Best of our wild blogs: 24 Aug 17

Job Opportunity: Research Associate/Fellow – Executive Secretary, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN)
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

These 3 companies owe Indonesia millions of dollars for damaging the environment. Why haven’t they paid?

Protests over geothermal development heat up in Central Java

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Clutch of 141 eggs laid by critically endangered turtle moved to safer location: NParks

Audrey Tan Straits Times 24 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - The clutch of 141 eggs that was laid by a critically endangered hawksbill turtle at a beach along East Coast Park on Wednesday (Aug 23) night has been moved to a safer location with less foot traffic and low light pollution.

The National Parks Board (NParks) told The Straits Times that the decision was made to move the eggs as the original site posed a high risk to the nest.

"Based on factors such as the proximity to the shore, the amount of light pollution and foot traffic, NParks assessed that the site posed a high risk to the nest," said Dr Karenne Tun, director of the coastal and marine division at NParks' National Biodiversity Centre.

"Following best turtle management practices, we have translocated the 141 eggs to a more suitable spot with less foot traffic and low light pollution. We will continue to monitor the eggs closely," she added.

While sightings of freshly-hatched turtle hatchlings have been regularly reported, the sight of a turtle laying eggs is a rare one.

The pregnant turtle had on Wednesday evening been spotted by a member of the public making landfall at a beach in East Coast Park.

NParks was alerted and its officers were on the scene within half an hour, to observe and monitor the turtle and take down notes.

Following a report by The Straits Times on the sighting, members of the public on social media raised concerns about the lights used in the process.

Dr Tun clarified that the site was kept dark and quiet while the turtle was trying to find a suitable area to dig the hole.

"Once the turtle started laying her eggs, lights were used, from the back, to monitor the egg laying process and for data collection purposes. NParks was careful to avoid directing the light at the turtle's face to minimise disturbance to it," she added.

When The Straits Times was at the scene on Wednesday night, NParks scientists, who had gone to Australia earlier this year to learn more about turtle management at the Mon Repos Turtle Centre - an established institute on turtle ecology - were also seen supervising the use of lights, and ensuring that all observers kept their distance.

Members of the public are reminded to contact the NParks helpline (1800-471-7300), and to keep their distance and speak softly when a turtle is sighted.

Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. People should also not handle the eggs as this might damage them.

Critically endangered turtle spotted laying eggs at East Coast beach
Audrey Tan Straits Times 23 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - A critically endangered hawksbill turtle was spotted laying eggs on a beach at East Coast Park on Wednesday evening (Aug 23).

While sightings of freshly-hatched turtle hatchlings have been regularly reported, the sight of a turtle laying eggs is a rare one.

Last week on Aug 16, 32 hawksbill turtle hatchlings were guided back to sea by the National Parks Board (NParks) after they were spotted scampering about by members of the public.

On Wednesday, the pregnant turtle made landfall at around dusk, and NParks said it was alerted to the sighting by a member of the public at about 7.30pm.

NParks officers, who were in Australia to learn more about turtle management earlier this year at the Mon Repos Turtle Centre - an established institute on turtle ecology, were on the scene within half an hour.

Their observations showed that the reptile started laying eggs at about 8.40pm.

When The Straits Times arrived at the scene at about 9pm, the turtle was lying motionless on the beach as it laid its eggs. Its shell was also covered with sand, making it less conspicuous.

The turtle started covering the eggs with sand at 9.18pm and moved off at 9.52pm.

It was back in the water at 10.06pm.

The trained NParks officers also took photographs and a number of other measurements, such as the width of the turtle's trail and the length of its shell. They also made observations about its entry and exit points.

They learnt that the turtle followed a similar route when coming onto land and making its way back to the sea - an important find, as the team now knows what to look out for when combing the beach for turtles.

This latest sighting comes after a Marine Turtle Working Group - comprising staff from NParks, academics from institutions such as the National University of Singapore, and interest groups and individuals - was re-established last year.

Such collaborative work has been ongoing since 2006, but the re-establishment of the working group helped with the enhancement of a standard operating procedure (SOP) when turtle sightings are reported.

This includes installing more signages on the beach, getting members of the public to contact NParks when turtles are spotted, and advisories on what to do when these reptiles are encountered.

There are two species of turtles native to Singapore - the green turtle and the hawksbill turtle.

Dr Karenne Tun, director of the coastal and marine branch at NParks National Biodiversity Centre, said the incident was an exciting one, as it provided researchers the opportunity to learn more about these rarely encountered animals.

"The discovery shows that turtles are still coming in and that our environment is still favourable for them to come in and lay eggs," said Dr Tun.

Members of the public are reminded to contact the NParks helpline (1800-471-7300), and to keep their distance and speak softly when a turtle is sighted.

Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. People should also not handle the eggs as this might damage them.

Critically endangered hawksbill turtle seen laying eggs at East Coast Park
Channel NewsAsia 24 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: A hawksbill turtle was spotted laying eggs at East Coast Park on Wednesday (Aug 23) night, in a second sighting of the critically endangered marine animal in two weeks.

The National Parks Board (NParks) said a member of the public tipped the authorities off about the rare sight.

“Alerted by a member of the public, NParks officers observed a hawksbill turtle about to lay her eggs along the shores of East Coast Park,” NParks posted on Facebook on Tuesday.

It also shared a video of the process on social media. NParks officers were at the egg-laying to make sure conditions were “favourable”, it added.

“Following the best practices of some of the most established turtle hatcheries in the world, our colleagues monitored the process to ensure that the conditions were favourable for the turtle,” said NParks in the post. “We are excited to share this very special moment with all of you here.”

Last Wednesday, turtle hatchlings were seen trying to make their way to the sea at East Coast Park.

They were befuddled by bright lights and got some help from NParks officers, who moved them to a more suitable location.

Singapore waters are home to two types of turtles – the green turtle and the hawksbill.

While the turtles have been known to come ashore to lay eggs at East Coast Park, it is rare to observe an animal in action.

Members of the public who see turtles can call NParks at 1800-4717300. NParks urged the public to keep their distance from the turtle and the eggs.

“Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. Handling the eggs may damage them, or introduce bacteria into the nest.”

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Warning signs put up after crocodile spotted at Changi Beach

Channel NewsAsia 23 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) has put up warning signs at Changi Beach Park following reports of a crocodile in the area.

Channel NewsAsia understands the signs were put up on Monday (Aug 21).

Video and photos circulating on social media appeared to show a crocodile in the waters around Changi Beach.

One eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said that he had seen a crocodile near Changi Point Ferry Terminal for the past four days, including near the boardwalk area close to the ferry terminal.

He added that he had also made reports to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and to NParks.

The latest sighting comes after at least two sightings were reported at Pasir Ris Park earlier this month.

A crocodile was seen at the mudflat of Sungei Tampines in Pasir Ris Park and another sighting was reported in the waters off the park's beach on another occasion.

According to wildlife photographer Jeffery Teo, the Changi crocodile is probably the same as the one spotted in Pasir Ris, as crocodiles are usually spotted on the north-west side of Singapore but rarely in the north-east.

"I think it's highly unlikely there are two crocodiles ... my gut feel is that it's probably just one crocodile," he said.

"In Kranji, Sungei Buloh, we do see crocodiles regularly, but (the one in) the north-east is a rare sighting, so this particular crocodile is gaining a lot of interest."

He added the crocodile was an estuarine crocodile and that it could possibly have come from Malaysia, but that it was probably a "transient crocodile".

"(It's) just exploring, it hasn't located a place to stay, that's why you see it moving to different places."

He added that it could possibly stay put in Changi, depending on how good the environment was.

Responding to the sightings at Pasir Ris, NParks had said they were likely to be of estuarine crocodiles as they are known to "swim freely in the Straits of Johor".

It told visitors to keep to designated paths and away from water edges. Should members of the public encounter a crocodile, they should "stay calm and back away slowly" and not approach, provoke or feed it, NParks added.

If members of the public need help, they should call the NParks helpline at 1800-471 7300. More information on estuarine crocodiles can be found on NParks’ website.

Warning signs put up at Changi Beach Park after crocodile sighting
Lee Min Kok Straits Times 24 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - Warning signs have been put up at Changi Beach Park after a reported sighting of a crocodile in the area.

The Straits Times understands that the signs have been put up since Monday (Aug 21).

Mr Yusaini Abdul Rahim, 41, an Immigration & Checkpoints Authority officer working at Changi Ferry Point Terminal, first saw the crocodile on Monday morning while out on patrol.

He subsequently contacted the National Parks Board (NParks) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

Mr Yusaini spotted the reptile again on Wednesday and posted several photos and videos of it on Facebook.

His Facebook post, which came with a warning to people not to swim at the beach, has since received over 7,000 shares.

"My immediate priority was to warn the public to stay away as it can be quite dangerous," Mr Yusaini told ST.

He suggested that the crocodile could be the same one that was spotted at Pasir Ris Park earlier this month.

Sightings of crocodiles, while not uncommon in places such as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in north-western Singapore, are much rarer in the north-eastern region.

NParks, in response to the Pasir Ris sightings, had said it is monitoring the situation and will take steps to remove the crocodile should it venture into publicly accessible areas.

It also advised people who come across a crocodile to stay calm and back away slowly. They should not approach, provoke or feed the animal, and can call the NParks helpline on 1800-471-7300 for assistance.

The Straits Times has contacted NParks for more information.

Crocodile sighted twice in Changi Beach Park area
NParks urges park users to heed warning signs and stay away from water edges
Lee Min Kok Straits Times 25 Aug 17;

Warning signs have been put up at Changi Beach Park after a reported sighting of a crocodile in the area.

The Straits Times understands that the signs have been up since Monday.

Mr Yusaini Abdul Rahim, an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officer working at Changi Ferry Point Terminal, first saw the crocodile on Monday morning while out on patrol. The 41-year-old then contacted the National Parks Board (NParks) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

He spotted the reptile again on Wednesday and posted several photos and videos of it on Facebook. The post has since received over 7,000 shares.

"My immediate priority was to warn the public to stay away as it can be quite dangerous," Mr Yusaini told ST yesterday.

He suggested that the crocodile could be the same one that was spotted at Pasir Ris Park earlier this month.

Sightings of crocodiles, while not uncommon in places such as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in north-western Singapore, are much rarer in the north-eastern region.

Mr Yusaini Abdul Rahim, an ICA officer who works at Changi Ferry Point Terminal, spotted the crocodile twice while he was on patrol. He posted some photos and videos of the reptile on Facebook to warn others to be careful while in the area.

NParks' group director of parks Chia Seng Jiang told ST that the board is aware of recent sightings of a crocodile in the waters around Changi Beach Park.

"On Aug 21, 2017, a crocodile was sighted in the waters off the beach area of the park," he said. "It was likely an estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)."

Estuarine crocodiles are known to swim freely in the Strait of Johor. They feed and rest in mangroves and freshwater bodies, and are usually found in the water or at mudflats away from visitor routes.

Mr Chia said NParks is working with the AVA and Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) to monitor the sightings of the crocodile, as well as to catch and move it to another location, for the safety of park users.

"NParks and AVA have also advised vessel owners, fish farmers, and operators of establishments along the coast to take the necessary precautions," he said.

Warning signs and advisory notices have been put up in the park near water edges.

"Visitors should heed these signs, in particular to keep to designated paths and away from water edges," said Mr Chia.

He also advised people who come across a crocodile to stay calm and back away slowly. They should not approach, provoke or feed the animal, and can call the NParks helpline on 1800-471-7300 for assistance.

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Malaysia: 10-year-old elephant killed while crossing highway

AMANDA YEAP The Star 24 Aug 17;

IPOH: A 10-year-old elephant was killed when it was crossing the road at KM60 of the Gerik-Jeli Highway in Gerik, some 130km from here early Wednesday.

Perak Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) director Loo Kean Seong said state officers rushed to the scene at around 9am after they were informed of the 5.30am incident.

"The elephant was hit by a tour bus when it was crossing the road and it was already dead by the time we arrived at the scene.

"Fortunately, the bus driver stayed at the scene and we questioned him for details," he said, adding that none of the bus passengers or the driver were hurt.

Loo said that the stretch of highway was located near a forested area, which is the habitat of elephants.

"They would be roaming around the area at any time of the day, so motorists must be careful and drive cautiously when using the highway. Please avoid speeding," he added.

The elephant carcass will be sent for a post-mortem to determine the cause of death.

Tour bus rams into elephant on east-west highway
Bernama New Straits Times 24 Aug 17;

GERIK: A tour bus heading to Gerik rammed into a bull elephant on the East-West Highway near here early today, killing the 12-year-old animal.

The bus driver, Eng Koon Seng, 62, and the 32 passengers were unhurt in the accident that happened at 5.30 am at Km59 of the highway about five kilometres from the Titiwangsa Rest and Service Area.

Gerik Police deputy chief DSP Mohd Sohaimi Ishak said the bus, heading from Jeli to Gerik, hit the elephant while descending a gradient.

The animal had emerged from the right side of the road and ran across it, he added.

“The driver could not stop the vehicle in time to avoid hitting the elephant. The animal collapsed and then got up and walked to the grass on the road shoulder and died,” he said in a statement here.

He said the elephant was injured in the head and body while the bus had a shattered windscreen and a huge dent at the front.

Mohd Sohaimi said the Department of Wildlife and National Parks had been informed. -- Bernama

Elephant dies after being rammed by tour bus
ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 24 Aug 17;

KUALA TERENGGANU: It was a rude awakening for 32 senior citizens when the chartered bus they were traveling rammed into an elephant at dawn, killing the pachyderm.

A passenger onboard the bus, who wished to be identified only as Madam Chong, said they were fast asleep when the were jolted from the impact at Km59 of the East-West Highway along the Grik-Jeli route at 5.30am today.

“Fortunately, none of us were injured although some were initially shocked from the sudden crash along a dark down-slope of the road.

“We were taken aback when we alighted from the bus to see the elephant groaning briefly before it died at the scene,” she said, adding the bus was about 5km from the Titiwangsa Range rest and recreation area.

Madam Chong said the sight of the elephant lying dead moved many of the passengers to tears.

“ Many sobbed uncontrollably at the sight of the dead elephant,” she said.

The impact with the elephant calf severely dented the front of the bus and shattered its windscreen, with the driver fortunate to escape unhurt.

She said the group, who were on a three day, two nights tour of Betong in southern Thailand, had departed Kuala Terengganu at midnight.

“We were stranded for nearly five hours while waiting for the driver to lodge a police report and to catch a replacement bus despatched by the charter company.

“We finally continued our journey and arrived in Betong nearly 2pm,” she said.

Grik deputy police chief Deputy Superintendent Mohd Sohaimi Ishak said initial investigations revealed that the driver was unable to avoid slamming into the elephant down the slope as it suddenly appeared from the forest.

He said the elephant, estimated to be 12-years old, struggled to its feet momentarily after the impact but collapsed and died shortly afterwards.

Police summoned the National Parks and Wildlife Department to remove the carcass.

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Indonesia's whale sharks yield clues on ecosystem

'Beautiful, peaceful' animals draw conservationists and tourism dollars

PETER GUEST Nikkei 23 Aug 17;

KWATISORE, Indonesia -- Balanced precariously on wooden struts that jolt upward with every passing wave, three fishermen lean over the sea to lower buckets of baitfish into the waters of Cenderawasih Bay. Beneath them, the meter-wide gasping maw of a whale shark breaks the surface, then sinks below. Its fin throws up an arc of spray as it turns away to resume a slow patrol around the bagan, a traditional fishing platform composed of a floating scaffold fixed to a central boat hull and strung with lines and nets.

It takes half an hour to entice the animal -- a juvenile male, but already more than five meters long -- into the net. As the fishermen on the platform haul it close, a team of divers, waiting on two speedboats tied to the bagan, move in.

Almost daily, whale sharks turn up at the bagans at Cendrawasih Bay, attracted by the baitfish that accumulate in the nets. Once trapped, they are constrained enough that researchers can get to them to take blood samples and fit them with satellite tags, making this remote area off the coast of West Papua a uniquely valuable place for researchers into this enigmatic and poorly understood animal.

"What we experienced here is just completely, mind-blowingly unique, the chance to sit still with a whale shark. Everywhere else it's completely impossible," said Al Dove, vice-president of research and conservation at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

In late July and early August, Dove and Mark Erdmann, vice-president of Asia-Pacific marine programs at Conservation International, led a nine-day, 10-person expedition to the bay, collecting unprecedented amounts of data about the behavior, biology and health of whale sharks, information which they hope will inform conservation efforts in an area that Erdmann called the "epicenter of global marine biodiversity."

A wide-mouthed bay ringed by mist-shrouded hills thick with jungle, Cendrawasih has so far been protected by its isolation. Air links are poor, even from Jakarta, with most of the routes serving the mines that form the bulk of West Papua's economy. Visitors have to fly via Bali and Timika, then onward to pick up a boat in the coastal cities of Nabire or Manokwari.

However, the area -- nominally a national park -- is not insulated from the economic forces that have led to the destruction of large swathes of Indonesia's natural capital onshore and off. The maritime economy is worth 11% of the country's $930 billion economy; fisheries account for nearly three-quarters of that total. The Jakarta government wants to double that contribution over the next decade by dramatically expanding the fishing and tourism sectors, putting even greater pressure on the ecosystem services that support them.

Anchor research

As that development starts to encroach on Cendrawasih, scientists hope that by building a dataset on the health of the region's wild whale sharks, they can create a benchmark that will allow conservationists and the government to better understand the impact of human activities on the ecosystem.

Even armed with that information, they could be swimming against a strong tide. Cendrawasih is a microcosm of the political, social and economic challenges facing maritime ecosystems in Southeast Asia, and particularly Indonesia.

The bagans themselves are imported from South Sulawesi, taking advantage of gaps in Indonesia's laws created by the complex devolution of some powers from Jakarta to the provinces. Fishing licenses have been handed to the owners of the bagan fleets by the regional government in Nabire, while the national park that covers the entire of the bay is administered by a body from Jakarta. The former, apparently, trumps the latter.

"In reality, it's a national park, and they really shouldn't be issuing fishing licenses," Erdmann said. "But that's the chaos that is Indonesian decentralization."

To further complicate the situation, local communities claim customary rights over the reefs and fish in the bay. Many Melanesian communities, such as those in Papua, see marine resources as their traditional inheritance, putting them into conflict with national legal systems that do not officially recognize their claims. West Papua is culturally and ethnically distinct from most of Indonesia, and highly sensitive to anything that could be interpreted as a threat to or dilution of traditional rights and culture.

"The very notion of a national park in West Papua is problematic to the people here," Erdmann, who has worked with local and national authorities across the country, said. "It's actually problematic across Indonesia, but in West Papua it's even more problematic, especially into the marine realm because the people here feel they own the resources."

Local communities have taken matters into their own hands, and extract rent from bagan owners moored in the bay.

The presence of the fishing platforms, while useful in the short term for research, is concerning in the long run. Stripping out the baitfish at the bottom of the food web would directly impact the sharks that feed on them, and could ultimately lead to the hollowing out of the entire ecosystem.

"It's unreported and unregulated," said Abraham Sianipar, a shark and ray expert at Conservation International.

Sianipar estimates that the fishermen are pulling a couple of tons of baitfish out of the water each day. "There's no one actually monitoring that, there's no one regulating that. That's scary to me, seeing the future," he said.

Lure of tourism

These days, the fishermen have a side business. Tourism is growing, albeit slowly. A few "live-aboard" dive boats moor in the bay each month, offering intrepid vacationers the opportunity to swim with the whale sharks at the bagans. Onshore, a single resort offers a couple of moldy shacks for rent.

Three days before the expedition boat, the Putiraja, set sail out of the bay, three motorboats of tourists arrived at a bagan being used for the study. While the research team worked inside the net, a dozen people were in the water, crowding around a pair of free-swimming animals, brandishing GoPro cameras as a drone whined overhead. The fishermen -- who can earn 4 million rupiah ($301) per day to host tourists -- flung buckets of baitfish into the churning water.

While the fishing industry is a threat to the sharks' food supply, tourism -- if well-managed -- could be a way to tie the economic future of the area to its charismatic megafauna, and by extension the preservation of its wider ecosystem. Conservation tends to be most effective when it is driven from the bottom up, and where local communities have a meaningful stake in it.

In Kwatisore, a village of 200 people that is the largest settlement in the inner bay, a few small handicraft stalls sell wooden sharks for a few dollars each.

District leader Sam Andoyi said that traditional beliefs hold that the animals -- known locally as gurano bintang, or "star whales" -- are the ghosts of ancestors, who can drag a sailor from his boat and carry him out to sea. It is a superstition that is easy to understand, when a 10-meter animal looms huge and alien out of the deep.

So far, the villagers only have a limited stake in the emerging tourism industry developing around the sharks. Erdman helped to broker a deal whereby tourists on boats visiting the bay pay a voluntary 300,000 rupiah per person.

National park fees go straight into the ministry of finance, but are not earmarked for specific conservation efforts in Cendrawasih.

Georgia's Dove, who has worked with governments in the Pacific to advise on how to balance their conservation efforts with the development of a tourist industry around the whale sharks, said it was vital to set a high market value for the sharks and their habitat.

Australia's Ningaloo Reef, which is also a prime whale shark spotting region, has managed to find an equilibrium, he said. "It's set up as a premium experience, a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list thing, and you pay accordingly."

The fear is that the diving business in Cendrawasih Bay becomes a race to the bottom, like some of the resorts in Mexico and the Indian Ocean, where sustainability has taken a backseat to short-term market forces.

"I would hate to come back in 10 years' time to see dozens of 'liveaboards,' people crashing into the water," Dove said.

Dove and his colleagues hope that the data that they collected during their study, which included taking blood samples from 20 individual animals, will allow them to build a baseline understanding of how healthy whale sharks behave in the wild. From that, they will be able to measure how human activity impacts on the species in the bay, but also as they travel around the region.

With good data, they can advise local communities, governments and supranational bodies on how to limit the impact on the sharks, and by extension the ecosystems they are part of.

"If you can get people to care enough about whale sharks to do something about their plight, then a lot of other species get proxy protection because they're part of the whale sharks' world," Dove said.

"It's the ideal species to represent its ecosystem. It's large, it's harmless, it's peaceful and beautiful, it's covered in polka dots. What's not to love? It's a beautiful, beautiful species."

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Indonesia: Russia keen to build nuclear power plant in Indonesia

Antara 23 Aug 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Russia, on Wednesday, expressed interest to invest in Indonesia by building a nuclear power plant to boost the nations power supply, which currently reaches only 89.5 percent.

"We believe that Indonesias power requirement will not be met ideally through the use of conventional methods, which is why we are offering to build a nuclear power plant," Russian Ambassador to Indonesia Mikhail Galuzin informed reporters in Jakarta.

Galuzin stated that Moscow already has rich experience in developing nuclear power plants in various countries in the world. Last year, Russia had helped to implement a nuclear power plant project valued at US$10 billion in Iran.

In May this year, Russias Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation had also proposed the same project to Indonesia through Maritime Coordinating Minister Luhut Pandjaitan. Rosatom has already proposed various potential sites to build a power plant, with a capacity of over one thousand megawatts, in earthquake-proof areas, such as Bangka Island and East Kalimantan.

However, at that time, Pandjaitan had remarked that Indonesia was not yet ready and needed to first increase public awareness on nuclear power.

Nuclear power is still a debatable topic in Indonesia. According to the World Nuclear Association, Indonesia will need as much as 450 billion kilowatt hour of energy by 2026 based on the assumption that the industrial demand will rise by 10.5 percent every year.

Most of the demand for power is still met by power plants in Java and Bali that use gasoline and natural gas, with a low power reserve that had resulted in frequent blackouts due to high demand.

Looking at the current situation, Russia has offered to build a nuclear power plant that will not only increase the power share ratio but will also ensure reliable supply.

Moreover, stakeholders believe that the highly toxic nuclear waste is hazardous and cannot be recycled.

Until now, the only way to discard nuclear waste was by burying it underground, but since Indonesia is located in the "ring of fire," with a quake-prone environment, this method poses high risks in terms of leaks and poisoning of the underground water table.

Nuclear leaks were reported in Japan in 2011 when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck the nuclear facility in Fukushima. According to Greenpeace, the leak could destroy the ecosystem, with the damage lasting for centuries.(*)

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Ten dead as typhoon smashes into Macau, Hong Kong and south China

Elaine YU, Aaron TAM, Laura MANNERING AFP Yahoo News 24 Aug 17;

Hong Kong (AFP) - Typhoon Hato ripped a path of destruction across southern China on Wednesday, killing 10 people after battering Hong Kong skyscrapers, flooding streets and forcing thousands to flee to shelters.

The storm had raised Hong Kong's most severe Typhoon 10 warning, only the third time a storm of this power has pounded the financial hub in the past 20 years.

Five people were killed in the gambling mecca of Macau, where local media showed cars underwater and people swimming along what are normally streets. The enclave's famed mega-casinos were running on backup generators.

One man died after being injured by a wall that blew down, another fell from a fourth floor terrace and another was a Chinese tourist hit by a truck, the Macau government said. Details on the two other victims there were not immediately available.

The powerful storm earlier swept through neighbouring Hong Kong, where an 83-year-old man died after he fell into the sea, police said. More than 120 were injured as the territory was lashed with hurricane winds and pounding rain.

In the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, at least four people died and 26,817 people evacuated to temporary shelters, the official Xinhua news agency said. Nearly two million households were briefly without power.

Authorities issued alerts over possible landslides and flooding as the typhoon continued on a path inland.

In Macau, people swam through muddy water on what are normally roads, as others were swept off their feet by winds, footage from Apple Daily showed.

The sprawling Venetian casino resort was on back-up power and without air conditioning or proper lighting, according to one source.

An employee of Sands, which owns the Venetian and the Parisian, said power had been out across the whole of Macau but was beginning to return.

"Because many guests come in the summer, a lot of them have been stuck in the major resorts and casinos," the employee said.

"All transportations -- air, ground, sea -- have halted, so customers who have checked out cannot leave yet."

Residents took to social media to complain about city-wide power and mobile phone network outages.

Brian Chan, 31, said authorities had failed to give enough notice of the impending storm and were not properly prepared, describing the territory as "totally lost" in the typhoon.

Water supply was also limited, authorities said, and 50 flights cancelled from its international airport.

By evening, parts of Macau were still without power.

"Some have no tap water supply. The city looks like after an attack," Harald Bruning, editor of the Macau Post Daily, told AFP, describing it as the worst typhoon he had experienced in 30 years.

- 'Flying trees' -

The typhoon passed as close as 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Hong Kong and made landfall at noon (0400 GMT) in the southern mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai.

The typhoon shut down the stock market in the territory of 7.3 million people, and forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

Hato sent metres-high waves crashing into Hong Kong's shorelines with flooding knee deep in some areas.

Swathes of marine rubbish washed up on beaches and in coastal residential areas, including white globs of palm oil which have been coming ashore since a massive spillage at sea earlier this month.

Gusts of up to 207 kilometres per hour brought flying debris, tearing down trees and scaffolding and smashing skyscraper windows.

Fallen trees cut off roads to parts of the territory.

More than 400 flights were cancelled, with Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific axing most of its departures until 5 pm (0900 GMT).

The airline said it had begun to reschedule the flights with some taking off Wednesday evening.

Hong Kong is regularly besieged by typhoons between July and October, but direct hits are rare.

The city saw its strongest storm in 1962 when the eye of typhoon Wanda passed over and gusts of 284 kilometres per hour were recorded.

It killed 130 people and left 72,000 people homeless.

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Death toll from South Asia flooding tops 1,000

AFP Yahoo News 24 Aug 17;

The death toll from floods sweeping South Asia has climbed above 1,000, officials said Thursday, as rescue teams try to reach millions stranded by the region's worst monsoon disaster in recent years.

Thousands of soldiers and emergency personnel have been deployed across India, Bangladesh and Nepal, where authorities say a total of 1,009 bodies have been recovered since August 10 when intense rainfall started falling.

Twenty-six bodies were found Wednesday in Bihar, a hard-hit state in India's east, taking the death toll there to 367, said Anirudh Kumar, a top state disaster management official.

"We still have nearly 11 million people affected in 19 districts of the state," he told AFP, adding 450,000 flood evacuees had taken shelter in government refuges.

In neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, floods have swamped nearly half the vast state of 220 million, India's most populous.

Disaster management agency spokesman T P Gupta told AFP said 82 people had died and more than two million affected by the disaster there.

The state borders Nepal, where 146 people have died and 80,000 homes destroyed in what the United Nations is calling the worst flooding in 15 years.

Nepal's home ministry warned the death toll could rise as relief teams reach more remote parts of the impoverished mountainous country.

In the Himalaya region in India's northwest, landslides caused by heavy rain have claimed 54 lives, the vast majority in one huge avalanche of mud that swept two buses off a mountainside.

The situation was slowly easing in West Bengal and Assam, two states in India's east and northeast where 223 people have died.

Floods in Assam -- the second wave to hit the state in less than four months -- have wrought widespread destruction, killing 71 people and swathes of native wildlife, including a Bengal tiger and 15 rare one-horned rhinos.

In the low-lying state of West Bengal, where 152 people have died, hundreds of thousands have escaped submerged villages by boats and makeshift rafts to reach government aid stations.

Across the border in Bangladesh, water levels were slowly returning to normal in the main Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers.

The government's disaster response body said Thursday the death toll stood at 137, with more than 7.5 million affected since flooding hit the riverine nation.

Nearly 350 people died in the first wave of floods that began in mid-July in India's western states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, and several remote northeastern states.

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