Best of our wild blogs: 11 Jul 17

Just launched – #OCBCCares Fund for the Environment (deadline 30 Nov 2017)
Otterman speaks

Want to take action for nature and the environment? Join the Biodiversity Youth Forum, Sat 12 Aug 2017 (120 places)
Otterman speaks

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This Singaporean wants to design neighbourhoods with citizens

Interview with Mizah Rahman, Director and Co-Founder of Participate in Design.
Nurfilzah Rohaidi SMART GOV Gov Insider 10 Jul 17;

An empty playground is a sad sight. But take a step back and ask—why aren’t children playing there?

In the suburb of Aljunied, Singapore, one of the playgrounds “was badly located” and not well-used, Mizah Rahman, Director and Co-Founder of nonprofit Participate in Design (P!D), tells GovInsider. This design flaw is an example of the housing board “assuming that people wanted a playground in that area”, Rahman says, but instead they faced problems with littering and vandalism, she added.

Rahman’s P!D wants to introduce “participatory design” in Singapore. This is where citizens guide the design of their neighbourhoods and environments, she says. Facilities are more likely to be built in the right places, and will actually be used by the people who live in the area. “It is really looking at design in a much more community-centric view,” she says.

The citizen designer

Many cities use participatory design, such as Hong Kong, Bandung, Taipei, New York and Copenhagen, says Rahman. “But we couldn’t find an example in Singapore of any architects or organisations that advocate for such a practice,” she notes.

There was a “missing gap within the design landscape in Singapore”, one that Rahman hopes to address with her nonprofit. “Without any kind of engagement, people do not have a sense of ownership [of their environment],” Rahman believes.

P!D see themselves as architecture experts, there to listen and co-design with the “local experts” – the residents. “We need collaboration between these local and design experts to create something more meaningful, to foster a sense of pride and ownership,” Rahman says. Participatory design is about “mobilising the community” to share their vision of the space, she adds.

“We need collaboration between these local and design experts to create something more meaningful.”
Co-creating spaces

Currently, Rahman and team are upgrading the Tampines North neighbourhood under the Housing and Development Board’s Neighbourhood Renewal Programme. P!D brought together almost 4,500 citizens to plan and design their living environment over four months in early 2017.

Rahman and team conducted interviews, workshops, and feedback sessions. They also reached out to citizens through social media, and even set up idea boards in public areas where citizens could freely scribble their thoughts on improvements for their neighbourhood.

Residents are unlikely to make “unreasonable” requests, instead asking for simple changes like more comfortable seating. “It’s such a simple design intervention when you think about it, but it’s something that somehow the current landscape doesn’t provide,” she muses, adding that “nature came up quite a bit, and is something we’re hoping to provide more of”.

Hacking the playground

This focus on the natural world can be seen in P!D’s playground projects. The organisation runs Hack Our Play, where children, parents and educators all come together to co-create play spaces using recycled materials and local expertise. “We want to rethink how we design and build playgrounds… in a way, disrupt how we look at play space design,” she explains. The project started early this year, and has a local focus to ensure that play spaces reflect their community.

Building on this, Rahman hopes to change mindsets in Singapore Government, so that officials see the architect’s role as “designer, facilitator and community organiser” – rather than a contractor. In the future, participatory design could even mean “institutionalising citizen participation as part of designing public spaces in the neighbourhood,” she suggests.

Learning from other cities in the region, Singapore is opening up its design to include greater feedback. P!D is at the forefront of this community revolution.

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OCBC launches $100,000 fund for green projects

Jose Hong Straits Times 11 Jul 17;

The green movement in Singapore received a boost yesterday with the launch of a $100,000 programme aimed at getting communities to contribute more towards caring for their environment.

Called the #OCBCCares Fund for the Environment, OCBC Bank will fully fund ground-up projects that benefit both the environment and the community.

It is open to individuals and interest groups, and is also supported by the National Parks Board (NParks), water agency PUB and the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The range of projects that can receive funding is broad, and could vary from creating an anti-food waste app, to promoting the recycling of pens in schools, to setting up a rain garden for one's community.

Said OCBC Bank group chief executive Samuel Tsien at yesterday's launch at the Botanic Gardens: "We want to fund projects that can be realised with meaningful and sustainable impact on our environment."

Ms Sueanne Mocktar, director of NEA's 3P network division, said she welcomed the fund as her organisation's funding framework did not allow projects to receive full sponsorship.

For instance, NEA's 3P Partnership Fund - which aims to encourage environmental initiatives between the people, public and private sectors - funds only up to half of project costs for first-time applicants.


We want to fund projects that can be realised with meaningful and sustainable impact on our environment.

MR SAMUEL TSIEN, OCBC Bank's group chief executive
NParks' national biodiversity centre group director, Dr Lena Chan, also said many schools, for instance, want to improve the greenery and biodiversity within their grounds, but NParks simply did not have enough money to help them all.

Mr Tsien said OCBC's involvement will go beyond providing funding. He said staff volunteers would help all applicants with management, presentation and financial planning of their projects to increase their chances of success.

PUB, NEA and NParks will mainly support applicants through advising them.

Applications close on Nov 30. Forms can be downloaded at

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New awards for corporate governance, sustainability

Investor advocacy body Sias to present new awards at Investor Choice Awards on Sept 19
Grace Leong Straits Times 11 Jul 17;

Singapore's investor advocacy body Sias has introduced two new awards to reward listed companies for good corporate governance and shareholder communications as well as for adopting environmental and social principles.

The Securities Investors Association (Singapore) will present the new awards at its annual Investor Choice Awards on Sept 19. It is discontinuing the most transparent company award, but integrating the transparency criteria into the corporate governance award.

Sias president and chief executive David Gerald yesterday said it introduced the new Sustainability award as it was time to encourage more firms to adopt principles in this area. "When the haze last hit Singapore, companies that were not environmentally friendly saw their products taken off shelves in supermarkets. That resulted in their bottom line being hurt, and investors walking away."

Companies that excel in communications with stakeholders will be recognised this year with the new Shareholder Communications Excellence honour.

"Some mid- and small-cap firms don't want to have full-time investor relations (IR) because of the costs. But when you have a crisis, you are going to spend about half a million dollars resolving it.

"That's why we are introducing the award because we want better communications between companies and shareholders... If you're going to be spending time with lawyers, accountants, communications experts preparing press statements, you are spending valuable time on issues that could have been easily settled."

Candidates for this award will be assessed on various criteria, including whether they have an IR policy, a corporate website with critical performance reports and information on the board, notice of annual general meeting (AGM) voting results and disclosure of AGM minutes, said Professor Lawrence Loh, director of the NUS Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations (CGIO).

The partners for the corporate governance awards are NUS CGIO and Thomson Reuters, which will provide the financial performance ratings.

This year, Reits and business trusts will also be assessed on their financial performance for the awards in addition to how well they score on corporate governance.

"Good corporate governance must also translate to good financial performance for them to be considered," Mr Gerald said.

They will also be assessed on whether the audit committee reviews all significant interested party transactions and whether unit holders have access to this information.

"We also look at whether they disclose base fees and performance fees based on net property income, if Reits disclose the justification for making acquisitions and divestments; and what they are paid for it," Prof Loh added.

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Room to grow more local veggies at Panasonic's farm

Singapore farm now yields 40 varieties, aims to more than double production
Hedy Khoo Straits Times 10 Jul 17;

Consumers here can look forward to more home-grown leafy greens from Panasonic, which plans to expand its high-tech indoor vegetable farm and more than double its production by next year.

The Japanese electronics giant is also looking into cultivating seasonal fruit usually grown in temperate climates.

It runs a 1,154 sq m indoor farm, about the size of 11/2 soccer fields, at Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia-Pacific's premises in Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim.

The farm produces up to 40 crop varieties, amounting to 81 tonnes of vegetables annually.

Plans are under way to increase farm size to 1,710 sq m, which will allow it to produce up to 180 tonnes at optimum capacity. The cultivated varieties include mizuna, oba, leafy lettuce, mini red radish, Swiss chard and baby spinach.

Mr Paul Wong, managing director of Panasonic Singapore, said the company embarked on vertical farming as a viable and efficient means of producing vegetables in a limited space.

Mr Wong said: "We started with eight types of crops. Through constant research and development, we now produce 40 varieties of leafy greens and we want to expand that list with seasonal fruits.

"Increasing our overall crop production is also in line with our goal to contribute to Singapore's food security through a stable local supply of leafy greens."

Latest figures from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) show that last year, 11,300 tonnes of vegetables were locally produced, which accounts for 12 per cent of the total vegetable supply. Singapore imports over 90 per cent of its food supply.

Mr Melvin Chow, group director of AVA's Food Supply Resilience Group, said local food production provides a crucial buffer in the event of disruptions in overseas food supply.

The AVA encourages the use of technology that can help local farms optimise land use, boost capability and raise production.

Mr Chow said: "The most important step is for our industry to adopt a progressive mindset and improve productivity."

Panasonic's indoor vegetable farm was the first of its kind to be licensed by the AVA in 2013.

It utilises both soil cultivation and hydroponics. No pesticides are used. Seeding and potting are automated, which doubles productivity compared with traditional farming methods. An intelligent lighting system using LED lights helps to accelerate plant growth.

Through a system of automated irrigation, controlled temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide, the farm is able to increase crop growth and achieve a high yield rate of 95 per cent.

The farm is also licensed by the AVA to process salads. Panasonic produces three ready-to-eat salad mixes, which are sold at major supermarkets. It also supplies vegetables to hotels, restaurants and catering companies.

Japanese restaurant chain Ootoya placed its first order of vegetables with Panasonic in 2014.

Mr Yusuke Shimizu, 39, managing director of Ootoya Asia-Pacific, said: "Our customers... complimented us on the freshness and some even asked us where to buy the vegetables."

Ootoya orders an average of 150kg of vegetables from Panasonic every month for its three outlets. Mr Shimizu said: "Freshness is a priority at our restaurants and Panasonic supplies us with vegetables that are harvested on the same day."

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General waste disposal facilities to be licensed from August

Channel NewsAsia 11 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday (Jul 11) said it will start licensing general waste disposal facilities from August.

These facilities are defined as those that receive, store, process or treat general waste and include recycling facilities, and NEA said there are more than 300 of these in Singapore. As the volume of waste being disposed of continues to increase, the new licensing requirement will enhance the existing regulatory framework to safeguard public health and environment, it added in its press release.

Under the licensing framework, facilities will be licensed to receive certain types of waste and they will be required to show they have the appropriate equipment to process the waste. This will ensure that the waste received is properly treated, NEA said.

They will also be required to have proper storage systems and comply with the approved storage limits stipulated in their licence. These measures will help mitigate dust, vector and odour nuisance, as well as any potential fire risks, the agency pointed out.

NEA may inspect licensed facilities and require licensees to take corrective actions if operations at their facilities might affect public health or cause environmental problems.

Licensees that contravene the licence conditions can be fined up to S$10,000 under the Environmental Public Health (General Waste Disposal Facilities) regulations, it said.

The agency will start accepting applications from Aug 1, and all owners/operators have until Jul 31, 2018, to obtain the licence or submit an exemption declaration, if applicable. Those who establish or operate a disposal facility without the necessary licence or exemption declaration approval can be fined up to S$50,000 and/or jailed up to 12 months under the Environmental Public Health Act.

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Singapore ready to assist in restoration of peat lands

Antara 11 Jul 17;

Palembang, S Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Singapore is ready to assist in the restoration of peat lands in South Sumatra province in Indonesia to make the lands more productive.

"The country is ready to help restore peat lands in the province," Head of South Sumatras Musi Banyuasin district, Dodi Reza Alex, said after meeting Minister of Environment and Water Resources of Singapore M Zulkipli Bin M Mohamad in Palembang city on Monday.

According to him, Singapore would provide assistance in the form of human resource training, including in the management of peat lands in the province.

As districts of Musi Banyuasin and Ogan Komering Ilir have a lot of peat lands, the two district heads were invited by the provinces governor to attend the meeting with the Minister of Environment and Water Resources of Singapore.

Zulkipli added that the assistance would be a long-term support to prevent forest and land fires in the areas.

In addition to peat land restoration, his party also invited Singapore to invest in the region.(*)

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Malaysia’s traditional Chinese medicine practitioners support use of alternatives to threatened wildlife

TRAFFIC 9 Jul 17;

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 9th July 2017–Malaysia’s traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, have come together to find solutions to reduce the use of threatened wildlife in traditional medicines.

Through a joint one-day conference, the Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Associations of Malaysia (FCPMDAM) and TRAFFIC highlighted substitutes to wildlife parts used in traditional medicine, discussed laws and enforcement aspects that govern wildlife use and the threats posed by the demand for wildlife-based medicines.

A major focus of the Alternatively Effective conference was the ongoing use of bear bile and gall bladder in the country’s TCM industry and the threat this posed to Asia’s wild bears.

Previous TRAFFIC surveys have shown the high availability of bear bile and gall bladder in the country’s TCM shops. Analysis of bear-related seizures across Asia from 2000–2011 also found the country to be a key source and consumer of bear parts and derivatives.

“The TCM community of practitioners and users in Malaysia can be one of the strongest allies to ending illegal wildlife trade, and we are very glad to be partnering with Malaysia’s largest TCM community. The good news is that effective substitutes for bear-based products are available and being used worldwide and it’s important for the Malaysian community to know of these alternatives and work towards incorporating them into practice,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Acting Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

As part of the conference, practitioners were also invited to make a pledge to use only wildlife permitted under Malaysia’s laws, use only legally-sourced ingredients and support efforts to reduce the demand for wildlife-based medicinal products involving threatened species. A total of 46 practitioners signed the pledge on the day.

“This community of practitioners and physicians plays such a critical role in the sourcing and dispensing of wild plants and animals for medicines. A commitment to use only legal wildlife resources and educate their customers about sustainable alternatives will help reduce the tremendous pressure on bears and many other wild animals now in demand as cures,’’ said Lalita Gomez, Programme Officer for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

Federation President Mr Ting Ka Hua, who signed the pledge said:

“It is the responsibility of each of us to cherish and protect wild resources. Chinese medicine practitioners and retailers should choose the legitimately produced medicines, pay attention to the contents of the products, do not buy medicinal ingredients of unknown provenance, and consciously resist illegal items.

“Chinese medicine practitioners have the obligation to correct unfounded and inaccurate concepts of the use of wildlife in traditional medicine.

“Under the leadership of the Federation, we will drive support for the effort to end the use of illegal and endangered wildlife products in traditional medicine, within the Malaysian Chinese Traditional Medicine community, while maintaining the highest, safest and most reliable services.”

Over the past year, FCPMDAM has distributed information prepared by TRAFFIC on wildlife species threatened by demand for traditional medicine, to its member associations.

About 80 practitioners, physicians, TCM lecturers and government officials attended the conference that also saw presentations from Dr Yibin Feng, Associate Director at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Chinese Medicine; Salman Saaban, Enforcement Director of Peninsular Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks and Gloria Ganang, Environmental Education Executive at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

Funding for the Alternatively Effective - A Conference on Substitutes to Bear Bile in Traditional Chinese Medicine meeting was kindly provided by Hauser Bears.

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Preferring to Neither Sink or Swim Jokowi Pulls the Plug on Jakarta: Asean’s Sinking Cities

Cara Navarro AEC News 10 Jul 17;

Last week the head of Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), Bambang Brodjonegoro, announced that the government is committed to moving the nation’s capital from Jakarta in Java. While Mr Brodjonegoro did not specify where the new capital will be located, options floated in the past include Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia’s largest island and where former president Sukarno considered setting up a new capital in 1957, and Jonggol in West Java. Vice president Jusuf Kalla is said to prefer Mamuju, the capital of West Sulawesi Province.

Of the three Jonggol would appear to be the most unlikely. Past comments indicate that when the move comes it will not be to somewhere else on Java. In fact, the official reason being given for the move is that there is too much imbalance between development on Java compared with other Indonesian islands. There is however another reason. Jakarta is (not so slowly) sinking, while sea levels are rising. At the current rate large segments of Jakarta could be underwater within a decade.

The mean sea level in Jakarta Bay is rising by up to 0.57cm (0.22 inch) annually, while the city is also sinking at about 7.5cm (2.95 inch) per year on average; its coastal neighbourhoods are sinking even faster, at a rate of 25cm (9.84 inch) per year.

While moving a capital city is a slow and expensive undertaking, Indonesia President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) could very well be remembered in history as a progressive leader whose foresight saw the Indonesian capital saved from the effects of climate change, when other governments are ferrying their civil servants to work by boat.

Climate Change Only Part of The Problem

Recent research shows that planning now to relocate may be a wise strategy. Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), and Jakarta could all be underwater within the next ten years.

While the rise in sea levels brought on by climate change is a well-publicised threat, unsustainable urban development practices are equally damaging and concerning.

In all three of Asean’s sinking cities groundwater extraction is necessary to maintain an adequate supply of potable water; this causes the land underneath the cities to sink, a phenomenon known as land subsidence. High-rise developments only further compress the already unstable land.

As vacant land in the three cities has become increasingly scarce – and expensive – natural drainage channels have been filled in for construction – sometimes legally, but often not.

Many of Bangkok’s khlongs have been paved over for roads, while some have morphed into golf courses, or apartment blocks; a luxury district has been built on what was once a wetland in Ho Chi Minh City.

During the monsoon season rainwater that once drained into these canals or wetlands finds its natural pathway obstructed, flooding streets and buildings instead.

The combined effects of climate change, land subsidence, and elimination of drainage systems mean that these cities are slipping into the sea faster than they are growing.

While Jakarta is the most at risk with some 40 per cent of the city below sea level, the Thailand capital of Bangkok is not far behind. More than half of Bangkok sits less than 0.5 metres (about 1.6 ft) above sea level.

According to the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), the city is sinking at up to 3cm (1.18 inch) a year, while a 2010 Joint Thailand-Europe Research Study (JTERS), found that the water level in the Gulf of Thailand is rising at up to 0.40cm (0.16 inches) annually.

In Ho Chi Minh City the situation is just as dire. Sea levels off the coast of Vietnam are rising at 0.29cm (0.11 inch) per year, and from 2006 to 2010 Ho Chi Minh City sank on average 0.80cm (0.31 inch) per year.

In response some city residents in Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta are raising the floor of their houses annually to avoid increasingly higher floodwaters.

However, these strategies save only individual households from sinking, not entire cities. Those who can’t afford the high cost are set to see their investment in their home liquidated in more ways than one.

The vital role that these cities play to their respective countries, and the region’s, economic stability means their future can not be left up to fate. In Thailand the Bangkok metropolitan area contributed 30 per cent to 2014 Thailand GDP. In the same year, Ho Chi Minh City contributed 21 per cent to Vietnam’s GDP, while Jakarta contributed 13 per cent to 2012 Indonesia GDP.

Indonesia isn’t the only country to consider relocating its capital city; the topic has been flagged periodically in Thailand; while Myanmar actually did so in 2005, building the city of Naypyidaw from scratch and moving its government operations there from Yangon.

Relocation a Temporary Respite For Jakartans Only

With hundreds of thousands of civil servants and their families likely to be offered transfers to the new location, Jakarta Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat has welcomed the initiative, pointing to lower traffic congestion and cleaner air as two of the benefits.

However, while the relocation will provide some temporary benefits to Jakartans, it will have little effect on the rate in which the city is sinking beneath the sea.

For Jakarta to gain even a modicum of respite from the speed with which climate change is bearing down on it, it must dramatically reduce the amount of water it is pulling from beneath the ground.

This is no better reflected than in a 2015 study by researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT). The study found that while a three-meter (about 9.9ft) high dyke would be sufficient at the present to prevent floods in Jakarta, if land subsidence continues at its current rate the dyke would be completely ineffective by 2040.

Similarly a 2015 report by Dutch water research institute Deltares found that since strict regulations capping the proportion of groundwater permitted in Bangkok City’s water supply at 10 per cent were introduced in 1977 land subsidence has slowed significantly.

However, despite the proven efficacy of stopping groundwater extraction, the practice continues unabated in all three of Asean’s sinking cities, despite all having introduced restrictions to curb groundwater extraction. In Indonesia it easy to understand why. About 40 percent of Jakarta’s residents are not connected to the city’s water supply leaving them no choice but to rely on groundwater. Additionally, although government buildings have access to piped water, many still draw their water from underground aquifers.

In Ho Chi Minh City a lack of coordination between relevant government agencies is hampering effective water management, while in Bangkok corruption, lax enforcement, inadequate monitoring, and greed all have a role to play.

Flawed Solutions

Thus, most discussion on saving Asean’s sinking cities have focused on adapting to increasing floods; pumping water from one flooded location to another, and then from there to somewhere else.

Water management firms from the Netherlands, where about a quarter of the land lies below sea level, have been sharing their water management expertise with officials in all three of Asean’s sinking cities. Multibillion-dollar seawall designs, such as Jakarta’s Great Garuda and Bangkok’s Wetropolis, have been in the pipeline for years.

However, of all the proposals to rescue Asean’s sinking cities, only the plan to move Indonesia’s capital has reached more than the initial publicity stage.

It is easy to see why. For one, the plans are flawed: The Wetropolis project has been dismissed as unrealistic, while the Great Garuda is highly likely to wreak even more havoc on Jakarta’s environment. Moreover, Asean’s sinking cities lack the funding and government efficacy required to fully implement the Dutch firms’ recommendations.

Despite the dire warnings neither Vietnam nor Thailand seem overly concerned, despite the many historic buildings such as the Grand Palace and numerous stupas containing Buddha relicts that Thailand will need to relocate if they are not to be lost to the sea.

Land Prices

With Bangkok land prices currently about US$18,733 per square meter (about 10.76sq.ft) any decision to move the capital would likely have as big an economic impact on the country as the 1997 Asian financial crisis, totally destroying the wealth of more than a few prominent Thai society families. Among those with a big investment in Bangkok land is the the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) with some 1,343ha (3,318 acres) of prime Bangkok land worth about $251.584 billion.

Similarly in Vietnam where all land is owned by the state and leased to private corporations and individuals, maintaining land prices and rental incomes is an important consideration. In 2015 one square meter (10.76 sq.ft) of land in Ho Chi Minh City’s central business district was valued at US$7,600.

Willson Kalip, Indonesia country head for international real estate firm Knight Frank, said that while the idea of relocating the Indonesia capital is good, it will take a long time to properly execute.

Noting that the move did not have the support of all of the business community, Mr Kalip said the idea was still subject to “many factors including the economy, social, business flow, funding, politics, and more.”

While the effect the announcement will have on Jakarta property prices may not be felt for some time, Mr Kalip said whichever city is chosen for the new Indonesia capital is going to see rapid increases in land prices and the opening up of many new opportunities.

While Governor Hidayat might be pleased at the notion of the government moving out of Jakarta, with the national capital relocated to some far off distant location the pressure on Indonesia lawmakers to spend inconceivable amounts of money defending Jakarta from the effects of climate change is unlikely be as intense.

Likewise, lawmakers are unlikely to find large groups of Jakartans making the lengthy journey to protest in front of the new parliament about jetskis racing along Jalan Mangga Dua Raya, or having to wade knee-deep to and from work in what is being billed as Indonesia’s new business and finance centre.

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Indonesia: Government committed to relocating capital

Otniel Tamindael Antara 5 Jul 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Government of Indonesia is determined to relocate the state capital Jakarta out of Java Island to avoid total traffic gridlock by 2020.

President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, had urged the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) to conduct a feasibility study on the possible location, and Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan was one of the options.

Bappenas Chief Bambang Brodjonegoro has stated that by the end of this year, the agency would have completed assessing potential alternative cities that could become the new capital of Indonesia.

Brodjonegoro expressed hope that in the next two years, activities related to the transfer of the administrative center of the state capital would be carried out.

Debates on relocating the capital have frequently resurfaced since it was first mooted by President Sukarno in 1957.

Sukarno once held a discourse that the state capital could be relocated to Palangkaraya, as he had also visited the city to review its development.

Problems of the overcrowded Jakarta city have since then become more practical and less ideological, with reports surfacing that areas of north Jakarta are sinking at a rate of 25 centimeters a year.

In search of a new capital city of Indonesia, Bappenas is looking at aspects, such as the availability of land and natural resources around the potential cities.

"We have discussed the matter with the president, and essentially, we will soon begin the process of relocating the capital," the Bappenas chief remarked.

Brodjonegoro reiterated that the assessment would hopefully be completed this year, including its estimation and funding scheme.

According to Brodjonegoro, Bappenas will encourage private involvement in the planned relocation of the state capital, particularly in terms of funding.

For funding, he said Bappenas will push the public-private partnership model.

Until now, Bappenas is still reviewing the plan to relocate the state capital from Jakarta to a new area outside Java Island.

The capital city should be relocated to outside of Java Island, given the availability of more adequate land.

Nevertheless, Brodjonegoro has not revealed details of the specific location of the new capital of the country.

"Certainly, outside Java, most likely on the island of Kalimantan, but the specific location will be finalized soon," Brodjonegoro said.

Java Island is believed to dominate Indonesias economic activities. Moreover, economic activities in Java are more concentrated in the areas of Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, and Bekasi.

If the plan to relocate the capital city is truly realized, the Bappenas chief said the heavy burden on Jakarta, as the center of government, finance, and business, can be reduced.

In addition to heavy burden of Jakarta as the center of government, finance, as well as business, annual flooding during the rainy season has repeatedly crippled Jakarta and hindered the smooth functioning of administrative and business activities.

The flooding has aggravated several existent problems faced by Jakarta, which conventional measures have failed to resolve.

Public services and government businesses grind to a halt every time floods lash the capital city.

In a bid to solve Jakartas problems, the idea of relocating the state capital has repeatedly resurfaced.

But numerous political figures have stated that moving the capital to another island in Indonesia outside of Java would not solve the problems.

They suggested that it would be better if the city of Jakarta remains Indonesias capital, but it would be beneficial if some government activities are relocated outside Jakarta.

They said the problems of Jakarta can be solved by relocating some ministries to other islands across the country.

According to them, shifting some of the ministries can resolve the issues plaguing the capital city. But, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the National Police, Defense and Security Ministry, and the Presidential Palace should remain in Jakarta.

By relocating the capital, the political figures do not want to give the impression that they are shifting Jakartas problems to another city.

The names of some Indonesian cities in Kalimantan, West Java, and Papua had circulated among the public following the discussions related to relocating the countrys administrative center.

Some of the proposed cities were Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan, Jonggol in West Java, and Jayapura in Papua.

Some years ago, in an address to all provincial governors across the country at a gathering in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, the then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stated that Jakarta Metropolitan City was already too crowded and hence not an ideal location to be the center of the national administration.

"Around 15 years ago, Jonggol in West Java was under consideration to be the new national administration center," Yudhoyono stated at the time.

The idea of relocating the center of administration from Jakarta to another area was shelved as Indonesia was hit by a monetary crisis some years ago.

Over the years, the Jakarta Metropolitan City has become too crowded, and the idea of relocation should be reconsidered.(*)

It's not easy to relocate the capital city: Minister
Farida Susanty The Jakarta Post 7 Jul 17;

Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said on Thursday that the relocation of the Indonesian capital city might need four to five years to prepare, particularly the construction of city infrastructure.

“The water drainage, transportation, roads, tram railway and MRT (mass rapid transit) must be prepared,” he said on Thursday.

“It’s not easy. The ministries in Jakarta employ 900,000 people. We also need to prepare [to relocate them],” he said.

(Read also: Capital city relocation will burden state budget: Lawmaker)

He said the ministry had not done any macro planning for the relocation, although it has done a literature study on other countries, which had separated business centers from governmental centers, like Washington DC in the United States.

If the plan is carried out, he said the ministry would be tasked with preparing the infrastructure for the new capital city.

However, he said his ministry would wait for the study by the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) on the possibilities for capital city relocation.

Previously, Bappenas head/National Development Panning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said his office would complete the study by the end of this year so that the infrastructure development could begin by next year.

However, People’s Consultative Assembly Speaker Zulkifli Hasan called on the government to delay the capital city relocation, saying it was too costly amid the limited funds to finance the government’s projects, particularly infrastructure development that had been stated in the state budget. (bbn)

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Earth's sixth mass extinction event already under way, scientists warn

Researchers talk of ‘biological annihilation’ as new study reveals that billions of populations of animals have been lost in recent decades
Damian Carrington The Guardian 10 Jul 17;

A “biological annihilation” of wildlife in recent decades means a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is already well underway and is more severe than previously feared, according to new research.

Scientists analysed both common and rare species and found billions of regional or local populations have been lost. They blame human overpopulation and overconsumption for the crisis and warn that it threatens the survival of human civilisation, although there remains a short window of time in which to act.

The new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, eschews the normally sober tone of scientific papers and calls the massive loss of wildlife a “biological annihilation” that represents a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation”.

Prof Gerardo Ceballos, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, who led the work, said: “The situation has become so bad it would not be ethical not to use strong language.”

Previous studies have shown species are going extinct at a significantly faster rate than for millions of years before, but even so extinctions remain relatively rare giving the impression of a gradual loss of biodiversity. The new work instead takes a broader view, assessing many common species which are losing populations all over the world as their ranges shrink, but remain present elsewhere.

The scientists found that a third of the thousands of species losing populations are not currently considered endangered and that up to 50% of all individual animals have been lost in recent decades. Detailed data is available for land mammals, and almost half of these have lost 80% of their range in the last century. The scientists found billions of populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have been lost all over the planet, leading them to say a sixth mass extinction has already progressed further than was thought.

Billions of animals have been lost as their habitats have become smaller with each passing year.
The scientists conclude: “The resulting biological annihilation obviously will have serious ecological, economic and social consequences. Humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe.”

They say, while action to halt the decline remains possible, the prospects do not look good: “All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life.”

Wildlife is dying out due to habitat destruction, overhunting, toxic pollution, invasion by alien species and climate change. But the ultimate cause of all of these factors is “human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich”, say the scientists, who include Prof Paul Ehrlich, at Stanford University in the US, whose 1968 book The Population Bomb is a seminal, if controversial, work.

“The serious warning in our paper needs to be heeded because civilisation depends utterly on the plants, animals, and microorganisms of Earth that supply it with essential ecosystem services ranging from crop pollination and protection to supplying food from the sea and maintaining a livable climate,” Ehrlich told the Guardian. Other ecosystem services include clean air and water.

“The time to act is very short,” he said. “It will, sadly, take a long time to humanely begin the population shrinkage required if civilisation is to long survive, but much could be done on the consumption front and with ‘band aids’ – wildlife reserves, diversity protection laws – in the meantime.” Ceballos said an international institution was needed to fund global wildlife conservation.

The new research analysed data on 27,500 species of land vertebrates from the IUCN and found the ranges of a third have shrunk in recent decades. Many of these are common species and Ceballos gave an example from close to home: “We used to have swallows nesting every year in my home near Mexico city – but for the last 10 years there are none.”

The researchers also point to the “emblematic” case of the lion: “The lion was historically distributed over most of Africa, southern Europe, and the Middle East, all the way to northwestern India. [Now] the vast majority of lion populations are gone.”

Historically lions lived across Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East, all the way up to Northwestern India. Today their habitat has been reduced to a few tiny pockets of the original area.
Prof Stuart Pimm, at Duke University in the US and not involved in the new work, said the overall conclusion is correct, but he disagrees that a sixth mass extinction is already under way: “It is something that hasn’t happened yet – we are on the edge of it.”

Pimm also said there were important caveats that result from the broad-brush approach used. “Should we be concerned about the loss of species across large areas – absolutely – but this is a fairly crude way of showing that,” he said. “There are parts of the world where there are massive losses, but equally there are parts of the world where there is remarkable progress. It is pretty harsh on countries like South Africa which is doing a good job of protecting lions.”

Robin Freeman, at the Zoological Society of London, UK, said: “While looking at things on aggregate is interesting, the real interesting nitty gritty comes in the details. What are the drivers that cause the declines in particular areas?”

Freeman was part of the team that produced a 2014 analysis of 3000 species that indicated that 50% of individual animals have been lost since 1970, which tallies with the new work but was based on different IUCN data. He agreed strong language is needed: “We need people to be aware of the catastrophic declines we are seeing. I do think there is a place for that within the [new] paper, although it’s a fine line to draw.”

Citing human overpopulation as the root cause of environmental problems has long been controversial, and Ehrlich’s 1968 statement that hundreds of millions of people would die of starvation in the 1970s did not come to pass, partly due to new high-yielding crops that Ehrlich himself had noted as possible.

Ehrlich has acknowledged “flaws” in The Population Bomb but said it had been successful in its central aim – alerting people to global environmental issues and the the role of human population in them. His message remains blunt today: “Show me a scientist who claims there is no population problem and I’ll show you an idiot.”

Earth’s five previous mass extinctions

End-Ordovician, 443 million years ago

A severe ice age led to sea level falling by 100m, wiping out 60-70% of all species which were prominently ocean dwellers at the time. Then soon after the ice melted leaving the oceans starved of oxygen.

Late Devonian, c 360 million years ago

A messy prolonged climate change event, again hitting life in shallow seas very hard, killing 70% of species including almost all corals.

Permian-Triassic, c 250 million years ago

The big one – more than 95% of species perished, including trilobites and giant insects – strongly linked to massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia that caused a savage episode of global warming.

Triassic-Jurassic, c 200 million years ago

Three-quarters of species were lost, again most likely due to another huge outburst of volcanism. It left the Earth clear for dinosaurs to flourish.

Cretaceous-Tertiary, 65 million years ago

An giant asteroid impact on Mexico, just after large volcanic eruptions in what is now India, saw the end of the dinosaurs and ammonites. Mammals, and eventually humans, took advantage.

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