Best of our wild blogs: 12 Jan 17

How is Changi Creek after the oil spill
wild shores of singapore

How are Pasir Ris mangroves and seagrass meadows after the oil spill?
wild shores of singapore

Small World, Big Start
Hantu Blog

Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (December 9, 2016)
Rojak Librarian

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Chemical leak hits Shell facility, fire at ExxonMobil plant in separate incidents

Channel NewsAsia 11 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Two petrochemical giants in Singapore were hit by separate safety incidents this week - ExxonMobil's chemical plant on Jurong Island caught fire early on Sunday morning (Jan 8) and the next afternoon, a chemical leak occurred at Shell's Pulau Bukom manufacturing site.

No injuries were reported in both cases, said the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

In response to queries, Shell confirmed on Wednesday that the leak happened in a unit that was already shut down for maintenance. "Mitigating measures were immediately taken. Repairs were completed on Jan 10," said a spokesperson for the company.

Shell added that "there is no adverse impact expected in the water or the surroundings" as a result of the leak.

When asked about what chemical was leaked, Shell said it does not provide such details "for reasons of commercial confidentiality".

"The cause of the leak is being investigated," its spokesperson added. "The safety of the community and our personnel, as well as the protection of the environment, remain our top priority."

SCDF said that as a precautionary measure, it deployed resources to be on standby at the site while Shell's in-house contractors carried out leak containment operations.

In August 2015, a fire at the same Shell facility injured six contractor workers.


The fire at ExxonMobil's Singapore chemical plant at 100 Jurong Island Highway started at about 5.30am. SCDF deployed three fire engines, a Red Rhino, an ambulance and seven support vehicles.

The fire was linked to residual hydrocarbon in one of the units within the premises, and was extinguished by SCDF within 25 minutes using a ground monitor, an unmanned fire-fighting machine and a waterjet, with the support of two fixed monitors from the in-house company emergency response team.

ExxonMobil said it "regrets" the fire, adding that the company is investigating the cause of the blaze.

"Safety is a core value at all our operations and facilities. We learn from all incidents and use these learnings to reinforce our commitment to continued safety improvement," ExxonMobil said. "While we manage our business with the goal of preventing incidents, we are prepared for emergencies should they occur and can respond quickly and effectively."

- CNA/mz/dl

Chemical leak at Shell site, fire at ExxonMobil
Kok Xing Hui The Straits Times AsiaOne 12 Jan 17;

Oil giants Shell and ExxonMobil both had busy starts to the week.

Shell had a chemical leak at its Pulau Bukom manufacturing site on Monday, while a fire broke out at ExxonMobil's Jurong Island chemical plant on Sunday morning.

No one was hurt in either incident, and both companies are investigating the causes.

A Shell spokesman said the chemical leak occurred in a unit that was already closed for maintenance and "mitigating measures were immediately taken".

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted to the leak on Monday afternoon.

Though it was not needed, it made its resources readily available at the site while Shell contractors contained the leak.

Shell did not say what the chemical was, citing commercial confidentiality.

The spokesman said: "There is no adverse impact expected in the water or the surroundings. Shell has a health, safety, security and environment policy and we are strongly committed to it."

The fire at ExxonMobil's chemical plant happened at 5.30am on Sunday and was put out by the SCDF and ExxonMobil's in-house emergency response team within 25 minutes of SCDF's arrival.

SCDF said the ExxonMobil fire at 100 Jurong Island Highway involved residual hydrocarbon.

An ExxonMobil spokesman said: "Safety is a core value at all our operations and facilities. We learn from all incidents and use these lessons to reinforce our commitment to continued safety improvement.

"While we manage our business with the goal of preventing incidents, we are prepared for emergencies should they occur and can respond quickly and effectively."

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Laws to be amended to drive industrial energy efficiency

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 12 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — The Government will announce measures this year to give the industrial sector a bigger push to become more energy efficient, with changes to be made to the Energy Conservation Act, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

This is to achieve Singapore’s commitment under the Paris Agreement to cut emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.

The ministry will announce its plans at its parliamentary Committee of Supply debate in March, and Mr Masagos told about 40 representatives from the sector at a consultation session yesterday that there will be new initiatives as well as the enhancement of some existing measures.

Industry is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Singapore, accounting for about 59 per cent of total emissions in 2012. The sector pledged to improve energy efficiency — which essentially means producing the same amount of goods using less energy — by 0.7 per cent in 2014, but fell short of the target with actual improvement of 0.4 per cent.

“Certainly we can do more,” said Mr Masagos, pointing to Belgium and the Netherlands improving industrial energy efficiency by 1 to 2 per cent annually.

Asked why Singapore’s industrial sector fell short of its target, he said the Energy Conservation Act was introduced in 2012 and the sector needed time to adjust and understand what it had to do. The sector is varied, but companies are now more familiar with reporting requirements and how efficiencies can be achieved, he said.

Under the Energy Conservation Act, energy intensive users in the industry sector (consuming 54 terajoules or more a year, or about the energy consumption of 3,300 four-room public housing households) had to appoint certified energy managers from April 2013, and monitor and report their energy use and annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy managers, senior management and company heads at the consultation session said government grants will help. Grants are important for small or medium companies that do not have access to as much capital as multinational firms. And government schemes should not be too onerous to apply for, they added.

Large firms are able to apply solutions to a large base of equipment and can leverage central solutions, which smaller firms are not able to do, said Mr Lee Kok Choy, managing director and Singapore country manager of Micron Semiconductor Asia.

While companies can equip new plants with energy-efficient equipment, the retro-fitting of existing plants is trickier — for one, the return-on-investment must be justifiable, attendees said.

And after reaping low-hanging fruit, the next step may be very complex. “The typical industry will have 2,000 to 5,000 pumps. Let’s say 50 per cent of the pumps are easily replaceable — we call it the roughing pump, which can be changed easily, and it will not affect the manufacturing process. The other 50 per cent are process pumps and directly relate to the process (such as bringing in the gas and pumping out chemicals) … That chain is much more challenging,” said Mr Jagadish C V, chief executive of Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Co.

Singapore also lacks energy experts with skills specific to industries such as oil and gas or food manufacturing, some attendees said.

The Government could be clearer on its environmental priorities when there are competing objectives — for instance, treating waste water and harmful gas emissions are desirable but would consume energy, noted a participant.

New plans to improve industrial energy efficiency, in fight against climate change
Nur Afifah Ariffin Channel NewsAsia 11 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: As part of Singapore's efforts to mitigate climate change, the Government will introduce new initiatives as well as enhance existing ones to improve industrial energy efficiency. The industrial sector is one of the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

There are also plans this year to amend the Energy Conservation Act, the legislation that governs energy use among energy-intensive companies, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday (Jan 11).

Addressing about 40 industry sector representatives at his ministry's pre-Budget consultation session, Mr Masagos said Singapore has made good progress since the Energy Conservation Act was enacted in 2012.

Since then, the Government and industry have worked together to develop basic energy management practices and appoint sustainability managers for all energy-intensive industrial facilities.

As a result, slight progress in industrial energy efficiency has been recorded, improving by 0.4 per cent in 2014. Still, that is lower than the 0.7 per cent target.

“The achievement across the industry is quite varied. And we have to ensure now that the industry is more familiar with what they need to do,” said Mr Masagos. “Particularly in this case - putting in energy managers, putting in a reporting system. They are now more aware (of) what can be done; how efficiencies can be achieved.”

Mr Masagos stressed that there is room for improvement. He called on the sector to strive to achieve industrial energy efficiency improvement rates of one to two per cent annually - something that leading developed countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands have accomplished.

Singapore formalised its commitment to reduce emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, when it ratified the Paris Agreement in September last year. It also pledged to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions, with the aim of peaking around 2030.

Mr Masagos said the agreement, which came into force in November 2016, is a prime example of the need for all stakeholders to work together to achieve global sustainability.

At the consultation session on Wednesday, industry representatives from the private sector, academia and non-governmental organisations also shared feedback and best practices in achieving energy efficiency.

One representative brought up the need to upgrade the skills of energy managers, as there is currently a lack of deep technical knowledge in the field. There were also proposals to encourage the sharing of expertise, as well as for financial incentives to be provided for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The ministry will provide more details of the initiatives it plans to roll out after the Budget is announced on Feb 20.

- CNA/dl

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Indonesia: President targets 400,000 hectares of peatland restoration in 2017

Antara 11 Jan 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The government has outlined a target to restore 400,000 hectares of peatland areas in seven provinces in 2017, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) stated.

"To achieve the target to restore peatland areas in 2017, the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) cannot work alone. It needs complete support of the ministries, state institutions, and local governments," President Jokowi stated at the start of a closed-door meeting on peatland restoration here, Wednesday.

The seven provinces are Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and Papua.

The meeting was also attended by BRG Chief Nazir Foead and Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya.

The head of state emphasized that close coordination among stakeholders was necessary to attain the target of restoring 2 million hectares of peatland areas by 2020 and to avoid further environmental disasters of forest fires and haze.

Jokowi reiterated that peatland restoration should be carried out in regions outlined as cultivation areas for production forests as well as other uses.

The president has called to offer maximum protection to conserve 6.1 million hectares of undamaged peatland areas.

The government will no longer issue new licenses to use peatland areas as concessionaires land.

"For undamaged peatland areas, which already have the license, I want them to be established as the companys preserved land," he stressed.

The government will support any effort and will grant licenses to restore the peatland ecosystem to be conducted in cooperation with the local communities.(*)

Government to restore 400,000 hectares of peatland in 2017
Anton Hermansyah The Jakarta Post 12 Jan 17;

The government aims to restore 400,000 hectares of critical peatland in 2017, a lower target compared to 600,000 ha in 2016.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has said the government will speed up canal and pond construction to maintain water levels in peatland areas.

"We need to keep the water level at least 40 centimeters below the surface. During the latest fire in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, the water level was only 50 to 60 centimeters from the surface," Siti said at the State Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday, adding that from 2009 to 2016 the permissible water level for palm oil plantations was 80 cm.

(Read also: Indonesia's forest concessionaires required to restore peatland)

In 2016, 16,615 canals and 2,581 water ponds were built in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Presidential chief of staff Teten Masduki said Indonesia had 2 million ha of critical peatland that had to be rewet, of which 1.4 ha was located on concession land. The government therefore has to work with plantation companies.

"The companies have to build wells and use real-time water level detectors as an early warning system," Teten said.

Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) head Nazir Foead said palm oil companies actually objected to the new rule as high water levels would reduce productivity and because the water detectors were costly. However, the government will offer productive alternatives such as mixing oil palm with other plants like rubber or combining plantations with breeding livestock.(jun)

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Indonesia: Forest, land fires reappear in Riau

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 12 Jan 17;

Forest and land fires have begun to threaten Riau again this week following the increasing number of hot spots detected across the province.

Pekanbaru Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) head Sugarin said the hot spots were first detected by Terra and Aqua satellites on Sunday afternoon.

“At that time, six hot spots were detected. The following day the number increased to seven, with hot spots in Siak, Pelalawan and Kuantan Singingi,” Sugarin told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said more hot spots were detected in Rokan Hulu (three), Rokan Hilir (three), Siak (two) and another on Meranti Island.

“Four of the hot spots were indicated as fire-linked hot spots with a reliability level of over 70 percent,” Sugarin said, adding that hot spots were also detected in other provinces in Sumatra, including Jambi, West Sumatra and North Sumatra.

The reappearance of the hot spots, Sugarin said, might be caused by high temperatures, which hit 34.5 degrees Celsius, and the rampant slash-and-burn practices.

He added that Riau would enter the dry season in February, which was expected to last until March. “The condition makes the forests and land prone to fires,” he said.

According to Sugarin, of the 12 regencies/cities in Riau, the most fire-prone regions were Rokan Hilir, Siak, Bengkalis, Dumai and Meranti Island in the eastern coastal area.

This does not mean that other regions are safe from forest and land fires. As for the heat in Riau, Sugarin it was caused by the minimal forming of clouds over the province in the past week.

He said an inter-agency meeting would be held on Friday to follow up on the forest and land fire developments, as well as the current atmosphere phenomena.

Riau Environment and Forestry Agency head Yulwiriati Moesa confirmed the reappearance of forest and land fires in Riau, saying that since Sunday, over 100 hectares of land inside the Bukit Betabuh protected forest area in Pucuk Rantau district, Kuantan Singingi regency was on fire and had not been fully extinguished.

“The forest is located on a hill and it’s difficult for firefighters to move around [to put out the fires]. Water resources are also very limited,” Yulwiriati said, adding that some parts of the affected areas could not easily be accessed by land.

She said the situation had been reported to Riau governor with the hope that the report would be forwarded to the Environment and Forestry Ministry for further action. She said water bombing seemed to be needed to put out the fires.

“Hopefully, the central government will send helicopters soon to Riau. Otherwise, the fires might spread [to other areas],” she said.

Separately, commander of the Roesmin Nurjadin Air Base Pekanbaru, First Marshal Henri Alfiandi, said his team would look into the issue and coordinate with the Riau Police on further action to tackle the problem.

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Indonesia: Sumatran tiger population in Sembilang Dangku has greatly diminished

Antara 11 Jan 17;

Palembang, S Sumatra (ANTARA News) - The population of the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) in the Sembilang Dangku landscape of South Sumatra is diminishing, as observers have estimated that only two big cats remain in the region.

"Six to eight tigers were detected in 2013, and now, only two remain, one male and one female," Senior Conservation Officer of Zoological Society of London Asep Adhikerana stated here on Wednesday.

The Zoological Society of London, an international scientific, conservation, and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats, is partnering with the South Sumatra Administration to preserve and manage the Sembilang Dangku landscape.

The Sumatran forest fires in 2015 were believed to have had a huge impact on the Sumatran tigers habitat and population, Adhikerana noted.

Forests in the Sembilang Dangku landscape were damaged by the fires, along with activities, such as encroachment, illegal logging, and palm oil plantation exploration.

The other tigers might have migrated to Jambi in the north or might have been killed by poachers, Adhikerana remarked.

As long as there is food supply in the forest, such as deer or wild boars, tigers preferred preys, the big cat has no reason to leave the forest, he emphasized.

The palm oil plantations would not affect the survival of the tiger as long as there is still food supply, he stated.

However, there is always human activity around the plantation, and the smallest surviving tiger sub-species is afraid of and will avoid humans.

The population of Sumatran tigers will recover only if we restore their natural habitat and food supply, Adhikerana noted.

The local authority had installed as many as 20 camera traps to monitor the tigers in the Sembilang Dangku landscape.

However, some cameras were suspected to be stolen by poachers who wanted to gain information stored in them, Adhikerana remarked, adding that the government should take firm action against wildlife poachers.

The Sumatran tiger is a rare sub-species that inhabits the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The big cat has been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, as its population is showing a declining trend.

The Sumatran tiger is the only surviving member of the Sunda Islands group of tigers that included the now extinct Bali tiger and Javan tiger.

Several studies have estimated that around 300-400 Sumatran tigers survive on the Sumatran Island.(*)

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70% of coral in Okinawa’s Sekiseishoko area dead, survey shows

JIJI Japan Times 11 Jan 17;

About 70 percent of the coral in the Sekiseishoko area, the largest coral reef in Japan, is dead, an Environment Ministry survey has found.

A ministry official said Tuesday the result showed accelerated coral bleaching was taking place — due chiefly to rising ocean temperatures.

The survey was conducted at 35 points in Sekiseishoko, located between Ishigaki and Iriomote islands in Okinawa Prefecture, last November and December.

Coral bleaching occurs due to an inflow of red soil to the ocean and seawater contamination, as well as higher water temperatures, officials at the ministry’s Ishigaki Ranger Office in Okinawa said.

The bleaching at Sekiseishoko worsened between June and September last year because ocean temperatures were 1 to 2 degrees Celsius higher than normal, topping 30 C.

Coral dies if it remains bleached for a long periods.

According to the survey, 91.4 percent of the coral in the surveyed locations is at least partly bleached.

Coral bleaching kills 70 percent of Japan’s biggest coral reef
TATSUYUKI KOBORI Asahi Shimbun 11 Jan 17;

Coral bleaching has killed 70.1 percent of the nation’s largest coral reef as of the end of 2016, up from 56.7 percent just a few months earlier, the Environment Ministry said.

Warmer seawater temperatures last summer are believed to have caused coral bleaching to spread to 90 percent of the Sekiseishoko coral reef in Okinawa Prefecture.

The ministry report, released on Jan. 10, was based on a study conducted in November and December on conditions at 35 points in the Sekiseishoko coral reef, a popular diving area covering about 400 square kilometers between Ishigakijima and Iriomotejima islands.

The previous figure of 56.7 percent was based on a survey conducted in September and October.

Coral bleaching occurs when warmer water temperatures cause coral to expel algae living symbiotically within. The coral turns white and can die.

In the Sekiseishoko area, widespread coral bleaching occurred in 1998 and 2007. Experts warn that the phenomenon could occur more frequently if global warming progresses.

Almost 75% of Japan's biggest coral reef has died from bleaching, says report
Coral in the Sekisei lagoon in Okinawa has turned brown and is covered with algae, according to a government study
Justin McCurry The Guardian 12 Jan 17;

Almost three-quarters of Japan’s biggest coral reef has died, according to a report that blames its demise on rising sea temperatures caused by global warming.

The Japanese environment ministry said that 70% of the Sekisei lagoon in Okinawa had been killed by a phenomenon known as bleaching.

Bleaching occurs when unusually warm water causes coral to expel the algae living in their tissues, causing the coral to turn completely white. Unless water temperatures quickly return to normal, the coral eventually dies from lack of nutrition.

The plight of the reef, located in Japan’s southernmost reaches, has become “extremely serious” in recent years, according to the ministry, whose survey of 35 locations in the lagoon last November and December found that 70.1% percent of the coral had died.

The dead coral has now turned dark brown and is now covered with algae, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

The newspaper said the average sea surface temperature between last June and August in the southern part of the Okinawa island chain was 30.1 degrees centigrade – or one to two degrees warmer than usual – and the highest average temperature since records began in 1982, according to the Japan meteorological agency.

The ministry report follows warnings by the Coral Reef Watch programme at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that global coral bleaching could become the “new normal” due to warming oceans.

Experts said that bleaching had spread to about 90% of the Sekisei reef, a popular diving spot that covers 400sq km.

A similar survey conducted in September and October last year found that just over 56% of the reef had died, indicating that bleaching has spread rapidly in recent months.

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