Best of our wild blogs: 7 Dec 17

17 Dec (Sun): FREE Sea Angel R.U.M. Monthly Ubin Mangrove Walk
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

23rd Dec (Sat): Herp Walk @ Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (Holiday Special!)
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Living rocky shores of Pulau Ubin
wild shores of singapore

10th Singapore Raptor Watch Report
Singapore Bird Group

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Incidents of fallen trees and branches at their lowest since 2001: NParks

Samantha Boh Straits Times 6 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE - Despite online chatter, which suggests the opposite, incidents of falling trees and branches have dropped to their lowest level since recording began 16 years ago.

Though at least five cases of toppled trees and falling branches were fingered for causing traffic jams and damaging vehicles last month (November), the 361 incidents reported this year is a decline of more than 85 per cent from 3,000 in 2001, the National Parks Board (NParks) said.

The number is also less than half of the 800 recorded last year, and involved mostly snapped branches, rather than uprooted trees, NParks added.

NParks credits the plummeting figures to its tree management programme, in which trees are inspected and pruned rigorously, and those in danger of falling are replaced.

"We are also currently developing modelling techniques to better understand the behaviour of trees under varying environmental conditions, said Mr Oh Cheow Sheng, group director of streetscape at NParks, which manages about two million trees along streets, in parks and on statelands.

NParks has also been replacing storm-vulnerable species, such as the rapidly-growing Albizia and Spathodea trees, in forested areas next to roads.

For instance, a plot opposite the Bukit Batok Nature Park was cleared recently by the agency over safety concerns. It had been covered with Albizia trees, which are vulnerable to storms and more prone to falling because of their brittle wood structure and shallow roots. NParks is replanting the plot with native plants.

Other enhancements to the tree management programme, introduced in May last year, include pruning and crown reduction before periods of more severe weather events, such as the storms which slash the island during December's northeast monsoon. This is done on top of normal tree pruning.

The critical role of tree maintenance was brought to the fore after a 40m tall tembusu heritage tree in the Singapore Botanic Gardens fell and killed a woman in February. St George's Church at Minden Road had a 30m tall tembusu tree on its premises inspected after the incident, and had it chopped down when it was deemed unhealthy.

During tree inspection and pruning, a detailed visual tree assessment is first carried out of the root collar - where the stem and roots meet - trunk, and canopy of the individual tree.

Where necessary, a second-level advanced tree inspection is then conducted involving the use of specialised diagnostic equipment such as the resistograph and tomograph.

A resistograph is a tool used to drill into the tree's trunk. The resistance the drill meets is an indication of whether there is decay - decayed wood would offer less resistance.

A sonic tomography measures the speed sound travels through the wood. Sound travels slower through decayed wood than healthy wood.

"We will continue to review our tree management regime to ensure that it remains robust and comprehensive," said Mr Oh.

Botanist Shawn Lum, a senior lecturer at Nanyang Technological University's Asian School of the Environment, said even with regular inspections and maintenance, an accident can still happen due to unexpected natural elements, such as a sudden strong gust of wind, or a long bout of heavy rain that loosens the soil.

"There are so many variables that it would be impossible to have zero tree falls or fallen tree branches...but what can be done is to keep them to a minimum, he said.

"The alternative is to have a treeless city."

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Sand mafias and vanishing islands: How the world is dealing with the global sand shortage

The growing scarcity of sand in parts of the world is a serious issue, and one that has been linked with everything from organised crime to natural disasters
Josh Gabbatiss The Independent Online 6 Dec 17;

Sand seems like a limitless resource, but mounting evidence suggests this is far from the case.

We use sand as a key ingredient in the production of glass, electronics and – most importantly – concrete, but the growing need for construction materials means in some parts of the world, supplies of sand are dwindling rapidly.

Sand and gravel are now the most extracted materials in the world by weight, and since these products take thousands of years to form by erosion, demand is beginning to outstrip supply.

The United Nations Environment Programme estimated that in 2012 the world used nearly 30 billion tons of these materials just to make concrete – enough to construct a wall 27m high by 27m wide around the equator.

While much has been made of the impact infrastructure developments such as roads and buildings have on the surrounding environment, little attention has been paid to the impact of extracting raw materials such as sand to build that infrastructure.

As scientists wake up to this new problem, it is becoming clear that sand scarcity is an issue with significant sociopolitical, economic and environmental implications.

Dr Aurora Torres, an ecologist at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, is one of a handful of scientists investigating this issue.

Two years ago she began to research sand scarcity in depth, and soon found the problem was far bigger than she initially thought.

“As we were digging into this topic, we started to find lots of conflict across the world, and lots of evidence that sand is becoming increasingly scarce – especially this year,” says Torres.

Torres and her collaborators outlined their findings in a recent paper in the journal Science titled “A looming tragedy of the sand commons”.

Historically, sand has been a common-pool resource extracted and used locally. But a combination of regional shortages, increased regulation and appreciation of sand mining’s environmental impact has turned sand from a local product into an expensive, globalised commodity.

The trade value of sand has increased by almost six fold in the last 25 years. In the US alone, where sand production has increased by 24 per cent in the past five years, the sand industry is worth nearly $9bn (£6.7bn).

Though sand extraction rates are high across Europe and North America, the biggest consumers of sand are fast-growing Asian nations.

“Where it tends to happen is India, China, places where you have rapid and large amounts of construction,” says Dr John Orr, an engineer and expert in concrete structures at the University of Cambridge.

Singapore, meanwhile, has become by far the world’s largest importer of sand, adding 130 square kilometres to its land area over a 40 year period. The island nation has achieved this by dumping millions of tons of sand into the ocean.

As these countries expand, constructing endless roads and megacities, their demand for sand continues to grow. So enormous is China’s appetite for construction, in fact, that between 2011 and 2013 it used more concrete than the US got through in the entire 20th century.

This means that, at national and local levels at least, these regions are facing a genuine sand shortage. According to Pham Van Bac, director of Vietnam’s Department of Construction Materials, the country may well run out of sand by 2020.

Moreover, as sand becomes big business, the sand trade has attracted criminals.

“Because sand has suddenly become a very valuable resource, ‘sand mafias’ have appeared operating the sand mining business,” says Torres. This problem has been particularly noted in India, but according to Dr Pascal Peduzzi in a UN report titled “Sand, rarer than one thinks”, illegal sand mining operations have become widespread thanks to weak governance and corruption.

“In the past year there have been hundreds of people murdered because of conflicts between sand mafias,” says Torres.

Despite this alarming turn of events, it is still difficult to imagine how sand can be in short supply when the world’s deserts apparently contain a never-ending supply of the stuff.

But not all sand is created equal. The fine grained sand of the Sahara, for example, does not make an appropriate building material. Instead, sand miners must look to the banks of local rivers and coastlines, and this brings a whole host of environmental and human problems.

Sand extraction in Kenya has been linked with damage to coral reefs, while in India it threatens critically endangered crocodiles and in Indonesia islands have literally vanished due to excessive mining.

Sand extraction causes coastal erosion, destroys ecosystems, creates environments that facilitate disease transmission, and even sows the seeds for natural disasters.

“One of the more clear impacts on human systems is the increased vulnerability to natural hazards such as storms and tsunamis,” says Torres. This has been demonstrated in Sri Lanka, where research has revealed that intensive sand mining prior to the 2004 tsunami made the waves more devastating than they otherwise would have been.

“The beaches disappeared, and so there was no natural barrier stopping the flooding,” says Torres.

Sand’s common-pool status has made it difficult to monitor or control its extraction. Nevertheless, with such potentially catastrophic outcomes, some nations are under pressure to regulate their sand mining.

Earlier this year, the California Coastal Commission made moves to end coastal sand mining in the US by closing down operations in the Monterey Bay area that have been linked with beach erosion. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who participated in the talks to end mining, described the resulting agreement as “an historic victory for environmental conservation nationwide”.

But where will the US, and other developed nations that are becoming squeamish about sand mining, extract their building materials if not from their own land? One option increasingly being used in the UK is to mine sand from the sea floor. Another is to import sand from elsewhere.

When she first heard about the scarcity of sand, Dr Mette Bendixen, a coastal morphologist at the University of Copenhagen, thought immediately of her work investigating how the coast of Greenland responds to climate change.

“Because of the warming temperatures we have melting of the Greenland ice sheet, and with that melt comes huge amounts of sand and gravel,” she says.

For Greenland, Bendixen thought, exporting sand could be a way to develop an economy that is in need of a boost. She envisioned a burgeoning industry that would enable the people of Greenland to become independent from the Danish subsidies they currently rely on, all thanks to sand.

But sand is heavy, and expensive to transport long distances. What’s more, whether sand is extracted from the sea bed or from Greenland, the environmental issues are simply being shifted elsewhere.

As outcry about the effects of sand mining increases in countries like India, pressure is mounting to find alternatives for use in construction.

Recycling concrete by crushing it down into rubble is a possibility, but not one that works for rapidly developing countries that lack the old infrastructure to tear up.

Finding sand alternatives is another option, but a complicated one. Sand is a special material because it has historically been so abundant and cheap. Producing a replacement with those qualities is difficult, but projects are under way to produce such a material.

Orr was enlisted to help with just such a project back in 2014, when Indian researchers based in Goa approached him to work on an initiative that would address two of their country’s most pressing concerns: the lack of sand and the abundance of waste plastic.

“The idea they had was: why don’t we use some of this waste plastic, shred it up and make it into the right sized particles to make concrete,” says Orr.

“We ended up using plastic sand essentially, which is actually a by-product of recycling industry procedures. They shred up plastic, and that can be put into the concrete mixtures,” he says.

Besides plastic, wood and various other concrete alternatives have all been suggested, but none have yet caught on in any significant way. Ultimately, as sand stocks diminish and prices soar, developers will be forced to find alternatives.

If sand scarcity is to be addressed in a serious way, those involved in the issue agree that a major challenge is making people aware that it is an issue in the first place.

“A large discrepancy exists between the magnitude of the problem and public awareness of it,” wrote Peduzzi back in 2014.

A recent up swell of interest has raised its profile since then, but Torres warns that this issue goes beyond a mere lack of sand. “The challenges we are going to face in mining of many different resources are not a matter of absolute abundance, or of scarcity,” she says. “It’s going to be more about the implications that this is having for climate change, environments and consequences for human systems.”

We are unlikely to completely run out of sand, but quite aside from the diminishing stocks the devastating impacts of sand mining mean this is no longer something that can continue unchecked.

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Malaysia: Perhilitan wants stiffer punishment in place for poachers

Esther Landau New Straits Times 6 Dec 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) wants the government to put in place stiffer punishment on the illegal possession of tiger carcasses.

Its director-general Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said the department is in the midst of proposing the amendment for Section 68(2) (c) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) so that poachers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

“We are now in the midst of amending the act where the punishment for the offence will be increased and the minimum period of imprisonment will be introduced (as now there’s no such provision in the current act),” Abdul Kadir told the New Straits Times when contacted.

Abdul Kadir was commenting on the one-month prison sentence slapped on a 43-year-old man for illegally possessing the carcass of a tiger (Panthera tigris) in an oil palm estate in Gopeng, Perak last year.

On Tuesday, Wong Chee Leong, was fined RM100, 000 and his motorcycle confiscated by the Ipoh Sessions Court.

Abdul Kadir said the current act only carries a maximum punishment of RM500, 000 or a jail term of no more than five years, upon conviction.

He said the department will engage with the judiciary and the Attorney General’s Chambers to address this issue, strengthen its enforcement and even conduct an awareness programme with stakeholders.

“The punishment for any charges is fully up to the discretion of the court and that is the process of the justice system,” he added.

It was reported that Wong had earlier pleaded not guilty to the charge. However, he changed his plea to guilty in the Sessions Court on Tuesday and he was subsequently sentenced.

Wong had appealed for a lenient sentence as he was just a helper at a fish farm and needed to support his family. His counsel also argued that he is a first-time offender and that it could not be proven that he had killed the animal or had the intention to trade it.

The carcass, the counsel argued, was given to Wong by the locals and that it was meant to be used to feed the fish in the farm where the accused worked.

According to Southeast Asia TRAFFIC acting regional director Kanitha Krishnasamy, a one-month jail term for transporting a carcass of the national symbol on a vehicle sends an extremely worrying message to would-be offenders.

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Malaysia: Setiu paddy farmers in dire straits after floods wipe out crops

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 7 Dec 17;

SETIU: Recent monsoon floods destroyed the crops of 26 paddy farmers at two villages here, with total losses amounting to approximately RM52,000.

Chief spokesman for the paddy farmers of Kampung Buluh Hilir and Kampung Buruk, Che Aziz Che Hamid, said that the losses cover 80 acres out of the 300 acres of crops which could not be harvested in time.

“This is due to the earlier-than-expected rainfall which flooded the paddy fields, destroying the crops which had yet to be harvested in time. It has caused a lot of hardship for the affected farmers,” he said.

Aziz added that the farmers had anticipated the torrential rain, but could not finish harvesting the affected area before the floodwaters came.

“Some of them had begun harvesting their crops since Nov 11 when their paddy had matured, but they did not manage to complete their job before the monsoon hit,” he said.

Aziz blamed several other factors which have added to the farmers’ misery. Among them are pathways that were damaged by the floods; and the unsystematic mobilisation of harvesting machines which have disrupted the harvesting process.

“Additionally, the farmers faced difficulty in marketing their harvested crops owing to complicated procedures and inadequate buyers. This had an effect on sales and revenue for the farmers,” said Aziz.

He added that many of the affected farmers are desperately trying to harvest their flooded fields in the hope of salvaging some of their crops. The farmers are attempting to salvage whatever they can after putting in a lot of work planting the paddy.

“Some lucky farmers may be able to push their lower-quality harvest at lower prices on the market, rather than suffer total loses.

“They also fear the second wave of monsoon flooding, which may lead to heavier consequences and losses,” he said.

Aziz added that he hopes the authorities will step in to offer some form of compensation to reduce the financial burdens of the paddy farmers.

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Malaysia: 64pc protected forest available for natural forest management

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 7 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Half of Yayasan Sabah Concession Area is now protected forest, which also amounts to 64 per cent of the areas available for natural forest management.

Yayasan Sabah group director Datuk Sapawi Ahmad attributed the result to the implementation of Imbak Canyon Strategic Management Plan 2014-2023.

During the writing and consultation of the Management Plan, two significant forest reclassification proposals took place, including the conversion of Class II (Commercial) Forests to Class I (Protection) Forest in 2012.

The following year, the proposal on reclassification of Yayasan Sabah’s forests Imbak Canyon, Maliau Basin and Danum Valley became the first formal connection between all three conservation areas.

Sapawi said the proposal had provided a connection beyond the conservation areas to the coastal forests in the east, which saw further reduction in the concession area available for natural forest management and the generation of forest revenue.

“The period between 2011 and 2013 was probably one of the most dynamic and innovative periods of management change within the state forestry sector.

“Evolution and change in the forest industry and the expectations of national and international stakeholders, in terms of how we manage our forest resources, dramatically changed.

“How we value our forest has changed with a switch in emphasis from economic to a broader set of values,” he said during the launch of Batu Timbang Scientific Expedition Seminar and the Imbak Canyon Strategic Management Plan here on Monday.

Sapawi said the management plan also emphasised the need to integrate existing plans and policies that had been approved in the management framework that were relevant to the geographic area and land use zone.

As the plan is being aligned with global values, the staff has to be recognised for their contributions and also provided opportunities for career advancement.

“Special attention shall be paid to the new range of skills increasingly required to support protected area management, such as fundraising and marketing, sustainable financing, tourism and recreation management system and the technological and information systems that support these areas.

“Skills such as protected area management, including wildlife management, taxonomy and monitoring of flora and fauna shall also be developed.”

Meanwhile, Sapawi said as the Imbak Canyon was closely associated with local indigenous communities, research related to the traditional use of the forest and its products must be done.

“Imbak Canyon Conservation area shall position itself as a centre of excellence for tropical rainforest research, education, training and capacity building with an emphasis on participation and contribution.”

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Malaysia: Sabah forests can halt climate change

stephanie lee The Star 7 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah could double its carbon stock and play an important role in controlling climate change if previously logged forests are allowed to regenerate.

A study carried out by several agencies, including the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department and other institutions, showed that about 40% of Sabah’s carbon stock exists in forests that are not designated for maximum protection.

Carbon stock refers to the amount of carbon stored in a forest, including biomass and soil. Carbon is a key component of all life, animal and plant alike.

Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan, who is also the chief conservator of forests, said this finding followed new remote sensing and satellite mapping data by CAO’s Greg Asner and his colleagues that was recently published in the journal Biological Conservation.

“We also discovered that Sabah could double its carbon stock by allowing previously logged forests to regenerate, a process that could take about a century,” he added.

In addition to finding 50 of the tallest tropical trees ever measured, the CAO team also pinpointed important targets for conservation efforts.

Asner said a high carbon stock is important because tropical forests like those in Sabah convert large quantities of atmospheric carbon (in the form of carbon dioxide) into organic material.

Tropical rainforests accomplish more of this than any other terrestrial ecosystem on Earth, he added.

“But when this forest land is repurposed for agriculture, logging, or mining, carbon is released into the atmosphere, where it contributes to climate change.”

Asner said tropical deforestation and forest degradation account for about 10% of the world’s carbon emissions each year.

The next step is to determine which segments of Sabah’s forests contain the most carbon in the form of biomass.

This will also help the state government meet its goal of increasing protected forests from 1.8 million to 2.2 million hectares, he added.

Sabah’s close to 4 million hectares of forest include many different habitats and management strategies, and comprehensive “wall-to-wall mapping” will be needed to accurately quantify their total carbon stock.

Conservation body South-East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership believes such a study would also help identify hundreds of thousands of new conservation areas in Sabah that not only protect habitats, but also the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities.

Its representative Glen Reynolds said forest carbon is an important factor to determine where conservation efforts will have the greatest impact.

He added that data on canopy biodiversity and animal habitats will also help inform decision-makers.

Mannan said such an exhaustive mapping effort will be a groundbreaking endeavour that would set the state apart in accelerating its conservation and restoration efforts.

“We will apply the information gathered particularly to mitigate the worst effects of climate change,” he said.

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Indonesia: New study estimates 618 tigers in Sumatra, calls for deforestation to be curbed

Today Online 6 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE — Despite higher densities of Sumatran tigers in the Indonesian island’s well-protected forests, the critically endangered big cat still faces a high risk of extinction unless deforestation can be controlled, said researchers of a new study.

Published in the Nature Communications journal on Wednesday (Dec 6), the study estimated Sumatra to be home to about 618 tigers, slightly higher than the 565 previously estimated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Tiger densities had increased nearly 5 per cent a year from 1996 to 2014, likely indicating a recovery from earlier poaching. Tiger densities in primary forests were 47 per cent higher than in degraded forests.

But due to forest loss and degradation, as well as greater fragmentation of sub-populations, the total potential population on the island declined by 16.6 per cent from 2000 to 2012.

“Our results are a mixed bag for tigers. The loss of key tiger habitats is causing significant conservation challenges for Sumatra – and in particular for this critically endangered species,” said Dr Matthew Luskin, a research fellow at the Nanyang Technological University’s Asian School of the Environment. He led the study, titled Sumatran Tiger Survival Threatened By Deforestation Despite Increasing Densities In Parks, in partnership with researchers from the Smithsonian Institute and the San Diego Zoo Global in the United States.

The “disproportionate loss” of higher quality lowland and hill forest and primary forest habitat, as well as fragmentation, has offset the higher tiger densities and led to a potentially higher threat of extinction. Sustained expansion of oil palm plantations, forest degradation and poaching continue to threaten the few remaining tiger populations on the island, the researchers wrote.

Only Gunung Leuser and Kerinci Seblat national parks were found to have robust populations with more than 30 breeding females. These two populations are crucial, but the researchers noted that Kerinci Seblat lost nearly 13 per cent of its forested area from 2000 to 2012 and remains a “poaching battleground”.

“Safeguarding the remaining expanses of primary forests, such as Gunung Leuser National Park, is now absolutely critical to ensuring tigers can persist indefinitely on Sumatra. Largescale reforestation is unlikely,” said Dr Mathias Tobler of the San Diego Zoo Global, the study’s senior author.

The team obtained data from other researchers but also spent a year conducting expeditions through Sumatra’s national parks and adjacent non-protected areas, mounting hundreds of motion-activated cameras. Using the footage, tigers were identified by the unique pattern of stripes and this allowed researchers to track their movement.

The findings suggested that while tigers regularly used human-dominated landscapes immediately outside national parks, this was relatively poor habitat.

The team also developed new methods to estimate the number of tigers in each remaining forest patch of Sumatra.

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Indonesia may delay implementation of Paris Climate Agreement

Antara 7 Dec 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia, along with other signatory countries, may delay the implementation of the Paris Agreement, because negotiation on the pact`s basic guidelines has not yet been completed, an official said here on Wednesday.

"Our target is to complete the basic regulation by 2018, but now (after the 23rd Conference of Parties in Bonn, Germany), there is no clear rule or guidance on the pact, which was initially planned to be implemented by 2020," the Environment and Forestry Ministry`s Climate Change Director General, Nur Masripatin, said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

In terms of curbing the greenhouse gas, for example, the pact`s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) only highlighted the general rules for the implementation but did not mention the clear number of emissions.

The standardization set by NDC only mentioned that the regulations issued by the signatory countries should be ambitious, clear, and transparent, she noted.

However, members of the agreement may translate the general rule with their own terms and conditions. Therefore, the NDC should mention all basic features and other details that have to be incorporated in the regulation.

The first NDC set by Indonesia has put some details on the preventive measures, steps on adaptation, international commitments, and the clear and transparent information, as well as the system on account of curbing the emission, Masripatin explained.

These kinds of features, she added, should be agreed by all members, in order to evaluate the carbon stock accurately by 2020, she emphasized.

Hence, the general rule on the pact`s implementation should be completed by all members during the next 24th COP in Poland in 2018.

The next COP also should discuss on "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation/REDD+,? which has been rejected by most developed countries, she revealed.

"If the first session of the COP`s meeting (CMA-1) is adopted by Poland, our next move will be to conduct other negotiations on the details. Our concern now is that the basic guideline has not yet been completed. Therefore, the Paris Agreement would not be effective by 2020," she reiterated.

The member countries now are adopting the guidelines issued by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to measure the emission, she explained.

However, all members need to agree on the standard evaluation of the conversion, because some 170 of 196 signatory countries of the Paris Agreement have different NDC standards.

During the 23rd COP Fiji in Bonn, Germany, held from Nov 6 to 17, Masripatin remarked that most country members are grouped into several forums based on the countries` interests.

The Like-Minded Group of Countries (LMCs), which represents a coalition of more than 60 nations, is comprised of three different groups, namely Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America-Caribbean.

The group is backed by China, India, and Arab nations, which have planned to separate the mitigation efforts (on curbing emission) regulated in the NDC for the developed and developing countries.

As a result, now, the basic guideline on the Paris Agreement`s implementation is hard to be completed and agreed by all members.

Hence, controlling the earth`s temperature to below two degree Celsius by 2030 would remain a hard challenge for the signatory countries of the Paris Agreement.

Reported by Virna P Setyorini
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Indonesia cyclone death toll more than doubles to 41

Agence France-Presse Jakarta Post 6 Dec 17;

A tropical cyclone that pounded Indonesia's main island of Java has killed 41 people, the country's disaster agency said Wednesday, more than double the initial toll, with tens of thousands displaced by severe flooding and landslides.

Among the victims of Cyclone Cempaka were 25 people killed by a single landslide in East Java last week, the agency said.

The initial cyclone death toll was 19. Some 28,000 people have been displaced by the storm, which hit Indonesia's most populous island last week.

"Almost five thousand homes have been damaged and more than three thousand others were inundated by flooding," said agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

The destruction from the cyclone came as the rumbling Mount Agung volcano on the neighboring resort island of Bali threatened to erupt, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Cempaka has moved away from Indonesia, but Nugroho warned that more flooding and landslides still could happen. Indonesia is prone to natural disasters and is often hit by floods and landslides.

A landslide on Bali in February killed 12 people, including three children. In September last year, almost 30 people died in devastating floods and landslides in Garut, West Java.

Cyclone Cempaka kills at least 19 in Indonesia
Channel NewsAsia 29 Nov 17;

JAKARTA: A tropical cyclone which hit Indonesia's main island of Java has triggered severe flooding and landslides which left 19 dead, an official said on Wednesday (Nov 29).

Landslides claimed 15 lives in east and central Java, while four others perished in floods unleashed by Cyclone Cempaka.

"Thousands of homes, hectares of agricultural land and public facilities are also flooded," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's disaster agency.

The destruction from the cyclone comes as the rumbling Mount Agung volcano on the neighbouring resort island of Bali threatens to erupt, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Cempaka is expected to move away from Indonesia later Thursday, but more flooding and landslides could follow in its wake, the agency said, adding that it urgently needs blankets, clothes and inflatable boats.

Indonesia is prone to natural disasters and is often hit by floods and landslides.

A landslide on Bali in February killed 12 people, including three children. In September last year, almost 30 people died in devastating floods and landslides in Garut, West Java.
Source: AFP/ec

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Indonesia: Roaming elephants, tiger trouble Jambi residents

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 6 Dec 17;

Residents of Sarolangun and Kerinci regencies in Jambi have complained about wild animals entering their villages and wreaking havoc on their plantations.

Muslim, a resident of Sipintum village in Pauh district, Sarolangun regency said a herd of wild elephants had often wandered into the village's plantation in the past month, damaging the plants and huts there.

"We ask the authorities to take the elephants back to their habitat, so they don't keep coming into our village," he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

The herd of seven elephants has damaged 9 hectares of plantation land and one hut, Pauh district military commander, Capt. Sutego said. He urged residents to restrain themselves from harming the protected species.

"We ask the residents not to act rashly. We can find a mutually beneficial solution,” he said.

Meanwhile, residents of Semurup village in Kerinci regency face a similar problem. They have been reluctant to go to their fields in recent days, fearing attack by a tiger that has been spotted nearby.

"We hope that the authorities take action soon. If nothing is done, the tiger might come into the village," a resident named Uwo told the Post.

Indonesian Conservation Community (KKI) Warsi head, Nur Kholis, said in the past seven years 14 people had fallen victim to tiger attacks, while two people died after confrontations with elephants. On the other hand, 18 tigers and seven elephants had been killed by poachers.

"These incidents tell us that there is an imbalance in nature," he said. "A damaged ecosystem causes conflicts between humans and animals.” (kmt/rin

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UN signals 'end' of throwaway plastic

Roger Harrabin BBC 6 Dec 17;

The end of the era of throwaway plastic has been signalled by UN environment ministers meeting in Kenya.

They signed off a document stating that the flow of plastic into the ocean must be stopped.

Scientists welcomed the statement, but were unhappy the agreement was only based in principle, with no firm targets or timetables.

Ministers say it's a milestone because it shows governments, industry and the public that a major change is needed.

Vidar Helgesen, Norway's Environment Minister, has been leading the UN debate on plastic pollution.

He told BBC News: "What we came here with was the need for action. The starting point was aiming for zero emission of marine litter. So it's effectively a breakthrough for zero emission of plastic into the ocean."

He admitted that this was really only the start of action against plastic litter.

Li Lin from WWF International told BBC News: "Today we have seen quite good progress on marine litter and micro-plastics.

Waste comparisons by country

"We would just like to see this agreement implemented by governments, business, NGOs and consumers as quickly as possible. Because this issue is urgent."

We know plastics are already damaging life in the sea, but we don't know how much more damage it can take before whole ecosystems start to be affected.

The seas after all are also beset with climate change, acidification, dead zones, and multiple types of pollution.

Delegates here hope governments will be prompted to move faster with their own national policies to clamp down on waste plastic, rather than just waiting for UN resolutions.

But stopping plastic litter will require new technology - and new attitudes from the public. Among the many pollution challenges facing mankind, this is arguably one of the hardest.

UN resolution calling for targets to tackle ocean plastic waste rejected by US, China and India
Exclusive: Final agreement 'stresses importance of long-term elimination' of litter from our seas
Tom Embury-Dennis The Independent Online 6 Dec 17;

A United Nations agreement that would have called for specific, internationally-agreed goals to tackle plastic waste in our oceans has been rejected by the US.

Several countries, including China and India, also refused to include in the resolution a call on nations to adopt any reduction targets, but US officials “were clearly leading the discussion on this”, a source at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi told The Independent.

Countries did agree that the world needs to stop plastics from entering the sea, but the final resolution published on Wednesday has no timetable and is not legally binding.

Governments will instead establish an international taskforce to advise on what UN environment chief Erik Solheim has dubbed “an ocean Armageddon”.

China is by far the biggest producer of plastic waste. In 2010 it is estimated to have mismanaged almost nine million tonnes of it. However the US fails to feature in the top 10, according to World Atlas.

A deal was eventually struck that keeps a demand for a reduction target out, in exchange for a pledge that “stresses the importance of long-term elimination” of plastics going into the oceans.

Instead of targets, the resolution “urges all actors to step up actions to by 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds” and “encourages” member states to “prioritise policies” that “avoid marine litter and micro plastics entering the marine environment”.

Politicians say the agreement is important because it will clear the way for much tougher policies and send a signal to governments and business.

Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s environment minister and a leader of the UN debate on plastic pollution, told the BBC it was a “breakthrough for zero emissions of plastic into the ocean”, but admitted it was only the start of the action that will be needed.

Mr Solheim, UN environment head and undersecretary-general, said: “We need to phase out what we don't need, make what we do need with better materials, and recycle all the plastics that we use.

"I'm very optimistic that in 20 years, we will see a much more circular economy."

More than eight million tonnes of plastic goes into the oceans every year. With an estimated 300 million tonnes of it now littering our seas, it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish by 2050.

It is thought our seas now contain about 51 trillion microplastic particles – 500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy.

This pollution is harming more than 600 species worldwide amid what many are now regarding as the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth.

Ocean plastic: clean it up, but avoid the mistakes of global climate policy
Malcolm David Hudson, Associate Professor in Environmental Sciences, University of Southampton
The Conversation Yahoo News 11 Dec 178;

In early December 2017 the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi announced a resolution on marine litter and microplastics. The move was widely welcomed as the emerging “plastic oceans” crisis has become starkly clear.

It is estimated that 8m tonnes of plastic waste finds its way in to the ocean each year, and it is notoriously difficult to remove. The impacts are increasingly apparent: great rafts of plastic are congregating in ocean gyres, blame games have broken out between neighbouring countries, and marine species face poisoning from the associated toxins.

There may even be direct risks for humans, especially the 400m or so poor people who depend critically on fish for their food. As yet fisheries are more threatened by over-exploitation and climate change, but we are now finding plastics in our marine ecosystems and even in food like mussles and oysters.

Timely – but not binding

Given the urgency of the problem, a more decisive global leadership is needed and so the UN’s announcement is certainly timely. Its resolution on marine litter and microplastics is the first genuine global attempt to tackle the problem. It aims to eliminate marine litter in the long term, urging counties to take action by 2025, to “prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds” and “encourages” them to “prioritise policies” that “avoid marine litter and micro plastics entering the marine environment”. Among other promising points, an international working group will be set up to seek legally binding options to tackle marine litter, and it is encouraging to see that almost 40 countries have signed up to the voluntary #CleanSeas campaign since its launch in February 2017.

The elephant in the room here is the lack of any binding targets. Under pressure from key players like the US, China and India, UNEP has backed off putting in targets or binding commitments, although it was reported that the US was at least engaged in the discussions. It is worth noting that China is the biggest emitter of plastic marine litter and along with the US and India has a very large plastic manufacturing sector.

Alarming parallels
There are alarming parallels with the past two decades of attempts to tackle climate change. Evidence that greenhouse gases emitted by human activities were causing more energy to be trapped in our atmosphere has been increasingly clear since the mid 1990s, but vested interests combined with the need for equitable treatment of developing countries means that progress has been painfully slow – so slow that it will now be much harder to stay within the 2°C limit that scientists view as potentially manageable for future generations. Even now, while the evidence is clear and the impacts are painfully apparent round the world, the US has backed out of the 2015 Paris agreement.

But we are are capable of better. In the 1970s and 80s we faced another major environmental threat. Pollutants used in refrigerants (chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs for short) were damaging the ozone layer, which acts as a protective screen from the worst of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Alarm bells were ringing as skin cancers increased, and scientists predicted a catastrophe within decades.

That time, despite the now-familiar lobbying and stalling by industry, who argued that the science was uncertain and that more evidence was needed, the world got together. The Montreal Protocol was agreed in 1987 and since then the harmful chemicals have been phased out or managed more effectively. We have seen the ozone layer recovering towards pre-1980s levels and, in a positive unintended consequence, the phasing out of chemicals that are also potent greenhouse gases.

We humans have a mixed track record. The recovering ozone layer shows that we can, if we have the will and the leadership, get to grips with even the most wicked of environmental problems and turn things round. But, as our attempts to deal with climate change have shown, progress can be slow and getting everyone working together remains fraught with difficulty.

We should not forget that plastics have revolutionised our lives – I am typing this on a plastic keyboard, for instance, while wearing a plastic fibre fleece, and looking through plastic lenses in my glasses. Any change will be tough and could have economic consequences.

But however important plastic seems to our lives, we depend even more on the health of the oceans for our well-being and for that of the planet. Right now attempts to get the world together to deal with plastic waste and ocean pollution are at a crossroads; at least it’s good news we have made it this far.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. .

Malcolm David Hudson receives funding from the Blue Marine Foundation for research into microplastics and marine biodiversity. He is a member of Greenpeace, RSPB and the UK Wildlife Trusts

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