a mass asthma outbreak caused by a thunderstorm in Melbourne.

Five people remain on life support with three in a critical condition a week after heavy winds and rain hit Australia’s second-largest city.

The extreme weather on Monday night spread tiny pollen particles across the city, triggering a rare condition known as thunderstorm asthma.

Ryegrass pollen grains became soaked and broke open in the storm, dispersing very fine, highly allergenic particles, which can penetrate deep into the lungs.

The sixth victim died in in hospital on Saturday night from medical complications relating to the storm, according to the health department.

It said another 12 patients were still in hospitals with less serious respiratory and related conditions.

Around 8,500 people received hospital treatment in total, with a third of patients who suffered asthma attacks on Monday night reporting never having had asthma before.

Local emergency services said they took six times more calls than the daily average between 6pm and 11pm local time.

“It was extraordinarily busy, it was unprecedented,” Mick Stephenson, Ambulance Victoria's executive director of emergency operations, told the BBC.

He said about 200 calls were directly linked to asthma, but 600 more reported respiratory issues.

“What we do know is that a lot of people who called last night had never had asthma before, so this was their first experience,” he said.

The world's first recorded thunderstorm asthma event occurred in Melbourne in 1987, when hospitals reported a five-fold increase in asthma cases.

Similar events have taken place in the United States, Canada, the UK and Italy. The last major occurrence in Melbourne was in November 2010.

Before this week, the largest known outbreak was in London in June 1994, when hospitals were inundated by 640 patients seeking emergency treatment for asthma and other breathing problems.

The Australian health minister Jill Hennessy said an investigation would be launched by the Inspector General for Emergency Management.

But the shadow health minister Mary Wooldridge said there had “clearly been a communications failure” on Monday night, according to the Herald Sun.

“This was life and death and there were no alerts to the media, the information was not going out to people,” she said.

The incident occurred on one of Australia's hottest November days. At 8am the temperature had already hit 26 degrees, rising to 35 degrees in the afternoon before the storm hit.

By Tuesday the weather had dropped by a dramatic 18 degrees, providing relief to residents who described it as “typically Melbourne”, local media reported.

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