Best of our wild blogs: 22 Aug 17

Pipes still on Changi after excavation work
wild shores of singapore

How is Changi after oil spill and excavation?
wild shores of singapore

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Now in Cinemas!
Green Drinks Singapore

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Malaysia claims US warship-tanker accident happened in its waters

Today Online 22 Aug 17;

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia has disputed Singapore’s account that a maritime accident between an American destroyer and a merchant vessel took place in the Republic’s territorial waters.

Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency director-general Zulkifili Abu Bakar insisted that the collision between USS John S McCain and Alnic MC occurred 4.5 nautical miles from Malaysia’s coast off Johor.

“It happened in Malaysian territorial waters, specifically in Teluk Ramunia waters,’’ Mr Zulkifili said.

He added that the Malaysian search and rescue operation was independent of Singapore’s, and Malaysia had not communicated with the Republic about the incident.

“What is important is, we do not want to have another collision between assets on the ground. For the time being, we shouldn’t be arguing about whose waters it is. The most important thing is to focus on search and rescue,” he said, referring to the territorial dispute over Pedra Branca that has simmered between Singapore and Malaysia for decades.

Malaysia’s navy chief, Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin, also claimed that the country’s KD Handalan warship was the first to respond to the distress call from the American destroyer.

“KD Handalan was just three miles from the USS McCain when it first received the distress call,” he said.

But a statement by the United States Seventh Fleet on Monday (Aug 21) evening contradicted his claim.

“Royal Malaysian Navy ships joined the search this afternoon, providing KD Handalan, KD Gempita, and KM Marudu and a Super Lynx helicopter.

“Earlier in the day, Republic of Singapore Navy Fearless-class patrol ships RSS Gallant (97), RSS Resilience (82), and a Singaporean Police Coast Guard vessel Basking Shark (PH 55) rendered assistance,” the US Navy said.

“Gallant, along with an Singapore Armed Forces Super Puma helicopter and Police Coast Guard vessels Tiger Shark (PH 54) and Sandbar Shark (PH 56) continue to provide assistance.”

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it was notified just before dawn on Monday of the collision in “Singapore territorial waters” in the Singapore Strait, and the Republic was leading the search and rescue operations.

“The Malaysian agencies are not involved in the search and rescue operations that is led by Singapore,” the MPA said. The row over the ownership of Pedra Branca dates back to the late 1970s, and it took more than 20 years for the dispute to be brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in July 2003.

In May 2008, after several rounds of written pleadings and public hearings, the court ruled Pedra Branca to be Singapore territory.

It also ruled that sovereignty over the Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia. But in February, Malaysia filed a challenge to the ruling, following what it claimed was the discovery of new facts from three documents recently discovered in the United Kingdom’s national archive.

In June, Putrajaya filed another application asking ICJ to interpret its ruling on Pedra Branca.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the application by saying that the ICJ judgment was “clear and unambiguous” and that Malaysia’s case was puzzling and groundless. AGENCIES

Malaysia insists leading SAR for missing US sailors

BY M. KUMAR The Star 21 Aug 17;

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia is leading the search and rescue (SAR) operations for the 10 missing sailors of US destroyer USS John S. McCain which collided with an oil tanker Monday.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) director-general Datuk Zulkifli Abu Bakar said reports that the operation was being led by Singapore were false.

Zulkifli also disputed reports that the collision between the guided-missile destroyer and oil tanker MV Alnic MC occurred in Singapore waters.

"The 5.30am incident happened 4.5 nautical miles from our coast in Teluk Ramunia. It is in our waters so we are leading the SAR operations," he told a press conference at MMEA headquarters here Monday.

He said the SAR was being carried out with water and air assets from MMEA, Royal Malaysian Navy and the maritime police.

"The search zones have been divided into four sectors, each a square of five by five nautical miles," he said.

He said Singapore was also conducting its own search in the area.

The collision took place close to Pulau Batu Putih, the focus of a territorial dispute between both Malaysia and Singapore.

However, Zulkifli said that now is not the time for arguments.

"We will communicate with Singaporean authorities and our men on the ground are also talking to each other," he said.

He added that the Indonesian navy is also sending two ships, KRI Parang and KRI Cucuk, to aid in the SAR.

He said while he did not want to speculate on what caused the collision, he noted that the area was a busy maritime passage.

"It is the entrance to the Singapore Straits and Malacca Straits, which sees over 80,000 ships passing through it yearly," he said.

Zulkifli said both ships involved in the collision have been directed to Singapore's Changi port for repairs and investigation.

"USS John S. McCain suffered a gash on its port side while it is unclear if the Liberian registered MV Alnic suffered any damage," he said.

Five sailors were injured in the incident and are in stable condition at a hospital in Singapore.

Zulkifli said that there was no sign of the missing sailors so far.

US Navy destroyer collision: Malaysia assisting in search for 10 sailors
RAHMAH GHAZALI The Star 21 Aug 17;

PETALING JAYA: The Royal Malaysia Navy has despatched ships and a helicopter to help in search-and-rescue (SAR) operations after a US warship and a merchant vessel collided seven nautical miles off the coast of Johor.

Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin said SAR operations are currently under way for 10 missing sailors.

The Navy has deployed three ships – the KD Handalan, KD Gempita, and KD Lekiu – as well as a CB 90 assault craft and SuperLynx helicopter, he told The Star.

“The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency has also deployed three vessels to assist in operations, and the Royal Malaysian Air Force is also deploying aircraft,” he added.

Kamarulzaman also urged the maritime community in Johor and Pahang, especially fishermen, to help look for the 10 missing US Navy sailors.

The USS John S. McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, collided with the Alnic MC at 5.24am on Monday east of Singapore, the US 7th Fleet reported.

The accident occurred when the US Navy ship was making its way to Singapore for a routine visit. Its home port is Yokosuka in Japan.

Singapore authorities are working with the US Navy to conduct search and rescue efforts after the warship suffered damage, said the 7th Fleet.

Apart from the 10 missing sailors, five personnel were injured.

The accident comes two months after seven US sailors died when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged cargo ship off the Japanese coast.

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Malaysia: Association wants to discuss conservation of shark, ray populations with Sabah Fisheries Department

AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 21 Aug 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Fisheries Department’s determination to analyse fish landing trends in the state is vital in the moves towards managing sharks and rays.

In lauding the effort, Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) president Aderick Chong said results from the department’s study should be made available to the public.

“This includes detailed records from every fish market around Sabah, which will be invaluable for shark conservation programmes. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Fisheries Department to discuss the study and explore possibilities to ensure we have healthy shark and ray populations to keep our oceans in balance,” he said in a statement.

Last month, the department revealed the volume of shark and ray catches had dropped by nearly half from 3,431.58 tonnes in 2012 to 1,788.46 tonnes last year.

The department attributed this to security concerns in the east coast and the erratic weather patterns.

“While it is true that the fishing effort has reduced, it is SSPA’s firm belief that the existing threats to sharks, such as over-fishing and climate change, must not be discounted,” said Chong.

“The landing assessment is not fully representative of the population status of sharks in our waters, and further research on population dynamics, ecology, spawning and aggregation areas need to be encouraged.”

On this, Chong said there was a need to develop a bycatch mitigation plan that will ensure efficient fishery operations.

He also noted that allowing the taking of sharks would not protect the population of other fishes but rather cause imbalance in the ecosystem and impact fish stocks.

“It will also be disastrous for the tourism industry in Sabah. Thousands of people travel to the state each year to dive with sharks and rays, especially at Pulau Sipadan and Mabul.

“If the exploitation of sharks and rays continues to the point where they are not commonly encountered, Sabah risks losing the millions of ringgit brought to the state annually.

“This is particularly the case for species such as the scalloped hammerhead — a globally endangered species — which is one of the major draw cards for dive tourists coming to Sabah.

“That they are still seen here is incredible. Sabah waters may represent a last safe haven for these rare animals, and we should afford them more protection,” said Chong.

Sabah Fisheries Department has proposed four shark and two ray species be categorised as threatened under the Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulations 1999 and Fisheries Act 1985.

The sharks are Sphyrna mokarran (great hammerhead shark), Sphyrna zygaena (smooth hammerhead shark), Eusphyra blochii (winghead shark) and Carcharhinus longimanus (oceanic whitetip shark), while the rays are Manta birostris (oceanic manta) and Manta alfredi (reef manta).

At the moment, only whale sharks and sawfish ray species are listed as threatened under the Fisheries Act.

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Cambodia: Why fishermen are planting trees

Phnom Penh Post 21 Aug 17;
Nick Beresford, country director at United Nations Development Programme in Cambodia.

Sao Theang steers his boat through the waters in and around the mangrove forest of Preynub, close to Sihanoukville on the Cambodian coast. It’s beautiful scenery and Theang tells us he hopes tourist numbers will start to pick up. As the head of Chumpu Khmao Community Fishery, he and his community already make a good living from shrimp, fish, mussels and other plentiful aquaculture.

But now the community is actively engaged in growing and protecting their own mangrove trees. Why are these fisher folk planting trees? Using tidal water flows and square blocks of natural mangrove, maximises the yields of valuable shrimp, fish and mussels. The mangrove forest adds to the beauty of the area: a plus for tourism.

The community works closely with the Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, Ministry of Environment and the local commune, fostering a thriving business for the community, and effective environmental protection of a valuable forest.

Last week, the Ministry of Environment continued consultations on new legislation: the Environmental Codes. In a sign of how seriously these codes are being taken by the government, the consultations were led by Environment Minister Say Samal himself.

A remarkable feature of the Environmental Codes is the degree to which local government is empowered. For instance, in the section on biodiversity corridors and protected areas, local authorities have powers to expand protected areas. They are responsible for carrying out patrols, issuing licences and inspecting permits.

The codes extend these responsibilities to local communities, as well as indigenous groups. This marks an important step forward in solidifying the rights of these people, recognising their unique relationship to the environment and their ability to offer sustainable management and protection. The Environmental Codes contain a key concept of “collaborative management” to describe how the national government,

local communes and community groups can come together to forcibly and effectively manage natural resources. The codes contain principles such as “citizen’s access to information and to effective remedies” and “effective and full participation of all relevant stakeholders” in environmental decisions which may concern them.

The work of Sao Theang, his community, and their government partners is “collaborative management” in action. Not only have they been successful in business, but the Preynub communities were able to successfully push back against a land grab.

With some help from the Department of Fisheries and local authorities, the community was able to claim back their land. They are now replanting it with mangrove trees. Collaborative management is a smart and effective method and it’s deeply embedded in the new Environmental Codes.

With the added powers come new responsibilities. As the codes make clear, there is a need for staff with the right qualifications, training and experience at the local level.

This implies a major training exercise to strengthen local institutions and to coach their staff. This is a subject of great importance to Minister Say Samal and his colleagues. UNDP, USAID and the government of Japan, who have been working with the ministry on developing the codes, should be thinking of how they might help see it through with some support for skills and training.

The codes shift substantial government power down from the national ministries level to communes and other local authorities. Often this is politically difficult to do as unsurprisingly some powerful ministries can object.

The Ministry of Environment is making a strong case in the codes for decentralisation and leading by example. This is a great way to approach the subject and in the process make the government more effective and more accountable.

The politics and economy of environmental protection is complex and progress is rarely linear or easy. Learning from people such as Sao Theang and his community, and embedding the success of collaborative management in the new Environmental Codes marks an important step forward to better protection of the environment in Cambodia.

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Myanmar: Mangrove-planting drones on a mission to restore Myanmar delta

Thin Lei Win Reuters 21 Aug 17

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Fast-dwindling mangroves in Myanmar's low-lying Ayeyarwady Delta, ravaged by decades of deforestation and conversion of land for agriculture and aquaculture, could find an unlikely saviour - drones.

Mangroves protect coastlines in the face of storms and rising sea levels, absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and boost fish stocks, experts say.

Yet Myanmar has lost more than 1 million hectares (about 2.5 million acres) of mangroves since 1980, said Arne Fjortoft, founder and secretary-general of Worldview International Foundation (WIF), which has worked with two local universities to restore mangroves in the Southeast Asian nation since 2012.

In the delta region, known as the country's rice bowl, only 16 percent of original mangrove cover remains, Fjortoft, former chairman of Norway's Liberal Party, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by e-mail.

There is an "urgent need" to restore mangroves to stem saltwater invasion of farmland and shoreline erosion due to sea level rise, as well as to protect lives and property from storms and floods in coastal areas, he added.

An annual climate risk index by Germanwatch, a green research group, ranked Myanmar - which suffered decades of military rule - second among the 10 countries worst-affected by extreme weather from 1996 to 2015.

WIF has so far planted some 3 million mangrove trees, but the task is laborious and time-consuming.

Drones, on the other hand, could plant trees 10 times faster and cut costs by half, according to UK-based start-up BioCarbon Engineering (BCE), whose CEO is an ex-NASA engineer who worked on the search for life on Mars.

Once the process is fully automated, a single pilot operating six drones can plant up to 100,000 trees per day, BCE says.

In late July, the inaugural BridgeBuilder Challenge, which awards $1 million in prize money for ideas with global impact, selected as one of its winners a proposal by BCE and WIF to test the use of BCE's drones to plant a million mangroves in Myanmar.

The plan covers 250 hectares and involves training and employing locals to collect and prepare seeds, as well as to maintain, monitor and protect the fragile ecosystems.

It still requires approval from Myanmar's authorities, but Bremley Lyngdoh, a WIF board member who is applying for further grants, is hopeful work could start later this year.

"We don't want another big storm to come and destroy a lot of lives and livelihoods like in 2008," said Lyngdoh, referring to Cyclone Nargis which devastated the Ayeyarwady Delta region, killing nearly 140,000 people.


Drones are particularly useful in complicated or dangerous terrain that is hard for people to access, said Irina Fedorenko, a co-founder of BCE.

They can help green large areas of land very fast, and could contribute to meeting the international community's commitment to restore 350 million hectares of degraded forests and agricultural land by 2030, she said. That goal will be near impossible without technology and innovation, she added.

Experts say thriving mangrove ecosystems can store two to four times more carbon than most other tropical forests, helping reduce planet-warming gases in the atmosphere, while slowing coastal erosion and shielding communities against tsunamis and storm surges.

They also provide breeding grounds for fish and other sea creatures. Mangroves have been estimated to support 30 percent of Southeast Asia's fish catch, and almost 100 percent of its shrimp catch.

Yet they are being destroyed at rates three to five times higher than global deforestation, a 2014 U.N. report warned.

BCE's technology, which works in two phases, aims to change that.

First, drones flying 100 meters (328 ft) above the ground take highly detailed, 3D images of the land while sensors record information such as soil type, soil quality and moisture. The data is then used to create a planting pattern, pinpointing the best spots and species to plant in each location.

Then a drone uploaded with the mapping information flies 2 meters above the ground, shooting biodegradable seed pods designed to enhance germination success. A drone carrying 300 seed pods can cover 1 hectare in 18 minutes, according to BCE.


Fedorenko said BCE had tested around 3,000 species of plants in different conditions, including in Britain and a post-mining restoration project in Australia, and was confident of finding the right combination for Myanmar.

"Mangroves grow very fast. We will see results in a year, but we will know what's working or not in six months, so there is time to modify the technology and the pods," she said.

Once perfected in Myanmar, the technology could help other large-scale restoration projects, said WIF's Lyngdoh.

Long associated with military operations, drones' growing availability, improved performance and falling cost have led to their application in humanitarian situations.

In June, Vanuatu's government announced a plan to test the use of drones to deliver life-saving vaccines and health supplies to remote communities in the Pacific archipelago. [nL8N1JB0B2]

And Myanmar, with help from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, will soon begin using drone-mapping technology to reduce disaster risks to agriculture.

Reporting by Thin Lei Win, Editing by Megan Rowling; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit

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