Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jun 18

Night Walk At Lower Peirce Reservoir (29 Jun 2018)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Consequences of plastic waste ends up in YOU and ME…
Mei Lin NEO

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Half a month's rainfall in two hours

85mm of rain recorded between 9.30am and 11.30am, causing flash floods in western and central areas
Isabelle Liew Straits Times 30 Jun 18;

The heavy downpour yesterday morning, which caused flash floods in the central and western parts of Singapore, was equal to half the average rainfall for the entire month of June.

PUB said about 85mm of rainfall was recorded between 9.30am and 11.30am. The average rainfall for June is 130.7mm. Areas which saw flooding included Lorong Kismis in Upper Bukit Timah, Dunearn Road and Bukit Timah.

At 10.11am, PUB tweeted that flash floods had been reported in Dunearn Road, from Yarwood Avenue to Binjai Park, affecting three lanes of the road. About an hour later, it tweeted that the flooding had eased.

Yesterday's floods were the latest in a series over the past month.

On Tuesday, more than a month's rainfall - about 150mm - fell in four hours in Old Toh Tuck Road, causing flash floods in the central and western parts of Singapore.

On May 26, Kramat Lane and Cavenagh Road, along Orchard Road, saw water rising up to mid-tyre level for about 10 minutes.

PUB said the overall rainfall for June is likely to be above average for most of Singapore. It urged people to exercise caution and avoid walking or driving in flooded areas.

Vehicles negotiating a flooded stretch at King Albert Park MRT station in Dunearn Road at 10.45am yesterday. Areas which saw flooding included Lorong Kismis in Upper Bukit Timah, Dunearn Road and Bukit Timah.

Professor Benjamin Horton, chair of the Asian School of the Environment at Nanyang Technological University, said that it was unusual to see such heavy rainfall in June.

June is the onset of the south-west monsoon season, which usually lasts until September and is characterised by relatively drier and warmer weather conditions.

"We are moving into the supposed drier months - in Singapore the wetter months would be February and December - so heavy rainfall is quite unusual in June," said Prof Horton.

He said that while a single event could not be attributed to climate change, one prediction of climate change is heavy precipitation from more moisture in the atmosphere.

The Meteorological Service Singapore said on June 14 that monsoon conditions are expected to extend into September. It said short-duration thundery showers were expected on five to seven days in the second half of June, mostly in the late morning and afternoon.

PUB said it has ongoing drainage upgrading works at the Bukit Timah First Diversion Canal to increase its capacity. "When completed in the first quarter of 2019, flooding risk in the Bukit Timah area would be alleviated," it added. It will protect buildings in the catchment area such as Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Beauty World Plaza, Bukit Timah Shopping Centre and Sime Darby Centre.

Upgrading works for the Stamford Detention Tank and Stamford Diversion Canal are ongoing, and are expected to be completed by the third quarter of this year.

These are two major projects being built to protect Orchard Road, which was hit by a series of flash floods between 2010 and 2012.

The diversion canal will relieve Stamford Canal of a portion of water, while the detention tank will hold water temporarily so less water flows into Stamford Canal during heavy rain.

Morning storm brings flash floods to central Singapore
LOW YOUJIN Today Online 29 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE – Flash floods hit several areas in the Bukit Timah area amid heavy rain on Friday (June 29) morning.

The heavy downpour also triggered high flood risk warnings for various locations in central and western Singapore for a second time this week. The affected areas include Bishan Road, Yio Chu Kang Road, Penjuru Road, Pasir Pang Road and Neo Pee Teck Lane.

National water agency PUB said the rain gauge at Ngee Ann Polytechnic recorded about 85mm of rainfall between 9.30am and 11.30am on Friday, adding: "This is more than half the average rainfall of 130.7mm (about 65%) in the entire month of June."

Singapore is currently in the middle of the South-west Monsoon season. The Meteorological Service Singapore had earlier forecast that the second half of June will be wetter, with overall rainfall for the month to be above average over most parts of Singapore.

On Friday, national water agency PUB first alerted commuters to flash floods in the central part of Singapore around 10.05am.

Lorong Kismis was the first to be hit by the floodwaters, followed by Dunearn Road minutes later. Both roads were completely flooded.

Around 10.38am, PUB reported that all three lanes of Bukit Timah Road were also flooded.

However, the flash floods only lasted for less than half an hour. The high water levels at Lorong Kismis receded around 10.12am, while Dunearn Road saw the waters subsiding around 10.30am.

Traffic at Bukit Timah Road was passable from around 10.45am.

The National Environment Agency had earlier advised Singaporeans to expect moderate to heavy thundery showers over the southern, western and central areas of the island till early afternoon on Friday.

On Tuesday, flash floods were also reported in several locations across Singapore.

Flash floods occurred in three locations in the West — Lorong Kismis, Toh Tuck Avenue, as well as along the Pan-Island Expressway towards Tuas, after the Eng Neo Avenue exit.

In a statement on Tuesday, PUB said Old Toh Tuck Road received about 150mm of rainfall on Tuesday morning, higher than the average rainfall of 130.7mm in the entire month of June.

'Intense rain' caused flash floods in Bukit Timah area: PUB
Channel NewsAsia 29 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Intense rain caused flash floods at four locations in central Singapore on Friday morning (Jun 29), national water agency PUB said in a statement.

The flash floods occurred at Lorong Kismis and Bukit Timah Road, as well as Dunearn Road near Watten Estate Road and along Yarwood Avenue to Binjai Park.

The affected stretch of Bukit Timah Road was from Blackmore Drive to Wilby Road.

The PUB said that about 85mm of rainfall was recorded for two hours between 9.30am and 11.30am at the rain gauge at Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Bukit Timah, which is more than half the average rainfall of 130.7mm in the entire month of June.

This comes after more than a month's rain fell in four hours at Old Toh Tuck Road on Tuesday.

Drainage upgrading works at the Bukit Timah First Diversion Canal is ongoing, said PUB. When completed by the first quarter of 2019, flooding risk at the Bukit Timah area would be alleviated.

PUB said its officers were on site to "investigate and render assistance" at the locations. The flash floods subsided by 11.05am, it added.

"We urge the public to exercise caution and avoid stepping into or driving into flooded areas. During heavy rain, the public should stay tuned to radio broadcast and check PUB’s Facebook or PUB's mobile app MyWaters for flood updates," it said.

Singapore is currently experiencing the southwest monsoon. Compared to the first half of June 2018, the second half of the month is expected to be wetter and overall rainfall for the month is likely to be above average over most parts of Singapore.

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Animal shelters worry about costs after move to new home

Animal shelters moving from Pasir Ris to Sungei Tengah see rents skyrocket
NOEL LOW The New Paper 29 Jun 18;

It has been described as one of Singapore's largest animal "migrations".

More than 20 animal shelters are moving from Pasir Ris Farmway to a purpose built-facility called The Animal Lodge in Sungei Tengah to make way for industrial development.

Shelters told The Straits Times that they are facing a financial burden due to higher bills at their new home and the cost of renovating the units.

Some shelters that had been operating rent-free at Pasir Ris must now fork out thousands of dollars a month at the new Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) facility.

Others have seen their rent increase fivefold and are questioning how long they can keep operating.

The AVA said The Animal Lodge has a capacity of 7,000 animals, which includes those from commercial enterprises such as pet breeders and importers.

Shelters based at Lim Chu Kang and Seletar will also relocate there later this year as they make way for redevelopment.

The AVA said it charges cost-recovery rates at the facility, which take into account land, construction and maintenance.

Animal shelters The Straits Times spoke to said they pay a monthly bill of close to $2,000 per unit, after adding service and conservancy charges.

A unit can house about 25 dogs, with some shelters renting 10 units.

Voices For Animals (VFA), which had not paid rent for four years at Pasir Ris due to a charitable arrangement with its landlord, must now pay for three units to house around 100 dogs.

Founder Derrick Tan expects utility bills to raise costs further, especially with the air-conditioning he had to install due to poor ventilation.


Two animal shelters - Animal Lovers' League and Mutts & Mittens - remain at Pasir Ris Farmway after being given a one-month lease extension as their new units are still being refurbished.

Mutts & Mittens, a boarding kennel that doubles as a shelter, said renovating its seven units at The Animal Lodge will cost over $400,000. As it is not a registered charity, its owners are stumping up the cash.

The AVA and Ministry of National Development (MND) offered a grant of $7,500 per unit to defray renovation expenses, but the shelters have had to raise additional funds.

The smaller shelters are facing the biggest struggle, as they have less support and savings.

Lily Low Cat Shelter said it has just $1,723 left in its coffers, despite managing to raise close to $70,000 for the move. It chose not to take up AVA's facility, calling it a "dungeon".

The location of The Animal Lodge is another major bane for the shelters. It is 3.5km from Choa Chu Kang MRT station, and shelter operators worry they will attract fewer volunteers to walk dogs, feed animals and clean up.

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Malaysia: First warning in 11 years on coral reef health

CYNTHIA New Straits Times 29 Jun 18;

THE coral reef health in Malaysia is good, but there are disturbing signs of decline that must be addressed.

Reef Check Malaysia (RCM), in its report last year, states that of the more than 227 reefs surveyed, the average live coral cover is relatively high at 42 per cent.

While this compares favour-ably on a regional level, this figure has been declining for four years, and over that period, it has lost over five percentage points.

Coupled with this, low numbers of fish and increasing amounts of negative indicators, such as algae, give cause for concern.

Julian Hyde, Reef Check Malaysia general manager, said: “Although the headline figures show we have healthy reefs, the average masks disturbing trends. Chief among the negative signs are indicators that suggest pressure from tourism is growing, which could have serious long-term implications.”

Coral reefs are important ecosystems.

Lau Chai Ming, programme manager and co-author of the report, said: “Coral reefs are ecologically important as a key link in marine food chains. They are also economically important as a key attraction to tourists visiting Malaysia.

“Losing our coral reefs has implications for food security and livelihoods. We need to manage them better.”

This is the first time in 11 years of monitoring coral reefs that RCM has issued clear warnings.

Hyde said: “This comes at a time of change in Malaysia, and we hope the new government’s commitment to protecting the environment will be reflected in its response to this report.”

However, the 14th General Election has created uncertainties regarding the future of some ministries and departments, and this could have negative consequences for coral reef management.

Hyde said: “RCM supports the continuing need for an independent Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, which has resource conservation and biodiversity protection as its key function, managed by independent expert agencies, such as the Department of Marine Parks.

“The latter, our main government counterpart, continues to make strides to improve reef management, including greater consultations with local stakeholders for the first time, which is what is needed.

“The department is about resource conservation. If it is moved to another ministry that focuses on resource exploitation, and we are concerned that the skill sets and attitudes won’t match, and that coral reef management will suffer, along with coral reefs. We hope the government will see the need for a strong, independent Department of Marine Parks, as custodian of marine ecosystems.”

RCM will conduct activities this year in conjunction with International Year of the Reef 2018 to raise awareness about the need to conserve coral reefs.


Reef Check Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur

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Malaysia: Two Borneo pygmy elephants die at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

muguntan vanar The Star 29 Jun 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Two endangered Borneo pygmy elephants including a calf is believed to have died at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park.

It is learned that an adolescent elephant rescued 13 years ago from the Lahad Datu's Yapid plantation died two days ago (June 27) while a four-year-old calf is believed to have died on May 7.

However, Wildlife Department officials remained tight-lipped over the deaths amid recent calls by animal activists for improvements at the wildlife park which serves as a rescue and rehabilitation centre for wildlife.

Sources said that wildlife veterinarians are puzzled over the cause of the deaths of the two elephants in captivity as post-mortem reports have not shown any indication for the cause of the deaths.

The incident of deaths in captivity was worrying and needs to be addressed immediately, said the sources, adding that wildlife officials appear to be silent on the matter.

In early June, Friends of Orang Utan director Upreshpal Singh raised concerns about the upkeep of animals at the Lok Kawi Zoo but Sabah Wildlife Department dismissed the allegations that animals at the park are being kept under poor conditions.

Its director Augustine Tuuga said this was the second time that such an accusation had surfaced, and added that the animals were "well-looked after".

Newly minted Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew in a surprise visit to the zoo following the complaints also said that all was good at the park.

At least seven elephants in the wild have also died due to unknown causes in April and May this year in various areas in the east coast of Sabah.

The deaths in the wild also prompted Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal to call on wildlife officials to investigate thoroughly the cause as well as take serious steps in stopping the deaths of the critically endangered elephants.

Jumbo deaths raise welfare alarm
muguntan vanar The Star 30 Jun 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Drastic steps are expected to be taken at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park where two endangered Borneo pygmy elephants died within two months.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew will be at the wildlife park today on a fact-finding visit in which she is expected to make some tough decisions on the management and upkeep of the park, sources said.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga confirmed a report in The Star Online that two elephants died there on May 7 and June 27.

An adolescent male elephant rescued 13 years ago from Lahad Datu’s Yapid plantation died on June 27 while a four-year-old calf died on May 7.

Sources said that wildlife veterinarians were puzzled over the deaths of the two elephants.

So far, post-mortem reports have not given any clue about the cause of the deaths.

It is understood that the calf, which was born in captivity, had been sick.

The deaths in captivity, sources said, was worrying.

Earlier this month, Friends of Orang Utan director Upreshpal Singh raised concerns about the upkeep of animals at the Lok Kawi Zoo but the Sabah Wildlife Department dismissed allegations that the animals were kept under poor conditions.

Tuuga said this was the second time that such an accusation had surfaced, adding that the animals were “well looked after”.

Liew made a surprise visit two weeks ago following the complaints.

However, she said then that all was good at the park.

At least seven elephants in the wild have also died of unknown causes in April and May in various parts of Sabah’s east coast.

Drastic measures expected to prevents animal deaths at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
muguntan vanar The Star 29 Jun 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Drastic steps are expected to be taken to improve the conditions at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park where two critically endangered Borneo Pygmy elephants died in less than two months.

Newly minted Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew will be making a second visit to the wildlife park here, which declared that “all was well”.

This comes after she made a surprise visit to the park about two weeks ago.

Sources said Liew is expected to visit the wildlife park with officers on a fact-finding visit early Saturday (June 30) where she is expected to make some tough decisions on the management and upkeep of the park.

Liew’s decision to go to the wildlife park was following the report and briefing.

It was reported that an adolescent male elephant rescued 13-years ago from the Lahad Datu’s Yapid plantation died on June 27, while a four-year-old old calf died on May 7 at the wildlife park.

Wildlife Department officials had kept a lid on the deaths amid recent calls by animal activists for improvements at the park that acts as a rescue and rehabilitation centre for wildlife.

Sources said that wildlife veterinarians are puzzled over the deaths of the two elephants in captivity as so far, post-mortem reports have not shown any indication for the cause of deaths.

It is understood that the calf, which was born in captivity, was ailing for a while before it died.

The deaths in captivity, sources said, were worrying and needs to be addressed immediately.

The sources said that there seems to be an official silence on the matter and hoped that efforts will be done to resolve problems at the wildlife park.

In early June, Friends of Orang Utan director Upreshpal Singh raised concerns about the upkeep of animals at Lok Kawi but the Sabah Wildlife Department dismissed allegations that animals at the park are being kept under poor conditions.

While Liew made a surprise visit two weeks ago to the zoo following the complaints, she had said that all was good at the park.

At least seven elephants in the wild died due to unknown causes over April and May this year in various areas in the east coast of Sabah.

This has prompted Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal to call on wildlife officials to investigate thoroughly the cause as well as take serious steps to stop the deaths of the critically endangered elephants.

Sabah Wildlife Department confirms death of 2 pygmy elephants
Kristy Inus New Straits Times 29 Jun 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Wildlife Department has confirmed that two Borneo pygmy elephants have died while under the care of Lok Kawi Wildlife Park recently.

Commenting to an online report carried by a local English daily today, its director Augustine Tuuga admitted of losing the pachyderms but did not elaborate more on the details surrounding their demise.

“Ya true, I need consent from the Ministry (state Culture, Tourism and Environment) before I can release the details,” he said in a written text reply.

The Star Online reported today that a young elephant died on June 27 and a four-year-old calf died on May 7 earlier at the park, located about 45 minutes from the city centre, but no information was shared by officials on the cause of deaths.

Quoting sources, the report said the incident of deaths in captivity was worrying and needed to be addressed, especially when the Wildlife Park has recently been attacked by an environmental non-governmental organisation (NGO) for the poor up keeping of the facility.

However, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister who visited the park last week found the place to be satisfactory despite some areas that needed upgrading.

As of now, Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is doing some upgrading works and some of the sections closed for public are the elephant exhibit area, aviary and the botanical park.

Deaths of two elephants at Lok Kawi wildlife park unfortunate
Kristy Inus New Straits Times 30 Jun 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Authorities today revealed that while one of the elephants that died at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park has been sick for years, the baby elephant meanwhile may have contracted a new disease that was not linked with Borneo pygmy elephants previously.

Sabah Wildlife Department yesterday confirmed the deaths of the elephants which occured during two separate occasions which occurred a few days ago and in May.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew who was briefed and visited the Wildlife Park - located 45 minutes from the city centre - this morning, said Yapid, a 15-year-old male elephant, was found dead on Tuesday morning (June 26).

He was a ‘disabled’ elephant with stunted growth which was due to his swallowing problem which he had since he was rescued back in 2003, when he was just three months old.

This meant that everytime he ate, he would ‘vomit’ out some of his meal, thus resulting in his stunted growth and he also suffered from chronic gastric problem.

“Samples were taken for analysis to check for anything that might have further contributed to his death. But it was a miracle that he has survived that long,” said Liew, as she was informed veterinarians expected Yapid’s lifespan not to go beyond five years.

Meanwhile Gendu, a 3-year-old female baby elephant was found dead in the early morning of May 8. The calf which was born at the wildlife park with resident elephants parent named Girl and Boy, was still being cared for by her mother and had started eating solid food at the time of her death.

The death came as a shock to the keepers because she was healthy as normal the day before, explained Liew.

“During the postmortem, most of the internal organs were found to have no abnormalities. Samples have been taken for analysis to determine the cause of death since the direct cause of death could not be determined at the time when the post mortem was conducted,” said Liew.

Veterinary officer Dr Symphorosa Sipangkui who is the officer in charge of the wildlife park, added that they are sending Gendu’s samples to a United States disease research centre to determine whether it was caused by Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus, a disease linked to deaths of young elephants.

It is a highly fatal disease especially for animals born in captivity; an acute hemorrhagic disease where the virus attacks the endothelial cells of blood capillaries and victim usually die due to blood loss and shock.

“We did not expect this new disease among Borneo elephants. There were usually occurrences in the US especially Asian elephants, so we are sending samples there to figure it out,” explained Symphorosa.

At present there are 14 elephants in the wildlife park, consisting two calves (below five years old) and five sub-adults.

Liew said she was briefed that all the elephants at the Wildlife Park are cared for according to best practices for animal husbandry, where the pachyderms are given dewormers once in every six months.

Each elephant is given food according to their respective weight twice per day, and the babies are given supplement in their milk by their keepers.

“Utmost care have been given to the elephants in the park but their deaths is inevitable caused by unforeseen circumstances which is very unfortunate, but the veterinary officers at the park are doing their best to prevent any further deaths of the animals,” she said.

In view of that, Liew said the ministry will ask the Sabah Wildlife Department to restructure the management of the park in order for the veterinary officer to concentrate on the husbandry management of the animals. At the moment, Symphorosa is also involved in administrative work of the park.

“She is also involved in field work such as translocation of wildlife and post mortem cases when the need arise. We will also restructure the organisation of the Wildlife Department soon and we will also appoint a panel of animal doctors from the private sector serving as advisors to the zoo.

NGO offers its help to solve Sabah elephant deaths
stephanie lee The Star 4 Jul 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A non-governmental environmental group comprising members from various professional backgrounds is offering help solve elephant death issues in Sabah.

Sabah Environment Action Group (SEAG) chairman Mohammad Iskandar Shah Ali said news of elephants and other wildlife deaths have been reported numerous times over the years, with the most recent involving two elephants at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park.

“While NGOs are know mostly to be ‘watchdogs’ or groups to keep the government in check, we in SEAG are ready to take things to the next level,” he said in a statement.

“We are ready to offer our database of professionals and consultants to help the government solve these problems,” he said.

As for the deaths in the Lok Kawi Wildlife park, he said the immediate step was to temporarily shut down the park.

He said the management should work on addressing matters relating to the animals’ welfare, upgrade and improve exhibits or enclosures of animals, sort out breeding programmes and put in place animal adoption programmes before considering reopening the park.

“We can also work with other relevant NGOs in and out of the country,” Mohammad said.

He said the government has introduced numerous conservation plans and programmes, action plans, adoption programmes, seminars and workshops in their bid to tackle environmental and wildlife issues in the state.

“But why is it that the government has not been able to use any of these tools to fix the problems and mistakes in our system?” he asked.

Mohammad said the longer it takes the government to do something, the more animals will die.

Apart from looking at wildlife issues, the SEAG is also helping to address environmental problems including palm oil waste and floating rubbish.

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Malaysia: Johor says no to non-environmentally friendly investments

Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 29 Jun 18;

JOHOR BARU: The state government will reject any local or international investments that negatively impact the environment.

State International Investment and Utility Committee chairman Jimmy Puah Wee Tse said any proposed investments that are found to be detrimental to the environment will be immediately rejected.

“We always welcome investments but not those that can damage the environment, like plastic recycling that generate a lot of trash. We will reject these kind of investments because we don't want Johor to become a dumping ground,” said Puah.

He said last week, Bloomberg reported that by 2030, an estimated 111 million metric tonnes of used plastic will need to be buried or recycled after China ban the import of waste for recycling last year.

“Last week, I was approached by three parties representing investors from China who are interested in setting up this business in Johor. One of them even said that they are willing to buy a 32 hectare land for the operation.

“I told them that we are not keen on these types of investments and that they should look elsewhere,” said Puah.

He was speaking to the media after attending a Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration for orphans organised by Grand Paragon Hotel and Paragon Globe Bhd.

Also present were state Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee chairman Mazlan Bujang and Joland Group executive director Datuk Seri Godwin Tan.

Puah also said that he would discuss with the Department of Environment on the possibility of tightening the enforcement of companies that are involved in the recycling business.

“We want to conduct a check on these companies and take action against those who do not follow the necessary regulations,” said Puah.

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Indonesia: ‘Cornered’ indigenous groups invest billions in conservation

The Jakarta Post 30 Jun 18;

Millions of indigenous peoples in forested countries, including Indonesia, are continuing to suffer from harsh conservation policies despite having played a crucial role in protecting the environment, a new study has revealed.

The study, titled “Cornered by Protected Areas” and coauthored by UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), claims to have quantified the financial contributions made by indigenous peoples in conservation.

It found that local communities around the world invest up to US$4.57 billion per year in conservation, including up to $1.71 billion per year in forest conservation. That figure, it says, is about 23 percent of the amount spent on land and forest conservation by governments, donors, foundations and NGOs.

“The new estimates are based on case studies of labor and cash invested by communities from their own resources in conservation actions such as forest management, fire protection and management, restoration and rehabilitation […] patrolling/policing, and mapping and cataloguing biodiversity,” it says.

The study, however, also highlights the plight of the indigenous people or local communities that have not only been sidelined in conservation efforts, but also been victims of governmental policies on environmental protection.

“Instead of partnering with the people who live in and depend on forests, conservation initiatives continue to drive communities from their ancestral lands, part of a larger trend of criminalization worldwide,” Tauli-Corpuz said in a statement. “In some cases, they are declared squatters in their own territories. In my capacity as special rapporteur, I have seen a disturbing uptick of harassment, criminalization and even extrajudicial killings targeting communities.”

The study looked into the impact protected areas have on indigenous peoples and local communities in 28 countries, including Indonesia, where many people live in forested areas that have been designated as national parks.

It cited a case study on the Kasepuhan people who live in Mount Salak-Halimun forests in Lebak, Banten. The community has suffered from various disadvantages ever since the forest they currently live in was designated a national park in a 1992 decree issued by the Forestry Ministry.

Before the forest was turned into a national park, the Kasepuhan people used it to gather food. But they now face intimidation from the national park's office rangers.

In 2013, rangers chased down a woman who was herding her buffalo at the national park and destroyed her livestock shelter, according to the study.

In 2014, a resident from Kasepuhan Karang reportedly had to pay Rp 1 million (US$ 69.55) in fines to rangers for taking charcoal from the national park. The rangers also seized 130 bags of charcoal worth Rp 260,000 from the said resident. The charcoal in question, the report says, was actually produced from leftover timber from an illegal logging operation carried out by GHSNP rangers.

The Kasepuhan people also reportedly found difficulties in meeting their daily subsistence needs after the government prohibited them from cutting down trees, including those that they planted themselves as stipulated in the 1999 law on forestry.

Rukka Sombolinggi, the secretary-general of the Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), said that, in Indonesia, indigenous communities often struggled with criminalization and persecution when their living space overlapped with protected areas or private concessions.

“The designation of Kasepuhan community land as a national park, for instance, has led to harassment and intimidation by the police, who have cracked down on communities for simply living in their homes and gathering their traditional food,” Rukka said in a written statement received by The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

The authorities, Rukka added, intimidated and harassed the indigenous people yet were unable to put a stop to illegal logging by outsiders.

According to the report, the prohibition on forest use disrupted the Kasepuhan community’s daily routine as they struggled to fulfill their basic needs without access to forest resources.

Dean Affandi, a researcher from World Resources Institute, explained that indigenous communities had depended on the forest for so long that it was rooted in their culture.

“Since it had been done for generations and generations, of course it's not easy for them to just switch from gathering food in the woods to buying stuff from the market.” (dya)

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jun 18

August: FREE Public Forum by SIBiol on "Coral Reef Conservation in Singapore"
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Celebrating Singapore Shores Journey on the Road
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

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Nature group seeks more information on impact of Cross Island Line site investigations

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 28 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE – Hoping for more details on the outcome of drilling works in the Macritchie forest for the future Cross Island MRT line, a group of nature enthusiasts is inviting the public to submit questions for the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Issuing the invitation on its website and social media last Friday (June 22), the volunteers from the Love Our Macritchie Forest group said the public could either submit the questions through them, or write directly to the LTA.

Questions compiled by the group will be submitted to the LTA on July 1.

Nine parties – including five who are not affiliated with nature groups – have submitted responses to the group so far, said Ms Chloe Tan, project manager of Love Our Macritchie Forest.

Questions include whether the LTA would make the full results of its monitoring programme available to the public.

Earlier this month, the LTA said findings were encouraging. Camera traps had picked up the presence of animals such as the lesser mousedeer and the critically endangered Sunda pangolin after site investigation works were completed. These sightings validated measures it took to reduce the impact of site investigation works in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the authority said.

In response to media queries, the LTA said on Thursday (June 28) that it monitored the animals in the nature reserve from end-2016 to end-2017. In general, monitoring began three to six months before works began at each location, and ended about four to six months after the works were completed.

The site investigation works involved the drilling of 16 boreholes to determine soil and rock conditions. This will aid the authorities in eventually deciding which of two alignments to take for the Cross Island Line. One option is to tunnel under the nature reserve, while the other will skirt around it.

About 90 camera traps were placed "within the areas where site investigation works were conducted", said the LTA.

"Our findings suggested that similar fauna were present in the areas before and after the site investigation works, with various animal groups such as mammals, reptiles and birds captured by the camera traps," said a spokesperson.

The authority did not provide details on the number or frequency of animal sightings before and after the works. But it said the common palm civet, a nocturnal animal, was another species sighted.

An environmental impact assessment, done before site investigation works, had projected "mainly moderate" impact if mitigation measures were taken. Asked if this was indeed the outcome, the LTA did not comment.

Nevertheless, the spokesperson said: "LTA continues to work with the relevant stakeholders to further analyse the data collected to deepen our understanding of the site investigation works on fauna activities in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve."

On why the volunteers decided to compile questions for the LTA, Ms Tan, 29, said the lack of details to support the conclusion about the effectiveness of mitigation measures led to some concern how the monitoring was conducted.

"We are hoping that LTA can address our concerns and provide assurance that environmental impacts of Cross Island Line-related works have been/will be treated with utmost rigour," said Ms Tan, who is assisted by National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate Liang Lei and NUS research assistant Rachel Lee.

In its public invitation, Love Our Macritchie Forest — which was set up in 2013 when news of the Cross Island Line's possible alignment first came up — said the impact on wildlife cannot simply be determined by their presence after site investigation works. It said details on monitoring methods and their results are needed.

A second phase of environmental impact assessment is ongoing, to project the impact of constructing and operating the MRT line for both alignment options. It will be completed later this year. TODAY understands the assessment will be gazetted and available for public inspection, as was the case for the first phase of the report.

Submit your questions by 30 June 2018 at

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Tuas Desalination Plant opens, another milestone in Singapore’s water quest

CHEN LIN Today Online 29 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE — Singapore's first desalination plant owned and operated by the Government officially opened on Thursday (June 28).

The Tuas Desalination Plant is the Republic's third and has a capacity of 30 million gallons per day (mgd).

Singapore’s water sustainability came under the spotlight earlier this week when Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad revived a dispute with Singapore over the terms agreed in a 1962 pact.

At the opening ceremony, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli reiterated that this latest milestone in Singapore's water story "did not come easy". He did not make any reference to Dr Mahathir’s latest remarks.

Mr Masagos said: "Gradually but surely, we will continue to build up the capacity of our desalination and NEWater capacities, so that by 2060, NEWater and desalination can supply a combined 85 per cent of our water needs then."

Desalination, where membranes remove salts and minerals from seawater to produce drinking water, now meets up to 30 per cent of Singapore's water demand.

Singapore currently has five desalination plants, including two still in the works.

The Tuas Desalination Plant is the third in Singapore. Hyflux clinched contracts for the first two desalination plants, SingSpring and Tuaspring, while an upcoming fourth plant will be owned and operated by Keppel Infrastructure Holdings. The fifth desalination plant will be built by a Tuas Power-Singapore Technologies Marine consortium.

The opening of the Tuas plant also comes after Hyflux’s financial woes came to light last month. The homegrown water treatment firm’s troubles were partly attributed to the losses it incurred on the Tuaspring project, which it has been trying in vain to sell off.

Nevertheless, the Government had made the decision in 2015 to own and operate the Tuas Desalination Plant.

"PUB found that there is a need for us to build that competency in water desalination treatment. And at the same time, having our own plant gives us a platform to implement new ideas, new research and development (R&D) projects," said Mr Bernard Koh, national water agency PUB's director of water supply (plants).

PUB chief executive Ng Joo Hee said the plant could serve as a "real-world testbed" for technologies that could halve the energy needed for desalination, which is currently 3.5kWh per cubic metre.

Indeed, Mr Masagos pointed out: "Desalination is an especially energy-intensive water source and if we continue with business-as-usual, Singapore's desalination energy usage in 2060 will be four times that of today."

Adding that Singapore does not wish to become energy-reliant in its quest to overcome water scarcity, Mr Masagos said PUB is exploring new technologies and the use of cleaner energy to make the desalination process more energy-efficient.

One example he cited was an experiment with electrochemical desalination technology, which has the potential the halve the current energy use in desalination through the use of reverse osmosis, that is being conducted at the plant.

And the development of such low-energy desalination technologies need to be accelerated, he added, making PUB's continual work with its R&D partners critical.

The Tuas Desalination Plant is a "strategic infrastructural asset" that will boost Singapore's desalination capacity from the current 100 mgd to 130 mgd, PUB said in its media release.

Occupying about 3.5 hectares, the plant is one of the most compact in the world and is able to meet the water demand of about 200,000 households.

Construction by HSL Constructor began in November 2015, and the plant began its testing and commissioning at the beginning of this year.

Mr Koh said equipment was stacked "to a certain extent". The plant's compactness could, however, pose challenges during maintenance work, as there is less space between the pipes and equipment, and workers would have limited space to carry out their work.

The new plant is the first that uses advanced pretreatment technology – a combination of dissolved air floatation and ultrafiltration.

Together, they reduce the deposits of impurities on reverse osmosis membranes. The membranes can last for a month before they need to be cleaned, about one to two weeks longer than with the conventional system.

SingSpring plant, which was built in 2005, has only the dissolved air floatation system, while TuaSpring, built in 2013, has only the ultrafiltration system.

In dissolved air floatation, chemicals are introduced into seawater to gather impurities into bigger particles. Fine air bubbles are then injected into the particles, which float and are removed.

During ultrafiltration, seawater passes through semi-permeable membranes that remove impurities, microorganisms and bacteria.

"From SingSpring and TuaSpring, we learned that pretreatment is very important and we combined (the two systems) as the pre-treatment," said Mr Koh.

Advanced pretreatment technology makes the plant more robust — should there be deterioration of seawater quality due to a minor oil spill or algae bloom, the dissolved air floatation system can help to reduce algae count. This helps to preserve the ultrafiltration membranes, which subsequently helps to preserve the membranes used for reverse osmosis.

The Tuas Desalination Plant cost S$217 million, an amount that includes maintenance costs for the first 24 months.

It is also the first desalination plant that will have solar panels on more than half of its roof surface. To be installed by the end of this year, the panels will cover more than 7,000 sq m and meet less than 1 per cent of the plant's needs, which is also equivalent to powering more than 300 four-room flats for a year.

Asked about the environmental impact of the plant, the PUB said an assessment was done. Seawater quality is monitored "very closely" and the brine is released into the open sea.

The fourth and fifth desalination plants in Marina East and Jurong Island are expected to be completed in 2020.

Singapore opens its third desalination plant in Tuas
Lianne Chia and Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 28 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Singapore on Thursday (Jun 28) opened its third desalination plant, boosting the country’s desalination capacity from 100 to 130 million gallons a day (mgd).

The Tuas Desalination Plant, which can produce 30 million gallons of drinking water a day, will help to meet up to 30 per cent of Singapore’s current water demand.

Spanning just 3.5ha - the size of three rugby fields - Tuas Desalination Plant is the country’s smallest plant to date.

Despite its size, the plant can produce the same amount of drinking water as SingSpring Desalination Plant, Singapore’s first such plant.

SingSpring occupies 6.3ha, nearly double the footprint of Tuas Desalination Plant.

Both plants can produce up to 30mgd of drinking water, which is enough to supply to 200,000 households.

The first to be owned and operated by PUB, the Tuas plant will also be used to test new energy-saving technologies.

The plant is also the first in Singapore to adopt an advanced pre-treatment technology, which combines two existing filtration methods – dissolved air floatation and ultrafiltration.

This will help to reduce membrane fouling when treating seawater of varying water quality, as well as to prolong the lifespan of a membrane.

To reduce the plant's carbon footprint, a 1.2MWp solar photovoltaic (PV) system will be installed on more than half of the plant’s roof surface by the end of the year.

Covering more than 7,000 sq m, the solar PV system will be able to generate 1.4 million kWh of clean energy a year, which will be used to power the plant’s administrative building.

With Singapore’s water demand projected to double from the current 430mgd by 2060, two more desalination plants are in the pipeline.

Slated to be completed in 2020, Marina East Desalination Plant and a fifth desalination plant at Jurong Island will bring the total daily water production in Singapore to 190mgd in two years’ time.


Speaking at the opening of the plant, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli pointed out the need for Singapore to continually expand and enhance its water supply network.

He cited examples of cities like Cape Town in South Africa and Sao Paulo in Brazil. In Sao Paulo, a severe drought had caused the stock level of its main reservoir fall below 4 per cent, and its 21 million inhabitants had at one point less than 20 days of water.

“We are laying more pipes to reach the population and industries in new growth nodes while maintaining and renewing existing water infrastructure,” said Mr Masagos.

He added that all these are “heavy, but necessary investments”, and take time. These investments must also be made ahead of time and demand, so Singaporeans will not face the same problems as Sao Paulo and Cape Town, the minister said.

“This is made possible by right-pricing water to reflect the long-run marginal cost of producing our next drop of water, which is likely to come from NEWater and desalinated water.”

Source: CNA/ad(cy)

Singapore opens third desalination plant in Tuas
Jose Hong Straits Times 28 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - Singapore's third desalination plant officially opened on Thursday (June 28), helping the Republic to further overcome its water challenges.

The $217 million Tuas Desalination Plant can produce up to 30 million gallons a day (mgd) of drinking water, the amount used by around 200,000 households daily.

With the new plant, 30 per cent of Singapore's water needs can now be met by desalination, up from 25 per cent. The new facility adds to SingSpring Desalination Plant, which also can produce 30mgd of drinking water, and Tuaspring Desalination Plant, whose capacity is 70mgd.

At the plant's opening on Thursday morning, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said water is an existential issue for Singapore.

"Desalination, like Newater, is a weather-resilient water source. It helps us better cope with the threat of climate change," he said, referring to the high-grade reclaimed water known as Newater. Singapore also relies on water from local catchment and imported water.

The new plant is the first owned and operated by national water agency PUB, with SingSpring and Tuaspring both run by Hyflux. The water treatment facilities operator has been in the news recently for its financial woes and is seeking to sell the loss-making Tuaspring plant.

In response to media queries, PUB water supply (plants) director Bernard Koh said: "PUB's decision to run this plant on our own was not triggered by any lapses or inefficiencies experienced by the private sector."

Instead, he said the move allows PUB to build up its water treatment skills, and implement its own research and development projects.

Singapore's latest desalination plant is at 3.5ha, the smallest of the country's desalination facilities. It will remain so even after the next two desalination plants are built in Marina East and Jurong Island by 2020.

Yet in terms of the amount of water purified for its size, Tuas Desalination Plant is the most space efficient desalination plant in the world, said a PUB spokesman.

It is also the first to use solar power and the most technologically advanced.

More than 7,000 sq m of the new plant's roof will be covered by a photovoltaic system, and when online, the solar panels can generate 1.4 million kilowatt-hours of energy a year, enough to power more than 300 four-room flats in the same period. However, in a sign of how much electricity is needed for desalination, this is enough only to run the plant's administrative building - less than 1 per cent of the total facility's needs.

Tuas Desalination Plant is also the most technologically advanced.

By combining two methods used separately in Singspring and Tuaspring, the lifespan of its reverse osmosis membranes - where the final stage of purification occurs - increases from as little as two weeks to one month.

The opening of Tuas Desalination Plant comes after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad earlier this week criticised the water supply deal between Singapore and Malaysia.

When asked if his comments meant that Singapore's quest for water self-sufficiency has become more pressing, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy's Cecilia Tortajada noted that the new desalination plant was planned years ago.

The senior research fellow from the school's Institute of Water Policy added that PUB has always taken a long-term view of Singapore's quest to become self-reliant in water.

She said: "The urgency to become water self-sufficient is not new and has always been a priority for Singapore… Johor is a very important source of water, but so are Newater, desalination, and local catchments, and PUB has been working on all of them."

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Singapore’s water story underscores the value of preparedness

Singapore’s water agency has stepped up efforts to diversify the country’s sources of water but individual preparedness and consciousness about water’s scarcity are the country’s strength, says the Institute of Water Policy’s Cecilia Tortajada.
Cecilia Tortajada Channel NewsAsia 29 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s water supply has come under the spotlight this week, following comments from Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that his government needs to discuss with Singapore the price at which water is being sold.

For years, dry spells in Johor and difference of opinions between Singapore and Malaysia, have raised periodic concerns about the nation’s water resources among people in Singapore.

A handful also do not rule out the possibility of water rationing, even though the last time water rationing in the country was actually carried out was in the 1960s.

In 1995, in an unusual campaign that lasted six days, an islandwide water rationing exercise was conducted involving 30,000 households.

During this period, the water supply was interrupted for 14 hours on each day. The objective was to remind Singaporeans, especially youths, about the importance of water.

How has the Singapore situation changed since then?


Since 1965 when Singapore became independent, the country has reinvented itself many times while amassing more water resources.

It has increased its size by about 25 per cent through land reclamation; but has developed 17 reservoirs from the three in 1965. The land area from which it is possible to collect water has increased to more than 67 per cent from 11 per cent.

Singapore has become the leading country in producing reused water with NEWater covering up to 40 per cent of daily demand. Desalination produces up to 25 per cent of daily requirements.

Singapore has also invested, and continues investing, in research and development, education and training when it comes to water. It also has one of the most efficient water utilities in the world - so much such that the Public Utilities Board (PUB) is better known as Singapore’s national water agency.

On the demand side, water prices were adjusted in 2017 after 17 years to much public ruckus.

Yet, under the new pricing scheme effected in two phases over 2017 and 2018, potable water tariffs will increase by only S$0.04 per cubic metre compared to 2016's prices for consumption of 40 cubic metres or less of water each month and S$0.12 per cubic metre if consumption is more than 40 cubic metres, on top of increases to the water conservation tax.

Meanwhile, support for one- and two-room HDB flats in the form of vouchers has increased.

With the objective to conserve and reduce water use, PUB has also developed efficiency measures for several sectors.

Those of us living in Singapore have to give more credit to PUB for its performance for the last several decades, where it has made our lives more secure as we have access to clean water on a permanent basis.

Sometimes the issue might ironically be one of too much water, where torrential rains have threatened to flood places in Singapore – including MRT tunnels – but efforts to address flooding risks and enhance drainage infrastructure have been underway.


Even though there is no threat of water rationing as yet, it is essential for Singapore residents, businesses and industrial sectors to realise the importance of water conservation.

There are imponderables such as climate change that are affecting the entire world. In Southeast Asia, the region has been hit by more frequent and intense floods in recent decades.

In Singapore, more robust water sources that do not depend on the climate have been springing up. There are now five NEWater plants and three desalination plants, of which one was opened just this week. There is one more under construction and a final one at the planning stage.

However, no system is perfect. What is the Achilles’ heel in the case of Singapore's water supply? Climate change? The water supply from Johor? Public inertia to water waste? It is all of the above.

Between 2014 and 2015, water consumption in Singapore increased from 150 to 151 litres per person per day. One litre may not seem like much, but this translates into an additional 150 million litres of water consumed a month.

If it still sounds insignificant, consider how much more electricity needed to treat and distribute water has been consumed.

Energy to treat water varies from about 0.2 kWh per cubic metres for water from local catchments or Johor, to 1.0 kWh per cubic metres for NEWater, and 3.6 kWh per cubic metres for desalination. Saving water means saving energy as well.

Thankfully water consumption in Singapore has since decreased to 148 litres per person each day in 2016 and 143 litres in 2017.

While some have attributed the decrease in water consumption to the increase in water prices, does this mean that the price of water should increase every year, as it is the case with electricity, for people to be more conscious of its use? Surely, we can all modify habits without the need for a stick?

Others have pointed to PUB’s development of a “smart shower programme” to study the effect of shower devices that tell people about how much water they have consumed and measure how much water is subsequently used.

But if we depend on a device to decide how much water to use, are we relegating our sense of responsibility to devices?

As is the case every year, I have just been interviewed by students interested in water conservation and how to make this a sustainable practice among their families and youths their age. These intelligent, forward-looking students from Catholic Junior College and Raffles Institute had worked on initiatives that are not only commendable but should also be examined by authorities to see how they can be implemented and scaled up.

More also can be done to understand at what point a young person, who is aware of the importance of water conservation and other similar ethical behaviours when it comes to the environment, forgets what they have internalise.

It could pave the way for more inclusive, long-term educational programmes that ingrains an environmentally conscious attitude into the minds of our young.

This way, waste of water and energy, food waste and littering could be a problem of the past. And Singapore’s water Achilles’ heel would be less vulnerable.

Cecilia Tortajada is senior research fellow at the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Water Resources Development.

Source: CNA/nr

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180 youth environmentalists from region in Singapore for summit to work for greener world

Nathanael Phang Strait Times 28 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - Youth environmentalists from the Asia-Pacific region are here to take part in a four-day campaign to learn how they can play a part to protect the natural environment.

The ninth edition of the Actions For Earth - Global Youth Summit, which happens twice a year, is being organised by Hemispheres Foundation, a local non-profit social enterprise run by professionals and volunteers which focuses on issues concerning health and the environment.

Singapore, which is marking 2018 as the Year of Climate Action, also hosted the first summit in 2014.

The campaign started on Thursday (June 28) at National Library Plaza with 180 youth environmentalists from 10 countries taking part.

"Climate change could mean higher or lower temperatures, more intense rainfall or rise in sea levels. These factors may threaten the quality of life and available infrastructure. Hence, we must all pledge to take action against climate change," said Ms Ann Phua, president and founder of Hemispheres Foundation.

Throughout the four days, the youth environmentalists will be discussing waste issues and engaging in community outreach to encourage members of the public to pledge to act against climate change.

Guest of honour Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, said at the launch that with climate change intensifying over the recent years, global effort is needed to tackle the issue.

She added: "The Government is not able to address this issue alone. Everyone has a part to play in reducing our carbon footprint and leading a more environmentally conscious lifestyle."

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RSPO to Dive Into Palm Oil Giant Wilmar Deforestation Link

Sheany Jakarta Globe 28 Jun 18;

Jakarta. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO, is investigating claims by environmental advocacy organization Greenpeace that one of the international lobby group's major members is involved in deforestation.

Greenpeace said in a report published on Sunday (24/06) that Singapore-based Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil trader, had links to a company guilty of deforestation, despite its commitment to sustainable practices.

The allegation is the latest blow to the lobby group's efforts to promote sustainable practices in the industry and polishing the commodity's image as the most efficient vegetable oil.

The report titled "Rogue Trader: Keeping Deforestation in the Family" connects Wilmar with Gama, one of the world's largest palm oil producers, and shows that both companies were not only co-founded by Indonesian businessman Martua Sitorus, but that they are also run by members of his family.

"An area twice the size of Paris has been destroyed by Gama, a palm oil business run by senior Wilmar executives and members of their family," Greenpeace said in a statement.

Kiki Taufik, head of the Indonesia forest campaign at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said Wilmar and Gama have been working together for years, "with Gama doing the dirty work so Wilmar's hands stay clean."

"Wilmar must immediately cut off all palm oil suppliers that are unable to prove that they are not destroying rainforests," he said.

Greenpeace called on the RSPO to enforce its membership rules and require Wilmar and Gama to register as a group. According to the environmental organization, at least one Gama company, S&G Biofuel, is also an RSPO member.

"Under RSPO membership rules, companies that share management or control should be treated as one group. This makes Wilmar responsible for what happens in Gama's concessions," Greenpeace said.

Responding to the Jakarta Globe's request for comment, Tiur Rumondang, RSPO country director for Indonesian operations, said the group is aware of Greenpeace's claims and that is taking the allegations seriously.

"We remain committed to transparency and accountability and take these allegations seriously. We are investigating the accusations brought by Greenpeace," Tiur said.

No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation

In 2013, Wilmar established a no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation (NDPE) policy, which applies to not only its own plantations but also those of its suppliers. The company was reportedly the first palm oil trader to do so. Wilmar made a commitment to protect forests, peatlands and human and community rights.

However, the Greenpeace report, through mapping and satellite analysis, revealed that Gama allegedly destroyed 21,500 hectares of rainforest or peatland since these commitments were made.

The report also includes an analysis of trade data, which shows how Wilmar has continued to trade palm oil produced by Gama, despite being aware that the company was actively violating Wilmar's own NDPE policy.

In addition, Greenpeace said Wilmar has a history of selling off its most controversial concessions to Gama in order to evade responsibility for environmental and human rights abuses.

Wilmar allegedly supplies global brands, such as Procter & Gamble, Nestlé and Unilever, with palm oil produced by Gama's mills, according to Greenpeace.

"Brands cannot let this deception pass unchallenged and have no choice but to suspend all business with Wilmar until it can prove it only trades clean palm oil from responsible producers," Kiki said.

Wilmar issued a statement on Monday saying it has, as of June 20, ceased sourcing palm oil from suppliers associated with Gama.

"Wilmar will not buy from any company that cannot prove to our satisfaction that they do not belong to Gama because of the alleged identified non-compliance with Wilmar's NDPE policy," Wilmar International said in a statement.

The statement also asserted that Wilmar and Gama are two separate corporate entities with independent operations.

"Wilmar has no control, management or otherwise, over Gama. Wilmar executives with familial ties with Gama do not hold any decision-making power or influence on Wilmar's sustainability policy," the company said.

Calls to Gama's offices in Jakarta went unanswered.

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Deluge of electronic waste turning Thailand into 'world's rubbish dump'

Thailand has been swamped by waste from the west after Chinese ban on imports
Hannah Ellis-Petersen The Guardian 28 Jun 18;

At a deserted factory outside Bangkok, skyscrapers made from vast blocks of crushed printers, Xbox components and TVs tower over black rivers of smashed-up computer screens.

This is a tiny fraction of the estimated 50m tonnes of electronic waste created just in the EU every year, a tide of toxic rubbish that is flooding into south-east Asia from the EU, US and Japan.

Thailand, with its lax environmental laws, has become a dumping ground for this e-waste over the past six months, but authorities are clamping down, fearful that the country will become the “rubbish dump of the world”. The global implications could be enormous.

A factory visited by the Guardian in Samut Prakan province, south of Bangkok, which was recently shut down in a raid for operating illegally, illustrated the mammoth scale of the problem. Printers made by Dell and HP, Daewoo TVs and Apple computer drives were stacked sky-high next to precarious piles of compressed keyboards, routers and copy machines. Labels showed the waste had mainly come from abroad.

For locals, it is unclear why Thailand should be taking this waste. The Samut Prakan factory sits in the middle of hundreds of shrimp farms and there were concerns it was poisoning the landscape, with no environmental protections or oversight in place.

Paraton Gumkum, 32, who owns a nearby shrimp farm, described the smell that enveloped the area when the factory was operating. “I wish that Thailand would say no to the e-waste trash. I am worried because it contaminates the air and the water with dangerous chemicals,” he said. “We have been very worried that the chemicals will leak into our shrimp farm.”

Until the beginning of this year, China was a willing recipient of the world’s electronic waste, which it recycled in vast factories. According to the UN, 70% of all electronic waste was ending up in China.

But in January, having calculated that the environmental impact far outweighed the short-term profit, China closed its gates to virtually all foreign rubbish. It has prompted something of a global crisis, not just for e-waste but plastic waste as well.

Asian nations such as Thailand, Laos and Cambodia stepped in. Chinese businessmen have set about attempting to open about 100 plastic and e-waste recycling plants across Thailand since January.

However, after five months in which e-waste imports have increased to 37,000 tonnes so far this year (more is thought to have entered illegally), Thailand has become the first south-east Asian nation to follow China’s example and crack down on the legal and illegal e-waste coming in.

“We already have too much electronic waste here in Thailand. It is not our burden to bring this pollution from the rest of the world to the next generation of Thai people,” said Thailand’s deputy police chief, Wirachai Songmetta.

Songmetta, who has led raids on more than 26 illegal e-waste factories in recent weeks, described some of the recycling set-ups as “frightening”, with primitive and contaminating methods used to extract valuable metals from the electronics while the rest is thrown into vast incinerators that pump out toxic smoke.

“These factories have been polluting the environment because of all the heavy metals in the e-waste like lead and copper, which can poison the soil and the water,” he said. “They also burn the plastic, which brings toxic fumes into the air. So it is very dangerous for the Thai people living near these factories.”

While the word recycling implies doing good for the planet, in fact most of the e-waste recycling plants involve a dirty and toxic process to extract lead and copper that does huge amounts of environmental damage. The plastic in e-waste, such as computer screen casings, also contains high amounts of flame retardants that are poisonous if burned or recycled into cheap food packaging, as is happening in some of the factories.

Thai customs officers are now pushing back 20 containers of e-waste a day that are landing in Thai ports, and in the next two months the government plans to pass legislation to bans foreign e-waste and plastic waste from entering Thailand.

But with countries such as the US and the UK already relying on south-east Asia to pick up the e-waste and plastic waste slack in the wake of China’s ban – in the past four months alone, UK exports of plastic to Thailand have risen fiftyfold – this presents a problem. In Hong Kong and Singapore, where most of the world’s e-waste is sent before it is bounced to less-developed countries, there is already a backlog of e-waste in shipping containers. If south-east Asian countries do not take it, it has nowhere to go.

Jim Puckett, of the Basel Action Network, which works globally to tackle the problem of toxic waste, said that in the short term a ban by Thailand would “inevitably lead to countries resorting to perverse ways to get rid of their e-waste, probably dumping it in terrible places and incinerating it all.” But he emphasised that in the long term a ban on e-waste imports across the region was “extremely necessary”.

“Places like America and Europe need to realise they are going to have to start recycling their own electronic waste and stop sweeping the negative effects from north to south,” he said.

“If a crisis does hit, hopefully this will make these countries think hard about how to be cleaner and more efficient about this waste we are producing on such an enormous scale, and finally take some responsibility.”

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jun 18

15 Jul (Sun): Make a difference for our horseshoe crabs
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

28 Jul (Sat): Paddling Sungei Khatib Bongsu with Kayakasia
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

July and Aug: FREE guided intertidal walk at Sentosa
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Job: Student Research Assistant for NUS‒NParks Marine Debris Project (2‒4 months; deadline 13 Jul 2018)
The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

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LTA clarifies how it concluded that measures to protect wildlife from tests for Cross Island Line were a success

Audrey Tan Straits Times 28 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has elaborated on how it had earlier concluded that measures to reduce the negative impact of works for the Cross Island MRT line on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) have been successful.

On Thursday (June 28), in response to Straits Times queries, it gave details of how it had monitored animals in the area and noted that similar animals were found before and after the start of soil tests for the upcoming MRT line.

The tests are done to see if a train tunnel can be built under Singapore's largest nature reserve for the 50km Cross Island Line, the building of which is feared to have a negative impact on the area's wildlife. Nature lovers have been watching developments closely, and asked how LTA had concluded that the measures were successful.

On Thursday, LTA clarified in an e-mail reply that fauna monitoring works using about 90 camera traps started about three to six months before the soil works started. When the works ended, monitoring lasted about four to six months.

The authority said its findings "suggested that similar animals were present in the areas before and after the works, with various animal groups such as mammals, reptiles and birds captured by the camera traps".

Other than the Sunda pangolin and lesser mousedeer, which it mentioned in its earlier June 8 statement, LTA said another animal recorded by the camera traps was the common palm civet.

It did not respond to ST's query on the number of animals of each species spotted before and after the works.

Added the spokesman: "LTA continues to work with the relevant stakeholders to further analyse the data collected to deepen our understanding of the SI works on fauna activities in the CCNR."

In its statement on June 8, LTA said camera traps have picked up the presence of animals such as the critically endangered Sunda pangolin and the lesser mousedeer at the work sites after the completion of the soil tests. This, according to LTA's director of civil design and land, Dr Goh Kok Hun, "validated the mitigation measures developed".

Measures include reducing the number of boreholes required from 72 to 16, locating the boreholes on existing trails and clearings to minimise the impact on existing flora, and requiring the use of enclosures to reduce engine noise, and tanks to collect discharge.

While the measures were initially welcomed by nature groups, they told The Straits Times that more data, and better analysis of the data, was required before a conclusion about the success of mitigation measures is reached.

Nature groups are watching this closely as the debate over the Cross Island Line and whether it will eventually tunnel under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve would set a precedent for where Singapore draws the line between development and conservation.

When the line was first announced by the Government in 2013, preliminary plans showing it cutting through forests in the nature reserve alarmed the nature groups, leading them to propose an alternative alignment skirting the reserve instead.

The authorities are now considering both alignments - a 4km route, half of which would be under the nature reserve near MacRitchie Reservoir, and a skirting alignment that would take a 9km route around it. No decision has been made yet.

Separately, another study is ongoing to assess the environmental impact that would arise from the construction and operation of the MRT line for both routes.

The Straits Times reported in March this year that this study started last year and is expected to be completed later this year.

More clarity needed on how soil works for Cross Island Line affected animals in reserve: Nature groups
Audrey Tan Straits Times 28 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - Nature groups and experts are calling for more information on how soil investigation works at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve affected native animals.

Without more transparency, it is impossible to tell if or how the animals were impacted, they said in response to a claim made by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) that findings on its measures to reduce the environmental impact of soil works "were encouraging and validated the mitigation measures developed".

The tests, which involved boring holes up to 70m underground to extract soil samples, were done to explore if the train tunnel for the Cross Island Line can be built under Singapore's largest nature reserve.

The LTA had put in place camera traps and done ground surveys to monitor wildlife for the first part of the tests. There is another ongoing environmental study.

The authorities are considering two alignments for the MRT line, a 4km route, half of which would be under the nature reserve near MacRitchie Reservoir, and a skirting alignment that would take a 9km route around it.

Earlier this month, LTA said that camera traps picked up the presence of animals. Its statement also included two camera trap photographs of pangolins.

On Thursday (June 28), an LTA spokesman said about 90 camera traps were deployed about three to six months before the soil works started in February last year (2017). When they ended late last year, monitoring was done for about four to six months. LTA's findings "suggested that similar animals were present in the areas before and after the works, with various animal groups such as mammals, reptiles and birds captured by the camera traps", she added, without elaborating on the number of such animals spotted.

The spokesman said LTA will continue to work with stakeholders "to further analyse the data collected to deepen our understanding of the soil works on fauna activities".

To reduce the impact of the works, LTA had put in place measures including reducing the number of boreholes and requiring the use of enclosures to reduce engine noise, among others.

The measures were welcomed by nature groups, but they told ST that more data, and better data analysis was required.

Ms Chloe Tan, spokesman for the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group, pointed out that the presence of one Sunda pangolin after the works could not prove anything, if there had been a greater population of pangolins using the area in the first place.

National University of Singapore biology lecturer N. Sivasothi noted that the soil investigation works for the Cross Island Line had been a serious intrusion into Singapore's protected nature reserve, and it was important that any statement arising from the works be substantiated.

"Right now, other than the two photographs of the pangolins, there is no scientific data to verify if the mitigation measures really worked," he said.

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3M launches one of Singapore's largest solar farms

Jose Hong Straits Times 27 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - One of Singapore's largest solar farms, which can produce enough energy to power 500 four-room Housing Board flats, was officially opened on Wednesday (June 27).

The 14,000 sq m farm lies on the roof of science firm 3M's manufacturing plant in Tuas, and boasts 6,605 solar panels and 55 inverters. It can generate 2,400 megawatt hours of electricity a year.

The firm said the solar farm will help it reach its 2025 goal of using renewable energy to power a quarter of its global operations.

Giving a keynote speech at the event to mark the opening, guest of honour Amy Khor said that the farm would reduce 3M's carbon emissions by 1,139 tonnes per year.

Dr Khor, who is Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, reiterated green policies in her speech. They include increasing the adoption of solar power in the national system by 2020 to 350 megawatts-peak - about 5 per cent of the country's projected peak electricity demand.

On Wednesday, 3M also launched its 10,000 sq m headquarters in Ang Mo Kio as well as a customer technical centre that displays the company's scientific innovations to the public. Among other things, the firm is known for its Post-it notes.

Since 1966, the global conglomerate has invested more than $1 billion in its Singapore facilities which span business, research and development and manufacturing. It now employs 1,600 in the country.

Speaking at the opening, 3M Singapore's managing director Yuko Nakahira said: "As we expand our presence in Singapore, 3M is looking into ways to foster more collaborations with local and regional partners, and develop Asia-centric solutions that address our customers' sustainability challenges."

The firm's solar efforts join moves by public and private players to make Singapore more reliant on power from the sun.

On Monday, HDB announced that solar panels would be installed and operated by Sembcorp in blocks of public flats managed by the West Coast and Choa Chu Kang town councils.

The project, which begins in the third quarter of the year, will bring HDB closer to its target of having solar panels in 5,500 blocks by 2020.

At the opening of last year's Singapore International Energy Week, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that without resorting to subsidies, Singapore could generate 2 gigawatts-peak of solar power by 2025, about a quarter of national projected peak electricity demand.

Currently, solar energy accounts for about 2 per cent of the country's power supply.

The Republic already boasts the world's largest floating solar panel test bed at Tengeh Reservoir, and national water agency PUB wants to deploy floating solar photovoltaic systems on more reservoirs.

In March, Microsoft announced that it would buy solar power from the Sunseap Group in Singapore, marking the technology company's first renewable energy deal in Asia.

Under the deal, Microsoft will buy 100 per cent of the electricity generated from Sunseap's 60 megawatt-peak solar power project for 20 years for its Singapore data operations.

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Thailand: Recycling of plastic, e-waste faces ban

Prohibition aimed at discouraging imports

The Department of Industrial Works (DIW) has promised to ban local factories from recycling plastic and electronic waste.

Department deputy chief Banjong Sukreeta said the proposed ban will effectively discourage factories from importing waste into Thailand and help authorities deal with the increasing amount of waste in the country.

He said the department is authorised under the 1992 Factory Act to forbid domestic plants to use plastic or electronic waste in their production processes.

The department is preparing to announce the ban, he added.

On a proposal that Section 44 be invoked to ban the import of both plastic and electronic waste, Mr Banjong said a working committee is studying the issue and, in the meantime, the department will delay considering whether to grant import permits.

Earlier, the department suspended the licences of five factories found to have breached the conditions involving the use of plastic and electronic waste for recycling.

The proposed ban was raised during a joint press conference between the DIW and the Customs Department after the inspection of a container suspected of being used to carry illegal waste into the country.

The container in question was found to contain capacitors and the DIW is expected to spend a month running checks on them to determine if they contain hazardous waste as stipulated under the Basel Convention.

Chaiyut Khamkhun, spokesman of the Customs Department, said about 400 containers are suspected of carrying illegally imported waste.

If the owners do not claim them within 30 days, the containers will be opened and the cargo examined, he said.

According to Mr Chaiyut, plastic and electronic waste are imported via two main ports -- in Bangkok and Chon Buri's Laem Chabang.

At Bangkok port, 89 containers have been left unclaimed 30 days after imports while Laem Chabang port has 300 unclaimed containers.

Eco-Manufacturing Ltd in Chon Buri's Si Racha district where they found its operations to be in compliance with the law.
Last year, about 53,000 tonnes of plastic and electronic waste were brought in for recycling.

As of June this year, about 37,000 tonnes of such waste had been imported.

A police team led by deputy national police chief Pol Gen Wirachai Songmetta inspected a warehouse in Chon Buri's Bang Lamung district and seized a container filled with scrap metal on Tuesday.

The inspection followed a tip-off by locals who spotted trucks unloading goods suspected to be toxic waste.

The warehouse operator was charged with the illegal possession of hazardous waste.

The police team also seized another 14 containers near the warehouse after the truck drivers fled upon seeing the officials.

Pol Gen Wirachai said a probe showed the waste was destined for Laem Chabang port for export, but the operators did not obtain proper documents for handling transport and storage.

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One football pitch of forest lost every second in 2017, data reveals

Global deforestation is on an upward trend, jeopardising efforts to tackle climate change and the massive decline in wildlife
Damian Carrington, Niko Kommenda, Pablo Gutiérrez and Cath Levett The Guardian 27 Jun 18;

The world lost more than one football pitch of forest every second in 2017, according to new data from a global satellite survey, adding up to an area equivalent to the whole of Italy over the year.

The scale of tree destruction, much of it done illegally, poses a grave threat to tackling both climate change and the massive global decline in wildlife. The loss in 2017 recorded by Global Forest Watch was 29.4m hectares, the second highest recorded since the monitoring began in 2001.

Global tree cover losses have doubled since 2003, while deforestation in crucial tropical rainforest has doubled since 2008. A falling trend in Brazil has been reversed amid political instability and forest destruction has soared in Colombia.

In other key nations, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s vast forests suffered record losses. However, in Indonesia, deforestation dropped 60% in 2017, helped by fewer forest fires and government action.

Forest losses are a huge contributor to the carbon emissions driving global warming, about the same as total emissions from the US, which is the world’s second biggest polluter. Deforestation destroys wildlife habitat and is a key reason for populations of wildlife having plunged by half in the last 40 years, starting a sixth mass extinction.

“The main reason tropical forests are disappearing is not a mystery – vast areas continue to be cleared for soy, beef, palm oil, timber, and other globally traded commodities,” said Frances Seymour at the World Resources Institute, which produces Global Forest Watch with its partners. “Much of this clearing is illegal and linked to corruption.”

Just 2% of the funding for climate action goes towards forest and land protection, Seymour said, despite the protection of forests having the potential to provide a third of the global emissions cuts needed by 2030. “This is truly an urgent issue that should be getting more attention,” she said. “We are trying to put out a house fire with a teaspoon.”

The new data is based on 30m resolution satellite data and records all forest loss, including that from forest fires. Human destruction causes virtually all deforestation in the tropics, a vast haven of both carbon and wildlife. Fires are dominant at higher latitudes, causing roughly two-thirds of losses in Russia and Canada, and may be becoming more common due to climate change.

New forests are being grown, in China and India for example, but the precise extent to which these offset the destruction of existing ones is not yet known, although it is clear that deforestation significantly exceeds afforestation. It is estimated that only about 15% of the forests likely to have existed before human civilisation remain intact today: a quarter have been razed and the rest fragmented or degraded.

Brazil, with its vast Amazon territory, is vital in fighting deforestation and for a decade from 2005 a government crackdown lead to falling deforestation. But tree felling is now rising fast again, as political strife distracts the authorities. “What we are seeing today is the backlash,” said Carlos Nobre at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

More than a quarter of Brazil’s tree losses in 2017 were due to fires deliberately set to clear land. “Global warming makes much hotter temperatures, making forests more vulnerable to human-set fires and natural-caused fires,” said Nobre.

Colombia is a global hotspot for biodiversity but losses soared by 46% in 2017. The Farc, its largest rebel group, previously controlled much of Colombia’s Amazon territory, blocking access. But the demobilisation of the Farc has left a power vacuum and illegal clearing for cattle, logging and cocaine production has soared.

Indonesia has seen severe deforestation but this fell sharply in 2017, as a damp year cut fire losses and government protection of peat forests took effect. “One year’s data does not make a trend, that is true,” said Putera Parthama, director general for climate change at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry. “But we believe we are starting one.”

The destruction of trees does not just harm the environment, said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples: “Along with this violence against the Earth, there is growing violence against the people who defend these forests.” She said half of the 197 environmental defenders killed in 2017 were from indigenous groups.

“Indigenous people have long stewarded the world’s forests that are crucial to the fight against climate change,” said Tauli-Corpuz. “The new data finds the rate of tree cover loss is less than half in community and indigenous lands compared to elsewhere.”

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jun 18

7 Jul (Sat): R.U.M. mangroves and coastal cleanup
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Hear About Low Impact Living at Green Drinks SG x The Green Collective SG Relaunch Party
Green Drinks Singapore

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'Intense rain' caused flash floods in central, western Singapore: PUB

Channel NewsAsia 26 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: "Intense rain" caused flash floods in three locations across central and western Singapore on Tuesday (Jun 26) morning, leaving vehicles and pedestrians to wade their way through murky waters as they made their way to work during peak hour.

The flash floods occurred in Lorong Kismis, Toh Tuck Avenue and along PIE towards Tuas after the Eng Neo exit, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) said.

The PUB said that Old Toh Tuck Road saw more rain on Tuesday than the entire monthly average for June. Across four hours, 150mm of rainfall was recorded in the area, compared with the average rainfall of 130.7mm in the entire month of June, PUB said.

One video submitted by a Channel NewsAsia reader showed cars making their way slowly through brown waters at Toh Tuck.

Another video - which was circulating on social media - showed the flood after the PIE exit at Toh Tuck and a motorcycle being pushed by two people in the rain.

PUB said that its officers "were immediately deployed to the flooded locations to investigate and render assistance". By 12.20pm, all flash floods had subsided, it added.

"We urge the public to exercise caution and avoid stepping into or driving into flooded areas. During heavy rain, the public should stay tuned to radio broadcast and check PUB’s Facebook or PUB's mobile app MyWaters for flood updates," it said.

The Meteorological Service on Jun 14 had said that wetter weather can be expected in Singapore during the second half of the month, compared to the first half.

The Southwest monsoon has set in over Singapore and the surrounding region, and is expected to last till September, it added.

Source: CNA/na(aj)

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Palm oil ‘disastrous’ for wildlife but here to stay, experts warn

The deforestation it causes is decimating species such as orangutans and tigers - but the alternatives could be worse, finds authoritative report
Damian Carrington The Guardian 26 Jun 18;

It is consumed daily by billions of people but palm oil is “disastrous” for wildlife such as orangutans and tigers, according to an authoritative new report. However, the analysis warns that alternatives are likely to drive biodiversity losses elsewhere, rather than halt them.

The analysis, from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), found that rainforest destruction caused by palm oil plantations damages more than 190 threatened species on the IUCN’s red list, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia. It also found that palm oil certified as “sustainable” is, so far, only marginally better in terms of preventing deforestation.

However, alternative oil crops, such as soy, corn and rapeseed, require up to nine times as much land and switching to them could result in the destruction of wild habitat in other parts of the world, such as Brazil and Argentina, the report warns. It recommends stronger action to ensure new palm oil plantations do not cause forests to be felled.

Palm oil provides a third of the world’s vegetable oil, from 10% of the land used for all oil crops. It is used in a huge range of food products and eaten by half the world’s population, with a quarter of production used in cosmetics, cleaning products and as biofuel.

“When you consider the disastrous impacts of palm oil on biodiversity from a global perspective, there are no simple solutions,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN director general. “If we ban or boycott it, other, more land-hungry oils will likely take its place.”

“Palm oil is here to stay and we urgently need concerted action to make palm oil production more sustainable, ensuring that governments, producers and the supply chain honour their sustainability commitments,” she said. Deforestation for palm oil frequently takes place despite legal bans.

The new report from the IUCN Oil Palm taskforce estimates the total area of industrial scale palm oil plantations at 18.7m hectares, with smallholder plantations taking the total to 25m hectares, equivalent to the area of the UK.

Despite the controversy over palm oil, there are no easy solutions, said Erik Meijaard, the IUCN report’s lead author. “Palm oil is decimating south-east Asia’s rich diversity of species as it eats into swaths of tropical forest,” he said. But, quoting US writer HL Mencken, he added. “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

One issue is that it is often easier to cut down virgin forest for new plantations, rather than deal with the complicated ownership issues that come with already degraded land. Another is that while some communities can benefit from plantations, as Indonesian and Malaysian governments argue, other communities can suffer.

Furthermore, plantations are often created in poor locations, meaning yields are low. “A lot of oil palm planting seems to be dumped in places wherever people can get hold of land,” said Meijaard. “There needs to be pressure on countries like Malaysia and Indonesia to start seriously looking at how to optimise this sector.”

Sustainable certification is intended to demonstrate that palm oil has not caused deforestation but is currently poor, according to Meijaard: “Certification is nowhere near as good as it should be. But [we] still think it is needed as the only objective way we can judge whether palm oil adheres to certain principles. The [certification body] needs to step it up and improve.”

A spokeswoman for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which certifies almost 20% of all palm oil, said: “While we acknowledge that the certification system is not perfect, it has made a real contribution against deforestation.” RSPO said it was currently strengthening its standards.

Arguments over palm oil have been bitter with the most recent flare-up occurring over the European Union’s decision to ban palm oil from use as biofuel, though not until 2030. In the run up to the decision, Malaysian minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong warned of a multi-billion dollar trade war: “Don’t expect us to continue buying European products.”

Malaysia also called a recent academic paper on huge orangutan declines “hyperbolic” and media reports on it “fake news”. “We’ve come to expect nothing less from our opponents in Europe and the environmental minions who do their bidding,” said the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

Richard George, at Greenpeace UK, said: “Time and time again we’ve caught RSPO members destroying forests for palm oil, including trashing orangutan habitat. If the RSPO wants to have a future, it must adopt ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ standards and ensure they are rigorously enforced.”

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