Best of our wild blogs: 7 Apr 17

Yale-NUS students launch Singapore's first divestment campaign

Pesta Ubin featured in Challenge magazine
wild shores of singapore

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No haze from South Sumatra this year, Indonesian governor promises

Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 6 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE: Even as climatologists expect drier weather to hit the region later in July, Indonesia’s South Sumatran governor Alex Noerdin promised that there would be no haze originating from his province for this year and the next couple of years.

“I guarantee there is no fire ... no haze from South Sumatra province this year, and the next year, and the next year," Mr Noerdin pledged at the fourth Sustainable World Resources dialogue here on Thursday (Apr 6).

Indonesia's head of the Peatland Restoration Agency, Nazir Foead, made a similar promise during last year's edition of the dialogue, saying there was "zero chance" that the region would experience the same bout of haze in 2016 as it did the previous year.

Fires in the province’s forests, along with those in Riau, Jambi and Kalimantan, sparked one of the region’s worst haze crisis in 2015. In South Sumatra itself, 700,000ha forests and peatland were damaged from the blaze, the governor said.

With international support, including Singapore's, there have been various efforts to put out the fires. The Indonesian authorities have also put in place tighter measures to prevent a repeat of the choking haze two years ago.

Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, who was at the dialogue, outlined some of these in his speech. For instance, it has put in place a five-year moratorium that halts the draining and clearing of new peatland, including the existing concession land owned by plantation companies.

Mr Masagos said that the efforts have paid off, noting that there were only over 100 hotspots last year as compared to thousands in 2015.

Riau and Jambi provinces have also taken quick action to combat fires this year, caused by dry weather, he said.

"Indonesia acted promptly by declaring a state of emergency in Riau on Jan 24. This allowed for the timely deployment of resource and tighter coordination between the central and provincial authorities in containing the fires", he added.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs chairman Simon Tay, who spoke at the conference, also said Indonesia has "done better". “It realises the costs for itself are incredibly high. Estimates have come up that Indonesia suffered US$17 billion (S$23.8 billion) in damage due to the fires and haze in 2015."

However, Associate Professor Tay cautioned that "blue skies are not guaranteed”. Industry experts, think tanks and meteorologists have attributed haze-free skies last year to wetter weather.

But Mr Noerdin was confident. “We already proved this last year with our efforts in the field. So there was no fire last year. For this year, we’re strengthening our efforts.”

For example, more than 160 villages in South Sumatra have now been trained - from the head of the villages down to its people - to handle fires and even prevent them at the onset. They are also given fire-extinguishing equipment, he said.

“The most important stakeholders are the people. We have to socialise the people not to burn the forests for small plantations, but also to guard them,” he added. “They must be given the knowledge of how important forests are for the future, not just for this generation.”

Four hundred thousand hectares of burned land in the province are currently being restored with the help of local and international non-governmental organisations, Mr Noerdin said.

- CNA/mz

No haze for Singapore this year from Sumatran fires: Governor
SIAU MING EN Today Online 7 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE — Despite forecasts of a hotter and longer dry season, the Governor of South Sumatra has pledged that Singapore and the region will not experience haze arising from forest fires in the Indonesian province this year.

“This year is more dangerous than 2015 because the dry season is longer and … quite hot compared with 2015. But I guarantee there is no fire, there is no haze,” said Governor Alex Noerdin during a panel discussion at the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on Thursday (April 6). It was organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Transboundary haze, a long-standing problem in South-east Asia, is largely caused by the drainage of carbon-rich peatland, as well as fires started by farmers and companies to clear land for agriculture and industrial plantations.

El Nino, which causes dry weather conditions, is expected to return in the later half of the year, and this could result in the escalation of hotspot activities. Between September and November 2015, Singapore experienced its worst haze episode, where the Pollutant Standards Index had hit hazardous levels.

Last year, however, the skies here were largely clear of the haze partly due to the wetter weather.

There were just over a hundred hotspots in Indonesia, compared with thousands in 2015.

Speaking to the media separately after the panel discussion, Mr Noerdin noted that during the raging fires in 2015, at least five countries, including Singapore, had stepped in to help extinguish the fires in South Sumatra.

Since then, his team has been making preparations and efforts to prevent such fires.

They include canal-blocking, which will raise water levels to sustain the water composition in the dry peat soil and prevent it from burning easily.

Villagers were trained and given the necessary equipment to extinguish and prevent fires, as well as shown the alternatives to the slash-and-burn method to clear land.

And they have succeeded in these efforts, said Mr Noerdin, noting that there were no fires last year.

“This year, we are just strengthening our efforts. I guarantee that there (will be) no fires, that means no haze, from South Sumatra province this year and next year, and the next year,” he added.

In his keynote address at the dialogue, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli noted that provincial governments play a critical role in tackling the haze problem.

The South Sumatra province has taken an exemplary role by adopting a multi-stakeholder approach towards the sustainable management of forested lands, he added.

For instance, more than 2,700 independent smallholders, whose lands cover 5,500ha in South Sumatra, received the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification in June last year.

This makes them the world’s largest individual group of independent smallholders to be RSPO-certified.

Malaysian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who also delivered a keynote address, told the media later that while his country has not dropped the idea of adopting a law similar to Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, there are issues to be worked out.

In 2015, Malaysia said it was considering enacting similar laws, and Dr Wan Junaidi said on Thursday that the Malaysian Attorney-General’s Chambers had discussed this with its Singaporean counterpart.

However, the implementation of such transboundary laws is not as simple as Malaysia had initially thought.

For example, there is the question of how owners of errant firms will not be caught as long as they do not enter the countries implementing such laws.

“If we have the law, and the law is not effective, it doesn’t mean anything to us. Then, it becomes a political problem for us, (with people asking) why are you not enforcing the law,” he said.

Instead, Malaysia felt that diplomacy was a better option, such as meeting with countries in the region to discuss possible solutions, Dr Wan Junaidi added.

Indonesia praised for curbing haze, but more challenges ahead
Adisti Sukma Sawitri The Jakarta Post 6 Apr 17;

Singaporean Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli bin Masagos Mohamad has congratulated Indonesia on its success in reducing land and forest fires last year.

The accomplishment is a direct result of positive measures the country has taken to recover from devastating haze in 2015, he said.

"In 2016, there were just over 100 hot spots as compared to many thousands in 2015," he said during the fourth Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on Thursday.

He added that longer-term measures, such as a moratorium plan on new licenses to establish oil palm concessions, should still be put into action despite the success.

Widespread fires in 2015 lead to Indonesia’s worst-ever haze crisis, which angered neighboring countries Singapore and Malaysia, and caused Rp 221 trillion (US$16.58 billion) in economic losses to the archipelago.

The fires, which damaged 2.6 million hectares of land and forests, claimed the lives of 24 people and brought on respiratory problems to hundreds of thousands of residents across Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs chairman Simon Tay warned, however, that another challenge would test Indonesia this year, with the weather phenomenon El NiƱo expected to trigger a longer dry season starting in July.

“There is a need for all parties across the agroforestry sector – companies, buyers and sellers — to work together to address the problem,” he said.

Singapore lauds Indonesia`s efforts in handling forest fires
Antara 8 Apr 17;

Singapore (ANTARA News) - Countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are contributing to achieving a smoke-free zone by 2020, and Indonesia has taken countermeasures to handle land and forest fires in several hotspots during 2016.

"Indonesia has taken positive steps in addressing several hotspots during the past year. In 2016, there were hundreds of hotspots. This number decreased as compared to that in 2015 during which the number of hotspots had reached several thousand," Singaporean Minister of Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli stated at the 4th Singapore Dialogue for a Sustainable World Resources in Singapore on Thursday (Apr 6).

According to Zulkifli, the provinces of Riau and Jambi were ravaged by forest fires in mid-January of 2017 due to the dry weather, and Indonesia quickly declared an emergency status on January 24, 2017.

He pointed out that this action enabled the rapid deployment of resources and coordination between the central and local governments in dealing with the fires.

According to the minister, another important measure taken by Indonesia was adopting a long-term action plan to address land and forest fires. In 2016, the Indonesian government had announced a five-year moratorium on the issuance of new permits for palm oil concessions.

The moratorium will prevent the lands from draining and protect the carbon-rich peatlands. The moratorium extends to the concession plantations.

"The UN Environment Program Executive Director Erik Solheim recently praised Indonesia, calling the moratorium as a positive and historic decision, both for Indonesia and to the global efforts to tackle climate change," Zulkifli emphasized.

He added that when the central government is actively addressing the forest fires, the provincial administration also plays an important role.

Zulkifli noted that South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin had played an exemplary role by applying the Green Growth Development concept.

"As you have heard, the plan adopts a multi-stakeholder approach that leads to the sustainable management of forest land," he explained.

In June 2016, more than 2,700 small, independent farmers, managing a land area of 5,500 hectares in South Sumatra, received a certificate of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

"By far, this is the largest independent farmers group to have obtained the RSPO certificate in the world," Zulkifli pointed out.(*)

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High PSI level raises risk of cardiac arrest

Abigail Ng, Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Apr 17;

When haze is blown into the country, a strong burning smell is not the only thing Singaporeans should be concerned about.

Poorer air quality is linked to an increased risk of cardiac arrest occurring outside of hospitals, according to a nationwide study led by the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

Comparing data for all reported cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) between 2010 and 2015 with air quality, researchers found that the short to intermediate term risk of OHCA increased by up to 30 per cent when the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) level rose into the unhealthy range of above 100.

There were more than 8,500 such cardiac arrests in the period studied.

The most vulnerable people were men above the age of 65.

The mean age of those who suffered cardiac arrest was 66, while 65 per cent were male.

The study also found that every 30-point increase in PSI levels was associated with additional risk of 5 per cent to 19 per cent, on top of risks associated with other factors such as age and physical health.

The first local study to show the impact of trans-boundary haze on mortality will be presented at the SGH Annual Scientific Meeting tomorrow.

Associate Professor Marcus Ong, senior author of the study and senior consultant at SGH's department of emergency medicine, said the direct relationship between haze and mortality gave urgency to solving the issue of trans-boundary haze.

Cardiac arrest is a sudden heart malfunction in which the heart stops beating.

In Singapore, OHCA survival rate is around 15 per cent, said Prof Ong.

Though the study did not research causes, the heightened risk may be due to the body needing to work harder to breathe normally, among other factors, he said.

The study also found the elevated risk was not limited to the day of exposure but lingered for up to five days after a spike in PSI levels.

The dry season from June to October often brings haze to the region because of fires that are started to clear land.

The study increases awareness of the health impact of haze on a population, said Prof Ong, who noted: "We need to consider how we can protect more vulnerable populations like the elderly.

"Some things to consider would be when to stay indoors versus allowing normal activities."

The National Environment Agency recommends that normal people reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion when the PSI level creeps into the unhealthy range, and that elderly people, pregnant women and children minimise such activity.

Dr Edgar Tay, senior consultant at the National University Heart Centre Singapore's department of cardiology, said the results were consistent with previous studies linking air pollutants with OHCA.

He added: "It would be of interest in future to determine how different pollutants exact their effects."

Researchers from the Singapore Health Services, Monash University (Australia), the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Duke-NUS Medical School also took part in the study.

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Banks may look at sustainable practices when approving loans

SIAU MING EN Today Online 7 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE — The Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) is looking at developing a set of recommendations for banks and financial institutions to adopt sustainable financing, including getting lenders to conduct more thorough screening of firms and their sustainable practices before issuing loans.

Announcing this at the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources held at the St Regis Singapore yesterday, SIIA chairman Simon Tay said the institute will be working with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the United Nations Environment Inquiry on this initiative.

The think-tank is expected to produce a report with more details later this year.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the event, Assoc Prof Tay noted that banks in the region have “traditionally lent purely for commercial reasons”.

“They are not lending maliciously but some of them might be lending with a blind eye, they are not really looking at these issues,” he added.

Some of the recommendations could include better financing companies which are engaged in sustainable practices through green bonds or other incentives.

The Association of Banks in Singapore for instance, has also begun reaching out to banks to help them understand the issue, such as how they can screen companies before issuing loans.

Citing Budget announcements, including the Government’s plan to introduce a carbon tax on power stations and other large direct emitters from 2019, Assoc Prof Tay noted that Singapore is heading in the direction of sustainable financing.

He noted that the serious bout of haze in 2015 had affected Singaporeans as individuals, prompting them to ask whether the items they buy contribute to haze.

“Consumers are important, but we are a very large financial hub. If we can use and leverage that strength, we will have a larger impact, not just in Singapore but across the region,” he added.

In his keynote address at the event, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli reiterated that sustainability should no longer be an afterthought for companies, as it can directly impact the bottom line.

“With increasing global awareness of the impact of unsustainable farming practices, a lack of oversight over supply chains can result in serious reputational and financial risks for companies,” he said. As the region develops, private sector financing will play an increasingly important role, such as directing private capital to projects that take environmental factors into account, he added.

He also cited Temasek Holdings as an example of investment firms that have moved to anchor sustainability in their investment processes.

Earlier, during a panel discussion, Temasek’s managing director of Enterprise Development and Sustainability Neo Gim Huay was also asked how the company ensures that its investments are not contributing to forest fires in Indonesia.

Ms Neo said that beyond declaring that it would not invest in unsustainable companies, Temasek also wants to play a part in addressing the issue and solving problems.

She added that she had personally visited its Indonesian investment with Cargill and vouched for is sustainable practices, for example.

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CDL launches the first green bond by a Singapore firm

SIAU MING EN Today Online 7 Apr 17;

City Developments Limited (CDL) announced yesterday that it has launched the first green bond by a Singapore company through its subsidiary CDL Properties.

The bond raised S$100 million at 1.98 per cent fixed rate due in 2019. Investors consist mainly of financial institutions and fund managers.

In a press release, CDL noted that the demand for green bonds has been fuelled by the Paris Agreement on climate change, with more investors looking to fund “low-carbon and climate-resilient projects”.

CDL deputy chief executive officer Sherman Kwek said its green bond will also complement the Government’s target of greening at least 80 per cent of the country’s building stock by 2030.

“It is clear that for the next 13 years, real estate companies have a large role to play in mitigating climate change and contributing towards Singapore’s greening and green house gas emissions reduction goals. We would certainly be keen to explore more green bond issuances in future,” said Mr Kwek.

Proceeds of CDL’s green bond will be used to repay the S$100 million loan extended by CDL to CDL Properties, which owns Republic Plaza in the Central Business District.

At the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources yesterday, Singapore Institute of International Affairs chairman Simon Tay had cited the issuance of green bonds as one of the possible ways to get banks and financial institutions to take up sustainable financing.

Last month, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said the Monetary Authority of Singapore will promote the development of a wider range of sustainability-oriented benchmarks, funds and products, starting with green bonds. SIAU MING EN

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Two new cases of Zika confirmed at Flower Road, Hendry Close

Channel NewsAsia 6 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE: Two cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infection have been confirmed at Flower Road and Hendry Close, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Thursday (Apr 6).

That is close to Singapore's first Zika cluster of this year at Simon Place in Hougang, which was reported last Wednesday. Both of the new cases are residents in the area, said NEA, adding that operations to control the mosquito population are being carried out.

It urged residents to maintain vigilance, "as there could still be asymptomatic or mild, undiagnosed cases which might result in further transmission of the virus" if there are mosquitoes in the area.

As most people infected with Zika do not develop symptoms, NEA said this heightens the risk of a resurgence of the virus as "it may take some time before a reintroduced Zika virus is detected".

Members of the public are advised to seek medical attention if they are unwell, especially with symptoms such as fever and rash, said NEA.

- CNA/gs

New Zika cluster at Flower Road/Hendry Close, close to ongoing Simon Place cluster
Today Online 6 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE — The second Zika cluster of this year has been confirmed at Flower Road/Hendry Close, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Thursday (April 6), less than a kilometre away from the Simon Place cluster reported last week.

Two cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infection in Singapore were found at the latest cluster. Both of the new cases are residents in the vicinity.

The NEA said vector control operations are ongoing. Meanwhile the agency has urged residents to maintain vigilance and continue to eliminate mosquito breeding habitats.

“There could still be asymptomatic or mild, undiagnosed cases which might result in further transmission of the virus if there are mosquitoes in the vicinity,” the NEA added.

These latest cases came just a week after two members of the same household at the nearby Simon Place were found to have contracted the Zika virus.

The NEA had been conducting preventive inspections in the vicinity even before the cluster was notified to detect and destroy any potential mosquito breeding habitats.

Together with grassroots volunteers, outreach efforts are continuing in the vicinity of Flower Road/Hendry Close to distribute Zika information leaflets and insect repellents to households to raise general awareness of Zika, reiterate the need for source reduction to prevent mosquito breeding and advise residents to apply repellent as a precaution, the agency said in its release.

Residents are requested to allow NEA officers to carry out inspections and indoor spraying of their homes. NEA also urged all residents and stakeholders to maintain vigilance and take immediate steps to eliminate mosquito breeding habitats by practising the 5-step Mozzie Wipeout.

Most people infected with the Zika virus do not develop symptoms, which heightens the risk of a Zika resurgence as it may take some time before a reintroduced Zika virus is detected.

Members of the public are advised to seek medical attention if they are unwell, especially with symptoms such as fever and rash. They should also inform their doctors of the location of their residence and workplace.

Singapore had its first locally transmitted case of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in August last year. The virus is known to cause abnormally small heads in babies whose mothers were infected while pregnant — a condition called microcephaly.

Around mid-October, the NEA said that the first and largest locally transmitted Zika cluster at the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive area, which had seen nearly 300 cases since August, had been closed.

By December last year, the number of Zika cases had tapered off.

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Malaysia: Sungai Segget rejuvenation to include 2nd sewage treatment plant

Halim Said New Straits Times 6 Apr 17;

JOHOR BARU: The next phase of the Sungai Segget rejuvenation project here will include construction of a second Centralised Sewerage Treatment Plant (CSTP).

Included in Phase 4 of the project, the plant, which will be situated in the upstream area of Sungai Segget, will be developed by the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA).

It is learnt that an integrated sewerage centralised distribution system will be included as part of the new CSTP.

State Health, Environment, Education and Information Executive Committee chairman, Datuk Ayub Rahmat, said Phase 4 of the project is currently being ironed out by IRDA and other relevant agencies in terms of location and design, and will include an underground sewerage connection to the new plant.

“The existing plant, which has already begun operations, caters to the downstream area of Sungai Segget, covering the entire commercial area of the city's Central Business District," he said after visiting the river.

Ayub said the Sungai Segget transformation project, which has restored the river's beauty, will complement the city's efforts to become a world-class city by 2020.

He added that flood mitigation – which is part of the RM240 million project – will also minimise the effects of flash floods in the city.

"The next phase of the project will be landscaping and beautification around the river's promenade, which will be maintained by the Johor Baru City Council," Ayub added.

Mayor calls for mindset change as river transformation nears completion
ZAZALI MUSA The Star 8 Apr 17;

JOHOR BARU: The Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) will take stern action against those found dumping rubbish into Sungai Segget once the beautification project of the river is fully completed.

Johor Baru mayor A. Rahim Nin said the bad habit of throwing rubbish indiscriminately into the waterway could cause flash floods.

He said some RM240mil was spent under phase one and two of the rehabilitation and rejuvenation project of the river which flows in downtown Johor Baru.

Work on the centralised sewerage treatment plant (CSTP) and opening up and cleaning the river under phase one and two of the project was already completed last December.

“Millions of ringgit of taxpayers’ money will go down the drain or in this case the river if we are not able to keep Sungai Segget clean,” Rahim said in a press conference on April 5 during a closed-door briefing on the project by MBJB and Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) which was attended by Health, Environment, Education and Information committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat.

Also present at the event was Irda Projects and Programme Management Office head Mohd Zam Mustaman.

“Right now, we want to educate the people to start changing their bad habits before the entire project is completed in December 2019,” said Rahim.

Mohd Zam added phase three involving landscaping and beautifications work on the river with the addition of trees, plants and boulders is expected to start in the third quarter of this year.

He said phase four of the project would involve areas in the river’s upstream such as Jalan Datuk Abdullah Tahir, Bukit Senyum and Kampung Wadi Hana.

“We are in the midst of conducting a feasibility study on the need to have a second CSTP for residents and businesses in these areas,” said Mohd Zaman.

Rejuvenating Sungai Segget
MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 15 Apr 17;

JOHOR BARU: Malaysia’s second most polluted river, Sungai Segget, will be rejuvenated within a year following the opening of a RM120mil centralised sewerage treatment plant (CSTP) here.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) Projects and Programme Management Office head Mohd Zam Mustaman said that the CSTP was also the first vertical sewerage treatment plant in the country.

“We are very happy that the CSTP is now fully operational after going through three months of observation and testing period.

“It is about 45m high and is able to process more than 33,000 cubic metres of untreated water or equivalent to 14 Olympic-size swimming pool per day. We are currently taking in 10 percent of the total amount,” he added.

Mohd Zam pointed out that the CSTP was able to collect an average of five tonnes of garbage and seven tonnes of sullage per day while on full capacity.

“The 11-storey treatment plant is able to treat sewage from 150,000 residents living along the 3.6km-long river or around the city centre,” he said, adding that the CSTP was open for 24 hours with a workforce of more than 10 experts running it.

He said this during a media briefing on the CSTP building located along Jalan Susur Tun Abdul Razak here on Wednesday.

Mohd Zam added that the CSTP was constructed under the Sungai Segget Transformation Project where it was able to change its quality from a class IV river to a class IIB river.

A class IV river is classified as the most polluted river while a class IIB river is clean but the water is not safe for consumption.

“The main objective of this project is to clean up the Tebrau Straits.

“The CSTP is able to take in and clean up water from the upstream of Sungai Segget, and once we treat it through several processes, it will be channelled back into the river,” he said.

He also said that it would take between six months and a year for the CSTP to improve the quality of water in Sungai Segget.

Mohd Zam stressed that by improving its water quality, the public would be able to enjoy Sungai Segget that was once the pulse of Johor Baru city centre.

He added that the project was a collaboration programme between Irda and the Johor Baru City Council.

He said they would soon hand over the CSTP to the local authority.

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Indonesia: Severe Weather to Hit Indonesian Shores This Week

Dames Alexander Sinaga Jakarta Globe 6 Apr 17;

Jakarta. The Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics Agency, or BMKG, has announced that heavy rains with thunder, lightning and strong winds are likely to sweep into the southern shores of Indonesia, including in Sumatra, Java, Bali, West Nusa Tenggara, West Papua and Papua, sometime this week.

The predicted bad weather is expected to hit Indonesia on April 6-8, as current weather condition shows a low-pressure system in oceans south of Java, the Aru Sea and Papua New Guinea. This will cause strong winds to move from Sumatra’s western shorelines to the southern parts of Papua, BMKG said.

Strong waves can reach heights of between 1.25 meters to 2.5 meters on the western shores of Aceh, the Mentawai Islands, South China Sea, on the northern shores of Natuna Islands and East Java, in the northern parts of the Maluku Sea, the Halmahera Sea, on the northern shores of West Papua and Papua and on the eastern parts of Arafuru Sea.

The BMKG advised the public to brace themselves for floods, landslides, falling trees and slippery wet roads.

Boats, ships and ferries should get an update on the severe weather conditions before setting off from ports.

Updates on the spell of bad weather from all parts of the Indonesian archipelago will follow as it happens.

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Indonesia: Environment journalists raise funds to replant natural preserve in South Tapanuli

Nurni Sulaiman The Jakarta Post 6 Apr 17;

The Society of Environmental Journalists (SIEJ) North Sumatra staged on Thursday a fund-raising event for the restoration of forests on Mount Lubukraya and across the Sibual-Buali Nature Reserve in South Tapanuli regency, North Sumatra.

The group said both conservation zones, which have become water catchment areas and homes for protected animals such as Sumatran orangutans and hornbills, should be well-conserved and protected from any practices that may lead to environmental destruction.

“Our sources have revealed that massive forest conversions have taken place in these areas. This is what has triggered flash floods there,” SIEJ North Sumatra member Mei Leandha said at Thursday’s event.

The activist was referring to flooding caused by the overflow of the Batang Ayumi River on March 26, which killed seven people, swept away livestock and damaged plantations, houses, schools and numerous public facilities.

Opening up access to conservation areas without implementing replanting and restoration activities would only bring further disasters, she added.

“If we care about the Earth and all it has to offer, let’s join this restoration movement,” said Mei.

Money raised at the event will be used to restore forests affected by flash foods, and fund the planting of 1,000 trees along the Batam Ayumi River. The replanting activity will be held on April 22 to coincide with Earth Day. (ebf)

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UN report: Clean power is up, costs are down

Roger Harrabin BBC 6 Apr 17;

The world added record levels of renewable energy capacity in 2016, according to the UN.

But the bill was almost a quarter lower than the previous year, thanks to the plunging cost of renewables.

Investment in renewables capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuels, says the report from UN Environment.

It follows news that the cost of offshore wind power has fallen by around a third since 2012 – far faster than expected.

But the report’s authors sound the alarm that just as costs are plunging, some major nations are scaling back their green energy investments.

This, they say, reduces the likelihood of meeting the Paris climate agreement.

The paper is published in conjunction with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Ulf Moslener, a co-author, told BBC News: “Things are heading the right way, and the learning and technical costs of renewables have done a large part of their job. But investments are not yet there to meet the structural change agreed in Paris."

Europe leads

The report finds that wind, solar and other renewables added 138.5 gigawatts to global power capacity in 2016 - up 8% from 2015. The added capacity roughly equals that of the world's 16 largest existing power producing facilities combined, it says.

Recent figures from the International Energy Agency cited the switch to renewables as one main reason for greenhouse gas emissions staying flat in 2016 even though the global economy grew by 3.1 per cent.

Europe led the way on renewables investment with a 3% increase. The UK spent $24bn and Germany $13.2bn. India kick-started a huge investment in solar with what’s said to be the world’s biggest solar farm.

But globally new investment in solar and wind fell from 2015. Much of the finance drop was due to reduced costs, but countries are also needing less electricity than projected as economies switch towards services, use more LEDs and governments impose standards making appliances like fridges and air-conditioners more efficient.

Some nations are also taking the opportunity to scale back ambition on energy investment.

But Michael Liebreich from BNEF said the key argument over costs had been won: "The question always used to be 'will renewables ever be grid competitive?'.

"Well, after the dramatic cost reductions of the past few years, unsubsidised wind and solar can provide the lowest cost new electrical power in an increasing number of countries, even in the developing world - sometimes by a factor of two."

And Ulf Moslener added a message directed at President Trump: “These technologies are there because they are competitive. We see wind - and in some cases solar – are the cheapest alternatives. Subsidies play less of a role. That’s where the markets are going, and it’s probably a bad idea to work against markets.”

There was a more muted reaction from Dr John Constable of the anti-green group GWPF, whose campaign against wind subsidies has arguably put downward pressure on renewables costs.

He told BBC News: "Faced with a barrage of criticism about subsidy levels, the offshore wind industry has reacted with claims of major cost reductions." But he said the cost of wind power could be deceptive, as it didn't include the cost of supplying the cables to tie turbines into the national grid.

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