Best of our wild blogs: 31 Jan 17

Not ok to take Giant clams and shells!
wild shores of singapore

Sat 4th Feb 2017 – World Wetlands Day coastal cleanup at Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove
Otterman speaks

Project empty shells – Terumbu Selegi

CNY Day 1: Semakau South
wonderful creation

CNY Day 2: Terumbu Selegi
wonderful creation

CNY Day 3: Seringat-Kias
wonderful creation

Otters at Gardens by the Bay
My Nature Experiences

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Johor town makes a business out of Singapore's used fridges

Residents fix and sell imported old appliances, but experts worry unsafe e-waste dumping could be taking place - in an expose on The Trash Trail.
Steffi Koh Channel NewsAsia 30 Jan 17;

JOHOR: Refrigerators of every size, model and age line the dusty streets of a town in Johor, Malaysia – discarded by those living in Singapore, a two-hour drive away.

Inside five of these old refrigerators lie a tracking device each, planted as part of Channel NewsAsia documentary The Trash Trail’s investigation into what happens to electronic waste discarded by Singaporean households (premiere Monday, Jan 30, at 7.30pm).

It turns out that in the town of Rengit, used fridges from Singapore are in hot demand.

Madam Julizah, who goes by one name and runs one of these businesses, said that she received five to six used refrigerators in a week.

“There are no forms. We buy them from an agent who produces an approval letter for us, before we bring (the refrigerators) in,” she said. “If we can fix them, we will fix them. If we cannot, we will dump them.”

For generations, families in Rengit have made a living out of fixing and selling second-hand household appliances that make their way across Malaysian borders, according to one of the sellers.

But while these businesses seem to be giving old household appliances a new lease of life, are they legitimate – or are they doing more harm than good?

US-based Basel Action Network (BAN), whose mission is to stop e-waste dumping, does not think so. Its founder Jim Puckett said that the facilities were not “environmentally sound” after he was shown photos of the second-hand household appliance shops in Rengit.

“They’re what we call the informal sector, and can create tremendous environmental problems, especially if the scale of what we’re talking about is significant,” said Mr Puckett.

“This is a problem of dumping, and it has to be dealt with immediately by the authorities of both countries.”

Many waste collectors in Singapore themselves do not safely extract toxic refrigerant gases, allowing these gases - such as Freon - to escape and potentially do harm to health and the environment. (Read the earlier article here.)


To investigate what happens to Singapore’s e-waste, The Trash Trail worked with BAN to install trackers on 30 old fridges. Various movers, who were unaware of the experiment, were then contacted to take the fridges away.

In most cases, the refrigerators were found to have been dismantled and stripped of recyclable materials before being sent to incinerators here in Singapore.

But five fridges were traced one week later, via GPS tracking, to the same place – Rengit in Johor.

Malaysia’s Department of Environment’s guidelines consider household appliances older than three years as e-waste, even if they can be repaired, and are not allowed to be imported into the country.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) told Trash Trail that only used appliances meant for re-use or repair can be exported, and not those meant for disposal.

The reality? When producers visited the shop where Madam Julizah sent her appliances to be repaired, the skeletal remnants of electrical parts and damaged appliances were found dumped outside.

The repair shop’s owner, Mr Asghar Khan, said: “We will repair where we can, and if we can’t, we send them to be scrapped.”


The NEA said it is currently conducting a study to develop options for an e-waste management system.

Meanwhile, people can donate their old refrigerators and other household appliances to the Heartland E-waste Recycling Programme, which was piloted in 2013 and is now in its second phase.

Even so, programme initiator Panasonic Asia-Pacific, which is one of the largest manufacturers of electrical appliances, believes that more can be done to promote e-waste recycling and form an industry for it, especially at the government level.

Panasonic’s spokesperson Low Beng Huat said: “I think building up an industry for home appliance recycling is something that a producer cannot be doing.”

When asked about the challenges faced in e-waste recycling, Mr Low said: “We really need to have a good recycler partner to help us recycle home appliances. But based on my understanding, at the moment, there isn’t a company who is willing to do this, or has the capability to do this in Singapore.”

The Trash Trail premieres on Monday, Jan 30, at 7.30pm (SG/HK) with two back-to-back episodes exposing the environmental truth behind discarded refrigerators and disposable cups.

The series is part of the CNA Signatures belt showcasing innovative programmes.

- CNA/yv

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Malaysia flood update: Evacuee numbers dip slightly in three worst-affected states

HIDIR REDUAN AND BERNAMA New Straits Times 31 Jan 17;

KUANTAN: Pahang – the state worst-affected by nationwide floods – has seen further improvement as of 9am this morning, with the number of evacuees currently at 4,122 people from 1,115 families at 65 relief centres.

This is in comparison to 8pm last night, when there were 4,344 evacuees from 1,154 families at 69 relief centres.

Pahang Civil Defence Force (APM) director Colonel Zainal Yusoff confirmed the latest tally, adding that Temerloh is still the district with the highest number of evacuees at 1,423 people from 363 families.

Other districts still dealing with flood victims include Pekan, with 1,116 evacuees from 309 families, Maran (1,055), Bera (490) and Rompin (38).

According to Bernama, things are also looking up in JOHOR, with the number of victims in the state down to 1,390 as of 8am today, compared to 1,473 victims at 8pm last night.

Chairman of the State Committee on Health and Environment, Datuk Ayub Rahmat, said the evacuees comprise 384 families who are staying at 22 temporary relief centres in the districts of Segamat, Tangkak and Muar.

He said that 53 relief centres out of the 70 in Segamat, and 14 out of the 15 in Tangkap have been closed.

However, 982 victims from 264 families in Segamat and 25 victims from six families in Tangkak have yet to be allowed to return home.

"In Muar, there are 383 victims from 114 families who are still at four relief centres," he said in a statement today.

Meanwhile, five major roads in the state are still inaccessible, namely Jalan Pogoh-Tekam and Jalan Balai Badang-Mensudut Lama in Segamat; Jambatan Jalan Kampung Sungai Pinggan in Pontian; and Kilometer 61 of Jalan Muar-Labis and Jalan Pagoh Tekam in Muar.

Bernama reports that things are status quo in Perak, where the number of flood evacuees as of 8am today remains at 407, the same count from last night.

According to the Welfare Department's Flood Portal, there are 182 victims in Hilir Perak, with 97 of them staying at the Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Sungai Kerawai, while 85 are taking shelter at SK Changkat Jong Batu 8.

Meanwhile, in the Manjung district, 208 victims are staying at Sekolah Agama Rakyat Padang Serai.

In the district of Larut, Matang and Selama, the number of victims staying at the Surau Padang Serai Dalam relief centre remains at 21.

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Indonesia: 16 landslides hit Gorontalo

Syamsul Huda M.Suhari The Jakarta Post 31 Jan 17;

Heavy rains poured down in Gorontalo province for a whole week last week, causing landslides in 16 spots in Bone Bolango regency on Monday.

The landslides began to hit Monday morning along the trans-Sulawesi highway, with the worst seen in the Olele, Oluhuta and Tolotio villages of Bone Bolango regency. “Some 50 kilometers of the road was covered in mud. But no casualties were reported,” said Gorontalo Disaster Mitigation Agency’s head of the logistics and emergency department Tahir Laendeng.

Bone Raya district head Mesalina Saputra said the landslide had destroyed the kitchen section of a house in Olele village. “Not far from there is a mining activity,” Mesalina said.

On Jan. 27, some 500 houses in seven districts in North Gorontalo regency were inundated due to long-lasting rains.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency has issued warnings that rains are expected to hit Gorontalo province until Feb. 1.

Rail services disrupted as floods hits Pasuruan
Antara 31 Jan 17;

Jember, E Java (ANTARA News) - Floods hit Pasuruan District, East Java, on Tuesday, disrupting the Mutiara Timur train connecting the Banyuwangi-Surabaya route and the Probowangi train serving the Surabaya-Banyuwangi route.

The Mutiara Timur train was halted at the Pasuruan station, while the Probowangi train at Bangil station, according to Luqman Arif, spokesman of the state-owned railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia.

Floodwaters, reaching a height of around 20 centimeters, inundated areas between Pasuruan and Bangil.

The arrival of the Mutiara Timur train was delayed by some three hours, and Probowangi, by 77 minutes, due to the flooding.

The railway tracks, which were submerged, at the Bangil and Pasuruan stations are now passable, but the speed was restricted to five kilometers per hour.(*)

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jan 17

4 Feb (Sat): Celebrating World Wetlands Day with R.U.M.'s free Ubin mangrove walk
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

2017 schedule - Naked Hermit Crabs turn 10!
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Return to Terumbu Selegie
wild shores of singapore

Driftnet at Semakau

Semakau South in the year of the Rooster

Button Snails (Umbonium vestiarium) @ Changi

Monday Morgue

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Stay on trails and don't feed birds, urges NParks

Photographers who use illegal methods to take shots may face fines of up to $50,000
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 30 jan 17;

It is the time of the year when photographers flock to immortalise migratory birds in Singapore to escape the winter chill of the Northern Hemisphere. But some resort to questionable practices to get good shots, with reports of photographers going off trail or baiting birds, said the National Parks Board (NParks), custodian of Singapore's nature areas.

Following its own observations, NParks put up signboards earlier this month in Venus Drive near the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, to remind people to remain on trails and not feed the birds.

Photographers go to the forested area near Upper Thomson Road to catch a glimpse of wintering visitors such as the Siberian blue robin.

When people go off trail, they damage the forest floor, and feeding wild animals may be a source of diseases and parasites, said NParks director for conservation Sharon Chan.

NParks' latest move follows two high-profile cases.

Orthopaedic surgeon Lee Soon Tai, 63, was fined $2,000 last October for littering and feeding live fish injected with air to endangered grey-headed fish eagles. He and his companions apparently did this to get a shot of the bird swooping down on its prey, which would be near the surface of the water.

In December 2014, another photographer who had tethered a tern chick's legs to a bush for a photograph was found guilty of animal cruelty and fined $500.

NParks officers have advised photography groups at popular bird- watching locations on proper photography etiquette, said Ms Chan. It also supports nature and photography communities in organising talks and participating in panel discussions on field ethics at workshops.

Earlier this month, the Nature Photographic Society (Singapore) launched a unique photo competition requiring participants to submit a short write-up on the subject in the photograph. This prompts photographers to consider other aspects of the bird's ecology, said society president Fong Chee Wai.

NParks is supporting the competition, and winning entries will be exhibited at one of its parks.

Those who go off trail in nature reserves may be fined up to $2,000. For offences relating to the unauthorised capture, disturbance and manipulation of any plant or animal, the penalties range from a maximum fine of $5,000 (if committed in public parks) to $50,000 (if committed in national parks or nature reserves).

• For more information on the NPSS photo contest, visit

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Body found off Changi Beach believed to be that of 19-year-old fish farmer who fell into sea and drowned

Jalelah Abu Baker, Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Jan 17;

Singapore - A 19-year-old fish farmer is believed to have fallen into the sea off Changi Beach on Friday (Jan 27)and drowned.

The Myanmar national was brought to shore by passers-by at about 6pm the next day.

Fish farm owner Phillip Lim, who happened to be in the area, said he saw the man on a pontoon with three of his colleagues when he left his farm at about 10am on Friday.

When he returned, Mr Lim, 55, found out that the man, who works at a neighbouring farm, had fallen into the water.

Mr Lim told The Straits Times: "I immediately got my diving gear and started to look for him. I spotted him, but the current was getting strong and I couldn't get to him. I ran out of oxygen."

Mr Lim stopped his search at noon, after an hour. He said that by the time professional divers arrived, it was about 3pm.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said it received a call at 11.20am on Friday about a person believed to be missing in the waters off Pulau Ubin. It dispatched a marine fire vessel, which arrived at noon, and conducted a surface search in the area till about 4pm.

Mr Lim said: "I felt so helpless. This is somebody's child we are talking about."

He activated 10 fellow members of a volunteer search team called Sea Angels and they searched for the man till 8pm on Saturday.

According to beach-goer Rohana M. D., a passer-by spotted the victim's body floating in the water on Saturday. Two other passers-by then pulled the body to shore. The police were alerted at about 6pm and the victim was pronounced dead by paramedics shortly after.

Body of man 'with no eyes' found at Changi Beach
Shazalina Salim, Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Jan 17;

Many families chose to spend their long weekend with a picnic by the sea.

But for a handful of beachgoers, their picnic was interrupted on Saturday (Jan 28) when a body was fished out of the water at Changi Beach.

According to housewife Rohana MD, a man had spotted the body floating and he alerted another man who was fishing with a net.

The man with the net pulled the floating body to shore and a passer-by helped him drag the body to the beach.

"It looked like the dead man was missing his eyes," Madam Rohana told The Straits Times.

The police confirmed receiving a call from a member of the public at 6pm on Saturday, alerting them to the body found near Changi Beach Carpark 6.

Facebook user Indra Eth, who was also at the beach at the time, posted a picture of the body and recounted how he was approached by two men who had spotted the floating body.

As at 9.15pm, the body had yet to be removed by the authorities, said Madam Rohana. She added that the police had been talking to the people on the beach.

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Otter watchers reunite pup with family

Chew Hui Min, The Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Jan 17;

A pre-Chinese New Year dinner turned dramatic for a family of otters in Kallang Basin on Thursday.

When an otter pup was separated from its parents while frolicking in the waters, a group of otter watchers including Mr N. Sivasothi, a biological science lecturer at the National University of Singapore, grew concerned.

They scanned the area, increasingly worried.

Mr Sivasothi said the pup would not be able to fish for itself and, at an estimated 21/2 months old, would be vulnerable to predators such as large fish, herons and snakes.

One of the watchers, Mr Nick Soo, located the pup circling in the water and alerted the otter-watching community.

The 15 otter watchers rushed over with torchlights, a laundry basket and a blanket.

The pup could not, well, otter its own rescue.

Using the laundry basket and the blanket, the rescuers took the pup back to its holt by 9.30pm.

The drama was too much for the little one and it went to sleep immediately.

The incident highlights what can happen when parents are distracted around bodies of water.

The 13 members of the koi-gorging Bishan otter family had made their way to Kallang Basin for their reunion meal and were busy munching the obligatory fish when two pups, each about 21/2 months old, wandered off.

Although one made its way back, the other went missing.

Mr Sivasothi said: "It was an unusual situation where the family was spread out quite far apart."

The otter watchers checked on the animals early yesterday morning and saw that the pup was reunited with its parents.

Last May, otter watchers saved a six-week-old smooth-coated otter pup named Toby that had fallen off a ledge into a canal near Fort Road.

Toby was sent to Wildlife Reserves Singapore for treatment and reunited with its family 10 days later.

Mr Sivasothi said: "It's nice to see how the otters have brought the kampung spirit back."

The smooth-coated otter, formerly thought to be extinct in Singapore, returned in 1998 as the island's waterways became cleaner.

There are estimated to be 50 such otters in Singapore now.

They are distinct from the oriental small- clawed otters that can be found on Pulau Ubin.

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Malaysia flood update: Pahang still worst-hit, Kelantan returns to normal

BERNAMA New Straits Times 29 Jan 17;

KOTA BARU: The situation in KELANTAN returned to normal this evening as remaining floodwaters receded, and the last relief centre housing 14 evacuees in Kuala Krai was closed.

According to the website, water levels of most of Kelantan’s main rivers have subsided to the alert or normal level, with the exception of Sungai Golok at Rantau Panjang, which had a reading of 9.26 metres, which is above the danger level of 9.00 metres.

Conversely, in worst-hit PAHANG, the number of flood evacuees stands at 6,187 people (from 1,633 families), being housed at 95 relief centres as of 5pm – although this is a drop from the 6,698 people taking shelter at 98 evacuation centres at noon.

The breakdown of affected districts and victims follows: Temerloh, 2,752 people (from 695 families); Pekan, 1,022 people (from 262 families); Bera, 767 people (from 179 families); Maran, 766 people (from 224 families); Jerantut, 550 people (from 190 families); Lipis, 238 people (from 59 families); and Rompin, 92 victims (from 24 families).

Badly-hit JOHOR has also seen a decrease in the number of victims, with flood evacuees dropping to 1,908 people from 530 families as of 4pm, from 2,304 people at noon. The victims are housed at 30 relief centres in three affected districts - Segamat, Tangkak and Muar.

Meanwhile, seven stretches of roads – encompassing Jalan Pogoh-Tekam, Section 5.2-5.9, Jalan Kuala Paya-Balai Badang, Tumang Batu Anam-plantation area, and Lubuk Lanjut in Segamat – are still closed to traffic.

In Pontian, Jalan Kampung Sungai Pinggan bridge; and in Muar, Km61 of Jalan Muar-Labis and Jalan Pagoh Tekam are still impassable to traffic.

In SELANGOR, the number of flood victims housed at three relief centres in Sabak Bernam dropped to 113 as of 5pm, from 210 at noon.

A Sabak Bernam District Disaster Operations Room spokesman said 43 evacuees (from 12 families) are still housed at Dewan Sri Bernam, Sungai Besar; 41 (from 15 families) are at Dewan Parit Baru, Sungai Air Tawar; and 29 (from eight families) are at Dewan Seri Nakhoda, Bagan Nakhoda Omar.

In PERAK, the number of flood evacuees dropped to 436 as of 5pm, from 467 at noon.

In Hilir Perak, the relief centre at Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Sungai Ara was closed, while 97 evacuees are still at SK Sungai Kerawai, and another 100 are at SK Changkat Jong Batu 8.

In Manjung, 208 evacuees are taking shelter at Sekolah Rendah Agama Rakyat Padang Serai, and 10 are at Dewan Kampung Tanjung Ara.

Finally, 21 evacuees are still being housed at Padang Serai Dalam surau in Larut.

Schools suffer RM10mil in damage from floods
The Star 30 Jan 17;

PADANG TERAP: The damage to school property during the first wave of floods in Kelantan, Terengganu and Sabah in December is estimated to be RM10mil.

The damage caused by the second wave of floods – which affected schools in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Perak and Sabah earlier this month – is still not known, said Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

He said this was because he had yet to receive a full report on the damage caused by the second wave.

“We expect the total value of damage to be higher for the second wave of floods compared with the first and will take immediate action to repair the affected schools.

“However, we are still unable to repair the damage caused by the first wave although we have sent out allocation warrants to the respective states,” he told reporters after launching the Felda Lubuk Merbau's golden jubilee celebration here yesterday.

Dozens of schools were closed and more than 15,000 students in Kelantan and Terengganu were affected by the recent floods.

Mahdzir, who is also Padang Terap MP, also suggested that a piece of land allocated for teachers’ quarters at Sekolah Kebangsaan Lubuk Merbau, be handed over to Felda.

This, he said, would be for building houses for second generation Felda Lubuk Merbau settlers.

“The quarters were built for the placement of teachers in the 1970s, but with today’s increasingly modern infrastructure many teachers have opted to live outside and it is only occupied by one or two tenants,” he said. — Bernama

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jan 17

Pulau Semakau with 600m-long fishing net
wild shores of singapore

Butterfly Photography 101 - Part 4
Butterflies of Singapore

600m fishing net seen on Pulau Semakau (South), 28 Jan 2017
Project Driftnet Singapore

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Toxic fridge gases not being properly handled in Singapore

New series The Trash Trail investigates and discovers that discarded household refrigerators are handled in ways unsafe for workers and the environment.
Steffi Koh Channel NewsAsia 29 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE - More than 300,000 refrigerators are thrown out in Singapore every year – including during the annual Chinese New Year spring-cleaning.

What’s not widely known, is that many of the waste disposal companies that handle them do not have the know-how to safely extract and recycle the toxic gases in this common household appliance, despite guidelines from the National Environment Agency.

This is revealed in an investigation by Channel NewsAsia’s new documentary The Trash Trail, which premieres on Monday, Jan 30.

Household appliances that are to be incinerated must be stripped of all recyclable materials, including compressors, which contain toxic refrigerant gases like Freon, which are harmful to one’s health and to the environment.

But when Trash Trail observed the situation at a neighbourhood bin centre, as well as at a facility run by one of Singapore’s largest public waste collectors, it found that discarded refrigerators were simply dismantled or crushed. This destroys the compressors, and causes refrigerant gas to be vented into the atmosphere.

Each discarded refrigerator contains the same amount of toxic greenhouse gases produced by a car being driven from Singapore to Johor Bahru.

Trash Trail also observed that the workers at a bin centre do not wear respirator masks or other forms of protection when dismantling the refrigerators.

Electronics waste consultant and managing director of Vans Chemistry, Mr Venkatesha Murthy, said: “It has to be properly extracted from the compressor and it has to be incinerated or recovered back in an enclosed manner.”

Over time, direct exposure to the gases can cause asthmatic symptoms, skin allergies and mental disorders, he warned.

When asked how they dealt with the compressors, Mr Phillip Lim, operations director of environmental services provider 800 Super, said: “Once we crush it, they would release the gas, but it’s not harmful anyway.”

Mr Murthy blames the industry’s callous treatment of refrigerant gases on the lack of awareness.

“They (waste collectors) are only interested to take out the good parts, as long as they are able to sell, they are happy about it,” he said. “The key problem is that they are not aware of what is inside this electronic stuff, like toxic metals and chemicals.”


According to NEA’s list of more than 50 private companies that run recycling facilities, only one, Vemac Services, offers refrigerant gas removal services, as of the time of this report.

Vemac Services, which claims to be Singapore’s only facility that owns a specialised refrigerant gas extraction machine, said they only extract refrigerant gases from industrial cooling units, as household refrigerators do not contain enough gas to justify the operation costs.

But what if your old refrigerator is removed by the retailer you bought your new replacement from – where does it end up? According to a survey of 1,000 people that Trash Trail commissioned, 40 per cent hand off their old refrigerators to retailers when they purchase a newer model.

One retailer, Parisilk, said that they receive up to 200 old appliances in a month, including refrigerators. They said that in recent years, they have had difficulty finding a waste collector that will accept the white goods.

Mr Murthy said that many discarded refrigerators also end up being removed by the informal sector - that is, unlicensed waste collectors - and few know how the Freon and toxic gases are being handled or disposed of.

Trash Trail investigated by tagging 30 old refrigerators with GPS trackers – and found that a number made their way out of Singapore, in what one expert is concerned constitutes e-waste dumping.


When contacted, NEA said that “bulky home appliance like refrigerators and washing machines, are mostly sent to second-hand dealers or facilities to recover the constituent metals”.
On refrigerant gases, NEA added: “While there is no obligation under the international treaty to prevent venting of refrigerant gases, Singapore encourages the recycling and re-use of the refrigerants used in industrial and commercial systems.”

When released into the atmosphere, refrigerant gases like Freon and its newer counterpart hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) can exacerbate climate change.

Mr Murthy stressed the need for formal regulations in the e-waste recycling industry, aside from general policies like the Environmental Protection Act.

In a response to Trash Trail’s findings, NEA said it is currently conducting a study to develop options for an e-waste management system. It cited the examples of Taiwan, South Korea, Europe and the United States, which “ensure that the costs of proper end-of-life management of electrical and electronic products are borne by the appropriate stakeholders”.

A recent United Nations study highlighted Singapore as one of Asia’s biggest producers of e-waste per capita, at 19 kg per person in 2015. The report also urged countries to improve recycling and disposal methods.

The Trash Trail premieres on Monday, Jan 30, at 7.30pm (SG/HK) with two episodes back to back about what happens to discarded refrigerators and disposable cups.

The series is part of the CNA Signatures belt showcasing innovative programmes.

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Malaysia flood update: Pahang still worst affected, with over 7,000 evacuees

BERNAMA New Straits Times 28 Jan 17;

KUANTAN: Pahang is now the state worst-affected by flooding, with its Civil Defence Force director Zainal Yusoff revealing that the number of flood evacuees in several district rose to 7,130 people as of 8am today, compared to 6,728 last night.

Lipis has the highest number of evacuees at 2,000 people, followed by Temerloh (1,996), Jerantut (1,078), Rompin (1,033), Bera (417), Maran (362), Pekan (205) and Raub (39).

In Kuantan, however, all flood relief centres were closed after flood waters subsided and the weather remained fine.

As a precaution, twenty-five sub-stations were shut down across the state.

Tenaga Nasional Bhd's general manager for Pahang, Datuk Sharuddin Mohd Simin, said the sub-stations, eight in Jerantut and 18 in Lipis, were shut down in stages since Wednesday.

"The move was taken to avoid any untoward incident because of the floods," he said.

He said the shutdown has affected 2,253 consumers in Lipis and 229 in Jerantut.

In JOHOR, the number of flood evacuees dropped to 4,301 people this morning, compared to 4,834 people last night.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the victims, from 1,137 families, are at 55 flood relief centres in Segamat, Tangkak, Kluang and Muar.

There are now 2,403 evacuees in Segamat; Tangkak (1,473); Muar (416) and Kluang (nine).

Seven roads are still not passable to vehicles here, namely Jalan Pogoh-Tekam; Seksyen 5.2-5.9 Jalan Kuala Paya-Balai Badang; Tumang Batu Anam-Kawasan Ladang and Jalan Felda Kemelah in Segamat; the Jalan Kampung Sungai Pinggan Bridge in Pontian; and Kilometer 61 of Jalan Muar-Labis; Jalan Pagoh Terkam and Jalan Renang Gombang-Liang Batu in Muar.

In KELANTAN, the Social Welfare Department's flood portal said there has been much improvement in the flooding situation, with the number of evacuees dropping to 410 people as of 8am today, compared to 1,163 people last night.

Fifteen flood relief centres are still in operation in Jeli, Kuala Krai, Gua Musang, Tanah Merah and Pasir Puteh.

However, the water levels of Sungai Kelantan and Sungai Golok are still reported to be above the danger mark.

In PERAK, the Social Welfare Department's flood portal said 538 flood victims are still at nine flood relief centres state-wide.

Hilir Perak has the highest number of victims at 264 people, Manjung (217), Larut Matang (41) and Tanjung Tualang (eight).

Twenty-two families in Kampung Selat Manggis here were forced to evacuate today after several river bunds near the village broke due to strong water pressure in Sungai Bidor.

Hilir Perak Civil Defence Force officer Mohd Fazly Mohamad Zawawi said the rescue team had to use boats to relocate the villagers to a relief centre at SK Sungai Kerawaim, as the road leading to the village was inundated with one-metre deep flood waters.

"The evacuation process began at 10am. We even had to persuade them to leave their houses, as we were worried that the situation would get worse due to cloudy weather," he told reporters here.

A villager, Sarimah Ibrahim, 40, said she woke up to the screams of her neighbour this morning, before realising that her house was already inundated with water which rose to thigh-level.

In SELANGOR, 346 people were reported to still be at flood relief centres in the Sabak Bernam district.

In SARAWAK, the State Disaster Management Committee secretariat spokesman Maj Ismail Mahedin said 1,762 packs of food will be despatched to Beluru near here by express boat tomorrow to be distributed to a primary school and 15 longhouses there.

He said that as of 6pm yesterday, 5,818 people from 894 families were affected by floods in the Beluru district.

However, no evacuation centres were opened, as the longhouses affected are on stilts, and above the water, with only the roads leading to them inundated, thus cutting off access. -- BERNAMA

2nd wave floods: Damages on schools could reach millions of ringgit
ADIE SURI ZULKEFLI New Straits Times 28 Jan 17;

PADANG TERAP: The Education Ministry believed that the losses incurred on school properties during the second wave of floods could easily reach tens of millions of ringgit.

Its Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said this was based on the estimated damage of RM10 million in the first wave of floods in Kelantan, Terengganu and Sabah last December.

He said he had not received a full report on the damage caused by the second wave of floods on schools in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Perak and Sabah earlier this month but expected it to be higher than the first wave. "We are still carrying out assessment on the actual damages suffered by all schools that were hit by the second wave of floods in the states concerned and the ministry will take necessary action once we done compiling the reports.

"As for the first wave of floods, the amount of damages was reported at about RM10 million and we have issued allocation warrants to the affected schools.

But, the repair works have yet to start following the second wave of floods," he told reporters after opening the golden jubilee celebration of Lubok Merbau Felda settlement here today.

On a separate matter, Mahdzir, who is also Padang Terap MP said the ministry has allowed the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) to develop SK Lubok Merbau quarters area into a housing scheme for the second generation of Felda settlers.

He said besides two units, the rest of the quarters, which were built in the 1970s were no longer occupied by teachers, so it would be wiser for the area to be used to build houses for the Felda Lubok Merbau second generation.

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Vietnam at risk of sea desertification

Sea desertification is a problem that is becoming more severe around the globe, including in Vietnam.
Vietnam Net 29 Jan 17;

It greatly affects the livelihoods of coastal communities but also sustainable development, environmental security, and sea and island sovereignty.

Dr Du Van Toan from the Institute for Sea and Island Research at the Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands said sea desertification is an urgent issue.

He cited international experts as saying that preventing desertification is a task for the entire world, requiring long-term international cooperation.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines a marine desert as an area where all marine species die or are unable to live in due to poor natural conditions, water quality or landscapes.

The first cause of sea desertification is climate change which heats up air and sea water and lowers the concentration of nutrients and dissolved oxygen. In oxygen-deficient areas, marine species usually swim away to seek oxygen-rich zones while others such as bivalve mollucs suspend activities and go into hibernation. These shellfish will die if the oxygen deficiency lasts too long.

Another major cause of sea desertification is the mushrooming of coastal cities and industrial parks which generate a huge volume of solid waste, wastewater and fumes that impact air and seawater quality.

Most marine deserts appear near the coast, cities and industrial zones whose activities fuel greenhouse gas emissions, increase acidification, and interrupt nutrient supply along with oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorous cycles. Ocean acidification will lead to coral bleaching and habitat degradation.

Destructive fishing practices such as using explosives or hazardous chemicals damage important marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, submerged forests, and sea grass. In addition, land reclamation activities also destroy coastal forests and coral reefs.

The surge of nutrients as a result of waste release from human activities also leads to a bloom of toxic red dinoflagellates, also known as red tide, which kills marine species.

It takes decades, huge efforts and a lot of money to recover coral ecosystems.

Too many shipping activities in one small area such as those near seaports or river mouths also wipe out animals there.

US scientists found that regions with low chlorophyll, or marine deserts, are spreading around the globe, particularly in the northern hemisphere.

In Vietnam, mass fish deaths have been recorded along the coast of the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue, as well as at fish farms in other localities.

Vietnam, like many countries in the world, is influenced by climate change and waste release from cities and industrial activities which have polluted the marine environment.

That fact shows Vietnam is likely to face sea desertification.

To sustainably develop and protect the maritime environment, it is necessary to study the causes and expansion of marine deserts in the waters off the coast of Vietnam. Marine deserts also need to be classified and shown on maps.

Authorised agencies should have thorough assessments of the impacts of socio-economic activities and security problems on the marine environment.
Additionally, they should set up special monitoring systems for areas at risk of desertification, and enhance international cooperation on tackling sea desertification.

It is important to disseminate information about this phenomenon among coastal communities and relevant organisations so that they are aware of the problem and join efforts to prevent sea desertification.

Vietnam now has 16 marine protection areas (MPAs). Though they cover a small area, just 0.3 percent of total waters, they still can help maintain ecological balance if they can be managed well.

Marine protection areas are believed to create a restoration effect after five years, and later create a spillover effect which helps disperse nutrients to the surrounding areas.

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China to spend US$37 billion to reduce waste: Report

Channel NewsAsia 28 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: China will spend 252 billion yuan (almost US$37 billion) through 2020 to tackle the country's growing waste problem.

According to a Caixin report, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) plans to allocate two-thirds of the money towards "non-harmful" methods of disposing household waste including incineration, landfills and recycling.

This is aimed at reducing soil and water pollution caused by such waste, it said in a statement on Sunday (Jan 22).

An unnamed NDRC official also said that in the next few weeks, a regulation will be announced making it compulsory for households and businesses to sort waste, according to the report.

The commission had said in its statement that systems will be established by 2020 for the sorting of household garbage in parts of China such as Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai and Tianjin, as well as in the provincial capitals, before the waste is sent to landfills.

This will allow all organic substances to be incinerated, reducing landfill waste.

According to Caixin, about US$1.4 billion has been earmarked for waste-sorting pilot programmes aimed at a pre-2020 launch.

The NDRC said that it wants to reduce the amount of household waste dumped in landfills each day from 501,500 tonnes in 2015 to 477,100 tonnes by 2020.

China, which has been hit by smog, introduced industry-specific environmental protection taxes in December 2016, levying among others - companies that emit exceeding levels of coal and "hazardous waste".

- CNA/hs

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New mercury threat to oceans from climate change

Matt McGrath BBC 28 Jan 17;

There have been concerns over the levels of mercury in fish for many years

Rising temperatures could boost mercury levels in fish by up to seven times the current rates, say Swedish researchers.

They've discovered a new way in which warming increases levels of the toxin in sea creatures.

In experiments, they found that extra rainfall drives up the amount of organic material flowing into the seas.

This alters the food chain, adding another layer of complex organisms which boosts the concentrations of mercury up the line.

The study has been published in the journal, Science Advances.

Toxic form

Mercury is one of the world's most toxic metals, and according to the World Health Organization, is one of the top ten threats to public health. The substance at high levels has been linked to damage to the nervous system, paralysis and mental impairment in children.

The most common form of exposure to mercury is by eating fish containing methylmercury, an organic form of the chemical which forms when bacteria react with mercury in water, soil or plants.

Levels of mercury in the world's ecosystems have increased by between 200 and 500%, since the industrial revolution say experts, driven up by the use of fossil fuels such as coal.

In recent years there are have been concentrated efforts to limit the amount of mercury entering the environment, with an international treaty, called the Minamata Convention, signed by 136 countries in place since 2013.

But this new study suggests that climate change could be driving up levels of methylmercury in a manner not previously recognised.

In a large laboratory, Swedish researchers recreated the conditions found in the Bothnian sea estuary. They discovered that as temperatures increase, there is an increased run-off of organic matter into the world's oceans and lakes. This encourages the growth of bacteria at the expense of phytoplankton.

"When bacteria become abundant in the water there is also a growth of a new type of predators that feed on bacteria," lead author Dr Erik Bjorn from Umea University in Sweden told BBC News.

"You basically get one extra step in the food chain and methylmercury is enriched by about a factor of ten in each such step in the food web."

Under the warmest climate scenario suggested by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there would be an increase in organic matter run-off of 15-20% by the end of this century. This in turn would see levels of methylmercury in zooplankton, the bottom link in the food chain, grow by between two and seven fold.

Different parts of the world will suffer different impacts say the researchers, with lakes and coastal waters in the northern hemisphere being the most likely to have significant increases in methylmercury levels in fish, while the Mediterranean, the central US and Southern Africa will likely see reductions.

Researchers hope that the Minamata treaty will be successful and countries reduce the amount of mercury that is being produced. Otherwise this discovery of a previously unknown source could have impacts for human health.

"If we reduce mercury emissions, then we need to know how fast will ecosystems recover," said Dr Bjorn.

"If we don't do anything and mercury doesn't decrease, and we add this on top then the implications would be severe."

Other researchers in the field say that the new study highlights important issues that have previously been little known.

"This work experimentally proves that climate change will have a significant effect of methylmercury budgets in coastal waters and its concentrations in fish," said Milena Horvat from the Jozef Stefan Institute in Slovenia.

"This work will also have an important impact on future scenario simulations on the presence of mercury in fish in response to global mercury reductions from emission sources (primarily industrial)."

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jan 17

Joyful January at the Sisters Islands Marine Park
Sisters' Island Marine Park

It is the Rooster Year
BES Drongos

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Malaysia floods: Pahang worst affected, Johor struggles to cope

NST TEAM AND BERNAMA New Straits Times 27 Jan 17;

KUANTAN: Pahang now has the highest number of flood victims in the country, with 7,186 people from 1,955 families taking shelter at 116 relief centres in nine districts as of 8am today.

Pahang Civil Defence Force (APM) director Zainal Yussof said the number has increased slightly from 6,830 people at 102 relief centres recorded at 9pm yesterday.

He said Lipis, Jerantut and Rompin are the worst-hit districts, with 2,395 people from 652 families, 1,200 people from 365 families and 1,001 people from 277 families evacuated respectively.

"In Lipis, 29 relief centres have been opened, followed by 18 in Jerantut and seven in Rompin," Zainal said.

In Kuantan, 548 people from 119 families were relocated to six relief centres in the district.

"In Raub there are 277 people from 65 families temporarily relocated to nine relief centres,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Maran, 310 people from 93 families were evacuated to seven relief centres after their houses were inundated by floodwaters.

“In Pekan, 496 people from 114 families are taking shelter at eight relief centres in the district.

"While in Temerloh, 913 people from 244 families are being temporarily housed at 25 relief centres," he added.

Zainal said in Bera, 96 people from 25 families are at seven relief centres in the district.

JOHOR is currently the second worst-hit state, with 6,852 flood evacuees from 1,989 families taking shelter at 69 temporary relief centres in four districts.
State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said, as was the case yesterday, the highest number of evacuees are in Segamat district, with 4,928 people from 1,464 families remaining at 50 relief centres as of 8am today.

There are 1,490 people from 401 families at 12 relief centres in Tangkak, 415 people from 118 families at five relief centres in Muar, and 19 people from six families at two relief centres in Kluang.

Ayub said two roads are currently inaccessible to traffic due to floods in Segamat district. They are Jalan Jabi-Bukit Tempurung, Jalan Pogoh-Tekam and Jalan Kuala Paya-Balai Badang.

Roads still closed in Kluang district are Jalan Kampung Org Asli Berasan, Jalan Kampung Orang Asli Sedohok, Jalan Kampung Org Asli Air Pasir/Kuala Sengka and Ladang Mutiara.

In Pontian, the collapsed bridge at Jalan Kampung Sungai Pinggan is inaccessible, while in Muar, Km16 of Jalan Muar-Labis and Kampung Bukit Bendar are also inaccessible.

In SELANGOR, Bernama reports that the number of flood victims at three evacuation centres in the Sabak Bernam district increased slightly to 356 people from 107 families as of 8am today, compared with 352 people last night.

According to the Sabak Bernam Disaster Operations Room, the number of victims at Dewan Sri Bernam increased to 164 people (from 48 families), from 160 people last night.

At the evacuation centres at Dewan Parit Baru and Dewan Sri Nakhoda, the number of flood victims remain at 163 people (from 51 families) and 29 people (from eight families), respectively.

In PERAK, Bernama reports that the number of flood victims has risen to 506 people from 145 families at nine evacuation centres, as at 8am today.
According to the Social Welfare Department, through its infobanjir portal, the number increased slightly from 496 people last night.

Manjung district recorded the highest number of flood victims, with 207 people at the evacuation centre at Sekolah Rendah Agama Rakyat Padang Serai, and 12 others at Dewan Kampung Tanjung Ara.

In Hilir Perak, 98 flood victims are at Sekolah Kebangsaan Changkat Jong Batu 8 in Teluk Intan, Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Tukang Sidin (49 people) and Sekolah Kebangsaan Pengkalan Ara (31 people).

Meanwhile in Kinta, 42 victims are at Dewan Sikh Settlement Tanjung Tualang and 24 others at Dewan Serbaguna Tanjung Tualang; while in the Larut Matang districts, the flood victims are at Dewan Orang Ramai Matang Merbau Sungai Tinggi (two people) and Surau Padang Serai Dalam (41 people).

In KELANTAN, Bernama reports that the situation remains largely unchanged, with 360 people still staying at 11 evacuation centres as at 8am today, up slightly from 343 people last night.

The flood victims are from the Kuala Krai, Gua Musang, Pasir Puteh and Tanah Merah districts.

According to the Social Welfare Department's infobanjir application, 239 people (from 59 families) are at seven evacuation centres in Kuala Krai; Gua Musang 78 people (from 19 families) are at two centres; 25 victims (from five families) are at a centre in Pasir Puteh; and 18 people (from four families) are at a centre in Tanah Merah. Meanwhile, the portal, reports that the water level in Sungai Kelantan at the Krai Steps in Kuala Krai dropped to 25.30 metres, from 25.67 metres last night, but it is still above the danger level of 25 metres.

The water level in Sungai Golok, Rantau Panjang, increased slightly to 9.42 metres from 9.22 metres last night. The danger level is 9 metres.

In SABAH, Bernama reports that 45 people remain at evacuation centres in the north of the state as of 6.30am today,

The victims, comprising 10 families, are at an evacuation centre at Dewan Kampung Binsulung, in the sub-district of Paitan, said Chief Secretariat of the State Disaster Management Committee Colonel Mulliadi Al-Hamdi Ladin.

He said the water level at Sungai Labuk, Beluran, remains at 2.55 metres and the weather is fine.

Mulliadi said seven evacuation centres in Paitan and Pitas were closed yesterday after evacuees returned to their respective homes.

In SARAWAK, Bernama reports that the number of people affected by floods in the districts of Beluru, Niah and Marudi remains at 5,084 people from 769 families since last night – but none has been evacuated.

Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee secretariat chief from the Malaysian Civil Defence Force, Major Ismail Mahedin said the victims are from 22 long houses.

However, none of the victims has been evacuated, as only the routes to their homes are inundated by floods, and there is stagnant water under their longhouses, he added.


Kelantan flood damage costs top RM30 million: Rural Ministry
BERNAMA New Straits Times 27 Jan 17;

BACHOK: The Rural and Regional Development Ministry has estimated the cost of damage to infrastructure in Kelantan due to the floods at over RM30 million. Its deputy minister, Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub, said this exceeds the sum estimated earlier, as the flood proved to be bigger than last year's.

"Definitely a lot of basic facilities like village roads, drains, kindergartens and community halls have been damaged in the flood," he told reporters after opening the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Pak Badol Parent-Teacher Association's annual general meeting here yesterday. At the event, Ahmad Jazlan also handed out aid of basic necessities to 141 flood victims in Bachok.

He said all Federal Village Security and Development Committee (JKKKP) chairmen in Kelantan need to do a survey and list damaged facilities in their respective areas.

"A report on this should be submitted to the ministry's (branch) office in Kota Bharu for assessment, and repairs to be done as soon as possible," Ahmad Jazlan said.

He said when doing the survey, the JKKKP chairmen must set aside political interest, as what is more important is the people's interest.

Ahmad Jazlan added that if anyone goes against this instruction, the ministry would not hesitate to take appropriate action them. - BERNAMA

Expect some rain and storms despite improving weather
The Star 28 Jan 17;

PETALING JAYA: Weather and flood conditions nationwide are improving except for Kelantan, where some districts are still having heavy rainfall.

According to the Social Welfare Department Infobanjir website, there were heavy rains in Gua Musang, Kuala Krai and Jeli yesterday, with eight areas recording more than 60mm of rainfall as at 5pm.

In Sarawak, only five areas experienced similar rainfall while Tasik Banding in Perak received 107.5mm.

Other flood-hit states like Johor, Pahang, Sabah and Selangor did not receive as much rainfall in any district.

Dangerous water levels, how­ever, were recorded at six rivers in Pahang as at 5pm, followed by Johor (four rivers) and Kelantan (three).

For today, all states in the peninsula are expected to see isolated rain and thunderstorms at different times of the day, according to the Meteorological Department.

Pahang, Penang and Kedah are the three states that are expected to experience isolated rain in the morning, afternoon and night.

All the three states have also had to deal with flood problems over the last two months.

Sabah looks to be relatively dry as only Sandakan and Tawau will experience isolated rainfall during the festive period.

In Sarawak, rainfall can be expected in the morning in all areas except for Sri Aman, Limbang, Miri and Sibu but there will be isolated and scattered thunderstorms throughout the state in the afternoon and evening.

However – only Kapit, Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman will experience more thunderstorms at night.

In Arau, those affected by the floods, especially the Chinese community celebrating the Chinese New Year today, have been advised to follow the directive by the authorities if they are told to evacuate much earlier, said Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said this was important to avoid greater risk during the flood season.

“Residents in affected areas should always be aware of warnings of heavy rain and must be prepared to move out earlier, if directed to do so,” said Dr Shahidan after handing over aid in conjunction with the Chinese New Year to 635 less fortunate residents from the Chinese community at the Arau service centre in Kubang Gajah, Perlis yesterday.

He said flood victims, especially from high-risk groups such as pregnant women, senior citizens and chronic disease sufferers, were also urged to look after the cleanliness and seek treatment quickly, if needed.

Shahidan also expressed satisfaction with the National Disaster Management Agency’s coordination to tackle flood problems nationwide.

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Indonesia: One dead as floods hit Central Sulawesi

Ruslan Sangadji The Jakarta Post 27 Jan 17;

Heavy rains have poured down on Central Sulawesi for the last two days causing flooding in several areas and claiming one life in Buol regency on Friday.

Central Sulawesi Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Bartholomeus Tandigala said several areas in Buol had been inundated by floodwaters as high as two meters. “One person died in a landslide,” he said, adding that his agency is still counting the number of houses affected.

Changes in land use, from forest to oil palm plantations, and sea abrasion contributed to the heavy flooding in Buol, according to Bartholomeus. “There are many forests that have been damaged,” he told reporters.

Ten districts and 48 villages are affected by floods in the regency. “Only five districts in Buol are unaffected,” he added.

The agency has encountered difficulties trying to reach the victims due to the high water level, Bartholomeus said. “The BPBD has been trying to channel aid since Thursday night,” he added.

Natural disasters loom large in Sulawesi
The Jakarta Post 27 Jan 17;

Natural disasters are looming large in some parts of Sulawesi, as floods have inundated hundreds of houses in Gorontalo and landslides have hit North Sulawesi.

The number of districts hit by flooding has continued to increase in North Gorontalo regency, Gorontalo province, with almost 500 houses in seven districts inundated as of Friday.

“The houses are swamped by 30 to 80 centimeters [of water],” the North Gorontalo Disaster Mitigation Agency’s (BPBD) emergency section head Nurdin Humolungo told

Nurdin said the BPBD had encountered challenges such as landslides in Tolinggula district when distributing aid and evacuating victims from their homes amid flooding in the regency since Thursday.

On Thursday, landslides also hit Tambulinas, where a main road between Manado and Tomohon in North Sulawesi is located.

“Some 40 meters of the road is blocked by stones, soil and bamboo. We are still waiting for two excavators to clear the road of big stones,” Tomohon BPBD head Robby Kalangi said on Friday.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has issued early warnings for several cities and districts in North Sulawesi on expected heavy rains and landslides.

Bad weather is expected to hit North Sulawesi until February.

Meanwhile, the Central Sulawesi BPBD also urged residents to remain on alert regarding extreme weather that was expected to hit the province.

Floods have also hit the northern part of Central Sulawesi, Antara news agency reported.

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Indonesia: Bali Enterprise Believes Government Subsidies Needed to Combat Plastic Pollution

Kaysee Watson Jakarta Globe 27 Jan 17;

Jakarta. As Bali continues its plight against plastic pollution, Avani Eco is setting the standard for completely sustainable and eco-friendly products.

The social enterprise housed in Bali aims to provide eco-friendly alternatives to products used daily by locals and tourists including takeaway containers, straws and coffee cups.

Avani Eco cofounder and chief green officer, Kevin Kumala, said Bali is only the tip of the iceberg but the perfect starting point in promoting fully sustainable products.

"When you talk about Bali, of course you talk about its beaches," Kevin said.

"It's happening in front of our very eyes how terrible the plastic epidemic taking place in our beaches has become."

From January to October 2016, Avani Eco successfully replaced over 130 metric tons of hazardous materials with eco-friendly alternatives.

However, Kevin said this is not enough with more than 3,500 tons of plastic waste thrown away daily in Bali.

"In a perfect utopia, the government needs to do something about this."

"The Indonesian government needs to be educated in terms of the availability of technology in reducing plastic waste," he said.

One of Avani’s most popular inventions is an eco-bag made from cassava root, which can be completely dissolved in boiling water — and still safe to drink.

Read more!

Blasting the Rapids in Thailand

Dan Southerland Radio Free Asia 27 Jan 17;

Thailand, after suspending action for more than a decade, has decided to support China’s blasting of rapids in the Mekong River.

China wants to remove rocks and islets in the Mekong in order to clear the way for large cargo ships, effectively turning Southeast Asia’s longest river into a Chinese trade and shipping lane.

Thailand’s military government meanwhile has plans to build a multimillion dollar freight transport hub in the country’s northern province of Chiang Rai. The aim is to link Chinese shipping with Thai land transport.

The city of Chiang Rai would be promoted as a logistics hub for Thailand and both China and neighboring Laos. Construction is scheduled to begin next year, according to The Bangkok Post.

The Post says that the blasting will cover a 392-mile route from the China-Myanmar border to Luang Prabang in Laos.

But nongovernmental groups in Thailand argue that the loss of the rapids will further damage the Mekong’s declining fish stocks, which have long been the major source of protein for villagers living near the river.

Pianporn Deetes, Thailand campaign coordinator for the NGO International Rivers, said that the ecosystem in question is one of the most complex in the world. It includes many fish species, rapids, whirlpools, and sand dunes as well as vegetation supporting farmers, fishermen, and wildlife.

The rapids and rocks provide sanctuaries and breeding grounds for migratory fish. They also provide a refuge for the endangered giant catfish.

Deetes said in an interview that to place commercial shipping ahead of the needs of millions of farmers and fishermen depending on the Mekong for their living would be “senseless .”

She said that export products from China can reach Thai markets within 24 hours by road and that existing shipping by smaller cargo ships is working well. In addition, she noted that China has plans to build a railroad inside Laos that will be able to carry freight to Thailand.

Thai villagers protest

Over the past year, Thai villagers living along the Mekong have boarded Chinese survey boats to protest plans to destroy the rapids located near their homes.

Living on the Thai side of the Mekong, which forms a border between Laos and Thailand, the villagers have demanded that the survey boats halt their work.

At the same time, a group of Thai villagers led by a Thai teacher called Kru Tee filed a lawsuit in Thailand calling for a judgment against several Thai government agencies regarding the negative environmental and social impacts created by Laos’s Xayaburi Dam.

The plaintiffs argued that the hydropower dam wouldn’t have been economically viable without an agreement by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) to purchase 95 percent of the electricity generated by the dam.

The case came under investigation by Thailand’s Supreme Administrative Court, but according to Thai media, it was rejected in late December, 2015.

A history of debate

In the year 2000, China, Laos, Burma, and Thailand signed an agreement to allow the blasting of rocks and reefs in the Mekong River.

According to a report by the Worldwatch Institute based in Washington, D.C., blasting began in December 2002.

But in 2003, after completing an early phase of the project, China halted the dynamiting due to a Thai border dispute with Laos over the location of the two countries’ shared water boundary.

Thai officials feared that changes in the flow of the river resulting from the blasting could shift the location of the Thai-Lao border, which is supposed to be set at the lowest elevation within the river.

Meanwhile, China had undertaken an environmental impact study which concluded that the impact of the blasting would be negligible.

But a Thai environmental watchdog group and scientists who reviewed the Chinese findings said that the study’s analysis was deeply flawed. They said, moreover, that it was based on a field investigation that had lasted only two days.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC), which is supposed to review major changes in the flow of the Mekong, has called for a halt to the plan to blast more rapids until a more complete study can be made. But the MRC’s findings are not binding, and China isn’t a member of the commission.

The new blasting is not likely to commence until three years from now under a framework that called for a first phase from 2015 to 2020. That phase has required a survey and another assessment of the project’s impact.

But some critics argue that even the smaller ships that currently carry cargo down the Mekong are already causing erosion of the riverbanks along parts of the river.

“Without the blasting of more rapids, local people feel the shipping traffic is already very destructive,” said former Thai Senator Kraisak Choonhavan, who has studied the issues involved for several decades.

Scaling Back Lao Dams
Dan Southerland Radio Free Asia 30 Dec 2016;

Farmers and fishermen in downstream countries are complaining about the impact of Mekong River dams located upstream in both China and Laos.

But a think tank now has a plan to reduce the damage done to crops and fish stocks by hydroelectric dams. Its focus is on Laos, Southeast Asia’s poorest country, which it says could benefit from scaling back on some of its planned dams.

The Stimson Center, a nonpartisan research center in Washington, D.C., says in a recent report that Laos may be able to mitigate the damage by creating an efficient national power grid and by turning to other sources of power.

Brian Eyler, Stimson’s director for Southeast Asia, says, “…there’s still time to make strategic choices regarding water-energy planning in Laos that can minimize to some extent the effects of dams on downstream environmental flows.”

However, he adds, “this isn’t to say that what has been completed so far is sustainable or of low impact.”

We still don’t know, he says, whether efforts to mitigate the loss of fish stocks and vital sediment blocked by two existing Lao dams, the Xayaburi and Dan Sahong Dams, will work.

Eyler also points out that key tributaries of the Mekong in Laos, such as the Ou River, are already blocked by dams which further divert fish and sediment.

The fish are vital sources of protein in Laos and farther south in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. And the sediment is needed to replenish riverbanks, riverbeds, and farmland.

An underreported story

The scale of dam building in Laos is far greater than most people realize. But it gets little media coverage outside the Mekong region.

Compared with local people in five other countries sharing the Mekong who speak out and in some cases even organize protests against hydroelectric dams, the Lao people are at a disadvantage.

Laos lacks environmental groups that can draw attention to the plight of the rural people who are displaced or otherwise affected by dams.

A reporter recently in Laos for Radio Free Asia quotes a villager living near the Ou River, or Nam Ou, as saying “the government does nothing for the people, but if I complain, the authorities will just laugh at me, and I’ll end up in jail.”

“It’s not like Thailand here,” the villager says, referring to civil society and environmental groups based in neighboring Thailand.

In Thailand, a group of 37 people living near the Mekong have initiated a legal action against Laos’s Xayaburi Dam. Others are protesting the blasting of rapids on the Mekong aimed at clearing the way for large Chinese ships to travel down the river.

Despite warnings from environmental groups, Chinese engineers began blasting rocks and reefs in the Mekong years ago under an agreement signed by China, Laos, Burma, and Thailand.

But the work downstream is not complete.

In Thailand, protesters have boarded Chinese survey boats and demanded that they halt their work and leave the Mekong’s rapids and riverbanks undisturbed.

Such an action would be unthinkable in Laos.

Foreign developers, banks, and firms benefit

The Stimson Center asserts that the energy infrastructure in Laos is “highly inefficient and mostly constructed for the benefit of neighboring countries.”

The Lao government, for its part, has stated that its aim has been to gain wealth and alleviate poverty by becoming “the battery of Southeast Asia.”

But the Stimson Center argues that the current hydropower system in Laos favors the needs of investors, which are short-term and driven by the bottom line over those of the state.

It’s a project-by-project approach, the center says, that’s unlikely to meet Laos’s revenue goals.

In its report, the think tank notes that in Laos many hydropower dams and transmission lines are currently being financed and built by Thai developers and Chinese state-owned banks and enterprises. These commercial projects are backed by nonconcessional loans.

This is in contrast to earlier years when the World Bank and Asian Development Bank offered Laos low-interest loans.

Meanwhile, Lao officials are reported to be struggling to decide how to deal with an anticipated surplus of electricity in 2017.

The Stimson Center says that for Laos “the main obstacle to selling electricity to Vietnam or further afield” is the lack of a reliable national grid infrastructure. This is what Laos needs, it says, to respond flexibly to fluctuating power demands in nearby countries.

The Stimson report also proposes the integration of Laos’s solar and wind projects. Located relatively close to the equator, Laos offers ideal conditions for solar power.

The Stimson report also calls for the United States to play a greater role in supporting efforts to balance Laos’s hydropower development with concerns for the environment, food security, and other uses of water. This would involve more technical aid and training in “human capacity building.”

While welcoming the proposal for more assistance to Laos and the concept of an efficient and reliable power grid, some experts are skeptical that top-level Lao officials will embrace the plan.

But Stimson is taking the long view.

Impact on Cambodia

Meanwhile, to the south of Laos, Cambodian fishermen complain that upstream dams in China and Laos have disrupted vital fish migrations, causing a drop in the fish population in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake.

The Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, is often described as the heart of the Mekong.

A representative for five Cambodian communes working with a fisheries protection team told a Radio Free Asia reporter several months ago that the Mekong’s flow into the Tonle Sap has been unpredictable over the past five years.

The building of dams inside Cambodia by foreign developers has also stirred criticism from Cambodian villagers being displaced by the dams.

In one case, villagers told the RFA reporter that government officials were bringing in policemen and soldiers, who were threatening arrests or imprisonment of those defending their ancestral lands.

Possible solutions in the Mekong Delta

South of Cambodia, parts of Vietnam’s fertile Mekong Delta became disaster areas this year as a result of El Nino-induced drought, climate change, bad rice farming practices, rising sea levels, and the intrusion of salt water.

In addition, Vietnamese farmers complain that upstream dams, including those in both China and Laos, have begun reducing the level of sediment that once replenished the Delta’s riverbanks.

In effect, the heavily populated Mekong Delta combines into a perfect storm everything that could go wrong for a downstream state.

David Brown, a freelance writer specializing in Vietnamese issues, recently concluded an in-depth, four-part series exploring the threats faced by the Delta as well as possible ways to overcome them.

Brown, a former U.S. diplomat, reports that on the potentially positive side that the Vietnamese government now has a Mekong Delta Plan (MDP) based on several years of work by Dutch and Vietnamese officials.

According to Brown, the planners conclude that efforts to try to produce more and more rice and other exportable crops are “unsustainable.”

They recommend building dikes around the heart of the Delta, building a canal big enough to move water south and west of the Mekong’s upper branch, conserving fresh water in aquifers, building reservoirs, and restoring mangrove barriers to absorb salt intrusions.

Finally, Brown’s report recommends that farmers focus on agribusiness and extracting more value from smaller and more diverse harvests that can be marketed through co-operatives.

What does the future hold?

Quoting environmentalists and United Nations experts, Radio Free Asia reported two months ago that Vietnam and other nations in the Mekong region must brace for increases in extreme weather events, such as the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Dams built hundreds of miles upstream from Vietnam will also continue to have a negative impact on Vietnamese farmers and fishermen. And, based on RFA reporting from the Mekong region, much of this impact is now irreversible.

Adding to uncertainty about the future for the Mekong Delta are reports from Chinese scientists and others who say that glaciers in far-off Tibet, the location of the headwaters of the Mekong, are melting more rapidly than expected.

This could result in fluctuations in water levels far downstream that have never been seen in the past.

Dan Southerland is RFA’s founding executive editor.

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A day in the life: Ubin's postman

Mr Salleh Mohd Adam could be the last postman to deliver to the kampung island
Priscilla Tan The New Paper 26 Jan 17;

His job is unique.

Weekdays see him go from the smooth roads and orderliness of mainland Singapore to one of the island's last true kampungs.

Mr Salleh Mohd Adam knows the trails and people of Pulau Ubin better than most. He is the island's postman.

The 46-year-old has been working the Ubin route for two years now, after taking over from SingPost's then-oldest postman, Mr Haron Jomahat.

This particular journey began even before Mr Haron retired at age 75 when Mr Salleh was asked to prepare himself to be a replacement should Mr Haron be unable to make the route for the day.

Mr Salleh's work starts at 7am with the sorting of mail. His trips to Ubin generally span two hours - more if it rains - and end around midday.

It's not just the island life for Mr Salleh. Upon returning, he continues on with his mail route of Simpang Bedok too.


The unconventional mail route, although short in duration, comes with its own set of trials.

Mr Salleh does not have an exclusive transport to the island. Like everyone else, Mr Salleh travels to Changi Point Ferry Terminal and waits for the bumboat to fill up with 12 passengers.

He also pays the $3 fee.

On a good day, it can take just 10 minutes for the boat to fill up. When he's not so lucky, it can be 30 or even 45 minutes.

Another challenge is the weather.

The postman of Pulau Ubin hand-delivers the mail on a motorbike and rain can make soon turn the roads muddy and too dangerous to ride on.

In the event of gloomy weather, he has no choice but to wait till the dark clouds pass.

His route is also peppered with guard dogs and strays. Animal sightings also include snakes and a wild boar or two.

While this might sound enchanting to some, it came as a fright to this reporter when seemingly-aggressive canines advanced when Mr Salleh was in the process of dropping off the mail.

The frequent Ubin commuter remained unfazed.

He has a contingency plan to hand. Should the situation ever get out of hand, he would simply zoom off on his motorbike.

Thankfully, the postman has yet to find himself in such a position.


Yet for its trials, this is a very special route and one the Mr Salleh relishes for one particular reason - the people of Ubin.

"This is the special thing down here. They are very friendly and it is very nice to talk to them," Mr Salleh commented.

Like his predecessor, Mr Salleh has come to know the island's inhabitants well.

The small community of about 38 is about as homely as it is possible to be.

"There are a lot of old ladies here. They're like my grandmother," Mr Salleh jokes.

Throughout his route, the friendly familiarity this postman has with residents is always on display.

When talking about the kampung-style environment, Mr Salleh brings up the reception he receives from the residents as one of the key differences between delivering mail on the mainland and at Ubin.

The residents freely share home-grown rambutans and durians — Mr Salleh literally enjoys the fruits of their labour.

There is much camaraderie. Mr Salleh can freely leave mail at their shops, or simply on tables outside their homes, without fear of it being taken away.

A not so friendly fixture of Pulau Ubin? The heat and mosquitoes. Not even the postman is spared.


The frequent trips have him well acquainted with the nooks and crannies of the island.

Mr Salleh has a map of the island seared in his memory, but just to be on the safe side, he has a map which he keeps folded in his postman bag.

The map, unlike the maps available to the public, Mr Salleh's is hand-drawn and weathered, providing a outline of Ubin in postman terms.

Many of the roads are not paved, and at times, even his trusty motorbike is unable to take him to his destination.

Then, the mailman makes his journey on foot, through overgrown grass and weeds.

His knowledge has come in handy — especially useful during motorbike mishaps — when he has to navigate out of the foliage.

"I had one experience on the way to a house very far from the jetty. My motorbike broke down briefly and a tyre punctured. From the house, I had to push my bike all the way to the road.

It was a very slow journey back to the jetty."

While Mr. Salleh does know his way around, there are certain things he would rather not know about the island.

There have been a number of apocryphal tales of ghosts. On the topic Mr Salleh quickly says with a laugh: "I'd rather not know!"

Since 2015, there has been a trial and talk of drones taking over the delivery of island post.

Should that happen, Mr. Salleh will miss his island visits.

What will he miss most?

"The environment down there. Nowadays in Singapore, where got kampung?"

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Indonesia: Shark Fin Fasting Needed for Population Regrowth -- WWF Indonesia

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 26 Jan 17;

Jakarta. With a number of Indonesia’s endemic shark species rapidly nearing extinction, WWF Indonesia has implored shark fin soup enthusiasts to rein in their appetites.

“Right now, we need to abstain from shark fin [delicacies], and if the population is controlled in the future, people can enjoy [shark fin] if they want to – but only if that happens,” WWF Indonesia fishers program leader, Imam Musthofa Zainudin, said on Wednesday (25/01).

With Indonesia serving home to about 26 percent of the world’s shark species, up to 109,248 tons of shark fin are drawn from the nation's waters.

The country is also the world's largest producer of shark delicacies and is the third largest exporter.

Although not all shark species in Indonesia are nearing extinction, Imam stated that if consumption patterns like shark-derived delicacies continue, the apex predator could be wiped off from oceans by 2048, just as predicted by renowned Canadian ecologist Boris Worm.

“Indonesia largely depends on fisheries so this is about food security too – if all the sharks are gone, we would have to start eating plankton soup,” the seascapes leader said.

Imam explained that there is a common misconception about conservation, where killing should be completely written off.

He argues that without controlled hunting, it would throw the ecosystem off balance, especially as sharks are the top predators of the sea.

He stated that certain countries adopt sustainable fishing and hunting to ensure a balance in the food chain, thus endangering food security for humans.

“All we need is strong law enforcement and control, so [shark fin] can be eaten if you can count each and every shark that is in our waters,” Iman explained. “It all depends on our commitment.”

Last year in Jakarta, 30 percent of hotels and 38 percent of restaurants still serve shark fin soup on their menus.

However, this is a drop of 20.32 percent in shark fin soup consumption for restaurants in Jakarta, with 12,622 kilograms of shark fins per year in 2016, compared to 15,840 kilograms of shark fins per year in 2013.

WWF Indonesia also states that there is a global demand of 73 million tons of shark fins per year, with the highest coming from Hong Kong.

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Best of our wild blogs: 26 Jan 17

RUMblers and the January oil spill at Ubin mangroves
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

8 Ways to Have a Green Chinese New Year

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Cambodia: Sand stats ‘correct’ -- government

Mech Dara and Yesenia Amaro Phnom Penh Post 25 Jan 17;

At a government-organised forum on sand exports yesterday, a Ministry of Mines and Energy official said an investigation had been carried out into huge discrepancies in data on sand export from Cambodia to Singapore but that the probe found no irregularities.

UN data show Cambodia’s customs reported 2.8 million tonnes of sand exports to Singapore from 2007 to 2015, while Singapore recorded 72.2 million tonnes in imports during the same period. A ministry official yesterday said they had recorded about 16 million tonnes of exports to Singapore for the same period – still a discrepancy of some 56 million tonnes.

However, Dith Tina, spokesman and secretary of state for the ministry, said on the sidelines of the forum that the investigation found the ministry’s figures to be “correct”.

When asked what the investigation had looked into, Tina referred questions to fellow secretary of state and spokesman Meng Saktheara, who he said, had carried out the review. Saktheara, meanwhile, said his investigation, which was launched early last month, found no irregularities, but acknowledged it did find “loopholes”.

“The figures released by the Ministry of Mines and Energy are correct figures of sand export volume permitted by the ministry,” he said. “If there is evidence pointing to a licence holder committing illegal exports or contradicting the export permit terms, the ministry will take legal action.”

Among the areas examined were compliance by licensed sand dredgers, performance by the provincial mines department in Koh Kong in monitoring dredging operations, and procedural requirements for granting export invoices.

The findings showed a need for improvement of export procedures, Saktheara added.

For example, in order to properly grant an export invoice, a shipment inspection is required, he said. But given the limited capacity of the provincial department, it often relied on certification and clearance from port authorities. “This has to be improved,” he said. “If they are required to inspect the shipment, they will have to inspect the shipment, instead of relying on other entities.”

As part of a new process now in the works, Saktheara said companies will be required to inform the ministry a week in advance of loading a shipment so that an inspection team can be deployed. They will also be required to have a pre-export and post-export declaration to ensure that the quantities of materials leaving Cambodia and entering Singapore, for example, are indeed the same.

According to a spokesperson from Singapore’s Ministry of National Development, the city-state “will investigate any such instances and take enforcement action, if evidence is provided” of wrongdoing.

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Singapore not meeting its air quality targets: Masagos

SIAU MING EN Today Online 26 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — With vehicles plying the roads among the key contributors to air pollution in Singapore, a study commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources found that electric vehicles and renewable diesel are some of the more viable clean alternatives to diesel vehicles.

But the six-month study conducted by Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) Assistant Professor Lynette Cheah last year also found that while electrification is a promising technology for some vehicles — namely cars, light and heavy goods vehicles and public buses travelling shorter routes — there are limits.

Concern remains over how far these vehicles can travel as well as a lack of charging infrastructure, said Asst Prof Cheah, who was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a focus group discussion held on Wednesday (Jan 25), before the annual debates on the ministry’s budget takes place later this year.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who also attended the discussion, said Singapore is committed to delivering clean air but the country is not meeting its air quality targets.

Based on last year’s figures, Singapore is not on track to meet 2020 targets for pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), particulate matter (PM 10) and ozone. Meanwhile, a Lancet study found that more than 3.2 million people suffered premature deaths from air pollution in 2010.

Noting the SUTD study findings, Mr Masagos said: “We have to be critical of the solutions that we will adopt over the years and what we will do for now.”

The ministry will be reviewing vehicular emission policies to ensure that the authorities are not “inadvertently encouraging motorists to use diesel when viable alternatives are available and feasible”. This includes a review of the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme, which is expiring this year.

Another viable alternative flagged by the study was renewable diesel, which can achieve immediate emissions reductions.

Such a form of diesel comes from feedstock such as vegetable oil and animal fat, but unlike biodiesel, it does not need to be blended with conventional diesel when used in vehicles. But renewal diesel also costs twice as much as conventional diesel.

Singapore not meeting its air quality targets: Masagos
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 26 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore is not on track to achieve its air quality targets by 2020 which are benchmarked against the guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to figures from the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), in the past two years, Singapore fell short in meeting its targets for pollutants such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), particulate matter (PM10) and ozone.

“Unfortunately if you look at our trajectory, we are not meeting our targets and therefore we need to do more to ensure that our air pollution issue is being addressed,” said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday (Jan 25).

Speaking at a pre-Budget focus group discussion, Mr Masagos said Singapore is committed to finding ways to address air pollution.

For instance, his ministry will review its vehicular emission policies, including the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS), which gives rebates or surcharges depending on how much carbon dioxide a car or taxi emits. The current scheme is due to expire this year.


The review follows a six-month study conducted by Assistant Professor Lynette Cheah from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). It was commissioned by MEWR last year in light of increasing concerns over the harmful effects of diesel vehicular emissions.

The study found that powering vehicles with electricity and renewable diesel are two of the more viable and cleaner alternatives to conventional diesel. But costs remain a concern.

While electrification is a “promising technology” for vehicles like cars, buses and those that carry large and heavy goods, Asst Prof Cheah laid out the limitations.

“The technology is available. As to how we can convert the market today, that’s a different story. In terms of price, (electric vehicles) cost more than the conventional diesel vehicles,” she said.

There are also concerns like how far vehicles can travel on one charge, as well as a lack of charging infrastructure.

As for using renewable diesel, the study found that it can achieve immediate reductions in emissions. Such a fuel is produced from treating feedstock like used cooking oil. With a chemical makeup that is similar to diesel, it can be used to power a diesel vehicle without having to modify it.

However, even though renewable diesel is cleaner than conventional diesel, it still emits harmful pollutants. It is also twice as expensive.

“We also don’t have yet a market in Singapore for (renewable diesel). There are a lot of unknowns in terms of distribution. But there are markets that use renewable diesel - in fact in some places, they are mandated, like in California”, said Asst Prof Cheah.

Commenting on the study's findings, Mr Masagos said: "This is just the beginning of a journey to understand our options. We have to be practical on the solutions that we adopt over the years. There are many objectives of why diesel is used in the first place."

"We have to understand it properly so that when we implement it for the longer term, we are also not inadvertently putting too much cost on the industry or the users to switch to these alternatives," he added.

- CNA/gs

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Water level at Linggiu Reservoir at 30.8% after recent rains: PUB

Today Online 26 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — The water level at the Linggiu Reservoir in Johor, operated by Singapore’s national water agency PUB, has gone up slightly as a result of the last two days’ rain.

As of Wednesday (Jan 25), the water level stands at 30.8 per cent, up slightly from the 27.5 per cent recorded last Wednesday, the PUB said.

The decreasing water levels at the reservoir has been of great concern here, given that it regulates the flow of the Johor River, from which Singapore extracts raw water for treatment and for supply to the Republic.

From 80 per cent in early 2015 to a historic low of 20 per cent in October last year, the water level in the reservoir has been making a slow recovery recently.

Earlier in the month, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a written Parliamentary response that there is “significant risk” that the reservoir may run out of water this year if 2017 turns out to be a dry year. If that happens, it would pose severe problems for Singapore and Malaysia, he added.

The PUB spokesman said: “While the water level has increased due to the rains in the last two days, weather uncertainties remain.

“We all need to continue our efforts to use water wisely and conserve our precious water resources.”

Enough water in dam, Johor assures Singapore
YEE XIANG YUN The Star 26 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: Johor has assured Singapore that the Linggiu Dam has sufficient water to supply 250 million gallons a day (mgd) to the island.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohamad said ongoing measures were being carried out to increase the capacity of nearby rivers or catchment areas to ensure sufficient water in the dam.

He said this was done by introducing barrage or offsite storage, known as off-river storage (ORS), where the river waterway is enlarged to store water as well.

He said plans were carried out with the intention to increase the water storage to contain water not only in the river but to also create a catchment within the river.

“In Linggiu’s case, we focus on the rivers around it like the Johor River and Linggiu River so that efforts to pump water into the dam can be done,” he said yesterday.

Singapore authorities have expressed concern and are keeping a close eye on the situation in Linggiu, which the island republic depends on as a water source, as it has dropped drastically over the past few years.

Its Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan reportedly said there was a significant risk that Linggiu might fall further in 2017 if it turned out to be a dry year and its Public Utilities Board (PUB) would not be able to abstract water from the dam.

The 1962 Water Agreement entitles the PUB to draw up to 250 mgd from the Johor River and in return, Johor is entitled to a daily supply of treated water of up to 2% (or 5mgd) of the raw water supplied to Singapore.

Meanwhile, Hasni admitted that it was worrying when the water level in the dam hit a low of 25% of its full capacity recently but assured that the situation in the state was under control.

The continuous rain over the past few days had a silver lining as it helped increase the level in the Johor River to 5.9m, he said.

He said the state was keeping a close watch on the situation because if the rain continued to fall and the river level increased to the warning level of 7.5m, water could overflow if not properly managed and could cause floods in Kota Tinggi.

He said the Juasir Dam in Segamat and Lebam Dam in Kota Tinggi had overflowed due to the rain but the Johor Water Regulatory Body was handling it and the overall water situation in Johor was considered manageable.

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