Singapore foots high costs for preserving 'last kampong' at Pulau Ubin

City-state keeps island haven Pulau Ubin untouched, while importing resources from neighbors
SIMON ROUGHNEEN, Nikkei Asian Review 13 Oct 17;

PULAU UBIN, Singapore -- It takes no more than 15 minutes to make the eastward crossing on a juddery old bumboat from Changi Jetty on Singapore's main island to Pulau Ubin, where gray-barked pulai trees stretch skyward, their pillar-straight trunks evoking the slate and glossy office towers that crowd the Singapore skyline.

The 1,020-hectare boomerang-shaped Pulau Ubin is "the last kampong," or village, and "a living showcase of what Singapore was like in the 1960s," according to Visit Singapore, part of the country's official tourist board.

Not surprisingly for a place advertised as such, the short boat trip across the narrow strait aims to take visitors back a half century. Pulau Ubin, or Granite Island, is a preservationist's pearl -- a verdant throwback to the preindustrial, preurban way of life still to be found here and there in rural Malaysia and Indonesia. Those old ways are otherwise history in Singapore, where 5.6 million people are jammed onto a mere 720 sq. km. of land area.

One of the first things visitors to Pulau Ubin see after hopping off the bumboat is a row of bicycle rental shops. Pedaling is the best way to see enough of the island in a day, before the last ferry heads back to Changi around sundown.

Water, maybe some insect repellent, a small towel and, depending on the season, an umbrella -- these can be dropped into the carrier basket on the front of the bike as a hedge against the heat, humidity and persistent mosquitoes -- are all a day-tripper needs. If you are planning an overnight stay, bring a tent and head to either one of the two designated campsites -- after dropping into the island's police post to let the authorities know you will be staying until morning.

The contrast between Pulau Ubin's muggy senescence and the busy orderliness of Singapore has become the small island's raison d'etre. Plans to develop part of the island in the early 2000s -- shortly after the last granite mine closed -- were halted when it was discovered that Pulau Ubin featured a 100-hectare wetland called Chek Jawa that was teeming with wildlife. The Singaporean government said it wanted to keep Pulau Ubin in its current rustic state for as long as possible.

So instead of turning Pulau Ubin into a replica of the Singapore mainland, a viewing tower and a kilometer-long boardwalk were built around the wetland, allowing visitors to peer above and amble through the biodiverse mangroves. There, mudskippers and fiddler crabs scuttle through the sodden undergrowth, while hawks and eagles circle above, eyes down for a meal darting along the shore.

Above the wetland stand two beacons that light the way for vast cargo ships making their way past Pulau Ubin to the Strait of Johor or the Strait of Malacca. The vessels -- stacked high with containers as vivid in their own way as the flamboyant flowers and butterflies fluttering around the Pulau Ubin foliage -- are a reminder that "Ubin," as it is called for short, is part of a trading hub with the ninth-highest gross domestic product per capita in the world.

And if the ships are not emphatic enough of a reminder that Singapore is a thriving entrepot and home to the world's second-busiest port, every two minutes there is the encroaching whirr of passenger jets swooping down over the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia, dropping low past Pulau Ubin and onto the Changi Airport runway across the water.

Most of Pulau Ubin's attractions are within a 15- to 30-minute cycle ride of each other, linked by well-kept paths with frequent warnings to slow down and mirrors mounted above bends. Some of the precautions -- such as signs telling cyclists to dismount and walk downhill -- have a slightly nannyish air, however, given that most traffic is either pedestrian or two-wheeled, and tends to move at a pace suited to appreciating the profusely-green surroundings, dotted with the yellows and pinks and azures of the flowers that sprout here and there.

Around the island there are other echoes of Singapore's regimen, such as the ubiquitous No Smoking signs at the rain shelters on the island's paths. Despite Pulau Ubin's novel allure and lush scenery, it does feel that the Singapore's Last Rustic Redoubt Old Kampong vibe is a bit forced, even indulgent. It is the environmentalist's equivalent of a well-to-do hipster opting for an old-style fixed-gear bicycle -- a common affectation in recent years -- rather than zipping along on a sleek, state-of-the-art road or mountain bike.

It is worth remembering that Singapore's land area has been extended by 20% since the founding of the state in 1965, mostly by using sand dredged from beaches and rivers in neighboring countries, sometimes undermining ecosystems and disrupting livelihoods for fishermen. Indeed, Singapore's government said as far back as 2002 that it would not carry out any reclamation work around Pulau Ubin itself, dismissing concerns that it wanted to extend the small island's land area with more overseas sand.

But is it fair that Singapore refuses to build on Pulau Ubin when the alternative is to add to its land area elsewhere by acquiring sand dug up from beaches and rivers in Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia?

Environmental damage wrought by the sand trade led Indonesia and Malaysia to ban the sale of sand to the city-state. Singapore's sand trade with Cambodia, more recently the main source for reclamation work, has been tainted by large and unexplained discrepancies.

Cambodia's Ministry of Mines and Energy has said that 16.2 million tons of sand was exported to Singapore from 2008 to 2016, while Singaporean government statistics show that the city-state imported 70 million tons of sand from Cambodia over the same time period. Previously the Singaporean Ministry of National Development told the Nikkei Asian Review that "the figures reported by various parties and countries are dependent on their own calculation formulas, which we are not privy to."

For all of Pulau Ubin's accessible yet "get-away-from-it-all" charm, there is some irony in the undeniably stellar conservation work undertaken there: it has, in the end, been sustained partly at the expense of environments abroad.

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Legislation is ‘no silver bullet’ in nurturing green consumers, says NTUC Fairprice CEO

Amid debate over plastic bag surcharge, speakers at ethical consumerism forum say education efforts must continue
KELLY NG Today Online 13 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — Charging for single-use plastic bags may not permanently cut demand for them, said corporate leaders and the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) on Friday (Oct 13) amidst ongoing debate on whether supermarkets should impose a fee on consumers.

A levy may lead to undesirable consequences such as more unbagged trash and the public could get used to paying for the plastic bags, causing usage to increase after an initial decline, they cautioned at a conference on ethical consumerism.

Plastic waste has become a massive problem worldwide and environmentalists here have called for measures to curb excessive use of plastic bags, which can end up in waterways and choke marine life.

Singapore generated 824,600 tonnes of plastic waste in 2015, of which 7 per cent was recycled.

Last month, The Straits Times reported that the four main supermarket chains here — NTUC FairPrice, Dairy Farm Group, Prime Supermarket and Sheng Siong — were in talks on whether to implement a plastic bag surcharge.

If an agreement is reached, shoppers at these supermarkets can expect to start paying between five to 10 cents for plastic bags by the middle of next year.

NTUC FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng said he had not personally been part of the talks on charging for plastic bags. “I do not want to consider this as a first resort. I prefer to continue to advocate and encourage shoppers to reduce their use of plastic bags, also to encourage them to bring their reusable bags,” he told TODAY after giving a keynote address at the SEC’s conference.

“I am also concerned about the impact of such surcharges to working families, especially low-income households.”

Legislation is not a silver bullet and charging for plastic bags could result in downstream problems such as individuals throwing unbagged trash down the rubbish chute, he said.

“We all need some plastic bags but all of us can certainly cut down and reduce the use of plastic bags,” he added. FairPrice offers a 10-cent discount to shoppers who bring their own bags and make a minimum purchase of S$10.

Several countries in Asia that legislated a charge on plastic bags have seen mixed results.

According to Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration, plastic bag usage dropped 80 per cent a year after a levy (S$0.05 to S$0.14) was introduced in 2002 but rebounded subsequently.

“People got used to paying (for the plastic bags). The (bag fee) does not fix the hearts and minds of people. The solution is not about charging,” SEC chairman Isabella Loh told reporters at the sidelines of the conference.

More than 40 countries, including China, France and Rwanda, have taxed, limited or banned plastic bags. The European Union wants to halve plastic-bag usage by 2019, and further slash usage to 40 bags a year per person at the end of 2025.

In August, Kenya banned the sale of plastic garbage bags. Manufacturers and importers of plastic bags now face fines of up to US$38,000 (S$51,300) or being jailed up to four years, while shoppers risk having their bags confiscated.

Ms Loh said other types of waste – such as plastic bottles and paper receipts – should also be reduced and added consumer education must continue.

“Back in the 1970s, plastic was hailed as an important technology, but it has outlived its usefulness…We must ensure that the community understands why (reducing use) is good for us,” she said.

The SEC has partnered consulting and audit firm Deloitte to study corporates’ and individuals’ plastic consumption patterns. Ms Loh did not share further details on the study, which is expected to complete by the end of this year.

The SEC will launch an app by the end of the year for users to track their carbon footprint.

About 300 corporate representatives, community leaders and students attended the conference at Regent Hotel, where SEC’s annual Singapore Environment Achievement Awards was also held. Award recipients included shipping and logistics firm Orient Overseas Container Line, clean energy solutions provider Sunseap Group, Dunman High School, Northwest Community Development Council, and the Housing and Development Board.

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Shopping mall rubbish made up 7% of total waste disposed of in Singapore last year

Channel NewsAsia 13 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: Rubbish from large shopping malls made up 7 per cent of the total waste discarded in Singapore last year, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a media release on Friday (Oct 13).

Last year, 225,000 tonnes of waste was disposed of by 172 shopping centres. This was out of a total of 245,000 tonnes of waste generated overall at these malls, meaning most of the waste was not recycled.

NEA said that although much of the waste could have been recycled and did not have to be incinerated, the average recycling rate for the sector remained low at 8 per cent in 2016.

"There is therefore much potential for waste minimisation and recycling in shopping malls," NEA said. "This will help prolong the lifespan of Semakau landfill, which will be filled by 2035 if we persist with our current waste disposal habits."

The 172 shopping centre included in the figures were large malls with more than 50,000 sq ft of net lettable area.

Announcing the launch of its 3R Awards for shopping malls, NEA said that the first waste reduction and recycling awards for mall operators in Singapore provide "a platform" for consumers to identify malls that have made a "concerted effort" to do their part for the environment.

This year's winners include 313@Somerset, IKEA Alexandra, Jem, Parkway Parade and The Shoppes at Marina Bay. Collectively all five malls reduced and recycled more than 3,037 tonnes of waste in 2016, saving S$230,000 in waste disposal costs, said NEA.

Waste minimisation efforts by the malls include the collection of used cooking oil to be recycled for biofuel by 313@somerset, and IKEA Alexandra's switch to reusable bags instead of disposable bags.

Beauty product retailer Kiehl's also won an award for its efforts to encourage customers to reuse and recycle products.


In addition, about half of the food waste in Singapore is generated by non-domestic sources including supermarkets, food retail outlets and food manufacturers, NEA said.

To help supermarket operators reduce food waste disposal, NEA also announced the publication of a new guidebook.

The Food Waste Minimisation Guidebook for Supermarkets was unveiled by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources at the 3R Awards ceremony.

Jointly developed by NEA and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, it aims to help supermarket operators reduce food waste disposal and includes best practice case studies such as selling fruit and vegetables with blemishes at a discount and marking down the prices of chilled meat and seafood that have been on display for a day.
Source: CNA/nc

Food-waste reduction guide for supermarkets launched as shopping malls are lauded for waste-cutting efforts
Samantha Boh Straits Times 13 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE - A guidebook to cut food waste at supermarkets was launched on Friday (Oct 13) by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The guidebook provides a step-by-step guide on how supermarket operators can develop food-waste minimisation plans, and the cost savings that they can reap as a result of putting them in place.

Tips listed include setting up proper storage conditions to prevent spoilage and the redistribution of unsold food.

Non-domestic sources, including supermarkets, food retail outlets and food manufacturers, account for about half of the food waste generated in Singapore.

The NEA noted that some supermarkets are already doing their part to cut wastage.

For instance, the Dairy Farm supermarket chain has set up marked-down sections at its outlets, selling food products that are approaching their expiry dates at lower prices.

NTUC FairPrice does the same with blemished fruits and vegetables, and seafood and chilled meats that have been on display for a day. This has helped it cut the amount of food waste it produces per sq m of retail space from 11.6kg in 2014 to 6.3kg in 2016.

Meanwhile, Sheng Siong tracks its food waste at its central distribution centre, where food waste is separated from general waste, and the tonnage sent for disposal is recorded.

Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said the guide will help supermarkets do even more.

On Friday, Dr Khor also lauded the waste-cutting efforts of five shopping mall operators and a retail tenant at the inaugural 3R Awards for Shopping Malls.

The award winners were malls 313@Somerset, Ikea Alexandra, Jem, Parkway Parade and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, and beauty products retailer Kiehl's Singapore.

Ikea Singapore was the first retail mall chain operator in Singapore to stop providing disposable shopping bags; it encourages its customers to buy reusable bags instead. In March 2016, it also started replacing disposable containers for takeaway meals with reusable ones.

Meanwhile, Jem has installed eco-digesters which convert two tonnes of organic waste into water each day. Parkway Parade has such digesters that convert 1.4 tonnes of organic waste into water each day. Festive decorations are also reused on other occasions.

Ms Ng Hsueh Ling, managing director for Singapore at Lendlease, which manages 313@Somerset, Jem and Parkway Parade, said: "Sustainability is a key guiding principle here at Lendlease, so each mall's business plan has to include environmental targets and an action plan with key sustainability initiatives to undertake."

In 2016, large shopping malls of more than 50,000 sq ft of area that can be leased out collectively disposed of 225,000 tonnes of waste. This is 7 per cent of the total waste disposed of here.

But while more than 90 per cent of these malls have waste reduction plans in place, the average recycling rate was less than 10 per cent in 2016.

"Clearly, shopping malls need to step up their waste minimisation efforts," Dr Khor said.

"I call on more operators to join this national effort towards becoming a Zero Waste Nation," she added.

Supermarkets get tips to cut food waste
Step-by-step guidebook offers advice and explains cost savings firms can reap
Samantha Boh Straits Times 14 Oct 17;

With places like supermarkets and food retail outlets accounting for half of the food waste generated here, there was a need for tips on how such waste could be cut.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) decided a guidebook was timely. Not only does the book launched yesterday provide tips, it also explains the cost savings firms can reap as a result.

The step-by-step guide includes tips such as setting up proper storage conditions to prevent spoilage, and redistributing unsold food.

The NEA said non-domestic sources, which include supermarkets, food retail outlets and food manufacturers, account for about half of the food waste generated here, which has increased by about 40 per cent over the past 10 years.

Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor noted that some firms are already doing their part.

For instance, NTUC FairPrice sells blemished fruits and vegetables, and seafood and chilled meats that have been on display for a day, at marked-down prices. This has helped cut the amount of food waste it produces per sq m of retail space from 11.6kg in 2014 to 6.3kg last year.

Yesterday, Dr Khor lauded five shopping malls and a retail tenant for their waste-cutting efforts at the inaugural 3R Awards for Shopping Malls, held at Concorde Hotel Singapore. The award winners were malls 313@Somerset, Ikea Alexandra, Jem, Parkway Parade and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, and beauty products retailer Kiehl's Singapore.

Standalone malls category
• 313@somerset
• Ikea Alexandra

Mixed developments category
• Jem
• Parkway Parade
• The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

Mall retail tenants category
• Kiehl's Since 1851 (Singapore)

Ikea Singapore was the first retail mall chain operator here to stop providing disposable shopping bags, in 2013. In March last year, it also replaced disposable containers for takeaway meals with reusable ones.

As for Jem, it has installed eco-digesters that convert two tonnes of organic waste into non-potable water each day.

But more can still be done.

Last year, large shopping malls of over 50,000 sq ft of area that can be leased out collectively disposed of 225,000 tonnes of waste. While that was 7 per cent of the total waste disposed here that year, just less than 10 per cent was recycled.

"Clearly, shopping malls need to step up their waste minimisation efforts," Dr Khor said.

"I call on more operators to join this national effort towards becoming a Zero Waste Nation."

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Acres female officer, volunteer praised for their snake-catching skills


An Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres) officer and a volunteer have been praised for their bravery after they were shown in viral videos wresting large snakes out of a drain and from a construction site.

The videos, posted on Facebook page Everyday SG on Friday (Oct 13), have been viewed almost 50,000 times collectively.

The women shown in the videos are Ms Carmen Choong, a 24-year-old rescue officer with Acres, and a volunteer who was identified only as Rebecca.

Mr Kalai Vanan, Acres' deputy chief executive officer, told The Straits Times that both instances occurred on Monday. The snakes were estimated to be about 2 to 3m long.

The incident in the drain happened in the Jurong area, while the other rescue was conducted in Bukit Batok, at a construction site.

"The snakes in both cases are our native reticulated pythons," he said. "The python from the drain had eaten something. We can only conclude from X-rays but typically, the animal should be a cat."

Mr Kalai said snakes like pythons should ideally not be removed from drains and canals as these are their natural habitat, but in this case the drain was being cleaned.

"We had to remove the snake for the safety of the reptile and respective staff who were cleaning the drains," he said.

In the video of the Jurong incident, the volunteer was shown inside the drain, being guided by Ms Choong.

She grabbed the head of the snake and the volunteer helped lift the large python onto the pavement.

The reptile, which had a visibly engorged mid-section, was placed in a carrier.

The other clip of the Bukit Batok rescue showed the same two women reaching under a concrete slab to pull out a large python.

After some struggling, they managed to extract the snake, with a bystander saying an emphatic "well done".

Facebook user Anthony Bandarasamy praised the women for their "amazing skills", while Evelyn Cosido called them "brave".

Ms Choong told ST that handling snakes is normal for her, and she does it once or twice per day.

"Most people will be afraid but for me I like snakes and have liked them since I was young," she said.

Ms Choong graduated from James Cook University with a degree in Business and Environmental Science last year, but chose to volunteer with Acres as she wanted to work with wildlife.

She took on a full-time job with them after volunteering.

Asked about the unusual sight of two women rescuing a snake, Ms Choong said: "We do get a mix of male and female volunteers, but it just happened that there were two females on that day."

She added: "Most people are just amazed there are snakes in Singapore."

Both snakes were handed over to the zoo to be microchipped before release back into the wild.

Mr Kalai said this case showed how development works in Singapore can often leave wild animals stranded.

He said that the snakes in both cases were handled well, adding: "We thank the public for keeping an eye on the snakes."

Reticulated pythons are common in Singapore, measuring 2.3m long on average. They are very rarely longer than 4m.

Just last month, a python was spotted in a toilet bowl at a motor parts store in Upper Thomson.

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Singapore-KL high-speed rail may stop at Forest City in Johor Baru: Report

Channel NewsAsia 13 Oct 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The High-Speed Rail (HSR) that is set to link Singapore and Kuala Lumpur may see an additional stop at Johor Baru's Forest City added to its line, if Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings has its way.

The developer of the mega Forest City project has made requests to Malaysian authorities and stakeholders for an HSR station to be built in the township, reported the New Straits Times on Friday (Oct 13).

An HSR station in Forest City would make the area the "new transport hub" for Johor Baru, and cater to tourists and the 700,000 residents expected to live in the residential and commercial enclave, the New Straits Time cited a source as saying.

The source added that the relevant authorities are discussing the "additional cost of adding a station in Forest City".

“The discussions will involve the Land Public Transport Commission as it will need a feasibility study. Whether it will be a revised proposal for the HSR project, will depend on the outcome of discussions,” added the source.

The HSR project is currently planned to include seven stations in Malaysia — Bandar Malaysia, Putrajaya, Seremban, Melaka, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri — before reaching its last destination in Jurong East, Singapore.

In the current alignment, the train will depart Iskandar Puteri and go towards the second causeway, then cross an overhead bridge into Singapore.

The new route proposed by Country Garden will result in the HSR stopping at Forest City before it heads to the second causeway, allowing visitors and residents to have easy access to hotels, parks and attractions there.

“Country Garden expects Forest City to fuel Johor’s growth and the economy in Malaysia and Singapore. Therefore, having an HSR station there will benefit both countries,” said the source to the New Straits Times.

The HSR is expected to contribute S$6.7 billion in gross domestic product to Malaysia and Singapore, as well as create 111,000 jobs by 2060.

Despite potential changes to the HSR route, Singapore will remain unaffected by the changes.

"The distance could be longer and will cost more for Malaysia. Singapore, however, will not be affected by this move,” said the source.

The HSR, slated to be ready by 2026, is expected to shorten the travel time from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore to 90 minutes.
Source: Agencies/aa

Developers lobby for KL-Singapore high-speed rail station in Johor's Forest City
Shannon Teoh Straits Times 13 Oct 17;

KUALA LUMPUR - Developers of Forest City in Johor have lobbied the Malaysian government to place a high-speed rail (HSR) station in the mega property project just west of the Second Link crossing between Singapore and Malaysia, The Straits Times has learnt.

Sources said Country Garden – a top Chinese developer that is building Forest City in a joint venture with the state government and Sultan of Johor – is “naturally hoping the HSR will stop there” to boost the development, which has a projected value of RM450 billion (S$144 billion). The planned 350km HSR linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is expected to begin running by the end of 2026.

If Country Garden’s proposal is adopted, it will likely take the form of a spur line – or a short branch line – on the transit service in Malaysia, leaving the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur express route unaffected.

“If the HSR stops at Forest City, the distance will be too short to continue to Singapore,” a source told The Straits Times, explaining why a spur line is more feasible. The distance between the nearest point from Forest City to the maritime border with Singapore is just 1.1km.

Any proposal regarding the HSR must be agreed on bilaterally between Malaysia and Singapore, although the additional cost to extend a spur line to Forest City could be borne by Malaysia alone.

A spokesman for Singapore’s Ministry of Transport told The Straits Times: “We have not received a request by the Malaysian government to revise the alignment of the HSR.”

There are also plans for ferry, road and rail links from Forest City to mainland Johor and Singapore, but there has been no confirmation that the Republic has agreed to them.

The land reclamation project of Forest City – comprising four man-made islands in the Strait of Johor covering 1,386ha, nearly thrice the size of Sentosa Island – is set to be completed over 20 years and cost RM175 billion.

Singapore and Malaysia signed a bilateral agreement on Dec 13 last year to embark on the HSR project. The bullet trains – which will cut travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to 90 minutes – are expected to begin running by Dec 31, 2026.

The existing track alignment will run from Bandar Malaysia, just south of Kuala Lumpur, passing six transit stops up to Iskandar Puteri in Johor, before terminating in Jurong, Singapore.

Malaysia’s Land Public Transport Commission and Country Garden Pacificview – the joint-venture company developing Forest City – did not respond to requests for comment.

Country Garden owns 60 per cent of Forest City. Its Johor partner is Esplanade Danga 88, which has Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar as its largest shareholder.

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Malaysia: Conservationist advises against reintroducing tapirs to Sabah

The Star 14 Oct 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A proposal to reintroduce the tapir to Sabah should be weighed carefully as the state’s focus should be on conserving its endangered species including the Sumatran rhino, orang utan, elephants and tambadau.

Conservationist Datuk Wilfred Lingham said the state had limited resources and habitat for its own wildlife.

“We have a situation where endemic species such as the rhinos are disappearing and the elephants are under threat,” said Lingham, the former state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry permanent secretary.

“The focus should be on conserving what we have instead of being distracted by reintroducing an extinct species,” he added.

He said the introduction of new animals to Sabah had resulted in them becoming the dominating species, citing as an example the tilapia, which was supposed to be bred in ponds but had displaced local fish species in rivers and lakes.

The African catfish and bullfrogs were also displacing local creatures, he added.

Earlier this month, Akademi Sains Malaysias Tan Sri Salleh Mohd Nor said plans were underway to reintroduce the tapir to Sabah with three to four of the mammals to be translocated to the state from the peninsula as early as next year.

He said there was evidence showing that the endangered creatures had once roamed the forests of Sabah but have gone extinct there.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga in response said there had been no formal agreement by the state government on the matter.

He, however, acknowledged there had been discussions among peninsula and Sabah Wildlife officials, scientists and conservationists about the proposed translocation but no decision had been made.

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Malaysia: Labuan marine parks popular turtle landing, eco-tourism sites

Borneo Post 14 Oct 17;

LABUAN: Concerted efforts to boost the turtle population are bearing fruit after 1,309 hatchlings were released into the wild from the three landing sites in Labuan from January to October this year.

The number accounted for 76.59 per cent of the total 1, 705 turtle eggs hatched at the popular marine parks of Rusukan Besar Island, Rusukan Kecil Island and Kuraman.

These marine parks are strategic landing places for three turtle species, namely hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata), olive-ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) and green turtle (Chelonia Mydas), with 12 nests found on the beaches throughout the period.

Department of Malaysia Marine Park Labuan director Anuar Deraman said a total of 9, 543 hatchlings were released into the wild from the landing sites in Labuan from 2011 to 2015.

“Our efforts to conserve turtles by hatching their eggs and releasing the hatchlings into the sea since five years ago are succeeding,” he told Bernama yesterday.

“The strategic landing sites, with no beach erosion are the factor behind the increased number of turtles landing,” he said.

He said the experienced rangers who were well trained in handling the eggs during the transfer of the eggs to the hatchery also contributed to the increasing number of hatchlings released into the sea.

Anuar also said Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency Labuan was working closely to monitor any illegal activities within the waters of marine parks.

He said the turtle conservation and protection exercise in the marine parks could be transformed into an eco-tourism product of Labuan to support the efforts of the local tourism stakeholders. — Bernama

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Another El Nino problem: More carbon dioxide in air

SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Yahoo News 12 Oct 17;

A new NASA satellite has found another thing to blame on El Nino: A recent record high increase of carbon dioxide in the air.

The super-sized El Nino a couple of years ago led to an increase of 3 billion tons of carbon in the air, most from tropical land areas. The El Nino made it more difficult for plants to suck up man-made carbon emissions and sparked fires that released more carbon into the atmosphere.

The effect was so large that it was the main factor in the biggest one-year jump in heat-trapping gas levels in modern record, NASA scientists said.

Scientists have long known that carbon dioxide levels spike during an El Nino, the natural occasional warming of parts of the central Pacific that causes droughts in some places, floods in others and generally adds to warmer temperatures worldwide.

Data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, which was launched in 2014, provides more specifics on how that happens and by continent.

Researchers found that in drought-struck parts of South America plants grew less, there were more fires in Asia, and there was an increased rate of leaf decay in Africa. The findings were published Thursday in the journal Science.

That 3 billion tons of carbon, while significant, is still dwarfed by the 10 billion tons a year that comes from the burning of coal, oil and gas, said Scott Denning, a Colorado State University atmospheric scientist.

Study co-author Annmarie Eldering, NASA's deputy project scientist for the satellite, said the new results show how El Nino can counteract efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions were roughly flat in 2014, 2015 and 2016, but National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration figures show that 2015 saw a rise in carbon in the air 3.03 parts per million, the largest since scientists started tracking emissions in Hawaii in 1959.

Normally about 25 percent of the human-caused carbon emissions are sucked up by plants on land, but during this powerful El Nino that was only 5 percent, said Junjie Liu, a NASA scientist and study lead author.

Oceans took out more than normal amount of carbon out of the atmosphere, but it wasn't enough to compensate for the land deficit, Eldering said.

Jonathan Overpeck, a University of Michigan scientist who was not part of the study, said the research revealed that the regional links between carbon dioxide and El Nino are more complex than previously thought, and raised concern about how the earth will respond to more future warming.

As the world warms, the tropics could add to carbon to the atmosphere in the future instead of taking it out of the air and wildfire emissions are likely to get more severe, Overpeck said.

And some computer simulations say the frequency of El Nino will increase in the future with climate change, Denning said during a NASA press conference.

"In this sense, the 2015-16 El Nino is a glimpse of what is to come," Overpeck said in an email.

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New airplane biofuels plan would 'destroy rainforests', warn campaigners

Plan to accelerate production of biofuels for passenger planes would lead to clearing of rainforests to produce ‘vast’ amount of necessary crops
Arthur Neslen The Guardian 12 Oct 17;

A new plan to accelerate production of biofuels for passenger planes has drawn stinging criticism from environmentalists who argue that most of the world’s rainforests might have to be cleared to produce the necessary crops.

Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, with an 8% leap reported in Europe last year and a global fourfold increase in CO2 pollution expected by 2050.

To rein this back, the industry has promised carbon neutral growth by 2020 – to be met by biofuels, if a blueprint is approved at an International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) conference in Mexico City tomorrow.

The “green jet fuel” plan would ramp up the use of aviation biofuels to 5m tonnes a year by 2025, and 285m tonnes by 2050 – enough to cover half of overall demand for international aviation fuel.

But this is also three times more biofuels than the world currently produces, and advanced biofuels are still at too early a stage of development to make up the difference.

Environmentalists say that the most credible alternative fuel source would be hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), even though this would probably trigger a boom in palm oil plantations and a corresponding spike in deforestation.

Klaus Schenk of Rainforest Rescue said: “Citizens around the world are very concerned about burning palm oil in planes. The vast use of palm oil for aviation biofuels would destroy the world’s rainforests, the basis of life for local people and the habitats of endangered species such as orangutans. We urge Icao to scrap its misguided biofuels plan.”

It is impossible to quantify the precise extent of deforestation that the proposal could cause, but based on the Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s crude palm oil yields and Total conversion figures, Biofuelwatch estimate that 82.3m hectares of land (316,603 sq miles) would be needed to meet the target, if it were sourced from palm oil alone. That is more than three times the size of the UK.

Carlos Calvo Ambel, a spokesman for Transport and Environment, said: “Most biofuels are worse for the climate than jet fuel. Quality should always go before quantity. Establishing a goal even before the rules are set out is putting the cart before the horse. The European experience has been that biofuels targets sucked in palm oil exports whose emissions were far greater than those of fossil fuels.”

T&E, Oxfam and Friends of the Earth are among nearly 100 environmental groups protesting the proposal, while 181,000 people have signed a petition calling for the initiative to be scrapped.

Inside the conference hall, several states are also opposing the biofuels pitch which, if passed, is expected to go on to an Icao assembly for formal adoption within two years.

Brazil and Indonesia strongly support the plan but China has questioned its feasibility, the EU wants more robust sustainability criteria, and the US says it will not support globally coordinated emissions reductions targets.

An industry proposal to limit the biofuels target to 2025 is one possible compromise, but others may emerge before the plan is put to a vote.

Almuth Ernsting, a spokeswoman for Biofuelwatch, said the current proposed target was “so huge that it would be unlikely to be fulfilled – but you could still have massive negative impacts from much smaller uses of palm oil”.

Within four years of the EU setting a binding target to source 10% of its transport fuel from renewable sources in 2009, studies show that European investors had bought 6m hectares of land for biofuels production in sub-Saharan Africa.

The EU took very little of its biofuel feedstock from Africa in the end, but the use of palm oil from elsewhere for biodiesel had soared 500% by 2014, according to industry trade figures.

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