Best of our wild blogs: 30 Nov 16

Sisters' Island Marine Park (Pulau Subar Darat)
Offshore Singapore

32nd Singapore Bird Race 2016 Review
Singapore Bird Group

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$100 Billion Chinese-Made City Near Singapore 'Scares the Hell Out of Everybody'

Pooja Thakur Mahrotri and En Han Choong Bloomberg 21 Nov 16;

The landscaped lawns and flowering shrubs of Country Garden Holdings Co.’s huge property showroom in southern Malaysia end abruptly at a small wire fence. Beyond, a desert of dirt stretches into the distance, filled with cranes and piling towers that the Chinese developer is using to build a $100 billion city in the sea.

While Chinese home buyers have sent prices soaring from Vancouver to Sydney, in this corner of Southeast Asia it’s China’s developers that are swamping the market, pushing prices lower with a glut of hundreds of thousands of new homes. They’re betting that the city of Johor Bahru, bordering Singapore, will eventually become the next Shenzhen.

“These Chinese players build by the thousands at one go, and they scare the hell out of everybody,” said Siva Shanker, head of investments at Axis-REIT Managers Bhd. and a former president of the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents. “God only knows who is going to buy all these units, and when it’s completed, the bigger question is, who is going to stay in them?”

The Chinese companies have come to Malaysia as growth in many of their home cities is slowing, forcing some of the world’s biggest builders to look abroad to keep erecting the giant residential complexes that sprouted across China during the boom years. They found a prime spot in this special economic zone, three times the size of Singapore, on the southern tip of the Asian mainland.

The scale of the projects is dizzying. Country Garden’s Forest City, on four artificial islands, will house 700,000 people on an area four times the size of New York’s Central Park. It will have office towers, parks, hotels, shopping malls and an international school, all draped with greenery. Construction began in February and about 8,000 apartments have been sold, the company said.

It’s the biggest of about 60 projects in the Iskandar Malaysia zone around Johor Bahru, known as JB, that could add more than half-a-million homes. The influx has contributed to a drop of almost one-third in the value of residential sales in the state last year, with some developers offering discounts of 20 percent or more. Average resale prices per square foot for high-rise flats in JB fell 10 percent last year, according to property consultant CH Williams Talhar & Wong.

Country Garden, which has partnered with the investment arm of Johor state, launched another waterfront project down the coast in 2013 called Danga Bay, where it has sold all 9,539 apartments. China state-owned Greenland Group is building office towers, apartments and shops on 128 acres in Tebrau, about 20 minutes from the city center. Guangzhou R&F Properties Co. has begun construction on the first phase of Princess Cove, with about 3,000 homes.

Country Garden said in an e-mail it was “optimistic on the outlook of Forest City” because of the region’s growing economy and location next to Singapore. R&F didn’t respond to questions about the effects of so many new units and Greenland declined to comment.

Singapore Draw

“The Chinese are attracted by lower prices and the proximity to Singapore,” said Alice Tan, Singapore-based head of consultancy and research at real-estate brokers Knight Frank LLP. “It remains to be seen if the upcoming supply of homes can be absorbed in the next five years.”

The influx of Chinese competition has affected local developers like UEM Sunrise Bhd., Sunway Bhd. and SP Setia Bhd., who have been building projects around JB for years as part of a government plan to promote the area. First-half profit slumped 58 percent at UEM, the largest landowner in JB.

A decade ago, Malaysia decided to leverage Singapore’s success by building the Iskandar zone across the causeway that connects the two countries. It was modeled on Shenzhen, the neighbor of Hong Kong that grew from a fishing village to a city of 10 million people in three decades. Malaysian sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd. unveiled a 20-year plan in 2006 that required a total investment of 383 billion ringgit ($87 billion).

Singapore’s high costs and property prices encouraged some companies to relocate to Iskandar, while JB’s shopping malls and amusement parks have become a favorite for day-tripping Singaporeans. In the old city center, young Malaysians hang out in cafes and ice cream parlors on hipster street Jalan Dhoby, where the inflow of new money is refurbishing the colonial-era shophouses.

Outside the city, swathes of palm-oil plantations separate isolated gated developments like Horizon Hills, a 1,200-acre township with an 18-hole golf course.

“The Chinese developers see this as an opportunity. A lot of them say Iskandar is just like Shenzhen was 10 years ago,” said Jonathan Lo, manager of valuations at CH Williams Talhar & Wong, a property broker based in Johor Bahru. “Overseas investors coming to Malaysia is a new phenomenon so it’s hard to predict.”

Construction soon outpaced demand. To sell the hundreds of new units being built every month, some companies took to flying in planeloads of potential buyers from China, prompting low-cost carrier AirAsia Bhd. to start direct flights in May connecting JB with the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

On the first such flight, 150 of the 180 seats were taken by a subsidized tour group organized by Country Garden. Almost half of them ended up buying a residence, the developer said in an e-mail.

“A lot of [Chinese developers] say Iskandar is just like Shenzhen was 10 years ago”

Buses disgorging Chinese tourists at Forest City in November were met by dozens of sales agents, with the women dressed in traditional Sarong Kebaya outfits similar to those worn by Singapore Airlines Ltd. stewardesses.

The visitors filed into a vast sales gallery where agents explained the enormity of the project using a replica of the finished town, with model buildings as tall as people. They viewed show flats with marble floors and golden-trimmed furniture, dined on a buffet spread and were encouraged to sign on the spot. A two-bedroom apartment cost as little as 1.25 million yuan ($181,400), about one-fifth of the price of a similar-sized private apartment in central Singapore.

But JB is not Shenzhen. The billions poured into the economic zone in southern Guangdong in the 1980s and 1990s by Hong Kong and Taiwanese firms was soon dwarfed by Chinese investment as factories sprang up all along China’s coast.

In Malaysia, investment growth is slowing, slipping to 2 percent year on year in the third quarter, from more than 6 percent in the previous quarter. The value of residential sales in Malaysia fell almost 11 percent last year, while in Johor the drop was 32 percent, according to government data.

“I am very concerned because the market is joined at the hip, if Johor goes down, the rest of Malaysia would follow,” said Shanker, at Axis-REIT Managers, who estimates that about half the units in Iskandar may remain empty. “If the developers stop building today, I think it would take 10 years for the condos to fill up the current supply. But they won’t stop.”

Developers have a pipeline of more than 350,000 private homes planned or under construction in Johor state, according to data from Malaysia’s National Property Information Centre. That’s more than all the privately built homes in Singapore. Forest City could add another 160,000 over its 30-year construction period, according to Bloomberg estimates, based on the projected population.

“Land is plentiful and cheap,” said Alan Cheong, senior director of research & consultancy at Savills Singapore. “But buyers don’t understand how real estate values play out when there is no shortage of land.”

The developers haven’t been helped by government measures designed to prevent overseas investors pushing up prices. In 2014, Malaysia doubled the minimum price of homes that foreigners can buy to 1 million ringgit, and raised capital gains tax to as much as 30 per cent for most properties resold by foreigners within five years.

The stream of new developments has scared away some investors, pushing developers to concentrate more on finding families who will live in the apartments, said Lo at CH Williams. Profit margins have fallen to around 20 percent, from 30 percent when land was cheap a few years ago, according to his firm.

Singapore billionaire Peter Lim’s Rowsley Ltd. said last year it will no longer build homes in Iskandar and will instead turn its Vantage Bay site into a healthcare and wellness center.

“The Chinese players have deep financial resources and are building residential projects ahead of demand,” Ho Kiam Kheong, managing director of real estate at Rowsley said in an interview. “If we do residential in Iskandar, we would be only a drop in the ocean. We can’t compete with them on such a large scale.”

UEM Group Bhd., the biggest landowner in Iskandar, is selling plots to manufacturers to boost economic activity in the area.

“The market is joined at the hip, if Johor goes down, the rest of Malaysia would follow”

“Industries are the queen bee,” creating jobs and wealth for local residents, said Chief Executive Officer Izzaddin Idris. “That will bring a demand for the houses we are building.”

U.S.-based chocolate maker Hershey Co. is among those building a plant in Iskandar, joining tenants such as amusement park Legoland Malaysia and Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios—a franchise of the U.K.-based movie studio.

Meanwhile, sales reps sell a Utopian dream—a city of the future with smart, leafy buildings and offices full of happy, rich residents.

“It will take a while for all the parts to fall into place: infrastructure, manufacturing, education, healthcare and growth in population,” said Ho at Rowsley. “But I have no doubt it will happen eventually.”

—With assistance from Emma Dong.

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Malaysia: Kuala Terengganu struck by worst flooding since 2013/14 disaster

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 29 Nov 16;

UALA TERENGGANU: Cityfolk here briefly went into panic mode when continuous heavy downpour, which began at 8am, swiftly inundated major parts of the city, disrupted traffic, flooded homes and generally brought life to a standstill.

Many were immediately reminded of severe floods which paralysed much of the state from Dec 2013 to Jan 2014, displaced thousands of households and caused millions in damage.

The worst affected districts today were the areas of Taman Sri Intan 1 and 2, Batas Baru, Tok Jembal, Kampung Padang Air and Gong Badak, where water levels rose to as high as 1 metre by 10am.

Major roads became unpassable, including Jalan Sultan Omar, Jalan Kamaruddin and Jalan Batu Burok, with long lines of vehicles stuck until waters began to gradually subside after 1pm when the rain began to die down.

State Civil Defence Department deputy director Amir Sarrafudin Zalman urged people stay calm, as water levels near rivers and along coastal areas had not yet reached alarming levels.

He said the water was receding extremely slowly because of high tide. "The situation is compounded by several clogged drains in the city.

The situation is (still) under control, but we will (continue) monitoring, and will alert the public on the latest flood situation in the state," he said.

Checks showed that some families incurred damage to their property, as the sudden rise in flood waters had caught many by surprise.

Many were not able to save their belongings, as they were either at their workplace, or still sleeping, when waters rose.

Flash flood strikes Terengganu, 92 people from 19 families evacuated
ZARINA ABDULLAH New Straits Times 29 Nov 16;

TERENGGANU: Heavy rains for the past 12 hours have resulted 92 people from 19 families seeking shelters at three relief centres in Kuala Terengganu and Kemaman.

The victims were forced to leave their houses after their housing areas were inundated by about one metre-deep water following a flash flood.

State Welfare Department's flood portal stated that as of 8pm, 72 people from 15 families have been placed at SK Badrul Alam Shah in Kemasik.

Another 16 people from three families were moved to SK Telok Kalong, in Kemaman. In Kuala Terengganu, a family of four had sought shelter at the SK Gong Tok Nasek, in Kuala Terengganu.

Meanwhile, district police chief Deputy Superintendent Mohd Suhaimi Ali said Jalan Kuala Terengganu-Kuantan near Merchang, which was closed since noon, has been opened to all vehicles at 5.30pm.

East Coast lashed by heavy rain

KUALA TERENGGANU: Flash floods and thunderstorms threw life into chaos in various places across Terengganu, causing several road closures – and it was only the beginning of the bad news.

Worst is yet to come, said Terengganu Civil Force’s deputy director Mejar Amirsarafudin Zalman.

He said there would be high tides measuring about 2.5m in Kuala Terengganu and up to 3.2m from today for eight consecutive days, which could cause more major floods in the event of rain.

In Kuantan, it poured for more than 12 hours with the rains starting at 6am and stopping only at 7pm, a sign that the monsoon was about to hit the east coast of the peninsula.

The flash floods in Terengganu yesterday, which started after a heavy downpour at about 2am, caused two major roads in Batu Burok here and Serating Merchang in Marang to be closed to light vehicles, while Jalan Sultan Omar and Jalan Kamarudin near Kuala Terengganu Specialist Centre was inundated with water up to 0.4m. The road was not closed.

As of 6.30pm, the Serating Merchang road in Marang had reopened to vehicles.

Some low-lying areas around Kuala Terengganu, Kemaman, Dungun and Hulu Terengganu were affected but no major damage to properties was reported.

Eighty-seven evacuees from Kemaman and Kuala Terengganu were now taking refuge at SMK Badrul Alam Shah in Kemasik; SK Teluk Kalong in Kijal, Kemaman, and SK Gong Tok Nasek here.

They were all from Kampung Sarang Lang, Kampung Baru Kanan, Kampung Baru Kiri, Kampung Gong Cengal (all in Kemaman) and Kampung Gong Tok Nasek.

According to Mejar Amirsa­rafudin, the cause of the flash floods was the heavy downpour which met with the high tides although clogged drains could also be the reason for certain areas in the city centre.

He also urged the public to be more responsible and stop circulating false flood pictures through WhatsApp.

“We also urge the public not to panic following the spreading of photographs as some were taken in a way to make it look like a disaster.

“The Civil Defence Force is monitoring the situation constantly and we are in contact with all respective agencies including the Meteoro­logical Department and Department of Irrigation and Drainage for immediate reports on flood eventualities,” he said, adding that the public could log on to or call the operation room for information.

Meanwhile, Mahathir Md Daud, from Kampung Durian Burung here, said it took only 10 minutes for the water level to rise and inundate his house in the morning.

“This is the first time a flash flood occurred in the 45 years that the house has been standing. Everything happened so quickly that we were unable to carry anything.

A car makes its way down a flooded road in Kuala Terengganu.

“We will have to start packing and moving our belongings to a higher place as the flash flood was a warning there could be a bigger one coming soon,” he said, adding that the floodwaters had caused slight damage to his sofa set and the motors in his two refrigerators.

Housewife Rosmah Engah, 36, from Kampung Batu Penunggul, Marang, was a very frustrated woman.

She said such flash floods were a norm every time it rained heavily for six continuous hours in her area.

She blamed poor drainage for causing the flash floods which saw her house inundated at about noon.

Terengganu floods: More people move to relief centres at two districts

KEMAMAN: More people have been evacuated from floods as the Fire and Rescue Department starts monitoring river banks due to the high tide phenomenon.

The number of flood evacuees increased to 316 from 79 families on Wednesday from 87 evacuees on Tuesday night.

Civil Defence Force deputy director Major Amirsarafudin Zalman said the evacuees were housed at five centres in Kemaman and Kuala Terengganu.

Kemaman has 303 victims from 74 families placed at three centres while 13 victims from five families were housed at two centres in Kuala Terengganu.

The five evacuation centres are SMK Badrul Alam Shah in Kemasik; SK Teluk Kalong, in Kijal, Kemaman, Kampung Titian Berayun JKKK hall, SK Gong Tok Nasek and SK Chendering in Kuala Terengganu.

"The victims were all from Kampung Sarang Lang, Kampung Baru Kanan, Kampung Baru Kiri, Kampung Gong Cengal (all in Kemaman), Kampung Gong Tok Nasek and Kampung Chendering in Kuala Terengganu," Amirsarafudin said.

As of 8.20am, SMK Badrul Alam Shah in Kemasik shelters the most number of evacuees at 256 victims from 65 families followed by SK Teluk Kalong with 42 victims from eight families.

The first three evacuation centres (SMK Badrul Alam Shah, SK Teluk Kalong and SK Gong Tok Nasek) were opened between 3.50pm and 4.55pm on Tuesday.

Bernama reports that the Terengganu Fire and Rescue Department is monitoring rivers, beaches and several high risk areas due to the high tide phenomenon and incessant heavy rain since early Wednesday.

Its chief, Che Shaari Abdullah, said the monitoring of the areas which began from 9pm, involved a team of 30 divided into three groups.

"The groups are making checks in villages, towns, the shoreline and rivers. We are also placing markers to indicate the water level.

"Based on the initial checks, the situation is still under control although with a slight increase (in water levels)," he told reporters after conducting a check at Batu Buruk beach area.

Che Shaari also advised visitors to be on the alert and not to visit or carry out activities at risky areas throughout the monsoon season.

The Meteorological Department had forecast rains in Terengganu for the next five days which also coincides with the high tides of up to 3.2m in Kemaman and 2.5m in Kuala Terengganu.

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Malaysia: Connected mangroves

IZWAN ISMAIL New Straits Times 28 Nov 16;

Telecommunication solutions provider Ericsson uses tech to help rehabilitate mangrove areas in Sabak Bernam, writes Izwan Ismail

OVER the past years, soil and river pollution in the Sabak Bernam coastal area in Selangor has resulted in severe dwindling of mangrove trees in the area.

This in turn has led to serious erosion of the area which, if not addressed, will cause more damage.

To this end, Ericsson has stepped in to offer its expertise and technology know-how in monitoring the growth of mangroves and, at the same time, gauge the environmental condition.

Its vice president of solutions for Malaysia and Sri Lanka, Sebastian Barros, says farmers are very worried about erosion there.

“Much had been done. The affected community planted new mangrove saplings but the exercise was not very successful. Due to the harsh weather conditions, growth was affected and saplings died. Monkeys also destroyed the young trees,” he says.


What Ericsson is doing is to bring the wonders of Internet of Things (IoT) and wireless technology to the area, specifically Kampung Datuk Hormat. “We want to rehabilitate the mangrove areas which have eroded and are disappearing,” says Barros.

According to him, mangrove trees can hold up to 100 times the effect of tsunamis as they act as an essential natural barrier.

Besides that, they can hold carbon up to five times better than other trees.

The area is also home to 100 species of fauna, including snakes and crabs.


The project, which started in September 2015, is called Ericsson’s Connected Mangroves, the first of its kind in the world.

It combines cloud, machine-to-machine and mobile broadband to help the local community in Kampung Datuk Hormat to better manage the growth of mangrove saplings.

After the affected areas were identified, volunteers from Ericsson, NGOs and the villagers planted mangrove saplings that were equipped with special sensors which could monitor real-time information about soil and weather conditions, fires, water levels and any intrusion from third parties.

This ensured positive growth and rehabilitation of eroded coastlines.

“Data is compiled and sent directly to a cloud system where users, such as farmers, NGOs, analysts and authorities, can have access to it and so understand more about the current status of the saplings,” says Barros.


Ericsson’s aim is to plant 10,000 mangrove trees by end of 2018. To date, it has planted 3,000.

“By combining ICT innovation with collaborative partnerships built on a shared vision, we now see a higher percentage of mangrove saplings that are likely reach maturity.

In addition, through the Internet of Things (IoT) solution, the community has been empowered to use data to manage the environment and take action to support the mangroves,” he says.

It was estimated that only 40 per cent of mangrove saplings had reached maturity in recent years.

But pilot results from the project have shown an improvement of 50 per cent in the mortality rate.

“This implies that with the Connected Mangroves approach, for every 1,000 saplings, around 700 or more can reach adulthood,” says Barros.

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Malaysia Seriously Mitigating Global Warming, To Ratify Paris Agreement

Azman Ujang Bernama 14 Nov 16;

MARRAKECH, Nov 14 (Bernama) -- Malaysia is seriously doing its part in mitigating global warming and plans to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change before the end of this year, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said here Monday.

Wan Junaidi, who is leading the Malaysian delegation to the 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Forum on Climate Change (COP 22) underway in this Moroccan city, said as one of the 191 signatories of the Paris Agreement, Malaysia had pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 45 per cent by 2030 compared with the 2005 level.

"Energy, industrial processes, agriculture, land use, land use change, forestry and waste are among the sectors under the scope and coverage of our reduction commitment," he said when opening the first ever Malaysia Pavilion under the COP series.

The Pavilion serves as a platform for Malaysia to showcase and highlight the country's achievements that include activities related to climate change mitigation as well as demonstrate its commitment towards the cause.

The conference at the level of officials from all the 191 signatory countries of Paris Agreement began last week while the three-day High-Level meeting among ministers kicks off tomorrow.

Virtually all member countries are showcasing ongoing and future sustainable development projects under a massive tent-like city here.

Wan Junaidi said Malaysia's biological diversity was rcognised as among the world's richest and one of the 12 megadiverse countries in the world.

"Our economic growth, that is crucial for our well-being, also places pressure on our flora and fauna," said Wan Junaidi, who has been heading the ministry over one-and-half years and has been pushing hard to introduce stronger new laws to protect the country's bio-diversity.

He has consistently emphasised the need to strengthen efforts in conservation to ensure balanced development in pursuit of green growth and contribution to the global Sustainable Development Agenda.

The ministry's secretary-general Datuk Seri Azizan Ahmad said credit for Malaysia having its inaugural Pavilion at last after 22 COP meetings had taken place should be given to Wan Junaidi who fought hard to get it approved by the Cabinet.

One of the projects being showcased by Malaysia at the Pavilion is Forest City, a smart city development located at Johor's Iskandar Malaysia adjacent to the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link.

Forest City, a joint-venture between Country Garden Holdings and Esplanade Danga 88, is branded as a prime model of a future city and comprises of four islands designed as an ideal destination for a new generation of Malaysians and foreigners who seek to live and work in a compact and walkable mixed-used of metropolis with a variety of civic, cultural and recreational amenities set within a lush tropical landscape.

Forest City is expected to generate an estimated RM197.7 billion of GDP by 2035 or 7 per cent of total GDP of Johor and creating over 220,000 jobs half of which are skilled workers.

The Malaysian delegation to COP22 includes Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Utama Idris Haron, Malaysian Ambassador to Morocco Datuk Jamal Hassan and secretary-general of the Ministry of Green Technology, Energy and Water Datuk Seri Dr Zaini Ujang.


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Indonesia: Social forests managed by cooperatives should be expanded - President Jokowi

Antara 28 Nov 16;

Tuban (ANTARA News) - Tree planting for social forests, managed by both private parties and cooperatives, need to be explored more, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has said.

"Let us not give large concessions entirely to corporations, if it could be beneficial for the people, then by any means, go for it," President Jokowi said during the commemoration event of National Tree Planting Day and National Planting Month in Tasikharjo village, Tuban, East Java, on Monday.

When corporations fail to pass on the benefits to the public, then social forest management concessions will be given to cooperatives or private entities, Jokowi further said.

"I believe that this model can be followed and I will be sure to check it. We hope that it could be a good model to be explored in other provinces and regions," he stated.

The government will support programs that incorporate farmers, fisherman and cooperatives in managing large-scaled economic schemes, he continued.

"I would like to incorporate farmers, fisherman and cooperatives, and without a model involving them it would be challenging for small entities to grow. It needs to be done on a large economic scale," he remarked.

He also advised his ministers to support the program so that they receive the tangible economic benefits and improve the economic movement.

"I have warned the cooperatives minister to involve the cooperatives, and I have also said to the maritime and fisheries minister to incorporate fishermen. The same goes for the agriculture minister whom I have advised to incorporate farmers," he reiterated.

He will keep an eye on the program and it will be evaluated in the next 3 to 4 months to a year, the president assured.

If the evaluation shows positive results in a way that it affects the economy, it will then be implemented in other cities and provinces in Indonesia.

Tree planting in Tasikharjo village, involving the Green Earth Endowment Producers Cooperative, need to be followed by other parties, the president said.

"I see this as a well initiated format and I will continue to follow its progress, because there is an environmental value to it, but on the other side, there is also a community value and that can also be beneficial for the peoples economy," he stated.

Every month people can obtain earnings from maintaining the trees and again during harvest season, he explained.

"This is the kind of Pancasila (five ideologies) oriented economic processes that we would like to explore more," he concluded.

(Reported by Joko Susilo/Uu.KR-ARC/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

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Malaysia needs to go for nuclear energy

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 30 Nov 16;

JOHOR BARU: Malaysia has no choice but to go for nuclear energy in less than 15 years from now to ensure the country is able to cater for its energy needs in the future.

Malaysian Nuclear Agency (Nuclear Malaysia) director-general Datuk Dr Muhamad Lebai Juri said the idea of the country having nuclear energy had been discussed many years ago.

He pointed out that nuclear energy would not replace the existing energy in the country derived from fossil fuel, gas, coal or even renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydro power.

“Malaysia needs a good mix of energy coming from different sources to reduce its dependency on only from one particular source,’’ Dr Muhamad said at a briefing.

He said this after opening the three-day 19th Radiation Protection Conference and Workshop 2016 attended by some 250 radiation practitioners nationwide.

Dr Muhamad said one advantage of using nuclear energy was that the authorities would be able to keep the power tariff low unlike using power from gas, coal or fossil fuel although the initial investment to set up a nuclear plant is costly.

He said if Malaysia were to go for nuclear energy, it would made up between 10% and 30% of the country’s total energy output while the balance would come from fossil fuel, gas, coal, hydro power, solar and wind.

“South Korea is planning to build between three and five nuclear reactors to have 30% of its power output made up of nuclear energy by 2030,’’ said Dr Muhamad.

He added that in France, 80% of the country’s power supply came from nuclear power and in the United States, there were about 101 nuclear power plants.

Dr Muhamad said that at the end of the day, it is the prerogative of the Government to decide whether there is a need for the country to go for nuclear energy. “We will continue educating and creating awareness among the people that nuclear energy is safe if Malaysia decides to go for nuclear energy one day.’’

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Philippines: US manufacturer aims to improve 1 million lives by recycling fishing nets

A. Azim Idris Asian Correspondent 29 Nov 16;

ABANDONED, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear — including nets — makes up about 10 percent of marine waste globally, but an Atlanta-based manufacturer is embarking on a large-scale cleanup effort while helping impoverished fishermen earn extra income to improve the lives of 1 million people by 2020.

Through the Net-Works programme, U.S.-based Interface Inc, one of the world’s largest carpet tile manufacturers, has enabled community members of some of the Philippines’ most under-served fishing villages to gather and sell discarded nets, with the aim of restoring the environment and improving the quality of life among the communities involved.

Speaking to the Asian Correspondent recently, Interface’s Chief Sustainability Officer Erin Meezan said the company has set goals on how much ocean it wants to protect by 2020 and to provide 10,000 families access to community banking.

“We stated this idea of a partnership opportunity that then evolved to include (fishing) communities in the Philippines where they would be paid to collect the nets and ultimately, we got them into a contractual agreement with our yarn supplier who then takes the nets before we incorporate them into products,” Meeran said.

Already running in its fourth year, the Net-Works programme is a collaborative effort between Interface’s supplier and nylon manufacturer Aquafil and leading marine experts Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

The programme, Meeran said, works by turning recycled nets into yarn that Interface can then purchase from Aquafil which buys the discarded material from the fishing villages.

This, in turn, provides additional income for the communities to acquire food in times of need, support education choices, or to invest into other livelihood opportunities.

Since 2012, the Net-Works had collected 66,860 kilos of nets, by residents in 14 collection sites in Danajon Bank and the Bantayan Islands in the Philippines.

Collected fishing nets are processed into yarn which is then turned into carpet tiles, supporting Interface’s Mission Zero goal to source 100 percent recycled material.

Net-Works, according to Interface, is the “first inclusive business model of its kind” to combine the conservation and livelihood expertise of ZSL and the business know-how of Interface to integrate fishing communities in the Philippines into the global carpet company’s supply chain as a source of recycled nylon.

Meezen said the idea came about when Interface aspired to go beyond using recycled content for its products to sourcing raw materials in a way that has a social and environmental impact.

“In speaking with our yarn supplier, Aquafil, Interface realised that they have been experimenting with marine nets, and so the idea was hatched where Interface would try to find a way to incorporate marine nets into our supply chain in a way that has an additional social and environmental benefit,” she said.

After a series of meetings, she said the company realised that the ZSL was doing similar work to protect some marine habitats in the Philippines.

“We saw an interesting marriage between the resource and the marine conservation work they were doing in the Philippines, where they were seeing these marine nets making a huge negative impact, and our desire to collect the nets,” she said.

Net-Works has shown that it is possible not only to effectively tackle this growing environmental problem, but to also empower some of the most disadvantaged communities in the Philippines to join a global supply chain by taking care of the environment, the company said in a statement.

The programme has also created 508 memberships in Community Banks, with the opportunity to earn supplemental income through the sale of nets, as well as access to financial infrastructure via locally-established CoMSCAs (Community Managed Credit and Savings Associations) or local micro-finance initiatives, for the fishermen.

While the company has not set any specific target in terms of collection of nets, Meeran says the focus was on the impact of the programme by the year 2020.

Meeran said one of the most important aspects of Net-Works was to establish a community bank where money from the yarn suppliers could flow and be distributed to the local communities that previously did not have access to banking.

Asked why the company chose the Philippines for the programme, Meeran said it was because the ZSL had already established an on-the-ground presence, and was already working with communities there, adding the Danajon Bank, where a net collection hub was established had a special ecological significance due to the sensitivity of the area.

However, she said the company was also looking to expand the programme to other countries such as Thailand and India in the near future.

For now, the fishermen in the Philippines, she said, are paid to collect the nets but the source of income is not meant as full-time job.

“It’s meant to be a supplemental source that goes on top of what they normally do so they are paid for the nets collected and they also have access to the community banks to use those services on whether they want to get loans or something else,” she said.

On whether the company compromised on its profits for the green effort, Meeran said it did not as the company paid the same price to the yarn supplier for recycled yarn that is made from these nets.

“Aquafil has said there are marginal additional costs associated with the programme but those are not being passed on to us and nor are they being passed on to customers, they are simply being incorporated into sourcing their material,” she said.

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Japan orders major poultry cull after first bird flu outbreak in nearly two years

Ayai Tomisawa and Osamu Tsukimori Reuters 29 Nov 16;

Japan has started culling more than 300,000 chickens and ducks after the discovery of a highly contagious form of bird flu on farms in the north of the country, local officials said.

The bird flu outbreaks are the first in nearly two years in Japan and news of the cullings boosted shares in some infection-control product makers.

In Niigata prefecture north of Tokyo, authorities on Tuesday started culling about 310,000 chickens at a farm in the village of Sekikawa after 40 birds were found dead from H5 bird flu, a prefectural official told Reuters by telephone. The cull will continue until Dec. 2, the official said.

Further north in the prefecture of Aomori, about 16,500 ducks were being culled in the city of the same name after some tested positive for bird flu, according to a statement on the prefecture's website.

This is the first time that highly pathogenic avian influenza has been confirmed in Aomori prefecture, it said. The agriculture ministry said the outbreaks are the first for nearly two years in poultry farms in Japan.

Taiko Pharmaceutical Co, which makes infection-control products, surged 3.2 percent, and mask maker Daiwabo Holdings, jumped 5.1 percent.

Protective clothing maker Azearth Corp, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's second section, soared 17 percent to its daily limit of 681 yen.

Meanwhile, grilled-chicken restaurant operator Torikizoku Co dropped 2.8 percent.

"The news about bird flu is affecting these shares, but these moves tend to be short-lived," said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Asset Management.

South Korea last Friday announced a temporary nationwide standstill order for poultry farms and related transport over the weekend in a bid to contain a spread of H5N6 bird flu, a severe strain of the disease.

Another severe strain of bird flu, H5N8, has hit several countries in Europe and led to the culling of thousands of poultry after being detected in wild ducks in Northern France.

In recent weeks there have also been outbreaks in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Romania and Germany. Dutch authorities destroyed about 190,000 ducks on Saturday at six farms following an avian flu outbreak.

Farmers located in humid regions, where the risk of transmission is higher, are advised by health authorities to keep poultry flocks indoors or apply safety nets preventing contact with wild birds.

The H5N8 virus has never been detected in humans but it led to the culling of millions of farm birds in Asia, mainly South Korea, in 2014 before spreading to Europe.

The World Organization for Animal Health had warned in an interview with Reuters mid-November that more outbreaks of H5N8 were likely in Europe as wild birds believed to transmit the virus migrate southward.

(Writing by Aaron Sheldrick Editing by Michael Perry)

Japan orders chicken cull on third bird flu outbreak in less than a week
Reuters 1 Dec 16;

Japan has started culling another 230,000 chickens after the discovery of a highly contagious form of bird flu on a farm in the north of the country, the local government said.

The latest bird flu outbreak in Joetsu City in Niigata prefecture marks the second instance in the prefecture and the third in Japan in less than a week.

Authorities have been culling more than 300,000 chickens and ducks this week after the discovery of the first H5 bird flu in nearly two years.

That comes as South Korea said on Tuesday it would cull 3 percent of its total poultry population to curb an outbreak of the H5N6 variety of bird flu that has hit a number of farms across the nation.

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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