AVA urges people not to feed pigeons amid a sharp rise in feedback about the birds

There was a 34 per cent increase last year in the amount of feedback about pigeons.
Jalelah Abu Baker Channel NewsAsia 31 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: Drying clothes outside your home is a mundane task for most people, but not for Mdm Margaret Tan, who lives in a ground floor HDB flat in Balam Road.

The 66-year-old retiree simply cannot do that. She has tried, but the clothes she took in were dirtier than before they were washed, with bird droppings on them. Mdm Tan lives in an area which has been affected by pigeon-related problems for years.

Nearby is a big banner that urges residents not to feed pigeons by showing examples of problems they could cause - hygiene issues, attracting pests and the spreading of diseases.

But still, people feed the pigeons, she said. While the problem has improved, it still exists, Mdm Tan said.

“I’ve written in to complain about the issue many times,” she said, but has now given up.

When contacted, Marine Parade Town Council, which oversees the area, said it is aware of the ongoing pigeon issues on the estate and that it has been continuously working with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to address them.

AVA told Channel NewsAsia it has received 16 cases of feedback on pigeon feeding at Balam Road since 2015.

However, these numbers represent a tiny proportion of the island-wide statistics, which show that there is growing concern about pigeons: Last year, the AVA received 5,500 pieces of pigeon-related feedback from across Singapore, a 34 per cent increase from 4,100 in 2016.

The HDB flats at Balam Road were recently given a fresh coat of paint, but when Channel NewsAsia visited the area, pigeon droppings had already dirtied some ledges.

When asked about what is being done to address the root problem of the pigeons making a mess, a spokesperson for the town council said: “As part of our Repairs and Redecoration (R&R), we are exploring mitigating measures such as using wire mesh and aluminium flashings to deter pigeons from roosting at these areas.”

Such repairs and redecoration, which typically include upgrading of bin chutes and washing and painting of external walls, are undertaken by town councils to revitalise an estate.

“We had also received feedback from residents on pigeon feeders in the estate. This availability of food source attracts the birds to congregate in the area. As such, we would like to remind residents to refrain from feeding the pigeons and to maintain the cleanliness of the environment,” the spokesperson added.


AVA has been working with Marine Parade Town Council (MPTC) to identify pigeon hotspots at Balam Road, to reduce the population there and maintain hygiene and cleanliness, an AVA spokesperson said.

The authority also works with other agencies to take action against high-rise litterers, who throw food from their homes to feed the pigeons, it said.

Pigeons dirty the environment with droppings, and leftover food from pigeon feeding may attract other pests like rats, which carry diseases and pose a risk to public health, AVA added.

"Feeding encourages pigeons to breed and results in an increase in their population," a spokesperson said, adding that feeders provide a regular source of food which may have led to pigeons congregating in the area.

AVA has been educating the public against pigeon feeding as it is an offence, it said. Anyone caught feeding pigeons can be fined up to S$500 under the Animals and Birds Act.

While AVA continues to work with stakeholders to manage the pigeon population, "members of the public can play their part by not feeding pigeons", AVA said.

Another place which has pigeon problems is Hougang.

After receiving feedback from a reader, Channel NewsAsia visited the area. Pigeons stood atop tree branches and on the roofs of shelters, flying as a flock from one spot to another. Dried bird droppings dotted pathways.

Online seller Joseph Goh said that the problem has been around for several years, and that he complained about about the issue twice, more than a year ago, but he felt nothing had been done.

“The pigeons are a nuisance, and their droppings on the ground can look very unsightly sometimes,” he said. He added that there are feeders who pack food just for the pigeons.

Channel NewsAsia reached out to Aljunied-Hougang Town Council on the matter.


Business development manager at bird control company Mastermark Gloria Ngoi said that pigeons and their droppings are definitely a problem in Singapore.

Ms Ngoi, who has been in the industry for eight years, said: “It may also be a problem when it comes to controlling the number of pigeon feeders. It’s a bit tricky to manage.”

The people who feed the birds may get into a habit, thinking they are doing good for the pigeons, she explained.

As well as the problem of pigeon feeding, the birds are highly adaptable, allowing them to thrive in urban areas, she said.

"With the number of high rise buildings in Singapore, air-conditioning compressor ledges have become a conducive nesting ground for pigeons as it provides sufficient warmth and security away from predators."

She has received distressed calls from home-owners who are unable to open their windows because of the smell of pigeon droppings, which can accumulate to be “quite substantial” over time.

In order to break the pigeon’s nesting habits, one solution is installing bird netting that prevents pigeons from landing on the ledge. Another bird-proofing solution is using bird spikes which are designed not to allow birds to land.

Ms Ngoi said that feeding pigeons with contraceptives can also be an effective strategy to in deal with the issue.


Other than being smelly, bird droppings can pose health risks as well. Infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre Leong Hoe Nam said bird droppings can cause lung, blood or brain infection, pneumonia and fungal infections.

Ms Ngoi agreed that constant exposure to pigeon droppings could cause respiratory problems

They also create other problems. “Their droppings are aesthetically damaging and corrosive. It may eat into paintwork, into concrete, and can eventually eat into metal as well,” Ms Ngoi said.

That said, she finds that more HDB blocks and markets are being bird-proofed over the years. “When town councils go through R&R, they do improve bird control,” she said.


Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who oversees the Municipal Services Office (MSO), brought up pigeon issues during the Committee of Supply debate last month.

In explaining the MSO’s behind-the-scenes work on improving inter-agency processes, she brought up the example of these birds.

Town councils oversee the cleaning of common areas, AVA takes enforcement action against pigeon feeders, while the National Environment Agency takes enforcement action in instances where high-rise littering is involved. Residents’ committees from the People's Association are often roped in to counsel the feeders, she said.

“These agencies work together in order for pigeon-related issues to be resolved holistically. To support their efforts, MSO has helped to formulate end-to-end workflows to clarify roles and responsibilities, and tighten coordination in their handling of such pigeon-related nuisance,” she said.

In the meantime, residents hope that their neighbours will stop encouraging pigeons by feeding them.

Mdm Tan, who has lived at her Balam Road home for almost 50 years, said: "They (residents) come down and feed them bread and rice even though there's a banner asking them not to. Things will get better if they stop."

Source: CNA/ja

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Stepping on the gas to keep Singapore's lights burning

When completed, the monster on Jurong Island will be one of the world’s largest liquefied natural gas storage tanks – and a step closer to energy security for Singapore, as the programme Powering the Future finds out.
Desmond Ng and Daniel Heng Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: On June 2004, the unthinkable happened - a good part of Singapore went dark that evening in one of the largest ever blackouts here.

It resulted in some 300,000 homes left in the dark without electricity for two hours, costing businesses as much as S$6 million in losses.

The power outage - caused by a disruption to the natural gas supply from Indonesia - was an important wake-up call for Singapore.

Fast forward to today, and a behemoth is rising on Jurong Island that is the latest in the chain of developments since that fateful day.

Singapore’s fourth Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) storage tank, when completed this year, will be one of the world’s largest – and a symbol of efforts to ensure the country’s energy supply would never again be so vulnerable.

“Imagine if we experience frequent or prolonged disruption to our import energy supply disruption,” said Mr Soh Sai Bor, the assistant chief executive of the Energy Market Authority’s (EMA) economic regulation department.

“The consequence will be that our lights may not turn on or stay on for long, and our economic activities will grind to a halt.”

More than 90 per cent of Singapore’s electricity is generated by natural gas largely imported from Indonesia and Malaysia.

Since then, the nation has been investing heavily on importing and storing LNG - which is natural gas in its liquid form - to safeguard its future energy needs, as the programme Powering the Future finds out. (Watch it here.)


Why natural gas in the first place? While there are other energy resources such as coal and oil that Singapore can tap, natural gas is far cleaner and more energy efficient by mass, said Associate Professor Praveen Linga from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore.

Natural gas-based power plants emit “40 to 50 per cent less carbon dioxide” compared to coal as a fuel. Hence “it is also called the cleanest burning fossil fuel”, he said.

Currently, some 77 per cent of Singapore’s natural gas supply is delivered in gas form, via pipelines from Malaysia and Indonesia.

But when this gas is condensed into a liquid form or LNG, the volume can be reduced by as much as 600 times. This makes it far more cost-efficient to transport over long distances by ships.

In 2006, Singapore decided that LNG was the way to go, and decided to build its first LNG Terminal on Jurong Island.

Indeed, today, a quarter of the country’s natural gas supply comes in LNG form, from a diversified range of sources - such as Australia, the US and Qatar.

A key strategy to enhance our energy security is to diversify our energy resources.

“With our LNG Terminal, we are able to import LNG from all over the world, compared with piped natural gas where we are just importing from Indonesia and Malaysia," said Mr Soh,

Developed by the Singapore LNG Corporation, the S$1.7 billion LNG Terminal was finally launched in 2013.

It started off with two storage tanks that year, with a third tank the following year to increase its total output. The three tanks can store some 540,000 cubic metres of LNG.

But the fourth tank, currently under construction, will have an impressive capacity of 260,000 cubic metres alone.

Singapore LNG Corporation’s CEO Mr John Ng said: “Having the tank means that we are able to store energy for when demand picks up.”


The nation has grand plans to become a key trading hub for LNG in the region, given that the global demand for energy is set to soar because of population and economic growth.

The Asian economies will be the biggest driver of demand, with China set to be the biggest importer of natural gas by 2018. And Singapore is poised to make the right connections in LNG trade.

With the LNG terminal, traders can import large quantities of LNG, break it up into small pieces and sell it to regional countries, Mr Ng noted. Singapore’s geographical position makes it ideal to supply small-scale LNG to islands in Indonesia and Philippines.

Mr Satvinder Singh, assistant CEO of IE Singapore, pointed out that Singapore is one of the largest commodity hubs in the world and “it’s not unnatural for us to also aspire to be relevant to the energy development in Asia and for the rest of the world”.

It is located among some of the biggest consumers of LNG - Japan, India, Korea and China – and it is a significant global financing hub for commodities and is able to finance sophisticated financing to support such flows, he added.


For consumers, the extra sources of natural gas and a more competitive market for LNG could potentially translate to cost savings and lower electricity bills.

On Thursday (March 28), it was announced that electricity tariffs would increase for the second time this year.

But most commentators expect that in the longer term, there would be a downward pressure on natural gas prices in Singapore, given a predicted increase in LNG supply over the next few years, said Mr Howson.

Japan's leading trading house, Mitsubishi Corp, had projected that the world's LNG market would grow 5 per cent year-on-year from 2017, almost doubling by year 2030 from 2017.

Mr Ng added that LNG could become a more liquid commodity here, as a result of more traders importing it from all over the world.

“When there’s an opportunity for bringing the cargo (LNG) in at a relatively cheap price, the traders can store in our tanks; and when the market is ripe, reload the energy out into the open market,” he said.

That will translate into competitive prices of energy coming into Singapore.

Consumers can also find savings in another way – come April 1, households and businesses in Jurong will have the option of buying electricity from a retailer under the Open Electricity Market initiative.

Since 2001, the EMA has been progressively opening up the electricity market by giving consumers the choice and flexibility to buy electricity from retailers.

This means that consumers will in future no longer be restricted to buying from SP Group at the regulated tariff.

“Consumers if they wish, can also shop around and buy electricity from their preferred retailers based on price plans that best meet their needs,” said Mr Soh.

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Worker injured after thunderstorm causes heavy damage to nursery, farm in Lim Chu Kang

Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: One person was taken to hospital after a thunderstorm caused heavy damage to Koon Lee Nursery and Chew's Agriculture in Lim Chu Kang on Friday (Mar 30).

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said it responded to a call for ambulance assistance at 2 Murai Farmway at around 4pm.

A 38-year-old worker from the nursery was taken conscious to Ng Teng Fong Hospital.

Channel NewsAsia understands the police and officials from the Building and Construction Authority were at the scene.

Video and photos of the storm's aftermath showed widespread damage to the nursery with collapsed structures and debris strewn across the ground. A fire engine could also be seen at the scene.

Fallen trees were also seen in the area, with 31-year-old passerby Kenny Koh, an operations manager, telling Channel NewsAsia he saw a fallen tree blocking both lanes on Murai Farmway in Lim Chu Kang at around 4.40pm.

A video taken by him showed collapsed structures in the area.

Singapore was hit by heavy rain and strong winds on Friday, with fallen trees leading to bus diversions and traffic jams.

Fallen trees cause bus diversions, jams amid heavy rain, strong winds in western Singapore
Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: Fallen trees caused bus diversions in various parts of western Singapore and led to reports of traffic jams as heavy rain and strong winds hit the country on Friday (Mar 30).

Bus services were diverted due to fallen trees at locations including Bukit Batok Road and Choa Chu Kang Avenue 1, according to notifications from the SMRTConnect app.

Multiple fallen trees were also seen at a cemetery in Lim Chu Kang, with photos showing tombs covered by trees and a tree obstructing the road.

Forty-year-old Kelvin Koh, who works in logistics, told Channel NewsAsia that the area experienced "heavy rain and very strong winds" at about 3.50pm.

Operations manager Kenny Koh, 31, told Channel NewsAsia he saw a fallen tree blocking both lanes on Murai Farmway in Lim Chu Kang at around 4.40pm.

The heavy thunderstorm also caused damage to nearby Koon Lee Nursery and Chew's Agriculture. One worker from the nursery was taken to hospital.

Channel NewsAsia reader Zulkarnian reported traffic congestion at Bukit Batok Road towards Choa Chu Kang Way after a fallen tree obstructed two lanes of the three-lane road.

Video of the incident showed officers directing traffic and an ambulance at the scene.

The Land Transport Authority also warned motorists of obstacles in the area.

In a tweet at about 4.15pm, the authority warned of an obstacle on Old Choa Chu Kang Road towards Jalan Berseri after Choa Chu Kang Road, and added that Old Choa Chu Kang Road was closed after Choa Chu Kang Road.

In another tweet at about 4.30pm, the authority also warned of an obstacle on Bukit Batok Road towards Choa Chu Kang Road, after Pavilion Circle, and told motorists to avoid the right lane.

​​​​​​​According to the National Environment Agency's heavy rain alert, moderate to heavy thundery showers were expected over many areas of Singapore between 3.50pm and 5.10pm on Friday.

It also warned that flash floods may occur in the event of heavy rain.

Repairing thunderstorm damage could take months, says Lim Chu Kang nursery
Cheryl Goh Channel NewsAsia 31 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: Destruction caused by the recent thunderstorm could take months to repair, said Koon Lee Nursery, one of the farms in Lim Chu Kang that were affected.

On Saturday (Mar 31), a day after heavy rain and strong gusts of wind hit the western part of Singapore, Koon Lee manager Mac Teo said recovery work could easily take two months and cost at least S$50,000.

“I estimate that because most of my areas are damaged, we could be cleaning up for two months," said Mr Teo.

"If we had to rebuild everything, it would be in the hundreds of thousands. But I don’t think we’ll be able to do that because we’re required to move in January 2019 for the expansion of the airbase.

"That's about a year away and we don’t want to spend on the repairs and then move out straight away. But we can’t not do repairs ... then we can’t carry on our operations, so it’s a bit of a dilemma for us. It’s a difficult time for us,” he added.

Mr Teo said Friday's storm was "like a scene from a Twister" movie.

“There was a lot of howling. All it took was 30 seconds of very strong wind to cause this."

The Meteorological Service Singapore said the strongest wind gust it recorded on Friday was 133.3km/h at 3.50pm at nearby Tengah.

"This is the strongest wind gust recorded at our island-wide network of wind sensors since 2010," it said, adding that strongest-ever recorded wind gust was 144.4km/h in 1984 at the same location.

During Channel NewsAsia's visit to Koon Lee, members of the nursery staff were busy with repair work on tentage that had completely collapsed.

Mr Teo said the worker who was taken to hospital was still undergoing treatment for a head injury and broken finger.

More than half of his team of 20 workers have been redirected to help with recovery, said Mr Teo. The nursery was still accepting walk-in customers at a section that was not affected by the storm, but it was still "difficult" as a large amount of stock remained stuck under the debris, he added.

Chew's Agriculture, which rears chickens for eggs and is located next to Koon Lee on Murai Farmway, was also badly damaged.

The farm declined an interview, saying it was busy with "visits from authorities", but the damage was visible from Koon Lee - rows of chicken houses were completely flattened and there was still poultry trapped underneath the rubble.

Govt to help with cleanup, rebuilding of damaged farms
Cheryl Tee Straits Times 1 Apr 18;

The Government will support the cleanup and rebuilding efforts of Lim Chu Kang farmers whose premises were damaged by a torrential downpour and unusually strong winds on Friday, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon.

Farms hit the hardest by Friday's storm were Chew's Agriculture, Williton Orchids, Koon Lee Nursery and Goh Swee Hoon fish farm.

Dr Koh gave the assurance of help in a Facebook post yesterday after visiting the farms in Murai Farmway, near the Lim Chu Kang Cemetery, along with the chief executives of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the National Parks Board (NParks), as well as members of the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation.

At Chew's, an egg producer, some chicken houses were flattened. Stray chickens were seen picking their away among the debris which was their home less than two days ago.

The chicken farm declined to comment, but a farm employee said the driving rain, which started before 4pm on Friday, came in "like a tsunami". "Many chickens died. Some escaped," he said.

Another worker said: "Suddenly, the tin houses on both sides of the road started shaking. Everyone went inside, nobody dared to go outside. In 15 minutes, the trees started falling down."

Both declined to give their names as they were not authorised to speak to the press.

Damaged buildings and toppled trees were scattered along Murai Farmway when The Sunday Times paid a visit yesterday.

Wind during storm that damaged Lim Chu Kang farms hit 133kmh, the strongest since 2010
Tucked away in a side lane, Sevenseas Fisheries suffered fewer battle scars than its neighbour. But the fish and frog farm will still need at least two weeks before it returns to its former state, said operations manager Bernard Goh.

The family business stopped all operations on Friday when the storm tore through its premises.

"Yesterday, we couldn't operate at all. We are now trying to rush some major repairs so operations can run," said Mr Goh.

The damage included broken water pipes and electric cables, which cut off the farm's water filtration system. The automated system supplies fresh water from a larger reserve pond to the farm's fish and frog ponds. A handheld pump in use in the interim supplies only 20 per cent of the volume of water.

The storm also ripped the roof off its frog enclosure.

Wire mesh has been laid on top as a stopgap measure to ward off direct sunlight. Roof repairs for the enclosure will be done this week.

But Mr Goh worries if bad weather in the week ahead will spawn a nightmarish rerun of Friday's events. "We are scared it will rain again. The weather forecast says it will rain this whole week in the afternoon," he said.

Along with AVA and NParks, the Singapore Land Authority and the Building and Construction Authority will also step in to help, said Dr Koh in his post.

A 38-year-old worker at a plant nursery was taken to hospital on Friday with minor injuries.

Wind gust in Friday's storm strongest in eight years
Wind speed hit 133.3kmh in Tengah; experts say more intense storms here may signal extreme weather events
Rahimah Rashith Straits Times 1 Apr 18;

The strongest wind gust in eight years was recorded during Friday's thunderstorm which battered several farms in Lim Chu Kang.

Wind speed hit a high of 133.3kmh at nearby Tengah at 3.50pm, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) yesterday.

"This is the strongest wind gust recorded on our islandwide network of wind sensors since 2010," it added. The highest-recorded wind gust is 144.4kmh, also in Tengah, on April 25, 1984.

The force of the winds on Friday caused some zinc panels to cut into tree branches. Several chicken barns at egg farm Chew's Agriculture were flattened.

These gusty winds over north-west Singapore, including Choa Chu Kang, were due to "strong downdrafts from thunderstorm clouds which reached heights of around 16km", said MSS.

The typical height of such clouds is 10 to 12km.

Experts said that Friday's storm was nothing out of the ordinary, although more intense storms in Singapore can be a harbinger of extreme weather events to come.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) geography department said the storm was localised in nature and did not affect other parts of Singapore as much.

"Such thunderstorms are relatively normal occurrences in Singapore at this time of year."

Professor Benjamin Horton, associate chair of Asian School of the Environment (ASE) at Nanyang Technological University, said the heavy rain and cool weather were not surprising as they are part of the north-east monsoon season.

The storm occurred at the end of this monsoon season, which ushers in the beginning of spring with consistently warm temperatures, he added.

The rain across Singapore on Friday, which fell between 2.10pm and 5pm, was heaviest over western Singapore around Jurong and Choa Chu Kang, said the MSS.

It was caused by the convergence of winds over the Strait of Malacca and Singapore, coupled with favourable atmospheric conditions - namely, moisture and temperature - that led to thunderstorm clouds forming islandwide, it said.

Prof Horton said: "The strongest wind gust was 133.3kmh, but this extreme wind speed was felt only over a very short period of time - less than 20 seconds - and was followed by a lull. In contrast, tropical cyclones have hurricane-force winds that can be felt for days."

While no single event can prove climate change, a series of erratic weather patterns like frequent flash floods and more intense storms in Singapore can signal a bigger change, say experts.

Prof Chow said the storm was "one single event" and "to show climate change influence, we need to see a signal from a multitude of events". However, there is evidence of more extreme weather events in Singapore in recent years, which could likely be due to climate change, he added.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, highlighted the broader issue of climate change after he visited the affected farms in Murai Farmway yesterday.

"The farmers shared with me that they now see the unpredictable and damaging effects of more extreme weather patterns on their livelihood due to climate change, and are determined to leverage better technology to mitigate against disruptions," he said.

Ms Jennifer Walker, graduate student of ASE, noted that 2016 is the warmest year on record globally and in Singapore, which had an annual mean temperature of 28.4 deg C.

"As the temperatures warm, oceans are giving off more water vapour. In theory, extra water vapour in the atmosphere should pump heat into big storms, adding buoyancy that causes them to grow in size and power and produce the wind gust we saw on March 30," she said.

Wind gusts over 80kmh can cause damage
The strongest wind gust recorded during Friday's storm was 133.3kmh.

It was the strongest wind gust recorded by the islandwide network of wind sensors since 2010.

Generally, wind gusts exceeding 80kmh can cause damage such as toppled trees.

Wind speeds exceeding 100kmh can damage individual buildings and roofs. They can also disrupt or restrict road, rail, water and air traffic.

They can also move securely anchored objects with a larger surface area, such as tents and scaffolding, as well as movable objects such as garden furniture.

Rahimah Rashith

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India: Mumbai beach goes from dump to turtle hatchery in two years

Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings spotted after cleanup of Versova beach by Afroz Shah and volunteers
Michael Safi The Guardian 30 Mar 18;

Hatchlings from a vulnerable turtle species have been spotted for the first time in decades on a Mumbai beach that was rejuvenated in the past two years by a massive volunteer cleanup operation.

At least 80 Olive Ridley turtles have made their way into the Arabian Sea from nests on the southern end of Versova beach in the past week, protected from wild dogs and birds of prey by volunteers who slept overnight in the sand to watch over them.

Versova has undergone what the United Nations has called the “world’s largest beach cleanup project” over the past two years, transformed from a shin-deep dump yard for plastics and rubbish to a virtually pristine piece of coastline.

The man who leads the ongoing cleanup operation, the lawyer Afroz Shah, said he started anticipating the turtle hatchings two months ago when farmers on the southern end of the two-mile (3km) beach reported seeing turtles in the sand.

“The moment we got that news I knew something big was going to happen,” he told the Guardian. Last Thursday, some of his volunteers called to say they had spotted dozens of baby Olive Ridley turtles emerging from their nests.

He called the forest department and then went down to the beach with about 25 others, guarding the area while the tiny creatures hobbled across the sand, “making sure not one hatchling suffered a death”, he said.

The Olive Ridley species, thought to be named for the olive-green hue of its upper shell, is the smallest and most abundant sea turtle in the ocean, but is still classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Mothers of the species lay eggs in an enormous mass-nesting process known as arribada. Last month on the coast of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, a record 428,083 Olive Ridley turtles nested simultaneously at the Rushikulya rookery.

Though they nest elsewhere in Mumbai, none had been sighted on Versova beach in decades, due to the acute pollution problem there, Shah said. “I had tears in my eyes when I saw them walking towards the ocean.”

Sumedha Korgaonkar, who is completing a PhD on Olive Ridley turtles with the Wildlife Institute of India, said it was possible small numbers of the turtles had been nesting on the beach in past years. “We can’t say for sure since regular patrolling for turtles nests is not done in Mumbai,” she said.

“Beach cleanups definitely have a positive effect on nesting turtles. Many beaches which are major nesting sites are cleaned prior and during the nesting season by villagers, which increases the chances of getting nests [there].”

For more than two years, Shah has been leading volunteers in manually picking up rubbish from Versova beach and teaching sustainable waste practices to villagers and people living in slums along the coastline and the creeks leading into it.

About 55,000 people live along the beach and the waterways that feed it in the crowded megacity. Shah said he taught them by example, offering to clean communal toilets and pick up rubbish himself before he ever sought their help.

“For the first six to eight weeks, nobody joined,” he said. “Then two men approached me and said, very politely, ‘Please sir, can we wear your gloves?’ Both of them just came and joined me. That’s when I knew it was going to be a success.”

He said the team had cleaned 13m kg of debris from the beach in the past two years and are still going, though their campaign was briefly abandoned in November because of “administrative lethargy” and harassment of volunteers.

India has some of the most polluted waterways and beaches in the world due to rapid, unplanned urbanisation, overpopulation and neglectful attitudes, including to public littering.

“There has been a loss of a sense of belonging,” Shah said. “You can have laws, policies, regulations in place, but if the community doesn’t have a sense of belonging, you can see what happens.”

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US on track to meet climate targets despite Trump: UN chief

AFP Yahoo News 30 Mar 18;

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The United States is on track to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement despite President Donald Trump's plan to withdraw from the accord, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday.

Guterres said emissions-cutting plans put in motion by American businesses, regional governments and cities meant that the goals set by the former US administration which signed the deal in 2016 were within reach.

"We have seen in the cities, and we have seen in many states, a very strong commitment to the Paris agreement, to the extent that some indicators are moving even better than in the recent past," Guterres told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

"There are expectations that, independently of the position of the administration, the US might be able to meet the commitments made in Paris as a country."

Under the deal, the administration of former president Barack Obama pledged to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Nearly 200 countries and parties have signed the landmark agreement after intense negotiations in Paris, where all nations made voluntary carbon-cutting pledges running to 2030.

The agreement is aimed at limiting global warming to within two degrees Celsius, but Guterres warned that more action was needed by 2020 to reach that goal.

Trump faced condemnation when he announced in June 2017 that the United States was pulling out, painting the accord as a "bad deal" for the US economy.

Under the agreement, the United States can formally give notice that it plans to withdraw in 2019, three years after the accord came into force, and the withdrawal would become effective in 2020.

Describing climate change as "the most systemic threat to humankind," Guterres said recent data on extreme weather events showed that "2017 was filled with climate chaos."

"2018 has already brought more of the same," he said.

"Food security, health, stability itself all hang in the balance."

Guterres is planning to host a major summit next year to take stock of progress in implementing the climate deal, but it remains unlikely that Trump would attend.

Though Guterres said the US is on track to meet Paris climate agreement targets, the Trump administration still has the ability to change current regulations.

The New York Times reported Thursday, citing an Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman, that the White House was expected to push a plan to loosen standards on emissions and vehicle fuel economy standards -- undercutting the previous administration's bid to fight climate change.

Such a move would represent a win for automakers, potentially paving the way to lower the bar for standards globally.

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