Best of our wild blogs: 23 Aug 17

Labrador still alive
wild shores of singapore

Cats on Pulau Hantu (Part 2)
Hantu Blog

Getting the Haze Out of Our Food: #GoHazeFree Campaign Targets Use of Unsustainable Palm Oil in Eateries
People's Movement to Stop Haze

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Behind picture-perfect supermarkets in Singapore is looming waste

Food waste in Singapore is a massive problem. Supermarkets should lead the way to fight it, argue two environment experts.
Tristram Stuart and Josephine Liang Channel NewsAsia 23 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore is famous for her delicious cuisine yet faces a serious food waste problem.

The amount of food waste generated has increased by 40 per cent in the past decade. In 2016 alone, the National Environment Agency reported a staggering 791,000 tonnes of food waste.

One of the largest contributors of food waste around the world, including Singapore, is the supermarket industry.

It is estimated that over 40 per cent of food waste occurs at production and retail level globally. As some of the most influential players along the food supply chain, supermarkets play a major part in contributing to a culture of waste.


Thankfully, supermarkets are picking up and doing something about this nasty trend in Singapore. NTUC FairPrice reportedly saved 250,000kg of food from being disposed between 2015 and 2016.

While this is encouraging progress, it is also demonstrative of the large amount of waste supermarkets produce, merely chipping away at the vast and complex food wastage problem that extends across other parts of society.

We have also witnessed some green shoots where independent initiatives to redistribute food that would otherwise be disposed or wasted have sprouted up.

Food Bank Singapore, one of the many examples, distributes 60 tonnes of surplus food a month to over 200 charities and feeds over 100,000 people in need.

Another organisation is the charity Food from the Heart, which has a partnership with NTUC FairPrice to collect unsold canned food in good condition for donation to charities and welfare homes.

Such efforts complement initiatives to increase consumers’ sensitivity to sustainability issues through campaigns such as Singapore’s Save Food Cut Waste. The hope is these initiatives combined can push people to be aware of better practices in avoiding food wastage at home.


But there is still more that can be done by supermarkets. In Singapore, food safety concerns and liability to be borne by the supermarkets are big hurdles to redistributing surplus food.

Fear and culpability prohibits supermarkets and companies from donating fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, which account for 60 per cent of all food wasted.

Globally, we know that wastage happens before food even reaches the stores, with an estimated 20 per cent produce in farms rejected for cosmetic reasons.

These include carrots that are slightly curved, strawberries that are too large, and cucumbers that are too yellow.

Because they are less than perfect, farmers have no other option than to leave the produce to rot in the fields, which does not only drain valuable resources, but also generates 2.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas per year, directly contributing to climate change.

Fruits and vegetables, which are edible and nutritious but judged ugly by mass market retailers, are pictured as part of a French national day of action against food wastage. (Photo: AFP/Miguel Medina)

Even produce that pass the intense initial vetting must undergo further scrutiny during packaging and processing.

In 2013, the French beans grown for European markets saw a further 15 to 20 per cent waste due to cosmetic filtering, on top of the existing 50 per cent waste. This was because some French beans did not fit requirements – for supermarkets required farmers to nicely fit their beans into the 9cm bags provided.

According to a 2016 Electrolux survey, 75 per cent of Singaporeans will consume ugly food if it is as tasty and nutritious as other food. One might speculate that, with safe and clever marketing or creative solutions, the remaining 25 per cent would be willing to try.

For example, NTUC FairPrice has started to sell blemished and bruised produce at a reduced price and repackaged as sliced fruit and vegetables, which appeal to consumers and increases income for the company – a win for all.


But the scale of the problem demands correspondingly large changes. Supermarket may have to rethink their business models, to incorporate solutions that avoid waste wherever possible.

Redistribution of food through welfare organisations should happen beyond in-store wastage, and on a larger scale up the food supply chain.

Consumer knowledge must be expanded, and mindsets changed, to recognise that blemished food remains safe and nutritious.

Online grocery stores have been taking off in Singapore and virtual marketplaces should be expanded to include surplus produce. Surplus food that has been marked down in price can be advertised alongside the other products, and delivered to redistribution charities’ and customers’ doorsteps just like in a conventional purchase.


The availability of data will be essential for Singapore to move forward. This includes publishing more elaborate and meaningful data that delves into the nuances of the causes of food waste. This also means that action can then be tailored to each market.

Tesco is an example. The first supermarket in the UK to publish a third-party audited report of food waste throughout its supply chain in 2013, it has used data to form meaningful partnerships to redistribute surplus food.

For instance, Tesco stores upload estimates of their unsold food onto a FareShare FoodCloud app. Then, charities and community groups registered on the app will receive texts detailing the available food, allowing them to pick up the food they need.

To do so, it has capitalised on its data to develop comprehensive programmes dealing with all facets of food waste, such as donating bakery surplus to charities, making these into animal feed and converting chicken fat and cooking oil to bio-diesel.

Detailed data can also inform grassroots initiatives and catalyse social enterprises that target specific forms of food waste. Tesco data that showed how 44 per cent of bread produced in UK is wasted helped launch Toast Ale, which brews craft beer from unsold loaves from bakeries and unused crusts from sandwich makers.

Going back to the example of the French beans, Tesco used to require growers to supply beans within a strictly specified size range and trimmed of their strings. They have since relaxed such requirements following customer feedback, cutting their food waste by 30 per cent overnight.

While individuals may hold less power than supermarkets, the above just goes to show much change can be brought about when people and organisations fix their minds to a problem.

With nine out of ten Singaporeans already concerned about food wastage, there is no better time to make your voice heard.

The power to protect Singapore’s food heaven lies in your hands – so talk to your local supermarket today about addressing food waste.

Tristram Stuart is an author, speaker and passionate campaigner on the environmental impact of food waste. He was in Singapore to speak at National Geographic LIVE!, organised in collaboration with NTU and NEA.

Josephine Liang is a sustainability campaigner, project manager and Executive Assistant to Tristram Stuart. She is also co-founder of Grandmas in the Kitchen, a social enterprise that empowers older Bangladeshi woman through providing them with catering opportunities.
Source: CNA/sl

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Indonesia: Satellites detect 538 hotspots in several provinces

Antara 22 Aug 17;

Pontianak, W Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - The Terra, Aqua, and SNPP satellites detected a total of 538 hotspots in several provinces on Tuesday at 8 a.m. Western Indonesian Standard Time.

Of the total, West Kalimantan had 193 hotspots, and Papua, 143 hotspots, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, remarked here, Tuesday,

Some 31 hotspots were detected in Lampung; 19 in West Java; 12 in Bangka Belitung Islands; 11 each in Aceh, North Kalimantan, and South Kalimantan; 10 in East Java; four each in Maluku and Central Kalimantan; and three in East Kalimantan.

Moreover, 48 hotspots were found in East Nusa Tenggara, eight in South Sulawesi, seven in West Nusa Tenggara, three in Riau, and two in North Maluku.

The number of areas gutted by wildfires has decreased over the past several years, from 2.61 million hectares in 2015, down to 438 thousand hectares in 2016, and the figure is expected to further decrease to 20 thousand hectares in 2017.

The authorities have anticipated an increase in the number of hotspots during the peak of the dry season from late August to September this year.(*)

BNPB warns of more forest fires in upcoming weeks
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani Nurul Fitri Ramadhani
The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, August 22, 2017 | 05:06 pm

BNPB warns of more forest fires in upcoming weeks
Jakarta Post 22 Aug 17;

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has warned of an increasing risk of land and forest fires from August to September as a result of the prolonged dry season.

The BNPB recorded that, based on the Terra, Aqua and SNPP satellites, 538 hot spots were detected on Tuesday with a confidence level of medium-to-high.

The actual numbers, however, might be higher than that already detected since the Terra and Aqua satellites do not pass through several regions the BNPB deems as blank spots — Aceh, Jambi, Riau, West Sumatra, North Sumatra, Gorontalo and East NusaTenggara.

The number of hot spots in West Kalimantan and Papua — two regions currently contributing the highest number of hot spots, around 193 and 143, respectively — is predicted to rise.

"The dry season will run until October. The peak is predicted to be in September. Therefore, there is an increasing possibility of land and forest fires. So, be careful," BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a press release on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Banten, Jambi, West Papua and North Sulawesi recorded one hot spot each.

Six provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan — Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan — have declared emergency-alert status for forest fires, most were declared in June and will last until October.

Five taskforces with different responsibilities for land, air, law enforcement, health and public awareness have been deployed to prepare for forest fires. (ipa)

538 hot spots detected as Indonesia gears up for peak of dry season in September
Francis Chan Straits Times 22 Aug 17;

JAKARTA - Weather satellites have picked up 538 hot spots in the last 24 hours - believed to be the highest number across Indonesia this year - as emergency services go on high alert ahead of the peak of the annual dry season, which usually occurs in September.

The bulk of the fires were detected in West Kalimantan province (193 hot spots) and Papua (143), while the areas closest to Singapore, such as South Sumatra (8), Riau (3) and Jambi (1), were largely spared, according to figures released by the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) on Tuesday (Aug 22) .

Despite the high number of hot spots, Indonesia has managed to limit the amount of land burnt this year and prevent a repeat of the 2015 crisis, when the burning of forest and peatland in Kalimantan and Sumatra produced a transboundary haze that blanketed the region and led to record air pollution levels for months.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said compared with 2015, when more than 2.6 million ha of land across the country were hit by fires, only about 20,000ha have been burnt this year. The area of land burnt so far this year is also significantly lower than the 438,000ha that were razed in 2016.

"In general, there is progress in how forest and land fires are being dealt with," said Dr Sutopo. "It is impossible to eliminate hot spots from all parts of Indonesia during the year, (but) there is a decline in the amount of land burnt."

However, Dr Sutopo warned that as the dry season will last until October, there is still potential for an increase in forest and land fires.

"Although some areas experienced above-average rainfall during this dry season, with floods occurring in Sulawesi, Kalimantan and parts of Sumatra, forest and land fires still occurred," he added.

Six provinces - Jambi, Riau and South Sumatra on Sumatra island, and Central, West and South Kalimantan - remain in a state of emergency so that fire-fighting resources from the central government can be deployed there.

These include aircraft from the BNPB for water-bombing or cloud-seeding operations and additional manpower from the Indonesian police and military to support local fire-fighters in the field.

Dr Sutopo said there are now five task groups to assist provinces and smaller districts affected by, or are at risk of, fires. They include separate groups that oversee fire-fighting on land and from the air, enforce anti-burning laws, administer health-related services for affected residents, and a "socialisation task force" that educates people against using fire to clear land.

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Indonesia: Saving world heritage of Sumatra's rainforests

Ary Aprianto Jakarta Post 22 Aug 17;

Today’s List of World Heritages in Danger includes Indonesia’s Tropical Rainforests Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS), which encompasses three national parks along the island: Gunung Leuser, Kerinci Seblat, and Bukit Barisan Selatan.

Protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage was among topics at last month’s meeting of the World Heritage Committee under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Sumatra site of rainforests was inscribed into the World Heritage List in 2004 given its exceptional beauty, significant on-going ecological evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals, including threatened species of outstanding universal value.

The exceptionality of TRHS has found no comparison in Indonesia. Even at a global level, its exceptionality is evident, as host of over 4,000 plant species, 450 species of birds and 180 species of mammals.

Nonetheless, road development in the area, along with failure in law enforcement, illegal logging, land encroachment, poaching, and other ecological degradation, prompted the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a network of green groups, to recommend the Sumatra rainforests on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2011.

To restore TRHS, an inter-agency coordination was formed at the central government level to orchestrate efforts at policy level.

Yet road development, poaching, and land encroachment etc persist. Those challenges are intermingling and formidable. Poverty in TRHS remains evident, prompting destructive acts. Building physical connectivity in remote areas to encourage economic activities faces environmental risks.

Developing and strengthening synergy is easier said than done. The most formidable challenge usually comes from different priorities of ministries or institutions. At the local level, things are worse.

Restoring TRHS affirms linkages between nature, climate, and disaster. Protecting nature helps prevent or lessen impacts of natural disaster; thus saving financial and social costs particularly as Indonesia faces frequent hydro-meteorological disasters.

If restored properly, TRHS can also be developed into an interesting eco-tourism destination. Indonesia already has best practices in managing eco-tourism destinations, some supervised under UNESCO. Synergy is again a necessity.

There are also international implications behind the urgency of restoring TRHS; which is not only Indonesia’s national property but clearly a world heritage.

While the World Heritage Convention recognizes the sovereignty of state parties to world heritage, the international community must cooperate with states in protecting such heritage. The Convention accords states with responsibility to provide information on conservation of world heritage in their territories, and prevent deliberate measures that can damage the heritage.

Thus once a national cultural or natural property is listed on the World Heritage List, states can no longer develop policies impacting the property without the scrutiny of the international community.

Since it is a world heritage, national efforts for conservation and/or preservation of TRHS resonate very well with Indonesia’s international commitment to nature, for instance in reducing emissions.

Restoring TRHS will also help realize Indonesia’s commitment to prevent forest fires in Sumatra.

Local communities have reportedly yet to sufficiently benefit from TRHS and its world status. This kind of complexity is not unique to TRHS. The government solutions to address those challenges, by developing harmony between social, environmental, and economic aspects, could serve as model for addressing challenges in other natural or cultural property.

The interplay between those factors must be understood by Indonesia, a country with eight UNESCO world heritages.

Failure to restore TRHS will damage Indonesia’s credibility in its commitment to nature. It also could render its future efforts in nominating other national property into the World Heritage List more difficult.


The writer works at the Foreign Ministry’s directorate for socio-culture affairs and international organization of developing countries. This is a personal view

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