Best of our wild blogs: 11 Nov 17

Survey on green engineering in Singapore harbour
wild shores of singapore

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Nature groups, experts weigh in on recent crocodile sightings

Lianne Chia Channel NewsAsia 11 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: Crocodile sightings in areas like East Coast Park are an unusual occurrence, say nature groups and experts Channel NewsAsia spoke to.

But a loss of their natural habitat or small changes in the ecosystem could be some of the possible reasons for the recent increase in crocodile sightings around Singapore beaches.

On Wednesday (Nov 9), a crocodile was spotted at East Coast Park, prompting the National Sailing Centre to cease all water activities. Crocodiles were also sighted earlier in the year, with reports on Changi Beach and Pasir Ris Park in August alone.

Nature groups and wildlife experts say that crocodiles do exist as part of the natural ecosystem in Singapore. But the numbers are small and sightings outside of their natural habitats are rare.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai pointed out that crocodiles have always been around in Singapore, but were almost wiped out by hunting and the clearance of habitats in the early part of the last century.

“By the time the 1970s and 1980s rolled around, most people didn’t know there were crocodiles in Singapore because the numbers were very low, and they were confined in tiny pockets of habitats that still existed in Singapore.”

The local population, he added, is generally confined to areas like Sungei Buloh and Kranji.

Nature enthusiast Ria Tan, who runs website WildSingapore, added that she has seen crocodiles in Sungei Buloh from far while standing on a bridge, but never while she was doing her work on the shore.

“I do a lot of surveys in Singapore water, more than 100 days a year and over 50 locations in Singapore, and I see all kinds of things,” she said.

“But I’ve never actually seen a crocodile up close ... no stepping on them, or being bitten by them or anything like that.”


Given this situation, Mr Subaraj noted that it is more likely that the crocodile spotted at East Coast is likely to have come from Johor.

“There is a lot of development going on like the Iskandar project, and there are multiple projects going on there that are unfortunately causing an impact on their natural habitats, and driving the animals out of there,” he said.

He explained that they live mainly in mangroves and river mouths, but these are also being cleared in Malaysia. “Take the Johor River and the mouth of the Johor River ... one side has been completely removed and turned into a port,” he said.

“That would have caused an impact on all the animals that live there, whether they’re crocodiles, dogs or dugongs.”

He added that the otters – well recognised and loved by Singaporeans – could also have come from Johor, but the crocodiles were “more secretive” about it.

“A few of them have wandered through and maybe went unnoticed, but this guy is unfortunate because he chose to go down East Coast Park,” he said.

“They are just looking for a new home and there is nothing at East Coast or the Bedok area that’s suitable for it, so they’ll just continue their journey and in a few days, they’ll just move on.”

Indeed, chairman of Nature Society Singapore’s Marine Conservation Group Stephen Beng noted that crocodiles are capable of travelling long distances, and have been known to ride currents in other countries. He added that even slight changes in their habitat could result in their displacement.

“These animals don’t appear suddenly at a beach for no reason,” he said. “More often than not, it’s because their habitats are threatened, and there are changes in the ecosystem as a whole.”

One example of this, he said, could be a change in temperature, caused by runoffs into the waterways.

“Things like our concretised drains and rivers ... water that flows over concrete as opposed to plants and natural forest would obviously be warmer,” he explained. “It can be little changes like this, but in the cumulative effect, it would then change the whole ecosystem.”

While he said his group prefers not to draw any conclusions about the current situation, he stressed the importance of conducting further studies and raising awareness of the various possibilities.

“On the one hand, we don’t want to lose the safety and enjoyment of our beaches and wetlands, but at the same time, the saltwater crocodile is the largest reptile we have, and it’s quite special that we have them,” he said.

“As conservationists and concerned citizens, we want to highlight changes to our environment that affects movement of animals, so I guess the best way moving forward is to study them more, and implement education programmes and management of habitat.”


But despite these factors, it is still uncommon for crocodiles to turn up at East Coast Park.

Mr Subaraj pointed out that the work in Johor has been going on for more than a decade, and so far, the recent sighting at East Coast is only the second crocodile that has been seen in the area.

“These crocodiles are an endangered species, so their numbers are going to be low anywhere,” he added. “So it’s a very uncommon occurrence, and people shouldn’t be worried that a whole swarm of them are going to appear one day.”

But that being said, he stressed the importance of being prudent should one really encounter a crocodile while splashing around in the waters around East Coast.

“At the moment, you should not be swimming at all,” he said. “A crocodile has just been sighted, and signs have been put up, so stay away for a few days, if not a few weeks.”

The National Parks Board had earlier said that advisory notices have been put up near the water edges in the area. It also advised visitors not to approach, provoke or feed the animal.

But should one encounter a crocodile while in the water, Mr Subaraj’s suggestion is to slowly back away and come out of the water.

“The crocodile is not going to come after you,” he said. “On the beach, they are very slow and sluggish, and they basically are just coming out to sun itself.”

WildSingapore’s Ms Tan added that in areas where there are known sightings like Sungei Buloh, it is also advisable to be alert while walking around. But she stressed that as a rule, wild animals don’t look to have interaction with people, and will do no harm if left alone.

Crocodiles, she said, are no exception.

“Like most wild animals, they just mind their own business,” she said. “And if you’re quiet, then you can observe these magnificent animals just doing their thing.”
Source: CNA/lc

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Bigger push for high-intensity, large-scale commercial farms

Lee Meixian Straits Times 10 Nov 17;

The practice of urban farming has picked up both in scale and sophistication globally in recent years, but remains nascent in Singapore, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

It is hoping to make a bigger push for commercial farms - large-scale, high-productivity, high-intensity ones, usually with restricted access and selling their produce commercially - over community farms, as the former play an additional role in boosting Singapore's food security, said a spokesman.

URA said it has received inquiries in recent years on setting up urban rooftop commercial farms, but few have materialised into actual applications.

Existing commercial rooftop farms in Singapore include Comcrop's 600 sq m farm at *Scape, and CapitaLand's rooftop farm at Raffles City which uses its produce to manufacture beauty products in collaboration with its business partner Spa Esprit Group.

But most rooftop farms are still smaller-scale community farms. There is one atop a seven-storey tower at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun, and another on the rooftop of architecture firm Woha's office in Hong Kong Street.

CapitaLand is also building a 5,300 sq ft urban farm and 6,900 sq ft edible yard in its upcoming Funan integrated development.

A spokesman for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said: "While there is growing interest from companies to develop edible rooftop gardens as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts, the concept of rooftop farming in Singapore is still new and limited to small-scale community-based farming."

Small-scale community-based farms do not require URA's approval. For farming activities conducted on a commercial basis, farmers have to apply for a farm licence from AVA and can approach URA and building owners to seek support and approval for rooftop use.

A spokesman for Edible Garden City, which champions the grow-your-own-food movement in cities, said the company hopes to utilise underused places such as rooftops and office space to grow vegetables to help Singapore become more self-sufficient in its food supply and reduce its food miles - the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer.

A vegetable, fish farming system that is truly green
63-year-old veteran farmer constructs his own hybrid aquaponic system that cuts waste and saves space
Samantha Boh Straits Times 10 Nov 17;

For a year, 63-year-old Joseph Phua toiled to create his own hybrid aquaponic farm from scratch.

His back bent, he would construct his own concrete fish tanks and cut holes in rectangular wire casings to hold his vegetable seedlings.

Even the piping to circulate water in the system, which combines conventional aquaculture with hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water) in a symbiotic environment, he set up himself.

"I'm a farmer; we farmers like to do things ourselves," he told The Straits Times from his farm, Orchidville, in Sungei Tengah, off Old Choa Chu Kang Road.

Initially, he wanted to set up a hydroponic farm to grow lettuce but the weather here was far too hot.

He then hatched a solution: a closed-loop system, where vegetable grow trays are stacked above fish tanks to bring about a cooling effect.

Water used for the fish would be piped to a filter to remove solid waste, and then pumped back into the system to water the vegetables.

Getting ideas from the Internet, he started on the arduous journey - one speckled with successes, but not the ones he had hoped for.

While altering the hydroponic system into an aquaponic system, he also set up several soil-based farms housed in greenhouses which would quickly grow to produce hundreds of kilograms of vegetables like kailan, chye sim and Chinese spinach a day.

But his aquaponic farm took longer to take off. Mr Phua reckons that he had to throw away 20 to 30 batches of vegetables as he fine-tuned the system.

"They would grow for a bit, then their leaves turned soft," he said. This was mainly due to the ambient temperature being too warm.

It was also tricky getting the water conditions right.

"You had to get the pH (acidity) of the water right for both the fish and the vegetables. The amount of nutrients in the water that goes to the plants also has to be enough," he said.

He used vinegar to lower the pH and baking powder to increase it.

And his efforts have paid off.

Today, Mr Phua's 600 sq m aquaponic system - nearly the size of six five-room Housing Board flats - can grow 8,000 rosa and romaine lettuce heads and rear 8,000 fish - tilapia, jade perch and sea bass - at any one time.

He serves the vegetables, along with those grown at his soil-based farms, and the fish, at a zi char restaurant that he operates just beside his vegetable farms.

"All the vegetables we serve are harvested on the same day," said Mr Phua proudly.

The rest of the vegetables are sold to customers on weekends.

Retired civil servant Goh Shih Yong, 68, a regular customer at the restaurant, said: "The vegetables come straight from the farm, where they are harvested and immediately cooked for the guest. You can taste the freshness and juiciness. It's different from those you buy from the market."

Coming from a farming family, Mr Phua, a grandfather of two, has been in the trade since he was just six years old, starting with simple tasks like feeding the chickens and pigs at his parents' farm.

Over more than 50 years, he has tried his hand at rearing ducks and lambs, growing papayas and, just before joining the vegetable farming trade, cultivating orchids for 17 years in Mandai.

But when he moved from Mandai to Sungei Tengah five years ago, his farm land shrank from some 43ha to just 3.3ha.

Mr Phua realised that he needed to be able to do more with less. So, hearing that the Government was pushing for consumers and businesses to buy more local produce, he applied for a permit from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, which he received last year.

Mr Phua's aquaponic system has been set up at a time when the Government is pushing for farms in land-scarce Singapore to be more productive.

He believes it is one of a kind as it was constructed completely by his own hands.

"It is actually a hybrid. Most aquaponic systems have the tanks and vegetable racks separated. Mine is stacked," he said. He aims to set up two more of these space-saving aquaponic systems in his farm next year.

He added that the system mainly uses rainwater and that 90 per cent of the water used is recycled. Just 10 per cent is lost to evaporation. Leaves that turn yellow are fed to the fish.

He aims to eventually launch his own brand of vegetables, Day-1 Farm Fresh Vegetables, which he hopes to sell at supermarkets.

"We want to sell premium vegetables at affordable prices," he said.

These days, tending to the aquaponic farm has become much more relaxing.

He needs to feed the fish only once or twice a day, and to do checks on the system.

But despite his success, he said he cannot bear to eat the fish he rears.

"They trust me - I feel guilty when I eat them," he said.

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Designing a solution to plastic bag waste that fits

Euston Quah and Zach Lee For The Straits Times 11 Nov 17;

There has been much buzz since news broke that local supermarkets are in talks to charge for plastic bags in The Straits Times (Sept 24, 2; Oct 5, 6). Civic discourse on this issue is not new - the Singapore Environment Council produced a 2013 position paper with recommendations to reduce wastage and inefficient usage of plastic bags. Charging for plastic bags was one of them. While it has been informative reading the recent public opinions on this issue, we felt a few talking points could have been better elucidated on with less emotion and more impartiality.

Plastic bags are given out freely with purchases at supermarkets. Consumers also see benefits through the reuse of these plastic bags in their daily life. The real costs of plastic bags are ignored, and overconsumption ensues. First, there is the cost of producing the plastic bags and operational cost of bringing them to consumers. Second, there are many negative externalities, including many environmental costs, associated with plastic bags. In the economic context, such a situation has led to a market failure for plastic bags.

We agree that the right pricing will correct this market failure and reduce the consumption of plastic bags. Plastic bags usage in England dropped more than 85 per cent a year after a 10 Singapore cents surcharge per plastic bag was introduced. This shows that plastic bag consumption can be price-sensitive - a small increase in prices can lead to a huge drop in demand.

A tax on plastic bags would be the most direct and effective way of correcting this market failure. Whether such a tax is palatable to consumers remains to be seen. In lieu of a tax, the Government seems to be taking a consultative approach to the issue, even letting the supermarket chains work out the implementation of a surcharge.

While an industry-determined plastic bag surcharge can be viewed as good corporate responsibility, one wonders if private firms like the supermarket chains will know enough to weigh the societal costs and benefits associated with plastic bags. If left to their own accord, firms and consumers may not capture the full externalities of plastic bags. Last year, the National Environment Agency (NEA) called for a tender to study how different types of single-use carriers compare in terms of cost and impact on the environment. The results should play a part in decisions on the pricing of plastic bags.

There is also a potential for exploitation by the supermarket chains. Are the production and operational cost of plastic bags already factored into supermarket products? If so, will shoppers see a general reduction in grocery prices when this cost is transferred to the plastic bag surcharge? Will the supermarkets aim to make a profit by treating the grocery bags like any other product on their shelves? How will the profits be treated? Transparency will go a long way in providing assurance to consumers who might, in turn, be persuaded to support the surcharge.

We would take a step further and argue for a national cost-benefit analysis on plastic bags. Considering all the costs and benefits associated with plastic bags will address the issue of asymmetric information, an economic concept of unequal information between stakeholders. Government or civic contributions, through the NEA, environmental non-governmental organisations, and even the Consumers Association of Singapore, are required to ensure that the necessary information is accounted for. This will allow for a transparent, fair and consultative approach in determining the price of plastic bags.

Earlier, we pointed out the price sensitivity of British consumers to plastic bags. Will local shoppers react similarly to a price surcharge? Miniso in Singapore has successfully implemented a plastic bag surcharge (The Straits Times, Sept 24) and Ikea has even stopped issuing plastic bags. However, successes at these retailers might not translate directly to equal successes at curbing the overall ubiquity of plastic bags. Shoppers make fewer regular visits to these retailers compared with supermarkets. Purchases at these retailers are different for groceries as well. Consumption patterns for plastic bags at supermarkets differ. We also suspect that shoppers might have compensated by collecting more plastic bags from supermarkets.

One encouraging success story is an incentive scheme offered by FairPrice. The supermarket chain has offered a 10 cent discount on a $10 minimum spend if shoppers bring their own bags. We have also, at times, avoided the use of plastic bags at the FairPrice self-checkout counters due to the prompt asking us whether we have brought our own bags. The mechanics of prompting this incentive at the self-checkout counters at FairPrice present a very interesting opportunity for a field experiment. Supermarket chains can vary between a discount or a surcharge and their amount, and enable or disable prompts to see which combination works the best for discouraging the use of plastic bags.

Traditionally in economics, either a carrot or stick approach is prescribed to correct a market failure. Behavioural economics seem to suggest that a surcharge will be more effective since people tend to overweigh losses over gains - people are loss averse. Saliency provided by prompts during the checkout process should also prove effective in getting shoppers to avoid using plastic bags. Supermarket chains are masters in eliciting and utilising consumer behavioural insights. This can be put to good use on the issue of plastic bags.

An online design community platform, OpenIDEO, recently issued a challenge on "How might we get products to people without generating plastic waste?" A Singapore-based design team won an Ideator's Award after their idea was one of the top 16 shortlisted. They came up with their solution through a process of empathising with consumers, defining the problem, and iteratively ideating, prototyping and testing solutions. Finding an effective and innovative solution to the issue of plastic bag wastage and inefficiency will require a similar process, with inputs from civil society, private firms and government bodies, plus the right dose of behavioural insights and sound economic thinking.

Euston Quah is a professor of environmental economics and cost-benefit analysis, and head of economics at Nanyang Technological University. He is also president of the Economic Society of Singapore.

Zach Lee is a research associate at NTU and Tumcreate, a National Research Foundation-funded project exploring future public transport systems.

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Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden now largest in Asia after S$12 million extension

LOUISA TANG Today Online 10 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE — From the flying fox, swing rope bridge to a wheelchair trampoline, these are some of the new attractions that young visitors can experience at the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden extension at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Built over a two-year period at a cost of approximately S$12 million, the extension to the four-hectare garden makes it the largest children’s garden in Asia. The construction was partially supported by a S$1.9 million donation from the Jacob Ballas Estate and Friends, and other fundraisers.

Officially opened by the National Parks Board on Friday (Nov 10), it will now offer attractions and programmes geared towards youths of up to 14 years old to enable them to learn about a range of eco-systems. Previously, the garden catered to children of up to 12 years old.

Some of the new features include the flying fox — a zipline connected to tall tree houses that children can glide along — and a swing rope bridge, as well as inclusive play equipment for children with special needs.

Children in wheelchairs will be able to enjoy playing on the wheelchair trampoline located in the forest zone, one of four new zones - farm, forest, stream, and orchard - in the extension. Five metallic “chairs” that children can sit on and thump — like percussion instruments — can also help children with autism to concentrate and focus through the repetitive nature of learning a tune.

The farm zone will give visitors the chance to get up close to the different fruits and vegetables grown there. They can also learn how to grow their own food, such as cocoa and tea, and make their own compost at home.

Mr Nelson Ham, 46, who visits the Children’s Garden about once a month with his two young daughters, said it was “very important” that inclusive play elements were included.

Aside from that, the construction firm director added that his favourite part of the extension was the bridge that overlooks the orchard and “brings us close to the trees”.

“There’s now a wide variety of features to enjoy. The way kids play now is different from last time – they interact a lot with their phones. So looking at streams and trees is important for them,” he added.

Over the next two weeks, the inaugural Singapore Botanic Gardens Children’s Festival will also host activities for children of all ages at the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden and around the Botanic Gardens. These activities include storytelling sessions and a culinary classroom.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who officially opened the extension on Friday, said that over the last two decades, the Botanic Gardens has “not just grown in size, but also become richer and more diverse in its offerings”.

The new Ethnobotany Garden, which will allow visitors to learn about plants used by the indigenous cultures of Southeast Asia, will open sometime next year, added Mr Wong.

NParks unveils Asia’s largest children’s garden, launches festival
Channel NewsAsia 10 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) has unveiled what it said is Asia’s largest children’s garden. The Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens has now doubled in size to four hectares, following a two hectare extension, NParks said on Friday (Nov 10).

Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong officiated the opening of the garden’s extension. The garden, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, includes attractions and programmes geared towards youngsters up to 14 years old. Prior to the extension, the Garden catered to children up to 12 years old.

The extension comprises four new zones which allow children to experience and learn about different eco-systems: Farm, forest, stream, and orchard. Inclusive play equipment in the Forest zone will also support play between children with and without special needs.

Mr Wong also launched the Children’s festival, held in celebration of the garden’s extension. It will feature over 100 educational programmes and fun activities where children can discover more about nature through play, craft, storytelling, investigations and walks.

Visitors can also enjoy festival activities, performances, carnival game booths and movie screenings at the Eco-Garden, as well as specially created horticultural displays.

The festival will run from Nov 11 to 26.

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Malaysia: The east is set to get wet

razak ahma d, sira habibu, zazali musa, yee xiang yun, ong ha n se n, and geryl og ilvy The Star 10 Nov 17;

PETALING JAYA: Even before the clean-up of the big floods in Penang can be wrapped up, the country is bracing for more floods. The north-east monsoon is likely to arrive in less than a week, bringing heavy rains until January in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, east Johor and west Sarawak.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) warned that low-lying or flood-prone areas in these states were at risk in the event of continuous rain lasting several days.

The country is expected to enter the north-east monsoon from the middle of November to March next year.

If continuous heavy rains occur at the same time as high tide, then the risks of flooding will be higher, MetMalaysia director-general Alui Bahari said in an e-mail response to questions.

He said the episodes were expected to happen in Kelantan and Terengganu from this month to December. From then to January, heavy rains are expected in Pahang and east Johor.

In January, heavy rains were expected to be more focused in west Sarawak, said Alui.

According to the MetMalaysia website, there are four seasons in Malaysia, namely the south-west monsoon (May to September), north-east monsoon (November to March), and the inter-monsoon periods.

Johor has already had a taste of what is coming when heavy rain led to flash floods in parts of Pontian yesterday.

Johor Health, Environment, Information and Education committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat, however, said they were well prepared for any floods.

He said there were regular meetings held involving various groups including the state Civil Defence Department, Fire and Rescue Department, local authorities, district officers and non-governmental organisations.

“It is important to reach out to the people, especially those living in flood-prone areas, and ensure they are ready to face the floods,’’ said Ayub.

He advised residents living in low lying areas not to take things for granted as floods were annual occurrences in several parts of Johor.

“However, the flood patterns might change from year to year, depending on the amount of rainfall and how long it rains,’’ added Ayub.

In Kelantan, more than 8,000 personnel from various agencies are on standby to provide assistance in case of floods.

State secretary Datuk Mohd Faudzi Che Mamat said they had set up a multi-agency taskforce to maximise resources to quickly assist flood victims.

The Kelantan authorities have prepared 163 relief centres to accommodate 20,000 flood victims.

“We have already started stocking food supplies in 216 bases covering all the districts in Kelantan,” he said.

Pahang state secretary Datuk Seri Muhammad Safian Ismail said the state’s disaster committee was not expecting major floods this year. However, it has taken extra precautions after what happened in Penang and Kedah.

He said all supplies had been ordered to be sent to forward bases statewide beginning Nov 15.

“We are just expecting normal floods this year but due to what happened in Penang and Kedah, we are making some extra effort. We are preparing as though there will be big floods,” he said.

Sarawak state Fire and Rescue Department director Nor Hisham Mohd said they were fully prepared for any floods that may occur. He said 1,181 personnel were put on standby with 590 on duty anytime round the clock.

The state also has 43 volunteer firefighter units comprising 2,100 members. All 29 fire station units across Sarawak have been divided into seven zones – Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman, Sibu, Bintulu, Miri and Limbang – for better coordination and efficient mobilisation.

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Malaysia: Johor opens two more flood relief centres after downpour

Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 11 Nov 17;

JOHOR BARU: Two more flood relief centres were opened in Johor Baru and Kota Tinggi today after heavy rain caused flash floods in several areas in the two districts.

State Health, Environment, Education and Information Executive Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said flash floods that hit Kampung Lepau in Pengerang, Kota Tinggi resulted in four people from two families to be evacuated to the village's community hall.

"The other relief centre that was opened today was at the Kampung Sungai Tiram hall where 20 victims from four families were evacuated," said Ayub.

The relief centre in SK Batu 10 in Skudai, which was opened on Thursday, still housed 18 flood evacuees there.

"Various government agencies will continue to monitor the situation in the affected areas." said Ayub.

Gombak, Hulu Langat hit by flash floods
TEOH PEI YING New Straits Times 10 Nov 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Heavy downpour since 4pm today resulted in flash floods in several areas in Gombak and Hulu Langat districts.

Areas affected are Batu 71/2 near Hulu Kelang, Taman Rawiyah Jaya, Batu 8, Batu 9, Kampung Sungai Pusu and International Islamic University Malaysia in Gombak; Kg Sungai Gahal, Kg Pasir and Kg Sungai Tekali, Kg Sungai Pening and Kg Seri Nanding in Hulu Langat.

A relief centre was opened at SK Sg Serai. At Press time, 22 families (82 people) were taking shelter there.

Apart from flash floods, landslides also occurred in Jalan Lee Yun near Taman Zoo View and Jalan Mulia 1/2, Taman Mulia Jaya and Kampung Sungai Pusu Gombak in Ampang.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department assistant director of operations Mohd Sani Harul said at least four houses in Batu 7 1/2 were inundated by water.

“The water rose to nearly 0.5m high. The flood there was a result of overflowing Sungai Klang.

“Other areas were mainly due to clogged drainage system.” he said.

A car also damaged in one of the landslides.

Seremban hit by flash floods

SEREMBAN: Flash floods struck low lying areas in the city here following a three hour downpour and strong winds.

Heavy rains from 5pm caused water level to rise at Jalan Mantin, Jalan Labu, Jalan Tuanku Munawir, Jalan Datuk Bandar Tunggal, Taman Mutiara Galla, Taman Sri Pulasan and Bukit Tangga.

Some 20 cars parked at Wisma UMNO building near Jalan Tuanku Munawir were also partially submerged in flood waters but no victims were reportedly trapped.

Seremban Fire and Rescue Operations chief K. Putthisigamany said the continuous rain caused water to overflow the monsoon drains near Wisma UMNO.

He added 11 firemen from Senawang fire station were also roped in to help when they received a distress call at 6pm.

"Based on preliminary reports, some drivers were trapped in their cars but when firemen arrived, the drivers managed to relocate their cars to higher ground," said Putthisigamany.

He added the rain has dissipated and the water level has receded but the authorities will continue to monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, five homes in Taman Mutiara Galla were inundated with water measuring as high as 0.5 meters as water black flowed into their homes due to clogged drains.

However, nobody were injured and no residents were relocated.

Three-hour downpour causes flash floods in some parts of Seremban
sarban singh The Star 10 Nov 17;

SEREMBAN: A heavy downpour that lasted three hours caused flash floods in several areas in town here Friday evening.

Among the worst affected areas were Jalan Tunku Hasan, Jalan Tun Dr Ismail, Jalan Tuanku Munawir and Jalan Dato Sheikh Ahmad.

In some areas, water levels increased to 0.3m, resulting in a traffic snarl.

A Fire and Rescue Department official said the flash floods were caused due to unusually heavy rain and clogged drains in some locations.

The officer said flash floods were also reported at Taman Mutiara Galla and Taman Sri Pulasan.

"Five houses were affected at Taman Mutiara Galla when water level increased to 0.3m.

"However, water levels have since receded and the situation is well under control," she said.

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Indonesia awarded Best Diving Destination in world

Antara 7 Nov 17;

London (ANTARA News) - Indonesia was awarded the Best Dive Destination 2017 by British Dive Magazine at the World Travel Market (WTM) London held in ExCel London, England, from Nov 6 to 8.

The award was delivered by Dive Magazine publisher, Graeme Gourlay, to Indonesian Tourism Minister, Arief Yahya, at the Wonderful Indonesia pavilion during the largest tourism exhibition in London on Tuesday (Nov 6).

Yahya expressed his gratitude to the magazine for choosing Indonesias diving sites as the best in the world and to those who voted Indonesia as the best diving location in the world.

The award is expected to encourage Indonesia to continue to maintain the sustainability of marine tourism, especially diving. Indonesia collected 1,076 votes out of 9.399 votes, or 11.45 percent of the total votes.

According to the minister, the award from Dive Magazine is a global recognition for Indonesia.

Gourlay stated that Indonesia has the best diving destination in the world, mainly because of the various corals that grow in the countrys sea.

He added that Indonesia has been conducting the best conservative actions. "You have got the most beautiful coral in the world," he remarked, hoping that the Indonesian people can continue to preserve their maritime wealth.

The awards presented by Dive Magazine are divided into three categories, namely the Dive Travel Award: Best Destination 2017, the Best Dive Center or Resort 2017, and the Best Live Board 2017.

With about 17 thousand islands, Indonesia has thousands of species of animals and attractive natural wealth. Indonesia has recorded the highest repeat visitors.

Dive Magazine published Indonesia as having popular destinations such as Komodo National Park in East Nusa Tenggara and Lembeh Island in Bitung, North Sulawesi.
Editor: Priyambodo RH

The Five Top Diving Spots in Indonesia You Need to Know
NetralNews 10 Nov 17;

JAKARTA, NETRALNEWS.COM - Indonesia has been given the title of The Most Popular Diving Destination 2017 from Dive Magazine. That is, Indonesia is believed to be one of the best diving destinations in the world. Moreover, the title was given through digital voting using one IP address for one vote. Indonesia's dive destination earned 22,552 votes.

Then you do not need to find diving tourism destinations far out of the country, as Indonesia has several beautiful and spectacular diving sites. Here are the best diving tour options in Indonesia that you need to know.

1. Karimunjawa, Central Java

Karimunjawa National Park is an archipelago in Java Sea which is included in Jepara regency, Central Java. Since March 15, 2001, Karimunjawa was established by the government of Jepara as a National Park. Karimunjawa is home to coral reefs, mangrove forests, coastal forests, and nearly 400 species of marine fauna, of which 242 species are ornamental fish.

Karimunjawa has now become the charm of the tour of the Marine Park began to favor the local and foreign tourists. The waves in Karimunjawa are low and benign, bounded by beaches, mostly white sand beaches. So no one Karimunjawa become one of the best diving tourism destinations in Indonesia.

2. Derawan Islands, East Kalimantan

In these islands, there are a number of marine tourism objects that are so fantastic, one of them is the Underwater Park which attracted many foreign tourists, especially the world-class divers. Just so you know, Derawan Islands Underwater Park was once nominated to World Heritage Site since 2005.

In Derawan Islands, there are some very important coastal and small island ecosystems, namely the Coral Reef of Seagrass Savannah and Mangrove Forest. As one of the best diving tours in Indonesia, here you can see a variety of protected species such as green turtles, hawksbill, whales, dolphins, clams, coconut shells, mermaids, barracudas, and more.

3. Raja Ampat, Papua

Surely, Raja Ampat is already a well-known diving destination in Indonesia. Moreover, this diving spot is one of the ten best waters for diving sites around the world. Raja Ampat is now the destination of divers who are interested in the underwater beauty.

The Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, and the National Oceanographic Institute (LON) team of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) have conducted rapid assessments in 2001 and 2002.

As a result, in these waters there are more than 540 hard coral species (75% of the total species in the world), more than 1,000 species of reef fish, 700 species of mollusks, and gonodactyloid stomatopod crustaceans. This makes up 75% of the world's coral species in Raja Ampat.

4. Bunaken, North Sulawesi

Bunaken National Park was officially established in 1991 and is the first Marine Park in Indonesia. The park is located in the Coral Triangle and is home to 390 species of coral reefs, various species of fish, mollusks, reptiles, and marine mammals.

In addition, Bunaken National Park is representative of Indonesia's marine ecosystem which includes sea grass, coral reefs, and coastal ecosystems. Species of algae that can be found in Bunaken National Park are Caulerpa, Halimeda, and Padina, while many seaweed species are Thalassia hemprichii, Enhallus acoroides, and Thalassaodendron ciliatum.

5. Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi

The depth of water in Wakatobi National Park varies, the deepest reaches 1,044 meters below sea level. In this park, there is a panorama of natural beauty under the sea that has 25 coral reefs. Coral reef that can be found about 112 species of 13 families located at 25 points along 600 km of coastline.

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Vietnam: Hydropower dams endangering aquatic resources on Serepok River

VietNamNet Bridge 10 Nov 17;

The rich aquatic resources on Serepok River are in danger as more hydropower dams are being built on the mainstream, leading to changes in the water current and environment.

Serepok has a basin area of 12,030 square kilometers in Vietnam and mainstream total length of 290 kilometers.

The biodiversity of the river is high, with 195 fish species and other aquatic species, including ones with high economic and scientific value. Aquatic resources provide daily food and provide jobs for thousands of local households.

According to Phan Thi Le Anh from MARD, a survey conducted within the framework of the Fisheries Management in Mekong Basin project in 2010, identified 34 fish species of high economic value with high quality meat, rich nutrients and high yields, or 17.4 percent of total fish species found on the river.

There are also fish species endemic in the Central Highlands which are in danger of becoming extinct such as ca tra soc (Probarbus jullieni) and ca mom trau (Bangana behri).

Scientists have confirmed that five fish species are listed in Vietnam’s Red Book and six species are endangered in IUCN 2016 (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources).

However, aquatic resources are in decline because of hydropower plants on the upper course. The fish on Serepok have the habit of migrating within the river.

The existence of hydropower dams across the river blocks their way, making it impossible for them to go to the upper and middle course for reproduction or return to the downstream. As a result, the number of fish on Serepok are decreasing.

In the past, many people in the communes of Tram Thang, Ea Po, Nam N’dir, Duc Xuyen and Quang Phu lived on fishing. The career brought income as high as that from rice cultivation. Now, fishing villages are getting quiet as people cannot earn a living with fishing.

Nguyen Van Thuan, a local man, said he can catch only several fish a day which cannot feed his family. Thuan now fishes for fun.

Phan Van Bang, an old fisherman, confirmed that there is no fish to catch and fishermen have given up the career.

Le Anh from MARD found that in 2005, nearly 1,000 people lived on fishing in Dak Nong and the output was 12.9 kilos per head per day in the rainy season and 7.7 kilos in the dry season.

But since the day D’ray H’ling 2, Buon Kuop and Buon Tua Srah plants became operational, the output has been decreasing sharply.

In 2009, the number of fishermen fell to 400 and the output decreased to 300 tons from 1,000 tons in 2005.

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Cambodia: Bird life returns to exploited land

Mom Sophon Khmer Times 10 Nov 17;

As the sun sets on the Boeung Sne Conservation Area, birdsong swells over the lake. An egret flies to its nest and other birds take to the air, surprised by visitors in a rowing boat.

Chea Sarith looks out from his office overlooking the Prey Veng province flooded forest where 16 species of bird have returned since the area was protected. These include rare species such as the marabou.

Not long ago there was little wildlife there due to loss of forest and illegal hunting.

“The people who live near the lake are happy to see the lost animals from the area return,” says Mr Sarith, president of the WOMEN non-government organisation.

The NGO runs environment projects in addition to helping disadvantaged women. This one in Ba Phnom district is to mitigate climate change.

Protection had brought thousands of animals of many species to find food around the lake, Mr Sarith said.

The area is developing gradually into a tourist site, though its existence is not widely known.

Community members say they need experts to advise them on preparations for tourism development in nearly 100 hectares of flooded forest in the middle of the 2,000 hectare Boeung Sne lake.

Mr Sarith said the Prey Veng programme had promoted conservation of natural resources in three main areas of fish, flooded forests and rare birds.

He said it was important for the region to conserve these resources.

He created the programme to preserve the flooded forest as a habitat for birds and for the reproduction of fish, which provide food for people living nearby.

“Because I work in this area and am a resident in the area, I do not want to see the erosion of the forest and the loss of natural resources. Therefore, from 2010 until now, we have been working on this project.”

Lay Chanthorn, who lives in the province and who was visiting the area, said he never thought that Prey Veng had a bird conservation area in which many kinds of animals were starting to return.

“Conservation is a good idea to preserve birds which have become endangered due to being hunted by local people,” he said. “Once I arrived at the area, it looks really great taking a boat to see the birds in the evening.

“It was fun to see the animals because I do not need to go far away. I can see the birds near my home.”

He said that previously, big birds such as the marabou stork species and many other kinds of rare birds had been found only in conservation areas of the Tonle Sap.

Now that these kinds of animals were in Prey Veng province, the younger generation could see them, he said.

Mr Sarith said the conservation team had overcome many difficulties, some of which had almost prevented establishment of the protected area.

The area had appeared abandoned, with people living nearby fishing or hunting illegally.

However after WOMEN created the conservation programme, there was collaboration with experts from government departments and local authorities to set up bird and fish patrols and educate people about conservation.

The area was estimated to be 90 to 95 percent protected but opportunists were still taking part in illegal activities such as fishing with illegal nets or hunting birds.

Mr Sarith said his organisation collaborated with officials and authorities to spread information and educate people to join conservation efforts.

“We have a community-based education programme on climate change about the preservation of natural resources,” he said. “We instruct them about fisheries laws and forest law relating to animal hunting.

“We explain to them about the law and the benefits they would get when the natural resources are still there.”

Boeung Sne has limitations as a potential tourist area due to the size of the natural lake and its bird life.

Mr Sarith is organising a programme to provide community tourist attractions to increase income for people living near the lake.

“We will set up an ecotourism site,” he said. “I will organise to have restaurants and boats to look at the animals. Currently, there are people who watch the birds, but not in big numbers.”

Prey Veng provincial environment department chief Toch Varatha said his department was planning to help the community to create potential ecotourism sites like the one in the Boeung Sne area.

“Through the potential of the natural area and natural resources in Boeung Sne lake, it is expected that other communities will contribute more to the development of this area into a tourist site.

“When it becomes a tourist destination, those who live alongside the lake will benefit most.”

Although there is no community tourist base, thousands of families living in 23 villages in five communes near the lake have already benefited from the conservation project. Small-scale fishing businesses are one example.

Boeung Sne Conservation Community Commission member Pan Yoeurn said that after the conservation effort, rare species of birds returned to the area.

This seemed to make it rich in animal life and an attractive place to visit in the future.

He takes tourists on evening cruises to watch the birds. There is no fixed price for his services. Customers decide how much to pay.

Mr Chanthorn, who took a boat ride, said that if the area turned into a tourist site, and had relaxing places or small restaurants as in other tourist destinations, he would introduce the area to his friends.

Mr Sarith said he thought those supporting tourism services or visiting the Boeung Sne area to look at the birds would mostly be people living in the area.

He said the eco-tourism project would be a model for other communities.

“They can start thinking and getting together to make plans to make it successful for each community because each region has different tourist potential.”

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Cambodia: Marine park to be created in Preah Sihanouk

Pech Sotheary Khmer Times 10 Nov 17;

The marine park will aim to protect underwater biodiversity. Supplied
For the first time, a marine park will be created in Preah Sihanouk province to manage and protect the natural resources of the region.

The initiative comes from the Ministry of Environment. Environment Minister Say Samal said this followed the creation of Koh Rong National Park, alongside which the marine sanctuary will be created.

“The ministry has been looking for partnership possibilities to develop human resources, such as researchers and scientists to set boundaries and plan the protection of underwater biodiversity, as well as strengthen the capacity of rangers to protect the marine park,” he said.

Mr Samal listed the many natural resources of the marine park, such as coral reefs, sea grass, mangrove forests, numerous species of fish, and hopefully a return of the dolphins who have been endangered.

Country director of Fauna and Flora International Ahab Downer supports the ministry’s initiative, while his organisation is cooperating with relevant institutions to set up a marine conservatory in Koh Rong province.

In June 2016, the government decided to establish a Marine Fisheries Management Area around the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem.

The Ministry of Agriculture stated that the establishment of the site was aimed at protecting, preserving and using marine fisheries sustainably in accordance with national fisheries policy as well as increasing people’s revenue.

So far, the Ministry of Environment has created 49 protected areas as well as biodiversity conservation corridors, covering roughly 41 percent of the country’s total land area. The ministry also plans to create six additional protected areas in Preah Vihear, Battambang, Kratie, Kampong Chhang, and Bantey Meanchey provinces.

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Agriculture can curb planet warming emissions 'immediately': U.N.

Alex Whiting Reuters 10 Nov 17;

BONN, Germany (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The global agricultural sector can curb emissions immediately and provide a window for fossil fuel-guzzling energy and transport sectors to decarbonize before global warming spirals out of control, the United Nations said on Friday.

“In the next few years ... agriculture ... could produce early results immediately, cost-effectively and all over the world,” said RenĂ© Castro of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at climate talks in Bonn.

That will give energy and transport sectors time to switch to renewables “to really take us out of the precipice and the path we are going on which is far beyond the goal of 2 degrees Celsius”, he said.

Global temperatures are expected to rise 3 degrees above pre-industrial levels under current plans to curb emissions. This is far above the goal enshrined in the 2015 Paris climate agreement which limits warming to well below 2 degrees.

Scientists say that any rise above 2 degrees takes the planet into dangerous weather patterns with increased droughts, more frequent and powerful storms, and floods.

Small island states, many of which are already suffering the effects of rising sea levels and powerful storms, want the warming limited to 1.5 degrees.

“Agriculture is a large source of powerful greenhouse gases ... but has great potential to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases in our lifetime,” said Helena Molin Valdes, head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat.

Agriculture, forestry and changes in land use together produce 21 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, making them the second largest emitter after the energy sector, according to FAO.

At the same time, the global demand for food is expected to soar as the population is projected to grow to 9.7 billion people by 2050, up from 7.6 billion today. “We need to feed them, and at same time we need to curb emissions from agriculture ... We think it’s doable,” Castro, FAO’s assistant-director general, said on the sidelines of the U.N. talks.

Livestock account for nearly two thirds of agriculture emissions, says FAO. But changes in the way livestock are raised have been successfully piloted and could be scaled up.

Recent projects in Brazil and Argentina, for example, have managed to increase livestock productivity from one cow per hectare to four cows per hectare, and at the same time absorb carbon dioxide and methane emissions by better managing grasslands and soils and planting trees, Castro said.

Costa Rica already grows carbon dioxide-neutral coffee, and China says it plans to do the same with tea, he said.

“So if a small country like Costa Rica can do it, and a big player like China can also do it, in the middle you have every other country,” said Castro, who is a former minister for environment for Costa Rica.

Christian Schmidt, Germany’s federal minister of food and agriculture, said: “(Agriculture‘s) potential to offer climate change solutions is enormous.”

Reporting by Alex Whiting @Alexwhi, Editing by Ros Russell

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