Best of our wild blogs: 19 May 17



Reefs on Kusu Island
Offshore Singapore


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100 activities at Pulau Ubin festival

Lea Wee Straits Times 19 May 17

Take a hike to a little-known western part of Pulau Ubin, visit a kampung house to get a taste of kampung life or join in nocturnal activities including nature walks and kayaking trips.

These are just some of the things you can do at Pesta Ubin, which celebrates the culture, nature and way of life in Pulau Ubin. The festival is back for the second year with close to 100 activities lined up over 10 weekends till July 16.

This is almost double the number of activities at last year's festival, which was held over five weekends and drew about 6,000 participants.

With more activities over a longer duration, Ms Ria Tan, the coordinator of the open house who runs wildlife website wildsingapore, expects to see a bigger crowd of about 8,000 people this year.

Some of the activities that are back by popular demand include night walks by nature guide Subaraj Rajathurai from Strix Wildlife Consultancy and kayaking at the granite quarries at Pulau Ubin with student volunteers from Republic Polytechnic. The quarries are usually closed to the public.

Nature walk Balik Chek Jawa also returns this year. On June 3, volunteer guides will be stationed at different parts of the boardwalk to talk about the wildlife at the wetlands.

This is one of the few occasions when registration is not needed to go on a guided walk to Chek Jawa, which was saved from reclamation in 2001.

There are also new activities such as a hike by youth from Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) to little- known parts of western Pulau Ubin, including parts of the OBS campus.

Visitors can also have a taste of kampung life at the new Living Fisher Village - a kampung house where a villager known as Uncle Ah Kok still lives - part of which has been opened to the public for the festival.

There, they can take part in activities run by volunteers from the Sea Angels group. These include cooking demonstrations and storytelling sessions. Visitors can meet fishermen to buy their fresh catch.

As the house is located near the shoreline, it is the meeting point for many Pesta Ubin activities, such as day and night kayaking and boat tours to floating fish farms and mangroves.

Like last year, there are more than 10 nature art activities, but the programme this year is more varied, thanks to the participation of the National Parks Board's nAtuRe connecTion.

It has a series of free art workshops, talks and an exhibition run by local artists and friends of Pulau Ubin, including Mr Francis Theo, who sketches with a ballpoint pen, and veteran artist Ho Kah Leong, who is known for his oil paintings of nature and kampungs.

For those who wish to give back to the island, this edition of Pesta Ubin offers many opportunities for volunteering.

Participants can be nature guides at Chek Jawa, help reforest Ubin's habitat with the National Parks Board or join a forest clean-up with Nature Society (Singapore).

Electrical technician Mohammad Juhari, 67, will be volunteering at Pesta Ubin for the second time this year. Among other things, he will be manning a kampung photo booth in Ubin Town and volunteering at Balik Chek Jawa.

Mr Juhari, who grew up in Sentosa, says he loves island life.

"Ubin is special because it is not just full of nature, but also heritage. I hope that as a volunteer, I can get more people to visit this island."

•For more information and to register for activities, go to pestaubin2017.blogspot.sg


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Definitely no haze this year, Indonesia assures neighbours

Farezza Hanum Rashid New Straits Times 18 May 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Indonesia has given its assurance that there will be no recurrence of the haze in 2017.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said this was the assurance given by the republic at the 19th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution today.

The meeting was attended by representatives from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

“Last year, scientific monitoring showed that Malaysia suffered only two days of bad haze while Singapore had three days, a significant improvement from the worst haze we had in 2015.

“Indonesia took systematic actions in 2016 based on the Roadmap on Asean Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation, which led to the improved conditions last year,” Wan Junaidi said.

He said in case haze pollution occurs this year, Malaysia is prepared to assist the Indonesian government in tackling the situation if the latter needs it.

“I already have instructions from the Prime Minister. Our bombardier and Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Smart) teams will be made available if the need arises," he said.


Malaysia ready to send team to Indonesia to stop haze
The Star 19 May 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is ready to send its firefighters and the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Smart) to help neighbouring Indonesia in combatting the haze this year.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he had been notified by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to ready these teams if Indonesia asked for them.

Speaking after chairing the 19th meeting of the sub-regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution, Dr Wan Junaidi added that he had also received assurances that there would be no haze this year.

In 2016, he said, Indonesia took large-scale action by deploying soldiers, police and district officers in places where open burning is usually done to combat the haze.

“Due to the systematic and aggressive action, we only had about one day of haze.

“If you ask the Singaporeans, they will also say it was only for one day, although there were actually three,” the minister said.

Indonesia has consistently given assurances to its neighbours that it would clamp down on open burning and that there would not be any haze during the dry season.

Both Dr Wan Junaidi and Asean secretary-general Le Luong Minh said a study on the economic, health and social impact of the 2015 haze which blanketed most of South-East Asia, was ready and being disseminated to member countries.

“The road map seems to be working. Hopefully, by 2020, we will achieve the target of haze-free Asean,” the minister added.

The annual meeting is attended by ministers and representatives responsible for the environment, land, forest fires and haze, from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

A press statement released by the body noted that the Asean Specialised Metereological Centre (ASMC) forecast dry weather conditions for the region from June until October.

Below normal to normal rainfall is also expected, the statement said. The MSC countries have pledged to continuously monitor and step up efforts to minimise transboundary smoke haze from land and forest fires.

Thailand will host next year’s meeting.

ASEAN ministers warn against complacency in tackling haze
Melissa Goh Channel NewsAsia 18 May 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Indonesia has told its neighbours at an ASEAN meeting on Thursday (May 18) that the haze situation in the region will be like it was in 2016.

Ministers and senior officials from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei met in Kuala Lumpur for the sub-regional steering committee on transboundary haze pollution – and said the roadmap towards achieving a haze free region by year 2020 is on track.

The roadmap on ASEAN Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation was ratified in 2016 by member countries.

"The roadmap seems to be working," said Malaysia’s Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. "There wasn’t much haze in 2016; there were maybe two days of haze.

"Indonesia has assured us that this year will be like last year."

While countries have agreed to conduct a midterm review in 2018 on the progress of the roadmap implementation, consensus have been achieved on sharing of information on hotspots in respective countries, according to Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.

In general, the weather condition this year is expected to be better than in 2016 said Wan Junaidi with mild El Nino effects, despite the dry spell in the region which is expected to last until September.

ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh told countries to remain vigilant. "There is no room for complacency," he said. "If you look at weather patterns in the last two years, it's been very abnormal - so we have to remain vigilant.

“We must continue with our efforts to implement haze control measures."

Indonesia has given its commitment to continue its peatland restoration programme, while the existing moratorium on giving out new concessions on peatland will continue.

Singapore’s Masagos also highlighted the efforts being done in enforcement. Culprits who start forest fires can be arrested and charged in Singapore if the companies fall under the city-state’s jurisdiction.

Banks have also implemented guidelines to stop all lending to errant companies, while consumers are encouraged to purchase products that come with the Singapore Green Label certification.

"Singapore stands ready to cooperate with its ASEAN neighbours to address land and forest fires," said Masagos. "Singapore collaborated with Jambi province on capacity building projects between 2007 and 2011 to address land and forest fires."

Minister Masagos said efforts to fight the haze need to be continued bilaterally, even though the agreement on sharing information does not go as far as sharing concession maps.

Singapore has also offered to revive the Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia in controlling hotspots in Jambi, Sumatra. "They have yet to respond," said Masagos. "We are open to discussions but the Indonesian government needs to give us the right signal when the cooperation is needed."

Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/asean-ministers-warn-against-complacency-in-tackling-haze-8860568

S-E Asia ‘likely to see more hotspots than last year’
Today Online 18 May 17;

KUALA LUMPUR — South-east Asia is likely to see a higher number of hotspots linked to forest fires and haze this year compared with last year, a regional meteorological body has warned.

The Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) added that with a chance of El Nino conditions emerging in the upcoming dry season from June to October, the region could also see less rainfall than normal.

The forecast by the ASMC — set up in 1993 as a regional collaboration programme among Asean member states’ national meteorological services — was cited in a statement released on Thursday (May 18) following a sub-regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) meeting on transboundary haze pollution.

The meeting in Kuala Lumpur was attended by Ministers and senior officials from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei.

“MSC countries pledged to remain vigilant and continuously monitor and step up their haze preventive efforts to minimise any possible occurrence of transboundary smoke haze from land and forest fires in anticipation of the drier weather in the coming months,” the statement said, adding that the five countries will strengthen cooperation “to ensure the timely and effective deployment of international resources for firefighting assistance, mitigate land and forest fires, and to control smoke haze pollution”.

Haze caused by Indonesian farmers who burn forests to clear their land for agriculture is a recurring problem in the South-east Asia region.

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 across the region to fall sick.

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.

At Thurday's meeting, Indonesia gave the assurance that there will be no recurrence of transboundary haze this year. “Indonesia has assured us that this year will be like last year,” Malaysia’s Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told reporters.

Mr Nazir Foead, the chief of Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency, gave a similar assurance on the sidelines of an international forum on peatlands in Jakarta on Thursday.

South Sumatra province governor Alex Noerdin had told a panel discussion in Singapore last month that there will be no haze coming from his province this year.

Asean secretary-general Le Luong Minh was more cautious, urging countries to remain vigilant. “There is no room for complacency,” he said. “If you look at weather patterns in the past two years, it’s been very abnormal — so we have to remain vigilant. We must continue with our efforts to implement haze control measures.” AGENCIES


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Man fined for keeping, selling pet hedgehogs: AVA

Channel NewsAsia 18 May 17;

SINGAPORE: A man who kept at least five hedgehogs illegally was fined S$2,200, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said on Thursday (May 18).

Raymi Thye Mustafa, 24, was fined S$1,000 for keeping a hedgehog illegally and another S$1,200 for obstructing its investigation. Four other charges involving other hedgehogs were also taken into consideration during the sentencing.

In its media release, AVA said it was alerted to the sale of a hedgehog on online marketplace Gumtree on Jan 10 this year.

It conducted an undercover operation with an AVA officer posing as an interested buyer.

Raymi tried to flee when the AVA officer identified himself and asked him to produce his identification card. However, he was caught and the hedgehog seized. Raymi led officers to his home, where they found and seized another four hedgehogs.

The hedgehogs have been placed in the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), AVA said.

In the media release, AVA said that wild animals such as hedgehogs were not allowed to be kept as pets in Singapore. "Wild animals are not suitable pets as some may transmit zoonotic diseases to humans and can be a public safety risk if mishandled or if they escape into the dense urban environment," the agency explained.

In addition, wild animals that are non-native to Singapore may also be a threat to local biodiversity if released into the environment. Demand for such animals would fuel an illegal wildlife trade, which would severely impact the wild populations of numerous species, it added.

Members of the public with information on such illicit activities can contact AVA at 6805 2992. All information shared with AVA will be kept strictly confidential, the authority said.


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New garden open at Hort Park for Biodiversity Week

Today Online 18 May 17;

SINGAPORE — A new public garden has been opened to mark the start of Biodiversity Week, which runs from May 20 to 28, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced on Thursday (May 18).

The enhanced Native Garden @ HortPark will feature 100 species native plants, including edibles, shrubs, and trees — the highest concentration of native plants in a single location in Singapore.

NParks said the garden aims to promote the use of native plants in gardens and will provide visitors with “a wealth of information on their uses for food, medicine and timber, how they support native fauna, how they can be used in landscapes and how to grow them”.

The Native Garden features different landscapes that showcase native plants in their natural habitats, and visitors will also be able to explore the five zones where plants are categorised based on how they are used — as medicine, food, timber or to enhance habitats for birds and butterflies.

Rare or critically endangered species at the Garden include the Purple Simpoh, which has yellow flowers and grows along the freshwater swamps of Singapore; the Seashore Purslane, a plant with purple flowers that can be found on Pulau Ubin; and the Nephelium maingayi, sometimes called the “nude rambutan” which has edible fruits that resemble hairless rambutans and taste like rambutans.

Activities at the Garden have been planned for Biodiversity Week, from May 20, such as a daily, free hour-long guided tour; and Gardeners’ Day Out, a native plant sale where visitors can see and purchase native plants which are otherwise not commercially available, including the Singapore Kopsia.

Other activities planned for Biodiversity Week, not held at the Native Garden, include Festival of Biodiversity on May 27 and 28 at nex shopping mall, where games, crafts, interactive workshops and exhibitions will be featured.


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Rare live colony of 'T. rex' ants discovered in Singapore: Report

Channel NewsAsia 18 May 19;

SINGAPORE: An extremely rare ant has been seen alive for the first time in more than a decade, living in the dirt of Singapore's Mandai area, according to a report by National Geographic.

National Geographic Young Explorer and entomologist Mark Wong and his colleague Gordon Yong, an entomologist at the National University of Singapore (NUS), stumbled across the first recorded live colony of Tyrannomyrmex rex (T. rex) ants in March 2016 while surveying the forested Mandai area, said the May 16 report.

Named after the huge carnivorous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex, T. rex ants has previously eluded scientists, with only a handful of deceased ants found since 2003, according to National Geographic.

But unlike the dinosaur it was named after, these ants demonstrated a "timid" behaviour during the entomologists' experiments. When intimidated, the ants "typically curled their head and gaster inwards and under their legs and mesothorax", remaining motionless until the aggressor moved on, noted Mr Wong and Mr Yong in their description of their discovery in the scientific journal Asian Myrmecology.

In an experiment to try and determine the ants' diet, the entomologists found that the ants also ran away when faced with items of "prey".

“I had a good laugh when I saw them respond in this manner to little millipedes, mites, smaller ants, and basically whatever prey I tried to offer them,” Mr Wong told National Geographic. “They wouldn’t even get close to honey—and only gently prodded (a) honey droplet with their antennae.”

However, when a male pupa emerged as an adult ant two days into the colony's captivity, his fellow ants ate him - an act that left the researchers puzzled.

More of these ants will help in their research, but Mr Wong and Mr Yong have not been able to find another colony, despite returning to the same area, the report noted.
Source: CNA/nc


Extremely Rare ‘T. Rex’ Ant Found Alive for First Time
Found in northern Singapore, the fiercely named ants are surprisingly timid—and are still shrouded in mystery.
Michael Greshko National Geographic 16 May 17;

For the first time, an extremely rare ant has been seen alive.

Tyrannomyrmex rex (T. rex for short) had eluded scientists since 2003, when entomologist Fernando Fern├índez revealed that a single dead ant from Malaysia represented a never-before-seen ant genus. The ant’s tiny mandibles reminded Fern├índez of the stubby arms of Tyrannosaurus rex and other carnivorous dinosaurs.

In the years since, only a handful of Tyrannomyrmex ants have been found in India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and probably the Philippines, all of them deceased and incidentally collected from leaf litter.

But after digging in the dirt in a Singapore forest, National Geographic Young Explorer and entomologist Mark Wong has found the first recorded live colony of T. rex ants—revealing crucial details about the species, as well as additional mysteries. (Watch a recently discovered ant behavior: “warring” ants carrying their wounded off the battlefield.)

“The best way to collect and observe live ground ant colonies is to really get your hands dirty, by gradually excavating the soil from an area, layer by layer—sort of like an archaeologist,” Wong says in an email.

TRACKING DOWN T. REX
It may seem strange that an ant colony is hard to find, but ants in the genus Tyrannomyrmex don’t exactly advertise themselves. Not only do the insects live in small colonies of about 30 individuals, they’re also likely nocturnal and appear to be very picky eaters, making baited traps next to useless.

In addition, Wong says that the ants appear to live in an understudied habitat: pieces of moist, rotting wood submerged in soil.

Wong and his colleague Gordon Yong, an entomologist at the National University of Singapore, stumbled on the ants’ hideaway in March 2016, while surveying Singapore’s forested Mandai area.

In their description of the live colony, published recently in the journal Asian Myrmecology, Wong and Yong note that recent military exercises had freshly disturbed the forest. Understory plants had been trampled, and food wrappings littered the ground.

Amid the mess, they found a piece of rotting wood whose two hollow cavities housed the colony. From there, it took painstaking work in the dirt to get the colony into a “nest tube,” a glass test tube half-filled with water.

A TIMID ‘TYRANT’

Once back in the lab, these ants with a fearsome name proved quite timid.

In petri-dish “cafeteria experiments” aimed at determining the ants’ diet, Wong and Yong found the ants often froze up and ran away when other organisms came close.

“I had a good laugh when I saw them respond in this manner to little millipedes, mites, smaller ants, and basically whatever prey I tried to offer them,” says Wong. “They wouldn’t even get close to honey—and only gently prodded [a] honey droplet with their antennae.”

After fleeing from other bugs and rejecting honey, the team was at a loss as to what the animals eat, though it’s possible the ants eat tiny invertebrates or insect eggs.

In addition, T. rex has a fairly robust stinger it’s not afraid to use. At one point during Wong and Yong’s observations, “an unfortunate millipede” ambled near the colony’s eggs and larvae, quickly receiving a sting from a protective worker ant.

‘SCRAPING’ FOR ANSWERS
Despite the discovery, questions linger. Tyrannomyrmex ants, for instance, bizarrely lack working metapleural glands, organs that secrete antiseptic compounds crucial to ants’ personal hygiene, a vital concern within a colony’s close quarters.

“What’s truly puzzling is that Tyrannomyrmex species live within a presumably pathogen-rich environment (i.e., the soil and decomposing matter),” says Wong. “Tyrannomyrmex hygiene remains a little mystery.”

Other aspects of the colony’s behavior were also puzzling. The colony cannibalized its lone male, an unusual behavior, says Gary Alpert, a research associate at the Museum of Northern Arizona and Harvard University. In addition, Wong and Yong didn’t find a queen among the ants they collected. (Read “This Is Why Insects Rule the World.”)

“This is a major contribution in understanding colony structure of Tyrannomyrmex,” says Alpert, who wasn’t involved with the new observations.

Further insight will help uncover more about these tiny tyrants, but getting them will be tricky. Wong and Yong haven’t yet found another colony, despite returning to the same area. But Wong remains undeterred.

“It’s a pretty exciting time to be an ant scientist who enjoys ‘scraping it out’ in the dirt,” he says.


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Malaysia: Firefighters brace for major battles

RAZAK AHMAD The Star 19 May 17;

PETALING JAYA: With the arrival of the dry season, firefighters are bracing themselves for some tough battles with forest and peat fires expected.

Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said parts of Selangor, Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu and Perak have been identified as hotspots.

The southwest monsoon started on Wednesday, bringing drier weather to peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak until September.

“The monsoon is expected to cause a drop in rainfall,” Wan Mohd Nor said.

All 13,000 department staff have been put on standby, and a notice will also be issued to department officers instructing them to ensure that all equipment are in good order.

The department has seven helicopters, 500 firetrucks, 400 lorries and pick-up trucks, 1,000 portable pumps and 10 high-capacity mobile water pumps that can be deployed to fight fires.

Wan Mohd Nor said the department was reviewing its Standard Operating Procedure for tackling forest and peat fires.

“This is because we may require more support from related agencies including the Department of Environment.”

He said forest and peat fires were expected especially in wetlands near the KLIA, Bestari Jaya and Sungai Besar in Selangor; Rompin, Nenasi and Pekan in Pahang; Beris Lalang in Bachok, Kelantan; Tok Kah in Dungun, Terengganu; and several hilly areas in Perak forest reserves.

He advised people against doing any open burning which could cause smog.

“Setting fires to clear small heaps of rubbish can be as dangerous as starting a fire to clear a large plot of land. Both can spread easily in this hot and dry weather,” said Wan Mohd Noor.

Hot, dry days until September
RAZAK AHMAD and RAHIMY RAHIM The Star 18 May 17;


PETALING JAYA: The southwest monsoon has brought with it hotter and drier weather to peninsular Ma­­laysia and Sarawak.

Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment (MetMalaysia) director-general Alui Bahari said the monsoon season started yesterday.

He said the southwest monsoon came after the end of the inter-monsoon period which brought heavy rains to the peninsula last month.

The monsoon is expected to last until September.

“Generally, during the southwest monsoon, the country will experience lower rainfall in the peninsula and Sarawak,” Alui said in an email.

He said there would be more dry days ahead than wet ones in these two areas during this period.

“But Sabah will receive more rain than other states” he added.

According to the MetMalaysia website, there are four seasons in Malaysia - the southwest monsoon (May to September), northeast monsoon (early November to March), and two inter-monsoon seasons in between.

Rain is only expected to return in October during the next inter-monsoon period.

The northeast monsoon will bring heavy rain to the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, west Sarawak and the northeast of Sabah.

Meanwhile, to escape the hot weather, more people have been seeking shelter in shopping malls

Malaysia Shopping Malls Asso­ciation adviser HC Chan said families would spend more time in malls when the weather got hotter.

“They will have many options in­­clu­­ding going to the restaurants and shops to escape the heat,” he said.

Chan said since the hot spell began recently, there has been a 10% increase in the number of visitors to shopping malls in the Klang Valley.


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Indonesia: Govt allocates Rp865 billion for peatland restoration

Antara 17 May 17;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government through the Peatland Restoration Board (BRG) has set aside Rp865 billion in fund to continue the national peatland restoration program, particularly in seven priority provinces.

"The state budget fund allocated for the BRG in 2017 amounts to Rp865 billion to restore peatland in seven priority provinces," BRG Chief Nazie Foead said here on Tuesday.

The fund will be used to restore peatland covering an area of 400,000 hectares in 2017 in the seven priority provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and Papua.

Especially Riau province, the board has allocated Rp100 billion for peatland restoration program in eight districts this year, he said.

The eight districts are Dumai, Siak, Kepulauan Meranti, Bengkalis, Pelalawan, Indragiri Hilir, Rokan Hilir and Kampar.

As per Presidential Regulation No. 1/2014 concerning Peatland Restoration Board, non-structural institutions seconded and responsible to the president is tasked with coordinating and facilitating peatland restoration.

The BRG has set itself the target of restoring 30 percent of 2,492,527 hectares of peatland in 2016, 20 percent in 2017, 2018 and 2019 each, and 10 percent in 2020. (*)


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Indonesia: Rp 13b allocated to tackle drought in Wonogiri

Ganug Nugroho Adi The Jakarta Post 18 May 17;

An extended drought that hit the southern part of Wonogiri, Central Java, in March has triggered a clean water crisis, forcing the regency administration to allocate Rp 13.3 billion (US$997,226.02) of its annual budget to assist in drought response efforts.

The funds will be allocated toward the rehabilitation and maintenance of artificial lakes (embung), the procurement of clean water infrastructure facilities and improving sanitation.

Wonogiri regent Joko “Jekek” Sutopo said he made the decision to allocate Rp 13.3 billion of the annual budget because programs conducted by the regency’s previous administrations did not provide permanent solutions.

“During dry seasons, local residents depend on water delivered in tanks emblazoned with pictures of people who provide them. I don't think that's the solution. So starting from this year, the Wonogiri administration will allocate money toward tackling droughts.”

Three districts, namely Eromoko, Giritontro and Paranggupito, are the most affected areas in southern Wonogiri.

Jekek said surveys would be conducted continually in areas worst hit by droughts and a team would search for alternative raw water sources in the affected areas.

“If during the surveys we find raw water potentials, we will allocate parts of the budget to access the water so that residents in those areas no longer have to depend on water tanks during drought seasons,” said Jekek. (ebf)


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Mangroves better at storing carbon than rainforests; rehab could lead to carbon offsets, experts say

Stephanie Zillman ABC News 18 May 17;

When it comes to conserving Australia's natural landscape, our boggy, mosquito-laden mangrove forests haven't always been first in line.

Coastal wetlands suffer an image problem in the eyes of the public, says Dr Kerrylee Rogers, an ARC future fellow at the University of Wollongong's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

"They've got a bit of a perception problem and they really need to be reframed in the context of the benefits they provide."

Dr Rogers said coastal wetlands actually play a more important part in reducing greenhouse gases than inland rainforests.

Researchers are currently building a case for including the carbon stored in coastal wetlands in the emission reductions fund.

This would mean that one day soon, Australia is likely to have another source for offsetting carbon emissions.

Across the country, but especially in the eastern states, there has been significant degradation of mangrove forests, through both real estate developments and conversion to other land uses.

"This has meant there's been a lot of loss of coastal wetlands, and the result of that has been a loss of carbon," Dr Roger said.

Opportunity to offset emissions for carbon credits

Charles Darwin University PhD student Clint Cameron is specialising in building the business case for greater investment in mangrove rehabilitation.

"The idea that we're thinking is if you're a businessman, and you want to get the most bang for your buck, we're trying to say, 'invest in mangrove rehabilitation rather than rainforest preservation, because you're going to get more carbon returns per unit area over time'," Mr Cameron said.

Mr Cameron is basing his research on a test site in Indonesia, where mangrove forests have been totally degraded due to short-term, and now defunct fish ponds.

He wants to show the potential revenue that can be created through carbon credits if the mangrove sites are rehabilitated.

"[And] if just a small portion of any revenue generated could go back to coastal communities — to people actually living in and using those resources — then that's an option that they never had before, and that's a livelihoods diversification option that didn't exist.

"It's a win-win, really."

Mr Cameron is adding to an increasing body of research that is demonstrating how much carbon is pumped into the atmosphere by the creatures that live in the rich wetlands soil long after the mangroves are gone.

He said he had measured the accumulation of greenhouse gases over time from an individual mud-dwelling creature, and the amount of carbon emitted was "incredible".

"I just simply didn't expect the volume of the carbon that was going to be emitted from these creatures, like mud lobster, for instance."


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Rising seas set to double coastal flooding by 2050: study

ISHARA S.KODIKARA AFP 18 May 17;

Rising sea levels driven by global warming are on track to dramatically boost the frequency of coastal flooding worldwide by mid-century, especially in tropical regions, researchers said Thursday.

A 10-to-20 centimetre (four-to-eight inch) jump in the global ocean watermark by 2050 -- a conservative forecast -- would double flood risk in high-latitude regions, they reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

Major cities along the North American seaboard such as Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with the European Atlantic coast, would be highly exposed, they found.

But it would only take half as big a jump in ocean levels to double the number of serious flooding incidents in the tropics, including along highly populated river deltas in Asia and Africa.

Even at the low end of this sea rise spectrum, Mumbai, Kochi and Abidjan and many other cities would be significantly affected.

"We are 95 percent confident that an added 5-to-10 centimetres will more than double the frequency of flooding in the topics," lead author Sean Vitousek, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told AFP.

Small island states, already vulnerable to flooding, would fare even worse, he added.

"An increase in flooding frequency with climate change will challenge the very existence and sustainability of these coastal communities across the globe."

Coastal flooding is caused by severe storms, and is made worse when large waves, storm surge and high tides converge.

Hurricane Sandy in the United States (2012), which caused tens of billions or dollars in damage, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines (2013), which left more than 7,000 dead or missing, both saw devastating flooding.

Rising seas -- caused by the expansion of warming ocean water and runoff from melting ice sheets and glaciers -- is also a contributing factor.

- Sea level 'wild card' -

But up to now, global estimates of future coastal flooding have not adequately taken into account the role of waves, Vitousek said.

"Most of the data used in earlier studies comes from tidal gauge stations, which are in harbours and protected areas," he explained. "They record extreme tide and storm surges, but not waves."

To make up for the lack of observational data, Vitousek and his colleagues used computer modelling and a statistical method called extreme value theory.

"We asked the question: with waves factored in, how much sea level rise will it take to double the frequency of flooding?"

Not much, it turned out.

Sea levels are currently rising by three to four millimetres (0.10 to 0.15 inches) a year, but the pace has picked up by about 30 percent over the last decade.

It could accelerate even more as continent-sized ice blocs near the poles continue to shed mass, especially in Antarctica, which Vitousek described as the sea level "wild card."

If oceans go up 25 centimetres by mid-century, "flood levels that occur every 50 years in the tropics would be happening every year or more," he said.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts global average sea level will rise by as much as 2.5 metres (98 inches) by 2100.

The 196-nation Paris Agreement, inked in 2015, calls for capping global warming at well under 2C (3.6F), a goal described by climate scientists as extremely daunting.


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