NEWater to meet 40% of Singapore’s water needs with fifth plant

TOH EE MING Today Online 18 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE – The Republic’s fifth NEWater plant in Changi officially opened on Wednesday (Jan 18), enabling NEWater to now to meet 40 per cent of Singapore’s total daily water demand, as concern over water supply grows.

Speaking at the launch, Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said that water being a scarce resource, it has always been an "existential issue" for Singapore.

He noted that the water levels of Johor's Linggiu Reservoir, which enables Singapore to draw water for import, have fallen from 80 per cent in early 2015 to 20 per cent in October last year, before making a "slow recovery" to the current 27 per cent. The situation has been made worse by the "frequent and prolonged" dry weather, he added.

"If the level of the Linggiu Reservoir continues to fall, the water supply for both Johor and Singapore would be affected," he said. The latest NEWater plant is one of the major investments in water infrastructure to strengthen Singapore's resilience against weather uncertainties, he added.

NEWater is produced from treated used water that is further purified using advanced membrane technologies and ultraviolet disinfection. The other four NEWater plants are located at Bedok, Kranji, Ulu Pandan and Changi.

Located on the rooftop of Changi Water Reclamation Plant, the new plant has a capacity of 228,000 cubic meters or 50 million gallons a day, among the biggest NEWater plants in terms of capacity. It spans 49,000m2 – the equivalent of nearly seven-and-a-half football fields – and was built with a total capital cost of about $170 million.

Mr Masagos noted Singapore’s "increasing reliance on non-traditional and more expensive sources” of water, such as the three desalination plants to be completed by 2020.

Water costs are being driven up by the rising costs of asset maintenance and replacement, as well as resources like energy, chemicals, materials and manpower. Expensive methods like pipe-jacking and tunneling would also be needed, given the laying and replacing of Singapore's pipelines in an increasingly urbanised landscape.

To overcome this, long-term breakthroughs are needed but these would take time to be proven and become deployable, said Mr Masagos. Water prices have always reflected the costs of water for consumers to appreciate its value, and adjustments in water charges would be made "when necessary”, he added.

Going forward, Singapore needs to continue to manage the water demand. "We must press on with water conservation and efficiency, both in our daily personal usage and in the non-domestic sector. Every drop of water conserved means less resources and costs needed to invest in additional supply," Mr Masagos said.

In partnership with PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, the latest NEWater plant is the first built by a foreign-local consortium, comprising BEWG International, a subsidiary of Beijing Enterprises Water Group Limited, and UES Holdings. It began operations in November last year.

The contract for the new plant was awarded in 2014 as a public-private partnership initiative. It is one of six Design-Build-Own-Operate projects between PUB and the private sector. Previous projects include the SingSpring Desalination Plant, Tuaspring Desalination Plant, Keppel-Seghers Ulu Pandan NEWater Plant, SembCorp NEWater Plant, and the recently-announced desalination plant that will be built in Marina East.

The launch was attended by 200 guests from government agencies, business associates, and industry players.

NEWater able to meet 40% of Singapore's water needs with opening of fifth plant
Nur Afifah Ariffin Channel NewsAsia 18 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: NEWater is now able to supply up to 40 per cent of Singapore's total daily water demand, up from 30 per cent, with the opening of Singapore's fifth NEWater plant on Wednesday (Jan 18).

The new facility, located at Changi Water Reclamation Plant, is the size of about seven-and-a-half football fields. It has the capacity to produce 50 million gallons of water a day - enough to fill about 92 Olympic-sized pools - according to national water agency PUB.

This is also PUB's first public-private partnership involving a foreign company. PUB had awarded the contract to design, build and operate the plant to a consortium formed by Beijing Enterprise Water Group International (BEWGI) and local environmental engineering company UES Holdings.

PUB said collaborations with the private sector have enabled them to explore, pilot and implement new technologies to increase Singapore’s water resources and improve efficiencies in water production.

The new plant brings Singapore closer to its aim of meeting 85 per cent of its water needs through NEWater and desalination by 2060. The four other NEWater plants are located in Bedok, Kranji, Ulu Pandan and Changi.

NEWater, or highly purified reclaimed water, is one of Singapore's Four National Taps - the country's strategy for water security - along with local catchment water, imported water and desalinated water.

"In our minds, the H2O molecule is never lost and water is an endlessly reusable resource. Used water can always be reclaimed and retreated so that it can be consumed again," said PUB's chief executive Ng Joo Hee. "Singapore leads the world in this."


Even as Singapore celebrates its achievements in water technology, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said Singapore must remain mindful that the country continues to face challenges in water supply.

"Our largest tap - imported water- as well as water from local catchments are weather-dependent," he said at the official opening of the plant.

He noted that the water level at Johor's Linggiu Reservoir, which regulates the flow of water in the Johor River, fell from 80 per cent in early 2015 to a historic low of 20 per cent in October 2016, before making a slow recovery to 27 per cent currently.

Mr Masagos said PUB will continue to make major investments in water infrastructure to strengthen Singapore's resilience against uncertainties but that ultimately, Singaporeans must be prudent in their use of water.

"We must press on with water conservation and efficiency, both in our daily personal usage and in the non-domestic sector," said Mr Masagos.

"Every drop of water conserved means less resources and costs needed to invest in additional supply."

- CNA/gs

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Four new mega childcare centres to be built, including one in a park

KELLY NG Today Online 18 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Punggol, Sengkang and Bukit Panjang will have four new mega childcare centres by the middle of next year, offering 2,700 places for which registration will begin in the second quarter of this year.

The two centres in Punggol, to be operated separately by PAP Community Foundation and NTUC My First Skool, have 1,000 places each, the largest yet for any childcare centre in Singapore, while the centres in Sengkang and Bukit Panjang can take in 400 and 300 children respectively, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced on Wednesday (Jan 18).

As demand for childcare facilities grew, the Government announced in May 2015 the setting up of the first batch of five mega childcare centres.

Four of these have opened in Punggol, Sengkang, Woodlands and Yishun— all in areas with many families with young children — while the fifth, in Jurong West, will begin operations in the first quarter of this year.

Tenders for large childcare centres are open to anchor operators assessed by the Government to have a good track record in offering quality and affordable early childhood programmes.

Compared to the large centres, the ones in the void decks of Housing and Development Board blocks can typically take in about 100 children each.

The Sengkang centre, run by School4Kidz, will be located at Sengkang Riverside Park. The 4,000sqm facility will take in children between two months and six years old, and be staffed by 44 teachers. Its curriculum will take advantage of learning opportunities in its natural environment, such as by incorporating nature walks, a butterfly lodge and a school garden from which students can harvest ingredients for their own meals.

Speaking at its ground-breaking ceremony on Wednesday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said the ministry is “on track” to meet the demand for childcare places, and is also exploring various locations in which to build centres.

“This centre at Sengkang Riverside Park is the result of a partnership with NParks (National Parks Board), so that our children can easily participate in physical and outdoor activities. This enhances their well-being and development, and also nurtures their appreciation for nature from a young age,” said Mr Tan.

Dr Lam Pin Min, Member of Parliament for Sengkang West, noted that demand for childcare centres is “still very high” in his constituency.

“... Based on feedback from residents, I think we need to (have) even more childcare centres ... Many parents actually (give) feedback that they have been placed on the waiting list for the past six to 12 months. Even with the completion of newer childcare centres, they are still deprived of a place,” he said.

Punggol resident Neo Chai Ying, who is looking for a place for her 10-month-old son, said childcare facilities in her neighbourhood are “really stretched” due to the growing number of children in the area.

The 36-year-old said she hopes to get her son a place in one of the mega childcare centres as they have “more impressive facilities”.

4 new mega childcare centres to be built, including first in a park
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 18 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: See, smell, hear, touch and taste what nature has to offer - this is what Singapore's first childcare centre in a park will offer when it opens its doors at the end of this year to 400 children aged between two months and six years.

The two-storey facility at Sengkang Riverside Park will be run by anchor operator Skool4kidz, and is one of four mega childcare centres that will be built by the middle of next year, announced the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) on Wednesday (Jan 18).

Two centres will be in Punggol and will take in 1,000 kids each, and one will be in Bukit Panjang and will take in 300 kids. Together, the four new centres will provide 2,700 infant and childcare places.

The Skool4kidz Campus @ Sengkang Park will be about four times bigger than the average childcare centre in Singapore. It will also have learning spaces that are integrated with nature, like a Butterfly Lodge where kids can learn about the insects’ biology, and children will be served fruits and vegetables harvested from the centre's own garden. The centre will also tap on the National Parks Board’s (NParks) expertise to incorporate educational materials on Singapore's biodiversity.

“Anything you do with young children in the early years of their lives leave a very lasting impact on their development. A lot of what we do with our children don’t start young enough,” said Dr Jane Ching-Kwan, director and curriculum consultant of Skool4kidz.

“We have got a lot of research that points to the very positive relationship when children interact with nature. It carries on not only in learning, but also to their overall psychological, social, mental and physical growth.”

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said ECDA is constantly looking into ways to provide better learning opportunities for children.

"This centre at Sengkang Riverside Park is the result of a partnership with NParks, so that our children can easily participate in physical and outdoor activities. This enhances their well-being and development, and also nurtures their appreciation for nature from a very young age,” he said.


Another five mega childcare centres are being built in estates like Jurong West, Woodlands and Yishun – areas with higher demand for childcare due to the larger number of young families, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).

Sengkang West Member of Parliament (MP) Lam Pin Min said demand for places in childcare centres is still growing, and “the consensus is that we need to build more childcare centres”.

“Many parents have given feedback that they have been placed on the waiting list for the past six months, to even 12 months. And even with the completion of some of the new childcare centres, they are still deprived of a place. That tells us that the demand is still there,” Dr Lam said.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development is carefully tracking the demand for childcare places, said Mr Tan.

“We’re working very closely with HDB, all the new estates. Clearly, we continue to build childcare centres in the void deck. But we’re looking at various locations – parks is a new development and something we’re quite excited about. We’re tracking very closely and reviewing the demand as it evolves. So we’re very much on track,” he said.

Parents interested to register their children in the four new childcare centres can do so from the second quarter of this year at

- CNA/cy

4 mega childcare centres to open in 2018
Linette Heng, THE NEW PAPER AsiaOne 19 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE - A garden piazza, a butterfly lodge and a dining theatre that serves dishes from the school's garden will be some of the things you will find at a new childcare centre that will open by mid-2018.

Set in Sengkang Riverside Park, it will have 400 places.

Three other mega childcare centres will also begin construction this year and are due for completion at the same time - two in Punggol that will have 1,000 places and one in Bukit Panjang with 300 places.

This brings the number of large childcare centres to nine, said the Early Childhood Development Agency.

Details of the Sengkang centre - the first in Singapore to be located in a park - were revealed at a ground-breaking ceremony yesterday.

The state-of-the-art campus will have a cocoon-like structure so that it will look like a "rolling hill" on the park, and blend seamlessly with the environment.

The campus will have a site area of 4,000 sq m and built-up area of 3,600 sq m - almost four times the size of an average childcare centre.

Operated by anchor operator Skool4kidz, which runs 11 childcare centres islandwide, it will be completed by the fourth quarter of this year.

Full-day fees will cost an estimated $720 for children aged between 18 months and six years. Infant care fees for children aged between two and 17 months will cost an estimated $1275.

Skool4kidz's curriculum founder, Dr Jane Ching-Kwan, said that being close to nature will allow the children to develop holistically.

She told The New Paper: "They will be able to learn about botany and insects by curiously examining the wide variety of plants and insects in the park's eco-system...


"Research has also shown that immersing in a natural environment has a positive impact on a child's overall health."

The other mega childcare centres will also be run by anchor operators - PAP Community Foundation in Punggol and NTUC My First Skool in Punggol and Bukit Panjang.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Sengkang centre yesterday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin reiterated the Government's commitment to providing more quality and affordable pre-school options.

He said: "This centre at Sengkang Riverside Park is the result of a partnership with NParks, so that our children can easily participate in physical and outdoor activities."

Mr Tan told Parliament last year that by this year, about 10,000 more places will be added, of which about a third will be in Punggol and Sengkang.

Mother of a 33-month-old girl and a two-week-old boy, Ms Joanne Goh, 34, told TNP that she faced many challenges enrolling her older daughter into a childcare centre in Punggol, where she is currently living with her parents.

She hopes that she will be able to enrol her children into the new Sengkang facility when she moves into the neighbourhood next year.

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Singapore aims to be leader in air, sea incident probes

Karamjit Kaur, Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Jan 17;

Singapore is beefing up its capabilities to investigate air and maritime accidents that happen globally.

On the air side, the aim is to be not just an aviation hub for commercial flights but also the centre for industry training and expertise in areas like air traffic management and air incident investigations.

From a two-man team in 2002, the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) now has 16 staff, including a pilot and several engineers.

There are also 20 volunteers, including officers from the Republic of Singapore Air Force, who can be activated when necessary.

The TSIB, a unit under the Ministry of Transport, was launched in August last year after a restructuring.

From just focusing on air accidents, its new mandate includes investigating marine incidents.

Before the change, it was called the Air Accident Investigation Bureau.

Over the years, the bureau has also built up its expertise and knowledge.

The capability was further strengthened last year with the opening of a new laboratory at TSIB's Changi Airport office, which The Straits Times visited last week.

While, previously, the team could work only with black boxes that were still intact, it now has equipment to also analyse damaged boxes, for example if they have been submerged underwater.

Black boxes are flight data recorders which contain cockpit voice recordings and other information critical for investigations.

So far, the TSIB has been involved in not just incidents involving Singapore carriers but also assisted in other investigations.

For example, the team was involved in the probe into the crash of an AirAsia Indonesia plane in December 2014 while flying from Surabaya to Singapore and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in March the same year.

Compared with established entities like the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States, the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the Singapore bureau may still be considered to be in its infancy stage.

However, within the region and, in particular, South-east Asia, the TSIB is ahead of many of its counterparts.

TSIB's deputy director (air safety investigation) Michael Alan Toft said: "I think we have positioned ourselves well and from feedback that we have received from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (a United Nations arm which oversees global commercial aviation), I think they see us as being quite progressive within the region."

As the number of flights continues to grow in the Asia-Pacific and globally, and ship movements continue to increase, ensuring safe practices and processes is critical, experts said.

This is a key role that the TSIB plays, said Captain Kunal Nakra, the authority's deputy director (marine safety investigation).

While the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore ensure that rules and regulations are adhered to, the TSIB is tasked to go further and dip deeper, he said.

"We ask all the 'whys'. So if a ship catches fire, why did the fire occur? Did the crew fight the fire as they were supposed to? If not, there is a lapse there. Why? Maybe there is an issue with the training. So we strip it down to those levels," he said.

Mr Toft added: "We don't just stop at the sharp end of the stick."

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Malaysia: The third wave: Terengganu on standby for possibility of floods

ZARINA ABDULLAH New Straits Times 18 Jan 17;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Following the ‘yellow stage’ warning for heavy rains issued by the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia), the state Fire and Rescue Department has frozen all leave for its staff.

Its director Azlimin Mat Noor said the notice for the department’s 1,000 staff state-wide takes effect today.

Azlimin said the Fire and Rescue Department is prepared for action again should flood return to the state again following the alert that issued by MetMalaysia on forecasted heavy rainfall between today and Saturday.

“Those who are on leave have been recalled. All our assets, including an amphibious vehicle, 40 lorries and 60 units of rescue boats are ready to be mobilised,” he said today. “We are now also on a standby mode.

We are the front liners in flood rescue operations together with the Civil Defence Department (APM) and other agencies,” he added.

Meanwhile, the state Civil Defence Department director Lt Colonel Che Adam A. Rahman said his men were ready for the third wave of heavy rain could potentially flood low-lying areas.

“We will also be monitoring the beach areas because the warning from MetMalaysia also included on the occurrence of high waves,” he added.

On Monday, the MetMalaysia issued the yellow stage warning for several states including Terengganu.

It also said strong northeast winds with between 40 and 50 kilometre per hour (kmph) and waves as high as 3.5 metres are to be expected in waters off Kelantan and Terengganu until next Monday.

As such, the weather condition could prove to be dangerous for water activities and small boats.

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Malaysia: 22 Sabah schools close due to floods

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 18 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Twenty-two schools in Sabah’s northern Kota Marudu and Pitas districts were closed as heavy overnight rain triggered flooding in low-lying areas and cut off at least five main roads.

Some 145 people from three villages were evacuated to relief centres as flood waters continue to rise in the two districts.

Sabah Education Department director Datuk Maimunah Suhaibul said Wednesday some 6,000 pupils and students were affected by the school closure.

Among the schools closed in Kota Marudu were SK Langkon, SK Masalog, SK Ranau, SK Tumundu Salimandut, SK Pekan Kota Marudu, SK Mengaris, SK Mangaris, SK Koromoko, SJKC Khoi Ming, SK Tandek, SK Ongkilan, SK Timbang Batu, SK Temuno Teringai Data, SK Talantang 1, SK Bintasan and SMK Langkon.

The schools affected in neighbouring Pitas district were SK Pandan Mandamai, SK Pinapak, SK Mandurian, SK Nibang and SK Dandun.

Among the 12 worst hit villages were Kg Taripan, Kg Morion and Longob, where relief workers moved in to help trapped families out of their homes to send them to relief centres opened at community halls.

Five main roads into the villages were cut off and electricity supply was disrupted.

Sabah civil defence director Kol Muliadi Al-Hamdi Ladin told the media that the Sungai Bongon level was at 8.3m, past the 7.9m danger level, while Sungai Bandau is at the danger level of 6m.

The flood situation in Sabah’s central Beluran district has improved with only one village – Kg Jaya Bakti – reportedly still inundated, but the water is receding slowly.

Heavy rains trigger floods in northern Kota Marudu and Pitas
The Star 19 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Twenty-two schools in Sabah’s northern Kota Marudu and Pitas districts have been closed as heavy rains overnight triggered floods in low-lying areas and cut off at least five main roads.

Some 145 people from three villages were evacuated to relief centres as floodwaters continued to rise in the two districts.

Sabah Education Department director Datuk Maimunah Suhaibul said about 6,000 primary and secondary school students were affected by the closure.

Among the 12 worst-hit villages were Kampung Taripan, Kampung Morion and Longob, where relief workers moved in to assist trapped families out of their homes to relief centres and community halls.

The five main roads to the villages were cut off and electricity supply was disrupted due to the floods.

Earlier yesterday, state Civil Defence Department director Kol Muliadi Al-Hamdi Ladin told the media that the Sungai Bongon level was at 8.3m, above the 7.9m danger level, while Sungai Bandau was at the danger level of 6m.

He said there had been no evacuation as yet, although a relief centre was opened at Kampung Longob’s mini community hall since 8am.

The situation in Sabah’s central Beluran district had improved with only one village, Kampung Jaya Bakti, reportedly still flooded as water was receding slowly.

As of 4pm, 808 people from 159 families had been evacuated to relief centres. However, since noon, weather conditions had been improving with affected rivers dropping from danger levels recorded earlier.

Seventeen villages in Kota Marudu were affected by the floods.

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Indonesia: 18 hot spots detected in Sumatra

The Jakarta Post 18 Jan 17;

Forest and land fires have begun to reappear in Sumatra, with 18 hot spots detected on Wednesday morning, the highest number in the wet season of early 2017.

Pekanbaru Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) head Sugarin said Terra and Aqua satellites detected hot spots in West Sumatra (1 spot), Riau (7), North Sumatra (1) provinces.

In Riau, most of the hot spots were detected in Rokan Hulu (3 spots) followed by Pelalawan (2). The rest were detected in Bengkalis and Kuantan Singingi regencies.

“Five hot spots [in Riau] show strong indication of [forest or land] fires,” Sugarin said as quoted by Antara news agency, adding that the five spots were spread in Rokan Hulu (3), Bengkalis (1) and Kuantan Singingi (1).

The BMKG began detecting hot spots in Riau two weeks ago.

West Sumatra on alert over possible forest fires
The Jakarta Post 18 Jan 17;

People in West Sumatra should be on alert for the possibility of forest and land fires as recent lower rainfall had caused warmer than usual weather, the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) warned on Wednesday.

BMKG Ketaping office’s observation and information section head Budi Iman Samiaji said there was potential for forest and land fires occurring in West Sumatra as temperatures could reach 34 Celsius degree during the day, with 50 percent humidity at present.

“Several areas that have suffered rampant [forest and land] fires including the eastern part of Limapuluh regency, as well as parts of Sijunjung, Sawahlunto, the central and eastern parts of South Pesisir and the eastern part of South Solok,” Budi said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Previously, West Sumatra Governor Irwan Prayitno reminded people to avoid the slash-and-burn practices to clear land as it was against the law.

Sijunjung Police chief Sr. Comr Dody Pribadi urged residents to stay on alert and anticipate any possible forest fires. “We urge people and [logging] companies together to avoid forest and land fires,” he said.

With 18 hotspots detected, Sumatra braces for forest fires
Today Online 19 Jan 17;

JAKARTA — Indonesian authorities warned people in Sumatra to be on the alert for forest and land fires as 18 hotspots were detected yesterday morning, the highest number this year.

The Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Ketaping office’s observation and information section head Budi Iman Samiaji said there will be less rainfall over Sumatra, especially in its western part, with temperatures forecast to reach 34°C during the day with a humidity of 50 per cent.

As such, there is high possibility that forest and land fires could occur, he said. Ketaping province is located in Western Sumatra.

Already, several regencies such as the eastern part of Limapuluh, parts of Sijunjung, the central and eastern parts of South Pesisir and the eastern part of South Solok are experiencing land and forest fires. These areas are located in Western Sumatra, facing the Indian Ocean.

Sijunjung Police Chief Senior Commander Dody Pribadi encouraged residents be on the alert for any possible fires.

“We urge the people and (logging) companies to avoid forest and land fires,” Jakarta Post quoted him as saying.

According to the Association of South-east Asian Nations Specialised Meteorological Centre, the number of hotspots in Sumatra rose from two on Monday to nine on Tuesday.

BMKG Pekanbaru head Sugarin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said satellites detected 18 hotspots yesterday morning, with seven in Riau province alone.

Other hotspots were detected in West and North Sumatra.

“Five of the hotspots in Riau show strong indication of (forest or land) fires,” Antara news agency quoted Mr Sugarin as saying, adding that the five hotspots were at Rokan Hulu, Bengkalis and Kuantan Singingi regencies.

Haze caused by Indonesian farmers who burn forests to clear their land for agriculture is an annual occurrence that sends smog wafting northwards to Singapore and Malaysia.

In late 2015, Singapore, as well as Malaysia and parts of Thailand, suffered a severe haze that affected tens of millions of people, forcing schools to close and causing thousands to fall sick across the region.

Last week, there were fears that the transboundary haze could return after up to seven hotspots were detected in several regencies in Riau.

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry has said it will dispatch helicopters to Riau and Kalimantan to help maximise ongoing efforts to prevent and control land and forest fires. AGENCIES

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Indonesia: Small farmers not to blame for peat fires -- Walhi

Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 18 Jan 17;

After decades of being blamed for the annual peat fires, a team of researchers have found out that small farmers are not responsible for the environmental threat as they have experience in sustainable peatland management.

The team compiled their findings in a book on local wisdom of peatland management, which was launched by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) on Wednesday.

“Until now, the negative stigma attached to indigenous communities and local people was that they were the ones who destroyed our forests. But they are actually the ones who have the knowledge and experience in sustainable peatland management,” Walhi spokesperson Khalisah Wahid said during the launch.

The team of researchers scourged through five provinces — South Sumatra, Jambi, Riau, West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan — to find out how small farmers managed peatlands without causing fires.

Dwi Nanto from Walhi’s Jambi chapter, for instance, noted how small farmers in three villages in Jambi gathered together to learn how to clear lands without causing massive fires prior to peatland cultivation.

“First, they assessed the condition of the peatland. Then they came up with various solutions before they started to work. This mindset is inherited by subsequent generations,” he said. “And it was ensured that there were no massive fires [caused by the clearing of land].” (evi)

Farmers to appeal 8-year sentence and Rp 10 billion fine
The Jakarta Post 19 Jan 17;

The lawyers for three farmers in Central Java plan to appeal for a more lenient punishment after their clients were sentenced to eight years in prison and fined Rp 10 billion (US$749,000) for damaging a forest in Kendal.

The case began when the fields in Sorokonto Wetan village, Pageruyung district in Kendal, where the three farmers grew crops, were declared to be forest by the government in 2014.

In a release made available on Wednesday, the lawyers said the claim through a Forestry Ministry decree in April 2014 was made unilaterally. The lawyers from the Indonesian Legal Aid Center (PBHI), the Semarang Legal Aid Institute (LBH Semarang) and the Legal Resource Center for Gender Justice and Human Rights (LRC-KJHAM) said the ministerial decree was made after state-owned cement company, PT Semen Indonesia, acquired forests for its operations in Central Java. To offset the loss of that forest area, the government declared the farmers’ fields to be forests.

The farmers, Nur Aziz, Sutrisno Rusmin, and Mujiono, had cultivated the land for decades, the release said.

The panel of judges in the Kendal District Court presented one dissenting opinion: The presiding judge said the case could have been settled through persuasion. The dissenting opinion said Nur Aziz should have been sentenced to three years, while Sutrisno and Mujiono to two years each.

Lawyer Kahar Muamalsyah said the panel of judges failed to understand that his clients were entitled to an exception stipulated in the 2013 law on deforestation prevention. “They said the exception is applicable only to indigenous people, but we argue that Surokonto Wetan villagers should have been included in the exception,” Kahar said.

Kahar said Article 11 in the law stipulated that people living near a forest doing traditional farming are exempt from criminal charges. (evi)

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Indonesia: Aceh Conservation Agency Finds Dead Elephant While Rescuing Stranded Calf

M Haris SA Jakarta Globe 17 Jan 17;

Jakarta. A dead elephant was found in an oil palm concession area in East Aceh on Saturday (14/01), according to Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency, or BKSDA.

"Autopsy results seem to suggest the elephant died from being shot – but we are not sure if was deliberately hunted or shot accidentally. There might be other factors," BKSDA Chief Sapto Aji Prabowo told state news agency Antara on Monday (16/01).

"The elephant was identified as a male adult aged 30, and when we found the carcass, the tusks were gone," Sapto added.

The autopsy revealed five bullet holes in the elephant's neck and back, though no traces of the bullets were found.

The alleged perpetrator of the elephant's murder is still on the run. The case is being dealt with by the police.

The dead elephant was found by BKSDA officers in the oil palm concession area Dwi Kencana Semesta on Saturday while they were on another elephant mission of a different nature.

The BKSDA officers were on a rescue mission to save a stranded baby elephant found by local villagers in Banda Alam on Friday (13/01).

The malnourished elephant calf has been sent for medical care at the Elephant Conservation Center in Saree, Aceh Besar.

Baby elephant rescued near Indonesian palm oil plantation
AFP Yahoo News 18 Jan 17;

A baby elephant found terrified and malnourished near a palm oil plantation is being nursed back to health at a conservation centre on Indonesia's Sumatra island.

Last week, animal experts in Aceh province received a tip-off about a dead elephant without its tusks.

When the team arrived they found the dead animal, along with the abandoned 11-month-old calf.

"We suspect the adult elephant was shot. He was probably with a group, so the others fled but the baby got left behind," Aceh conservation centre head Sapto Aji Prabowo told AFP.

"The baby was malnourished, so that's why we took him to the elephant conservation centre."

The youngster weighs around 300 kilograms (660 pounds), just over half the typical weight of an animal of his age.

Rangers transported the hungry creature to the conservation center where it is being looked after by specialists.

"It was in a bad condition, depressed, limp. It was obvious from his gestures that was afraid of us. Now it's getting better," said veterinarian Rosa Rika Wahyuni.

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World's primates facing extinction crisis, new report says

SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press Yahoo News 19 Jan 17;

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gorillas, monkeys, lemurs and other primates are in danger of becoming extinct, and scientists say it's our fault that our closest living relatives are in trouble, a new international study warns.

About 60 percent of the more than 500 primate species are "now threatened with extinction" and 3 out of 4 primate species have shrinking populations, according to a study published in Wednesday's journal Science Advances .

While scientists had tracked dwindling numbers of individuals and groups of primates in forests around the world, this is the first big-picture look. The result was "a bigger wake-up call" than previously thought, said researcher Paul Garber of the University of Illinois.

"The outlook is not very good," said Garber, who recently returned from the jungles of Brazil studying marmosets.

The decline has been blamed on human activities including hunting, mining and oil drilling. Logging, ranching and farming have also destroyed precious habitat in Africa, Asia and South America.

Primates, which include apes, monkeys and humans, have forward-facing eyes and grasping ability that set them apart from other mammals. Scientists study them to learn about human behavior and evolution.

Much of the problems faced by primates are recent. For example, the Grauer's gorilla dropped from a population of 17,000 in 1995 to just about 3,800 now, mostly from bushmeat hunting and mineral mining, the study found.

There are only about 14,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the world. The Hainan gibbon in China is down to just 25 individuals, while 22 out of the 26 primate species in China are endangered, Garber said.

About 94 percent of the lemur species in the world are endangered, especially in Madagascar, which is one of hardest-hit places for primate population loss.

"We need to look at (population losses) almost as signals. They're telling us something about our future," Garber said. "This is a critical world problem."

While there's hope that some species can be protected, many will disappear in the coming decades, said co-author Eduardo Fernandez-Duque of Yale University.

Emory University primate expert Frans de Waal called the work "very detailed and timely and unfortunately correct."

"Primate populations are clearly moving in the wrong direction," said de Waal, who wasn't part of the study.

Primates facing 'extinction crisis'
Victoria Gill BBC News 19 Jan 17;

The world's primates face an "extinction crisis" with 60% of species now threatened with extinction, according to research.

A global study, involving more than 30 scientists, assessed the conservation status of more than 500 individual species.

This also revealed that 75% of species have populations that are declining.

The findings are published in the journal Science Advances.

Professor Jo Setchell from Durham University, a member of the team, explained that the main threats were "massive habitat loss" and illegal hunting.

"Forests are destroyed when primate habitat is converted to industrial agriculture, leaving primates with nowhere to live," she told BBC News.

"And primates are hunted for meat and trade, either as pets or as body parts."

Other threats - all driven by human behaviour - are forest clearance for livestock and cattle ranching; oil and gas drilling and mining.

"The short answer is that we must reduce human domination of the planet, and learn to share space with other species," Prof Setchell commented.

No alternative

The study also cited poverty and civil unrest as a driving force for hunting - in the poorest parts of the world many people are being driven to hunting primates in order to feed themselves.

"We need to focus on the development of these parts of the world and make sure people have an alternative source of protein," said Prof Serge Wich from Liverpool John Moores University.

He pointed out that the loss of primate species represented the loss of forests that are essential for the future of our own species.

"These forests provide essential services for people," he told BBC News.

"They help in being carbon stocks to mitigate climate change; they help in providing clean water and providing pollination services for people, so they can grow their crops."

The researchers also pointed to some personal choices that people could make as consumers, particularly in the west, to avoid contributing to tropical deforestation.

"Simple examples are don't buy tropical timber, don't eat palm oil," said Prof Setchell.

But more broadly, "we need to raise local, regional and global public awareness of the plight of the world's primates and what this means for ecosystem health, human culture, and ultimately human survival.

"In industrialised nations, we must decrease our demand for resources that we don't need, and stop confusing wants with needs."

Dr Christoph Schwitzer, from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature is also director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society. He told the BBC that it was his "strong belief" that "with a concerted effort by the world's governments and conservationists, primate declines can be halted and populations stabilised".

He added that changes in consumer behaviour could help, for example "choosing FSC-certified wood and paper products, and making sure palm oil comes from sustainable sources".

Dr Schwitzer added: "Protected areas [of habitat] and efficient law enforcement will be key."

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Climate change: Data shows 2016 likely to be warmest year yet

Record warm temperatures were seen all over the world in 2016, including the Arctic
Matt McGrath BBC 18 Jan 17;

Temperature data for 2016 shows it is likely to have edged ahead of 2015 as the world's warmest year.

Data from Nasa and the UK Met Office shows temperatures were about 0.07 degrees Celsius above the 2015 mark.

Although the Met Office increase was within the margin of error, Nasa says that 2016 was the third year in a row to break the record.

The El Niño weather phenomenon played a role, say scientists, but the main factor was human emissions of CO2.

The latest conclusions won't come as a much of a shock to observers, as the likely outcome was trailed heavily towards the end of last year.

So warm was the early part of 2016 - influenced by a powerful El Niño - that some leading climate scientists were predicting as early as May that a new record was likely.

During an El Niño, a band of unusually warm ocean water develops in parts of the Pacific. The phenomenon affects the climate globally, disrupting weather patterns.

According to Nasa figures, 2016 is now the warmest year in a record that dates back to 1880.

"2015 has been the warmest year on record up until now, so 2016 has just beaten that and and it's beaten that by about 0.1- 0.12 of a degree Celsius, which doesn't seem like a lot, but in terms of the year to year variations it's actually huge," Dr Gavin Schmidt from Nasa told BBC News.

"This is a very clear record that we're seeing. It is driven mainly by changes in the tropical Pacific where we had an El Niño event that produced a lot of warmth. But we've also seen long term trends in warming mostly due to the increasing greenhouse gases."

Another factor that has affected temperatures in 2016 is the unusual warmth in the Arctic.

The sea-ice covering the Arctic reached its second lowest level (in terms of extent) in September 2016. The sea-ice grows in autumn and winter and shrinks each spring and summer.

While the sea-ice extent last year didn't break the record, the mercury stayed high and the smaller amount of ice now present in the region is at unprecedented levels for the time of year.

A number of meteorological agencies from around the world have released their figures today. They all suggest that warming in 2016 was a record that had an important contribution from El Niño.

The Met Office says it contributed about 0.2C to the annual average for 2016. However, researchers believe that while this is substantial, it is not the whole story.

"We understand the contribution El Niño makes fairly well and we've seen it many times," said Prof Ellie Highwood from the University of Reading.

"But even if you take that contribution away, we would expect 2015 and 2016 to still be the warmest years we've seen, so a majority of it is coming from global warming and the greenhouse effect."

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which pulls together temperature data from a number of sources, agrees that 2016 broke the record by 0.07C.

Not all of the reports on temperature data in 2016 are clear that the warmest-year record has been broken.

Century dominated by records

The Met Office says that 2016 was 0.77 above the long term rate, but with a plus or minus error margin of 0.1C, meaning that last year was at the very least, one of the two warmest years on record.

"The final figures confirm that 2016 was yet another extremely warm year," said Peter Stott from the Met Office.

"The temperature for last year was very close to the year before, temperatures for 2016 exceeding those for 2015 by a small margin."

Regardless of the small margins, when the new data on 2016 is included, 15 of the warmest 16 years on record have now occurred since 2001.

According to Noaa (the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the only year from the 20th Century to break into the top 16 is 1998, and which ranks seventh warmest.

This prolonged period of warming was having significant impacts around the world.

"We have also broken sea ice minimum records in the Arctic and Antarctic," said Petteri Taalas from the WMO.

"The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. The persistent loss of sea-ice is driving weather, climate and ocean circulation patterns in other parts of the world. We also have to pay attention to the potential release of methane from melting permafrost," he said.

Of great concern to scientists and politicians is the fact that the newly published temperature data shows the Earth is once again more than one degree warmer than pre-industrial times, and edging closer to the threshold of 1.5C set under the Paris climate pact.

With the Trump administration about to take office in the US, there are concerns that political support for climate action might fade. This would be a big mistake according to scientists.

"Climate change is one of the great challenges of the 21st Century and shows no signs of slowing down," said Prof Mark Maslin, from University College London.

"The decarbonisation of the global economy is the ultimate goal to prevent the worst effects of climate change. The hottest year on record is such a clear warning siren that even President-elect Trump cannot ignore it."

Researchers say that 2017 is unlikely to break the warming record but will be in the top five hottest years.

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