Best of our wild blogs: 2 Dec 16

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk 17 Dec 2016
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Read more!

Fishing beyond the shore

Kua Chee Siong, The Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Dec 16;

Every weekend, the fresh salty air and therapeutic waves beckon, and Mr Mervin Low succumbs.

At daybreak, the 48-year-old business owner heads out from Pasir Ris beach in a specially designed kayak to fish - sometimes alone, sometimes with friends in their own kayaks.

Kayak fishing is a growing phenomenon fuelled by a love of nature and the ability to access productive fishing spots not available to shore anglers.

Its key advantage is that one can paddle almost silently into both deep and shallow waters without "spooking" the fish.

These days, one can see fishing kayaks being launched from the beaches at Sembawang, Pasir Ris, Changi, Sentosa and East Coast Park, as well as the jetties off Lim Chu Kang and Punggol.

These are not bare kayaks, but have been purpose-made for open- water fishing.

Many are stable, sit-on-top, self-bailing vessels which will not get flooded like a bathtub on rainy days or if, touch wood, they capsize.

The best types of fishing kayaks are those with pedal assist systems that are easy to use, even for beginners.

A responsive steering handle controls the direction of the kayak, and it frees the angler's hands to fish.

"We are anglers first and kayakers second. These kayaks are our vehicles on the seas. At the same time, we can bring home some fish for the family," said Mr Low, who enjoys getting away from the city's hustle and bustle.

According to him, there are a few hundred active kayak anglers in Singapore today.

It is a multiracial melting pot, with participants from all walks of life, ranging from a 11-year-old student to a 66-year-old retiree.

Everyone shares a common goal - to enjoy a day at sea and do the thing they love the most in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.

Mr Low has fished from a kayak for about six years.

The social sport was introduced to Singapore in 2009 by Mr Ian Pearl, a British expatriate who had become bored with fishing from the shore.

After some research, he imported a regular inflatable kayak with paddles with which he could explore Singapore's coastline.

He posted his exploits in local fishing forums regularly, where they caught the attention of like-minded fishing enthusiasts such as Mr Low. And thus, kayak fishing in Singapore was born.

In Pasir Ris, in waters 6m to 21m deep, lie sunken kelongs and mangroves, which provide nurseries for the fish to breed in protected waters.

They are replete with fish, says Mr Low.

"People are amazed at how big they are. The largest fish I've caught is an 8kg grouper caught in the waters off Changi," said Mr Low.

He lets go of the fish if "it is too small or if it is too big for the wok".

He usually brings home at least one or two for his wife and two children.

The common types of fish found in Singapore waters all year round include the grouper, barramundi, snapper, giant herring and queenfish.

Many kayaks are mounted with fish finders - electronic devices which show the terrain of the seabed in 2D, much like a graph - which allow anglers to scan the seabed for fish-holding structures and drop-offs.

The use of technology increases the probability of landing a catch.

While kayak anglers have been teased for being crazy to go out on little kayaks under the hot tropical sun, the intense joy for Mr Low when a fish bites is "beyond words".

Read more!

Malaysia: No place in Terengganu safe from floods


KUALA TERENGGANU: The heavy downpour, which hit the state on Tuesday morning and lasted for some eight hours resulting in floods, was a bitter lesson for many who had thought they were living in “safe zones”.

Now, these residents realise that any area can be flooded, even in the least expected places and one has to be prepared for it.

Amir Hamzah Mamat, 37, an entrepreneur from Taman Alamanda 2 here said there were no floods in his area for eight years and he was caught by surprise by the floods four days ago.

“After the rain on Tuesday, many were caught by surprise to see places like our residential area and, worse still, the Sultan Omar road inundated by waters as high as 0.4m,” he said.

He added that many were now more cautious and have started moving their belongings to a safer place.

The state is predicted to face major floods from mid December to January.

Government employee Nurehan Muhamad, 29, said the last thing on her mind was that her house in Taman Tekukur would be flooded.

“My relatives, who also live in “flood free” areas, are also worried.

“Now we know that nothing is certain. The rain can flood any part of the town and residential areas.”

State Civil Defence Department director Lt-Col Che Adam A Rahman said the agency was also observing low-risk or no-risk areas.

He said that due to rapid development in certain areas here and obstruction to water flow, some places, which have never been flooded before, were now affected.

“We are not taking anything for granted and we are closely monitoring the matter,” he said.

Meanwhile, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu Flood Task Force chief, Assoc Prof Dr Mohamad Fadhli Ahmad said the task force team had decided to include low-risk or no-risk areas into their observation list.

“There is prediction of heavy rain until Saturday which coincides with the high tide phenomenon,” he said.

Northern residents told to be prepared for flash floods, heavy rain expected
MASRIWANIE MUHAMADING New Straits Times 1 Dec 16;

ALOR STAR: Residents living near coastal areas and rivers in the state were urged to stay alert and prepare for the possibility of flood following the issuance of heavy rain warning (Yellow stage) by the Meteorology Department in the northern states, including Kedah, between December 1 and 3.

The Kedah Civil Defence Force (APM) disaster management and operations division officer Major Imran Azimi said that they have made thorough preparations to face any possibility should flash floods occur and the team is in constant contact with relevant agencies including the Meteorology Department and Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) for updates.

“I assure you that we are well prepared to face any possibility of disasters such as flood especially in terms of manpower and assets.

“However, it is also important that the people, especially those living in flood-prone areas, to stay alert and prepare themselves to face the possibility of flood.

“It is also important that they follow our instruction to move to the nearby relief centres should their homes be affected. This is for their own safety,” said Imran.

He added that there are a total of 2,010 APM staff and volunteers in the state who can be deployed immediately should natural disasters such as flash floods occur.

Read more!

Indonesia: Floods, landslides follow days of intense downpours

Hotli Simanjuntak, Ganug Nugroho Adi, Jon Afrizal, Agus Maryono and Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 1 Dec 16;

Extreme weather in several areas across the archipelago has caused landslides and flooding that have displaced thousands of people.

At least 43 villages in five districts in Aceh Singkil regency, Aceh, were inundated after the Cinedang River broke its banks following heavy rain over four consecutive days, forcing thousands to flee their homes.

The flooding — at a depth of between 1 and 2 meters — forced over 7,500 families, consisting of around 30,000 people, from their homes, Aceh Singkil Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Sulaiman said on Wednesday.

It was the biggest flood so far this year but no fatalities were reported, he added.

Several major roads in the region were also cut. At least three bridges connecting Singkil collapsed in the floods, cutting access to the capital of Aceh Singkil regency, Rony, a resident of Subulusalam near Singkil border, told The Jakarta Post.

To ease conditions for affected families, the agency has erected public kitchens in several subdistricts while the Aceh provincial administration has sent logistical supplies.

Water flowing from the Subulusalam and Simpang Kanan regions converges in Aceh Singkil regency, a coastal area in a shallow estuary.“At the same time the regency is also experiencing high tides so the water flowing from the land is not flowing into the sea,” said Aceh Singkil Public Works Agency head Muzni.

Floods have also struck Jambi with at least 263 hectares of agriculture land, mostly rice, chili and corn fields, under water. Jambi Agriculture Agency head Amrin Aziz has warned of crop failures.

The inundated land is located in several regencies such as Muarojambi, Batang Hari, Sarolangun, Tebo and East Tanjung Jabung regencies. Meanwhile, at least one person died and two are missing after landslides struck in Karanganyar, Central Java, on Tuesday. A 30-meter cliff collapsed and buried at least eight villagers who were harvesting rice in Bulurejo village. Five people managed to escape the rubble but three others were not so fortunate.

Search and rescue personnel were continuing the search for the missing people as of Wednesday afternoon.

Nugroho, the head of Karanganyar Disaster Mitigation Agency, said besides landslides, the high-intensity rain also flooded at least three districts in Karanganyar. “We strongly urge residents to be more alert in extreme weather,” he added.

A landslide also cut a 100-meter stretch of road connecting several villages in Cimanggu district, Cilacap regency, Central Java on Tuesday after days of heavy rain, said Darwoko of Bina Marga roads agency in West Cilacap.

Elsewhere in Cilacap thousands of houses in Kroya and Sidareja districts were inundated forcing residents to evacuate.

Meanwhile, a boat traveling from Tanjung Batu, Riau Islands, to Pangkalan Kerinci in Pelalawan regency, Riau province, capsized on Wednesday afternoon, at least four people are reported missing in the incident.

The boat capsized on the Kampar River, Pelalawan Police chief Adj. Sr. Cmr. Ari Wibowo said. The exact number of passengers is not known but at least 20 people survived the incident.

Several witnesses told police the boat capsized as it battled heavy waves, known locally as bono, on the river, the Kampar is notorious for its waves caused by the river’s strong current.

One landslide victim found, one still buried
Karanganyar Jakarta Post 5 Dec 16;

After five days of searching, a search and rescue (SAR) team finally found the body of one of the two landslide victims killed in Karangpandan district, Karanganyar regency, Central Java, on Saturday morning. The victim was identified as Gito Martono, 51, of Sintren Wetan village, Karangpandan.

The SAR team is still trying to find Daliyem, 67, the other victim still buried under the debris. The Karanganyar Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) has mobilized hundreds of volunteers to search for the body of the victim.

National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) Surakarta Post spokesman Yohan Tri Anggoro said Gito’s body was found on Friday at 6 p.m. local time around 100 meters from the location where he was harvesting rice. It is believed that he was dragged away and then buried by the landslide.

The landslide occurred on Nov. 29 in the afternoon, when eight people harvesting rice in the paddy fields in Tegalsari hamlet, Bulurejo village, Karangpandan, were buried after a 30-meter-high cliff around them suddenly collapsed.

PLN ups efforts to restore power network
The Jakarta Post 5 Dec 16;

This week Manado, Gorontalo and Kotamobagu will be affected by rolling blackouts due to the collapse of a high-voltage line (SUTT) near the Gorontalo Outer Ring Road (GORR) project.

North Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi and Gorontalo (Suluttenggo) state power company PLN acting general manager Liasta Tarigan said the power transmission tower restoration would take around a week.

The No. 6 150 kilovolt SUTT tower connecting the Isimu substation to Marisa substation collapsed. “So, Manado, Gorontalo and Kotamobagu will experience rolling blackouts this week,” said Tarigan.

She added that PLN had to bring in materials from Makassar, South Sulawesi, by air to rebuild the tower, which collapsed due to the landslide. Due to the collapse of the tower, the power system was experiencing a deficit of more than 50 MW.

Windy weather blows warning to Jakartans
Agnes Anya The Jakarta Post 5 Dec 16;

Windy spell: A man inspects a billboard at Gading Serpong Tangerang after it collapsed during a storm on Sunday. The air temperature in Greater Jakarta was estimated at 23 to 31 degrees Celsius with humidity of 60 to 100 percent.(JP/Donny Fernando)

Residents have been urged to be more careful of strong winds that have hit Greater Jakarta this month as the damaging impact of the winds, predicted to last until February, has toppled trees and billboards in public areas.

In Poris, Tangerang, a billboard collapsed on Sunday at around 1:25 p.m. following winds and heavy rainfall in the area. No fatalities were reported but the incident disrupted traffic.

“The recent strong winds were caused by cumulonimbus clouds, which lately have appeared in Greater Jakarta’s skies since the start of the wet season,” said the Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) meteorology division deputy Yunus S. Swarinoto on Sunday.

Cumulonimbus clouds, which consist of ice and water, cause high intensity rains that can trigger winds strong enough to take down rooftops, trees or billboards.

The winds have been part of an anomaly triggered by unstable atmospheric conditions in the extreme weather that has been ongoing since November. According to the BMKG’s predictions, these conditions will lead to increasingly intense thunderstorms until the end of November or beginning of December.

Aside from the strong winds and heavy rains, cumulonimbus clouds can potentially trigger thunderstorms, tornadoes and low temperature rains.

The strong winds and cloudburst amid the rainy season, Yunus said, will likely last until February next year before gradually disappearing at the end of the month, or the beginning of the dry season.

He advised residents in Greater Jakarta to always be on alert, especially when passing trees during the strong winds, and to anticipate any possible disasters, such as floods, landslides and fallen trees, given the current weather phenomena.

Meanwhile, Jakarta’s Parks and Cemeteries Agency head Djafar Muchlisin said hundreds of trees had been knocked down as a result of the strong winds.

The winds uprooted at least 102 trees in the capital on Saturday alone, he said without giving further details on how many trees had collapsed in the rainy season so far.

He further said that to anticipate similar incidents, as well as to avoid fatalities, the agency regularly trimmed thick trees in the city after carrying out regular check-ups on them.

“We have also cut down several trees that were found rotten,” said Djafar, adding that even though there were no human casualties, the fallen trees damaged Transjakarta bus stops and several cars.

Jakarta’s acting governor Sumarsono said last month the administration provided insurance for private property, such as cars, damaged by trees belonging to the administration.

The administration will provide Rp 15 million (US$1,114) in compensation for any damaged cars and Rp 50 million for any casualties.

Strong winds also caused a dome of Ar-Rahmah Mosque in Cipinang Muara, East Jakarta, to collapse on a nearby house on Saturday afternoon. No casualties were reported.

On the same day, traffic at Soekarno-Hatta International airport was disrupted after a billboard and several street signs collapsed in the area. Officials managed to remove the fallen billboards late afternoon.

The Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency has a hotline service at 112 and accepts any disaster-related emergency calls.

Read more!

Indonesia’s haze weapons: Maps and sensors

KOI KYE LEE Today Online 2 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE — Indonesia will develop high-resolution maps to monitor areas prone to peatland fires and require concessions owned by plantation companies to install water-level sensors, as part of the latest efforts to tackle the annual transboundary haze.

Mr Nazir Foead, the head of Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency, said 2.4 million hectares of peatland will be targeted for restoration in the next five years. Already, 606,000 hectares have been mapped and another one million hectares will be mapped next year, he said.

Such a map has to be very detailed and taking aerial photographs is more laborious than using satellite imagery, said Mr Nazir in a recent interview with TODAY. It also includes time-consuming fieldwork.

“The team on the ground needs to do manual drilling on the ground to measure the depth of the peatland,” he said. “This is one of the challenges we face in creating a consolidated high-resolution map.”

The agency was set up earlier this year by a presidential decree, as part of efforts by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to curb forest fires that create a choking haze around the region, sickening people and closing schools.

The fires are caused by slash-and-burn land-clearing by plantation companies, made worse some years by dry weather caused by the El Nino phenomenon.

Last year, the smoke blanketed Singapore and Malaysia for weeks from September to November and drifted as far north as the Thai capital, Bangkok.

The Indonesian government said fires last year resulted in at least US$16 billion (S$23 billion) in economic losses. Often the fires are put out only when the rainy season arrives each year.

The haze in South-east Asia this year, particularly in Singapore and Malaysia, has been less severe.

The Indonesian government said this was due to favourable weather conditions and quicker emergency response by their National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Earlier this week, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla blamed foreign countries for destroying Indonesia’s forests, adding that he wants them to pay to help restore the damaged land.

“What happens here is not only our problem. The foreign people also destroyed our forests,” said Mr Kalla on Wednesday. He once again said Singapore and Malaysia should not complain about transboundary haze.

“If you get fresh air from Sumatra, Kalimantan, you don’t say thank you. So, if you get the haze, why should I apologise?”

To map the next million hectares of peatland, Mr Nazir said a technical team of experts — made up of Indonesian officials and academics from Australia, Europe and Japan — are trying to develop a cheaper methodology.

“We found the perfect methodology for the first map, however that is time consuming and costly,” he said.

Asked if the map will be shared with other countries, Mr Nazir said it would be shared via the government’s website in JPEG format. However, more detailed data will not be accessible by the public or other countries due to security concerns.

The mapping will include burnt and degraded peatland in the provinces of Riau, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua, an important step towards restoration. Of 2.6 million hectares that were burnt last year in Indonesia, nearly one million was peatland — carbon-rich wetlands that burn easily when drained.

Mr Nazir stressed the importance of water management in peatland. He said that plantation companies have built canals to drain peatland in order to grow oil palms and other trees for timber, leaving dry peat that burns easily.

“So, what we are trying to do now is to encourage the companies to keep their land moist throughout the wet season, as part of the water-management system for peatland,” said Mr Nazir.

Companies will be asked to close their canals during the wet season to allow the peatland to collect rainwater, he said. A majority of the companies have been receptive to the idea, even though some were worried that their palm-oil plantations would be flooded and the trees may die.

Mr Nazir said sensors would also be installed in the peatland, including those owned by concessions, and his agency would be able to monitor the water level of the land.

Should the water level fall below the dangerous level, the agency would remind the owners to keep their land moist to prevent forest fires.

Mr Nazir said that Mr Widodo’s administration has made it a priority to fight peat fires. Owners who flout the new water-management rules risk losing their land.

“The government will not cancel the licences (of the concessions) yet, but it will take over the land and ensure the management complies with the restoration rules. They will be given three years to do so. If they fail, then it (the licence) will be cancelled,” he said.

The Indonesian government has found more than 55 companies involved in illegal land-clearing activities since last year’s fires.

A US$565 million lawsuit brought by the government against a pulp and paper company was rejected by a court last month, dealing a blow to government efforts to punish those who set the fires to clear land.

Mr Nazir said concessions were aware of the negative implications of slash-and-burn practices, and many have turned to mechanical land clearance methods.

“There are still companies that practise that (slash-and-burn) knowing the negative implications it causes, but it is a cheaper method to clear their lands. Sometimes, they will pay local villagers or professional arsonists to burn the land. This is what the law-enforcement agencies are trying to stop,” he added.

There are signs that efforts may be paying off. This year, 16 per cent of fires occurred in peatland areas, compared with 35 per cent last year.

Read more!

Great Barrier Reef 'not dying', Australia insists

Channel NewsAsia 2 Dec 16;

SYDNEY: The Great Barrier Reef is "not dying", Australia insisted Friday (Dec 2), as it updated UNESCO on efforts to protect the natural wonder while scientists blasted a lack of urgency in dealing with climate change.

Canberra last year narrowly avoided the UN body putting the site on its endangered list and was ordered to report to the World Heritage committee by Dec 1 on its "Reef 2050" rescue plan.

The giant ecosystem is under pressure from farming run-off, development, the crown-of-thorns starfish and climate change, which led to a mass bleaching event this year that devastated swathes of coral.

In the report, the government said 32 of the plan's 151 actions to improve the reef had been achieved. Another 103 were under way, four were delayed, and 12 were not yet due.

"When we came to government we inherited a reef on UNESCO's endangered watchlist," Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg told Sky News. "We've done everything possible since that time to put in place a plan, to invest huge amounts of resources to improve water quality, to work with the farming community to tackle the crown-of-thorns starfish and to preserve this natural wonder of the world.

"We have to put the facts on the table," he added. "The reef is not dead, it's not dying, it's resilient, it's healthy and we've made great strides forward in the last few years."

The government has committed more than A$2 billion (US$1.5 billion) to protect the reef over the next decade with the update highlighting progress on land management practices to prevent sediment run off, which helps spawn the coral-eating starfish.

It also pointed to a ban on sea-based disposal of dredge material in the area and restrictions on new port developments. But the rescue plan included no new funding or commitments to tackle climate change despite acknowledging this was the reef's biggest threat.

This year's bleaching, due to warming sea temperatures, killed two-thirds of shallow-water corals in the north of the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) long reef, although central and southern areas escaped with less damage.

The update said Canberra was acting on global warming through the United Nations talks that led to the recent Paris climate deal, but scientists said it was not enough.

"Funding water quality efforts on the reef while failing to do anything about climate change is a bit like fixing a window while the house is on fire," said Tim Flannery from the independent Climate Council. "I'm not even sure you can call a plan that includes no new funding and no new actions on climate change a plan - it's simply a re-announcement of old commitments."

Greenpeace Australia was equally scathing, saying it was unacceptable that while recognising the impact of global warming on the reef the government "then completely fails to do anything about it".

- AFP/ek

Read more!