Cross Island Line site investigations haven’t driven away rare animals from nature reserve, says LTA

Today Online 9 Jun 18;

But more data is needed to assess impact on wildlife, conservationists say

SINGAPORE — Site investigations for the upcoming Cross Island Line (CRL) have not driven away animals such as the critically endangered Sunda Pangolin, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has said in announcing “encouraging” findings from the completion of the works to examine the feasibility of two possible routes for the controversial project.

After the investigations, which involved the drilling of boreholes in one of Singapore’s largest nature reserves, camera traps managed to photograph the endangered pangolin and the Lesser Mousedeer, among other animals.

These sightings validated the measures LTA had taken to reduce the impact of its works, said Dr Goh Kok Hun, the authority’s director of civil design and land, in a press release on Friday (June 8).

Conservationists welcomed the news but said they needed more data before they could fully determine the impact on wildlife in the area.

The investigations are part of a major study into two possible alignment options for the 50km CRL, which is due to be completed around 2030.

One option involves tunnelling beneath some of the most pristine ecosystems in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, home to many native plants, birds and other animals. The other option would skirt the nature reserve, but would be more expensive to build.

The first option has drawn opposition from environmentalists and conservationists, who said such a move would seriously damage the reserve and its ecosystem.

The authorities have assured that a decision would not be made without a full range of studies, which include a “robust” two-phase environmental impact assessment.

Site investigations, which took place from May 2016 to September last year, were conducted after the first phase of the environmental study.

The authorities did not previously announce the use of camera traps to monitor the impact of drilling on animals in the nature reserve, which includes the MacRitchie reservoir.

TODAY has asked the LTA about the number of camera traps deployed and where they were located in relation to the boreholes. The frequency of animal sightings before, during and after the site investigation works is also not known.

“It’s nice to confirm that the animals are there but… they’ve always been within the area. The mitigation and all the additional adjustments during the period may or may not have helped in that respect,” said Strix Wildlife Consultancy’s Subaraj Rajathurai.

Mr Subaraj, who is part of a working group of nature experts in talks with the LTA on the CRL, added: “I think the results require a lot more analysis. Nonetheless, the positive we can take out of this is (that) it’s not an empty forest.”

Ms Chloe Tan, spokesperson for the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group, said: “It is encouraging to know that animals are still present in the vicinity of the works. However, we are not able to tell if the site investigation works impacted the wildlife just based on their presence or absence.”

It is important to compare the frequency and distribution of records before and during the works, said Ms Tan, adding: “It would provide much assurance if LTA could make public the full biodiversity monitoring report.”

The CRL will be fully underground and stretch from Jurong to Changi, catering to estates such as Clementi, Bukit Timah, Ang Mo Kio and Hougang.

The second alignment option that the Government is studying will skirt around the nature reserve and serve more commuters in the area. But this option would cost S$2 billion more, and add four minutes to travel time.

The LTA did not say in its latest press release when it will decide on an alignment option. It is expected to do so after the second phase of an environmental impact assessment is completed, studied and discussed with stakeholders.

Phase Two of the assessment will study the environmental impact of constructing and operating the CRL for both routes. It is expected to be completed later this year, said the LTA.

Wildlife seen in Cross Island Line site investigations
Channel NewsAsia 8 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Site investigations carried out to study the impact of two alignment options for the underground Cross Island Line (CRL) in the vicinity of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve have been completed, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Friday (Jun 8).

Findings from the investigations suggest that wildlife are present in the area, with camera traps picking up the presence of animals such as the Sunda Pangolin and the Lesser Mouse-deer, said the authority.

The alignment of the CRL, which is targeted to be completed around 2030, has created some controversy among environmentalists and nature groups as the direct alignment option goes directly underneath the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. A second skirting alignment option goes around the reserve.

The site investigations took place between May 2016 and September 2017 as part of efforts to assess the feasibility of the two CRL alignment options.

"Monitoring results from cameras and transect surveys from the (site investigation) works for the direct alignment suggested that fauna are present in the area," said LTA.

Photos released by LTA showed Sunda Pangolins both before and after the site investigation works near Sime Trail in the reserve.

“Our camera traps picked up (the) presence of animals like the Sunda Pangolin and Lesser Mouse-deer after the completion of SI works. The findings were encouraging and validated the mitigation measures developed,” said Dr Goh Kok Hun, LTA’s director of civil design and land.

Mitigation measures involved efforts such as reducing the number of boreholes required, from 72 to 16, and making sure these were on existing trails and clearings within the nature reserve, according to LTA.

The findings of the site investigation works will provide LTA with information on underground soil conditions, as well as provide input for Phase Two of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which will assess the impact of construction and operations for the two alignment options.

Phase Two is ongoing and is expected to be completed later this year.

LTA said it has been in close consultation with nature groups on the studies, and will continue to engage them on the CRL.

The authority said it would finalise the CRL alignment after results from Phase Two of the EIA have been studied and discussed with stakeholders.

Source: CNA/nc

MRT soil probe: Steps to ease impact on wildlife working
LTA says animals still present in areas where drilling for soil samples for Cross Island Line took place
Derek Wong Straits Times 9 Jun 18;

Measures to mitigate the effects of investigation works for the Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) on wildlife have shown signs of working, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday.

It has found that wildlife is still present in parts of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve where drilling for soil samples has taken place. The drilling was part of the LTA's site investigations to study the impact of the CRL running under the reserve.

The LTA found the presence of wildlife in monitoring results from cameras and ground surveys.

Photos captured by camera traps included those of endangered animals such as the sunda pangolin and the lesser mousedeer.

LTA's director of civil design and land, Dr Goh Kok Hun, said: "The findings were encouraging and validated the mitigation measures developed."

These measures were put in place to minimise the impact of site investigation works on the flora and fauna in the reserve.

The investigation works, which took place between May 2016 and September last year, involved drilling 16 boreholes to extract soil samples.

They were the first steps in assessing the two CRL alignment options - going directly underneath the nature reserve or skirting it, said LTA.

The line, announced by the Government in 2013, had preliminary plans that showed it going under the reserve.

This raised concerns among nature groups here.

LTA consulted the National Parks Board and nature groups here over three years before drilling started.

There was a comprehensive suite of mitigation measures, said LTA, such as reducing the number of boreholes required for the works from 72 to 16.

Other measures included locating the boreholes on existing trails and clearings to minimise the impact on existing flora.

National University of Singapore biology lecturer N. Sivasothi, who has been part of the discussions LTA has had with nature groups, commended the suite of measures..

He said discussions on the plan were so detailed that they included specifying how an engine pump was to be operated to prevent petrol spillage.

These plans were necessary due to the potentially disruptive impact of the works, Mr Sivasothi said.

He added: "The process of conducting the investigation could have led to pollution - soil and oil can make the waters murky. The running engine and workers in the area would also cause animals to avoid the sites."

The boreholes were about 10cm in diameter and ranged from 50m to 80m deep at the different sites.

Ms Chloe Tan, spokesman for the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group, said the presence of animals might not mean there was no impact on the animals. There is a need to know their abundance and distribution too, she added.

She is hoping the line will not pass under the reserve.

While Mr Sivasothi looks forward to the full results of the study on the site investigations, he said these might not be sufficient.

"This is for the short term, but we will not know the long-term impact in 50 or 100 years, which is why we take great pains to avoid having works near or in the nature reserve," he said.

Phase two of the study, which assesses the potential environmental impact of future construction - including tunnelling and operations - is ongoing and is expected to be completed later this year, said LTA.

The CRL alignment will be finalised after the phase two results have been studied and discussed.

The 50km Cross Island Line will stretch from Changi to Jurong, and is set to be completed in 2030.

Read more!

IKEA to stop selling single-use plastic products by 2020

Channel NewsAsia 8 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Swedish furniture giant IKEA will stop selling single-use plastic products such as straws, cups and freezer bags by Jan 1, 2020.

This would apply across all its stores globally, as part of its new commitments to promote sustainable living, IKEA said in a news release on Friday (Jun 8).

"IKEA recognises that single-use plastic can harm wildlife and pollute oceans and waterways when it is not disposed of reasonably. We are determined to play our part and take responsibility in the areas where we can make a difference," said the company.

The announcement came as part of the annual Democratic Design Days held in Almhult, Sweden, where IKEA designers displayed home furnishings made from recycled materials as well as solutions to help people live more sustainable lives.

This year, IKEA unveiled plans to be "climate-positive" by 2030. These include plans to pack products in materials that are renewable or recycled, and increase the proportion of plant-based choices in meals offered at IKEA.

Currently, 60 per cent of the IKEA range is based on renewable materials, while nearly 10 per cent contain recycled materials, an IKEA spokeswoman told Reuters.

IKEA Southeast Asia, the franchise that owns and operates all IKEA stores in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, will also be contributing to the cause.

Single-use plastic products that will not be sold by 2020 include SODA drinking straws, SÖTVATTEN drinking straws, FÖRNYBAR freezer bags, ISIGA ice-cube bags and FÖRSLUTAS garbage bags.

"It takes grit and determination to build a sustainable business, and we are on the way. We are actively integrating sustainability into every function and all aspects of our everyday work," said IKEA Southeast Asia sustainability director Lars Svensson.

“Most importantly, we are inviting our customers to join us in the journey. Through our solutions, we hope to see millions more people take little steps at home to save energy, reduce and recycle waste and conserve water."

Source: CNA/ng/(gs)

Ikea, Royal Caribbean take aim at single-use plastics in war against plastic waste
Jose Hong Straits Times 8 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - In the latest battle in the war against plastic waste, Ikea said on Friday (June 8) that it will stop selling single-use plastic products by Jan 1, 2020, taking items such as plastic straws and freezer bags off the shelves.

The policy was decided at its annual Democratic Design Days event held in Sweden, where Ikea also committed to becoming climate positive - contributing more to the health of the environment than hurting it - by 2030.

The products that will be removed from its home furnishing range include Sotvatten drinking straws, Fornybar freezer bags, Isiga ice cube bags and Forslutas garbage bags.

Ikea South-east Asia sustainability director Lars Svensson said: "Through our solutions, we hope to see millions more people take little steps at home to save energy, reduce and recycle waste, and conserve water."

Separately, Royal Caribbean Cruises announced on the same day that the 50 ships across all its brands will stop using straws by the end of this year.

The brands are Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, TUI Cruises and Pullmantur Cruceros.

The cruise giant currently provides straws only on request, and said that once 2019 begins, guests who ask for straws will receive paper ones. Royal Caribbean also plans to tackle the use of other single-use plastics on its ships, such as condiment packets, cups and bags.

Chairman and chief executive of Royal Caribbean Cruises Richard Fain said: "Healthy oceans are vital to the success of our company. For over 25 years, our Save the Waves programme has guided us to reduce, reuse and recycle everything we can.

"Eliminating single-use plastics is another step in that programme."

Read more!

Malaysia: Drive carefully to avoid crossing animals on highways, says Perhilitan

victoria brown The Star 8 Jun 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) has urged motorists to drive carefully during the Hari Raya holiday to avoid collisions with crossing wildlife.

"Road accidents involving wildlife occurs when the wildlife tries to cross the road or highway built across forested areas," said Perhilitan director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim at a press conference on Friday (June 8).

Abdul Kadir warned motorists to be vigilant, especially at night, as several wildlife are nocturnal.

He also advised motorists to not exceed speed limits, and to look out for wildlife crossing signs.

Based on Perhilitan's statistics, a total of 2,444 wildlife have been victim to roadkill from 2012 to 2017.

Over the period, monitor lizards recorded the highest number of roadkill at 764, followed by civets (446), monkeys (439), boars (265), snakes (147), wild cats (88).

Threatened wildlife species that have been victims of roadkill are tapirs (69), sun bears (6), elephants (4), mountain goats (2), panthers (2) and tiger (1).

Read more!

Malaysia: Perhilitan seizes more than 600 wildlife species in two raids

FARIS FUAD New Straits Times 8 Jun 18;

CHERAS: The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) confiscated 628 animals of various wildlife species, 20 units of wildlife parts and 30 wildlife eggs via two Ops Taring VI raids on June 4 and May 28.

Perhilitan director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said of the figures, 385 animals and 30 eggs were seized earlier this month.

243 animals and 20 units of wildlife parts were seized at the end of last month.

"On June 4, a 65-year-old man was arrested by Perhilitan enforcement officers in a raid at a premise in Taman Kesuma, Ampang, Selangor.

"There, we uncovered and seized various wildlife eggs and species. The man is now under arrest for further investigation under the Wildlife Conservation Act (Act 716) for keeping wildlife without the permission of Perhilitan.

"End of last month, we detained a man after tracking down an operation selling wildlife online at a premise in Kampung Baru Bukit Merah, Ipoh.

"The man is being investigated under the same Act," he said at a press conference, here, today.

In a separate raid recently, Abdul Kadir said Perhilitan seized a white-handed gibbon and two Asian palm civets.

"These animals were seized after we arrested a 32-year-old man at the parking lot of Seremban Gateway in Negri Sembilan.

"He is suspected of selling wildlife online. Following that, Negri Sembilan Perhilitan checked the suspect's house and found two more wild animals kept without Perhilitan's permission," he said, adding that the suspect is charged at the Seremban court today.

The suspect, according to Abdul Kadir, was handed a three-year jail term and a fine of RM20,000.

"If he fails to pay the fine, 10 months will be added to his jail term," he added.

Read more!

Malaysia: BSBCC urges government to combat wildlife crime more seriously

Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 8 Jun 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Despite stringent laws in Sabah, many continue to use the social media platforms to trade endangered exotic wildlife as pets across the nation.

Raising the concern, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) has identified Facebook and Instagram accounts offering sun bear cubs, civet cats, leaf monkeys, gibbons, leopard cats, raptors, hornbills and tapir among others.

BSBCC founder and chief executive officer Dr Wong Siew Te said the authorities would know about this and yet there are not enough action taken by them.

“I have reported my findings since last year and sadly it's business as usual for some of the people involved,” he told NSTP.

“If this continues, our wildlife will be gone soon. There are already many wildlife population affected by habitat lost over the past 50 years.

“The remaining wildlife population are barely hanging on to the highly fragmented habitat with a lot of poaching pressure,” Wong said.

Wong, a wildlife biologist, said most of the traders operate using private accounts and some have their contacts clearly stated. “They can be traced and contacted, if the authorities wants to.”

He urged the government to seriously look into this as illegal wildlife traders and buyers appear not to be afraid of the law.

“It’s time for change on how we look at wildlife conservation. The government needs to look at wildlife crime more seriously,” he stressed.

Wong noted that the BSBCC celebrated Sun Bear Day on May 16 to raise public awareness on the protection and conservation of sun bears.

But few days later, close to the end of May, he detected an advertisement that offered a sun bear cub online.

Sun bears are totally protected in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia. It is also a protected species in Sarawak.

Wong stressed wild animals sold were national treasures, adding they play important roles in the forest ecosystem.

“They are abducted and killed. If we keep quiet and choose to do nothing, soon our forest will become an empty forest,” he added.

Read more!

Plastic waste remains challenge for Indonesia as World Oceans Day is celebrated

The Jakarta Post 8 Jun 18;

As World Oceans Day is marked on Friday, Indonesia is faced with huge amounts of waste polluting its waters.

Research by the People's Coalition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA) has revealed that at least 1.29 million tons of waste is dumped into rivers every year, with 13,000 tons of plastic waste per square kilometer polluting the ocean.

According to KIARA secretary-general Susan Herawati, Indonesia was the second-worst polluter after China when it came to ocean plastic waste.

“Many people tend to think that the ocean is a huge dump site instead of a source of food,” she said in a written statement received by The Jakarta Post on Friday.

The KIARA research and development center also recorded 37 oil spills from 1998 to 2017. The most recent case occurred this year in the Balikpapan bay, considered as Indonesia's worst environmental disaster in the past 10 years.

Oil spills cause severe environmental damage to the ocean and are very difficult to clean up.

“We need a consistent policy from the government to overcome this matter. The government also needs to educate people to raise awareness on the importance of the ocean,” Susan said. (dpk/swd)

Read more!

Indonesia needs to act faster against environment crimes

The Jakarta Post 8 Jun 18;

The Environment and Forestry Ministry, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the Judicial Commission participated in a public discussion held by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) in Jakarta recently to brainstorm on how to kick-start stalled enforcement of the Environmental Law, especially in dealing with environmental crimes.

Walhi executive director Yaya Nur Hidayati said recently that Indonesia had a law to regulate the environment, but implementation was not efficient. She lamented that government officials lacked awareness about protocol and channels for reporting environmental crimes to initiate immediate investigation.

“The police immediately investigate when a murder occurs,” she said earlier this week. There should be the same sense of urgency for environment damage, she said, adding that officials should not just wait to receive complaints before taking action.

She cited the wait-and-see culture among ministry and other agency officials, who take no action until a formal report has been lodged with them by law enforcers and NGOs.

KPK deputy chairman Laode Muhammad Syarif expressed a similar opinion. He was of the opinion that frontline agencies, such as the police, needed to improve their support for prevailing regulations on the environment.

“There are only few specifically trained institutions,” he explained, adding that greater awareness and knowledge of the problem must be instilled among the relevant law enforcers.

Yaya pointed out that civil service investigators at every ministry worked by themselves on a basis of current need. She proposed the creation of a specialized task force as a solution.

“An integrated task force could be trained to identify environmental problems more comprehensively,” Yaya explained.

“This is particularly true in cases of systematic environmental crime with vast negative impact perpetrated by corporations,” she said.

Yaya added that it was possible to impose a variety of punitive measures on corporations under the law.

Not many cases against corporations are brought to court. Law Enforcement Director General Rasio Ridho Sani at the Environment and Forestry Ministry said the majority of cases brought to court by his team in the last two years did not involve corporations but individuals.

He said it was not easy to go after corporations because they had power and could afford many lawyers to represent them in court, as well as experts to testify on their behalf.

“We’re going after corporations slowly, at our own pace,” Rasio said. “If we keep working, gain more experience, of course this will help us in the future.” (stu)

Read more!

Thailand: Sinking species

Plastic pollution and unsustainable fishing practices a threat to many marine species; govt spending Bt1.2 bn under plan to tackle crisis.

THE SURVIVAL OF rare marine species in Thailand is seriously threatened, as shown by the dwindling overall population of endangered animals such as sea turtles, dugongs, and whale sharks in recent years.

On World Ocean Day yesterday, experts identified plastic pollution and unsustainable fishing as the major reasons for the rapid reduction in the number of these endangered marine animals. There was an uproar after recent media reports of the tragic deaths of some animals due to plastic pollution.

The Thai government is investing Bt1.2 billion on a five-year plan to tackle marine waste problems and save rare marine species from extinction within a week of the death of a pilot whale in Songkhla province after swallowing eight kilograms of plastic bags. The death made global headlines and also rang alarm bells on the seriousness of the threat of plastic pollution.

On Thursday, a green turtle died due to marine debris in Rayong. A team of veterinarians found that it had consumed large quantities of plastic waste and other garbage, which clogged its digestive system and led to its death.

Thailand’s leading aquatic animal veterinarian Dr Nantarika Chansue said the deaths of marine animals from consuming plastic waste had been a recurring problem in recent years.

“Death from consuming plastic is tragic and agonising for marine animals. These animals are not dying instantly, but it causes sicknesses, bringing about a slow and painful death,” Nantarika said.

She said plastic waste in the sea is one of the main threats to many marine species, especially sea turtles. Plastic is very similar to jellyfish in the eyes of these animals, so they end up consuming plastic, which eventually leads to their death.

“In most cases that we have seen, the animals’ stomachs were full of garbage, because plastic disrupted food absorption and made them eat more and more plastic,” she said.

“Death was caused not only by plastic clogging the digestive system, we found that in many cases the enzymes in the animals’ stomach digested plastic and released toxic chemicals, causing the animals to die from chemical toxicity.”

Nantarika stressed that the problem of plastic waste was a result of human activities. She warned that extinction of many marine species would be inevitable unless swift action was taken to prevent and tackle plastic pollution in the ocean.

Data from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) revealed that during the five years from 2009 to 2014, the number of dugongs in Thailand had reduced from 240 to 200, while the number of sea turtle nests had declined rapidly from 502 to 329. Another set of data from DMCR showed that some 33,900 to 50,000 tonnes of plastic waste from Thailand ended up in the sea every year.

Nantarika added that destructive fishing equipment and unsustainable fishing were also harming the survival of rare marine animals, as in many cases the turtles, whales, or in the latest case a whale shark, get trapped in the harmful fishing equipment and died. She suggested that the fishermen should have more awareness about the preservation of rare marine species and use fishing equipment that was safer for these animals instead.

The threats to the survival of rare marine animals in Thailand and the severity of plastic pollution have not been ignored by the authorities, Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a national reform and strategy committee member and leading marine biologist, insisted. He revealed that the government had already allocated Bt1.2 billion for a five-year plan to deal with these urgent issues in the national reform plans.

Thon said under the five-year plan to tackle plastic problems in the sea, the government would invest Bt120 million to establish a Marine Debris Disposal Centre to clean up plastic waste from Thai waters with an annual budget of Bt20 million in the first five years.

The government also had allocated Bt360 million for academic research and campaigns on tackling plastic waste, he said.

Meanwhile, Bt620 million will be spent on efforts to save and study endangered marine species and fund the work of veterinarian teams.

“The government is investing such a large sum of money in order to achieve two challenging goals – of reducing marine debris by 50 per cent within 10 years, and increasing the survival rate of stranded marine animals by 90 per cent,” he said.

“These efforts are proof that the authorities are taking these problems seriously, so we urge everyone to work together on these efforts to keep our sea clean and preserve our endangered marine animals.”

Read more!