Best of our wild blogs: 29-31 Jul 17

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats! on 13 Aug 2017
Love our MacRitchie Forest

The Pesta Ubin 2017 Report!
Pesta Ubin 2017

Redshanks @ SBWR-30July2017

Spiral Melongena (Volegalea cochlidium) @ Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon)
Monday Morgue

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East Coast Park to see more facilities and open spaces by 2019

Lee Li Ying Channel NewsAsia 29 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: More open spaces, improved accessibility and a wider range of amenities at East Coast Park can be expected when improvement works at three sites are completed in 2019, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced on Saturday (Jul 29).

The three sites, where improvement works will be implemented progressively from 2017 to 2019, are Raintree Cove, Big Splash and the site of the former Goldkist Chalets.

With enhanced amenities such as a bicycle park, water play area and open lawns, NParks hopes to funnel the crowd away from the more popular areas like Marine Cove.

The former Goldkist Chalets will be transformed into a bicycle park with cycle-through eateries, bicycle kiosks, circuits and trails for users of varying skill levels. It will serve as a pit-stop for cyclists using the 150km Round Island Route, said NParks.

At the iconic Big Splash, parts of the former water theme park will be retained and converted into a vertical playground with a lookout tower. It will be flanked by a shallow wading pool with multi-chromatic water jets. Sports activities and large-scale events can also be held at the site’s new amenities, such as a sand pit and multi-purpose lawn.

For those looking for respite, the revamped Raintree Cove will have a large open lawn framed by a series of gardens.

“Our focus right now is on this area because it is currently heavily used, very well utilised and very crowded," said NPark’s group director of parks development Kartini Omar. “Therefore, we see this need to redistribute and spread out the crowds and reduce congestion in this high activity zones so everyone can have a better experience at the park.”

As Singapore’s largest and most popular park, East Coast Park is visited an average of 7.5 million times annually.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who opened the exhibition showcasing the improvement works, said: “NParks has done well to transform our recreational landscape and parklands, to enhance Singaporeans’ mental and physical well-being.

"My challenge to NParks is to make East Coast Park a beloved national icon and transcendent experience," he added.

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Free bins, trash bags among possible ways to tackle littering at Bukit Merah

Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 30 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: Free bins and trash bags were distributed to residents in Blocks 105 and 106 at Jalan Bukit Merah from Sunday (Jul 30) in an effort to curb high-rise littering.

The move - titled Project 'X' Littering - is an initiative by Kampong Tiong Bahru West Residents’ Committee (RC) with support by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The two blocks have been identified as the dirtiest in the area, according to surveys and feedback received by the Radin Mas Town Council. The area's Citizen Consultative Committee said many residents have also complained about leftover food, cigarette butts and empty drink cans thrown indiscriminately from flats.

A total of 696 bins will be distributed among the units in each block. Each unit will also receive about 50 trash bags each month for three months, and each block will be visited by three volunteers every day to collect rubbish, which would then be brought down for disposal.

The area's MP and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Sam Tan noted that rubbish disposal chutes were located only at the end of the common corridors of each floor, which elderly or wheelchair-bound residents found inconvenient to get to.

Rubbish disposal chutes are located at the end of common corridors of each floor at the two Jalan Bukit Merah HDB blocks, which is an inconvenience for the elderly or wheelchair-bound. (Photo: Loke Kok Fai)

He hoped that through the initiative, residents would learn the importance of keeping their surroundings clean.

"We hope that this would be the important first step, through this exercise, to create a sense of awareness among the residents that actually making the area clean is not something that is difficult," he said. "Over time, we hope that they will be able to make the next step to bring the litter or trash bag out to the public, common bin chute."

To incentivise residents, Kampong Tiong Bahru West RC will organise block parties over the next three months for blocks which have made the most improvement in addressing the littering problem.

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Using technology to reduce wastage in water distribution

OKAY BARUTÇU Today Online 29 Jul 17;

According to the World Bank, more than 32 billion cubic metres of water is lost through physical leaks from urban water supply systems around the world every year.

Every drop of water wasted is one drop too many, but the challenges facing water utility leaders today are more urgent than ever.

The confluence of population growth, new economic realities and climate change means water utility leaders need to meet these growing needs with fewer, safer resources all the way from water intake, to drinking water treatment, water distribution, flood control and wastewater treatment.

In Singapore, national demand for water is expected to double to about 115 million litres a day by 2060. As our economy grows, the country needs more water, but at the same time climate change is impacting our water supply.

With dry spells occurring more frequently, Johor’s Linggiu Reservoir – from which Singapore draws more than half its water supply – has hit record lows of 27 per cent in water level, and is at significant risk of running out.

In fact, authorities have already begun to guard against the impact of climate change and encourage water conservation by introducing a 30 per cent price hike in the budget this year.

One of the key issues for water utility leaders is minimising non-revenue water (NRW) – water painstakingly produced but carelessly ‘lost’ in the distribution network before it reaches the user or is wasted by the user.

Physical water losses can result from leakages in the distribution pipelines. Such pipe damage can be brought about by a range of causes, from something as simple as excessive water pressure, to the shock generated by a sudden stop or change in water direction, to even a lack of maintenance on ageing infrastructure.

For decades, new technology in pumps, pipes and valves has indeed led to incremental improvements in water network performance. However, today water authorities and users need to move beyond this to integrate advanced data collection and management in their systems.

Reducing NRW rates requires advanced technology, better planning, monitoring and control of critical parameters across the distribution network, such as system pressure, flow rates, boosting stations, and recollecting every drop of wastewater for recycling and reuse.

For example, reducing water pressure during times of low demand such as in the evening can reduce stress on the water pipelines, leading to a decrease in the volume of water lost to leakage, and ultimately help extend the life of pipes.


Many industry leaders are betting on Industry 4.0 – the use of automation technologies, industrial Internet of Things and data exchange – as a way to improve the situation through better data collection and analysis.

The opportunity of leveraging Industry 4.0 to integrate intelligence into water utility systems and reduce both financial and environmental costs is unprecedented.

Singapore is already leading the way with the Public Utilities Board installing its water pipes with 320 sensors which would monitor and pre-empt water leakages. But more needs to be done to increase the rate of adoption amongst authorities and water utility leaders.

Governments could consider a range of techniques including automated meter readings, acoustic sensors, data modelling predicting consumer behaviour, and Internet-based software that houses an overview of the water network online.

Putting our water systems up online means changes in energy consumption or performance in pumps and pipes can be tracked in real-time. Documenting such details over time would not only give indication of wear and tear but also predict consumer behaviour and let authorities know where to invest next. The system can also send real-time text message updates to maintenance personnel.

Another example is Grundfos’ intelligent demand driven distribution (DDD) solution, which automatically adjusts water pressure and flow to ensure the system is always operating at optimum.

Connected to a series of remote sensors throughout the distribution network, the DDD system logs data which a software algorithm will examine and use to adjust pressure in the network to the right levels as demanded by consumers. This enables an adaptive, intelligent approach which not only significantly reduces leakage risks, but increases user comfort through the adjustment of water pressure.

This intelligent system is helping a water authority in Malaysia to tackle extensive leakage issues. By using the demand driven distribution system, it was able to replace a deteriorating water suction tank and enable direct pumping to consumers.

Without a question, ‘big data’ is the way forward for water utility leaders. However, using big data effectively will require buy-in and investment from water authorities to rethink the way they distribute and manage water.

This will require financial commitment from governments, companies and tax payers to inject intelligence into water distribution systems in the short term, but with the help of industry leaders and their innovations, the use of smart technology will lead to both financial and environmental pay-offs for everyone in the long term.

As Singapore looks to be the world’s first Smart Nation, there is a great opportunity for the city-state to lead the way in ‘digitalising’ the water grid and setting new standards for authorities around the world, in order to protect one of our most precious natural resources.


Okay Barutçu is Regional Managing Director for Asia Pacific at water pump manufacturer Grundfos.

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Malaysian lauded as CNN Hero for sun bear conservation effort

AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 29 Jul 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Penang-born wildlife biologist Dr Wong Siew Te is a living proof that the most ordinary of people can make an extraordinary impact.

The 48-year-old biologist was featured this week as one of the CNN Heroes for his sun bear conservation work.

Wong was featured in two short videos where he spoke about how the Borneo rainforest is slowly disappearing and that sun bears are threatened by hunting and poaching.

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) founder and chief executive officer is also seen caring and feeding milk to sun bear Mary, who was kept as a pet and rescued from a local hunter.

“Mary was either six or seven-month-old when she was rescued in 2011. She was kept in a private house in Ranau.

“When we first met the cub, she was in a bad condition. She was very malnourished and weak because the owner did not take proper care of her. She was kept as a pet, which is illegal but at that time no action was taken against the owner,” he told New Straits Times when contacted.

Mary is now among 43 sun bears currently placed and looked after by Wong and his team at the centre, which is just next door to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan.

Since its establishment in 2008, the centre has cared for 55 sun bears, 10 of which died from various causes, while two others were released into the wild after rehabilitation.

Wong, who is also a tropical ecologist, said Mary’s previous owner had claimed he found her wandering alone in a plantation while hunting but the conservationist believed that was not the case.

“It was most likely he encountered a female sun bear with a cub and killed the mother, taking Mary as a pet. It is impossible for a baby sun bear to wander off alone in the forest.

“The cubs will always stick to their mother. So it is most likely, Mary’s mother was killed. Although there is no evidence, it is not a rocket science. It’s common sense,” he said.

Wong’s interest in studying about sun bears began when he was studying wildlife biology at the University of Montana in the United States in 1994.

He answered the call of a professor was looking for a Malaysian student to carry out a study on sun bears.

Since then, he said his passion had led him to establish the first sun bear conservation centre in the world.

Speaking on the sun bear situation in Sabah, Dr Wong said the forest is getting smaller as the human population increased, making wildlife vulnerable to habitat fragmentation, poaching and hunting.

“We really need to work hard on anti-poaching and to stop people from buying wildlife products. Wildlife crime and illegal slaughtering of wildlife should be treated like human murder case.

“All the governmental departments, non-governmental organisations and local communities must work together to combat poaching of wildlife and we need to really enforce strict laws,” he said.

Wong said he was honoured to be featured on CNN Heroes and hopes his conservation work would reach the people across the globe so more will learn about sun bear.

CNN Heroes is created by the American Cable News Network to honour individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and make a difference in their communities.

Eyes of the world on sun bears’ Hero
RUBEN SARIO The Star 1 Aug 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A wildlife researcher’s tireless efforts to ensure the survival of the sun bear – the smallest bear species in the world – is getting international attention.

For nearly a decade, Dr Wong Siew Te quietly cared for sun bears that were orphaned by poachers or seized from those keeping them illegally as pets.

His efforts are now in the spotlight after Dr Wong was named a CNN Hero.

CNN describes its heroes as everyday people doing extraordinary things to change the world.

The 48-year-old wildlife biologist founded the Sun Bear conservation centre in Sepilok on the east coast of Sandakan in 2008.

Since then, the centre has cared for 55 bears. Among those, two have been put back into the wild while 10 died due to various causes.

Dr Wong said the centre intends to release four more bears this year.

The majority of the bears there are not likely to readapt to their natural environment because they have become domesticated, he said.

For example, some of these bears have lost their ability to forage for food and others cannot even climb trees anymore.

The Penang-born researcher came to Sabah about 30 years ago as a University of Montana student tasked with studying what was then the little-known sun bear.

Over that period, he noticed that the population was declining by as much as 30% and this spurred him to set up the rehabilitation centre.

Wong told CNN: “Sun bears became part of my family. When they’re endangered, I care for them. When they are in trouble, I speak for them.

“I want to be the voice of the sun bear, to fight for the sun bear, to ensure the survival of the sun bear. But my ultimate goal is to save the entire forest ecosystem ... that is so important to the survival of mankind.”

The CNN feature on Wong and his work can be viewed at

Details on the rehabilitation centre are available at

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Malaysia: Royal Belum park roars for ‘fading’ tigers

T. AVINESHWARAN The Star 30 Jul 17;

IPOH: The Royal Belum State Park in Perak will be designated as a key recovery and conservation area for tigers, which are facing extinction from poaching in the country.

WWF Malaysia CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said this was a big step towards creating a long-term conservation plan for the Malayan tiger, which now only numbers over 200.

The first country in the region to do so, Malaysia will follow the minimum standards of the Conservation Assured, Tiger Standards (CATS) in the effective management of the species.

“As the first tiger recovery site in South East Asia to be CATS registered, we are confident that ongoing conservation efforts in Belum-Temenggor will be strengthened significantly.

“When a country registers for CATS, it sends a strong message to the world showing an individual conservation area or networks’ commitment to protecting tigers,” he said in his speech during a Global Tiger Day ceremony here yesterday.

Also present was Perak Environment Committee chairman Datuk Dr Muhammad Amin Zakaria.

While the global population of the species has slightly increased to 3,890, that of the Malayan Tiger has fallen to as low as 250 from an estimated 500 back in 2003.

It is now under the Critically Endangered category in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Dr Dionysius said CATS was one of the many initiatives that had effectively made Belum-Temenggor a model site for conservation among the 37 ecological corridors identified under the Central Forest Spine Master Plan.

He also hoped that the use of CATS could also spread to other parts of the country — not just in state parks but in forest reserves as well.

“Tigers are not just restricted to state and national parks,” he said.

Dr Muhammad Amin said the state promised to champion the Malayan tiger, adding that it was a privilege and responsibility to conserve the species.

“It is indeed very sad to note that our tigers are still threatened despite the intensity of efforts taken to protect them,” he said. It was reported that WWF Malaysia and various government agencies were aiming for a “zero poaching” status for the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex by 2020.

An artistic bid to save Malayan tiger
LEE SHIN YIING The Star 29 Jul 17;

THE pride of our nation and national animal, the Malayan tiger, is on the brink of extinction.

We see it on the Malaysian coat of arms, and its stripes on our national team’s jerseys.

What we may not know is the dramatic decline in Malayan tigers from an estimated 3,000 during colonial times to a mere 250 to 340 tigers now.

In an effort to reverse the fate of the tigers, Maybank Foundation launched the Tiger Art Exhibition on July 25 in conjunction with Global Tiger Day.

The exhibition featured images from photo traps by WWF Malaysia, as well as 15 charcoal and oil paintings of tigers by Azaikmal Ahmad Rashid, a local artist from Johor.

Maybank Foundation chief executive officer Shahril Azuar Jimin said that he heard of Azaikmal from a friend who shared a Facebook post featuring photos of the artist’s artwork of tigers.

Shahril said all the artworks were for sale and all proceeds would go towards their efforts in tiger conservation in the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex under the Maybank Foundation and WWF-Malaysia Tiger Conservation fund.

WWF Malaysia reported there were over 334 signs of poaching recorded in the Belum-Temengor area between 2014 and 2015.

“For the first time in a century, the number of tigers are increasing globally, but there is still a decline in South-East Asia as tigers face immense threats like poaching and habitat loss,” said WWF Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma.

“As forests in Laos, Cambodia and China are being emptied of wild tigers, syndicates are actually moving into our forests to extract precious resources such as wood and wildlife.

“If the current trend prevails across South-East Asia, there is a high chance of losing our tigers in the next 10 years,” he warned.

Despite this bleak scenario, Dionysius believed there was still a chance of saving our Malayan tigers.

He said WWF Malaysia was currently conducting scientific monitoring on Malayan tigers, looking at forest connectivity issues, monitoring land use changes, and raising awareness in the community.

“We are grateful for Maybank in funding our work through the exhibition,” said Dr Dionysius.

Azaikmal expressed his joy in being part of the efforts to protect Malayan tigers as he grew up with the knowledge of tigers in Johor.

Some of the artist’s paintings show the kinder side of Malayan tigers, with a tigress caring for a cub in “Family”, and two cubs being playful in “Playtime”.

The UiTM fine art graduate’s charcoal paintings are also a wonder to look at, with the gentle strokes of black forming the stripes and fur of the creature.

The semi-realist oil paintings stand out with their bright colours and bold strokes.

Azaikmal’s artworks will be brought to the Global Tiger Day carnival at Bulatan Amanjaya, Ipoh today to celebrate and raise awareness about Global Tiger Day.

For details, visit or

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Indonesia: Number of hotspots growing in Indonesia

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 30 Jul 17;

JAKARTA: Indonesia has detected a growing number of hotspots as intense dry weather condition continues.

In a statement on Sunday (Jul 30), the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said satellite images from the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) showed that the number of hotspots increased from 173 on Thursday to 239 on Sunday.

In the peatland areas, 126 of the hotspots were detected in the West Kalimantan province, with the majority of them in the Sintang, Kapuas Hulu and Sanggau districts.

"Clearing of land by burning is still prevalent in these areas,” said BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. “Even though it is not allowed, appeals are often made and we conduct patrols, the reality is there are still many cases of intentional land burning."

Satellite images from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) also showed that slight haze had spread to a number of areas in West Kalimantan.

BNPB said ground personnel - consisting of members from the military, police, and firefighter brigades - are combating the forest fires, but are facing difficulties in gaining access to the fires, with limited water and equipment. The agency added that the peak of the dry season is expected to last until September and the threat of more forest fires may increase.

It had on Wednesday said that five provinces were on emergency alert for the spread of forest fires in peatland. These are Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.

Meanwhile, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said the forest fires that have spread in the West Aceh district for almost a week have been put out.

"But, we have asked that the team on the ground to be on standby because the fires may ignite again," she told reporters in West Sumatra on Saturday according to news portal

Indonesia deploys copters to fight West Kalimantan fires
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times 31 Jul 17;

Indonesia's disaster management agency (BNPB) has deployed four helicopters to West Kalimantan province to carry out water bombing operations in areas affected by raging forest fires that have intensified in recent days amid a dry season.

Military personnel, police, the forestry ministry and local residents have also pitched in to put out the fires.

"The peak of the dry season is forecast to last until September, so the threats of forest and plantation fires could rise," BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement distributed to reporters yesterday as the total number of hot spots in Indonesia rose to 239 from more than 170 last week. This is believed to be the highest so far this year.

West Kalimantan currently has the highest number of hot spots as fires spread since last Thursday. As of yesterday morning, as many as 126 hot spots were detected in the province, with Sintang (40) and Kapuas Hulu (36) regencies recording more than half of the total.

Hot spots were also detected in Nusa Tenggara Timur province (42), North Kalimantan (35), East Kalimantan (10), South Kalimantan (5) and Riau (1), among others.

Dr Sutopo said the teams working on the ground face several challenges. These include the vast areas they have to cover, the difficulty in accessing the location of fires, a lack of water source near the fires and a lack of firefighting equipment.

The low awareness among the villagers of the need to avoid burning land is a problem that the government still has to address, Dr Sutopo added.

"We have told the people that burning is banned, often made appeals to them, (and) done patrols to remote areas, but the fact is that burning of forest and land is still rampant," he said.

West Kalimantan 126
Nusa Tenggara Timur 42
North Kalimantan 35

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Indonesia: Firms told to comply with peatland protection regulations

Moses Ompusunggu The Jakarta Post 28 Jul 17;

The government is calling on industrial forest firms to comply with its peatland protection policy amid the increasing threat of forest fires in numerous regions in the country.

"There is no compromise for their obligation to comply with the regulations on peatland protection," Environment and Forestry Ministry secretary-general Bambang Hendroyono said in a statement obtained by The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Bambang said the government had set deadlines for industrial forest (HTI) concessionaires to immediately submit a revision of their work plans that had previously been rejected because, for example, it outlined a plan to cultivate in peatland areas intended for conservation.

Ninety-nine HTI firms have submitted their revision proposals, according to the ministry's data. However, Bambang said that most of the proposals had yet to detail "work plans that were in line with the framework of peatland protection."

Under the 2017 Environment and Forestry Ministerial Regulation, the government will provide substitution land for HTI concessionaires whose concession areas are made up of 40 percent of protected peatland.

The land swap scheme will be based on their revised work plans, which have to adhere to the government's plan to restore peatland areas. The revised work plans must detail HTI areas where there is peatland intended for conservation.

Forest and peatland fires, meanwhile, have started in at least three provinces in Indonesia -- Aceh, Jambi and West Kalimantan -- in the past week. (ary)

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Indonesia: Better efforts needed for disaster preparedness and mitigation

Fardah Antara 28 Jul 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Natural disasters that have hit Indonesia up to June 2017 include floods (37.4 percent), whirlwinds (29.2 percent), landslides (28.9 percent), earthquakes, and forest fires, among other things.

Floods have claimed a total of 88 lives, landslides have claimed 84, and whirlwinds have claimed 19 lives across the country in the first semester of this year.

Natural disasters, in fact, have been forecast by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), as the country is prone to flooding in rainy season and wildfires during drought.

In Dec 2016, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) had given warning to several regions for anticipation of natural disasters.

Anticipation and disaster mitigation preparedness are crucial, given the fact that last year, Indonesia was battered by 2,342 natural disasters, the highest in the past 14 years, making it one of the most violent years in recent times. As many as 522 people were killed in the disasters.

Natural disasters have inflicted material losses and caused a lot of suffering, mostly among the poor, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, BNPB spokesman, stated. He called on the media to help promote greater awareness of disasters among the public.

In East Bangka District, Bangka Belitung Province, recent flooding inflicted material losses reaching Rp338 billion.

"We do not have the exact figure, but our estimate is that the material losses have reached Rp338 billion," Yuslih Ihza, East Belitung District Head, noted on July 24, 2017.

Losses from destruction of infrastructure were estimated at Rp300.7 billion, while losses from agricultural and animal husbandry were worth over Rp16 billion.

He planned to seek assistance from the central and provincial governments to repair the affected infrastructure particularly.

"It happens that this Thursday (July 27), there will be a meeting with President Joko Widodo, the Governor of BI (central bank), and the Public Works and Public Housing Minister. I think this is the right momentum to talk about infrastructure that was destroyed or damaged by the disaster," he stated.

The Bangka Belitung chapter of Bank Indonesia (BI) has predicted that flooding and extreme climate that affected the province lately could cause economic sluggishness.

The flooding in East Belitung has affected food stock and damaged infrastructure, which consequently disturbed logistic supply and distribution, Bayu Martanto, head of BI Office in Bangka Belitung, noted.

Paddy harvest failure due to flooding in Belitung and East Belitung Districts would also affect food supply, he added.

The local BI office has taken several measures to guarantee food supply and stabilize the economy.

Besides, the provincial government of Bangka Belitung Islands has distributed 40 tons of rice to help flood victims in Belitung and East Belitung Districts, by addressing food shortage following the disaster.

The Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) of Bangka Belitung (Babel) Province has deployed a helicopter to distribute aid and evacuate flood victims in Belitung Island.

Meanwhile, in Tulungagung, East Java Governor Soekarwo remarked that salt crisis in the province currently is due to bad weather that has cause a decrease in salt production.

"Hence, salt production in East Java is 174 thousand tons per month during summer. But lately, there has been more rains, and the weather is cloudy. Hence, salt production has dropped to 123 thousand tons," Soekarwo revealed.

Salt quality has also decreased because of rains.

He claimed that in this case, he felt helpless because it was caused by nature.

Indonesia has been facing a salt scarcity over the last three weeks due to bad weather.

Floods have also affected 21 villages in five sub-districts in Murung Raya District, and North Barito District, Central Kalimantan Province, after the Barito River overflowed its banks recently.

Personnel of the Murung Raya disaster mitigation offices swift reaction team had been deployed in the flood-affected areas to help victims.

Flooding has affected a village in Pertama Intan Sub-district, five villages in Murung Sub-district, two in Laung Tuhup Sub-district, three villages in Barito Tuhup Raya Sub-district, and two villages in Sumber Barito Sub-district.

Floodwaters, reaching a height of up to more than a meter, submerged the villages of Sumpoi, Purul Cahu Seberang, and Juking Pajang in Murung Sub-district, as well as the villages of Muara Laung I, Muara Laung II, and Muara Teweh in Laung Tuhup Sub-district.

Thousands of villagers were forced to evacuate to higher ground. School buildings and medical facilities were also flooded.

In addition to flooding, several provinces in Indonesia are also currently being hit by forest and plantation fires.

The fire-affected provinces include Aceh, Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, South Kalimantan, and West Kalimantan Provinces. As of July 25, a total of 179 hotspots were detected in those provinces.

In Aceh Province, wildfires have gutted some 70 hectares of peatland area in West Aceh District over the past one week, according to the Aceh disaster mitigation office (BPBA).

The wildfires were found in six sub-, namely Johan Palawan, Meureubo, Samatiga, Kaway Enam Belas, Woyla Barat, and Arongan Lambalek in the district of West Aceh, Yesmadi, BPBA head, revealed here on Wednesday.

The efforts to extinguish the fires were difficult because the fires occurred in peatland located deep in forest.

Haze coming from the fires has forced temporary closure of several schools in Meulaboh.

At least 23 people were given medical treatment in Cut Nyak Dhien Hospital in Meulaboh for respiratory infection.

West Aceh has asked the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to help extinguish the fires by deploying water bombing helicopters.

"Thank God, BNPB is ready to send two helicopters. One has arrived and another is coming today," he explained.

Besides, the Environment and Forestry Ministry deployed its land-forest fire task force to extinguish the raging blazes. (*)

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Asia’s tigers face devastating snaring crisis

TRAFFIC 29 Jul 17;

Cambridge, UK, 29th July 2017–On Global Tiger Day today, TRAFFIC and WWF are urging Tiger range governments to strengthen anti-poaching efforts and crack down on a severe wildlife snaring crisis that is threatening wildlife across Asia.

Of particular concern is the threat indiscriminate snares pose to the world’s remaining wild Tigers, which number in the region of 3,900.

Easy to make from widely available material such as bicycle cable wires and quick to set up, wire snares are deadly traps that are fast becoming the plague of Asia’s forests. Driven by the growing illegal wildlife trade and demand for illegal wildlife products across Asia, poachers are increasingly using snares to trap wild Tigers, elephants, leopards and other wildlife.

“Snares are a commonly-used method of Tiger poaching in Asia’s forests. They are especially dangerous because they kill at random – so all manner of wildlife is at risk. It is imperative that Tiger range countries scale up their enforcement efforts to curb this crisis,” said Richard Thomas, TRAFFIC’s Global Communications Co-ordinator.

As snares can maim or kill any animal that activates them wild Tigers are dealt a double blow, as the prey base they need to survive and reproduce are reduced also.

“It’s impossible to know how many snares are being set up every day, and threatening wildlife in these critical habitats. Hundreds of thousands of deadly snares are removed by rangers from Asia’s protected areas annually, but this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Rohit Singh, wildlife law enforcement expert at WWF.

Within the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the only place on Earth where wild Tigers, orangutans, elephants and rhinos are found in the same habitat, snare traps are estimated to have doubled between 2006 and 2014.

Yet, many of such critical habitats lack adequate resources for protection. In nearby Rimbang Baling, one of several protected areas in Sumatra, only 26 rangers patrol over 1,400 square kilometres, an area equivalent to nearly twice the size of New York City.

“Removing these silent traps is not enough. Rangers on the ground must be supported by greater resources and strong legislation to take action against illegal poachers with snares,” added Singh. “In addition, local communities must also be recognized and empowered as stakeholders in conservation. Protecting biodiversity is in the interest of both wildlife and people and communities can play a critical role in safeguarding vital ecosystems.”

In 2010, Tiger range governments committed to the most ambitious conservation goal set for a single species – TX2, or the global goal to double wild tigers by 2022.

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Ultimate bogs: how saving peatlands could help save the planet

They are one of the harshest environments on the planet and also one of the most important in terms of carbon storage. New research hopes to reveal the role these threatened bogs could play in the climate change story
Jeremy Hance for Ensia The Guardian 28 Jul 17;

Randy Kolka hands me a fist-sized clump of brownish-black material pulled up by an auger from a bog. It’s the color and texture of moist chocolate cake. When I look closely I can see filaments of plant material. This hunk of peat, pulled from two meters (7ft) below the surface, is about 8,000 years old. I’m holding plants that lived and died before the Egyptians constructed the pyramids and before humans invented the wheel. In my hand is history. And carbon gold.

“That’s the oldest [from this bog] right there,” says Kolka, a soil scientist with the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station.

Two hundred miles north of Minneapolis, I’m visiting the Marcell Experimental Forest, which has conducted research on northern Minnesota peatlands since 1960 and today conducts some of the world’s leading research into how peatlands, and their vast carbon stores, might react to a warming world.

These peatlands – the largest in the lower 48 – started forming during the end of the ice age when depressions carved out by great glaciers created pools for sphagnum moss and other water-loving vegetation to take root.

Most peatlands today were born as lakes – “sometimes at the bottom … you’ll find shells,” Kolka explains – then became marshes and finally bogs with meters of carbon-rich peat dating back millennia.

Peatlands are created when dead vegetation subsides, partially decayed and partially preserved, into waterlogged landscapes or when the water table rises, overtaking the vegetation. The organic material doesn’t fully degrade due to a lack of oxygen in the wetlands. It accumulates and compresses, trapping the carbon the living plants had captured from the air. Over time, peatlands today could become coal deposits tomorrow, essentially storing carbon in perpetuity – unless someone decided to burn it for energy.

Essential but long overlooked

Peatlands are the superheroes of ecosystems: purifying water, sometimes mitigating flooding and providing a home for rare species. And they beat nearly every system when it comes to carbon storage. Known peatlands only cover about 3% of the world’s land surface, but store at least twice as much carbon as all of Earth’s standing forests. In addition, at least one-third of the world’s organic soil carbon, which plays a vital role in mitigating climate change and stabilizing the carbon cycle, is in peatlands.

“From a climate perspective, [peatlands] are the most essential terrestrial ecosystem,” says Tim Christophersen, a senior program officer with Forests and Climate at the United Nations Environment Programme.

Unlike rainforests or coral reefs, peatlands have largely been ignored by researchers and policymakers, to the extent that we don’t even know where all of the world’s peatlands are. Scientists used to believe that the vast majority of the world’s peatlands were in boreal and temperate areas, such as Minnesota, but we now know that the tropics are also home to huge areas of peatlands.

Early in 2017, scientists announced they had discovered the world’s largest tropical peatland in the Congo. The massive peatland – covering an area larger than New York State – stores as much carbon as is emitted from burning fossil fuels globally in three years, about 30bn metric tonnes.

“Many countries still do not know if they have peatlands,” Christophersen says.

A study published this year in Global Change Biology estimates that tropical peatlands – the most important in terms of carbon storage – may cover three times more land than previously estimated. But they are difficult to find because not all wetlands contain peat. The only way to know for sure is to send researchers to sample the soil, and that takes money.

Greta Dargie, a research fellow at the University of Leeds, helped discover the peatlands in the Congo. She says the best way to uncover the world’s still-hidden peatlands and make sure they aren’t destroyed for agriculture is to start with satellite data and “identify areas which have the potential [for peatlands]”.

Under threat

As researchers look for unknown peatlands, the peatlands we do know about are under threat from a wide variety of human impacts. Historically, they’ve been seen as wastelands that can be conveniently converted into agriculture, since people don’t usually live on them.

“Peatlands are facing tremendous pressures due to deforestation, conversions and drainage for agriculture, and infrastructure development,” says Daniel Murdiyarso, a senior scientist with the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research.

Sixty percent of the world’s known tropical peatlands are in southeast Asia where destruction is rampant (though a recent Global Change Biology study estimates that South America, not southeast Asia, may in fact hold more peatlands). In Indonesia, vast tracts of peatlands have been drained to make room for palm oil or pulp and paper plantations.

Like humans, peatlands need water to survive. When peatlands are drained, the compressed organic matter begins to decay, turning long-submerged carbon into carbon dioxide and adding more greenhouse gases to our already overheated atmosphere. Complicating matters, peatlands and all wetlands are natural sources of methane, a more potent but shorter-lived greenhouse gas. In some cases, draining may actually decrease methane emissions.

Drained peatlands also become susceptible to burning – and when they burn, they are almost impossible to put out. In 2015 Indonesia’s peatlands burned en masse after years of draining and deforestation. The fires spread a toxic yellow haze over much of the region. The crisis cost Indonesia over $16bn, according to the World Bank; released more than 800m metric tonnes of CO2; and, according to one study, led to the premature deaths of 100,000 people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Murdiyarso says that palm oil, pulp and paper, and other agricultural businesses in Indonesia may be considered “success stories” in terms of profit, “but if the environmental costs are internalized, the story will be different”.

Indonesia is not doing this, but since the 2015 fires the country has set a total moratorium on any development in peatlands. However, mixed messages from regional governments, lack of clear land tenure and corruption mean the central government has its work cut out for it.

The good news

The good news is that if we block drainage canals, peatlands can be partly restored by preventing water levels from declining further. Planting native plants in degraded areas can also help by retaining water. Further damage can be mitigated by such measures, but whether damaged peatlands will ever recover their lost carbon and ecological potential, Kolka says no one knows, and if they can, timescales could be in the thousands of years.

One potential way to secure the world’s vulnerable peatlands is through the global carbon market. Indonesian entrepreneur Dharsono Hartono spent nine years working to secure a Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) for his Katingan Project in Borneo. Today it’s the largest land use VCS project on the planet, covering 157,875 hectares (390,000 acres) of peatland containing a gigatonne of carbon, according to Hartono, and is a vital community project promoting less carbon-intensive agriculture. Carbon storage varies by peatland but generally is 30–70kg of carbon per cubic meter (35 cubic feet).

“This is a long-term business, you just have to be persistent,” Hartono says, adding that now that his “product” is ready he’s on the look out for buyers.

Hartono started the project with a focus on climate change, but he says it has since transformed: “It’s become a story of the people,” he says, who are the “heart and soul” of the project.

Thirty-four villages surround Hartono’s concession in a buffer area that is partly peatlands as well. In order to protect the main site from fires, the project also has to change neighboring farms. Hartono and his team have spent the past few years helping communities shift from slash-and-burn farming to what he calls “climate-smart agriculture.”

“You have to find a solution, you can’t just tell people not to burn,” he says.

They developed a program of using cover crops of legumes to suppress weeds and injecting select bacteria into the soil to decompose organic matter rapidly, which provides extra nutrients to the soil without burning. They are also encouraging farmers to steer away from planting oil palm and instead focus on a diverse set of crops.

“We want to build the forest back in the community land,” Hartono explains. With community buy-in, Hartono may not only succeed in protecting one of Indonesia’s largest intact peatlands, but also improve the lives of those who live nearby by better protecting the environment they depend on and allowing them to avoid the social and economic issues – such as price shocks, heavy pesticide use and dealing with large corporations – that come when local farmers depend solely on palm oil.

The unanswered climate question

But even finding and protecting peatlands may not be enough in a warming world.

Back in Minnesota, Kolka takes me to visit the research center’s newest and most important project: the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (Spruce). A collaboration between the US Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Spruce may be the most cutting-edge research on peatlands today.

Here, 10 massive open-air chambers sit along three boardwalks. In some of these eight-meter high chambers, researchers are adding heat – both above and below the peat – to mimic a warmer atmosphere. In other chambers, researchers have added higher concentrations of CO2. Some get both treatments.

Spruce scientists are trying to answer a potentially world-changing question: How will peatlands react as the world warms and CO2 concentrations rise? Scientists fear that peatlands may go from being a carbon sink to a massive, unstoppable source. If climate change causes peatlands to dry out, it could mean a slow – or possibly sudden – release of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Further warming, more potential release of CO2: a textbook example of a positive feedback loop. Even more worrying are the bogs, fens and peatlands locked in the permafrost further north: if those melt, researchers fear a sudden influx of massive amounts of both CO2 and methane.

The project is in its infancy, but Kolka says so far the good news is highlighted in a 2016 Spruce study that found heating the peat does not result in a loss of carbon or methane below one foot, which means old carbon may stay locked away even in a significantly warmer world.

Kolka says Spruce will help inform climate models for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN group that provides scientific and economic research to the world’s governments on climate change.

We hike out deeper along a boardwalk into one of the bogs, where the peat goes eight meters deep.

“This is sort of one of my favorite places on the planet out here,” Kolka says. “This is what I consider the ultimate bog.”

Although 150 years old, the trees are thin and straggly; the mosquitoes are out and feasting; the land is flat and unstable. I wonder how many people would see the landscape as Kolka does.

“It does things that no other ecosystem does from a functional stand point, from processing chemicals to nutrients. It’s one of the harshest environments on the planet,” he says. “And one of the most important.”

It’s then that I realize, to save peatlands, we need to see them differently.

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