Best of our wild blogs: 9 Nov 17

Changi is alive!
wild shores of singapore

Top 10 most widely traded animals in the Golden Triangle identified in new report

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When the haze comes from Singapore's own backyard

Simon Tay and Pek Shibao For The Straits Times 8 Nov 17;

Looking out of the window a fortnight ago, you could be forgiven for wondering if the seasonal haze had returned. Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings across the island exceeded the "Good" range for a full week. On Oct 25, PSI readings even reached 80 in the "Moderate" range, one of the highest readings for the year.

Rainy weather has now cleared the air. There is good and bad news in this.

The good news is that the haze was not, this time, caused by land and forest fires in the region. According to data from the National Environment Agency (NEA), there were relatively few hot spots in Indonesia's forests a fortnight ago, and none generated the intense and dense smoke haze of 2015.


This is more than good fortune. Over the past two years, Indonesia has gone above and beyond to ensure that the massive fires of 2015 and past years do not happen again.

At the central government level, policies and institutions have responded. Since the end of last year, the government has put a freeze on new oil palm plantation licences. It has also banned the clearance of peat forests while Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency implements new regulations governing more tightly the management of these fire-prone landscapes.

Real changes are also taking place on the ground. South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, where some of the worst burning took place in 2015, have rolled out ambitious plans to shift away from slash-and-burn agriculture and towards low-carbon economic development. As part of fire-preparedness programmes run by plantation companies and the government, entire villages are being trained and equipped to monitor and suppress fires.

To translate this momentum into long-term change, Indonesia's Financial Services Authority is also looking into policy reforms such as providing farmers with credit tied to sustainable practices. On Oct 20, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs conducted a workshop in Jakarta to highlight innovative projects financing farmers to conduct sustainable, fire-free agriculture.

The culmination of these efforts is that only 124,983ha of land have been burned this year, just 5 per cent of the 2.6 million hectares burned in 2015.


The bad news comes when we ask what caused the haze two weeks ago. Evidence points to Singapore's own sources of pollution, namely "particle vapour and local emissions from cars and factories", as reported in The Straits Times on Oct 26. The cloudy and windless weather in the period caused these particles to accumulate, causing hazy conditions.

Hazy skies over Singapore as seen from Marina Bay Sands on Oct 25. The writers say that, in tandem with Indonesia's efforts to curb haze, Singapore must address its own local sources of air pollution. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Even when weather is better, Singapore's median PM2.5 level - 17 micrograms per cubic metre (mcg/m3) - is far from ideal. While this falls within the "normal" range as defined by NEA's standards, it significantly exceeds the 10 mcg/m3 threshold that the World Health Organisation considers acceptable.

Hence, in tandem with Indonesia's efforts to curb haze, Singapore must address its own local sources of air pollution. How?


No one is suggesting that Singapore give up the industries that continue to be a significant driver of its economy. However, in a post-Paris Agreement world, it is imperative for us to keep a close watch on latest technological developments that could help us minimise our carbon and emissions footprint.

A case in point is solar energy, which is rapidly becoming cheap and efficient enough to compete directly with fossil fuel. Only three years ago, Singapore was targeting a growth in solar capacity that constituted a tiny 5 per cent of its projected energy needs. But last week, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean noted at the 10th Singapore International Energy Week that it may now be feasible to increase this target to as much as 25 per cent.

Reduced carbon emissions are often regarded as the chief benefit of switching to solar. However, we should not forget the positive impact this would also have on air quality. Though it is true that the natural gas burned by our power plants is less pollutive than coal, it nonetheless produces a significant amount of nitrogen oxides. In the atmosphere, these react to produce smog and particulates that not only reduce visibility, but also seriously damage our health.

It is only a matter of time before Singapore will need to fully decarbonise its energy mix. But to achieve this more ambitious target, we will need specialised storage facilities and management systems to channel stored solar energy during periods when it cannot be generated. We should begin making these infrastructural investments as soon as possible.


Another way to improve our domestic air will be by addressing policies for private vehicles. The recent announcement of a zero per cent growth rate for cars and motorcycles is a step in the right direction. However, this may also have the inadvertent effect of keeping older, more polluting models on the roads for longer.

To avoid this, we can take pointers from the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) Early Turnover Scheme, which provides subsidies to replace old diesel-powered goods vehicles and buses with newer, less polluting models. The scheme has proved successful in getting 27,000 vehicles switched to cleaner models since 2013. It is an opportune time to extend the scheme to include cars and motorcycles, which make up more than 80 per cent of the vehicles on our roads.

The scheme could also be expanded to encourage trade-ups to electric cars and hybrids. Not only do electric cars and hybrids generate less or no exhaust pollution, but they also produce only about half the carbon emissions of conventional vehicles.

However, Singapore is not a leader in the adoption of electric cars. In contrast with a leading country like Norway, where 37.5 per cent of new cars sold are electric cars, Singapore has a total of only 162 plug-in hybrids, electric cars and electric vans, constituting less than 0.02 per cent of our vehicles. Petrol-electric hybrids are more popular, but still comprise only 2 per cent of Singapore's 600,000 cars.

Singapore's sparse network of charging stations also presents a hurdle. Currently, we have only about 100 public and semi-public charging stations. In a promising move, the LTA recently announced Singapore's first large-scale electric car-sharing programme, which will install 500 charging stations islandwide beginning next month. However, it remains to be seen just how much this move will kick-start a shift in demand.

Indonesia's efforts have reaped the obvious benefit of clearer skies for Asean. But the lack of haze from Indonesia this year has also had an unexpected benefit. It has reminded us that Singapore needs to step up and stem the haze in our own backyard.

Simon Tay is chairman and Pek Shibao is policy research analyst (sustainability) of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

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The Lives They Live: Undying love for nature drives this 75-year-old guide

While the pioneer leaders were the original architects of Singapore, everyday heroes helped build society here. This is another story about one such person in the series, The Lives They Live.
Jose Hong Straits Times 9 Nov 17;

She was born in the jungles of Ipoh during the Japanese Occupation, surrounded by the greenery of the rainforest.

Today, the circumstances could not be more different, but Ms Kok Oi Yee still goes out into the jungles. This time, as a nature guide.

"Anything I don't know about, I want to learn," said the sprightly 75-year-old, with the attitude she has carried since leaving school just after her O levels, when she was 17.

Despite having a place at Raffles Girls' School, Ms Kok was told by her mother then that she had to work to support their family.

In 1960, when she was 18, she joined the zoology department of the National University of Singapore (NUS), then called the University of Malaya in Singapore, as an assistant lab technician.

"My biology knowledge was only up till O levels," said Ms Kok. "I was into literature, art and painting."

Furthermore, she was the first woman to join the all-male team.

For her first assignment, she was given a box of thousands of small beetles to sort under a microscope. She recalled with a laugh: "I didn't even know what a microscope was."

Yet she was astounded when studying the insects, with their dull black surfaces transforming into brilliant hues of blue and green under the microscope.

"It was the first time I was seeing this tiny world," she said. "After joining the department, I realised we had all these treasures."

That was the beginning of a 44-year journey with NUS, where she slowly picked up skills such as dissecting and mummifying animals, setting up scientific exhibits and planning research trips.

In 1964, she even began teaching undergraduates practical skills, such as how they should stuff animals and collect live specimens. It did not feel odd that she was teaching university students despite not having a degree herself, she said, simply because it was what she was expected to do.

In 1986, she also discovered the Calotes versicolor in Singapore, a species of lizard commonly known as the changeable lizard, which had never been seen in the country before then. A news report at the time speculated that lizard eggs could have arrive as stowaways in cargo or as the pets of foreign workers.

Ms Kok laughed when asked about that discovery and being featured in the news then, saying that it was "just another thing" in her life. "Being recognised is not as important as doing things because they interest me."

She also became one of Singapore's first women nature guides. As early as 1962, she accompanied university zoology students out into the field to show them what to look out for. Around the same time, she began to guide people as a member of the Nature Society, then called the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch).

Today, one can still find her regularly leading groups through the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the country's rainforests and shores.

Viewing Singapore's rapid development from an environmental lens, Ms Kok said she has seen tremendous change to the country's natural landscape. She recalled how the development of coastal areas like Tuas and Bedok destroyed the vibrant marine life that used to live there.

"We used to go to Tuas to collect coral for the university," she said. "I am very sad that I can't show people what we used to have."

Yet, she said, Singaporeans have become more mindful of the environment in certain ways.

"Kids are more mindful not to throw things, and that we must recycle," she said. "People I guide are also now very savvy because everyone can Google what you're saying."

She added: "I love it when kids point out things, like spiders, that the parents don't see at first. The parents are learning with the kids, and the kids are teaching their parents."

Ms Kok still thinks, though, that "we still have a long way to go".

"I think we need more education in order to fully shift attitudes on things like recycling and properly throwing trash," she said.

Her energy seems boundless.

Ms Kok, who left NUS in 2004 only to be called on to help set up the laboratory in the newly formed NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, where she stayed till 2012, continues working part-time as an operations manager at a marketing firm. She used to climb mountains, loves hiking and, by the end of this year alone, would have gone on nine overseas trips, including one to visit her two grandchildren in Australia. She separated from her husband, now a retired botanist, 26 years ago, and has a son, 49, and a daughter, 47.

She also maintains an active Facebook presence, and responds quickly to WhatsApp messages.

Sociologist Paulin Straughan said that Ms Kok's passion for the environment was unusual for her time.

"In those times, progress and development were the main priorities. So certainly, she was very ahead of her time," she said.

She added: "I think that Ms Kok is an example of the resilience that women in that generation have demonstrated. "

On the future, Ms Kok said she hopes that Singapore finds a way to balance an increased access to nature with conservation.

"If we don't open the spaces, people won't see the natural world and they won't understand, but if you open too much, the natural environment will change," she said.

"We need to come up with a system where all these places are open to people, but where (nature) won't be harmed."

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Green thumbs up for Kampung Admiralty

Complex wins NParks' Outstanding Award; 13 other developments lauded for urban landscape designs
Raffaella Nathan Charles Straits Times 9 Nov 17;

Residents of the new 11-storey Kampung Admiralty complex have another reason to smile - Singapore's first retirement community will receive an award for outstanding landscape architecture.

With its "vertical kampung" design, the hub integrates residential units with shops, childcare and eldercare centres, and medical facilities. The first residents moved in only recently.

On levels six to nine, the complex has a combined rooftop community park, edible garden and rainwater catchment area.

The building receives the Outstanding Award this year - the highest accolade - at the seventh Skyrise Greenery Awards today. The awards were launched by National Parks Board (NParks) in 2008 to recognise excellence in landscape architecture in Singapore.

Submissions were evaluated based on building types: commercial or industrial, community facilities, educational institutions, multi-unit residentials and small-scale residentials.

Thirteen other urban green developments receive Excellence Awards today as well, for displaying excellence in skyrise greenery designs, or Special Awards, for displaying more specific merits, like having an edible rooftop garden.

Prizes include trophies, plaques and certificates for all the winning developers, but the Outstanding, Excellence and Special award recipients get $8,000, $1,500 and $500 cash respectively.

NParks said it has worked with different agencies over the years to take an innovative approach towards Singapore's rapid urban development and land scarcity by building greenery in urban landscapes. This set the context for the creation of the biennial awards.

There were 177 submissions this year - a record and a 40 per cent increase from 2015 and a steady rise from nine submissions in 2008.

The Skyrise Greenery Awards are part of the International Skyrise Greenery Conference, being held today and tomorrow in conjunction with the international GreenUrbanScape Asia (Gusa) conference.

Gusa 2017 is on from today until Sunday at the Singapore Expo and features conferences and exhibitions about the latest greenery projects, urban methods and cutting edge technology.

The Landscape Excellence Assessment Framework (Leaf) certification will also be presented to 14 other developments at the event.

Leaf-certified developments have set new limits for landscape architecture, urban greenery and biodiversity enhancement.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, presents the awards this morning.

The winners

• Kampung Admiralty


• Kampung Admiralty (Community facility)

• Oasia Hotel Downtown (Commercial/industrial)

• National University of Singapore (NUS) Ventus (Educational institution)

• OUE Twin Peaks (Multi-Unit residential)


• The Farm at One Farrer (Edible garden)

• Taman Jurong Zone D RC (Edible garden)

• Eco-Community Garden, Our Tampines Hub (Edible garden)

• NTUC Health Nursing Home (Jurong West) (Therapeutic garden)

• Ren Ci @ Bukit Batok Street 52 (Therapeutic garden)

• Banyan Home @ Pelangi Village (Community involvement)

• SP Agri Farm (Community involvement)

• Sentosa Express (Public infrastructure)

• Bukit Batok West Shopping Centre (Public infrastructure)

• Shell Tampines Avenue 2 (Public infrastructure)

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Students turn food waste into 'worm tea' fertiliser

Samantha Boh Straits Times 8 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE - Students at National Junior College have been using worms to reduce food waste produced in their school.

Tucked in a corner of the school are worm factories where the creatures are grown and then mobilised to turn food waste into fertiliser, through a process called vermicomposting.

The factories are each about 1m tall and hold three levels each of soil, coco peat and 300 to 400 worms.

Food waste like egg shells, vegetable scraps and coffee grounds are blended and dumped into the factories for the worms to consume and digest, which they complete in one week.

After water is poured into the factories at the end of every week, the liquid that drains out is then used to fertilise the school's garden.

The students have even taken their knowledge to residents at the nearby Watten Estate to show them how they can create their own worm factories as well.

"I feel a sense of accomplishment seeing the residents take the worm factories home to continue with their effort," said Secondary 3 student Xie Wanxin, 15.

Students Xie Wanxin, Jacqueline Tan and Vanessa Chan explain what a worm factory is.

"Some plants in our gardens flowered for the first time after we watered them with the fertiliser, or 'worm tea'," she added.

For their efforts in promoting conservation and recycling, the students were recognised at the Singapore Environment Council-StarHub School Green Awards (SGA) held on Wednesday (Nov 8) at ITE College East, along with six other schools.

The other schools are: PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Pioneer Blk 661B, Xinghua Primary School, Anderson Secondary School, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Tanglin Trust School and MINDS Woodlands Gardens School.

The seven schools received the Outstanding Environmental Outreach Project Award - the top award.

The SGA is a self-audited voluntary environmental programme which allows students to develop and showcase their environmental efforts.

Xinghua Primary School's Green Club, for instance, started initiatives to reduce food waste. This includes turning the peels of citrus fruits into "magic cleaners" by putting them in a jar with vinegar and water.

Tan Hong Yi and Kashvi Raghavendra tells ST how to make "magic cleaners"

"They are very good for cleaning glass, plastic. My parents use it to clean our table at home," said Primary 3 pupil Tan Hong Yi, nine.

This year, a record 410 schools and their students took the message about conservation and recycling into the community. More than 28 per cent were pre-schools.

Through their initiatives, the students saved 5,252,000 kilowatt hours of energy, enough to power 1,094 four-room HDB flats for a year.

They also saved 130,000,000 litres of water, enough to fill 52 Olympic-sized swimming pools, and collected 47,362kg of electric and electronic waste for recycling - the weight of five buses.

Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng, who was the guest of honour, said platforms like the the SGA are important in enabling young people to put their green ideas into action.

"Through the process, our students gain a better understanding of Singapore's environmental landscape and contribute to the nation's vision of a sustainable and liveable Singapore."

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Minding sustainability in business

Minister says good practices also a matter of companies' survival
Jacqueline Woo Straits Times 9 Nov 17;

Pursuing sustainable practices is a "matter of survival, and of stewardship", and business should be leading the way, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat last night.

Mr Heng told the Singapore Apex Corporate Sustainability Awards at the Parkroyal on Pickering that even as "climate change poses a real threat for small island states like Singapore", sustainability is also a matter of survival for businesses. "Studies show that sound sustainability standards lower a company's cost of capital, and result in better operational performance. Investor demands and customer expectations are increasingly favouring sustainable businesses," Mr Heng said.

He added: "Sustainability is also about what we leave behind after our time. We have a duty of stewardship to future generations... Businesses, too, have a duty of stewardship - to their shareholders, their employees, their customers and their community."

Mr Heng said Singapore can build upon its strengths, such as in the urban solutions space, to make a meaningful contribution to global efforts towards sustainable development.

He cited the new Changi Airport Terminal 4, which is part of the Changi Airport Group's Living Lab programme. The programme allows the firm to collaborate with companies to test new solutions, such as automation and robotics as well as smart infrastructure management, in a live airport environment.

Mr Heng urged businesses here to take up more of such initiatives, which could see "many exciting solutions" emerge.

The Government, for its part, is also committed to the cause of sustainability.

Mr Heng noted that the Government can contribute by aggregating demand for clean energy. It can also facilitate testing and innovation, he said, pointing to the Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator - Singapore project, the largest hybrid microgrid test and research platform in South-east Asia.

In addition, Singapore can set the right policy conditions, Mr Heng said. It has ratified the Paris Agreement, with plans to implement a carbon tax on the emission of greenhouse gases.

Awards were conferred on 10 organisations for their performance and innovation in corporate sustainability. The awards, organised by Global Compact Network Singapore, aim to recognise organisations that have demonstrated excellence in sustainability, and to highlight standards for those aspiring to better their sustainability practices.

Neutrinos Engineering, New Resources Technology and Winnow were winners for clean technology in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) category, while AkzoNobel bagged the same title in the multinational corporation segment.

In the area of sustainable business, Armor Asia Imaging Supplies, Ricoh Asia Pacific and Sindicatum Renewable Energy Company were the SME winners, while Frasers Centrepoint, Olam International and Sembcorp Marine took home the award in the multinationals category.

Clean Technology Category (SME category)

• Neutrinos Engineering

•New Resources Technology


Clean Technology (MNC category)

• AkzoNobel

Sustainable Business Category (SME Category)

• Armor Asia Imaging Supplies

• Ricoh Asia Pacific

• Sindicatum Renewable Energy Company

Sustainable Business Category (aMNC Category)

• Frasers Centrepoint

• Olam International

• Sembcorp Marine

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Maximum fine of S$10,000 for man who imported zebra dove illegally

Channel NewsAsia 8 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: A 74-year-old man was fined S$10,000 for illegally importing a zebra dove, and for subjecting the bird to unnecessary suffering and pain, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a media release on Wednesday (Nov 8).

This is the first time that the maximum penalty of S$10,000 has been meted out for illegally importing animals or live birds, AVA said.

This is not Lian Kin Ting's first time importing live birds illegally. In 2009, he was fined S$3,000 for importing seven zebra doves without a licence.

AVA was alerted by Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers on Feb 1 that a zebra dove had been found hidden in a car at Tuas Checkpoint. The dove was in a pouch beneath the driver’s seat of the Singapore-registered car.

AVA investigations found that there was no food and water provided for the bird in the pouch, and it was found to have experienced significant stress. The bird was also imported without a valid licence.

The dove is now under the care of the Jurong Bird Park.

"Animals that are smuggled into Singapore are of unknown health status and may introduce diseases, such as bird flu, into the country," AVA said.

Anyone guilty of importing any animals or live birds without an AVA permit may be fined up to S$10,000 and jailed up to one year.
Source: CNA/kc

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Malaysia: Something fishy going on at sea

joseph kaos jr The Star 9 Nov 17;

PUTRAJAYA: Only half of the 800,000 tonnes of fish caught in Malaysian waters make it to shore every year, says the Fisheries Department.

Its director-general Datuk Munir Mohd Nawi said one of the reasons was because local fisherman were selling their catch to their counterparts in foreign vessels. And the trade is conducted in the middle of the sea.

“The department is very concerned and we take continuous action to address the issue. One of it is by tightening the conditions of renewing fishing licences.

“Deep sea vessels must record a minimum 250 tonnes of fish landings in a year, for those using pukat tunda (trawl net) and 350 tonnes for those using pukat jerut (purse seine – a wall of netting placed in an area). Only if they make the minimum landings can they renew their licences,” Munir told reporters here.

“There are in total 1,120 local trawler operators, and 10% or about 100 are expected to face problems renewing their licences for not fulfilling licensing conditions,” he said.

Munir also said the Automatic Identification System (AIS), as well as the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), were among measures introduced to prevent fishing resources losses.

“There have been many reports of Vietnamese vessels encroaching on Malaysian waters, particularly in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Through the AIS, any report of encroachment will be forwarded to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency for further action.

“Through the VMS, the department has detected 128 foreign vessels encroaching on Malaysian waters, nearly half of them from Vietnam.

“Since 2016, there have been 256 cases of foreign vessels being caught in Malaysian waters and the authorities have seized some RM180mil worth of assets.

“Some 2,199 crew of foreign vessels, mostly from Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, have been arrested in that period,” he said.

Fisheries Department doing all it can to manage, protect Malaysia's maritime resources, says DG
AZURA ABAS New Straits Times 8 Nov 17;

PUTRAJAYA: The Fisheries Department is not sitting on its hands when it comes to managing and protecting the country’s fisheries sector.

Its director-general, Datuk Munir Mohd Nawi, said the department had taken numerous measures, including using technology such as the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), to monitor fishing vessels.

“We have real-time visuals of fishing vessels traveling through our waters and we can see if any foreign registered vessels have encroached our waters. The information would then be funneled to the relevant enforcement agencies like the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), which have the right assets to travel to deep sea waters.

“For us, our jurisdiction covers about 12 nautical miles from the shorelines,” he told reporters in the VMS operations room.

Munir said the VMS, which was first used in 2014, had detected 128 foreign vessels encroaching Malaysian waters since 2016 and nearly 50 per cent of them were vessels from Vietnam.

He said the department would provide information gathered from VMS on a daily basis for the next course of action to be taken.

“We have also detected 433 cases of local fishing vessels leaving Malaysian waters without permission, 259 of which headed to Thailand, 168 to Vietnam and three each to China and Indonesia,” he added.

Since 2016, he said, 256 foreign vessels with assets worth RM180 million had been seized.

“A total of 2,199 foreign crew have been detained during the same period and they are from countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.”

Aside from VMS, said Munir, the department had also taken action against Malaysians who had broken the law, including the Fisheries Act 1983 and regulations stipulated in fishing permits. Among the action taken was to revoke the licences for 472 vessels.

“We have also tightened licensing requirements, including the requirement of minimum catch landing for trawling nets... they must land at least 250 metric tonnes (mt), with purse seine nets at 350mt per year, and single hand-line with multiple hooks at 100mt per year,” he said, adding that these requirements were to ensure catches would land in Malaysia and plug the leakages of seafood resources.

Munir said Malaysia lost about an estimated 980,000mt of its fisheries resources, worth between RM3 billion and RM6 billion, a year to illegal fishing by foreigners.

He said those wanting to renew permits must ensure that their Mobile Transceiver Units (MTU) remained 80 per cent active each year.

Munir also said the department had acted to upgrade the fish landing system at ports with the pilot project at Tok Bali port.

He said the upgrades including equipping ports with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and the use of pass cards to electronically record vessels entering and leaving fish landing centres at Tok Bali, Kuantan, Kuala Perlis and Tanjung Manis Integrated Port in Sarawak.

The department, he added, aimed to fit 2,630 vessels with the Automatic Identification System (AIS) for trawlers at Zone B.

“So far we have fitted 1,116 vessels with AIS.”

On the issue of graft, Munir said the department had never taken this matter lightly and had strict guidelines for its staff.

He said it also worked closely with the relevant enforcement agencies to tackle this matter.

“The recent attempt to bribe our enforcement officers happened on May 23 with RM1,500 offered as kickback, while our officers conducted operations 43 nautical miles off Pantai Tanjung Sedili in Johor.

“We lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the money was surrendered to the commission. We fully support MACC’s efforts to stop corruption,” he said.

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Malaysia: Human-wildlife conflict in Selangor caused by rapid development, says state exco

THARANYA ARUMUGAM New Straits Times 8 Nov 17;

SHAH ALAM: The rapid development in Selangor has led to conflict between humans and wildlife in several areas in the state, said Bukit Lanjan assemblyman Elizabeth Wong today.

Wong said this was based on the rise in the number of reports involving animals, including monkeys, wild boars, foxes and snakes, encroaching into residential areas.

She said these areas include Sekinchan, Hulu Selangor and Kuala Selangor.

Wong said the State Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) has taken the necessary measures to keep the animals at bay, such as by distributing traps to residents living in high-risk areas.

Cages, she added, would be placed inside the residents’ compounds where food would be used as bait.

“The problem arises when housing developments are too close to the animals’ natural habitat. There is conflict because both parties (animals and humans) do not understand each other.

“Perhilitan is responsible in taking practical actions to protect the people from any wildlife threats that could disrupt peace and stability.

“The department has taken various mitigation measures to address this and reduce the number of complaints from the public. This includes enhanced surveillance activities, humane killing and the relocation of the captured animals to forests or conservation sites,” she told the state legislative assembly today.

Wong said Perhilitan has also prepared a comprehensive wildlife inventory, especially on monkeys, covering problematic areas.

Awareness programmes should also be held at hotspots to educate the public on the dos and don’ts, she said.

“For instance, the public should not be allowed to feed or shower care and love to these wild animals. Perhilitan and the local authorities should look into this and beef up enforcement.”

Wong, who is also Tourism, Environment, Green Technology and Consumer Affairs exco, said Perhilitan caught 16,942 wild animals in 2014, 15,154 animals in 2015, 10,078 animals last year and 7,923 animals as of August 2017.

“Various factors will be taken into consideration before relocating the animals, including space, food availability and distance from residential areas. Injured animals will first be treated by Perhilitan.

“But for problematic species such as monkeys, they would be put to sleep,” she said, adding that new housing developments in the state are now required to have buffer zones to reduce the human-wildlife conflict.

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Indonesia: Jakarta Bay reclamation project being implemented in two stages

Antara 8 Nov 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs has explained that the Jakarta Bay reclamation project is being implemented in two stages to protect the state capital from the threat of land subsidence.

Ministrys Deputy for Infrastructure Coordination Ridwan Djamaluddin remarked here on Tuesday that the project is being carried in two stages: emergency and monitoring.

He said the emergency stage is being implemented by the central government to protect the coastal areas stretching 120 kilometers and are often inundated.

According to Djamaluddin, the monitoring stage aims to gauge the extent of land subsidence in order to determine whether a giant embankment project needs to be built.

"If land subsidence can be controlled, we expect that the giant embankment will not need to be built. However, a natural decline in the soil could not be avoided, so we need to consider whether to build the embankment," he pointed out.

Djamaluddin remarked that the reclamation project, whose study was integrated with the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development, has a long-term vision, with the aim of improving the ecological conditions of the north coast of Jakarta as well as developing a new economy in the reclamation area.

"The reclamation project has a long-term vision and is integrated to improve the ecological conditions and the northern coastal areas of Jakarta," he said.

Hence, Vice President Jusuf Kalla has said the government will go ahead with the reclamation of Jakarta Bay to build two islands, C and D, out of the total 14 islands planned to be constructed earlier.

"The government did not say that the reclamation project would be continued, but it has stated that the ongoing project will be continued, and I think the Jakarta administration has agreed to this," Kalla stated recently.

According to Kalla, the decision to continue the ongoing project had been discussed between the central and Jakarta administrations by taking into account its efficiency.

"We had been discussing about the existing projects, as it is impossible to demolish them. It would be costlier to demolish them than to continue with the construction," he added.

Kalla admitted to Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan updating him about the decision.

"I have told Baswedan that the islands must offer more benefits to the public and government," he noted.

Hence, Kalla reiterated that the government will focus on completing the construction of C and D Islands and manage their use to offer benefits to the local people and the Jakarta government.(*)

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The seven megatrends that could beat global warming: 'There is reason for hope'

Until recently the battle to avert catastrophic climate change – floods, droughts, famine, mass migrations – seemed to be lost. But with the tipping point just years away, the tide is finally turning, thanks to innovations ranging from cheap renewables to lab-grown meat and electric airplanes
Damian Carrington The Guardian 8 Nov 17;

‘Everybody gets paralysed by bad news because they feel helpless,” says Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who delivered the landmark Paris climate change agreement. “It is so in our personal lives, in our national lives and in our planetary life.”

But it is becoming increasingly clear that it does not need to be all bad news: a series of fast-moving global megatrends, spurred by trillion-dollar investments, indicates that humanity might be able to avert the worst impacts of global warming. From trends already at full steam, including renewable energy, to those just now hitting the big time, such as mass-market electric cars, to those just emerging, such as plant-based alternatives to meat, these trends show that greenhouse gas emissions can be halted.

“If we were seeing linear progress, I would say good, but we’re not going to make it in time,” says Figueres, now the convener of the Mission 2020 initiative, which warns that the world has only three years to get carbon emissions on a downward curve and on the way to beating global warming. “But the fact is we are seeing progress that is growing exponentially, and that is what gives me the most reason for hope.”

No one is saying the battle to avert catastrophic climate change – floods, droughts, famine, mass migrations – has been won. But these megatrends show the battle has not yet been lost, and that the tide is turning in the right direction. “The important thing is to reach a healthy balance where we recognise that we are seriously challenged, because we really have only three years left to reach the tipping point,” says Figueres. “But at the same time, the fact is we are already seeing many, many positive trends.”

Michael Liebreich, the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, agrees. “The good news is we are way better than we thought we could be. We are not going to get through this without damage. But we can avoid the worst. I am optimistic, but there is a long way to go.”

Also cautiously hopeful is climate economist Nicholas Stern at the London School of Economics. “These trends are the start of something that might be enough – the two key words are ‘start’ and ‘might’.” He says the global climate negotiations, continuing this week in Germany and aiming to implement the Paris deal, are crucial: “The acceleration embodied in the Paris agreement is going to be critical.”


1. Methane: getting to the meat

Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the main greenhouse gas, but methane and nitrous oxide are more potent and, unlike CO2, still rising. The major source is livestock farming, in particular belching cattle and their manure.

The world’s appetite for meat and dairy foods is rising as people’s incomes rise, but the simple arithmetic is that unless this is radically curbed, there is no way to beat global warming. The task looks daunting – people hate being told what to eat. However, just in the last year, a potential solution has burst on to the market: plant-based meat, which has a tiny environmental footprint.

What sounds like an oxymoron – food that looks and tastes just as good as meat or dairy products but is made from plants – has attracted heavy investment. The buzz is particularly loud in the US, where Bill Gates has backed two plant-based burger companies and Eric Schmidt, formerly CEO of Google, believes plant-based foods can make a “meaningful dent” in tackling climate change.

Perhaps even more telling is that major meat and dairy companies are now piling in with investments and acquisitions, such as the US’s biggest meat processor, Tyson, and multinational giants Danone and Nestlé. The Chinese government has just put $300m (£228m) into Israeli companies producing lab-grown meat, which could also cut emissions.

New plant-based products, from chicken to fish to cheese, are coming out every month. “We are in the nascent stage,” says Alison Rabschnuk at the US nonprofit group the Good Food Institute. “But there’s a lot of money moving into this area.”

Plant-based meat and dairy produce is not only environmentally friendly, but also healthier and avoids animal welfare concerns, but these benefits will not make them mass-market, she says: “We don’t believe that is what is going to make people eat plant-based food. We believe the products themselves need to be competitive on taste, price and convenience – the three attributes people use when choosing what to eat.”

Plant-based milks – soya, almond, oat and more – have led the way and are now about 10% of the market and a billion-dollar business in the US. But in the past year, sales of other meat and dairy substitutes have climbed 8%, with some specific lines, such as yoghurt, shooting up 55%. “I think the writing’s on the wall,” says Rabschnuk. Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson agrees. “I believe that in 30 years or so we will no longer need to kill any animals and that all meat will either be [lab] or plant-based, taste the same and also be much healthier for everyone.”

2. Renewable energy: time to shine

The most advanced of the megatrends is the renewable energy revolution. Production costs for solar panels and wind turbines have plunged, by 90% in the past decade for solar, for example, and are continuing to fall. As a result, in many parts of the world they are already the cheapest electricity available and installation is soaring: two-thirds of all new power in 2016 was renewable.

This extraordinary growth has confounded expectations: the respected International Energy Agency’s annual projections have anticipated linear growth for solar power every year for the past decade. In reality, growth has been exponential. China is leading the surge but the impact is being felt around the world: in Germany last week there was so much wind power that customers got free electricity.

In the US, enthusiasm for green energy has not been dented by President Donald Trump committing to repeal key climate legislation: $30bn has been invested since he signed an executive order in March. “I am no longer concerned about electric power,” says Figueres.

3. King coal: dead or dying

The flipside of the renewables boom is the death spiral of coal, the filthiest of fossil fuels. Production now appears to have peaked in 2013. The speed of its demise has stunned analysts. In 2013, the IEA expected coal-burning to grow by 40% by 2040 – today it anticipates just 1%.

The cause is simple: solar and wind are cheaper. But the consequences are enormous: in pollution-choked China, there are now no provinces where new coal is needed, so the country has just mothballed plans for 151 plants. Bankruptcies have torn through the US coal industry and in the UK, where coal-burning began the industrial revolution, it has fallen from 40% of power supply to 2% in the past five years.

“Last year, I said if Asia builds what it says it is going to build, we can kiss goodbye to 2C” – the internationally agreed limit for dangerous climate change – says Liebreich. “Now we are showing coal [plans] coming down.” But he warns there is more to do.

Solar and wind are cheaper than new coal, he says, but a second tipping point is needed. That will occur when renewables are cheaper to build than running existing coal plants, meaning that the latter shut down. If renewable costs continue to fall as expected, this would happen between 2030 and 2040. At that point, says Liebrich, “Why keep digging coal out of the ground when you could just put up solar?”

4. Electric cars: in the fast lane

Slashing oil use – a third of all global energy – is a huge challenge but a surging market for battery-powered cars is starting to bite, driven in significant part by fast-growing concerns about urban air pollution.

China, again, is leading the way. It is selling as many electric cars every month as Europe and the US combined, with many from home-grown companies such as BYD. US-based Tesla is rolling out its more affordable Model 3 and in recent months virtually all major carmakers have committed to an electric future, with Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover announcing that they will end production of pure fossil-fuelled cars within three years.

“We have a domino effect now,” says Figueres. These cars are “now being made for the mass market and that is really what is going to make the transformation”.

“I don’t think it is going to slow down,” says Viktor Irle, an analyst at Drivers can see the direction of travel, he says, with a stream of choked cities and countries from Paris to India announcing future bans on fossil-fuelled cars.

It is true that global sales of electric cars have now achieved liftoff, quadrupling in the past three years, but they still make up only 1.25% of all new car sales. However, if current growth rates continue, as Irle expects, 80% of new cars will be electric by 2030.

The rapid rise of electric cars has left the oil giants, who have a lot to lose, playing catchup. The oil cartel Opec has increased its estimate of the number of electric cars operative in 2040 by five times in the past year alone, with the IEA, ExxonMobil and BP all bumping up their forecasts too. Heavy transport remains a challenge, but even here ships are experimenting with wind power and batteries. Short-haul electric airplanes are on the drawing board, too.

5. Batteries: lots in store

Batteries are key to electric cars and, by storing energy for when the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing, they are also vital when it comes to enabling renewable energy to reach its full potential. Here too, a megatrend is crushing prices for lithium-ion batteries, which are down 75% over the past six years. The International Renewable Energy Agency expects further falls of 50-66% by 2030 and a massive increase in battery storage, linked to increasingly smart and efficient digital power grids. In the UK alone, government advisers say a smart grid could save bill-payers £8bn a year by 2030, as well as slashing carbon emissions.

Fears that lithium-ion, the technology that dominates today, cannot be scaled up sufficiently are overblown, argues Liebreich, as the metal is not rare. “I think lithium-ion is a banker in that you can be sure it will get cheaper and you can be sure there is enough.” He is also frustrated by frequent claims that a grid based on renewables and storage cannot be cheap and reliable: “That stupidity and absolute certainty is in inverse proportion to any knowledge of how you run an electrical system.”

It is true, however, that batteries will not be the solution for energy storage over weeks or months. For that, long-distance electricity interconnectors are being built and the storage of the energy as gas is also being explored.

6. Efficiency: negawatts over megawatts

Just as important as the greening of energy is reducing demand by boosting energy efficiency. It’s a no-brainer in climate policy, but it can be very tricky to make happen, as it requires action from millions of people.

Nonetheless, good progress is being made in places such as the EU, where efficiency in homes, transport and industry has improved by about 20% since 2000. Improving the efficiency of gadgets and appliances through better standards is surprisingly important: a new UN Environment Programme report shows it makes the biggest impact of any single action bar rolling out wind and solar power.

But again, continued progress is vital. “We need to drive energy efficiency very, very hard, even for European countries,” says Prof Kevin Anderson at the University of Manchester. “We could power down European energy use by about 40% in something like 10-15 years, just by making the most efficient appliances available the new minimum.”

In countries with cool winters, better insulation is also needed, particularly as a fossil fuel – natural gas – currently provides a lot of heating. “What is a crime is every time a building is renovated but not renovated to really high standards,” says Liebreich, who thinks labelling such homes as “zero-energy-bill” homes, not “zero-carbon” homes, would help overcome opposition.

One sector that is lagging on energy efficiency is industry, but technology to capture and bury CO2 from plants is being tested and ways to clean up cement-making are also being explored.

7. Forests: seeing the wood

The destruction of forests around the world for ranching and farming, as well as for timber, causes about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is the biggest megatrend not yet pointing in the right direction: annual tree losses have roughly doubled since 2000.

This is particularly worrying as stopping deforestation and planting new trees is, in theory at least, among the cheapest and fastest ways of cutting carbon emissions. But it is not getting the support it needs, says Michael Wolosin at Forest Climate Analytics. “Climate policy is massively underfunding forests – they receive only about 2% of global climate finance.” Furthermore, the $2.3bn committed to forests by rich nations and multilateral institutions since 2010 is tiny compared with the funding for the sectors that drive deforestation. “Brazil and Indonesia’s governments alone invested $276bn in the same timeframe, in just the four key driver commodities: palm oil, soy, beef and timber,” says Franziska Haupt at Climate Focus.

In fact, new research has shown that better land management could deliver a third of all the carbon cuts the world needs, and Wolosin says there are some grounds for hope that new forests can be planted. “Achieving large-scale forestation is not just theoretical. We know we can do it because a few countries have done it successfully.”

In the past two decades, tree-planting in China, India and South Korea has removed more than 12bn tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere – three times the entire European Union’s annual emissions, Wolosin says. This action was driven by fears about flooding and food supply, meaning that global warming needs to be seen as equally urgent in this sector. Regrowing forests can also play a crucial role in sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere, which is likely to be necessary after 2050, unless very sharp cuts are made now.

Will these megatrends move fast enough to avoid the worst of climate change? Opinions vary and Anderson is among the most hawkish. He says it remains possible for now, but is pessimistic that the action will be taken. “We’re pointing in the right direction but not moving [there]. We have to not just pursue renewables and electric vehicles and so forth, we have to actively close down the incumbent fossil fuel industry.”

Stern is cautiously optimistic, saying that what has changed in recent years is the realisation that green economic growth in the only long-term option: “There is no long-run high-carbon growth story because it creates an environment so hostile that it turns development backwards.

“There are some tremendous developments so I am very confident now we can do this, but the change, attractive as it is, has to be radical,” he says. “Will we have the political and economic understanding and commitment to get there? I hope so.”

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Rare victory for rainforests as nations vow to stop 'death by chocolate'

Plans by the governments of Ghana and Ivory Coast drawn up after Guardian investigation revealed links between the cocoa industry and rainforest loss
Ruth Maclean in Dakar The Guardian 8 Nov 17;

The governments of Ghana and the Ivory Coast are formulating plans to immediately put a stop to all new deforestation after a Guardian investigation found that the cocoa industry was destroying their rainforests.

The west African neighbours have been drafting new measures to rescue their remaining forests and replant degraded ones.

In an investigation published in September, the Guardian found that deforestation-linked cocoa had entered the supply chains of some of the biggest players in the chocolate industry. At the same time, the environmental group Mighty Earth published Chocolate’s Dark Secret, a report that found that “a large amount of the cocoa used in chocolate produced by Mars, Nestle, Hershey’s, Godiva, and other major chocolate companies was grown illegally.”

Corrupt Ivorian officials whose job it was to protect the country’s national parks and classified forests were accepting huge bribes to allow small-scale farmers to cut them down and grow cocoa.

This cocoa was then bought by middlemen who sold it on to large cocoa traders including Barry Callebaut and Cargill, companies which sell to Mars, Cadbury and Nestlé.

The action taken by the governments is very promising, Mighty Earth said, but will not succeed unless the cocoa traders and chocolate manufacturers put money into the effort.

“The big danger now is that the industry’s going to kick the can down the road and blame the Ghanaian and Ivorian governments and make them fix the problem without helping enough financially. But the people who have the money and the technical resources to fix it are the industry,” said Etelle Higonnet, the lead author of the Mighty Earth report.

Contacted by the Guardian, the chocolatiers Mars, the Hershey Company and Mondelez, the owners of Cadbury, did not say that they would commit any money to the governments’ plans; Mondelez pointed to its sustainable sourcing programme Cocoa Life, while Hershey said that more than 75% of the cocoa it buys is certified and sustainable, and that it would be at 100% by 2020. Mars said that “joint frameworks for action” would be released at the climate change conference, outlining “the key actions, time frames, and technical and financial commitments for forest protection and restoration in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.”

Under the Ivorian draft plans, which appear to be sanctioned by the prime minister’s office, these traders will each take responsibility for a number of degraded classified forests and turn them into densely shaded forest, organising farmers to plant trees while growing cocoa underneath them.

This is a far more sustainable way of growing the cocoa on which the Ghanaian and Ivorian economies rely than the current way, whereby many farmers cut down ancient trees to ensure their cocoa plantations have full sun.

As well as the effect that the decimation of west African rainforests has on global climate change, scientists say it also dramatically reduces rainfall. If current patterns continue, there will not be enough rain to grow cocoa at all.

The handful of Ivorian classified forests that have not lost swaths of trees will be upgraded to national parks, while one national park, Marahoué, is in such a bad condition that it will probably be downgraded, perhaps to a classified forest.

It is unclear who will pay for the Ivorian government’s plans. It expects the traders to pay, but has not made it clear what the consequences will be if they refuse. The number of people living inside protected areas makes it a complicated and fraught task: the government has faced accusations of human rights abuses for evicting thousands of cocoa farmers from Mont Péko national park.

In Ghana, meanwhile, the plans are far-reaching, and if enacted, could transform the landscape, though it is unclear whether those drafting them have sufficient clout or money to do so.

In addition to committing to no new deforestation, land and tree tenure reform, and transparency in the supply chain so that cocoa can be traced down to the farm gate level, ensuring that none of it comes from illegal protected areas, the government is also agreeing to the high carbon stock approach. This is a way of making decisions about land use that protects low as well as high-density forest, which means that more of Ghana’s forests can be salvaged.

However, there is still less clarity on how this will be funded than in the Ivory Coast. Cocoa prices in both countries have fallen by a third in the past year, and Ghana’s economy has been affected by low gold and oil prices too, as well as a fiscal crisis that that the IMF plugged with credit that so far totals $565m. Monitoring and replanting the forests will cost tens of millions the country will struggle to afford.

Chocolate companies and traders should pay, according to Higgonet.

“The companies need to pay for planting the trees next year. They’re likely to reap a $4bn windfall profit, because the price of chocolate bars has stayed the same but the price of cocoa is collapsing,” she said. “So what can they do with that extra money? Well, they can use it to plant trees.”

Many top players in the cocoa industry say they will release a “joint framework for action” with the governments on 17 November. But there is concern that a tightening in west Africa could just push the trade elsewhere.

“Cocoa is moving into these frontier forests,” Higgonet said, “ in central Africa, Indonesia and the Amazon – and we will keep reproducing the same disasters that we saw in west Africa unless we protect those forests now.”

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Anger seethes on margins of historic clean-up in Nigeria's Delta

Libby George Reuters 8 Nov 17;

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nearly a decade after two catastrophic oil spills in the Niger Delta, a comprehensive clean-up has finally been launched in the southern Nigerian region.

Oil companies and activists hope it will be a blueprint for wider rehabilitation but other badly polluted communities are unhappy not to be included.

Earlier this month, crews of young men equipped with high pressure hoses began to attack the crude oil that has blighted the creeks and mangrove swamps in the area where they live.

The workers from Bodo in Rivers State are beginning a three-year project that claims to mark a new approach to cleaning up the delta, the vast polluted swampland that pumps the oil vital to Africa’s largest economy.

Four hundred workers will clear dead foliage and spilled oil before planting new mangroves. The site where they are working is small but organisers hope the anti-pollution drive can be repeated elsewhere in the delta.

Unlike clean-up operations run routinely by oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, this one is backed by local communities and teams of scientists who will take samples of water, mud and soil in each area to measure progress and determine the best cleaning method.

Funded by Shell and its joint venture partners, the clean-up is the culmination of years of legal wrangling and international pressure to overcome animosity and mutual suspicion that have divided locals, the government and oil companies.

Shell declined to say how much it was spending on the effort, whose leaders see it as a glimmer of hope in a benighted land where many wells are not safe to drink from and fishing and farming have been devastated.

“The Niger Delta is at a crossroads,” said Inemo Samiama, chairman of the Bodo Mediation Initiative (BMI), which is managing the clean-up. “We have a lot of polluted sites. We need something that we can refer to, some shining example.” HOPE AND POLLUTION The work of the BMI covers 10 sq km, a tiny fraction of the 70,000 sq km Delta.

As the workers walk through gnarled, dead mangrove roots in their protective gear and masks, oil seeps into their footprints – remnants of 2008 spills for which Royal Dutch Shell admitted responsibility. Despite the optimism, environmentalists point out that at BMI’s work rate, it will take 21,000 years to clean the entire delta, and that’s not including the 10 years of legal battles it took to make it happen.

Communities in the other eight Delta states are also unhappy they have no clean-up plan, fuelling the resentment that underpinned the militant movements that hit production last year and helped tip Nigeria into its first recession in 25 years.

Already one group, the Niger Delta Avengers, has threatened a return to violence. They say the government is not keeping its promises to clean up the delta and provide more jobs, money and infrastructure.

Other groups who do not advocate violence are also frustrated.

“No clean-up whatsoever has taken place,” said Deinbo Owanaemi Emmanuel, attorney for the Bille kingdom, also in Rivers but outside the clean-up area. “People are dying. People are being denied justice.”

COURTS AND NOTORIETY Bodo received support from British law firm Leigh Day, which negotiated a 55 million pound pollution settlement with Shell in 2015. Leigh Day said it agreed to freeze a separate case to force a clean-up via British courts in order to give the BMI a chance.

Ogoni, the wider area in which Bodo sits, was the subject of a 2011 UN Environment Programme report warning of catastrophic pollution in the soil and water.

King Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi of the Ogale community is on the board of a wider Ogoni clean-up effort, and is optimistic its own clean-up, due to start next year, will work. But he fears it will not replicated elsewhere without another marathon battle in the London courts.

“The only place you can get legal success is the international courts,” he said.

Under Nigerian law, oil companies must begin cleaning up any spill within 24 hours. But the remoteness of spills and lax enforcement mean this rarely happens.

Ferdinand Giadom, a lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt and technical advisor to the Bodo cleanup, said communities often block clean-ups in the hopes of cash settlements. Even in Bodo, works were delayed by two years due to local infighting.

Shell said most oil spilled last year was due to sabotage or theft for illegal refining. It also said that communities block access to sites, making cleaning more difficult.

Addition reporting by Tife Owolabi and Afolabi Sotunde; editing by Giles Elgood

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Seagrass biodiversity is both a goal and a means for restoration


Coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests work together to make the Coral Triangle of Indonesia a hotspot for marine biodiversity. The system supports valuable fisheries and endangered species and helps protect shorelines. But it is in global decline due to threats from coastal development, destructive fishing practices and climate change.

A UC Davis study published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that in the case of seagrasses, biodiversity is not only a goal, but also a means for restoration of this important ecosystem.

The Coral Triangle is home to about 15 species of seagrasses, more than almost anywhere else on Earth. Previous seagrass restoration efforts have primarily focused on a single species.

For this study, the scientists transplanted six common seagrass species at four species-richness levels: monocultures, two, four, and five species. They analyzed how well the initial transplants survived and their rate of expansion or contraction for more than a year. The results showed that planting mixtures of diverse seagrass species improved their overall survival and growth.

"Seagrass beds are important habitats for fisheries species, for protecting shorelines from storm damage, and they provide livelihoods for many millions of humans around the world," said Susan Williams, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology and the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.

"Seagrass habitat is being lost at a rate of a football field's area every half-hour, which threatens these important functions. We demonstrated we could improve seagrass restoration success by planting a mix of species, and not just a single species, which has been the common restoration practice in warm regions such as Florida, Texas, and also in Indonesia, where we performed the experiment."

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