Best of our wild blogs: 26 May 18

2nd June 2018 (Saturday): Herp Walk with the HSS and VSG (Festival of Biodiversity Edition)
Herpetological Society of Singapore

10 Jun (Sun): Chek Jawa and Leave No Trace Discovery with Better Trails
Pesta Ubin 2018

22 Jun (Fri): MAD for Musang! for kids with Cicada Tree Eco-Place
Pesta Ubin 2018

The Long-tailed Macaque Working Group is recruiting: human surveyors and monkey guards!
Otterman speaks

Living reefs of Terumbu Semakau
Offshore Singapore

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What Could Happen If Malaysia Builds Three More Islands

Wade Shepard Forbes 25 May 18;

Fisherman Haji Rossli looked out across the bay, but could hardly fathom what could soon be built there. "Surprised? No, we were shocked," he told me when I asked what his reaction was when he first learned of the plan that calls for his remote fishing village to be transformed into Malaysia's next outpost of progress. Three manmade islands are set to be constructed where there is only sea today, upon which a new smart city, industrial zone, and transportation hub will be built.

The Penang South Reclamation (PSR) Project

It is called the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project, and is, in and of itself, nothing unusual in the context of 21st century Asia--a region that is urbanizing so rapidly that the creation of another new city, another new dot on the map, hardly makes its way into the international news stream. Perhaps just as typical is the fact that this new city is set to be constructed on land reclaimed from the sea, a development strategy that has taken on bonanza-like proportions across the region in recent years.

The PSR is one of the more ambitious land reclamation projects for urban development in the world today. An estimated 189 million cubic meters of sand and rock are set to be hauled in from the Malaysian state of Perak to make artificial islands measuring 9.3, 4.45, and 3.23 square kilometers, respectively. These new islands are designed to flow within the natural contours of the coastline, neatly filling in three bays and extending the reach of Penang farther out to sea.

However, unlike other reclamation projects in Penang—which have seen new coastal extensions and artificial islands created for luxury high-rises and shopping malls—the Penang South Reclamation project is slated to be a fundraiser for the Penang state government’s ambitious new transportation masterplan. Essentially, the government plans to take out a bridge loan to pay for their long-awaited project on the contingency that they will be able to repay it via selling the new land to developers.

The Reclamation Bonanza

Traditional fishing village beneath the new luxury high-rises of the STP 1 project in the north of Penang.

“The majority of the people live nearby the water and most cities are located nearby water—water is life and always has been the center of economic activities,” summed up Kees-Jan Bandt, the CEO of Bandt Management & Consultancy, who has in-depth experience with reclamation projects around the world.

New cities built on reclaimed land have become one of the hottest trends in urbanization, providing what amounts to a developmental magic act: government officials can virtually point their fingers out to sea, say "voila," and a blank slate of prime positioned, high-value real estate almost instantly appears. Over the past decade, countries throughout Asia have been reclaiming land en masse:

Cities on China’s coast reclaimed an average of 700 square kilometres of land–that’s about the size of Singapore–from the sea every year from 2006 to 2010 for new houses, industrial zones and ports. The 130 sq km of land that was reclaimed to build the new city of Nanhui was significant enough to reconfigure China’s national map, and the reclaimed land for the Caofeidian economic zone was twice the size of Los Angeles.

Malaysia has massive reclamation works under way for the 700,000-person Forest City in Johor; the Philippines is reclaiming 1,010 acres from the sea for its New Manila Bay – City of Pearl; Cambodia is building a slew of Chinese-financed properties on reclaimed land; Dubai has turned reclamation into an art form; and Sri Lanka is building a new financial district on the dredged and deposited land of Colombo International Financial City. Around a quarter of modern-day Singapore was open sea when the nation state came into existence in 1955.

This new construction land becomes a wild card for governments and developers — they get blank slates of land to develop without the hassles and expenses inherent to relocating people, settling with existing land owners, and redeveloping an already established area.

Big profits

This is where one of the new islands for the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) will be constructed.

The economic incentives for reclaiming land are clear: according to Ocean University of China professor Liu Hongbin, the immediate profit from selling reclaimed land in China can fetch a profit in the ballpark of 10- to 100-times the cost of producing it.

The environmental impact

While there are economic benefits to developing this underutilized stretch of Penang, the local fishermen are worried about the impact on the local maritime ecosystem and, by extension, fear for their livelihoods.

“In this area there is a lot of plankton, a lot of fish and prawn come here,” Rossli explained as he pointed out to the bay. “What will happen to them when they build this project? Maybe they will go to other places.”

His fears are not unfounded, as there are already examples around Penang of what his fishing grounds could soon become. Massive reclamation projects have been happening here since 1975, as the island rapidly grows not only economically but physically as well. In the east, a massive reclamation project saw a new highway and commercial and residential strip appear. In the north, the controversial Seri Tanjung Pinang (STP) project has moved into its second phase, decimating the local fisheries and debilitating the nearby villages which depend on them.

“Before, there were many fish. Now, nothing,” fisherman Mohd-Ishak Bin Abdul Rahman told me previously about the plight of Tanjung Tokong, his village which now sits in the shadows of the mostly vacant luxury condos that were built on reclaimed land at STP 1.

“In terms of impacts to the local community, it has affected the local fishermen the most,” explained Mageswari Sangaralingam, a Penang-based research officer for Friends of the Earth Malaysia. “The reclamation projects have resulted in loss of fishing ground and project activities will adversely impact marine life, the fisheries sector, and thus the livelihood of the fisher community.”

She added that the numerous reclamation projects around the periphery of Penang has changed the island’s coastal hydrology and geomorphology.

“[The environment] will change, it will change,” Rossli lamented. “They will take material from another country and dump it to make an island… So it's not suitable for the fish.”

If Penang’s STP project in the north is a model to go off of, Rossli's fears are warranted. The local crab population there was decimated by mud that the fishermen believe came from the reclamation site.

“The fishermen don't like our project because they say our project is a threat,” Rosmady Mat Abu, who works for the consortium looking to develop the PSR project, told me when I met him on site. “But we do a survey [and found that] the fish is not around this area, only 30%.”

However, for Haji Rossli and many of the other fishermen of Permatang Damar Laut, losing a full third of their fishing grounds to the new islands is significant.

“If the place is still like it is right now everyday we can go and fish there and get some money,” Rossli explained. “If they make an island there it will be difficult for the fishermen, and in the market the price of fish may rise up higher and higher. How am I going to support my family?”

“As fishermen point out, not only the fishes are becoming extinct, even fishermen will soon be extinct as they lose fishing grounds,” Sangaralingam added.

These environmental concerns are real -- so much so that earlier this year Beijing put an end to all reclamation projects not backed by the central government.


Land reclamation in Penang—as well as in other parts of Malaysia—has become a politically contentious strategy for development. With Mahathir bin Mohamad back in power as the country's new prime minister, his administration's intentions for the PSR project still remain to be seen. Although it has not gone unnoticed that Mahathir's ten main government ministries conspicuously lacks one charged with protecting Malaysia's environment.

Wade Shepard is the author of Ghost Cities of China. Traveling since '99. Currently on the New Silk Road. Read my other articles on Forbes here.

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Malaysia: Logging made water polluted, say villagers

joash ee de silva The Star 26 May 18;

KUANTAN: It has been a challenging week for the villagers of Kuala Kenau and the surrounding areas in Sungai Lembing near here.

About 100 of them have seen their water source polluted, turning brown and muddy.

Mohd Nawi Mat Arif, 48, who has lived in the village since he was born, said the dirty water had caused them much difficulty.

“Sometimes we have no choice but to use the brown water to wash clothes. If the shirt is white, it will turn brown,” said Nawi.

Wan Suhaili Wan Kamaruzaman, 34, said she had to send her youngest child to the clinic for itchiness after bathing with the water.

“The doctor gave him antibiotics and an ointment. He is getting better,” said Wan Suhaili.

“Some of us have a treated water supply but it is expensive and it is not switched on 24/7, so we still use water from the catchment area.”

The villagers are blaming logging activities around the water catchment area at Bukit Segantang as the source of the pollution.

Wan Mohd Rasidi Wan Mohd Alih, 51, said the water catchment area had supplied water to their houses for decades.

“When a company started logging near the water catchment area last week, our water turned into teh tarik,” Rasidi said.

“When there is heavy rain, the water would turn muddy and villagers would have to walk 40 minutes up the hill to get clean water,” he told reporters yesterday.

After the villagers took reporters to the logging site and the water catchment area, Sintanmas Timber director Datuk M.K. Tan came to the village to meet the press.

He claimed the firm did not fell trees around the water catchment area, adding it had the necessary permits, including the Environ­mental Impact Report for logging.

“We didn’t log trees near the water catchment area and stopped once we came near it,” said Tan.

“It is hard to say who is at fault with regards to the pollution, but for now we will stop logging to investigate the matter.”

Sungai Lembing state assemblyman Datuk Md Sohaimi Mohamed Shah, when contacted, said he was surprised to hear of the case, explaining that he had reminded the Forestry Department since 2014 not to allow logging activities near water catchment areas.

“These places are very important for the villagers.

“I will try make a visit to Kampung Kuala Kenau and maybe bring Fores­­­try Department officials toge­ther to solve this issue,” he said.

100 Sungai Lembing residents suffering after water source is contaminated

KUANTAN: More than 100 residents of Kampung Kuala Kenau in Sungai Lembing have been forced to use murky water for their everyday chores, including meal preparation, for the past week.

They claim the source of the water had been contaminated due to logging activities nearby.

The residents said many of the houses in the village were not supplied treated water by Pengurusan Air Pahang Bhd (PAIP) and had to rely on the Bukit Segantang water catchment area located about 2km away.

Resident Wan Mohamad Rasidi Wan Mohd Alih, 51, claimed the problem began on May 20, adding that logging activities were at its height then.

He said the water catchment area had been the main source of water ever since the village began a century ago, but the water there was now murky with sediment from the logging activities, sand and leaves from the felled trees.

"The water coming out of the pipes is not just murky... it also contains sand. It's the colour of tea and it gets worse whenever it rains. We have never had this problem before," he said.

Another resident, 43-year-old Wan Khairuddin Wan Noda, claimed the situation had, in a short space of time, caused skin problems, including itchiness, among some residents, especially those who use it to bathe.

“Even though they know that using contaminated water would bring problems, they have no other choice as not all of them can afford to pay for piped water.”

Housewife Wan Suhaili Wan Kamaruzzaman, 34, said it was difficult for her to prepare food for the family for sahur and buka puasa meals.

“I have to collect the water and let the sediment settle first before using it. Even though I am wary of using the water, I have no other choice as this is the only water we have.”

Checks by the New Straits Times Press showed that there were indeed logging activities some 500m from the water catchment area. The water seemed to be a murky, yellowish brown colour.

It is understood that the logging activities, carried out by Sintanmas Timber Sdn Bhd and covering some 24.96ha, is legal. It began on March 23 and will go on till June 22.

Sintanmas Timber director Datuk M.K. Tan, when contacted, denied that the logging had caused any contamination of the water.

“We have followed all the regulations. But, we will investigate the claims anyway,” he said.

Dept: Logging activities did not contaminate catchment pond
The Star 27 May 18;

KUANTAN: The Pahang Forestry Department has denied allegations that logging activities caused the contamination of the water catchment pond at Bukit Segan­tang in Sungai Lembing here.

Its director Datuk Dr Mohd Hizamri Mohd Yasin said logging was not being carried out near the pond, which was reportedly a source of water supply for about 100 residents in Kampung Kuala Kenau here.

He said the department had issued a logging licence in the area involving 25ha of state government land of non-virgin jungle status, divided into two blocks.

“Work is at 15% and involves only Block A.

The department, said Dr Mohd Hizamri, had also carried out a field inspection at 5pm on Friday.

“We found that the catchment pond is still clear, not murky at all and still being used by some villa­gers,” he said.

Dr Mohd Hizamri was respon­ding to claims by Kampung Kuala Kenau residents that the 100-year-old water catchment pond had been polluted since May 20, following logging activities.

He said he had held consultations with representatives of the residents near the forest to get their views on March 14.

Besides those from Kampung Kuala Kenau, the session was also attended by representatives from Kampung Sungai Mas, Kampung Melayu Sungai Lembing, Kampung Jeram Takar and Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Mas, he said.

“During the session, there were no objections against the logging activities and the representatives also signed a letter agreeing to these,” Dr Mohd Hizamri said. — Bernama

Logging licence plan to be amended to prevent pollution at water catchment pond
Mohd Rafi Mamat New Straits Times 30 May 18;

KUANTAN: The State Forestry Department has decided to amend the licence approval plan for logging activities at Bukit Segantang water catchment pond near Sungai Lembing here.

Its director Datuk Dr Mohd Hizamri Mohd Yasin said the move was to ensure the water source will be safeguarded and not polluted with mud, especially after heavy downpour.

He said the land located near the pond was not a forest reserve or virgin forest, as claimed by certain quarters, which resulted in some confusion. The land belongs to the state government.

“After discussing with the logging firm Sintamas Timber which was given approval to carry out the land clearing (logging) works, we decided to amend the plan so that it will not affect the water catchment pond. The people living there use water from the source for their daily needs.

“We hope the latest directive will allow the water catchment pond which has been used for some 50 years to be free from pollution and will not jeopardise the livelihood of the people in the vicinity,” he said today.

He said the Forestry Department’s Deputy Director (Operations) Datuk Mohd Basri Abdul Manaf and Kuantan Forestry Department Officer Ismail Ali Kamarudeen, along with representatives of Pahang’s Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), the residents, and the logging firm had visited the water catchment site recently.

Hizamri said following a discussion they all agreed to the idea to amend the plan.

He said the department had decided to establish a buffer zone along Sungai Kuala Kenau and the logging firm will not be allowed to cut the trees in the respective area to avoid pollution and soil erosion.

“The residents’ representative is advised to make an application to gazette the water catchment pond as a source of water so that the area will not be developed or other projects will not be carried out in the future.

“The department will make a suggestion to the district level committee to gazette the respective river site and the pond as a water catchment area to ensure the area will not be disturbed and instead preserved,” he said.

Last week, some 100 residents from Kampung Kuala Kenau claimed that the water catchment pond had been polluted since May 20, following logging activities in Bukit Segantang and they had to use the murky water for their daily use including preparing meals.

They have been relying on water supply from the pond which was located some 2km from their village as not all the homes were equipped with pipes to supply clean water from Pahang Water Management Berhad (Paip).

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Vietnam: Endangered large-antlered muntjac found in Quang Nam

Nhan Dan 25 May 18;

NDO/VNA – A camera trap has caught the large-antlered muntjac, one of the rarest and most threatened mammal species of Southeast Asia, for the first time in the central province of Quang Nam.

The mammal is classified as a rare and endangered animal in the red book.

The provincial Forest Protection Department said that the photographs captured two individuals, a male and a female, which are both mature and of reproductive age.

They were taken in November last year as part of a biodiversity monitoring and assessment supported by the World Wild Fund Vietnam (WWF Vietnam), US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz - IZW) and local authorities.

“Large-antlered muntjacs do not currently exist in captivity, so if we lose them in the wild, we lose them forever. Scientists are racing against time to save the species. Addressing the snaring crisis to protect wildlife in the forests of central Vietnam and setting up captive assurance populations are vital if we are to succeed,” said Benjamin Rawson, Conservation Director of the WWF Vietnam.

The muntjac, which was first discovered in central Ha Tinh Province in 1994, is endemic to evergreen forests in the Truong Son (Annamite) Mountains bordering Vietnam and Laos. The rare animal has been found in protected areas in the central province of Thua Thien - Hue in 2013 and in the central province of Thanh Hoa in 2016.

The tiny deer has been absent for years due to illegal snare hunting. In 2016, in response to the snare-driven decline of the species the status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species of the large-antlered muntjac was changed from Endangered to Critically Endangered.

The survey team is now expanding camera trapping efforts to other areas in the region, including places with high biodiversity potential in Thua Thien - Hue and the north of Quang Nam.

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