Best of our wild blogs: 26 Jan 17

RUMblers and the January oil spill at Ubin mangroves
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

8 Ways to Have a Green Chinese New Year

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Cambodia: Sand stats ‘correct’ -- government

Mech Dara and Yesenia Amaro Phnom Penh Post 25 Jan 17;

At a government-organised forum on sand exports yesterday, a Ministry of Mines and Energy official said an investigation had been carried out into huge discrepancies in data on sand export from Cambodia to Singapore but that the probe found no irregularities.

UN data show Cambodia’s customs reported 2.8 million tonnes of sand exports to Singapore from 2007 to 2015, while Singapore recorded 72.2 million tonnes in imports during the same period. A ministry official yesterday said they had recorded about 16 million tonnes of exports to Singapore for the same period – still a discrepancy of some 56 million tonnes.

However, Dith Tina, spokesman and secretary of state for the ministry, said on the sidelines of the forum that the investigation found the ministry’s figures to be “correct”.

When asked what the investigation had looked into, Tina referred questions to fellow secretary of state and spokesman Meng Saktheara, who he said, had carried out the review. Saktheara, meanwhile, said his investigation, which was launched early last month, found no irregularities, but acknowledged it did find “loopholes”.

“The figures released by the Ministry of Mines and Energy are correct figures of sand export volume permitted by the ministry,” he said. “If there is evidence pointing to a licence holder committing illegal exports or contradicting the export permit terms, the ministry will take legal action.”

Among the areas examined were compliance by licensed sand dredgers, performance by the provincial mines department in Koh Kong in monitoring dredging operations, and procedural requirements for granting export invoices.

The findings showed a need for improvement of export procedures, Saktheara added.

For example, in order to properly grant an export invoice, a shipment inspection is required, he said. But given the limited capacity of the provincial department, it often relied on certification and clearance from port authorities. “This has to be improved,” he said. “If they are required to inspect the shipment, they will have to inspect the shipment, instead of relying on other entities.”

As part of a new process now in the works, Saktheara said companies will be required to inform the ministry a week in advance of loading a shipment so that an inspection team can be deployed. They will also be required to have a pre-export and post-export declaration to ensure that the quantities of materials leaving Cambodia and entering Singapore, for example, are indeed the same.

According to a spokesperson from Singapore’s Ministry of National Development, the city-state “will investigate any such instances and take enforcement action, if evidence is provided” of wrongdoing.

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Singapore not meeting its air quality targets: Masagos

SIAU MING EN Today Online 26 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — With vehicles plying the roads among the key contributors to air pollution in Singapore, a study commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources found that electric vehicles and renewable diesel are some of the more viable clean alternatives to diesel vehicles.

But the six-month study conducted by Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) Assistant Professor Lynette Cheah last year also found that while electrification is a promising technology for some vehicles — namely cars, light and heavy goods vehicles and public buses travelling shorter routes — there are limits.

Concern remains over how far these vehicles can travel as well as a lack of charging infrastructure, said Asst Prof Cheah, who was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a focus group discussion held on Wednesday (Jan 25), before the annual debates on the ministry’s budget takes place later this year.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who also attended the discussion, said Singapore is committed to delivering clean air but the country is not meeting its air quality targets.

Based on last year’s figures, Singapore is not on track to meet 2020 targets for pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), particulate matter (PM 10) and ozone. Meanwhile, a Lancet study found that more than 3.2 million people suffered premature deaths from air pollution in 2010.

Noting the SUTD study findings, Mr Masagos said: “We have to be critical of the solutions that we will adopt over the years and what we will do for now.”

The ministry will be reviewing vehicular emission policies to ensure that the authorities are not “inadvertently encouraging motorists to use diesel when viable alternatives are available and feasible”. This includes a review of the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme, which is expiring this year.

Another viable alternative flagged by the study was renewable diesel, which can achieve immediate emissions reductions.

Such a form of diesel comes from feedstock such as vegetable oil and animal fat, but unlike biodiesel, it does not need to be blended with conventional diesel when used in vehicles. But renewal diesel also costs twice as much as conventional diesel.

Singapore not meeting its air quality targets: Masagos
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 26 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore is not on track to achieve its air quality targets by 2020 which are benchmarked against the guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to figures from the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), in the past two years, Singapore fell short in meeting its targets for pollutants such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), particulate matter (PM10) and ozone.

“Unfortunately if you look at our trajectory, we are not meeting our targets and therefore we need to do more to ensure that our air pollution issue is being addressed,” said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday (Jan 25).

Speaking at a pre-Budget focus group discussion, Mr Masagos said Singapore is committed to finding ways to address air pollution.

For instance, his ministry will review its vehicular emission policies, including the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS), which gives rebates or surcharges depending on how much carbon dioxide a car or taxi emits. The current scheme is due to expire this year.


The review follows a six-month study conducted by Assistant Professor Lynette Cheah from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). It was commissioned by MEWR last year in light of increasing concerns over the harmful effects of diesel vehicular emissions.

The study found that powering vehicles with electricity and renewable diesel are two of the more viable and cleaner alternatives to conventional diesel. But costs remain a concern.

While electrification is a “promising technology” for vehicles like cars, buses and those that carry large and heavy goods, Asst Prof Cheah laid out the limitations.

“The technology is available. As to how we can convert the market today, that’s a different story. In terms of price, (electric vehicles) cost more than the conventional diesel vehicles,” she said.

There are also concerns like how far vehicles can travel on one charge, as well as a lack of charging infrastructure.

As for using renewable diesel, the study found that it can achieve immediate reductions in emissions. Such a fuel is produced from treating feedstock like used cooking oil. With a chemical makeup that is similar to diesel, it can be used to power a diesel vehicle without having to modify it.

However, even though renewable diesel is cleaner than conventional diesel, it still emits harmful pollutants. It is also twice as expensive.

“We also don’t have yet a market in Singapore for (renewable diesel). There are a lot of unknowns in terms of distribution. But there are markets that use renewable diesel - in fact in some places, they are mandated, like in California”, said Asst Prof Cheah.

Commenting on the study's findings, Mr Masagos said: "This is just the beginning of a journey to understand our options. We have to be practical on the solutions that we adopt over the years. There are many objectives of why diesel is used in the first place."

"We have to understand it properly so that when we implement it for the longer term, we are also not inadvertently putting too much cost on the industry or the users to switch to these alternatives," he added.

- CNA/gs

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Water level at Linggiu Reservoir at 30.8% after recent rains: PUB

Today Online 26 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — The water level at the Linggiu Reservoir in Johor, operated by Singapore’s national water agency PUB, has gone up slightly as a result of the last two days’ rain.

As of Wednesday (Jan 25), the water level stands at 30.8 per cent, up slightly from the 27.5 per cent recorded last Wednesday, the PUB said.

The decreasing water levels at the reservoir has been of great concern here, given that it regulates the flow of the Johor River, from which Singapore extracts raw water for treatment and for supply to the Republic.

From 80 per cent in early 2015 to a historic low of 20 per cent in October last year, the water level in the reservoir has been making a slow recovery recently.

Earlier in the month, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a written Parliamentary response that there is “significant risk” that the reservoir may run out of water this year if 2017 turns out to be a dry year. If that happens, it would pose severe problems for Singapore and Malaysia, he added.

The PUB spokesman said: “While the water level has increased due to the rains in the last two days, weather uncertainties remain.

“We all need to continue our efforts to use water wisely and conserve our precious water resources.”

Enough water in dam, Johor assures Singapore
YEE XIANG YUN The Star 26 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: Johor has assured Singapore that the Linggiu Dam has sufficient water to supply 250 million gallons a day (mgd) to the island.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohamad said ongoing measures were being carried out to increase the capacity of nearby rivers or catchment areas to ensure sufficient water in the dam.

He said this was done by introducing barrage or offsite storage, known as off-river storage (ORS), where the river waterway is enlarged to store water as well.

He said plans were carried out with the intention to increase the water storage to contain water not only in the river but to also create a catchment within the river.

“In Linggiu’s case, we focus on the rivers around it like the Johor River and Linggiu River so that efforts to pump water into the dam can be done,” he said yesterday.

Singapore authorities have expressed concern and are keeping a close eye on the situation in Linggiu, which the island republic depends on as a water source, as it has dropped drastically over the past few years.

Its Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan reportedly said there was a significant risk that Linggiu might fall further in 2017 if it turned out to be a dry year and its Public Utilities Board (PUB) would not be able to abstract water from the dam.

The 1962 Water Agreement entitles the PUB to draw up to 250 mgd from the Johor River and in return, Johor is entitled to a daily supply of treated water of up to 2% (or 5mgd) of the raw water supplied to Singapore.

Meanwhile, Hasni admitted that it was worrying when the water level in the dam hit a low of 25% of its full capacity recently but assured that the situation in the state was under control.

The continuous rain over the past few days had a silver lining as it helped increase the level in the Johor River to 5.9m, he said.

He said the state was keeping a close watch on the situation because if the rain continued to fall and the river level increased to the warning level of 7.5m, water could overflow if not properly managed and could cause floods in Kota Tinggi.

He said the Juasir Dam in Segamat and Lebam Dam in Kota Tinggi had overflowed due to the rain but the Johor Water Regulatory Body was handling it and the overall water situation in Johor was considered manageable.

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Malaysia flood update: Johor, Pahang worst affected with almost 10,000 evacuees

New Straits Times 26 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: The number of flood victims evacuated in Johor stood at 8,130 as of 6am today.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the 2,277 families are taking shelter at 73 temporary relief centres in five districts.

The latest figure is a slight increase from the 8,055 victims recorded at midnight.

Ayub said most of the victims are in Segamat district, with 6,206 victims from 1,781 families at 54 relief centres.

Other districts affected are Tangkak, with 1,534 victims from 392 families at 12 relief centres; Kluang, with 211 victims from 56 families at four relief centres; Muar, with 174 victims from 45 families at two relief centres; and Kota Tinggi with five victims from three families at one relief centre.

He said the Meteorological Department has forecasted thunderstorms in waters off eastern Johor until late morning today.
"(There will be) strong winds of up to 50km/h and choppy sea conditions, with waves up to 3.5m, which is dangerous to small boats," he said.

In PAHANG, eight more relief centres were opened, bringing the total number of evacuation points in the state to 93 from 85 last night, as more victims were relocated due to further flooding this morning.

Pahang Civil Defence Force director Zainal Yussof said that as of 6.30am, seven relief centres were opened in Temerloh to shelter 90 people from 23 families; while one relief centre was opened in Bera for a family of three.

Zainal said floods in nine districts in the state have worsened, forcing 5,912 people from 1,536 families to be temporarily relocated to relief centres in nine districts state-wide as of 8am.

In Kuantan, 1,354 people from 344 families were relocated to nine relief centres in the district.

In Lipis, 869 people from 234 families were relocated to 23 relief centres in the district, while in Rompin, 632 people from 169 families were taking shelter at four relief centres.

“In Jerantut, 821 people from 197 families are taking shelter at 16 relief centres, while in Raub there are 456 people from 143 families at 17 relief centres,” he added.

In Maran, 1,079 people from 284 families were evacuated to 12 relief centres after their houses were inundated by floodwaters.

“In Pekan, 608 people from 141 families are taking shelter at four relief centres in the district,” Zainal said.

In KELANTAN, the number of people at flood shelters dropped to 362 people in four districts as of 8am today.

The districts are Gua Musang, Jeli, Kuala Krai and Pasir Putih.

According to the Kelantan flood operations centre, Gua Musang has the largest number of evacuees, with150 people from 34 families.
Pasir Putih has 100 people, Kuala Krai, 77 and Jeli, 47.

In NEGRI SEMBILAN, Bernama reports that the number of flood victims in the state increased to 157 people as of 8am today.
According to the Social Welfare Department's infobanjir, the 157 evacuees (comprising 43 families) are from Taman Sungai Gemas, and they are being accommodated at the evacuation centre at Dewan Besar Gemas.

It said the evacuation center at Balairaya Kampung Jeram Panjang was closed last night after the evacuees, comprising four families, returned to their respective homes.

In PERAK, Bernama reports that a total of 569 people from 176 families are still at eight flood evacuation centres in five districts as of 8am.

According to the Social Welfare Department's infobanjir, the evacuation centres are in the districts of Kinta, Larut Matang and Selama, Manjung, Hilir Perak and Perak Tengah.

Manjung recorded the highest number of flood victims with 383 people, 180 of whom are at Dewan Inderawati, Beruas; while the remaining 203 people are at Sekolah Rendah Agama Rakyat Padang Serai.

In the district of Larut Matang and Selama, there are 65 evacuees at two relief centres, namely Dewan Orang Ramai Matang Merbau Sungai Tinggi (24 people) and Surau Padang Serai Dalam (41 people).

In Kinta, 76 people are at Dewan Sikh Settlement Tanjung Tualang, while in Hilir Perak, 31 flood victims are at Sekolah Kebangsaan Pengkalan Ara.

In the Hilir Perak district, four people are taking shelter at Surau Kampung Talang Belanja Kiri, Parit, and 10 others are at Surau Nurul Jannah, Parit 6, Layang-Layang Kiri, Parit.

In SABAH, Bernama reports that the number of flood victims at three evacuation centres in Pitas and Paitan has dropped to 228 people from 86 families as of 8am today.

Chief Secretariat of the Sabah Disaster Management Committee, Colonel Mulliadi Al-Hamdi Ladin, said 45 victims (from 10 families) are at the evacuation centre at Dewan Kampung Binsulung in Paitan.

In the Pitas district, he said 61 of the victims (from 28 families) are at Sekolah Kebangsaan Pekan 2; and 122 victims (from 48 families) are at Dewan Komuniti Kampung Indah.


The latest from Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor
KRISTY INUS AND BERNAMA New Straits Times 26 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Five relief centres were closed in the flood-affected districts of Pitas and Beluran today after the number of evacuees dropped from 624 yesterday to 228 this morning.

As of 8am, one centre in Beluran and four centres in Pitas were closed, leaving one still in operation Beluran with 45 victims, and two in Pitas with 183 victims collectively.

Sabah Civil Defence Director Colonel Muliadi Al-Hamdi Ladin said water levels at Sungai Kebatasan and Sungai Bengkoka in Pitas have reduced, while Sungai Labuk in Beluran has remained unchanged.

“It is currently sunny in Pitas and water levels reduced due to better weather, while Beluran is currently cloudy with light rain in some areas,” he said.

In SARAWAK, Bernama reports that fourteen primary schools in Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri are closed today due to the floods in the state.

Sarawak Disaster Management Committee secretariat from the Civil Defence Force Major Ismail Mahedin said the school closures affect 1,232 students.

They are Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Bukit Balai, SK Kuala Sigu, SK Genaan, SK Bukit Mawang, SK Kuala Binyo, SK Long Sobeng, SK Kuala Bok, SK Long Luyang, SK Ulu Segan, SK Sg Anak, SK St Dunstan, SK St Swithun, SK Long Jegan and SK Long Teran Kanan.

However, there have been no evacuations.

In SELANGOR, Bernama reports that the number of flood victims at three evacuation centres in Sabak Bernam district increased to 364 people (from 105 families) as at 8am today, from 352 people last night.

A spokesman at the Sabak Bernam Disaster Operations Room said the number of victims at Dewan Sri Bernam, Sungai Besar, increased to 161 people (from 46 families), from 151 victims (from 42 families) last night.

The number of flood victims at the evacuation centre in Dewan Seri Nakhoda, Bagan Nakhoda Omar, remains at 32 people (from eight families).

The spokesman said the Selangor Drainage and Irrigation Department have provided four pumps to help transfer stagnant flood waters to the sea.

"Several areas, like Kampung Parit 5, Parit Baru, and Sungai Tengar, are submerged under about 0.3 metre of water, and the residents cannot go out to sea," he added.

Second wave of floods worse than last year, says Zahid
FAIRUZ MOHD SHAHAR New Straits Times 25 Jan 17;

PUTRAJAYA: The second wave of floods this year is likely to be worse than last year, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Zahid said this is based on the rainfall distribution and the rising water level in several states, especially in Johor and Pahang.

“The second wave of floods last year was considered minimal, but this time I think the situation is quite bad. This is based on the report by Meteorological Department that strong winds and heavy rain are expected to continue.

“The number of evacuees in flood-affected areas is expected to increase.

“We have intensified the preparedness level, including mobilising additional relief team to Johor and Pahang,” Zahid told reporters after receiving a courtesy call from New Zealand Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, here, today.

Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said the relevant disaster relief agencies will continue to mobilise mobile kitchen and ensure that food supply is sufficient for the flood victims.

Meanwhile at the meeting, Zahid and Woodhouse discussed on the bilateral cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the immigration issues.

They also shared their perspectives on ways to address the migration issues, including migrant smuggling.

Woodhouse is on a working visit to Malaysia until tomorrow.

Flood situation in Johor worsens
The Star 26 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: The flood situation in Johor shows no sign of improving.

The number of evacuees at the 73 flood evacuation centres increased to 8,130 people as of 6am Thursday.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the number increased from 8,045 people at 10pm Wednesday.

He said all the flood victims were from the districts of Segamat, Kota Tinggi, Kluang, Muar and Tangkak.

"In Segamat, the number of victims at the 54 centres increased to 6,206 people (1,781 families), from 6,213 people (1,783 families) last night.

"In Tangkak, the 1,534 flood victims (392 families) are at 12 evacuation centres; Kota Tinggi (five people from three families at a centre); Kluang (211 people from 56 families at four centres) and Muar (174 victims from 45 families at two centres," he said in a statement here.

Ayub said so far, only evacuation centres in the Johor Baru, Mersing and Batu Pahat districts had been closed, while two districts, Kulai and Pontian, were not affected by the floods. - Bernama

Johor floods: 8,045 people from five districts placed in 73 temporary shelters
AHMAD FAIRUZ OTHMAN New Straits Times 26 Jan 17;

JOHOR BARU: The number of flood victims in Johor stood at 8,045 people in five districts at 10pm tonight, said state Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat.

He said the victims were from 2,253 families, relocated to 73 temporary relief centres in the state.

He said the majority of the flood victims were in Segamat with 6,213 people from 1,783 families relocated to 54 relief centres.

This was followed by Tangkak with 1,446 people from 369 families relocated to 12 relief centres, Kluang with 207 people from 53 families relocated to four relief centres, Muar with 174 people from 45 families relocated to two relief centres and Kota Tinggi with five victims from three families relocated to a relief centre.

He said relief centres in the districts of Johor Baru, Mersing and Batu Pahat, which were previously operational since Monday, were now closed. He added that Kulai and Pontian are the two districts not affected by the floods.

Floods cause disruptions to KTM services
The Star 25 Jan 17;

PETALING JAYA: The KTM Intercity train service has been experiencing disruptions following floods along the Southern and East Coast sectors.

Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) in a statement on Wednesday said that KM590.250 of the Southern sector, from Segamat – Genuang in Johor, and KM220.5 on the East Coast sector, from Kuala Lipis in Pahang – Gua Musang in Kelantan, were flooded.

Train services along the affected sectors have been disrupted since Tuesday.

KTMB has made alternative travel arrangements for all Intercity train services affected in both sectors.

The affected services are as follows:

1. Train No. 26 (JB Sentral - Tumpat)

Passengers will board the train from JB Sentral to Kluang station. From Kluang station, passengers will be driven to Tumpat station by bus.

2. Train No. 27 (Tumpat - JB Sentral)

Passengers will board the train from Tumpat station to Kuala Krai station. From Kuala Krai station, passengers will board a bus to Kluang station and proceed to JB Sentral by train.

3. Selatan Express (Gemas - JB Sentral)

Passengers from Gemas station will board a bus to Kluang Station. Train services from Kluang station to JB Sentral are operational.

4. East Coast Shuttle (Kuala Lipis - Gua Musang - Dabong - Kuala Krai - Tumpat)

The train service operates between Kuala Krai to Tumpat only.

KTMB said passengers are entitled to a full refund for all affected Southern and East Coast sector train services.

"However, the refunds must be made before the train or bus departs.

"KTM Berhad is making every effort to provide the best service to all passengers and apologises for the inconvenience caused," it said.

For further information, passengers can contact the KTMB Call Centre at 03-2267 1200 or visit their official website at

Heavy rain expected in all the other states, says Met Dept
GAN PEI LING and SIMON KHOO The Star 26 Jan 17;

PETALING JAYA: Perlis is the only state in the country that can look forward to sunshine for the Chinese New Year holidays while heavy rain is expected in other states.

According to the Meteorological Department, residents in Perlis can expect rainfall today and tomorrow.

But it is expected to stay dry for the first three days of the Lunar New Year. The Chinese New Year celebrations begin on Saturday.

A dry day is also expected on Monday, the third day of the Chinese New Year in Penang. Showers are expected in the afternoon in parts of the island.

The department said most parts of Sabah and Sarawak are likely to be rainy over the Chinese New Year weekend, with thunderstorms in the afternoons and showers in the evenings.

The wet spell is also likely to continue in coastal areas of Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang.

Strong monsoon rains that have hit Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor are likely to ease by the weekend.

However, thunderstorms are expected in parts of these three states over the next four days.

In Kedah, showers are expected in some areas in the afternoons and evenings for the same period, while thunderstorms in the afternoon are expected in Perak, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

In Pahang, intermittent rain over the past 24 hours has caused many rivers to swell.

Residents near the low-lying Sungai Lembing are on alert after the water level rose between 0.6m and 0.9m.

In Jerantut, about 40 to 50 foreign tourists were left stranded in Kuala Tahan following heavy rains on Tuesday.

Some of them left due to the bad weather. However, others were stranded after the route from Kuala Tahan to Jerantut town was cut off.

“The tourists can still travel back to Jerantut by boat. But we advised them not to do so because the river current is very strong. Floating deadwood, rubbish and logs can also pose danger to the travelling boats,” said Pahang Fire and Rescue Department Zone 2 chief Shahrin Yusmar Mat Yusof after meeting the tourists in Taman Negara here yesterday.

They are mainly from Germany, France and Holland.

The high-tide phenomenon is also expected in Kuantan, Pekan and Rompin and the people are advised against going out to sea.

Pahang Crisis Relief Squad Malaysia of MCA chief Datuk Chang Hong Seong said 150 personnel were ready to be deployed.

“Our focus will be on Sungai Lembing and Temerloh,” he said.

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Malaysia: Proposed Sukau bridge may affect pygmy elephants, Sabah govt told

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 26 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Government has been urged to re-examine the proposed RM223mil Sukau bridge project, with conservationists saying it will affect the state’s pygmy elephant population.

Environmentalists said the bridge project will disrupt the movement of Borneo pygmy elephants between forests, and they are urging the state government to scrap the project.

In response, Sabah Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Nyuk Ming said the state cannot ignore the implications of the project.

Speaking in his personal capacity, he said that the Kinabatangan area was internationally renowned and the bridge project would have serious implications on not only elephant conservation, but also tourism.

“I believe such a bridge over the migratory path of the elephants would definitely bring more conflict between elephants and humans,” he said.

In Kalabakan (Tawau), elephants have been reported as going on the rampage after forests were cleared for oil palm plantations.

Pang told reporters this after meeting Kinabatangan-based Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens here on Thursday.

The Kinabatangan conservation area has been dubbed the “Corridor of Life.”

Dr Goossens briefed Pang, saying the proposed project would have a critical impact on Borneo pygmy elephants and other wildlife, including orangutans, in Kinabatangan.

“The scientific evidence is now clear that the bridge site, followed by a highway that will run through the Sukau area, has been found to host the largest concentration of elephant movement,” said Pang.

“Given these facts that we have now, it will be very irresponsible for the authorities to knowingly brush (such concerns) off,” he added.

He urged a rethink on the bridge project that has been approved by the state government, but which was awaiting Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) approval.

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Malaysia: Divers grateful gov't stepped in to suspend underwater exploration

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 26 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The scuba diving community has expressed their gratitude to the government for its swift action in calling for Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) to suspend its underwater exploration in Usukan waters off Kota Belud.

Sabah Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun had appealed to the varsity to stop its operations following concerns among divers, fishermen and the local community. UMS had agreed to stop the work until proper consultations are being held.

The university also explained that the cargo vessel in two World War 2 shipwreck sites were to be salvaged for research purposes.

Diving ambassador Clement Lee, who is the first two Professional Association Diving Instructors (PADI) directors in Malaysia, said these wrecks are of historical legacies and cannot be replaced once they were salvaged.

“Many people would think the wrecks are just pieces of mangled metals and only good for scrapped irons.

“They are time capsules, our time museum. They tell a lot of stories as we try to unveil history,” said Lee, adding wreck diving also contributed significantly to tourism industry.

Meanwhile, another scuba diver from Kota Belud Monica Chin said she would team up with other scuba divers and operators to work with the ministry to preserve the heritage.

“It is also Scuba Dive year with the ‘End in Sipadan’ campaign, which means we should keep Sabah’s underwater heritage for all the scuba divers around the world.

“The continuous attention and conservation marine protection activities by all divers and operators will help Sabah be the top dive site in Asia.”

Based on a USA shipwreck research centre record, there are 23 shipwrecks in Sabah excluding the latest sinking of a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) ship vessel KM Kuraman at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park about three months ago.

Salvage work on WW2 shipwrecks underway, draws ire from Sabah divers, fishermen
AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 25 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A salvage work, carried out in the popular wreck dive site in the Usukan waters off Kota Belud, where four Japanese shipwrecks from the World War 2 are located, has drawn the wrath of divers and local fishermen.

The project is said to be carried out by the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS)‘s archaeological research unit for research purposes.

Photographs of the salvage work have been widely shared on social media, raising concern and anger among divers as well as local fishermen who use the area as their fishing ground.

They expressed fear of a possibility that the wrecks would be taken out from the waters.

A photograph of the approval letter from the Sabah Marine Department, with regards to the salvage work, has been forwarded to New Straits Times. It noted that the approved duration for work is from Jan 6 to April 6.

The letter stated that the department director had approved the work, to be carried out by a China registered vessel. The letter however did not mention any removal of items from the wrecks.

Instead, it stated that approval must be obtained from the department director if there is any action to dispose the wreck or to bring the wreck to another location.

Meanwhile, Sabah Marine Department director Abdul Nasar Abdul Hadi when contacted confirmed that the approval for the salvage work in Usukan areas was given following a discussion between several agencies such as UMS, Sabah Museum, Sabah Parks, and National Security Council.

“The salvage work involves taking materials from the wrecks on to a salvage vessel. The research group will be inspecting the materials and others related to their research study.

“No wreck is allowed to be taken out. The salvage work does not involve removing the entire shipwrecks from the water,” he pointed out.

A UMS lecturer involved in the research project has also confirmed that the varsity will only be taking materials related to their studies.

It is learnt that UMS will be issuing a press statement on the matter today.

Meanwhile, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun expressed surprise by the salvaging activities.

“UMS should have been more consultative with relevant ministry like the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry and even my own Ministry.

“I have received complaints from the diving fraternity and local fishermen. UMS has probably overlooked the economic significance of the wreck site.” he said.

UMS ceases underwater exploration, to consult relevant ministries
AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 25 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: State Tourism, Culture, and Environment Ministry have called on Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) to cease its underwater exploration in Usukan waters off Kota Belud following concerns among divers and fishermen.

Its Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun told New Straits Times today he has appealed to the varsity’s vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Harun Abdullah to suspend its operations until proper consultations with relevant ministries and agencies are held.

He said proper consultations are needed in light of the economic implications such operations might have on the tourism and fishing industry.

“The vice-chancellor has agreed to suspend the operation,” he said, adding that Sabah Parks have denied they have been consulted as the area is not within the marine park.

Earlier, Masidi said UMS should have been more consultative with relevant ministries prior to carrying out underwater salvage project.

In a press release issued by UMS, Mohd Harun announced that the varsity has ceased its salvage operation today.

He explained that the cargo vessel to be salvaged for research purposes contained toxic materials weighing 3,000 tonnes. This has prompted the varsity to conduct research in two World War 2 shipwreck sites in Usukan.

“Chemical study particularly on the iron and steel in the vessels and its surroundings must be carried out to prevent negative impact on the environment and the community whose source of income are from those areas.

“This research is being conducted with the use of a research grant awarded by a local company that has expertise in marine management,” he said.

The vice-chancellor also added that the ship was badly corroded and it was dangerous to use the conventional approach to conduct the archaeological research, which meant that the team had to use the salvage approach to access the ships’ interiors.

Mohd Harun stressed that UMS understands the unease among the local fishermen, adding that the salvage and research project are being carried out to reduce future risks to their livelihoods.

He said the company responsible for carrying out the salvage project has suggested placing an artificial reef at the site as it will be more environmentally friendly and safe.

“We will discuss with the company with regards to the reef which will be placed near the site of the shipwreck as an effort to keep the area safe for fishing,” he said.

Mohd Harun added findings by UMS archaeologist team shows that the site is almost completely destroyed and it is expected to completely vanish in the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, Sabah Marine Department director Abdul Nasar Abdul Hadi said the department has given its approval to Ugeens Berjaya Enterprise to carry out salvage work using a China-registered vessel.

“The approval was given after we have received support letters from relevant agencies such as UMS, Sabah Parks, Sabah Museum and the National Security Council.”

He added the salvage work only involved salvaging materials from the wreck and not removing the entire shipwreck from the waters.

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