New Zika cluster reported at Parry Avenue

Channel NewsAsia 9 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: Two cases of locally transmitted Zika have been confirmed at Parry Avenue at the Serangoon Garden area, the National Environment Agency announced on Friday (Jun 9).

Both cases are residents in the vicinity. NEA has commenced operations to destroy mosquito breeding spots at the cluster area.

"Residents and stakeholders are urged to maintain vigilance and continue to eliminate mosquito breeding habitats, 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 vicinity," NEA said.

It added that it had been conducting preventive inspections in the area before the cluster at Parry Avenue was notified. Zika information leaflets and insect repellents will be distributed to households and residents are advised to apply repellent as a precaution, NEA said.

Two locally transmitted Zika cases were reported at the nearby Kovan area in late April.

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NEA advises members of the public to seek medical attention if they are unwell, especially with symptoms such as fever and rash.
Source: CNA/ly


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Commentary: How should Singapore decide what to conserve?

In our continued chase for growth and development, we should take a more consultative approach to decide what to conserve, argues Singapore University of Technology and Design’s Pauline Ang.
Pauline Ang Channel NewsAsia 10 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: One of the key growth strategies that was identified earlier this year by the Committee on the Future Economy was to “develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity”, with an emphasis on the word “connected”, both in the physical and digital sense of the word.

For the former, this means a continued push for major infrastructure projects that would substantially expand our international sea, air and rail connections, as well as our internal transportation networks.

EXPANSION THREATENS HERITAGE LANDMARKS

While the benefits of greater connectivity go largely undisputed, the nature of such expansion works in a densely built-up city like Singapore is disrupting the urban landscape and challenging the fate of existing buildings and places. These include architectural and heritage landmarks, as well as ordinary buildings or landscapes that have become a familiar part of our collective consciousness.

In a small country like Singapore, these landmarks are significant as physical anchors that contribute towards our sense of national identity. The rapid pace at which these familiar landscapes are erased and transformed can evoke a sense of displacement and loss.

On the other hand, the desire for continued growth and the prosperity that it brings persists in our national psyche, fuelling the continued search for a more sustainable, high-performance built environment in the face of limited land resources.

In a city where undeveloped and available land is fast disappearing, the redevelopment of existing plots of lands or settlements is becoming the only alternative.

Replacing them is a new breed of high-density residential, commercial and institutional developments, which promise greater liveability in an urban environment filled with light, air and greenery, and easy access to public transport networks. Densification, along with increased connectivity and diversity, has done much in energising the city and making our public spaces more vibrant. So they should be viewed as a positive development.

ARE DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE?

This brings us to the question: Are development and conservation mutually exclusive? Do we really need to choose between one or the other? I think most people will agree that the answer is no. The more important question is how do we choose what to conserve? And how do we go about making that choice?

While there are some who stand by an anti-development or “do-nothing” philosophy, the individuals and groups who have engaged the authorities publicly on these issues have largely shown a willingness to understand the development needs and constraints at hand, and to jointly explore a range of possible solutions.

On the other side, the authorities have come a long way since the case of the old National Library building, which was demolished to make way for the Fort Canning Tunnel in 2005.

Still, the loss of the old National Library is an old wound that has not been forgotten. Up to today, many question whether the tunnel was worth it after all.

Recent development controversies involving the Ellison Building and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve show that the pragmatic, engineering-based approach still rules supreme, even if there are now some concessions for intangible factors such as heritage and nature.

Time, cost and expedience continue to be the most important factors that guide the decisions that are made, in contrast to a values-based approach, where solutions are engineered to work around the assets that we value.

In the case of the Ellison Building, a conserved building that currently stands in the path of the proposed North-South Corridor, the authorities had initially announced that part of the building would have to be demolished and later reconstructed, citing space constraints posed by other underground structures in the immediate vicinity.

Heritage groups opposed the decision on the grounds that by international heritage standards, reconstruction would only be considered “for heritage destroyed by war”, and that in this case, reconstruction would amount to a "falsification of historical artefacts".

The matter has not concluded, but subsequent discussions between the authorities and the heritage groups have reportedly yielded possible technical solutions that would allow the tunnel to be constructed without demolishing the building. This would involve providing temporary support to the structure and strengthening the foundation while the tunnel is being built.

With the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the debate was whether the proposed Cross Island Line should pass directly under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, or take a longer route and skirt around the reserve. Nature groups object to the direct route, citing the negative impact on existing flora and fauna.

The authorities say that the longer route will prolong the train journey by about five minutes, may require land acquisition and cost an additional S$2 billion. As with the Ellison Building, the final decision on the tunnel alignment has been deferred until environmental and engineering studies are concluded.

The fact that the authorities are willing to put their plans on hold while working out more holistic solutions with nature and heritage groups is a heartening one. However, the default quantitative approach in decision-making means that non-tangible factors do not have an equal place at the table.

HOW MUCH ARE PEOPLE WILLING TO PAY FOR CONSERVATION?

To this end, some have advocated for a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis approach, where non-tangible factors are quantified and weighed against tangible factors like cost and time.

For example, the importance of conservation could be measured by asking how much more are people willing to pay for the protection of a conserved building or a nature reserve? How much extra time are they willing to put up with for a longer or slower travel route?

This sounds like a reasonable approach, but one needs to be aware that many factors, such as the importance of light, air and greenery, are not easy to quantify. Also, it is unclear how the silent majority would choose, given that pragmatism still appears to be the most dominant trait among Singaporeans.

Putting the issue to the vote may not yield the results that heritage and nature groups would hope for, but could still be worthwhile as it would reveal what we value most when faced with a choice. The responsibility for making such difficult decisions would then be shared rather than left solely in the hands of the authorities.

TRADE-OFFS NOT UNIQUE TO SINGAPORE

Of course, conflict between development and conservation are not unique to Singapore. The ongoing development of Crossrail 2 in England, for instance, serves as a useful reference. This is a proposed rail link that would connect South East England to central London, alleviating congestion along central tube lines while generating growth along its route.

Online public consultations were first launched in 2013 to explain the proposals and to gauge the level of in-principle support for the project. Feedback on two route options were also sought. The results showed that there was overwhelming support for the project, and subsequent consultations began to focus on specific issues along the preferred route option.

As expected, a range of issues were surfaced subsequently, including heritage and environmental concerns, and the impact of construction works on property and business. These were addressed in the form of consultation reports that were made publicly available, and will continue to be addressed before the bill is tabled in the UK Parliament around 2019.

Although the process is a long drawn one, the recognition that the public and affected communities want to be heard, and the commitment to engaging them is clear. Notably, the process is accessible enough such that any resident can submit his opinion without feeling the need to provide quantifiable justifications or submit fully developed alternatives. Those who want to engage the authorities at a deeper level can also approach them directly.

While the process does not ensure that everyone will be happy with the final outcome, it provides a structured framework that ensures that all sectors are heard and given due consideration in the decision-making process.

Public engagement requires time and energy, but cannot be dispensed with when it comes to large-scale infrastructural projects that would affect all of us. The ability to encourage and engage in meaningful debate, and to give proper weight to the views of individuals and groups in the decision-making process, is the hallmark of a truly developed society.

Conservation and development need not be mutually exclusive, but what we conserve is a conscious choice that the people need to make.

Pauline Ang is adjunct assistance professor at Singapore University of Technology and Design’s Architecture and Sustainable Design cluster.


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Indonesia: Papua bans hunting, trading of birds of paradise

Nethy Dharma Somba The Jakarta Post 9 Jun 17;

Papua has banned the use of birds of paradise as accessories and souvenirs, protecting one of the province’s most famous endemic species from commercial exploitation -- its most immediate threat.

The move aims to reverse a trend that has resulted in the massive hunting and illegal trading of birds of paradise.

Authorities banned the hunting and trading through Circular No. 660.1/6501/SET issued by Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe, which prohibits the use of real birds of paradise as accessories and souvenirs.

“There’s no one allowed to use preserved birds of paradise, either, as accessories or souvenirs in dance performances or as head decorations presented to officials or guests visiting Papua. These all must be stopped. As replacements, they can use artificial birds of paradise,” said Papua administration regional secretary Heri Dosinaen during the celebration of World Environment Day in Nimbokrang, Jayapura regency, Papua, on Friday.

He said birds of paradise were on the brink of extinction in Papua as the species was extensively hunted and traded as accessories and souvenirs. “Without concrete actions to protect them, these birds will soon disappear from this Birds of Paradise Land,” said Heri. The use of real birds of paradise would be allowed only for sacred traditional processions in Papua, he added.

Following the issuance of the circular, Heri said, Papuan authorities would raid souvenir shops and take measures against anyone found selling and using real birds of paradise. “All accessories or souvenirs made from real birds of paradise would be confiscated,” he said. (ebf)


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Indonesia: BOSF aims to release 200 orangutans by end of 2017

N.Adri The Jakarta Post 9 Jun 17;

Conservation group Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) says it aims to release 200 orangutans into the wild this year.

“We have declared 2017 the year of orangutans’ freedom,” BOSF CEO Jamartin Sihite said in Samboja Lestari, Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan, on Wednesday. Samboja Lestari is an orangutan treatment and recovery facility BOSF manages in Samboja.

Sihite said 100 out of the 200 orangutans were fit to be released into their natural habitat. Meanwhile, 100 others had been moved from their cages to forests on several islands before getting released into the open forest.

“They comprise orangutans rehabilitated in Samboja Lestari and Nyaru Menteng,” he said. In these two facilities, BOSF rehabilitated around 600 individual orangutans of various ages.

Sihite said 20 orangutans were ready to be released from Samboja Lestari. They would be released into the Kehje Sewen forest in East Kutai on July 11.

Located in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, Nyaru Menteng is a treatment and rehabilitation facility for Central Kalimantan orangutan. Meanwhile, most of the species rehabilitated in Samboja Lestari are East Kalimantan orangutans.

Central Kalimantan orangutans that are ready for release will be sent to a tropical forest in Murung Raya regency.

“An oil palm company has agreed to provide 100 hectares of its concession area for the orangutan release site. These areas are still covered by natural forests that are rich with biodiversity,” said Sihite. (ebf)


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Widespread bleaching among Indonesia's corals due to El Nino: Report

Straits Times 8 Jun 17;

JAKARTA (Bernama) - The El Nino weather phenomenon that occurred between 2015 and 2016 caused widespread coral bleaching in Indonesian waters, Indonesia's Antara news agency reported.

El Nino triggered a rise in the water temperature, and this condition caused coral bleaching, Dirhamsyah, head of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences' (LIPI) Oceanography Research Centre, was quoted as saying on Wednesday (June 7).

He warned that coral bleaching may occur more frequently due to climate change and global warming.

Other factors affecting the country's coral reefs include destructive fishing activities using explosives, water pollution, and development activities in the coastal areas.

LIPI has released a report on the latest condition of Indonesian coral reefs in 2017.

Based on data from verification and analyses conducted in 108 locations and 1,064 stations across the Indonesian waters, 6.39 per cent of the country's coral reefs are in excellent condition, 23.40 per cent in good condition, 35.06 per cent in moderate condition, and 35.15 per cent are in poor condition.

Suharsono, a senior researcher at the LIPI Oceanography Research Centre, said Indonesia's coral reefs are found in waters the westernmost province of Aceh to the Merauke waters in the easternmost province of Papua.

The highest distribution concentration is in the central and eastern Indonesian waters including the waters of Sulawesi, Papua, Nusa Tenggara, and Maluku, which is also called the coral triangle core.

Based on the latest satellite imagery mapping, Indonesia's coral reefs are spread across an area of 25 thousand square kilometers, or around 10 per cent of the world's coral reef measuring 284,300 square kilometers.

" Indonesia has the highest number of coral reef species on the planet - 569 species from 82 families and 15 tribes - out of the total 845 coral reef species in the world," he said.

He cited as an example that Indonesia has 94 species of Acropora corals (Acropora sp), or 70 per cent of the 124 found across the world. Caribbean has only three species.


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Nine of world's biggest fishing firms sign up to protect oceans

Voluntary initiative marks first time companies from Asia, Europe and US have joined together to stop overfishing, illegal catch and use of slave labour
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 9 Jun 17;

Nine of the world’s biggest fishing companies have signed up to protect the world’s oceans, pledging to help stamp out illegal activities, including the use of slave labour, and prevent overfishing.

The initiative will be announced on Friday, as part of the UN Ocean Conference this week in New York, the first conference of its kind at which member states are discussing how to meet the sustainable development goal on ocean health.

Goal 14 of the roster requires countries to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”. However, little has yet been done to set out concrete commitments on meeting this target. The UN is hoping countries, companies and organisations will set out voluntary plans this week to work on issues such as pollution, overfishing, the destruction of coastal habitats, and acidification.

The Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS) initiative, supported by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, marks the first time that companies from Asia, Europe and the US have come together aiming to end unsustainable practices. Although the fishing industry is highly fragmented at the local level, with millions of small boats and subsistence fishermen, about 11 to 16% of the global catch goes to just 13 companies, who are thought to control about 40% of the most valuable and biggest species.

Henrik Osterbl√∂m, deputy science director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, which brought the initiative together, said: “Sustainable marine ecosystems will be essential to feed a growing population, but the oceans are at risk. Seafood makes up 20% of the global intake of animal protein.”

The nine fishing companies signed up to SeaBOS have a combined annual revenue of about $30bn (£23bn), making up more than one-third of that of the top 100 seafood companies. They pledged to eliminate from their supply chains any fish that could have come from piracy or other illegal sources. As much as half the world’s fish catch is thought to involve “black” or illegal fishing, where vessels trespass into other national waters, use illegal gear, catch more than their quota or target endangered species or fish for which they have no quota. These fish are often “laundered” to find their way into legal fish markets.

Slavery has also been a serious problem in fisheries, as spotlighted by the Guardian’s investigation into slavery in the Thai prawn fishing industry, which found worker exploitation and the deprivation of people’s rights was widespread in parts of Asia’s fishing grounds. The new declaration binds SeaBOS members to develop and enforce a code of conduct for their operations and those of their suppliers.

The companies said: “We will also work towards full traceability and transparency throughout our supply chains. We also pledge to work actively together with governments to improve existing regulations for fisheries, for aquaculture, and for the ocean.”

Fish farms have also been a cause of concern to ocean experts, with the heavy use of medicines and disinfectants causing marine pollution, and the use of millions of tonnes of fishmeal from ground-up wild fish to provide food for the farmed fish – as much as five tonnes of wild fish for every tonne of farmed.

These factors undermine the claims of the fish farming industry to provide a sustainable source of fish, protecting wild populations. The SeaBOS signatories pledged: “We [will] make efficient use of aquaculture and use fish feed resources from sustainably harvested stocks. We will actively use and apply existing certification standards and prevent harmful discharges and habitat destruction. We call on the whole industry to do the same.”

SeaBOS comprises: the two biggest seafood companies by revenue, Maruha Nichiro and Nippon Suisan Kaisha; two of the biggest tuna specialists, Thai Union Group and Dongwon Industries; the two biggest companies selling feed to fish farms, Nutreco (parent company of Skretting) and Cargill Aqua Nutrition; and the two biggest farmed salmon companies, Marine Harvest and the Cermaq subsidiary of Mitsubishi; and the Japanese tuna purse seine company Kyokuyo. Most of these are not household names to consumers, but their products are found all over the world. The group aims to sign up more companies, and to lobby governments to enforce better regulations, and to review its progress in a year.


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