Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jun 17

Reefy seawalls at East Coast Park
wild shores of singapore

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Construction of Singapore's 4th desalination plant begins in Marina East

Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 29 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: The construction of Singapore's fourth desalination plant began on Thursday (Jun 29) in Marina East.

It is the first dual-mode desalination plant, meaning it can treat both freshwater from the Marina Reservoir and seawater, depending on weather conditions.

Currently, freshwater from reservoirs is processed at eight water works across Singapore, while seawater is treated at SingSpring and Tuaspring desalination plants. On rainy days when water levels in the reservoirs are high, the excess rainwater will be discharged into the sea. But with the new plant, the water will be treated for use.

Designed by Keppel Infrastructure Holdings, which will also build, own and operate the Marina East desalination plant, the facility will be able to produce around 30 million gallons of fresh drinking water per day, enough to fill about 55 Olympic-sized swimming pools when it is completed by the end of January 2020.


The Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant is also the first to feature green spaces that can be used by the public for recreation. All of the plant's water treatment equipment will be located underground, topped off by a green rooftop that can accommodate about 700 people.

Built on a three hectare plot of land, the plant will also be integrated with the Eastern Coastal Park Connector Network that bridges East Coast Park and Gardens by the Bay East.

This "sleek modern design" breaks away from that of conventional water treatment plants, said Keppel Corporation and national water agency PUB in a joint media release.

“The civil engineering component is very important in the plant because of the location, the type of soil condition we are facing, and also the way we want the plant to be low – to blend in with the park," said chief executive of Keppel Infrastructure Ong Tiong Guan,

He added that building the plant two or three storeys high would make it "stick out like a sore thumb".

While the plant will be able to treat both seawater and freshwater, they cannot be done at the same time.

During dry periods when the water level in the reservoir is low, water from the sea will then be channeled to the plant to be desalinated. Water from both sources will be filtered from the get-go, removing larger impurities before it goes through a “dual flow chamber”.

This chamber then pumps the water to the plant through a 1.8km underground pipeline above the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE). Such a system has been years in the making – a similar dual-mode technology has been in operation since 2007 at a plant in Pasir Ris to test it out before applying it on a larger scale at Marina East.


At the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said that desalinated water, as one of Singapore’s four "national taps", plays an “especially crucial role in ensuring a diversified and sustainable supply of water”.

“Water has always been an existential issue for Singapore. Climate change impact will exacerbate our water issues if we are not prepared," said Mr Masagos.

He added that Singaporeans are able to enjoy a reliable supply of water today, due to the country's "relentless pursuit to secure a high-quality and reliable supply of water."

"We need to continue right-pricing this precious resource, so that users can appreciate its scarcity value, and the cost of supplying water”, the minister said.

Desalination costs more than treating freshwater as it is more energy-intensive, but Mr Masagos said PUB is exploring technologies to reduce the energy consumption of desalination processes, to "moderate" the cost of water production.

A fifth desalination plant at Jurong Island is in the pipeline and will also be completed in 2020. That would bring the total daily water production in Singapore to 190 million gallons in three years' time.

World’s first large-scale desalination plant for sea and freshwater to open in Singapore in 2020
ALFRED CHUA Today Online 29 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s first large-scale desalination plant that can treat both seawater and freshwater, which Keppel Infrastructure is building in Marina East, will begin operations in 2020, starting a new chapter in the nation’s journey to boost water resilience.

That same year, the fifth desalination plant on Jurong Island will also open.

The Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant, to be built near the Marina Coastal Expressway and East Coast Parkway, will be able to draw freshwater from the nearby Marina Reservoir, as well as seawater. Construction of the plant, which can treat 30 million gallons of water a day, started on Thursday (June 29).

The type of water that will be drawn into the desalination plant will depend on weather conditions. During wetter seasons, freshwater from the reservoir will be drawn, while the plant will tap seawater during dry spells. The water drawn will then travel underground, northwards, through a dual-flow chamber for around 1.8km, before reaching the plant, where it will be treated.

The dual-flow chamber will be located south of the Marina Reservoir, to the east of Marina Barrage. Above ground, the area will be built into a playground, said Keppel Infrastructure, which will own and operate the plant, on Thursday. The company is a division of Keppel Corporation.

The water-treatment plant will also be located underground and capped with a rooftop lawn, which will be open to the public.

Speaking to reporters, Keppel Infrastructure’s chief executive Ong Tiong Guan noted that since the plant and pipelines sit on reclaimed land, which is mostly made of clay, extra consideration must be taken in the building and excavation.

“The civil engineering component is very important in the plant because of the location, the type of soil condition we are facing, and also the way we want the plant to be low ... to blend in with the park,” Dr Ong said.

The reliability of the dual-purpose desalination concept was tested on a smaller scale at a plant at Sungei Tampines that was set up in 2007. That facility, which also draws freshwater and seawater from surrounding sources, is able to produce around one million gallons a day.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony on Thursday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said the Republic’s demand for water is expected to more than double by 2060.

Hence, the authorities will be “ramping up our capacities of NEWater and desalination” so that these two sources of water can meet up to 55 per cent and 30 per cent of demand by 2060, respectively. This is up from the current 40 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

“We need to continue right-pricing this precious resource so that users can appreciate its scarcity value and the cost of supplying water,” he added.

Calling it “another step in enhancing the drought resilience and sustainability of our water supply”, Mr Masagos said desalinated water “plays an especially crucial role in ensuring a diversified and sustainable supply of water for everyone”.

Desalinated water is one of the four sources of the water supply here. The other three are imported water from Malaysia, NEWater and water from local catchments.

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Singapore turns vacant space into urban farms

Reuters 29 Jun 17;

Resource-scarce Singapore is turning vacant pockets of land into space for urban farming as the island city strives to ease its reliance on imported food.

The wealthy Southeast Asian city-state imports more than 90 percent of its food, much of it from neighboring countries, which can leave it exposed to potential supply chain disruptions.

Edible Garden City, a company with a grow-your-own-food message, has designed and built more than 50 food gardens in the tropical city for clients ranging from restaurants and hotels to schools and residences.

One of its projects is Citizen Farm, an 8,000 square meter plot that used to be a prison, converted into an urban farm "where the local community can learn and grow together", according to the project website.

Citizen Farm produces up to 100 kg of vegetables, 20 kg of herbs and 10-15 kg of mushrooms - enough to feed up to 500 people - a day.

It's tiny compared with demand for food in the country of 5.5 million people, but it's a start, said Darren Ho, head of the Citizen Farm initiative.

"No system will replace imports, we are here to make us more food resilient," said Ho, adding that it was "up to the community" to decide how self-sufficient it wants to be.

Government agencies are considering the company's urban farming concept for other parts of the city, including spaces around high-rise public housing.

(Reporting by Fathin Ungku)

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Over 50 species of native coastal plants to be introduced at Coney Island Park

Today Online 29 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE — Over 50 species of native coastal plants, including critically endangered species, will be introduced to a four-hectare plot of land at Coney Island Park over the next five years.

The five-year habitat enhancement programme is a collaboration between the National Parks Board (NParks) and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited (OCBC Bank), which will see primarily OCBC Bank management and staff donating S$250,000 to the fund the programme.

Among the species to be planted include the Small-leaved Nutmeg (Knema globularia), Silver Bush (Sophora tormentosa), and the Damak-damak Tahun (Scolopia macrophylla), which was believed to be extinct until its rediscovery on Coney Island Park in 2014.

NParks CEO Kenneth Er said: “(The Scolopia macrophylla) was previously last seen in 1953, more than 60 years ago. We subsequently found more individuals in its vicinity and took great care to conserve this rare find.

“OCBC volunteers helped to propagate more Scolopia saplings last month, so that we can re-introduce more of the plants here,” he added.

From May 31, OCBC volunteers have been partnering NParks staff to Coney Island Park to locate and propagate several endangered plant species.

OCBC Group CEO Samuel Tsien, who requested interesting and attractive plants be introduced as part of the habitat enhancement programme, said: “I want (our families, friends, and beneficiaries from our charity partners) to experience the excitement, and, for the older people, the pleasant recall of their childhood days – when they don’t have interactive cyber games such as Counterstrike, or Candy Crush to engage in, but interacting with the nature at parks and gardens which was part of the (growing) up process.”

Under the programme, more Scolopia specimens will be introduced to help re-establish a population. This, together with the other species, will make it the most diverse habitat enhancement project planned for the 50-hectare Coney Island Park since its opening in 2015, NParks and OCBC said in a joint statement on Thursday (June 29).

In turn, the seeds from the initial batch will help to regenerate and natural ecosystem and build plant diversity in the area, which will provide habitat for fauna such as the Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, the Spotted Wood Owl and dragonflies like the Sultan and Lined Forest-Skimmer.

Donations from OCBC will also help to add additional features such as trails and benches to Coney Island Park in a sensitive manner.

“Conservation requires long-term effort from everyone, and such initiatives to enhance habitats are integral to our overall plan to conserve our native biodiversity,” said Mr Er.

“This project will go a long way in helping the natural ecosystem of Coney Island Park to recover and thrive.”

NParks partners OCBC in plant-restoration project
Yap Li Yin Straits Times 30 Jun 17;

The twin-apple tree, which is considered locally extinct in Singapore, has been planted back on the island, using saplings propagated from a mother tree that was kept in a National Parks Board (NParks) nursery for more than a decade.

Also known as Ochrosiaoppositifolia, two saplings of the species were planted in Coney Island Park yesterday at the launch of a programme which aims to introduce 50 species of coastal plants there over the next five years.

The twin-apple tree produces a fruit that looks like two green apples fused together.

Launched in partnership with OCBC Bank, the programme is part of NParks' ongoing habitat-enhancement efforts under the Nature Conservation Masterplan (NCMP).

The NCMP, announced in 2015, lays out Singapore's biodiversity conservation roadmap until 2020.

NParks said the project is one of the most diverse habitat-enhancement projects planned for Coney Island so far.

Other rare species such as the damak-damak tahun (Scolopiamacrophylla) - which was believed to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 2014 - will also be introduced to a 4ha land area.

Prior to the launch of the programme, site assessments had been carried out by NParks to document and understand the health of the habitats, and to determine suitable restoration techniques.

The plants introduced will then act as seed sources for the subsequent regeneration of the natural ecosystem.

"While we are only working on a 4ha plot of land, this can become a catalyst for the dispersal of the plants to the entire island," said NParks group director of parks Chuah Hock Seong.

Staff volunteers from OCBC will be working with NParks on different aspects of the habitat-enhancement process, from the collection and propagation of the plants, to outreach efforts such as conducting learning expeditions.

The bank management and staff also donated $250,000 to the Garden City Fund, a registered charity established by NParks, to support this programme.

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Malaysia: Death knell for Hawksbill turtles

R.S.N. MURALI The Star 30 Jun 17;

MELAKA: The endangered Hawks­bill turtle population in Melaka that is being threatened by sea reclamation, hunting and habitat destruction, is facing another major threat – fishing nets.

Melaka Fishery Department officer Doreen Wee Siew Leen said 13 Hawksbills were found dead between January and June along the beach stretching from Kem Terendak in Sungai Udang to Kuala Linggi.

“Most of these deaths occurred when the turtles get entangled in fishing nets.

“We managed to nurse back to health two which were found alive on the beach and released them back to the sea,” she said yesterday.

Wee said the enforcement unit continues to patrol the identified hotspots to act against the culprits.

“Our main targets are those who drop their nets illegally along the marine path used by the turtle to their nesting spots,” she said.

Wee said illegal fishermen found deploying nets along the Melaka coastline would have their equipment seized on the spot and punitive actions taken against them.

“Our enforcement is keeping a close watch to stop these killings,” she said.

Wee said for the licensed fishermen, the department could only create awareness on the importance of protecting the turtle.

“We are constantly reminding our local fishermen on the importance of preserving the endangered sea turtle,” she said.

There were 4,570 turtle landings recorded between 2006 and 2016, with Pulau Upeh recording the highest landings of 704.

However, there were only 13 landings in Pulau Upeh in 2016, an island popular for turtle nesting, compared with 111 in 2011.

“This reveals that Pulau Upeh is losing its appeal to the Hawksbill due to various factors,” she said.

Surprisingly, the Padang Kemun­ting beachfront recorded an all-time high of 118 landings in 2016 compared with 55 to 107 annual landings between 2006 and 2015.

Wee said the coastal waters of Melaka were the focus of Hawksbill turtle to land and lay eggs, and if the habitat along the beach was affected, the number of turtle landings would also be affected.

She said the rangers appointed by the department to collect turtle eggs along the shorelines were doing their task well especially during nesting period; the eggs were sent to Turtle Conservation and Informa­tion Centre in Padang Kemunting to be hatched and released to the na­tural habitat.

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The Amazon's new danger: Brazil sets sights on palm oil

Brazil’s ambition to become a palm oil giant could have devastating social and environmental impacts if the move is not carefully managed, say experts
Tom Levitt in Brasília and Heriberto Araujo The Guardian 29 Jun 17;

Jorge Antonini takes a palm kernel in his hands and slices it open. Squeezing it between his fingers, the kernel oozes the oily liquid found in hundreds of everyday products, from cakes to chocolate spread.

The scientist is standing on a government-owned farm near the Brazilian capital of Brasília. Here, he and a small group of colleagues from Embrapa, the powerful state-owned agricultural research agency, are trialling different methods of growing oil palms to improve yield.

The project Antonini runs might be small scale but the government’s aims are anything but. Already a global agricultural powerhouse and the world’s largest exporter of beef, coffee, maize, soya and sugar, Brazil now wants to muscle its way into the lucrative palm oil trade.

“We want to compete with Indonesia and Malaysia,” says Antonini, Embrapa’s head of palm oil research, referring to the world’s two dominant producers of the commodity. Between them, Indonesia and Malaysia account for more than 80% of global production.

This might sound like a lofty ambition considering the country’s current production volumes. But Brazil’s palm oil industry is expanding, with potential for even bigger future growth.

The amount of land given over to oil palms doubled in Brazil between 2004 and 2010. It is forecast by Abrapalma, the body which represents palm oil producers in Brazil, to double again between now and 2025. Almost half of the land area of Brazil is suitable for growing oil palm, according to researchers, making it the number one country – they say – in terms of suitable land.

Such growth offers potential benefits for Brazil’s rural economy. But with most of this suitable land in the wildlife-rich, forested Amazon region in the north of the country, campaigners and observers fear Brazil’s ambitious plans for its palm oil sector will fuel a surge in landgrabbing, conflict and deforestation.

These fears have been reinforced by the current uncertainty in Brazilian politics. The former president Dilma Rousseff was impeached in 2016, while current president Michel Temer has been charged with corruption. In the midst of this turmoil, WWF is reporting that new legislation could rollback protections on the Amazon rainforest.

Brazil’s palm oil expansion dates back to 2010 under the government of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who launched a programme to map areas suitable for oil palm plantations and provide finance for farmers to start growing the crop.

With projected revenues of more than $90bn by 2021, the global palm oil market is a major income and development opportunity for rural Brazil. A farming family could increase its net income fourfold, the Brazilian government has estimated, by switching from staple crops such as cassava to oil palm.

Embrapa’s trial site is in the central Cerrado region of Brazil, a savannah landscape of extensive soy and cattle production which could be converted to producing oil palms – in some places, at least – if the trials are successful.

So far, however, palm oil production has been almost exclusively limited to the Amazonian state of Pará. This region offers an ideal climate of heat, sun and rain throughout the year, as well as cheaper land prices than the more agriculturally-developed, drier and more seasonal Cerrado region.

Abrapalma estimates that 207,000ha out of a total of 236,000ha of oil palm plantations in Brazil are in Pará, with the industry providing jobs for around 20,000 in the state and three times that number benefiting from indirect employment.

Embrapa researcher Lineu Neiva Rodrigues says Brazil could use palm oil to create biodiesel for the domestic market and eventually become a leading exporter.

But growth in this market is limited, with the current demand for biodiesel mainly in the southern part of Brazil, thousands of kilometres from Pará, says Marcelo Brito, president of Abrapalma and CEO of one of the country’s biggest palm oil producers, Agropalma.

The stall in the biodiesel sector was highlighted by Petrobas, Brazil’s biggest energy company, which entered a joint venture with Portugal’s Galp Energia in 2010 to produce and export palm oil from Brazil. However, the company announced last year it would be exiting the biofuels sector and focusing on oil and gas.

Even if the biofuels sector doesn’t take off as Embrapa hopes, Brito says palm oil production in Brazil will continue to expand to meet demand from the food and cosmetics industries. Brazil is currently a net importer of palm oil but, even with demand in the country growing, Brito expects it to be self-sufficient within the next one to two years.

This expansion could put at risk huge tracts of forested land in the Amazon region, home to the world’s largest tropical rainforest and at least 10% of global biodiversity, say conservationists.

Pará lost almost 8% of its forest cover between 2001 and 2015 to agriculture, according to Global Forest Watch:

But palm oil could offer a more productive land use if it replaced extensive, low-yielding, livestock farming, says Rhett Butler, founder of the widely-respected Mongabay conservation website.

“The opportunity in Brazil is converting cattle pastures to oil palm, but the fear is converting forest to oil palm,” he says.

Such fears have already been realised over the border in Peru. A report from the Environmental Investigation Agency in 2015 linked large commercial companies to illegal deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon for oil palm cultivation.

In Brazil, scientists have criticised moves to allow oil palm plantations to count towards compliance for restoring and protecting forested land, saying they host few native species.

As well as deforestation, there is a social impact too. The expansion of palm plantations in the state has led to a rise in land prices and disputes, says Elielson Pereira da Silva, who is researching palm oil production at the Federal University of Pará.

While there is not evidence of palm oil leading to an increase of violence in the state, researchers say growing interest in the sector could escalate a current spate of land-related killings in the Amazon region, already labelled a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

In 2016 the number of killings linked to land conflicts in Brazil reached 61 – the highest number since 2003. In May, a local farm leader in Pará was reported to have been murdered in front of her grandson in a dispute over land ownership on a former oil palm plantation.

Even for those farmers who sign up to long-term supply contracts with palm oil companies, the benefits are not necessarily clear cut.

“This is a kind of land grabbing, because the farmer can’t change their production during this period,” says Pereira da Silva. “[Palm oil] companies promise them up to 4,000 reais (£970) per month but, in many cases, the farmers get indebted with the company that provides them with supplies, such as fertilisers and seed.”

Brito says Brazil should focus on positioning itself as a niche producer, where palm oil does not contribute to deforestation. “I think Brazil will never be a big palm oil producer, we will remain a medium producer.”

Other countries, he says, would remain more attractive for investors because of less restrictive labour and forest protection legislation.

A gradual, rather than rapid, expansion of oil palms in the country, says Butler, would be the safest option for protecting against conflict and environmental degradation. “The opportunity is very large in Brazil, but we don’t want a wild west type expansion.”

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Stop exporting plastic waste to China to boost recycling at home, say experts

Governments must end incentives that see plastic waste shipped abroad, where it is often buried or burned, rather than being turned back into bottles at home, say industry leaders
Sandra Laville and Matthew Taylor The Guardian 29 Jun 17;

Governments must stop exporting so much plastic waste to countries such as China and keep more in-country to be recycled into bottles to tackle the waste crisis, industry insiders say.

A day after the Guardian revealed that a million plastic bottles are bought every minute across the world, experts aiming to provide a closed loop in which each bottle is used to make a new one, say their industry faces multiple hurdles.

Chris Brown of Clean Tech, based in Lincolnshire – the only site in the UK which produces food grade recycled polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) from plastic bottles to turn them into new bottles – said: “It has been a very challenging environment.”

“The recycling of Pet back into rPet (recycled plastic) is a relatively new industry and it has proven very difficult for any businesses to survive in recycled plastics. The margins are such that they struggle to be successful, particularly when the processes require large capital investment and present a significant technological challenge.”

He called for the UK government to end the incentives for export of post consumer plastic to China and other countries – more than two-thirds of plastic collected for recycling in the UK was sold abroad in 2016, where it may be incinerated or buried rather than recycled.

“Being able to keep more of that material in this country would be better for the bottle manufacturers and their customers,” he said. “It is important that the feedstock is available for rPet producers, so what we would like to see is an end to the incentivising of its export. Having an incentive to export the bales instead of keeping them in the country to be used to make more plastic bottles does not seem like what we should be doing at the moment.”

Clean Tech buys bales of post consumer plastic (Pet) bottles that have been collected in kerbside recycling. At its site in Lincolnshire, Clean Tech granulises the bales, sorts out the Pet from other plastic which might have contaminated the bale, turns it into new plastic pellets of recycled Pet and puts it through a process to make it safe to be used for drinks. Bales are then sold to companies – including Coca-Cola – who use it to make new bottles.

Its parent company, Plastipak is the biggest producer of recycled plastic for bottles in Europe.

A spokesperson for Plastipak said its three plants in Europe – in the UK, in Bearne in France and in Luxemburg – faced challenges. Urgent reform was needed to keep the recycled plastic bales in-country, the spokesperson said.

“This should be a growth industry. Everyone wants to recycle and everyone, in theory, wants to include recycled material in products. But this is a process that costs money, it is a commercial venture and one of the big hindrances is the cost of virgin material has been lower than the cost of recycled plastic partly because of the low oil price,” they said.

In the UK particularly there is a shortage of post consumer plastic to turn into recycled plastic for bottles because the collection systems are so poor. But the lack of stocks for creating recycled plastic is a global problem.

“There is also competition for this stock – it is used for other things like the plastic tape around packages,” said the spokesperson.

Industry experts say the UK should follow the example of countries that impose a deposit return scheme on plastic bottles, which encourages higher recycling rates.

Caroline Lucas, the UK Green MP said Guardian figures which show by 2021 more than half a trillion plastic bottles will be bought across the globe, were shocking. “Global plastic bottle use is spiralling out of control. The environmental consequences of a million plastic bottles being used every minute are absolutely devastating,” said Lucas.

“As consumers we can all make choices which limit our plastic bottle use, but the key to solving this crisis is action from governments. That’s why I’m calling for a bottle deposit scheme to be implemented urgently. Currently Britain uses 38.5m plastic bottles every day – and we should be leading the world in reusing bottles and rapidly reducing our plastic waste.”

Greenpeace is pressing for the major brands to do more to increase the recycled content of their bottles. The top six drinks companies in the world use a combined average of just 6.6% of recycled Pet in their products, according to Greenpeace. Many believe Coca-Cola and other brands are not ready to increase the amount of recycled plastic because it would compromise the appearance of their bottles.

Across the UK Coca-Cola says it uses 25% of recycled plastic in its bottles. It aims to increase this to 40% by 2020.

But Coca-Cola said the 40% target would stretch with the current volumes of recycled plastic of the right quality available.

“Coca-Cola buys approximately 20% of the global food grade rPet supply available in the marketplace,” the company said. “We continue to increase the use of recycled plastic in countries where it is feasible and permitted.”

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'Very strong' climate change signal in record June heat in the UK and Western Europe

Matt McGrath BBC News 30 Jun 17;

The June heat waves that impacted much of the UK and Western Europe were made more intense because of climate change say scientists.

Forest fires in Portugal claimed scores of lives while emergency heat plans were triggered in France, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Britain experienced its warmest June day since the famous heat wave of 1976.

Human-related warming made record heat 10 times more likely in parts of Europe the researchers say.

During June, mean monthly temperatures about 3C above normal were recorded across western parts of the continent. France experienced its hottest June night ever on 21st when the average around the country was 26.4C.

That same day had seen the mercury hit 34.5 at Heathrow in what was the UK's warmest June day for 40 years.

It was a similar story in the Netherlands which is set to have its hottest June on record while in Switzerland it was the second warmest since 1864.

Now, researchers with World Weather Attribution have carried out a multi-method analysis to assess the role of warming connected to human activities in these record temperatures.

"We simulate what is the possible weather under the current climate and then we simulate what is the possible weather without anthropogenic climate change, and then we compare these two likelihoods which gives us the risk ratio," Dr Friederike Otto from the University of Oxford, one of the study's authors, told BBC News.

"We found a very strong signal."

That signal, according to the authors, made heat waves at least 10 times more likely in Spain and Portugal.

Fires resulted in the deaths of 64 people in Portugal, while in Spain they forced the removal of around 1,500 people from holiday accommodation and homes.

In Central England, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands the intensity and frequency of such extreme heat was four times as likely because of climate change, the study says.

"We found clear and strong links between this month's record warmth and human-caused climate change," said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, senior researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI).

"Local temperature records show a clear warming trend, even faster than in climate models that simulate the effects of burning fossil fuels but also solar variability and land use changes," van Oldenborgh added.

The researchers say their reported results on the impact made by human related warming are conservative in some ways. Their study indicated that in countries like Spain, Portugal and France, climate change could be increasing the chances of extreme heat by up to forty times.

The scientists believe that the chances of these extreme heat events becoming much more common will increase unless rapid steps are taken to reduce carbon emissions.

"Hot months are no longer rare in our current climate. Today we can expect the kind of extreme heat that we saw in June roughly every 10 to 30 years, depending on the country," said Robert Vautard, a researcher at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences (LSCE), who was also involved in the study.

"By the middle of the century, this kind of extreme heat in June will become the norm in Western Europe unless we take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

The researchers are calling on city leaders in particular to work with scientists and public health experts to develop heat action plans.

While, usually, researchers wait to publish research like this in a peer-reviewed journal, the team felt that speed was necessary to inform public debate.

"When extreme events happen, the question is always asked 'what's the role of climate change?' and often the statement is made by a politician or by someone with a political agenda and not based on scientific evidence," said Dr Otto.

"Our aim is to provide that for the role of climate change, to show what you can robustly say within the time frame when people are discussing the event."

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jun 17

Pulau Jong is alive!
wild shores of singapore

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Singapore launches S$150m research initiative to improve living environment

Rachel Phua Channel NewsAsia 29 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of National Development (MND) launched a S$150 million initiative on Thursday (Jun 29) aimed at developing Singapore’s urban planning research capabilities.

The initiative, called the Cities of Tomorrow R&D Programme (CoT), aims to address key challenges facing Singapore such as climate change, ageing infrastructure, resource constraints and demand for space. CoT will support basic research, applied research, and small-scale demonstration projects, the ministry added.

Speaking at the opening of the fourth Urban Sustainability R&D Congress on Thursday, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said the research under CoT will help Singapore deal with the "increasing complexities" of running a city-state, which require greater coordination and better integration of research efforts.

“We’re also looking for research that can be translated from the lab to real-world deployment … so as to reap tangible social and economic benefits,” he added.

Funding for the project will come from the S$900 million allocated to the Urban Solutions and Sustainability sector under the S$19 billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan announced last year.

The programme will be a multi-agency effort led by MND, and focus on six research areas: Advanced construction, resilient infrastructure, new spaces, greater sustainability, urban environment analytics and complexity science for urban solutions.

For example, under the "new spaces" theme, researchers can look at how to develop tools to improve underground mapping accuracy or reduce the cost of developing underground. They can also look at how to move functions such as utilities, warehousing and storage facilities underground in order to free up surface land for other activities.

At the congress, the Housing and Development Board will also sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Imperial College London and A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research.

They will collaborate on a research project to expand the capabilities of sensor networks, strengthen the use of analytics and predictive modelling for better planning and resource optimisation in an urban environment, optimise estate maintenance and enhance the quality of the living environment, MND said.

S$150m set aside to create ‘Cities of Tomorrow’: Lawrence Wong
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 29 Jun 17;

Singapore – The Government will set aside S$150 million to conduct research and development on construction and infrastructure, and create new spaces and a more resource-efficient living environment integrated with nature.

Announcing the new initiative called the Cities of Tomorrow on Thursday (June 29), Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said the S$150 million kitty will come from the S$900 million set aside for Urban Solutions and Sustainability under Singapore's Research Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan. Announced last year, the plan sets aside S$19 billion to drive innovation in Singapore's economy and society.

Firstly, research and development (R&D) on advanced construction and resilient infrastructure will boost construction productivity and use smart technologies to maintain buildings well, said Mr Wong, who was speaking at the Urban Sustainability R&D Congress organised by his ministry with 16 government agencies, involving more than 1,000 participants from government, research institutes and the private sector.

For example, the Housing and Development Board is looking at ways to move towards a more predictive and proactive approach to maintain towns and estates, using sensors, the Internet of Things and big data. It will sign a memorandum of understanding with Imperial College London and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research for its project.

Secondly, research into new spaces aims to create more usable underground and sea space in a cost-effective and environmentally sensitive way.

Singapore's priority is to move functions like utilities, warehousing and storage facilities underground to free up more land on the surface. Safety is a key aspect, and research is being done by JTC and Nanyang Technological University on life and structural fire safety of underground caverns.

The third key R&D area of the Cities of Tomorrow programme will be on building a more sustainable city. Research will delve into ways to enable residents to interact closely with greenery, and live in a cooler and quieter environment.

For example, the Building and Construction Authority and National University of Singapore are working on nanocomposite films that can convert heat to energy for more effective indoor cooling in the tropics while improving air quality.

Cities of Tomorrow will enable Singapore to deal with the increasing complexities of running a city state, said Mr Wong. This requires greater coordination and better integration of research efforts to reap synergies, he said.

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Cambodia conservationists find rare cache of crocodile eggs

Associated Press Yahoo News 28 Jun 17;

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Wildlife researchers in Cambodia say they've found a clutch of eggs from one of the world's most endangered crocodiles, raising hopes of its continuing survival in the wild.

The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement Wednesday that its researchers, along with Fisheries Administration employees and local residents, found six eggs of the Siamese Crocodile in Sre Ambel District in the southern province of Koh Kong as they were exploring for tracks, signs and dung of the reptile. It said it was the first Siamese Crocodile nest recorded in six years of research and protection in the Sre Ambel area.

The group says the crocodile, with an estimated global population of around 410, is found only in Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, with the greatest number in Cambodia. The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature because its numbers are rapidly shrinking

"To avoid any threats, we moved the eggs to a safe place to hatch and track their progress," the statement quoted In Hul, a staff member of the Fisheries Administration, as saying.

Such threats, said the statement, "include illegal hunting of adults and hatchlings and collecting of eggs to supply crocodile farms in Cambodia and Thailand, especially during the last two decades."

Other threats include the "degradation of habitats, decrease of natural food, low chance of breeding in the wild due to low number of individuals in the wild and weak law enforcement such as regulations on crocodile farming and trading."

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A million bottles a minute: world's plastic binge 'as dangerous as climate change'

Annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top half a trillion by 2021, far outstripping recycling efforts and jeopardising oceans, coastlines and other environments
Sandra Laville and Matthew Taylor The Guardian 28 Jun 17;

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change.

New figures obtained by the Guardian reveal the surge in usage of plastic bottles, more than half a trillion of which will be sold annually by the end of the decade.

The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of a western, urbanised “on the go” culture to China and the Asia Pacific region.

More than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300bn a decade ago. If placed end to end, they would extend more than halfway to the sun. By 2021 this will increase to 583.3bn, according to the most up-to-date estimates from Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report.

Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable. But as their use soars across the globe, efforts to collect and recycle the bottles to keep them from polluting the oceans, are failing to keep up.

Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Experts warn that some of it is already finding its way into the human food chain.

Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. Last August, the results of a study by Plymouth University reported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish. Last year, the European Food Safety Authority called for urgent research, citing increasing concern for human health and food safety “given the potential for microplastic pollution in edible tissues of commercial fish”.

Dame Ellen MacArthur, the round the world yachtswoman, now campaigns to promote a circular economy in which plastic bottles are reused, refilled and recycled rather than used once and thrown away.

“Shifting to a real circular economy for plastics is a massive opportunity to close the loop, save billions of dollars, and decouple plastics production from fossil fuel consumption,” she said.

Hugo Tagholm, of the marine conservation and campaigning group Surfers Against Sewage, said the figures were devastating. “The plastic pollution crisis rivals the threat of climate change as it pollutes every natural system and an increasing number of organisms on planet Earth.

“Current science shows that plastics cannot be usefully assimilated into the food chain. Where they are ingested they carry toxins that work their way on to our dinner plates.” Surfers Against Sewage are campaigning for a refundable deposit scheme to be introduced in the UK as a way of encouraging reuse.

Tagholm added: “Whilst the production of throwaway plastics has grown dramatically over the last 20 years, the systems to contain, control, reuse and recycle them just haven’t kept pace.”

In the UK 38.5m plastic bottles are used every day – only just over half make it to recycling, while more than 16m are put into landfill, burnt or leak into the environment and oceans each day.

“Plastic production is set to double in the next 20 years and quadruple by 2050 so the time to act is now,” said Tagholm.

There has been growing concern about the impact of plastics pollution in oceans around the world. Last month scientists found nearly 18 tonnes of plastic on one of the world’s most remote islands, an uninhabited coral atoll in the South Pacific.

Another study of remote Arctic beaches found they were also heavily polluted with plastic, despite small local populations. And earlier this week scientists warned that plastic bottles and other packaging are overrunning some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches and remote coastline, endangering wildlife from basking sharks to puffins.

The majority of plastic bottles used across the globe are for drinking water, , according to Rosemary Downey, head of packaging at Euromonitor and one of the world’s experts in plastic bottle production.

China is responsible for most of the increase in demand. The Chinese public’s consumption of bottled water accounted for nearly a quarter of global demand, she said.

“It is a critical country to understand when examining global sales of plastic Pet bottles, and China’s requirement for plastic bottles continues to expand,” said Downey.

In 2015, consumers in China purchased 68.4bn bottles of water and in 2016 this increased to 73.8bn bottles, up 5.4bn.

A worker sorts plastic bottles at a recycling centre on the outskirts of Wuhan, Hubei province, China
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A worker sorts plastic bottles at a recycling centre on the outskirts of Wuhan, Hubei province, China. Photograph: Jie Zhao/Corbis/Getty Images
“This increase is being driven by increased urbanisation,” said Downey. “There is a desire for healthy living and there are ongoing concerns about groundwater contamination and the quality of tap water, which all contribute to the increase in bottle water use,” she said. India and Indonesia are also witnessing strong growth.

Plastic bottles are a big part of the huge surge in usage of a material first popularised in the 1940s. Most of the plastic produced since then still exists; the petrochemical-based compound takes hundreds of years to decompose.

Plastic population

Major drinks brands produce the greatest numbers of plastic bottles. Coca-Cola produces more than 100bn throwaway plastic bottles every year – or 3,400 a second, according to analysis carried out by Greenpeace after the company refused to publicly disclose its global plastic usage. The top six drinks companies in the world use a combined average of just 6.6% of recycled Pet in their products, according to Greenpeace. A third have no targets to increase their use of recycled plastic and none are aiming to use 100% across their global production.

Plastic drinking bottles could be made out of 100% recycled plastic, known as RPet – and campaigners are pressing big drinks companies to radically increase the amount of recycled plastic in their bottles. But brands are hostile to using RPet for cosmetic reasons because they want their products in shiny, clear plastic, according to Steve Morgan, of Recoup in the UK.

In evidence to a House of Commons committee, the British Plastics Federation (BPF), a plastics trade body, admitted that making bottles out of 100% recycled plastic used 75% less energy than creating virgin plastic bottles. But the BPF said that brands should not be forced to increase the recycled content of bottles. “The recycled content ... can be up to 100%, however this is a decision made by brands based on a variety of factors,” said Philip Law, director general of the BPF.

The industry is also resisting any taxes or charges to reduce demand for single-use plastic bottles – like the 5p charge on plastic bags that is credited with reducing plastic bag use by 80%.

Coca Cola said it was still considering requests from Greenpeace to publish its global plastics usage. A spokeswoman said: “Globally, we continue to increase the use of recycled plastic in countries where it is feasible and permitted. We continue to increase the use of RPet in markets where it is feasible and approved for regulatory food-grade use – 44 countries of the more than 200 we operate in.”

She agreed plastic bottles could be made out of 100 percent recycled plastic but there was nowhere near enough high quality food grade plastic available on the scale that was needed to increase the quantity of rPET to that level.

“So if we are to increase the amount of recycled plastic in our bottles even further then a new approach is needed to create a circular economy for plastic bottles,” she said.

Greenpeace said the big six drinks companies had to do more to increase the recycled content of their plastic bottles. “During Greenpeace’s recent expedition exploring plastic pollution on remote Scottish coastlines, we found plastic bottles nearly everywhere we went,” said Louisa Casson, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace.

“It’s clear that the soft drinks industry needs to reduce its plastic footprint.”

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World has three years left to stop dangerous climate change, warn experts

Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres among signatories of letter warning that the next three years will be crucial to stopping the worst effects of global warming
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 28 Jun 17;

Avoiding dangerous levels of climate change is still just about possible, but will require unprecedented effort and coordination from governments, businesses, citizens and scientists in the next three years, a group of prominent experts has warned.

Warnings over global warming have picked up pace in recent months, even as the political environment has grown chilly with Donald Trump’s formal announcement of the US’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement. This year’s weather has beaten high temperature records in some regions, and 2014, 2015 and 2016 were the hottest years on record.

But while temperatures have risen, global carbon dioxide emissions have stayed broadly flat for the past three years. This gives hope that the worst effects of climate change – devastating droughts, floods, heatwaves and irreversible sea level rises – may be avoided, according to a letter published in the journal Nature this week.

The authors, including former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, argue that the next three years will be crucial. They calculate that if emissions can be brought permanently lower by 2020 then the temperature thresholds leading to runaway irreversible climate change will not be breached.

Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under whom the Paris agreement was signed, said: “We stand at the doorway of being able to bend the emissions curve downwards by 2020, as science demands, in protection of the UN sustainable development goals, and in particular the eradication of extreme poverty. This monumental challenge coincides with an unprecedented openness to self-challenge on the part of sub-national governments inside the US, governments at all levels outside the US, and of the private sector in general. The opportunity given to us over the next three years is unique in history.”

Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, added: “The maths is brutally clear: while the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence [before] 2020.”

Scientists have been warning that time is fast running out to stave off the worst effects of warming, and some milestones may have slipped out of reach. In the Paris agreement, governments pledged an “aspirational” goal of holding warming to no more than 1.5C, a level which it is hoped will spare most of the world’s lowest-lying islands from inundation. But a growing body of research has suggested this is fast becoming impossible.

Paris’s less stringent, but firmer, goal of preventing warming from exceeding 2C above pre-industrial levels is also in doubt.

The authors point to signs that the trend of upward emissions is being reversed, and to technological progress that promises lower emissions for the future. Renewable energy use has soared, creating a foundation for permanently lowering emissions. Coal use is showing clear signs of decline in key regions, including China and India. Governments, despite Trump’s pronouncements, are forging ahead with plans to reduce greenhouse gases.

The authors called for political and business leaders to continue tackling emissions and meeting the Paris goals without the US. “As before Paris, we must remember that impossible is not a fact, it’s an attitude,” they wrote.

They set out six goals for 2020 which they said could be adopted at the G20 meeting in Hamburg on 7-8 July. These include increasing renewable energy to 30% of electricity use; plans from leading cities and states to decarbonise by 2050; 15% of new vehicles sold to be electric; and reforms to land use, agriculture, heavy industry and the finance sector, to encourage green growth.

Prof Gail Whiteman said the signs from technical innovation and economics were encouraging: “Climate science underlines the unavoidable urgency of our challenge, but equally important is the fact that the economic, technical and social analyses show that we can resoundingly rise to the challenge through collective action.”

While the greenhouse gases poured into the atmosphere over the last two centuries have only gradually taken effect, future changes are likely to be faster, scientists fear. Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Centre said: “We have been blessed by a remarkably resilient planet over the past 100 years, able to absorb most of our climate abuse. Now we have reached the end of this era, and need to bend the global curve of emissions immediately, to avoid unmanageable outcomes for our modern world.”

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jun 17

Living reefs at Terumbu Bemban
wild shores of singapore

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Malaysia: Critically-endangered hawksbill turtle rescued at Melaka beach

Kelly Koh New Straits Times 28 Jun 17;

MELAKA: A hawksbill turtle was found stranded on the shores of Pulau Melaka here, yesterday evening.

A member of the public who was fishing nearby found the turtle, which is listed as a critically-endangered species, in difficulty among some rubbish and rocks.

The man then alerted the Civil Defence Department (APM).

Melaka Tengah district civil defence officer Capt (PA) Aljibin Suddin said four APM personnel rushed to the scene and arrived at 5.44pm.

“The turtle was trapped behind some rocks. We believe that it became stranded because of the high tide,” he said.

APM personnel took an hour to rescue the turtle. It was then released back into the sea.

Melaka is the biggest nesting population in Peninsular Malaysia for the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, with average of between 400 and 450 nestings annually.

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Malaysia: Rescued green sea turtles in Mabul released into the wild

KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 28 Jun 17;

SEMPORNA: Two rescued green sea turtles were successfully released back to the sea in a ceremony at Mabul island here last weekend, after being in the care of the Mabul Turtle Rehabilitation Centre for a month.

The Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU), in a joint statement with the Scuba Junkie and Marine Research Foundation (MRF), said the turtles were successfully released with satellite tags on Saturday.

“The two turtles, in a weak state, were rescued back in May. They were cared for by the WRU.

“The turtles recuperated well under the critical care given by Scuba Junkie staff of the Mabul Turtle Rehabilitation Centre,” the statement said.

Before the release, the turtles were given a final medical check, tagged and also had satellite tags placed on them.

The satellite placement was done under collaboration with MRF executive director Dr Nicolas Pilcher.

Rescued green turtles released into the sea
RUBEN SARIO The Star 29 Jun 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Two rescued green turtles have been nursed back to health and released into the sea near the diving haven of Pulau Mabul in Sabah’s east coast.

The turtles, weakened by illness, were found in May and since then have been nursed back to health by the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) personnel, WRU acting manager Dr Diana Ramirez said.

They were kept at the Mabul Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and also cared by staff of diving operator Scuba Junkie SEAS for nearly two months before their release on Saturday, she said.

Before their release, both turtles were given a final medical check and WRU personnel placed satellite tracking tags on them.

The tagging was a collaboration between the Wildlife Department and NGO Marine Research Foundation (MRF).

MRF director Dr Nicholas Pilcher said the tracking of the rehabilitated turtles would enable researchers to see how well they re-adapt in the natural environment.

“It will also let us know the areas the turtles inhabit, allowing us to concentrate conservation efforts in those areas,” Dr Pilcher added.

Scuba Junkie SEAS conservation manager David McCann said it was the responsibility of dive operators to promote marine conservation and protect endangered species such as turtles.

“This is why we have a turtle hatchery and rehabilitation centre. It allows us to contribute to turtle conservation in this area in a practical manner,” he said.

Dr Ramirez said partnerships between the unit and the private sector such as Scuba Junkie and NGOs such as MRF augured well for conservation efforts.

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Malaysia: PhD student first Malaysian to get UK award for hornbill research

AIDA AHMAD The Star 28 Jun 17;

THE floor of the dense forest off the Kinabatangan River in Sabah is the playground for Ravinder Kaur, who maps her grid in search of natural cavities for hornbills among the thickets of the big trees.

She eats, sleeps and breathes hornbills, and for good reason too, as she and her team have just been honoured with the 2017 Future Conservationist Award by UK-based Conservation Leadership Programme, the only Malaysian to receive the award for 2017.

Her hornbill project is a long-term commitment towards building artificial nesting boxes for hornbills and studying the nest-hole crisis.

Her focus is now on Kinabatangan, in Sandakan, Sabah. It is a degraded forest, she said, as there was a lack of big trees, but it is also a regenerating forest.

“We find bigger species of hornbills living here,” she said, referring to the Rhinoceros and Helmeted Hornbills.

Helmeted Hornbills are heavily hunted in Indonesia for their solid keratin casques, worth four times more than an elephant’s tusks, while other hornbills have a hollow casque.

The illegal demand for this “red ivory” has the independent campaigning organisation Environmental Investigation Agency investigating it as a threat.

Together with her husband, multi-award-winning wildlife photographer Sanjitpaal Singh, Ravinder actively seeks out natural cavities in the trees.

So far, the ones they found could only accommodate the smaller species such as the Oriental Pied and Bushy Crested Hornbill.

In Kinabatangan, 27,000ha of the lower floodplain have been gazetted as the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary since 2005.

“That is a great step but they are conserving a forest that is highly degraded because of intense logging.

“The patch of primary forest is only about 15,000ha.

“We have to do something. With the lack of natural cavities, building nest boxes is the best option,” Ravinder said.

Being secondary hole-nesters, hornbills do not create tree cavities. They are dependent on primary cavity-nesting birds such as woodpeckers or naturally occurring cavities for their breeding needs, she explained.

Ravinder and Sanjit have come to the conclusion that natural cavities don’t last long.

They are susceptible to issues such as the tree falling, the cavity floor caving in or the nesting hole closing up, in other words, when the tree heals itself.

“We restore these cavities and plan to look for unoccupied natural cavities to ‘renovate’ them to become hornbill suitable.

“It is not good if the entrance is too big, because Rhinoceros Hornbills prefer narrow, vertical entrances, which can also deter other creatures such as monitor lizards from going in,” Ravinder said, adding that the Helmeted Hornbill needs a specific, knob-shaped nest hole, often found in 50m high trees.

“Normal nests won’t work because its casque is solid, and it needs to perch on the protrusion,” she said.

In 2013, five artificial nest boxes, courtesy of French non-governmental organisation HUTAN, as well as Chester Zoo and Beauval Zoo from the UK and France, respectively, were set up along the river in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Reserve.

They were made from plastic drums coated with cement, inspired by the ones in zoos overseas and Ravinder took on the task to monitor them.

She said they saw four species of hornbills visiting the boxes, and one female Oriental Pied tried to seal itself in by using mud on the entrance. Wasps also took over one of the holes and there were problems of other creatures crowding the space.

“The camera trap facing the box entrance was pushed up by monkeys so we have no idea the outcome of that, or whether the nesting was successful,” said Sanjit.

Unfortunately, the drums were not suitable for the birds as the interior temperature was too hot at more than 35°C.

“From the photos, it’s like the hornbills are saying ‘we are interested but they are not suitable. Work harder’,” Ravinder laughed.

Their next attempt was to build an artificial nest box made from marine wood with the local community in Sukau, attached with camera traps with motion sensors and data loggers to monitor the microclimate conditions.

Last month, the two new boxes were placed 20m above the ground in trees with the help of volunteers.

In natural cavities, the temperature is pleasant and “hornbill-suitable”, ranging between 25°C to 27°C, all day.

With the thicker and heavier nest boxes that weigh up to 100kg each, they provide a better climate for the hornbills as it offers protection from harsh sunlight.

Hard work it is, but Ravinder’s conservation battle goes hand-in-hand with her PhD thesis, of which some chapters include building nesting boxes for hornbills and monitoring their natural cavities and nesting behaviour.

So far, there have not been any systematic studies done to estimate the population of hornbills in Malaysia.

Some of the findings from the river surveys are also flawed.

“If you go around the river looking for hornbills, some species may be more common than others, such as the Oriental Pied Hornbill, which prefers the edge of the jungle.

“We could be missing species that prefer the interior. We need better population estimates and not just boat surveys.”

“In Kinabatangan, you may not be able to see any Helmeted Hornbills between 7am and 9am.

“We went out at 5am and we saw four of the birds,” Ravinder said, adding that the eight hornbill species in Borneo all have different biological behaviours,” Ravinder said.

The only Malaysian representing Asia at the recent international congress on Plants and Knowledge organised by French non-governmental organisation Plante et Planete, Sanjit presented his point of view as a photographer showcasing Malaysia’s natural heritage, and how research and art go together.

Of course, observing how the nest cavities change over time can only be done through photographs.

“I do this not so much for monetary gains but to help Ravinder and as my contribution to science and conservation,” Sanjit said.

He considers himself as the awareness arm of his wife’s hornbill project, to which Ravinder gladly agreed.

“Great photos appeal to potential funders as well,” she said.

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Behold, hornbills in TTDI
VIJENTHI NAIR The Star 28 Jun 17;

WHO would have thought a bustling city such as Kuala Lumpur could be a natural habitat for hornbills.

A pair of oriental pied hornbills have been roosting in Taman Rimba Kiara, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, for at least a decade now.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Henry Goh, who is also a birdwatcher, said the hornbills were among 42 bird species found in the park.

“Back then, there was an unlikely pair of hornbills – an oriental pied and a black hornbill.

“Although they were of two different species, both got along very well and park goers often spotted the birds foraging for food together.

“The black hornbill went missing some years back and, shortly after, another oriental pied hornbill appeared.

“So, there is a pair of oriental pied hornbills in the park now, ” he said.

Goh said it was not uncommon to find these species in lowland forests such as Taman Rimba Kiara.

“Malaysia is home to 10 species of hornbills. These species can also be found in Taman Botani Shah Alam in Selangor, Taman Negara in Pahang, Belum-Temenggor in Perak and Tasik Kenyir in Terengganu, among others.

“However, what makes the sighting in Taman Rimba Kiara special is the fact that this park is smack in the middle of a bustling city.

“The hornbills used to roost overnight on a tree near a Hindu temple.

“In recent times, it will visit the park at different times of the day.

“Residents have reported seeing it in and around Taman Tun Dr Ismail.

“Its presence at any one location is unpredictable but from the past record of sightings, the park has the highest potential of getting a glimpse of it.

“It takes a lot of patience and may take two or more trips to spot the birds,” he said.

Goh said these hornbills were highly likely to have been displaced from Taman Botani Shah Alam, which has a number of oriental pied, black and rhinoceros hornbills.

“There was a fire in Taman Botani Shah Alam in the mid-1990s and it is highly likely for big birds to have flown out of the forest to escape the fire and ended up here. I think that was how these hornbills ended up here.

“Although there are not many fig trees, which the hornbills love, Taman Rimba Kiara has many mature green trees including fruit, berry and seed-bearing species, which serve as a food source for the many residents, as well as seasonal migratory birds.

“In the wild, the birds also prey on insects, small reptiles and anything they can find. This may have been the reason they decided to make the park their home.

“Sadly, both the oriental pied hornbills have white eyes, which means they are females.

“The most distinctive feature on a hornbill to determine its gender is its eyes – males have red eyes and females have white eyes.

“So, it explains why the adult hornbills have not bred. Chances for these birds to find a mate is also very slim in this forest.

“Having said that, I believe the black hornbill last spotted a few years ago was a male but there is no record of the two species of hornbills interbreeding in a natural setting,” he said, adding that hornbills can live between 30 and 35 years.

Hornbill conservationist Ravinder Kaur said it was also not unusual to spot a couple of the oriental pied and bushy-crested in secondary forests such as Taman Rimba Kiara and Taman Rimba Ampang.

“But because of rapid development, they are rarely seen nowadays. There are a few big trees for them to nest, roost and fewer food sources such as fig trees. They also need large areas to forage,” she said.

Another avid birdwatcher and Taman Rimba Kiara nature blogger Roselyn Chuah, 58, who lives very close to Taman Rimba Kiara, said she too regularly spotted the two oriental pied hornbills.

“They do fly towards the Taman Tun Dr Ismail side. Sometimes, you can hear them but you cannot see them. There used to be another Black Hornbill too but it has not been seen for a couple of years now.

“I live at the edge of the park and I do get a lot of bird sightings as the park is practically my backyard,” she said.

Long-time TTDI resident Amy J Delph, 45, said she first saw a hornbill at the night market last year.

“I was walking along Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad 2 when I saw people pointing to a tree.

“When I looked up, I saw a hornbill perched on top of a tree.

“I was pleasantly surprised by its presence as I have never seen one, although I have lived here for more than 15 years.

“It was not very big but the distinctive features such as the long beak, black feathers and white chest made it stand out.

“Everyone at the night market was in awe at the sight of the bird.

“After that incident, I never saw the bird again until March this year.

“I was with my children in Taman Bukit Kiara for a scouting activity when I heard a bird call. I knew it was no ordinary bird by the loud sound.

“Moments later, I saw it fly past above us,” she said.

A post on the hornbill sighting by Goh on Facebook garnered about 4,000 likes with many making their way to the park in hopes of spotting it.

One of them was another long-time Taman Tun Dr Ismail resident C.K. Chan.

“Like many people in the neighbourhood, I too was surprised by the sighting of the hornbill.

“My wife and I regularly walk near Taman Rimba Kiara but never saw it.

“Maybe I need to be more alert to its calls and bring a binoculars with me just in case.

“The news definitely raised my interest in looking out for the birds every time I walk near the park,” he said.

Melaka residents surprised to see hornbills
Kelly Koh New Straits Times 28 Jun 17;

Melaka: The recent sighting of three hornbills in the coastal housing estate of Ujong Pasir has bewildered residents here.

The birds, believed to be Oriental pied hornbills, were spotted a week ago by a resident in Taman Aman.

“I spotted the birds roosting on the roof of my terrace house and was quite surprised as they were hornbills,” a resident known as Tan, in her 40s, said at her home near here.

She said the birds later flew off and she thought that was the last she would see of them.

However, on Monday, Tan said the birds were spotted perched on the branches of a Neem tree in front of her home.

“I have never seen hornbills in the wild in Melaka before and wonder how they ended up here,” she added.

Danny Soon, 54, a Klang resident who was visiting his in-laws here, was also surprised to see the birds.

“I have been coming to Ujong Pasir for the last 30 years and this is the first time I have seen hornbills,” he said.

The New Straits Times went to visit the neighbourhood yesterday but the birds were nowhere in sight.

The hornbills were recorded in a 20-second video clip while on the Neem tree in the housing area.

The birds were black and white with large, light-coloured beaks, which fit the description of the Oriental pied hornbills.

This hornbill species can be found in habitats such as broad-leaved evergreen forests, mixed deciduous forests, and island forests.

This species is found in northern India, eastern Nepal, southern China, Myanmar, southern Thailand, Indochina, Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, Java and Bali.

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Vietnam: Central province to protect endangered langurs

VietNamNet Bridge 27 Jun 17;

The central province plans to protect a herd of gray-shanked douc langurs (pygathrix cinerea) who have lived in a forest in Nui Thanh for 10 years.

Head of Quang Nam Forest Protection sub-department, Phan Tuan told the Viet Nam News that the herd, which was estimated to number around 50 individuals, was found living in a 10ha forest in Dong Co Village of Tam My Tay Commune.

Tuan said local residents could see them at close range in a forest near Hon Do Mountain, but their habitat has become endangered due to logging.

He said the sub-department had warned local residents of the existence of the langurs and moved to protect the endangered primates.

“We advised the local administration and people to help with protecting the langurs, as their habitat is disappearing due to increased logging of acacia – one of the most profitable woods in the central region,” Tuan said.

“The province will allocate a special protection zone to limit human activities and prevent illegal hunting and logging in the area.”

According to Tran Huu Vy, director of the Centre of Biodiversity Conservation, GreenViet, the langurs need special protection at the site as rapid logging damages the habitat of the endangered primates.

Vy said the province should call on support from biologists, international organisations and wildlife protection programmes in sharing experience and scientific measures on how to protect the langurs from extinction.

He warned that moving the langurs to another area would be harmful, as the primates were used to the stable environment of their current habitat.

He said the habitat needs to be isolated from human activities.

Experts from the Frankfurt Zoological Society’s Viet Nam Primate Conservation Programme said around 1,000 gray-shanked doucs were recorded living in forests of five provinces, including Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Kon Tum and Gia Lai, and Gia Lai’s National Kon Ka Kinh Park preserves the largest number of langurs.

Expert Ha Thang Long, head of the representative office of the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Viet Nam, who is an authority on gray-shanked douc studies, said the gray-shanked douc langur is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUNC) Red List as one of the world’s 25 Critically Endangered primates.

Long said the conservation programme to protect the primate species was launched in Kon Ka Kinh National Park in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai in 2006.

Long said biologists counted 250 langurs living in the park – the largest troop in Viet Nam.

Long said the Frankfurt Zoological Society provides funding of between US$18,000 and $25,000 a year to support rangers at eight stations in the park in protection of biodiversity and the langurs since 2010.

Illegal logging and hunting is seen as the biggest threat to endangered species in the central region.

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India: Management plan to protect, recover dugong

Ramanathapuram The Hindu 27 Jun 17;

To be implemented jointly with Forest department and NGOs

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which was implementing dugong recovery project in Gulf of Mannar, would make ready the management plan to protect the endangered species in the Gulf of Mannar in three months, K. Sivakumar, head and scientist, WII, said.

Addressing the first stakeholders’ consultation workshop here on Tuesday, he said the management plan of Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park and Biosphere Reserve would be implemented jointly with Tamil Nadu Forest department and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The WII would make ready the management plan to protect and recover dugong, the endangered marine mammal, protected under schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 in the Gulf of Mannar region, he said.

As part of the recovery programme, WII proposed to protect and recover dugong in the Gulf of Mannar region and other endangered species such as Gangetic Dolphin in the Ganges and the Bramaputra and Great Indian Bustard in the western region.

“For the first time we have introduced incentive programme for fishermen who saved dugong if they were caught in their fishing nets,” he said.

Thanks to the awareness campaign launched by the Forest department under the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening project, fishermen in the region had released and saved dugong entangled in the fishing nets, he said.

The WII honoured the fishermen with cash award and merit certificates at the workshop, he added.

In a bid to sensitise the children of fishermen in the coastal areas to the project, the WII proposed to conduct competitive examinations on dugong and biosphere in the Gulf of Mannar next month and award ‘dugong scholarships’ for 50 children, he said.

The scholarship would be paid for two years and each selected child would be given monthly scholarship of ₹500, Mr Sivakumar said. “Next year, we will extend the scholarship programme to cover 50 more children,” he said adding the examinations would be open to class IX and XI students.

The dugong scholarship and fishermen incentive programmes had been designed to motivate the fisher folk in protecting and saving the endangered species, he said. The dugong recovery project would be implemented for five years in the first phase, he said. The workshop was attended among others by Deepak S Bilgi, Wildlife Warden, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, and scientists from various research institutions.

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jun 17

Pulau Sekudu is alive!
wild shores of singapore

Logging in Malaysia’s Ulu Muda forest threatens wildlife and water supplies

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Malaysia: Forest reserve houses iconic wildlife and we intend to help out - experts

The Star 27 Jun 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Environmen-talists are coming together to restore a mini forest reserve teeming with wildlife in Sabah’s interior.

The Trusan Sugut Forest Reserve (Trusan Sugut FR) in the state’s north-eastern part, which is home to 365 butterfly species, 57 types of amphibians, 103 reptile species, 335 bird varieties and 168 kinds of mammals, was recently elevated from a Class II to Class I (totally protected area) forest reserve.

However, The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia says there is still much to be done in terms of restoring the forest.

Its executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said the 8,690ha forest reserve was severely degraded in many parts due to human activity.

He said natural regeneration took a long time and usually, the altered conditions did not suit the orang utan and other wildlife.

“We intend to lend nature a helping hand, and urge the public to support our fundraising efforts for Sabah’s wildlife haven,” he said in a statement.

The Trusan Sugut FR houses ico­nic wildlife such as the proboscis monkey, banteng, Bornean orang­utan and Sundaland clouded leo­pard, among others.

In terms of habitat, the forest reserve also boasts of various forest types including endangered ones such as lowland mixed dipterocarp forest, a variant of which is the kapur (limestone) forest, lowland kerangas (heath) forest, lowland peat swamp forest, and lowland freshwater swamp forest.

WWF-Malaysia senior programme officer for orangutan conservation Donna Simon said some parts of Trusan Sugut FR occupied by Bornean orangutan had become severely degraded due to past logging activities and fires.

“We are keen to help the Sabah Forestry Department restore the landscape with native and fast-growing tree species,” she said.

She said the Bornean orangutan was a tree-dependent species which used trees for food and shelter, and usually moved about by swinging between treetops

“The Trusan Sugut population is small and isolated. As such, connecting the peat swamp forest to the west of Sugut River will serve as the last lowland area hosting a significant population of orangutan in the northern half of Sabah,” Simon said.

Some RM1.8mil is needed to restore 150ha of the forest reserve, depending on the type of planting method for the compartments involved.

The forest reserve is bordered by oil palm plantations and human settlements, which puts it at risk for agricultural and domestic waste pollution, encroachment, poaching, illegal harvesting of forest trees, and many more.

WWF-Malaysia’s Anti-Poaching manager Sharon Koh said poachers should be deterred from entering Trusan Sugut also because they could start forest fires simply by throwing cigarette butts or leaving a camp fire unattended.

Those wishing to contribute to the restoration of the forest can do so via

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Wan Junaidi: Indonesia keeping to pledge over cross-border haze

Borneo Post 27 Jun 17;

KUCHING: Indonesia has adopted systematic measures to address the cross-border haze that affects Southeast Asia, in keeping with its assurance to ensure an end to the problem by 2020, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said he had held numerous discussions with the Indonesian authorities from the provincial to the national level on the matter.

The Indonesian government had also signed an agreement on a Transboundary Haze-Free Asean by 2020, convinced that it can address the problem by that year, Wan Junaidi said to reporters at his Aidilfitri open house here Sunday.

Transboundary haze pollution arising from land and forest fires, mainly in Indonesia, over the past two decades have had social, economic and environmental impacts in the Asean region.

Wan Junaidi said Indonesia had established a task force comprising 3,000 police and military personnel to put out forest fires.

It had also set up a department to coordinate the task of extinguishing the forest fires and established a monitoring centre in Jakarta to provide information on forest fires, he said.

He also said that Indonesia had withdrawn over 2,000 concessions for oil palm cultivation on peat soil which, it is believed, could trigger forest-clearing fires in that country.

Wan Junaidi said he had also met representatives of Indonesian plantation associations to discuss how to address the haze problem.

The minister said that last year, a plantation company from Sarawak was also found to have engaged in open burning in Indonesia.

He advised plantation entrepreneurs, especially those managing oil palm plantations in the state, to refrain from engaging in open burning.

Wan Junaidi said he had instructed enforcement departments and agencies to take the necessary regulatory measures to curb open burning in the dry season.

“We do not want a repeat of what happened in the oil palm plantation in Baram last year that can cause severe haze in the state,” he said.

He said he had also ordered a stop to open burning in peninsular Malaysia in view of the approach of the dry season. — Bernama

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Indonesia: Insurance company to pay for coral reef damage in Raja Ampat

Haeril Halim The Jakarta Post 27 Jun 17;

The government says it has agreed to a proposal by MV Caledonian Sky, which is owned by a Swedish company, for financial compensation from an insurance company for extensive damage the ship had done to coral reefs in Raja Ampat, Papua.

The government was initially cautious about the proposal, saying an insurance company would always try to pay as little as possible in compensation.

Environmentalists and academics estimate that Indonesia might suffer losses of US$18.6 million from damage to the coral reefs caused by the cruise ship in March. The damaged area totals 13,532 square meters.

Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, whose office is in charge of the case, said the government had agreed to the company’s proposal to recompense for the coral damage through insurance.

“We are now negotiating with the insurance company,” Luhut recently told The Jakarta Post at the Presidential Palace.

Luhut, however, did not provide any figures detailing the payment the insurance company was expected to make for the environmental losses. He expressed hopes that the negotiation would soon secure agreement on the payment.

In March, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya had threatened to bring the case to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, saying her office had been collecting necessary documents to support the planned lawsuit. (ary)

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Best of our wild blogs: 26 Jun 17

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats! on 08 Jul 2017
Love our MacRitchie Forest

25 Jun - 2 Jul: Week 8 of Pesta Ubin
Pesta Ubin 2017

Beting Bronok slowly dying
wild shores of singapore

ButterflyCircle : Conservation and Education
Butterflies of Singapore

Banded Bullfrog (Kaloula pulchra) @ Pasir Ris
Monday Morgue

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Steps to beef up process of wildlife impact assessment: Desmond Lee

Audrey Tan Straits Times 26 Jun 17;

When the Phase 1 environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the Cross Island MRT line was released in February last year, it described the impact of soil works on surrounding wildlife as "moderate".

But members of the public were left confused. What exactly does "moderate" impact mean?

There were concerns about how EIA studies are done after the release of the report which referred to possible plans for a tunnel under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) as part of the MRT line.

The Government now wants to strengthen the process, and the National Parks Board is working with partners to look at how it can be done, Mr Desmond Lee, Second Minister for National Development, told The Straits Times last week during his first interview as full minister.

"We are seeing how we can strengthen the EIA process, taking on board all the lessons that we picked up in the last few EIAs - improving baseline survey methodology, understanding of Singapore's perspective and situation," said Mr Lee, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs.

Baseline surveys are done to identify the different types of wildlife in an area. "So if an EIA consultant comes from abroad, they must recognise the fragility of our environment, the fragmentation of certain nature areas, and recognise that when they do an EIA, they have to recognise context."

More details will be revealed at a later date, added Mr Lee.

His comments come in the wake of two high-profile developments - the Cross Island Line, which is expected to be completed in 2030, and the Mandai eco-tourism hub.

In both cases, EIAs were done by international consultancy Environmental Resources Management, which was founded in Britain. It explored ways in which works could be carried out to reduce impact to surrounding flora and fauna.

When the two reports were released months apart last year, they were disputed by nature groups which pointed to the lack of clarity of terms used in the reports, and the lack of consideration of the Singapore context.

For instance, the EIA on Mandai had determined that impact could be reduced from "medium" to "small" if mitigation measures, such as forest restoration and avoiding work in certain areas, were enforced.

But the Nature Society (Singapore) pointed out that the magnitude of the impact could be underplayed, considering the project site's strategic location just outside Singapore's largest nature reserve.

Ecology consultants and scientists are encouraged by Mr Lee's announcement that the Government is looking into strengthening the processes behind EIAs.

On the importance of ensuring that EIAs are tailored to Singapore's context, Ms Natalia Huang, principal ecologist at environmental consultancy Ecology Matters, pointed to the uniqueness of Singapore's human-dominated environment and small size.

"Other countries may look at landscape-scale impacts spanning say, 100km, but Singapore doesn't have such a scale," she said.

Mr David Tan, a bird scientist from the National University of Singapore, said it is important that baseline studies involve more than just coming up with a checklist of species, adding that connectivity between green plots is also important.

He said: "It is also important to consider whether development works in an area would affect how animals move from place to place."

Interview with Desmond Lee: Youngest minister a nature buff with a keen eye
Singapore's youngest Cabinet minister Desmond Lee highlights the importance of conservation and the need to balance between development and protecting our biodiversity.
Audrey Tan Straits Times 26 Jun 17;

Dressed in khaki and armed with a pair of binoculars, newly minted Second Minister for National Development and Home Affairs Desmond Lee arrived for an interview last Thursday at Windsor Nature Park looking ready for a bird-watching adventure.

It was an apt look for the youngest minister of Singapore's current Cabinet, a nature buff with a keen eye: During a walk around the park, the 40-year-old spotted and identified two dragonflies - a common scarlet and a crimson dropwing - each barely the length of a human finger.

But the easy demeanour of the father of three children - a seven- year-old daughter and two sons, aged three and five - spoke of more than just his enjoyment of nature.

It also reflected his approach to governance: one that involves walking the ground and speaking to different people, from nature enthusiasts - from whom he learnt how to identify birds - to construction company representatives, policemen and heritage group leaders, who hail from some of the sectors of society he interacts with frequently.

"The Government has no monopoly on knowledge or perspectives. We have to eat humble pie, we have to talk to people and get their perspectives... You want people's views, because it impacts them. And they give us a wealth of local knowledge and ideas," he said.

Mr Lee, whose father is former Cabinet minister Lee Yock Suan, entered politics in 2011 as a backbencher in Jurong GRC.

In 2013, he was made minister of state for national development, before being promoted to senior minister of state in 2015, taking on the additional portfolio of home affairs as well. In his latest promotion on May 1 this year, he became Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and National Development, which made him the youngest full minister in the current Cabinet.

Over the years, he has maintained close ties with conservation groups, most recently joining marine enthusiasts last week in discussions over Sisters' Islands Marine Park, Singapore's one and only marine park located south of the mainland.

Audrey Tan

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Malaysia: Environment Ministry calls for freeze on open burning permits; cites dry monsoon

MOHD ROJI KAWI New Straits Times 26 Jun 17;

PETRA JAYA: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has instructed forest authorities nationwide to temporarily freeze the issuance of open burning permits as a preventive measure against the recurrence of the haze.

Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the move is made in light of the unusually dry monsoon season, which is expected to cast its spell over several parts of country beginning next month.

Open burning, said Junaidi, will only compound the situation and contribute to haze since the dry spell is expected to last until October.

“At the same time, Indonesian authorities have given their assurance that they will monitor (open burning) in their territory.

“In the past, open burning in Indonesia had triggered transboundary haze and affected Malaysia.

“We respect the commitment from Indonesian authorities and we should also do our part to stop haze from recurring,” the Santubong MP told reporters when met at his Hari Raya open house here today.

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