Malaysia to work with Singapore to honour share of water under 1962 agreement: Najib

Today Online 13 Dec 16;

PUTRAJAYA — In the wake of receding water levels at Linggiu Reservoir, Malaysia will supply Singapore with the share of water due to it under the 1962 agreement signed between the two countries, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak assured on Tuesday (Dec 13).

Speaking at a joint press conference after both leaders witnessed the signing of a historic bilateral agreement on the high-speed rail linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, Mr Najib said the water issue was discussed during the annual leaders’ retreat with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Najib said that while there are challenges that affect the water supply from Malaysia, including the effects of climate change, both countries have agreed to continue to work closely together to make sure Singapore gets its share of water. Mr Lee said he was happy that both countries have agreed on the importance of ensuring “reliable and adequate” water supply from Malaysia to Singapore. “I appreciate very much that Malaysia will be undertaking appropriate and timely measures to increase the yield of the Johor River,” he said.

The Johor River Barrage project — to ensure reliable water supply from the river — is in the final stages of completion and on track to be ready by March next year.

Linggiu Reservoir, which enables Singapore to reliably draw water from the Johor River, has seen water levels recede to historic lows since August last year. On its part, Singapore has supplied Johor with potable water, over several rounds in the past two years, to help Malaysia’s southernmost state cope with dry spells and pollution in the Johor River.

Water from the reservoir is released into the Johor River to prevent saltwater intrusion from the sea into the river, as salty water cannot be treated by the water plant further downstream. This enables Singapore to draw a maximum of 250 million gallons per day (equivalent to 60 per cent of Singapore’s daily water needs) from the river allowed under the 1962 water agreement between Singapore and Malaysia. In turn, the PUB is obliged to sell 5 million gallons of treated water per day to Johor.

Other topics discussed during the meeting between the two leaders included the progress made in tourism collaboration, such as a twinning initiative for Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Pulau Kukup. They also touched on environmental issues, including regional cooperation on the transboundary haze pollution problem, as well as the importance of defence cooperation between the two countries in light of growing security challenges and threats.

Citing developments including the outcome of the United States Presidential Election and the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, Mr Lee said: “We also looked at the state of the world and the uncertainties and anxieties which are currently prevalent internationally... tensions and preoccupations in various parts of the region... and we agreed that in such a circumstance, all the more our bilateral relationship must be strong.”

He added: “We should work together within ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to strengthen (regional) cohesion to deal with the issues so that we can share each other’s burden and prosper together.”

In a joint statement, Mr Lee and Mr Najib also said both countries would like to organise a regular cultural showcase, following the success of last year’s Titian Budaya Cultural Festival in Kuala Lumpur which marked 50 years of bilateral ties. The two leaders proposed the event to be a triennial affair, starting with the leaders’ retreat in 2018. Singapore will host next year’s retreat.

Malaysia to take appropriate, timely measures to increase yield of Johor River
Lim Jia Qi Channel NewsAsia 13 Dec 16;

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: Singapore and Malaysia agree on the importance of ensuring reliable and adequate water supplies for Singapore from the Johor River, the leaders of the two countries said on Tuesday (Dec 13), with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong adding that he "appreciates very much that Malaysia will be undertaking appropriate and timely measures to increase the yield of the Johor River."

The issue of water supply was among the various topics discussed by both leaders during the seventh leaders' retreat held at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya.

Speaking at a joint news conference after the signing of the high-speed rail agreement, both leaders noted that water was an important issue.

"We've agreed to work closely together to make sure that Singapore gets its share of water under the (1962) water agreement," said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

However, Mr Najib noted that there were some challenges, such as the effects of climate change that has affected the supply of water to Singapore.

However, he gave the assurance that both countries will work together to resolve the problem.

Mr Najib also revealed that the Johor River Barrage project will be operational by March next year.

The project aims to reduce salinity in the river during dry seasons and allow Singapore and Johor to draw the full capacity of the river. This is expected to increase the yield of the Johor River.

"I'm very happy that the Johor River barrage is now in its final stages of completion," said Mr Lee. "It's already making a difference and helping to improve the yield of the river, and our agencies are working closely together. And that means on our side the PUB, on Johor's side the BAKAJ (water regulatory body Badan Kawal Selia Air Johor) and on the federal level, KeTTHA (Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water)."

In a joint statement released later on Tuesday evening, the two leaders also expressed their appreciation to the water authorities of both Johor and Singapore for their ongoing cooperation and encouraged both water authorities to continue their "excellent working relationship".

"Singapore noted that Malaysia will undertake appropriate and timely measures to increase the yield of the Johor River," said the joint statement.

- CNA/dt

Singapore will also prosper if Iskandar Malaysia region succeeds: PM Lee
Lee U-wen, The Business Times AsiaOne 14 Dec 16;

Singapore will prosper if the neighbouring Iskandar Malaysia region in the state of Johor does well, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday.

Mr Lee, who was in Putrajaya to attend the annual leaders' retreat with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, said he congratulated Mr Najib on the tenth anniversary of Iskandar Malaysia this year.

Since its launch, Iskandar Malaysia has attracted more than RM200 billion (S$64.3 billion) in cumulative committed investments, with a sizeable amount coming from Singapore companies.

Singapore is currently the second-largest foreign investor in both Iskandar Malaysia and Johor.

Mr Lee added that both governments continue to work closely together via a joint ministerial committee for Iskandar Malaysia.

This high-level committee has met a dozen times since it was formed in 2007. The last meeting was held in Singapore in March this year.

Mr Lee also noted that the various joint-venture projects between Singapore's Temasek Holdings and Malaysia's Khazanah Nasional are making good progress.

The two investment companies have a couple of joint projects in Iskandar Malaysia, namely Afiniti Medini and Avira Medini.

These have a strong focus on wellness and have a combined gross development value of some RM3 billion.

Temasek and Khazanah also have a joint-venture company in Singapore called M+S Pte Ltd, which operates two major mixed-use developments - Marina One in Marina South and Duo in the Ophir-Rochor area.

"(The joint projects) show visibly that this is a win-win partnership that is progressing well," said Mr Lee at a press conference alongside Mr Najib at the Malaysian Prime Minister's Office.

The subject of water also came up during the leaders' retreat. Mr Najib said the two countries have agreed to work closely together to ensure that Singapore gets its share of water from Malaysia under the current agreement.

"There are some challenges, not least some of the effects of climate change that has affected the supply of water," said Mr Najib.

Mr Lee said that when it comes to water, both Singapore and Malaysia are clear on where they stand on this important issue.

"We are happy that we've agreed on the importance of ensuring reliable and adequate water supplies from the Johor river as provided for in the 1962 water agreement, and to take the necessary measures in order to make this happen," said the Singapore leader.

The Johor River Barrage is in the final stages of completion and will be fully operational by March 2017.

Mr Lee said this barrage has already made a difference to help increase the yield of the river.

Among the other topics that the two leaders discussed during their retreat were regional and international developments such as the impending change of government in the United States and Brexit in the UK.

They also talked about the importance of ASEAN integration and cohesion in a highly uncertain global environment.

Mr Najib said that both countries are "very pleased" with the overall state of bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore.

"There will always be challenges, but given the commitment at the highest levels that this should be an important relationship, one that is predicated on finding solutions, resolving problems and moving forward in a positive way," he said.

"That's the spirit that reflects the relationship that we've enjoyed between (PM Lee and I) and the two governments."

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Singapore-JB Rapid Transit System to be linked via high bridge over Straits of Johor

Lim Jia Qi Channel NewsAsia 13 Dec 16;

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: The Rapid Transit System (RTS) link connecting Singapore and Johor Baru will be connected via a high bridge, the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia announced on Tuesday (Dec 13).

"We've settled on a high-bridge crossing. This was a major point - how are we going to cross the Straits of Johor - high bridge, low bridge (or) tunnel," said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. "That clears the way for us to work towards a bilateral agreement which I hope we can sign by the end of next year.

Mr Lee was speaking at a joint news conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak after the signing of a bilateral agreement on the high-speed rail (HSR) project.

The RTS link will adopt Singapore's Thomson-East Coast line system, including its signaling system, rolling stock, communication system and integrated supervisory control system. Explaining the rationale for this, Mr Lee said it would reap economies of scale.

The train system was first announced in 2010. Subsequently, Singapore confirmed that its RTS terminus will be sited at Woodlands North Station, along the Thomson-East Coast MRT line. Malaysia has also chosen Bukit Chagar as the main terminal for the RTS.

"Visitors can clear immigration in Johor Baru, get on the RTS, come to Singapore and transfer to the MRT seamlessly and vice versa," said Mr Lee.

“This will further enhance our connectivity and benefit thousands who commute regularly between Singapore and JB,” Mr Lee added.

A tender was called in 2011 to conduct an engineering study on the RTS link, which aimed to develop possible alignments and proposals for the system.

"When they come to fruition, there will be more exchanges between our people and our ties will grow closer," said the Prime Minister.

In a joint statement released later on Tuesday, the two leaders stated that the RTS link will be operated by a corporate entity.

The statement added that fares for the RTS link will be market-based and set by the operator, and will not be regulated by either government.


To enhance bilateral ties between the two countries, Mr Lee announced that there will be a cultural showcase every three years. Artists from both sides of the causeway will come together to showcase their works.

Mr Lee said the triennial showcase is timely as both countries build on the success of Titian Budaya held in Kuala Lumpur last year. Titian Budaya, which means "cultural bridge" in Malay, was a three-month cultural showcase which saw participants from various art forms such as music, theatre, dance and film performing together.

The triennial cultural showcase will further cultural cooperation between both countries, said Mr Lee, adding that the relations between Singapore and Malaysia must be more than just economic and transactional.

“Ultimately it is about the friendship between our leaders and our peoples. Art and culture play an important role here.”

The showcase will be held in conjunction with future leaders’ retreats, starting from 2018.

- CNA/dt

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Indonesia: Sun bear rescued from boar snare in West Sumatra

Antara 13 Dec 16;

Lubuk Sikaping, W Sumatra (ANTARA News) - A sun bear was rescued on Tuesday after being trapped in a wild boar snare in a plantation in Batuang Balirik, Pasaman District, West Sumatra Province.

Owner of the plantation Rici (32) was surprised to find a sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) trapped by the snare he had installed to catch wild boars and reported the matter to the local authority.

"The snare was intended to catch wild boars that often destroy plantations," Rici said.

Chief of Pasaman Resort Police Office Adjunct Senior Commissioner Indro Sasongko said that the sun bear was tranquilized before it was released from the snare around 12:30 pm local time.

"After being tranquilized, the sun bear was tied and brought to the Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Office of Pasaman," Sasongko said.

The right foreleg of the bear, estimated to weigh 40 kg, was injured by the snare.

The bear has been kept at the BKSDA office of Pasaman.

Previously, in May, another wild animal was also accidently trapped in a wild boar snare.

A Sumatran tiger was rescued after being trapped for around three days in a wild boar snare in a hilly forest in Nagari Mandeh Village, West Sumatra.

Chief of the Nagari Mandeh Village of Koto XI Tarusan Sub-district Jasril Rajo Basah expected the tiger to be returned to its habitat near the village since it had not disturbed the day-to-day life of the villagers.

In fact, the village chief and the locals acknowledged that the tiger had, several times, helped locals who had lost their way in the forest.

Moreover, it had become a natural predator of wild boars, which ravaged agricultural areas.

"We live side by side with the tiger, therefore we hope the big cat will be returned here soon," Basah added.

However, the right forepaw of the tiger was severely wounded by the snare and the team doctor had to amputate it on June 1.(*)

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Indonesia: Forest Governance Needs to Improve, NGOs Say

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 13 Dec 16;

Jakarta. Despite reoccurring problems related to spatial planning and forest governance in Indonesia, there is optimism that these issues will be addressed next year.

According to Transparency International Indonesia, much still needs to be done to root out corruption in the forestry sector.

"The government's One Map and One Data initiatives are still not optimally implemented, so there is still a high potential for corruption in the sector," Rivan Prahasya, Transparency International Indonesia's department manager for land-based industries, said during a discussion on Tuesday (13/12).

He added that public access to information in the country's forestry sector is still lacking, which means that it will take long to improve forest governance.

"If the conditions do not change, corruption will still be prevalent in the coming years," Rivan said. He urged better transparency and accountability on provincial government levels.

Rivan expressed hope that government officials would be better held to account from next year, especially as questionable motives are still prevalent among many.

Joining the discussion, Aditya Bayunanda, leader of the World Wildlife Fund Indonesia's forest commodities market transformation program, said he believes forest governance is strongly promoted thanks to the Indonesian Timber Legality Assurance System, or SVLK.

With Indonesia shipping its first certified sustainable timber last month, Aditya sees a positive development for governance, in the hope that other sectors in the forest industry will follow suit.

"It's a good step for Indonesia, as monitoring and public access to information is already part of the system […] which is a push for legal timber in the domestic market," he said.

He added that the SVLK will lead to greater responsibility in the domestic market.

Against this background, the two parties hope that 2017 will be the year for implementation of forest governance, as well as proper law enforcement.

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A water war in Asia?

BRAHMA CHELLANEY Today Online 14 Dec 16;

Tensions over water are rising in Asia — and not only because of conflicting maritime claims. While territorial disputes, such as in the South China Sea, attract the most attention — after all, they threaten the safety of sea lanes and freedom of navigation, which affects outside powers as well — the strategic ramifications of competition over transnationally shared freshwater resources are just as ominous.

Asia has less fresh water per capita than any other continent, and it is already facing a water crisis that, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will continue to intensify, with severe water shortages expected by 2050. At a time of widespread geopolitical discord, competition over freshwater resources could emerge as a serious threat to long-term peace and stability in Asia.

Already, the battle is under way, with China as the main aggressor. Indeed, China’s territorial grab in the South China Sea has been accompanied by a quieter grab of resources in transnational river basins. Re-engineering cross-border riparian flows is integral to China’s strategy to assert greater control and influence over Asia.

China is certainly in a strong position to carry out this strategy. The country enjoys unmatched riparian dominance, with 110 transnational rivers and lakes flowing into 18 downstream countries. China also has the world’s highest number of dams, which it has never hesitated to use to curb cross-border flows. In fact, China’s dam builders are targeting most of the international rivers that flow out of Chinese territory.

Most of China’s internationally- shared water resources are located on the Tibetan Plateau, which it annexed in the early 1950s. Not surprisingly, the plateau is the new hub of Chinese dam building. Indeed, China’s 13th five-year plan, released this year, calls for a new wave of dam projects on the Plateau.

Moreover, China recently cut off the flow of a tributary of the Brahmaputra River, the lifeline of Bangladesh and northern India, to build a dam as part of a major hydroelectric project in Tibet. And the country is working to dam another Brahmaputra tributary, in order to create a series of artificial lakes.

China has also built six mega-dams on the Mekong River, which flows into South-east Asia, where the downstream impact is already visible. Yet, instead of curbing its dam-building, China is hard at work building several more Mekong dams.

Likewise, water supplies in largely arid central Asia are coming under further pressure as China appropriates a growing volume of water from the Ili River. Kazakhstan’s Lake Balkhash is now at risk of shrinking substantially, much like the Aral Sea — located on the border with Uzbekistan — which has virtually dried up in less than 40 years. China is also diverting water from the Irtysh, which supplies drinking water to Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, and feeds Russia’s Ob River.

For Central Asia, the diminished transboundary flows are just one part of the problem. China’s energy, manufacturing and agricultural activities in sprawling Xinjiang are having an even greater impact, as they contaminate the waters of the region’s transnational rivers with hazardous chemicals and fertilisers, just as China has done to the rivers in its Han heartland.

Of course, China is not the only country stoking conflict over water. As if to underscore that the festering territorial dispute in Kashmir is as much about water as it is about land, Pakistan has, for the second time this decade, initiated international arbitral tribunal proceedings against India under the terms of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. The paradox here is that downstream Pakistan has used that treaty — the world’s most generous water-sharing deal, reserving for Pakistan more than 80 per cent of the waters of the six-river Indus system — to sustain its conflict with India.

Meanwhile, landlocked Laos — aiming to export hydropower, especially to China, the mainstay of its economy — has just notified its neighbours of its decision to move ahead with a third controversial project, the 912-megawatt Pak Beng Dam. It previously brushed aside regional concerns about the alteration of natural-flow patterns to push ahead with the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dam projects. There is no reason to expect a different outcome this time.

The consequences of growing water competition in Asia will reverberate beyond the region. Already, some Asian states, concerned about their capacity to grow enough food, have leased large tracts of farmland in sub-Saharan Africa, triggering a backlash in some areas. In 2009, when South Korea’s Daewoo Logistics Corporation negotiated a deal to lease as much as half of Madagascar’s arable land to produce cereals and palm oil for the South Korean market, the ensuing protests and military intervention toppled a democratically-elected president.

The race to appropriate water resources in Asia is straining agriculture and fisheries, damaging ecosystems, and fostering dangerous distrust and discord across the region. It must be brought to an end. Asian countries need to clarify the region’s increasingly murky hydropolitics. The key will be effective dispute-resolution mechanisms and agreements on more transparent water-sharing arrangements.

Asia can build a harmonious, rules-based water management system. But it needs China to get on board. At least for now, that does not seem likely. PROJECT SYNDICATE


Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research and Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, is the author of nine books, including Asian Juggernaut, Water: Asia’s New Battleground, and Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis.

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