Best of our wild blogs: 4 Jan 17

2017 Walk Dates (I)
BES Drongos

Cambodian NGO engages local law firm to bring action against Singapore statutory boards and companies
The Independent

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Singapore-registered ship involved in collision off Johor port

Channel NewsAsia 4 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: A collision between a Singapore-registered container vessel and a Gibraltar-registered container vessel off Pasir Gudang Port, Johor Malaysia on Tuesday (Jan 3) resulted in about 300 tonnes of oil spillage in the surrounding waters, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said on Wednesday.

In a press release, MPA said it was notified of the collision between Singapore-registered container vessel WAN HAI 301 and Gibraltar-registered container vessel APL DENVER by the Johor Port Authority (JPA) at about 11.50pm on Tuesday.

There have been no reports of injury and traffic in the East Johor Straits and Singapore’s port operations remains unaffected, the Singapore authority said.

According to MPA, APL DENVER's ship master reported that one of the ship's bunker tanks had sustained damage resulting in about 300 tonnes of oil spillage.

JPA has deployed four anti-pollution craft on site and an oil boom around APL DENVER to contain the oil spill.

In Singapore, some oil patches were spotted and the spillage has been contained off the western side of Pulau Ubin, MPA said, adding that it has activated eight anti-pollution craft with dispersant spraying capabilities to clean up the spilled oil.

MPA will be investigating the cause of the collision, it said.


Collision of Container Vessels WAN HAI 301 and APL DENVER
MPA media release 4 Jan 17;

At about 2350 hrs on 3rd January 2017, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) was notified by the Johor Port Authority (JPA) of a collision between Singapore-registered container vessel WAN HAI 301 and a Gibraltar-registered container vessel APL DENVER off Pasir Gudang Port, Johor Malaysia.

The Master of APL DENVER reported that one of her bunker tanks sustained damage resulting in approximately 300 tonnes of oil spillage. JPA has deployed four anti-pollution craft on site and an oil boom around APL DENVER to contain the oil spill.

In Singapore, some oil patches were spotted and the spillage has been contained off the western side of Pulau Ubin. MPA has activated a total of eight anti-pollution craft with dispersant spraying capabilities to clean up the spilled oil.

There have been no reports of injury. Traffic in the East Johor Straits and Singapore’s port operations remains unaffected.

MPA as the flag state of WAN HAI 301 will also be investigating the cause of the collision.

S’pore-registered container vessel involved in collision off Johor coast; oil spill spotted in S’pore waters
Today Online 4 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — A locally-registered container vessel was involved in a collision with another ship off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor on Tuesday night (Jan 3), resulting in around 300 tonnes of oil spillage, said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Wednesday.

The incident, which involved Singapore vessel WAN HAI 301 and Gibraltar-registered container vessel APL DENVER, caused some oil patches to be spotted in Singapore waters, off the western side of Pulau Ubin, said the MPA.

Eight anti-pollution craft have been dispatched with dispersant spraying capabilities to clean up the spill, MPA added.

There have been no reports of injuries and traffic in the East Johor Straits and Singapore’s port operations remain unaffected.

The MPA was notified of the collision by the Johor Port Authority (JPA) at about 11.50pm on Tuesday night. The JPA had deployed four anti-pollution craft after APL Denver had reported damage to one of her bunker tanks.

As of 12pm, the two vessels were still located in the waters off Pasir Gudang Port, showed data from live maritime tracking site MarineTraffic.

MPA is investigating the accident.

Two container ships collide off Johor, spilling about 300 tonnes of oil
RIZALMAN HAMMIM New Straits Times 4 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: Two container vessels collided off the Pasir Gudang Port on Tuesday night, resulting in an oil spill. Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it was notified by the Johor Port Authority (JPA) of a collision between Singapore-registered container vessel Wan Hai 301 and Gibraltar-registered container vessel APL Denver which occurred at about 11.50pm on Tuesday.

In a statement, MPA said the master of APL Denver reported that one of the vessel's bunker tanks sustained damage, causing a spillage of about 300 tonnes of oil.

"JPA has deployed four anti-pollution crafts on site and an oil boom around the vessel to contain the oil spill. In Singapore, some oil patches were spotted and the spillage has been contained off the western side of Pulau Ubin.

"We have activated a total of eight anti-pollution craft with dispersant spraying capabilities to clean up the spilled oil," said MPA. It said there were no reports of injury and traffic in eastern Johor Straits and Singapore’s port operations remains unaffected.

Johor oil spill: Most of oil drifted into Singapore waters
RIZALMAN HAMMIM New Straits Times 4 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: Most of the oil spill that occurred following the collision of two container vessels in waters off the Johor Port in Pasir Gudang on Tuesday, have drifted into Singapore waters, State Health and Environment Executive Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said, according the Department of Environment's (DOE) observation, Pulau Ubin in Singapore was impacted the most from the spill.

"The collision occurred when the vessel Wan Hai suffered a power failure, causing it to become uncontrollable, and it hit APL Denver's starboard tank No 6, causing the oil spill," said Ayub. He said DOE is currently carrying out an investigation on the incident.

Pulau Ubin, located on the north east of Singapore, is one of the island republic's last nature retreats and plays host to a significant number of birds, both native and migratory.

Only about 100 people live on the island currently. The extent of the damage the oil spill could have on Pulau Ubin remains unknown for now. Earlier today, it was reported that the two container vessels, one registered in Singapore while another from Gibraltar, had collided on Tuesday night.

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in a statement had said that APL Denver reported that one of its bunker tanks sustained damage, causing a spillage of about 300 tonnes of oil.

Both MPA and the Johor Port Authority have deployed vessels to contain the spill and execute cleanup operations.

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PUB to step up surveillance patrols at Marina Bay after another otter injured by fish hook

Lydia Lam, Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE - A day after another otter was spotted with a fishing hook and line embedded in its body, Singapore's water agency PUB reiterated its stance against illegal fishing and said surveillance patrols will be stepped up at Marina Bay, where the latest incident reportedly happened.

In response to a query by The Straits Times on the Marina Bay incident, a PUB spokesman said on Tuesday (Jan 3) that PUB officers " carry out daily surveillance at the reservoirs and take enforcement action against illegal fishing - fishing at no-fishing areas and/or using live bait".

"Surveillance patrols will be stepped up at Marina Bay," the spokesman added.

Those caught fishing at no-fishing areas or using live bait can be fined up to $3,000.

The Straits Times on Monday (Jan 2) reported that a female otter, believed to be the mother of a new litter, was spotted by otter watchers at the floating platform on Monday morning with a fishing hook and line in its body.

Anglers were photographed fishing at a no-fishing zone along Marina Bay that same day.

PUB said it urges anglers "not to put themselves and other people or animals at risk by fishing at no-fishing areas".

It also encouraged members of the public to call the PUB hotline on 1800-2255-782 if they spot any illegal or unsafe fishing activities.

It would be helpful to provide the date, time and location of the incident, along with photos and videos, PUB added.

Legal fishing areas nearby include designated fishing areas at Marina Reservoir, two stretches of designated fishing areas at Kallang Basin.

PUB reminded anglers to "take note of the do's and don'ts as reservoirs are common spaces shared by other water sport users and the public".

"While enjoying these recreational spaces, anglers should take responsibility by practising good fishing habits such as discarding hooks and bait into bins, and not hook the otters," said its spokesman.

The Straits Times understands that the otter watching community have not managed to confirm whether or not the hook is still in the female otter.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society is not actively trying to capture the otter to remove the hook as capture can be very stressful for the animal.

An otter pup that was spotted with a fish hook in its eye in April last year (2016) recovered from the wound without any external help.

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LTA installing smarter, energy-saving street lights

Zhaki Abdullah, Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Jan 17;

All street lamps will be replaced with energy-efficient light emitting diodes (LED) in five years, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday.

The replacement of 4,000 lights at 500 low-traffic and residential roads will be completed by next year.

By 2019, 25,000 street lights in central Singapore, including areas such as Rochor Road, Kallang Road and New Bridge Road, will be retrofitted, the LTA said. A tender will be called.

There are more than 95,000 street lights islandwide to be replaced by 2022.

An LTA spokesman said the new lights, which will replace the orange glow of the conventional high pressure sodium vapour lamps with white light, are about 25 per cent more energy efficient.

Sodium vapour lamps must be replaced every three years, while LED lights have to be replaced only every decade. "This helps conserve energy and reduce maintenance and manpower costs," said an LTA spokesman.

Higher-powered street lights will be installed along expressways and arterial roads, which require greater illumination.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) said the switch was a "fantastic" move towards energy efficiency, and could net energy savings of up to 45 per cent.

He said that even more could be saved with the introduction of smart controls that adjust light output based on road usage.

"The lights could dim at around 3am and become brighter only when a vehicle approaches," said the executive director of the Energy Research Institute @ NTU.

Other cities are also making the change to LED street lights. This year, London will replace more than 14,000 street lights.

Four years ago, Los Angeles replaced more than 100,000 street lights with LED ones. The move is estimated to save the American city $14.5 million annually.

The LTA is also developing a remote control and monitoring system that will allow street lights to be more responsive to weather conditions such as heavy rain.

While street lights currently follow a pre-programmed sunrise and sunset schedule, they can also be switched on in periods of low visibility such as during the haze.

However, this is now a process that has to be done by hand at each lamp, taking a few hours, said an LTA spokesman. The new system will allow the lights to be activated remotely.

The system, which will be implemented by 2022, will have automated fault detection and alert capabilities, making the maintenance of street lights more efficient.

The LTA gets feedback on about 800 faulty street lights per month. Checks are conducted nightly, and it takes about a month to check all the street lights here. The new system will allow the LTA to respond more quickly to faults.

The Government Technology Agency (GovTech) said it will work with the LTA to test the feasibility of using the remote monitoring system in an islandwide wireless sensor network.

The sensors will be used to collect and transmit environmental data such as temperature and humidity. This will enable "more efficient delivery of smart city services", said a GovTech spokesman.

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Raffles Country Club to be acquired to make way for high speed rail developments

ALFRED CHUA Today Online 4 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — The 143ha site in Tuas occupied by the Raffles Country Club will be acquired for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project, the Government announced on Wednesday (Jan 4).

The club, one of Singapore's oldest that opened in 1988, will need to hand the site over to the SLA by July 31, 2018 — 10 years before its 30-year lease is due to expire (on Oct 31, 2028). It is the second country club here to have to cease operations because of the HSR, after Jurong Country Club, which has to make way for the terminus in Jurong East.

The Raffles Country Club site — located at Tuas, and bordered by the Tengeh Reservoir and the Ayer Rajah Expressway — was deemed most suitable to run HSR tracks at ground level before it goes underground towards the Jurong East Terminus, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Singapore Land Aithority (SLA) said in a joint media briefing. They added that they came to the decision after having "undertaken extensive carefully select and consider all options".

The site will also be used for the required HSR crossover tracks and a side track to temporarily house a train near the border for safety or operational reasons, the authorities said.

The plot of land will also be used for the Cross Island Line's western depot, as well as other transport related needs, they added.

There is also the potential of having train testing facilities at the site, although that would be dependant on engineering and feasibility studies.

Compensation will be based on market value for the acquired land as at acquisition date, with the authorities saying they would render as much help as possible to the club. The Government offered Jurong Country Club S$89.8 million for the 67ha site but the club is asking for almost double the amount in compensation.

On why the period of July 31, 2018 was given as the club's move-out date, SLA's chief executive Tan Boon Khai said this was because in the second half of 2018, engineering tests would have to be carried out at the site prior to construction.

Raffles Country Club members 'deeply disappointed' by land acquisition announcement
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 4 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Members of the Raffles Country Club (RCC) were surprised by an announcement on Wednesday (Jan 4) that the Government would acquire land the club sits on for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) and for a Cross Island Line depot.

“Obviously we’re deeply disappointed to hear the news. I think we will work with the authorities to make sure we deal with them fairly, if there’s any compensation," said General Committee president Paul Singh. He declined to go into specifics, saying the club needed to hold further talks with authorities.

Still, some members told Channel NewsAsia they had a sense that a land acquisition was on the cards. After news of Jurong Country Club's acquisition for the HSR project was broke, RCC member Maria Teo said she and others at the club had speculated that RCC would lose part of its two 18-hole golf courses, but not both.

Another member, Theresa Ng said she paid about S$40,000 for the membership about 20 years ago. She and Ms Teo said they had no plans to get another golf course membership after RCC closes.

A former Jurong Country Club member who wanted to be known as Arthur said he and a few others bought RCC membership in February 2016, and were "prepared" for such an acquisition. But they were not expecting the move to come so soon.

He paid about S$20,000 for weekday membership. "I will not sell my membership now. Nobody will buy. If they compensate me, I'm lucky. I won't lose that much".

He is in two minds about getting another golf club membership. "Even if you want another membership, you're scared. You know - is the Government going to acquire it too? I don't know if Sentosa or Tanah Merah or Laguna Club will be next. Will Singapore eventually end up without golf courses?"

Golf club membership broker Fion Phua said about 10 existing RCC members have contacted her for advice since they were informed of the notice. One caller had submitted an application for membership at the club on Tuesday and that it was pending approval from the club.

Ms Phua, who is sales director of Tee-Up Marketing Enterprises, said members were asking her if they should sell their membership or wait for Government compensation. “The membership is currently between S$32,000 to S$33,000. If they sell it now, minus the transfer fee of S$21,400, they might get about S$10,000 for the membership. I told them it might be better to hold out for the compensation, and in the meantime, enjoy the golf course and make more memories there until it is closed down.”

RCC has about 2,650 golfing members. Memberships are going for between S$32,500 to S$34,000 based on a check of club membership broker websites.

The club will be required to vacate its premises by Jul 31, 2018.

Additional reporting by Lianne Chia and Liyana Othman.

- CNA/ly

Raffles Country Club to make way for KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail
Lianne Chia and Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 4 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: The 143-hectare Raffles Country Club site in Tuas will be acquired by authorities to make way for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project.

The club announced the move on its website on Wednesday (Jan 4). The announcement included a letter from the Singapore Land Authority informing the club of the acquisition.

According to the announcement, the land is also needed for the Cross Island Line's western depot and other transport-related uses.

"We understand that many of you may have queries regarding the future of RCC," the club said in the announcement. "We would like to assure you that the club has been contacted by the relevant Government agencies and we will provide members with a more detailed update in due course."

The club will be required to vacate its premises by Jul 31, 2018, according to the letter.


On Wednesday (Jan 4), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SLA said the Raffles Country Club site is the “optimal site” in terms of location, size and orientation.

Leaders of Singapore and Malaysia had signed a bilateral agreement for the high-speed rail last month, where it was agreed that the HSR will cross the Straits of Johor via a bridge with a height clearance of 25 metres above the water level.

LTA and SLA explained that as the bridge is high, it has to be continued before it can be brought down to land and into the tunnel. “So there are not a lot of options in terms of where we can site it without having to make a lot of land acquisitions”, they said.

They said the Raffles Country Club site is the most suitable location to run the HSR tracks immediately after the bridge crossing. It will then enter an underground tunnel to the HSR terminus in Jurong East.

Space is also needed for HSR crossover tracks and a siding facility that will temporarily house a train near the border for safety or operational reasons, if necessary.

The site is also needed to provide train parking and maintenance facilities for the Cross Island Line's Western Depot, LTA and SLA added, as well as other transport-related needs which may include train testing facilities. Further details of the projects will be given after detailed feasibility and engineering studies, they said.

By size, the 143-hectare site is the biggest land acquisition in recent years. The club is the second country club – after Jurong Country Club – to be acquired by authorities for the HSR project. It closed for good on Dec 31 last year, ahead of its lease expiry in 2035. The 67-hectare site it was on will be occupied by the HSR terminus, as well as mixed-use developments and community facilities.

“This is a big acquisition and we would like to reiterate that the government does not take acquisition lightly,” said SLA’s Chief Executive Tan Boon Khai. “We will consider all options including the technical and suitability details before making the acquisition.”

He added that under the Land Acquisition Act, the club will be compensated full market value, and SLA will work closely with the club’s management and assist the club throughout the acquisition process. Jurong Country Club was awarded S$89.8 million by the Collector of Land Revenue – an amount about half of what the club asked for in its claim for compensation.


When contacted by Channel NewsAsia, the club said it was given the acquisition notice just after 10am on Wednesday. It has “several direct channels” of reaching out to members, and that all have been informed of the acquisition.

The club, which was founded in 1988, has two 18-hole golf courses, and its lease was due to expire in 2028. A check on club membership broker websites showed RCC memberships going for between S$32,500 to S$34,000. It has about 2,650 golfing members.

The high-speed rail, which is slated for completion in 2026, is expected to cut travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to about 90 minutes. The line will run for 350km, with 335km in Malaysia and 15km in Singapore.

There will be eight stations in total, with the two terminal stations at Jurong East in Singapore and Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.


Analysts told Channel NewsAsia that acquiring the site – which runs parallel to the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) - was the most logical decision for the high-speed rail project.

Transport analyst Dr Walter Theseira of SIM University said that, unlike mass transit lines which can curve, the high-speed rail line cannot afford to do so in order to maintain its speed.

“If you look at the geography of the area, one very likely alignment is ... straight alongside the existing AYE for much of the length of the AYE in the Tuas area,” said Dr Theseira. “That would be a very straight alignment, and if you build it, in fact, along the grounds of the Raffles Country Club, then you don't have to take over, for example, industrial land to do that.”

He added that the authorities may also have chosen the site as the most cost-effective way to guide trains underground from above ground.

“It’s going to be a lot cheaper to do that, if for example you were to take over a stretch of land which currently doesn’t have development on it, and basically dig the tunnel there and cover the tunnel afterwards,” he said.

“If you were to build the tunnel, however, underneath existing structures, it’s generally a lot more costly and complicated and I think we want to minimise that kind of cost as far as possible. That would be unavoidable once the HSR gets into the Jurong area, but I think there’s a chance to lower the cost by taking over the Raffles Country Club.”

Neither would it be feasible to run the line below an operational golf course, said Chong Kee Sen, immediate past president of the Institution of Engineers, Singapore.

He explained that a high-speed train entering Singapore would require a long strip of land for it to maintain its speed as it moves underground.

“The transition has to be smooth, the gradient has to be more gentle, so it basically affects the surface of the RCC for a certain stretch before the train really goes into the tunnel," said Mr Chong.

He added that the land that might be too shallow in parts to support golf games above it, and that the strip could stretch across much of the site’s courses.

Additional reporting by Loke Kok Fai.

- CNA/lc

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Malaysia: Over 10,000 evacuated as Terengganu floods worsen


KUALA TERENGGANU: The floods in Terengganu have worsened with the number of flood victims in the state increasing to 10,770 on Wednesday.

At 6pm Tuesday, six districts - Hulu Terengganu, Besut, Setiu, Kemaman, Dungun and Marang - recorded more than 4,000 evacuees after low-lying areas were inundated.

The evacuees from 3,170 families were transferred to 125 relief centres in these districts.

The Social Welfare Department's InfoBanjir app showed that Besut recorded the highest number of evacuees with 4,170 victims, followed by Hulu Terengganu with 3,628 victims.

As of Tuesday night, 10 rivers had also breached the danger level.

Nine major rivers in Terengganu exceed critical level, evacuations underway
BERNAMA New Straits Times 3 Jan 17;

KUALA TERENGGANU: The Drainage and Irrigation Department, via the website, reports that four major rivers in Terengganu have now exceeded the danger level, two rivers have exceeded the warning level while three others are above the alert level.

One of the four major rivers is the Besut River in Kampung La, which is at 23.64 metres (exceeding the danger level of 21.80 metres), while the level of the same river at Jambatan Keruak is at 36.48 metres, exceeding the danger level of 35 metres.

Three other rivers exceeding the danger level are in Hulu Terengganu, Dungun and Marang: Sungai Berang in Kampung Menerong is at 25 metres (exceeded the danger level of 24.50 metres), Sungai Dungun in Kuala Jengai is at 22.21 metres, (compared to the danger level of 21 metres) and Sungai Nerus in Kampung Langkap is at 21.55 metres, compared to the danger level of 21.50 metres.

The portal reports that two rivers have risen above the warning level: Sungai Tebak in Kemaman, which has risen to 18.36 metres (compared with the warning level of 17.80 metres) and Sungai Telemong in Kuala Ping, which is up to 19.33 metres (compared with the warning level of 19.30 metres).

Meanwhile, the Dungun River in Pasir Raja has risen to 36.14 metres (compared with the alert level of 36 metres), while the same river at Jambatan Jerangau is at 10.91 metres (compared with the alert level of 10.90 metres).

Sungai Besut at Jambatan Jerteh has risen to 10.91 metres (compared with the alert level of 10.90 metres).

Continuous heavy rain since last night has resulted in the water level in several areas, which had receded, to rise again early this morning. Residents in Hulu Terengganu and Kemaman are reported to be in the process of evacuation to relief centres nearby. -- BERNAMA

Rivers reach danger level in two states

PETALING JAYA: Continuous rain over the next few days will worsen the flood situation in Kelantan and Terengganu as swollen rivers threaten to burst their banks.

As of 4pm yesterday, three rivers in Kelantan and 10 in Terengganu had breached the danger level while several rivers reached the alert level.

National Disaster Management Agency operations implementation division director Datuk Azizan Abu Taat said the situation remained serious in Kelantan, especially Rantau Panjang.

“We hope things will improve. However, rising river waters from persistent rain over the next few days will only make things worse,” he said yesterday.

He added that floods in Terengganu would also worsen if the state continued to experience heavy rainfall.

“At present, we have some 5,000 personnel on the ground to help with evacuation and relief operations and will be sending more to Kelantan and Terengganu,” Azizan said.

Several roads in both states were inundated and were partially or totally impassable to vehicles.

Careful now: A couple wading through the floods with their baby as they head to an evauation centre in Rantau Panjang, Kelantan. — Bernama
Careful now: A couple wading through the floods with their baby as they head to an evauation centre in Rantau Panjang, Kelantan. — Bernama

Just when the sun was seen in Terengganu on Monday, rain lashed most parts of the state that night.

The number of evacuees, which had dropped to 298 on Monday, rose to 4,352 as at 9pm at 77 evacuation centres.

Hulu Terengganu recorded the highest number of evacuees, with 1,845 at 24 relief centres, followed by Besut with 1,476 at 23 relief centres, Kemaman with 299, Setiu (443), Dungun (259) and Marang (30).

The floods, which started on New Year’s Eve, had affected the livelihood of many people, especially in Hulu Terengganu where 50% of them were either rubber tappers or farmers, and the rest small business operators.

Rohana Haksah, 37, said she and her farmer husband had to be evacuated and the plantation was inundated by floodwaters.

“Each day our combined income is about RM100.

“But it’s been four days with no income and we don’t know how long this will last.

“We are lucky that we have some savings to wait out these floods and to cater for our four children’s needs, but the expenditure has to be drastically reduced,” Rohana added.

Rubber tapper Mohammad Daud, 61, from Kampung Keruak in Jerteh, Besut, said his daily income of RM100 was important to him.

“I have 10 children and some of them are still in school.

“We shifted about 3am yesterday and looking at the weather I guess I will not be able to work for at least a week.”

24 schools closed on first day
The Star 4 Jan 17;

HULU TERENGGANU: Floods in many parts of the state forced 24 schools to be closed on the first day of classes.

State Education Department director Shafruddin Ali Hussin said yesterday that of the 24 schools with 4,196 students and 544 teachers, 12 were located in Hulu Terengganu, 10 in Setiu and one each in Besut and Kemaman.

“On Monday, we decided that only three schools will remain closed on Tuesday, but due to the rain later on Monday night, which caused many areas to flood, we had to order the 24 schools to be closed.

“This is for their safety as we saw that the weather and floods had worsened.”

However, the gloomy weather, the downpour and floods did not dampen the spirits of some 242 students of SK Tengkawang here.

They were all looking cheerful and excited on the first day of school, especially those in Year One.

Many of them were smartly dressed in their new school uniform and with their bags despite some being in slippers.

Muhd Thaqif Wafiq Mohd Ridzuan, eight, from Kampung Kepah here, said that he decided to wear slippers to school because the compound of his house was still flooded.

“I am afraid my new school shoes will get wet as there is still water surrounding my house.

“Furthermore, my feet have been itchy due to the floods and I am not able to wear my school shoes so my mother advised me to wear slippers,” he said.

Another classmate, Firdaus Mohamad Saiful Nizam, eight, was also unable to wear his school shoes because his house was also flooded.

However, he was happy to be in school after the long break.

“I got up at 5am today because I was excited to go to school,” he said.

Headmaster Suhaimi Wahab was glad that the school almost recorded full attendance, with only two absentees, but was worried that the school may be ordered to close due to the heavy rain.

“Some parents may not be able to send their kids if the road to the school is affected,” he said.

Rohayu Mat Ideris, 30, from Kampung Jeneris fetched her children from school at about 9.30am.

“It’s been raining heavily and I am afraid the roads heading to the school might be inaccessible,” she added.

Terengganu floods: 63 schools closed

KUALA TERENGGANU: The worsening floods have forced a total of 63 schools to close on Wednesday.

State Education Department director Shafruddin Ali Hussin said the 63 schools, with a total of 16,938 students and 1,949 teachers, were in Hulu Terengganu (24 schools), Besut (19), Setiu (19) and Kemaman (one).

He said of the of the 63 schools, 51 were primary schools while 12 were secondary schools.

"Yesterday we announced that 24 schools would be closed but we had decided today that another 39 schools had to be closed due to the worsening floods," he said.

Flooding in Malaysia force 23,000 to evacuate
Channel NewsAsia 4 Jan 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Floods in two northeast Malaysian states, Kelantan and Trengganu, have now forced almost 23,000 people from their homes and extra relief centres have been opened, rescue officials said Wednesday (Jan 4).

Seasonal flooding hits Malaysia's east coast states every year and regularly results in mass evacuations.

The latest round has forced authorities to evacuate 10,038 residents from Kelantan and 12,910 people from neighbouring Terengganu, officials said.

Heavy rain in the past five days has also caused 101 schools to be closed. Many roads are impassable and train services to some destinations in Kelantan have been suspended.

But no deaths have so far been reported in the two states.

Che Adam Abdul Rahman, civil department force chief in Terengganu, told AFP the number of evacuees rose sharply to 12,910 from 4,352 the previous day.

They are being housed in 139 relief centres that provide food, drinks and medical aid, he said.

"It is still raining heavily. Some 30 village roads are closed and water levels at some places are about one metre deep and we are using boats to evacuate villagers," he said.

In Kelantan, which suffered massive floods and major destruction of homes and infrastructure in December 2014, 10,038 people have been displaced by flooding.

The figure rose from 4,906 Tuesday, said Zainuddin Hussin, the chief of the state's civil department force.

Zainuddin said 74 relief centres are operating in Kelantan but rainfall was scattered and many rivers were no longer overflowing their banks.

Malaysia's worst flooding in decades in 2014 forced some 118,000 people to flee. Prime Minister Najib Razak came under fire after photos showed him golfing with US President Barack Obama during the emergency.

With a snap general election expected this year, Najib will visit Terengganu and Kelantan on Saturday to oversee the evacuations, his aide said.

Floods have also struck 10 villages in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo island due to heavy rain, the Bernama news agency reported.

The Civil Defence Force and other agencies were engaged in rescue work in the affected areas and other flood-prone villages.

- AFP/am

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Malaysia: Overnight rain causes massive flooding in northern Sabah

STEPHANIE LEE The Star 4 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Several areas in Sabah’s northern Pitas district are flooded due to continuous overnight rain.

As many as 27 families from two villages -- Kg. Bilangau and Kg. Rukum -- have already evacuated the area.

It is unclear how bad the situation is at the moment as authorities, including firemen, are still at the scene.

WhatsApp messages being circulated suggest that many roads in the district have been affected with vehicles not able to pass through.

It is understood that the water level has exceeded 5m in some areas.

A spokesman from the Sabah Fire and Rescue Department operations room said that various agencies have been despatched to access the situation and take necessary action.

“We received calls about the floods early this morning and we were informed that some 140 people have moved on their own to SK. Rukum, Pitas as their houses are flooded,” said the spokesman.

There are no reports of casualties so far.

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Indonesia's Population of Irrawaddy Dolphins Increasingly Under Threat

Antara Jakarta Globe 3 Jan 17;

Jakarta. A researcher has warned that Indonesia's population of Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) is increasingly coming under threat.

"There are estimated to be only between 75 and 80 dolphins left in the rivers of Kutai Kartanegara district [in East Kalimantan]" Danielle Kreb, of conservation group Rare Aquatic Species of Indonesia (RASI), told state news agency Antara on Monday (02/01).

Kreb said the specific number of remaining dolphins is unknown because previous research in 1997 used a different method to determine population size.

Her research, which was conducted between 2005 and 2016, used a fin calculation method, while in 1997, population size was determined by observing density and deployment.

"The number still cannot be specified as more in-depth research is needed and the method we have been using from 2005 to 2016 has a margin of error. The highest number we counted was 90 dolphins," the researcher said.

Kreb said the mortality rate of Irrawaddy dolphins was not significant between 2005 and 2015, with an average of about five per year. Birth rates remained normal, at around five or six calves per year.

The dolphins are often found in the Mahakam River in East Kalimantan, where water quality does not play a role in mortality rates, Kreb said.

"Unlike the Mekong River [in Indochina], we did not find any deaths of newborn dolphins. Most deaths of adult dolphins are caused by them getting entangled in nets or being hit by pontoons," she explained.

Fishermen's nets caused the deaths of five individuals in 2016.

There were also two recorded cases of dolphins having died after being struck by pontoons in 2016. This has become a new threat for the marineaquatic mammals, due to the large number of coal mines and palm oil operations, which use pontoons to transport their products.

"The dolphins mostly hang around in the tributaries because it's easier there for them to catch fish, but now with the pontoons in the area, it's becoming a new threat for the species," Kreb said.

Irrawaddy dolphins are generally found in Muara Kaman, Kota Bangun and tributaries of the Mahakam River – Kedang Rantau, Kedang Kelapa and Belayan – all in Kutai Kartanegara district.

"When we were in Muara Pahu, West Kutai, last, we could see these dolphins almost every day," Kreb said. "But now they are only in Kutai Kertanegara and in only a few locations. And even there you will only rarely spot them because the population has really gone down."

Populations of Irrawaddy dolphins are also declining in the Mekong River due to commercial fishing activities, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In the Mekong area, habitat degradation is another factor due to deforestation and mining – something Indonesia should look out for.

Kreb called on corporations using the river, as well as the Indonesian government, to act to protect the species.

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Indonesia: Four Sumatran elephants died in Riau in 2016 -- WWF

Antara 3 Jan 17;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has said that four Sumatran elephants died in 2016 in Riau Province, a decline from the previous year.

"In 2015, there were 10 cases of dead elephants, while in 2016, the number decreased to four," Spokesperson of WWF of the Riau Program Syamsidar said here on Tuesday.

The four deaths are believed to have occurred due to conflict between humans and wild animals.

Last year, the Tesso Nilo National Park Authority found the carcass of a Sumatran elephant in Pelalawan District.

They also found a Sumatran elephant snared in an industrial forest concession. The animal did not survive despite treatment.

In September last year, an elephant calf was found trapped in a ditch in an industrial forest concession with wounds all over its body.

"An elephant also died after being electrocuted in Duri region, near a residential area," Syamsidar said.

No suspects were either identified or arrested in these cases, Syamsidar said.

WWF, an international non-governmental organization in the field of the wilderness preservation, and the reduction of humanitys footprint on the environment, estimated there were around 100 Sumatran elephants living in the Sumatran habitat.

As the landscapes and the habitats make way for industry and residential areas, wildlife is facing greater challenges for survival.

Although conflict between humans and wildlife is inevitable, Syamsidar said that the local authority and several private enterprises, which have forest concessions in Riau, have been working together to prevent and mitigate the conflict.

Only three private enterprises, PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), Asian Agri and PT Musim Mas, have been involved in this effort by adopting the human-wildlife conflict mitigation system being implemented by the WWF and Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) of Riau.

RAPP has established a so-called flying squad, consisting of at least four grown elephants and two calves, whose task is to conduct patrols around the concession area to avert human-wildlife conflict as well as prevent elephant herds trespassing into residential areas or villages.

Asian Agri has a similar program but they conduct patrolling without using elephants, Syamsidar said.

"They perform the patrol manually, without any elephants, but still adopt the measures used by the WWF, such as using a carbide cannon," he said.

PT Musim Mas, however, is committed to provide financial support for the program, Syamsidar said.

(Reporting by FB Anggoro/Uu.A059/INE/R-BSR/A014)

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