Best of our wild blogs: 11 Jan 17

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'Significant risk' of Johor’s Linggiu Reservoir drying out this year: Vivian

KENNETH CHENG Today Online 10 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — There is a “significant risk” that Linggiu Reservoir in Johor may run out of water this year if 2017 turns out to be a dry year, and that could pose severe problems for Singapore and Malaysia, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Monday (Jan 9).

If water levels in the reservoir — which discharges water into the Johor River to supplement its flow — hits 0 per cent, there will be many more instances when national water agency PUB will not be able to draw Singapore’s daily entitlement of raw water from the Johor River. Johor’s Semangar and Logi Air water treatment plants will also be affected, he said.

“Given the importance of Linggiu Reservoir to Singapore’s overall water supply, the Singapore Government is watching the situation closely, and has raised the matter with the Malaysian government, most recently during the Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat on Dec 13,” Dr Balakrishnan said in a written response to Member of Parliament Seah Kian Peng’s (Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency) parliamentary query on Singapore and Malaysia’s ability to fulfil their obligations under the 1962 Water Agreement.

He also said the Malaysian government had reaffirmed its commitment to upholding Singapore’s rights under the 1962 agreement, and plans to put in place schemes to increase the yield of the Johor River and ensure that the Republic can abstract its entitlement even during periods of dry weather.

Under the agreement, Singapore’s PUB may draw 250 million gallons of raw water from the Johor River daily. In return, Johor is entitled to receive a daily supply of treated water of up to 2 per cent — or about five million gallons a day — of the water supplied to Singapore.

But even in instances when the PUB could not draw its entitlement during dry seasons, Singapore has, out of goodwill, been providing Johor with treated water exceeding its entitlement — regularly supplying 16 million gallons a day. It has also, at Johor’s request, supplied an extra five to six million gallons of treated water daily on several occasions, such as in June and July last year because of dry weather, as well as during the partial shutdown of Johor’s water treatment plants for monthly maintenance.

The Johor River, however, is unable to sustain the abstractions from Singapore and Johor, even with the Johor River Barrage, which became operational last August to help fend off salinity intrusions. As a result, PUB has been discharging more water from the Linggiu Reservoir, which it operates, to support the present rate of abstraction.

That has led to a drastic drop in water levels in recent years, from 84 per cent at the start of 2015, to 49 per cent at the start of last year, to the lowest recorded level of 20 per cent last October. As of Jan 1, it stands at 27 per cent, and Dr Balakrishnan said “there is significant risk that Linggiu Reservoir may fail (i.e. drop to 0 per cent) in 2017 if it turns out to be a dry year”.

Singapore will cooperate with Malaysia to achieve a “mutually beneficial outcome”, he said, with senior officials of both water ministries working closely to sustain the water supply.

'Significant risk' Linggiu Reservoir may dry out this year: Vivian Balakrishnan
Channel NewsAsia 10 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: There is a "significant risk" that the water supply from Johor's Linggiu Reservoir may run out in 2017 if it turns out to be a dry year, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Monday (Jan 9).

In a written Parliamentary reply to Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC Seah Kian Peng, Dr Balakrishnan said the water level at the reservoir stood at 27 per cent as of Jan 1. Should it drop to zero, this could cause "severe problems" for both Singapore and Malaysia, he added.

According to the 1962 Water Agreement between the two countries, Singapore water agency PUB has the exclusive right to draw up to 250 million gallons (mgd) of water from the Johor River each day. In return, Johor is entitled to buy treated water of the same volume as up to 2 per cent of the water extracted by Singapore on any given day, or about 5 mgd if Singapore draws its full entitlement of water from the Johor River.

Dr Balakrishnan said that out of goodwill, Singapore had in practice supplied the Malaysian state with treated water in excess of Johor’s entitlement, even during dry weather when PUB was unable to abstract the full 250 mgd it was entitled to daily.

In fact, Singapore had been regularly supplying Johor with 16 mgd of treated water in addition to a further 5 to 6 mgd of treated water on a case-by-case basis at Johor’s request, the minister said.

Even though a new barrage at the river became operational last August to keep out salinity intrusions, the river is unable to sustain abstractions from both PUB and Johor's Semangar and Loji Air water treatment plants, which are upstream of PUB’s waterworks and also draw from the river.

Hence, the minister said PUB has been extracting more water from the Linggiu Reservoir to support its rate of abstraction, resulting in drastically dropping water levels at the reservoir from 84 per cent at the start of 2015, to 49 per cent at the start of 2016, and the lowest recorded level of 20 per cent in October last year.

Should the Linggiu Reservoir completely dry up, there will be many more occasions when PUB will be unable to abstract the 250 mgd that it is entitled to daily, Dr Balakrishnan said.

According to Dr Balakrishnan, the Government is watching the situation closely given the importance of Linggiu Reservoir to Singapore’s overall water supply. It has also raised the matter with the Malaysian government, most recently during the Malaysia-Singapore Leaders' Retreat on Dec 13 last year.

The minister said that Singapore will cooperate with Malaysia to achieve a "mutually beneficial outcome".

"The senior officials of our water ministries will discuss and identify possible solutions. Our agencies have an excellent working relationship, and will continue to work closely together to sustain our water supply," he added.

- CNA/mz

Failure of Linggiu Reservoir will cause 'severe problems'
Straits Times AsiaOne 10 Jan 17;

There is a significant risk that the water level in Johor's Linggiu Reservoir could fall to zero if 2017 is a dry year, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday.

There is a significant risk that the water level in Johor's Linggiu Reservoir could fall to zero if 2017 is a dry year, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday.

The water level in Linggiu Reservoir stood at 27 per cent as of Jan 1, he said in a written reply.

Its water level has dropped drastically over the past few years, from 84 per cent at the start of 2015 to the lowest recorded level of 20 per cent in October last year.

Should the Linggiu Reservoir fail, there will be "many more occasions" when it will not be possible for national water agency PUB to draw its entitlement of 250 million gallons per day from the Johor River, he added.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) had asked whether the recent low water levels would affect the ability of both countries to meet their obligations under the water agreement.

Dr Balakrishnan said the water supply to Johor's Semangar and Loji Air water treatment plants will also be affected, adding: "This will cause severe problems for both Malaysia and Singapore."

The Government is watching the situation closely and has raised the matter with the Malaysian government, most recently at last month's Leaders' Retreat.

Singapore will cooperate with Malaysia to achieve a "mutually beneficial outcome", he said.

Officials will discuss and identify possible solutions, he added.

"Our agencies have an excellent working relationship, and will continue to work closely together to sustain our water supply," he said.

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SEC announces stricter criteria for Singapore Green Label certification

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 11 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Pulp and paper companies must now meet the fire and peatland management standards of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), in order to get its enhanced Singapore Green Label certification.

Launched yesterday, the enhanced label features stricter criteria such as full disclosure of a product’s supply chain, proper management of peatland, and measures to detect and suppress fires when they occur.

Peatland comprises wetlands that store rich amounts of carbon. When they are drained for plantation use, they become more likely to burn. Burning releases the stored carbon and causes haze, which has afflicted the region and caused hazardous air pollution in Singapore in 2015.

Applications for the enhanced Singapore Green Labelling Scheme are now open, but companies may renew existing certification, which lasts for a year, under the scheme’s old criteria up until June 30 this year. This means the old logo for pulp and paper products will be obsolete by July next year. About 20 companies offering more than 30 pulp and paper products are on the old scheme.

The SEC, a charity, held a closed-door workshop on the enhanced scheme for about 20 companies yesterday.

So far, one company, Kimberly-Clark Professional, has indicated that it will apply for the new label for its Scott and Kleenex hand-towel and bath-tissue products.

“We want our customers to know we produce quality products manufactured to the highest environmental standards,” said Mr Anuj Lal, group general manager (Asia-Pacific) of Kimberly-Clark Professional.

Certification for the new label costs S$4,600 per product and lasts for three years, subject to a yearly audit. Previously, certification cost S$1,500 for the first year, and had to be renewed yearly for S$1,000. But if a product is deemed risky, based on factors such as the complexity of supply chain or location of the pulp’s source, the SEC may call for site audits, which will be done by either the council or third-party auditors.

Mr Chong Khai Sin, SEC’s head of eco-certifications, did not name examples of these third-party auditors, but said they are accredited to provide Forest Stewardship Council certification. The companies seeking certification will pay for the audits.

The revised scheme will be among the most stringent in the world, said SEC chairman Isabella Loh, who called on consumers to buy only products with the label.

Asked about pulp giant Asia Pulp and Paper’s Green Label status — which was restricted in October 2015 after it was linked to haze-causing fires in Indonesia — Ms Loh said it had not been renewed.

Another major pulp company, April Group, told TODAY it is keen to renew the Green Label — acquired since 2013 — for its PaperOne products.

Ms Lucita Jasmin, April’s director for Sustainability & External Affairs, said the company will study the enhanced criteria closely. “Based on SEC’s announced transition arrangements, we will be able to renew the label under the old criteria in 2017,” she added.

Asked about SEC’s search for a new executive director, Ms Loh said there were no updates, but there are candidates.

Late last year, the charity dismissed former executive director Edwin Seah although he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Two other employees were also dismissed without any reasons given.

More stringent criteria set for pulp, paper firms under enhanced Green Label Scheme
Channel NewsAsia 10 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Pulp and paper companies will need to meet stricter environmental standards, if they want to be certified under the Singapore Green Label Scheme (SGLS).

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) had revealed last month that it would enhance the scheme but details of the revised criteria were announced on Tuesday (Jan 10).

To be awarded the green label for their products, the company, owner or concessionaire in charge of the plantation is required to have a zero-burning policy.

Companies will now have to undertake "a comprehensive range of fire prevention and preparation activities so they can quickly detect and suppress fires before they get out of control," said the SEC. This includes daily hotspot monitoring, mapping of fire risks as well as putting in place firefighting training and equipment.

How peatlands are managed will also be assessed. For example, companies must take steps to protect biodiversity through proper assessment and water management. This is because "uncontrolled draining of peat to plant pulpwood timber makes it susceptible to fire", said SEC.

The entire supply chain of a manufacturer - including plantations, pulp and paper mills, and distributors - will also need to be assessed and audited.

Previously, companies are only required to provide evidence that their raw material has been sourced sustainably. Other aspects like packaging and manufacturing processes were also taken into consideration.

"We want every consumer in Singapore to know that our labelling scheme sets environmental performance standards that are among the highest anywhere in the world," said SEC chairman Isabella Loh, adding that the revised scheme is benchmarked against eco-labelling schemes in the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.


A new risk-based evaluation system was also introduced as part of the green-labelling scheme.

While companies will have to comply with the enhanced criteria, those deemed to be higher risks will be subjected to a more extensive audit, said SEC.

Such applicants will be further investigated by SEC or third party auditors who will carry out an in-depth enquiry into the company’s supply chain, manufacturing process, as well as its management of forests, fire and peatlands.

"The risk-based evaluation system is a safeguard against companies that may have the required paperwork but are not achieving sustainability in practice," explained SEC.

Consumers can look out for the new green logo launched for pulp and paper products that meet the enhanced criteria.

New green label used for paper and pulp products (left) compared to the logo used for other categories of products. (Images: SEC)

The new logo will be gradually introduced as companies become certified under the enhanced standard, said SEC. The old logo for pulp and paper products will be obsolete by Jul 1, 2018.

The existing SGLS logo will continue to be used by all other categories of products certified under the eco-labelling scheme.

"We encourage consumers to exercise their right to choose and buy paper products with the Green Label," said president of local consumer watchdog CASE Lim Biow Chuan.

“Together, the collective voice will help to send a strong signal to pulp and paper companies to put in place environmentally-friendly and sustainable business practices to help resolve the recurring haze issue in Singapore,” he added.

- CNA/ek

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Indonesia: After two dead pygmy elephants, Sabah mulls less publicity on unique wildlife

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 10 Jan 17;

PENAMPANG: Publicity on unique wildlife in Sabah is good for tourism mileage but it may also attract poachers, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said today. He said sometimes, there is a need to keep certain matters from public knowledge for conservation's sake.

Masidi was referring to the recent killing of two elephants, including 'sabre', the rare pygmy elephant with downward tusks at Segama river in Kinabatangan between Nov 20 and last month.

The carcasses of both mammals were found by Danau Girang Field Centre and Sabah Wildlife Rescue unit personnel on Dec 31. "We need to keep to ourselves on special things in Sabah for the purpose of conservation.

"In future, the government will be careful in handling sensitive information that might invite or attract poachers," he said during the ministry's Christmas and New Year celebration at Penampang Cultural centre here.

Masidi added that the people of Sabah can also help protect the state's wildlife by becoming the eyes and ears of enforcement officers.

"These officers' are entrusted to look after iconic wildlife species in Sabah which are not available in other countries."

On the latest effort to capture the poachers behind the killing of the two jumbos, he said the ministry's permanent secretary Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai will lead the investigation with the police's help.

Last Friday, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) had offered RM10,000 reward to those who could assist the department in catching the culprits responsible for the killing of two Bornean pgymy elephants.

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Indonesia: Forest conversion triggers natural disasters - Walhi

Antara 10 Jan 17;

Padang (ANTARA News) - Conversion of forests in West Sumatra has triggered natural disasters, according to the Indonesian Environmental Forum (WALHI).

West Sumatras environment was under threat due to overexploitation of natural resources following activities, such as mining and logging, Uslaini, director of WALHIs West Sumatra chapter, noted here, Tuesday.

Mining activities are being conducted on 97,014.06 hectares of forest area in the province.

He stated that 11 mining permits were issued in conservation forest areas, measuring 190.16 hectares, and 67 mining permits in protected forest areas, covering 97,014.06 hectares.

"The mining sites are located in Pasaman, Padang, Solok, South Solok, West Pasaman, Limapuluh Kota, Sijunjung, Dharmasraya, and Agam," he said.

"The issuance of mining permits in conservation and protected forests is a violation of Article 38 of Law Number 19 of 2004 on Forestry," he added.

Meanwhile, floods and a landslide had struck the villages of Sunuruik and Talu in Talamau Sub-district, West Pasaman District, West Sumatra Province, recently.

More than 100 homes were inundated, and land transportation between West Pasaman and Pasaman Districts was cut off, Head of the West Pasaman Disaster Mitigation Office Try Wahluyo remarked in Pesaman.

Torrential rains had caused the Batang Sinuruik River to overflow, he added.

A landslide struck Jorong Paraman in the same district, cutting off a main road in the village.

Besides this, thousands of residential houses in South Pesisir District, West Sumatra Province, were also inundated due to incessant rains since Wednesday night.

The floodwaters had inundated thousands of houses in the sub-districts of Bayang, North Bayang, IV Jurai, and Batang Kapas in the district of South Pesisir, Head of the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency of South Pesisir Prinurdin stated here, last Thursday.

(Reported by Altas Maulana/Uu.F001/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

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Indonesia's Jayawijaya peak may lose its eternal snow: Agency

Antara 5 Jan 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Eternal snow on the Jayawijaya Mountains, Papua Province, could disappear in three years, considering the rate at which ice is melting on Indonesias highest peak, Head of Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Andi Eka Sakya warned.

"If (the melting trend) is not checked, then the ice layers on the peak of Jayawijaya will disappear by 2020," he said here, Thursday.

The climate agency arrived at this estimation after it conducted a seven-year observation study to measure the speed at which ice was melting and the decline in its thickness due to global warming.

The last estimate on November 23, 2016, showed the ice thickness in Jayawijaya had shrunk by 1.42 meters since May 2016 and it is only 20.54 meters thick now.

In 2015, the 4.26-meter decline in the ice thickness was mainly caused by a strong El Nino windstream, which lasted from May through November.

Considering the drastic rate at which the ice layers were thinning, averaging 1.05 meters since 2010, the BMKG has called on the local government and international community to help implement strategic measures to check the melting of ice on Jayawijaya.

According to Sakya, some of the measures would include putting an end to illegal logging and reducing carbon emissions.

Indonesias Puncak Jaya is one of the three snowy peaks at the equator, the other two being in Africa and Peru.(*)

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Thailand: 25 dead, more than one million affected by floods in southern Thailand

Channel NewsAsia 10 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Large parts of southern Thailand remain under floodwaters after more than a week of heavy monsoon rain as the government scrambled more emergency aid to more than a million affected residents.

According to the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, the floods, described as the worst experienced by the region in almost 50 years, have so far claimed 25 lives while two people have gone missing.

"About 1.1 million residents from 369,680 families in 12 provinces of southern Thailand were affected by the flooding," said the department's chief, Chatchai Promlert, in his daily update on the disaster on Tuesday (Jan 10).

The 12 provinces of southern Thailand affected by the floods are Pattalung, Narathiwat, Songkhla, Pattani, Trang, Yala, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Chumpon, Ranong, Prachuab Kiri Khan and Krabi.


In flood-hit areas of Surat Thani province, a tourist gateway to the party islands of Samui and Phangan, villagers said a week of rain had brought an unprecedented deluge.

"Every year it floods, but not like this," Chamnan Ingkaew, a village leader in Chaiya district told AFP.

"There are 100 houses in my village, but we all had to leave and everything inside was lost ... the water kept coming and coming, almost two metres high."

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Tuesday said residents should have heeded evacuation warnings issued ahead of the floods.

"Many people do not want to leave, they want to stay home," he said, adding that their reluctance was making the relief effort more pressing.

The widespread flooding has damaged five government installations, 218 roads and 59 bridges.

A heavy downpour in Prachuab Kiri Khan province on Monday night also caused the Phetkasem Highway, a major artery in southern Thailand, to be cut off when one of the bridges linking to it was swept away by swift currents.

The government has started building a temporary bridge to replace the damaged bridge, said the province's chief administration officer, Somporn Patchimphet.

He also said that the province's Bangsapan district hospital was flooded on Monday night, forcing the authorities to evacuate the patients to higher floors and to nearby hospitals.

The flooding has also shuttered the airport in Nakhon Si Thammarat and trains to the deep south.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) said the disaster will only have a minimal impact on the economy as the losses from the flooding were estimated to be not more than 15 billion baht (US$421 million).

The disaster will not have a big impact on the country's Gross Domestic Product, FTI chairman Chen Namchaisiri told local media. Southern Thailand is a major rubber producing region and its islands are a major attraction for foreign tourists.

- Agencies/mn/nc

More rain and pain expected as Thai flood death toll rises to 40
Channel NewsAsia 15 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Thailand faces more hardship from unseasonable floods that have killed 40 people in its south, with more rain expected in the major rubber-producing and tourist region in coming days, a top disaster agency official said on Sunday (Jan 15).

Persistent heavy rain well into what should be the dry season has triggered floods across the south, cutting road and rail links, threatening crops and affecting about 1.6 million people, said Chatchai Promlert, head of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department.

"The worst isn't over. We're expecting more rain this week while clean-up efforts are underway in places where the waters have subsided," Chatchai told Reuters.

The Meteorological Department said on its website more rain was expected on Monday.

The rainy season in Thailand normally takes place from June to November. The floods, which began on Jan 1, have followed unseasonably heavy rain.

Thailand is one of the world's most important producers of natural rubber and the national rubber authority said on Thursday output in 2016-2017 would be about 10 percent lower because of the floods.

Global rubber prices have spiked on concern about the impact.

Flooding occurs in Thailand regularly during the rainy season but January is traditionally sunny and clear, and a high season for the tourist industry, including in southern seaside resorts.

The country saw its worst flooding in half a century in 2011, when heavy rain beginning in July that year over northern regions led to six months of inundations, including in the central plains, where industrial estates have replaced rice fields in many places.

The floods submerged a third of the country, killed more than 900 people and crippled industry.

The army played a major role in relief efforts in 2011 while the then civilian government was criticised for what many saw as lacklustre disaster efforts.

The army, which seized power in a 2014 coup, has again been playing a major role in helping with relief efforts.

The Federation of Thai Industries said last week the southern floods would have little impact on economic growth.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Robert Birsel)

- Reuters

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