Best of our wild blogs: 3 Oct 17

YES! Singapore got dolphins, sea turtles and dugongs!
wild shores of singapore

Talks at GIC Singapore
Hantu Blog

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New deep sea sponge discovered

NUS News 2 Oct 17;

Dr Tan and Mr Lim discovered a new species of marine sponges with their international collaborators
A new marine sponge thriving in the deep abyss of the remote East Pacific Ocean has been uncovered by NUS Tropical Marine Science Institute researchers Dr Tan Koh Siang and Mr Lim Swee Cheng in a joint effort with their international collaborators.

The small white sponges Plenaster craigi were found on the sea floor of the metal-rich Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) of the East Pacific Ocean, a region spanning 5 million square kilometres that is targeted for deep-sea mining. The scientists believe that the sponges can one day be used to examine the impact of mining in the region. The findings were published in Systematics and Biodiversity on 25 September.

Dr Tan and Mr Lim made the discovery when they joined a 46-day international expedition to the CCZ in 2015 to establish a biological baseline at two different exploration areas. During the trip, the teams on board collected numerous samples from depths exceeding 4000m and worked in 12-hour shifts to process the samples.

Among the diverse array of organisms collected, the tiny irregularly shaped snow-white sea sponges that were attached to the metal-rich rocks caught the researchers’ attention. “The unique morphology of the star-shaped spicules convinced me that these were a completely new group of sponges never seen before,” said Mr Lim, who has been working on the biodiversity of sponges since 2002.

Sea sponges are best known from shallower waters, with just five per cent of sponges having been discovered from depths exceeding 500m. Little is known of sponges living in the abyssal depths of the Pacific Ocean, a vast and remote region that is little explored and poorly understood.

Plenaster craigi, which is abundant at a depth of 4000m in the CCZ, can be used to measure the impact of future mining in the region

Their collaborators at The Natural History Museum in London carried out a detailed DNA analysis and confirmed that the marine sponge is indeed a new species.

The tiny Plenaster craigi, measuring less than 10mm across, may play a big role in conserving biodiversity in the region. As the sponges were found in high abundance and are relatively easy to identify and count, this species can potentially be used as an environmental indicator to gauge and mitigate the effects of future mining operations on marine life.

“Plenaster craigi appears to be a common sponge that is likely to have a wide distribution across the CCZ. Its ecological response can act as a measure of the extent of disturbance caused by mining activities in the region,” explained Dr Tan.

The new sponge’s full scientific name is Plenaster craigi Lim & Wiklund — after the abundant star shapes inside their bodies and the leader of the survey expeditions, Professor Craig Smith from the University of Hawaii — and was named by Mr Lim and his UK collaborator Dr Helena Wiklund. The work leading to the discovery of the new sponge species was supported by the Keppel-NUS Corporate Laboratory, Ocean Mineral Singapore and UK Seabed Resources.

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Redevelopment of Lor Buangkok kampong likely ‘several decades later’

TOH EE MING Today Online 3 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — The last remaining kampong on mainland Singapore, Kampong Lorong Buangkok, is likely to be redeveloped only “several decades later”, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said on Monday (Oct 2).

Under 2014 Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Master Plan, the 1.22 hectare plot of the kampong straddles four land parcels. The largest portion of the site has been earmarked for a major road to Seletar, while two parcels are slated for a primary school and a secondary school. Another parcel will be part of a neighbourhood park, said Mr Lee in response to an adjournment motion raised yesterday by Ang Mo Kio Member of Parliament Intan Azura Mokhtar on preserving green spaces and heritage in Jalan Kayu.

“I must emphasise that there is no intention to implement these developments in the near future. For instance, we will look into the need for the planned road only when we are ready to proceed with the long term development of Seletar. This is likely to be several decades later,” said Mr Lee.

Dr Intan had urged the authorities to consider preserving the kampong not just for sentimental value, but for heritage and cultural education.

Currently, 26 families live on the land, each paying a monthly rent of between S$6 to S$30. It is home to a thriving Malay community who “live harmoniously” with their Chinese neighbours.

Dr Intan suggested the kampong could be integrated within the future schools and be a “community living lab” for students to learn about shared history, culture and traditions. They can also embark on community nature programmes to learn from residents about the growing of plants and vegetables, as well as caring for chickens, cats and dogs.

When the time comes to finalise plans for the kampong, the government of the day should work closely with relevant stakeholders to ensure the developments are done in a “holistic and coherent way”, said Mr Lee.

This should involve a “deep engagement” with the kampong families living there at that time. Some may not want to move away from the kampong, but may also not want their community “to be turned into an educational or heritage attraction, drawing crowds of curious visitors”, said Mr Lee.

The government would also have to consider Singaporeans who wish to properly document and retain the value of kampong life, he said. “Yet, we cannot simply develop the surrounding areas around the kampong, isolating it from the rest of the community.”

The other traditional kampong in Singapore is on Pulau Ubin, where a multi-year programme was launched in July to restore and repair vacant kampong houses.

Responding also to Dr Intan’s question about whether the strip of green land parallel to Gerald Drive could be turned into a nature park, Mr Lee said that the Housing and Development Board and the Land Transport Authority have assessed that there is a “critical need” for Buangkok Drive Extension as almost 10,000 new homes will be completed in Fernvale, Sengkang West and Hougang by 2022.

The road would serve as a vital connection across Sungei Punggol and help ease potential traffic congestion for those living in Sengkang and Hougang towns, “where the existing road network cannot support the higher resident population in the future”, he said.

There are already green spaces for residents in and around Gerald Drive and a park connector network runs along Sungei Punggol, linking the Gerald Drive area to Sengkang Riverside Park, he said.

MP calls for preservation of last kampung on S'pore mainland
There are currently 26 families living in Kampung Lorong Buangkok, which occupies about 1.22ha of land. Calling for the kampung to be preserved as a conservation site or heritage education site, MP Intan Azura Mokhtar suggested that it be integrated
Royston Sim Straits Times 3 Oct 17;

The last kampung on Singapore's mainland should be preserved as a conservation site or heritage education site, said Ms Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC).

She called on the Government yesterday to conserve Kampung Lorong Buangkok, which is slated to make way for a major road and two schools in future. "Surely we can explore ways where the kampung can co-exist and, in fact, enhance and bring value to urban life," she said.

There are currently 26 families living in Kampung Lorong Buangkok, which occupies about 1.22ha of land and is located in Ms Intan's Jalan Kayu ward.

She suggested that the kampung be integrated within the two schools that are being planned.

"The kampung and its residents should be allowed to carry on their lives, but it can play the additional role of a community living lab, for our students to learn about our shared history, culture and traditions, race relations, and experience for themselves values-in-action such as communal living, the spirit of neighbourliness and community activism," she said.

She also proposed that the People's Association or the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth consider taking ownership of the kampung after the current generation of residents have passed on.

Overnight camps can be held at the kampung in future, she added.

Responding to her adjournment motion, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said there is no intention to implement these developments in the near future.

The Government will engage residents when the time comes, he said, adding: "Some may not want to move away from the kampung, but they may also not want their community to be turned into an educational or heritage attraction drawing crowds of curious visitors."

Ms Intan also asked the National Development Ministry to consider shelving plans to build a new road on a strip of land next to Seletar Springs condominium, and convert the green area into a linear nature park instead. Mr Lee replied that there is a critical need for the new road to relieve potential traffic congestion in future, as nearly 10,000 new homes will be completed in nearby housing estates by 2022.

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Algae turn Singapore River greener than usual

Samantha Boh Straits Times 3 oct 17;

Patches of the Singapore River turned a startling shade of green yesterday morning because of an algal overgrowth.

People working in the area said they noticed a greenish tint on the water's surface two days earlier. Some detected a pungent smell too.

"I was quite shocked. I was wondering if it was because the water was polluted," said Ms Tina Teng, 29, a service staff member at a seafood restaurant along Boat Quay.

Others were less alarmed as they had seen it happen before.

Said Ms Asha Azizan, 45, a ticket sales agent: "I usually notice it after heavy rain. I don't think much of it because I figured it is probably a natural thing."

National water agency PUB confirmed that the greener-than-usual waters were caused by algae - microscopic organisms naturally present in reservoirs and waterways. It added that algae in waters here are removed effectively during the water treatment process for drinking water.

By 3pm yesterday, the river looked normal after routine clean-up operations by the PUB.

Environmental experts said recent weather - rain followed by strong sun, typical just after monsoon season - creates a conducive environment for algal blooms.

"Rain will wash off nutrients from land into the water bodies, and the sun allows photosynthesis, which helps green algae multiply faster," said Mr Chan Wei Loong, programme chair of the diploma in marine science and aquaculture at Republic Polytechnic.

An algal bloom usually lasts up to a week and disappears after that because the nutrients within the water body would have been used up.

Said Associate Professor Federico Lauro of the Asian School of the Environment at Nanyang Technological University: "I don't think people should be alarmed unnecessarily.

"We should however put things in place to prevent their recurrence because they can be harmful to aquaculture."

Most algae are not toxic, but an algal bloom can kill fishes by starving them of oxygen and clogging up their gills. In 2015, fish farmers were hit by a bloom that wiped out more than 500 tonnes of fish stocks, causing them to lose millions of dollars.

Algal blooms have also turned other water bodies here green, including the waters of Marina Bay outside the Fullerton Bay Hotel in 2015 and Kranji Reservoir last year.

Said Prof Lauro: "It will happen and will keep on happening until we correct the underlying causes behind the introduction of nutrients into the water."

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Accidents in Singapore’s waters: Ships detected but not monitored

KENNETH CHENG Today Online 2 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — The vessels involved in two recent maritime accidents in Singapore’s waters were detected by a network of sensors used by the Republic of Singapore Navy’s Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF). However, they were not closely monitored by the taskforce as the vessels did not pose a potential security threat.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament on Monday (Oct 2) that the United States warship USS John S McCain and tanker Alnic MC were both detected in Singapore’s waters off Pedra Branca on Aug 21.

The crash between the two ships killed 10 US Navy servicemen.

Singapore’s naval vessel RSS Gallant, which had been patrolling the waters, had also established contact with the warship in line with standard procedures, Dr Ng added.

In another accident on Sept 13, dredger JBB De Rong 19 and tanker Kartika Segara were detected and identified before they collided off Sisters’ Island.

“In both these incidents, none of the ships were designated as potential threats to security, and correctly so. As such, in compliance with standard protocols, they did not require close monitoring by the MSTF,” Dr Ng said.

The taskforce’s key focus is on potential threats to Singapore, while the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) oversees the navigation of ships in Singapore’s waters, he explained.

The master and crew on board the vessels were responsible for guiding their ships safely through waters, in accordance with the rules of navigation under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

Dr Ng was responding to a question by Sembawang GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Vikram Nair on the MSTF’s assessment of Singapore’s capabilities in surveilling maritime traffic, and the country’s ability to respond when commercial vessels in or entering Singapore’s waters may be used by terrorists.

The MPA had told The Straits Times previously that its vessel traffic information system had not detected the USS John S McCain until the Alnic MC, carrying 12,000 tonnes of fuel oil, delivered a crushing blow to the left side of the warship.

Later, the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau disclosed that the vessel traffic information system had detected both ships on the MPA’s radar. This was after the bureau reviewed the system’s recordings.

The MPA’s system also received the signal from Alnic MC’s automatic identification system (AIS), but it did not get any such signal from the warship. Put differently, the positions of the two ships were known, but the system did not have more information on the warship, such as its name and vessel type.

In addition to radar, traffic information systems rely on data from the AIS, which all but the smallest commercial vessels have to use to broadcast information on their whereabouts. Military vessels typically carry the system, but often turn it off because the captains do not wish to reveal too much information.

Dr Ng said on Monday that an international convention mandating the use of the AIS to detect ships at sea does not apply to warships. However, such ships, and those which do not comply with vessel identification, can still be detected by the MSTF’s network of coastal surveillance radars and electro-optic devices.

In the second accident between JBB De Rong 19 and the Kartika Segara, the MPA’s vessel traffic information system had provided navigational information and warnings to both vessels to take preventive action to avoid a collision. The vessels acknowledged the information provided, but the collision could not be averted, the MPA said previously.

In Parliament, MP Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) also asked if the MPA’s vessel traffic information system would be reviewed to improve navigational safety and security in Singapore’s waters.

In response, Senior Minister of State (Transport) Lam Pin Min said that the system, which was installed in 2011 and can track more than 10,000 vessels concurrently, is enhanced regularly. It was upgraded early this year.

Every day, the Singapore port receives an average of 380 vessels, or nearly 139,000 vessels a year. More than 84,000 vessels transited through the Singapore Strait last year, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a written reply to a question by Workers’ Party Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan.

In spite of the heavy traffic, the number of major incidents has fallen over the years, from 13 in 2011 to one each in 2015 and last year, Mr Khaw added.

Up until the middle of last month, 101,705 vessels have called at Singapore’s port, while 58,458 vessels have transited through the Singapore Strait.

Maritime Security Task Force monitors vessels found to have ‘malignant intent’: Ng Eng Hen
Aqil Haziq Mahmud Channel NewsAsia 2 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: The Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF) closely monitors and could even board vessels that are found to have ill-intent towards Singapore, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament on Monday (Oct 2).

Dr Ng was responding to Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC Vikram Nair, who had asked about Singapore’s ability to deal with terrorists who might use commercial vessels entering Singapore.

Calling it a pertinent question, Dr Ng said: “If we had, for example, pre-emptive information that a particular ship was carrying either illegal cargo or had malignant intent towards Singapore, it could amount to boarding the ship or keeping it under close surveillance.”

Dr Ng said MSTF conducts a daily threat evaluation for every vessel calling into Singapore’s ports or transiting through the Singapore Straits.

The MSTF monitors close to 1,000 ships passing through the Singapore Strait every day through sensors like costal surveillance radars, electro-optic devices and patrolling Republic of Singapore Navy vessels, he added.

“MSTF does this by deploying analytic tools to build profiles of each vessel based on attributes such as their voyage, owners, crew and cargo, as well as additional data shared by government agencies,” he explained.

The information is fed to the Singapore Maritime Crisis Centre (SMCC), which “leverages technology to analyse information, detect suspicious patterns and cue relevant agencies to investigate and take action”.

Citing a 2015 incident, the Minister said SMCC detected a potential ISIS sympathiser on board a tanker calling on Singapore and subsequently barred the individual from entering the country.

“In dealing with terror threats at and from the sea, Singapore adopts a Whole-of-Government approach to ensure comprehensive coverage of varied scenarios as well as co-ordinated responses,” he added.

When it comes to exercises, Dr Ng said MSTF plays out various scenarios including those that might involve hostage situations on board cruise ships or cargo ships.

“The planners and our security agencies, together with the other agencies under the Singapore Maritime Crisis Centre, do play out these scenarios, and we have over the years stepped up the level of exercises and there’s a certain level of competency,” he added.

However, Dr Ng warned that not “all attacks can be mitigated”.

“If they are suicide attacks, sometimes it’s difficult, for example, to stop them,” he said. “But this is a situation where you continue to look at the scenarios, continue to exercise and continue to anticipate.”

It is even more important to prevent disruptions to sea traffic along the Singapore Strait, Dr Ng said, as half of the world’s total annual sea-borne trade and almost three-quarters of Asia’s oil imports pass through the Republic’s waterways.

“Ensuring maritime security for our ports and surrounding waters is of high priority to Singapore,” he added.


Meanwhile, Dr Ng clarified that the ships involved in the two collisions that occurred within weeks of each other were detected and identified by sensors.

On Aug 21, the USS John McCain and Alnic MC collided off the coast of Singapore, while the Kartika Segara and JBB De Rong 19 collided on Sep 13 off Sisters’ Island.

“In both these incidents, none of the ships were designated as potential threats to security, and correctly so,” Dr Ng said.

To that end, he said the ships did not require close monitoring by MSTF, adding that the ships’ master and crew were responsible for their safe passage.

Dr Ng said: “The various parties involved with the collision will now have to investigate what went wrong and what remedial actions to take if necessary.”
Source: CNA/ad

Parliament: Vessels in fatal collisions in Singapore waters were detected, and not deemed potential security threats
Nur Asyiqin and Mohamad Salleh Straits Times 2 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE - The vessels involved in two separate fatal collisions in the Singapore Strait had been detected and identified by Singapore's network of maritime sensors, but were not designated as potential threats to security, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday (Oct 2).

This was rightly so, he told Parliament, adding that this meant the vessels did not require close monitoring by the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) Maritime Security Task Force.

By the rules of navigation under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, the master and crew of the four vessels were responsible to guide their ships safely through, added Dr Ng.

"The various parties involved with the collision will now have to investigate what went wrong and what remedial actions to take if necessary," he said, noting that the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau is conducting an investigation and will make its findings public.

In the case of United States warship, USS John S. McCain, and Liberian-registered oil tanker Alnic MC, which collided on Aug 21, killing 10 sailors on the warship, both were detected in Singapore waters off Pedra Branca, noted Dr Ng.

The RSN vessel RSS Gallant, which was patrolling Singapore waters, had also established communications with the foreign warship as part of standard procedures, he added.

As for the case of dredger JBB De Rong 19 and tanker Kartika Segara, both were detected and identified prior to their collision on Sept 13, which took place within Singapore waters off Sisters' Island, said Dr Ng.

He was responding to Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC), who wanted an assessment of Singapore's maritime surveillance capabilities following these incidents.

Mr Vikram also asked about Singapore's ability to respond to scenarios where vessels in or entering Singapore waters might be used by terrorists.

Dr Ng pointed out that terrorists can target ships in Singapore waters, or attacks from the sea, as they did in the Mumbai attack in 2008, when militants armed with AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades, arrived by sea.

He spoke of Singapore's comprehensive approach to ensure coordinated response when it comes to dealing with such terror threats. The Singapore Maritime Crisis Centre (SMCC), which brings together the RSN, the Police Coast Guard, the Singapore Civil Defence Force, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, the Maritime and Port Authority, and the Singapore Customs, was set up in 2011.

The centre maintains a comprehensive picture of the maritime situation, shares information between agencies, and coordinates responses to deal with potential threats, tapping technology to analyse information, detect suspicious patterns and cue relevant agencies to investigate and take action.

It had, in 2015, detected a potential Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sympathiser who was on board a tanker calling on Singapore, said Dr Ng, noting that the individual was barred from entering Singapore.

In another case in 2016, the centre got information about a hijacked tanker. This information was shared with the Indonesian authorities as the vessel was in their waters.

"This led to the ship's rescue, and, in that case, the hijack was not linked to any terror intent," said Dr Ng.

The Maritime Security Task Force feeds information - obtained from monitoring close to 1,000 ships passing through the Singapore Strait each day through a network of sensors - to the crisis centre.

Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) had also asked whether there will be a review of the Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS), which is used to communicate with vessels and monitor shipping traffic, to enhance safety and security following the two collisions.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), which operates the system, carries out regular enhancements to it.

The VTIS integrates data from various sources, including radars, the Automatic Identification System, Closed Circuit TV system, Very High Frequency communications system and ship databases, to provide an accurate and comprehensive understanding of traffic, he said.

"With the capability to concurrently track more than 10,000 vessels, the VTIS enables MPA to provide timely information and advice to help vessels transit safely through the Singapore Strait, as well as manage traffic within our port waters, where there are some 1,000 vessels at any one time."

The system, which was installed in 2011, was upgraded early this year, Dr Lam added.

"Enhancing navigational safety is an important priority for MPA," he said, noting that MPA also seeks to improve the practice of good seamanship through conferences on navigational safety, and the establishment of the National Maritime Safety at Sea Council, among other things.

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Malaysia: Water consumption in Johor to rise by 80% by 2028

yee xiang yun The Star 2 Oct 17;

JOHOR BARU: Water consumption in Johor is expected to increase by 80% over the next 11 years, said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin

He said this was based on the Johor Water Resource Study 2010-2060, which showed that the demand for water is set to increase from 1,507 million litres per day in 2010 to 3,257 million litres per day by 2028.

He did not reveal the figures for 2017.

Mohamed Khaled said that this made it imperative for the state government to sit down with all parties with the necessary expertise to find a solution.

“The state government has allocated about RM73.9mil for Johor’s water initiatives for this year alone, which reflects our commitment to addressing the matter,” he said during his opening speech before launching the Johor Water Leaders Forum here on Monday.

The two-day forum includes keynote addresses from speakers such as Singapore Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli Masagos Mohamad, and various water experts.

These include Malaysia Water Association president Datuk Abdul Kadir Mohd Din, Prof Mooyoung Han of Seoul National University Dr Kotaro Takemura of the Japan Water Forum, as well as former National Water Services Commission CEO Datuk Teo Yen Hua.

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Malaysia: Johor calls for coordinated set of laws to govern all water supply-related agencies to address river pollution

Ahmad Fairuz Othman New Straits Times 2 Oct 17;

JOHOR BARU: The Johor government will propose to the federal government to put in place a coordinated set of laws that can be enforced by all water supply-related agencies to address the problem of pollution at rivers.

Johor Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said this needed to be done following cases of pollution at raw water resources such as rivers, which in turn had affected operations of water treatment plants and caused water supply disruptions.

Hasni said there were conflicting laws among the state water utility company SAJ Ranhill Sdn Bhd, Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj), Department of Environment (DoE), Forestry Department and other agencies when it came to nabbing river polluters.

"There is a need to coordinate the laws. In Johor, the laws do not reflect how important it is to monitor the threats towards our water resources.

"We can see the differences in laws as with the Forestry (Department) that handles encroachment matters, Bakaj which monitors water intake points and whether anyone is diverting the water resources away from the water supply chain, and Department of Environment (DoE) which handles river polluters," said Hasni after the opening ceremony of the Water Leaders Forum organised by the Johor government at Mutiara Hotel here today.

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin launched the forum. Also present was Singapore Environment and Natural Resources Minister, Masagos Zulkifli Masagos Mohamad.

Citing an example of conflicting laws in matters of water pollution, Hasni said that Bakaj and DoE had different measurement criteria to define a polluted body of water.

"For example, the DoE defines polluted discharges as a pollutant that is contained in 10 parts per million (ppm) of water.

"However, Bakaj's enactment says that pollutants found in 1.5 parts per million (ppm) of water is considered to be polluted discharge.

"If a factory is found to have 8 ppm of pollutants in its discharge, the DoE cannnot take action, but it will leave Bakaj to be in a bind.

"These laws have some weaknesses and they need to be improved. The state government will bring up the matter with the federal government," said Hasni.

He said that federal level agencies such as the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) needs to review the effectiveness of enforcement under the country's water industry policies.

"That's why the organiser of today's Forum invited SPAN's former chief executive officer Datuk Teo Yen Hua to speak on the topic 'A decade of Water Industry Reform- Time to Reflect'.

"We need to look into whether the country has met the objectives of SPAN and other goals in the restructuring of the water industry," he said.

Hasni said that Malaysia and Johor could benefit from taking a leaf out of the water industry in Singapore, which comes under a sole authority, Public Utilities Board, and has better coordination of laws all along the chain of water supply.

Recent cases of water supply disruptions in the past three months in Johor were traced to ammonia pollution in rivers.

On July 1, water supply to 6,000 account holders in Simpang Renggam was disrupted due to ammonia pollution in Sungai Benut. The ammonia contamination was traced to a damaged leachate tank near one of its tributaries that runs along the Southern Waste Management's CEP1 landfill.

On July 23, ammonia pollution in Sungai Skudai caused a disruption in the regular water supply in eight areas in Johor Baru when production at the Sultan Ismail water treatment plant dropped to 50 per cent.

On a related issue, Hasni said the state government was spending RM500 million this year for water supply projects in Johor, including the Penyaluran Air Mentah Iskandar Malaysia (PAMIM) project, water treatment plant in Kluang and temporary raw water transfer project from Sungai Lenggor to Congok dam in Mersing.

Streamline water pollution laws, Govt urged
The Star 3 Oct 17;

JOHOR BARU: The Government should streamline water pollution laws to help resolve the problem, said an exco member.

Johor Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Moham-mad said the often conflicting laws and regulations made it easy for wrongdoers to get away with pollution or water diversion activities.

He said that plugging the loopholes could help resolve the pollution issues plaguing water resources.

He said the suggestion came in the wake of incidents involving Johor rivers – there were water disruptions when two treatment plants had to cease operations due to high ammonia levels.

“I believe the people are already fed up of hearing about the recurring ammonia pollution and we need to do something to stop it once and for all,” he said, adding that the state had spent about RM500mil to improve water reserves.

Citing Singapore as an example, Hasni said the island republic has one authority to manage its water, which is the Public Utility Board, unlike in Malaysia.

He said the laws enforced at the different agencies meant that agencies such as the Johor Water Regulatory Body, Department of Environment, as well as the Drainage and Irrigation Depart-ment, often had conflicting roles and regulations.

“The laws should be streamlined because existing regulations do not reflect our efforts to monitor and control such threats to our water resources.

“The laws stipulate differ terms for each department. For example, one agency defines pollution differently and has a pollutant index that varies from that of another,” he told a press conference yesterday after the launch of the two-day Johor Water Leaders Forum.

Earlier, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who launched the forum, said water usage in Johor was expected to increase by 80% in the next 11 years and that comprehensive steps must be taken to ensure that there was enough water for the people.

National Water Resources Bill tabled soon to enable standardised management system nationwide
Halim Said New Straits Times 3 Oct 17;

JOHOR BARU: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry will be tabling the final draft of the National Water Resources Bill during the next Parliamentary sitting at the end of the month.

Deputy minister Datuk Dr Hamim Samuri said the tabling of the bill was important as it would ensure that a standardised water resources management system will be applied by all states.

“The bill will enable the state governments to apply a standardised water management system, which will be consistent with the federal-level policies on maintaining and safeguarding essential water resources,” he said at the closing ceremony of the two-day Water Leaders Forum 2017 organised by the Johor government.

Currently, said Hamim, the water resources management guidelines and some of its policies differed from state to state.

“The National Water Resources Bill will be able to coordinate the management of water resources across all agencies involved in every state,” he said.

He said, among other things, the bill was expected to contain aspects on coastal area management, underground water, flood mitigation and a contingency plan during droughts.

“There will also be sections on regulations to monitor the raw water resources such as rivers and tributaries,” he said.

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Malaysia: Petronas installs among world's largest ethylene oxide reactors at Pengerang

The Star 2 Oct 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) recently installed the biggest ethylene oxide reactors -- amongst the biggest reactors in the world – for its refinery within the Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC) in Johor.

The national oil company said on Monday each of the two reactors is a sophisticated engineering equipment, measuring 7.4 metres in diameter, 25.5 metres high and weighs 1,202 tonnes.

As of August 2017, the overall progress of the PIC development has reached 74.3% completion, said senior vice president and CEO of Petronas Refinery and Petrochemical Corporation (PRPC), Dr Colin Wong Hee Huing.

“The successful installation of the reactors signifies that the PIC project is on track to achieve the first refinery start-up in Q1 2019,” he said.

Wong and the president and CEO of Samsung Engineering, Choong Heum Park were among those present at the installation.

Developed over 6,242 acres and involving US$27bil in investment, at the heart of PIC is the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project.

RAPID will have a 300,000 barrels-per-day (BPD) refinery and a petrochemical complex with a combined 3.609 million metric tons-per-year production capacity.

Associated PIC facilities include a 1,220 megawatt co-generation plant, 3.5 million metric tons-per-year regasification terminal, deep water terminal, air separation unit and raw water supply.

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Malaysia: Melaka turtle conservation centre releases 102 Hawksbill baby turtles

JANE RAJ The Star 3 Oct 17;

MELAKA: A total of 102 Hawksbill baby turtles were released in Padang Kemunting in Masjid Tanah today, after being hatched at the Turtle Conservation and Information Centre here.

State Agriculture and Entrepreneurial Development committee chairman Datuk Hasan Abdul Rahman said Padang Kemunting has the highest number of nestings in Melaka.

"This centre is now well known for turtle nesting and hatching ground, where it has brought about uniqueness to the state itself.

"So now we have increased our workforce and improved our system to monitor these turtles, by hiring more people to keep an eye on their nesting grounds," he said after officiating the Hawksbill Turtle Release Programme in conjunction with the state-level National Fishermen Pre-Wave 2017 programme.

Last year, a total of 16,067 hatchlings were released to sea with the numbers increased to 25,835 hatchlings from January till August this year.

"We must cooperate and try our level best to preserve these turtle, where it can not only attract tourists, but also researchers and turtle enthusiasts.

"To help the Melaka Fisheries Department, I will be including this matter in the upcoming state budget meeting," he said.

The state Fisheries Department director Johari Tim said turtles helped to increase the number of fishes by eating their predators such as the jellyfish.

“This will in turn benefit the fishermen as they can get more catch.

"Turtles which lay eggs here are tagged and monitored by our staff. We want the baby turtles to get imprinted in this beach so they will return to nest here in the future as well," he said.

From the year of 1999 till August 2017, a total of 1,060,889 eggs were collected and 559,789 baby turtles were released in Melaka.

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Malaysia: Man arrested over mutilation of green sea turtles in Sabah

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 2 Oct 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A man from Semporna was arrested today over suspected turtle-poaching activities.

The arrest came about following the discovery of numerous mutilated green sea turtle carcasses in Pulau Bum Bum, off Semporna last week.

Sabah Wildlife director Augustine Tuuga said the 60-year-old man from Kampung Pantau-Pantau in Bum-Bum island will be remanded until Friday.

"The department is continuing its search for other suspects in days to come.

"The search will cover several islands in Semporna waters," he said, adding the arrest was made based on information from the public as well as the village head.

Last week, the department's investigators went to Pulau Bum-Bum following reports on social media of the carcasses.

On Saturday, turtles carcasses were also found floating in the waters near Pulau Mabul in Semporna.

Green sea turtles are classified as endangered and are a protected species.

Meanwhile, on the killing of a male Bornean pygmy elephant in Kinabatangan last week, Augustine said investigations are still ongoing.

He said investigations suggest that the elephant was not native to the area in Kinabatangan. Inspections along Sungai Kayoh, where the carcass was found, revealed no elephant footprints.

"It means that the elephant did not come from the area.

"We have identified several suspects in the case," he said.

The carcass of the Bornean pygmy elephant, aged between 15 and 20, was spotted by a group of tourists on a river cruise near Sungai Koyah in Kinabatangan.

Poachers had removed the endangered mammal’s tusks and cut off its left leg at the thigh.

Man remanded for five days over deaths of eight sea turtles
muguntan vanar The Star 2 Oct 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A 60-year-old man was arrested over the deaths of about eight sea turtles at Pulau Bum Bum last week where investigators had also found 100 skeletal remains of the sea creature.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said Monday that the suspect from Kg Pantau-Pantau in Semporna’s Pulau Bum Bum was remanded by the magistrate's court for five days for questioning.

He said they have identified several suspects and are searching for them at several islands in this east coast district of Sabah.

The arrests are the first break for the Wildlife Department in their probe into the turtle killings that have stirred an outcry among local and international conservationists.

Tuuga did not disclose if the suspect and those wanted were also linked to the discovery of another seven burned sea turtle skeletons found at the tourists resort island of Pulau Mabul.

On the deaths of two Bornean pygmy bull elephants whose tusks were removed, he said they identified several suspects following information gathered from the public.

He said that investigations were ongoing into the killing of a male elephant in Kinabatangan last month.

“The search for the crime scene was done by boat along the river and on land by vehicle," said Tuuga.

He added that an inspection along the Koyah river near the site where the elephant carcass was found floating did not detect any sign of elephant footprints.

He said that this meant that the elephant was not from the area.

In the Tawau case where a bull elephant was found dead, Tuuga said that they were waiting for the blood sample analysis.

More agencies to protect Sabah wildlife
stephanie lee The Star 3 Oct 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will rope in more enforcement agencies to boost protection for wildlife on land and sea as a probe gets underway on the deaths of two elephants and over dozens of green turtles in Semporna.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said that the Wildlife Department could not on its own protect the wildlife in the state.

Enforcement teams from the Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Parks have been called in to help.

“One of the reasons why these killings still happen is a shortage of manpower to enforce the laws.

“By getting the other agencies to work together, we hope to fill the gap,” Masidi said after the opening ceremony of the state-level Warriors’ Day comme­moration at the Likas Sports Complex near here yesterday.

Last month, two bull pygmy elephants were killed in Kalabakan and Kinabatangan, as were dozens of endangered green turtles in Pulau Bum-Bum in Pulau Mabul, Semporna, in a week.

Masidi said the Wildlife Department was still trying to find answers to the turtle killings.

He urged the public to work together with enforcers to check wildlife hunting.

“We need help from everyone to report any incident to us as soon as they know about it before the relevant evidence is lost,” he said.

Masidi said the authorities would consider giving incentives to individuals who could provide information with evidence on killings of endangered species.

People who often post on social media about wildlife killings and hunting could also be appointed as honorary wildlife wardens, he said.

“This could encourage them to be our eyes and ears in our fight for wildlife protection.”

Two more detained over turtle deaths in Sabah's east coast
ruben sario The Star 3 Oct 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Another two people have been detained in connection with the slaughter of scores of turtles in Sabah’s east coast.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said a man in his 40s was arrested at Pulau Dinawan near Semporna on Tuesday.

He said Wildlife enforcement officers also held a woman in her 30s at Pulau Bum Bum on the same day.

“We are recording their statements to allow investigations,” Augustine said.

“More arrests are expected to be made in the coming days,” he said, adding that the department faced difficulties in ascertaining the whereabouts of key suspects.

Augustine said it was getting the help of the marine police, Sabah Parks and WWF Malaysia in locating the suspects.

On Monday, the department arrested a 60-year-old man over the poaching of eight sea turtles at Pulau Bum Bum last week.

Investigators had also found 100 skeletal remains of the sea creature.

The man had been remanded for five days for questioning.

On the killing of an elephant in Kinabatangan district, Augustine said Wildlife personnel raided the house of a suspect on Tuesday.

A search of the house resulted in the body parts of other protected species including sambar deer and bearded pig being seized.

He said two Indonesians had been arrested in connection with the discovery of the animal parts.

The investigation into the killing of a male elephant found floating in Kinabatangan will now move to the upstream of the river.

A house of a suspect that was initially suspected to have connections to the case was searched.

However the search only found parts of other protected species.

The carcass of the bull elephant was found floating in the Kinabatangan river with its tusks removed.

Sabah Wildlife Department looking for at least 3 suspects in turtle poaching case
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 3 Oct 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Wildlife Department officers are hunting for at least three people in connection with recent turtle poaching activities in Semporna.

This follows the arrests of a 60-year-old man in Kampung Pantau Pantau, off Semporna, yesterday and two people today.

“A Bajau Laut man in his 40s was detained in Dinawan island in the morning while a Bajau Laut woman in her 30s was detained in Kampung Amboh-Amboh, Bum-Bum island, in the afternoon.

“Their statements will be recorded to facilitate investigations,” said state department director Augustine Tuuga.

The arrests came about following the discovery of numerous mutilated green sea turtle carcasses in Bum Bum, located off Semporna, last week.

Augustine said initial investigations indicated another three people were involved in the poaching but did not exclude the possibility that there could be more.

The department is being assisted by Marine police, Sabah Parks officers and World Wildlife Fund members in the search for other suspects at several islands in Semporna waters.

Meanwhile, two Indonesian men were detained for possessing parts of protected sambar deer and bearded pig at their house in Kinabatangan.

Their house was searched this morning as the department suspected the owners were connected to the killing of a male elephant found floating in Sungai Kayoh last week.

“However, the search only found parts of other protected species,” said Augustine.

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EU to commit some $1 billion to better protect marine life

RAF CASERT, Associated Press Yahoo News 2 Oct 17;

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union and its private sector will commit about 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion) to better protect marine life during the global Our Ocean conference this week.

EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella told the Associated Press that figure from the EU, its 28 member states and the private sector could be a conservative estimate, saying "it might be even a bit over."

The Our Ocean conference has turned into an annual marine governance event and has accumulated some 8.7 billion euros ($10.2 billion) since it started in 2014. Vella said "we are keeping up the pace with the previous three conferences."

Vella is also looking for donations from the United States. Many private companies contribute to the 2-day event, which starts Thursday in Malta.

Two of its previous annual meetings have been held in the United States, and then-Secretary of State John Kerry took a special interest in it. It's not clear to what extent President Donald Trump's Republican administration will be committed to the meeting's environmental cause.

Vella remained upbeat, saying "so far, the United States is still on board, very much on board."

"The U.S. will be coming round to Malta with commitments as well," he said. "The only question is the amount of support they will be giving."

The conference focuses on funding and leading projects as varied at combating plastics pollution to countering illegal fishing and looking at the effects of climate change.

Its mission is urgent, Vella said, pointing to the rapid decay of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

"Scientists were thinking that they would start feeling the negative impact of climate change and temperatures rising by 2050," Vella said. "We are still even before 2020 and we have already declared the Great Barrier Reef dead. So things are moving faster than we were hoping."

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Sand supply to struggle to keep up with global demand

Jonathan Rowland World Cement 2 Oct 17;

The use of sand in construction will drive demand, putting pressure on supply, according to recent analysis by BMI Research. Higher scrutiny of the fragmented sand mining industry by regulators will also hamper its ability to keep up with market needs.

Key Asian markets, such as China and the Middle East, are expected to drive sand demand from the construction industry. For example, the UAE alone has a US$273.7 billion commercial construction pipeline, according to BMI Research’s Infrastructure Key Projects Database.

Sand is a key element in a number of construction materials, including cement and concrete, and glass.

Given the expansion of high-rise building development around the world, a construction that typically involves significant amounts of glass, BMI Research expects the glass-making industry to “add to industrial sand demand”.

In addition to construction demand, demand will be compounded by the “effects of climate change […] as countries look to rebuild shorelines after storms or due to rising sea levels,” BMI Research said. “Low-lying nations, such as the Maldives, for instance, will use sand to rebuild receding coastlines against rising sea levels.”

Increased awareness of environmental issues will also cause higher regulatory oversight of the sand mining industry.

Cambodia recently banned sand exports, after it discovered 56 million t of unaccounted-for sand exports to Singapore. Meanwhile, in the US, local opposition and environmental scrutiny, is expected to see a movement of the industry – which comprises over 4000 companies with over 6000 operations according to the US Geological Survey – to more remote locations.

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