Best of our wild blogs: 25 Jul 17

St John's with dolphins, seahorses!
wild shores of singapore

Threatened and Vulnerable in Singapore
Hantu Blog

Don’t miss Jane Goodall in Singapore! 6 to 8 Aug 2017

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Temporary fences put up at Tuas bus terminal to prevent wild boars from entering

Natasha Razak Channel NewsAsia 24 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: Barriers have been put up at Tuas bus terminal to deter wild boars from entering the premises, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said on Monday (Jul 24).

Wild boars have been spotted entering the bus terminal due to "persistent feeding by people", ACRES said, adding that this is "not good and will result in animals being reliant on people for food which could cause a potential conflict situation".

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, ACRES said that the fences, provided by TKHSingapore, were put up in conjunction with SBS Transit as a "potential solution" to the problem.

ACRES also said that proper enforcement action will also be put in place to deter feeding of wild animals island wide. This "might involve" a collaboration between different entities and organisations so as to build "a more compassionate society".

ACRES added that putting up the temporary fences "took a while" to be implemented as they were looking at various solutions to form a barrier.

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Malaysia, Forest City: Green projects must also consider habitats lost

SERINA ABDUL RAHMAN Today Online 25 Jul 17;

Rising out of freshly reclaimed land in the Tebrau Straits between Singapore and Malaysia is an 800-hectare mixed development with homes, businesses, recreational areas and an international school for 700,000 people.

Named Forest City, its developer, Country Garden PacificView (CGPV), has touted its sustainability and green features. The development uses the latest in smart green technology to control energy use.

It has extensive plans for rainwater harvesting, and it uses recycled materials in the tiniest details such as road humps and parking bumps. Its masterplan, designed by Sasaki Associates, promises a “symbiotic relationship” between the natural and built environments, with a 250-hectare seagrass preserve, 9km of mangrove forests and 10km of shallow coves and mudflats.

The project also boasts a breathable transport hub, where cars are parked underground, and with free monorail services and kilometres of car-free pathways. This utopia is capped by the well-publicised use of Vernonia elliptica creeping plants on its buildings. The rest of Forest City’s marketing strategy is focused on its proximity to Singapore.

Back in China, news has emerged of another Forest City in Liuzhou Province, where one million plants and 40,000 trees will ensconce a 142-hectare project that will house 30,000 people. The designers predict that the development will absorb 10,000 tonnes of CO2 and 57 tonnes of pollutants annually, and will produce 90,000 tonnes of oxygen.

Similar to the Malaysian version of Forest City, its buildings are “nature-based” and draped in green; its architectural visualisation has the mandatory train station and no visible cars.

It all looks very attractive, and fits perfectly into China’s 2016 State Council guidelines to focus on the construction of buildings that are economic, green and beautiful. Liuzhou’s version of the revolutionary balanced urban environment takes it a step further, with its plans for solar panels for renewable energy and the use of geothermal energy to power its air-conditioning.

With China’s push to be the new leader in renewable energy and climate change action, these two projects fit perfectly into the new environmentally friendly image that China is building for itself. The irony is in the details.

The Malaysian Forest City project is blossoming in what was otherwise planned as an industrial hub; this Western Gate of the Iskandar Development Region was designed around the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, the Tanjung Bin power plant and other oil, gas and chemical processing and storage facilities. This part of south-west Johor is just across the water from Singapore’s Tuas industrial area and the future Tuas Megaport.

Of course, it would make sense to have these large carbon- and pollutant-absorbing development projects placed nearby to offset the environmental damage inflicted by industries.

The Liuzhou Forest City is set to grow next to an industrial area for exactly that reason.

The designers for both projects stress the importance of bringing “the forest into the city” to counter the problems of climate change. But just how much damage is being done by the development itself?

The Liuzhou project has just had its groundbreaking ceremony along the Liujang River, known for its 19 bridges and summer swimming activities. In Johor, the impact of development is already visible.

The CGPV Forest City project is in an area that harboured good biodiversity despite its proximity to port and industry. Within six months of reclamation beginning, a strip of sand had cut across Malaysia’s largest intertidal seagrass meadow. Sedimentation in the adjacent waters increased, leading to extraordinary blooms of green algae that smothered the already-stressed seagrass areas.

Long-term habitat monitoring of the area by a local community organisation has revealed that a smaller coastal seagrass patch that was a known source of prawns and the feeding grounds of the endangered dugong has disappeared under the first reclaimed island.

The sand strip is to be removed and the rest of Forest City’s islands will be built around the biggest seagrass meadow that remains to minimise further damage.

Coastal mangroves are also affected by this development. The new islands will be linked by bridges to the mainland, and stretches of coastal mangroves are making way for these new roads and highways.

CGPV has also recently begun a new phase of its development; the creation of three golf courses and an associated resort complex in 809 hectares of formerly Ramsar gazetted mangroves.

This is in addition to its newly launched 160-hectare integrated building system facility. Visits to these sites show that clearfelling of these mangroves is already in progress.

But why should mere seagrass or messy mangroves matter?

Seagrass is nature’s solution to climate change. Coastal wetlands comprising seagrass and mangrove forests sequester carbon at a rate that is 10 times greater than mature tropical forests. These habitats trap sediments that would otherwise pollute and muddy coastal waters. They also produce oxygen.

On top of that, the combined seagrass, mangrove and coral reef habitats reduce the impacts of large waves and create a complete nursery, feeding and breeding ground for species of fisheries value. Fish caught in these waters supply seafood buyers in Singapore, Johor Bahru and Pontian. Put simply, without these habitats, we would have less seafood to eat.

There are other intrinsic values; the habitats are host to charismatic endangered species such as dugongs, seahorses, otters and turtles, and generate ecotourism and other revenues for the local community. They are, of course, the bedrock of the surrounding fishermen’s livelihoods.

To be sure, CGPV is taking steps to mitigate damage to the seagrass. A local university has been hired to independently monitor the health of the seagrass meadows, and habitat rehabilitation and species restocking is in the plan. But there is yet little word on how the impact of the coastal mangroves will be contained.

Truly sustainable development needs to take into account habitats lost, not just ecosystems rebuilt. Post-2004 tsunami research by Kyoto University showed that a buffer of natural mangrove forests could have reduced wave impacts by up to 90 per cent, a far higher success rate than any artificial structure. We can only hope that both projects achieve their lofty green goals. At the rate that the planet is tumbling towards climate disaster, there is no time for a mirage that misses the forest for the trees.


Dr Serina Abdul Rahman is a Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

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Indonesia: 73 hotspots detected across Sumatra Island

Antara 24 Jul 17;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News)- The meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG) has detected 73 hotspots in 10 provinces across Sumatra Island, on Monday morning.

Of the total 73 hotspots, 14 were found in North Sumatra, 13 in Riau, 10 in Aceh, and eight respectively in Jambi, South Sumatra and Bengkulu, six in West Sumatra, four in Bangka Belitung, and one each in Riau Islands and Lampung, Sukisno, head of the Pekanbaru meteorology office, said.

In Riau Province, the 13 hotspots were detected in districts of Pelalawan (three), Rokan Hilir (five), Bengkalis (one), Indragiri Hilir (one), Indragiri Hulu (one), and Rokan Hulu (one).

Of the 13, five of them were believed to come from wildfires.

Since early this year, the Riau provincial administration had declared a forest fire emergency status to optimize forest fire prevention efforts.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has deployed five helicopters to carry out water bombing to extinguish forest and plantation fires.

Despite the country being relatively free of haze smog arising from forest fires last year, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has urged all stakeholders to undertake early preventive measures against wildfires.

The head of state has reminded ministers and regional authorities to remain vigilant against forest fires, starting from early this year.(*)

Wildfires gutted over 60 hectares of Aceh forest
Antara 24 Jul 17;

Banda Aceh, Aceh (ANTARA News) - Wildfires have gutted more than 60 hectares of forest and bush areas in West Aceh District, Aceh Darussalam Province, due to drought.

Wildfires had spread to wider areas in the western coast of Sumatras northernmost province, Yusmadi, head of the Aceh disaster mitigation office, said here, Monday.

He opined that several local farmers had started the fires to clear farming land during the ongoing drought.

"This is caused by farmers and not companies. They cleared land and burnt dried leaves, but the fires spread deep into the forest," he remarked.

Last week, Captain Sudarsono, commander of the Johan Pahlawan regional military command, had said that around 50 hectares of peatland area in West Aceh was gutted by fires.

Meanwhile, the meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency has detected 73 hotspots in 10 provinces across Sumatra Island on Monday morning.

Of the total 73 hotspots, 14 were found in North Sumatra; 13 in Riau; 10 in Aceh; eight respectively in Jambi, South Sumatra, and Bengkulu; six in West Sumatra; four in Bangka Belitung; and one each in Riau Islands and Lampung, Sukisno, head of the Pekanbaru meteorology office, said.(*)

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Indonesia environment minister wants permanent ban on licenses to use forest land

Reuters 24 Jul 17;

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's environment minister said on Monday she wants to make permanent a moratorium on issuing new licenses to use land designated as primary forest and peatland.

The moratorium, part of an effort to reduce emissions from fires caused by deforestation, was extended by President Joko Widodo for a third time in May.

"So far its only been extended, and extended again. I want a permanent (moratorium)," said Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar. "Our primary forest cannot be cleared out."

Indonesia is prone to outbreaks of forest fires during dry seasons, often blamed on the draining of peatland forests and land clearance for agriculture such as the cultivation of palm oil.

The resulting choking smoke from the world's biggest palm oil producer often blows across to neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia, slashing visibility and causing a health hazard.

Established in 2011, the moratorium covered an area of more than 66 million hectares (163 million acres) by November 2016.

Reporting by Jakarta bureau; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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