Best of our wild blogs: 12 Jul 18

29th July 2018 (Sunday): FREE Guided Herp Walk @ Treetop Walk
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Li Jia Yang: Sustainable Palm Oil Activism on Campus
People's Movement to Stop Haze

Calling for volunteers for 21 July 2018 NUS–NParks Marine Debris sampling at Lim Chu Kang mangrove
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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No penalty for not implementing environmental impact mitigation measures: Sun Xueling

Fann Sim Channel NewsAsia 11 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE: Developers are not penalised for not implementing proposed environmental impact mitigation measures, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Sun Xueling in Parliament on Wednesday (July 11).

She was responding to MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng's question on whether measures have been put in place to reduce roadkill in the Mandai area, following the deaths of a pregnant wild boar and a Sambar deer in June.

She said that Mandai Park Development (MPD) is responsible for implementing measures to mitigate the impact of its development work on wildlife in the area.

However, even though there are no penalties imposed, there is an Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan (EMMP) that the developer has implemented.

"The EMMP is monitored and reviewed by an environmental and advisory panel which includes subject matter experts from the scientific community, academia, nature groups and private sector. If there are unanticipated environmental impacts that require additional mitigation, MPD should modify their EMMP in consultation with the relevant technical agencies," Ms Sun said.

She added that MPD has undertaken a number of measures to reduce roadkill in the area, such as installing hoardings around the development areas on Mandai Lake Road.

"MPD, the relevant government agencies, and the nature community are currently discussing the need for additional hoardings. Where it is ascertained that additional hoardings will protect wildlife, the relevant government agencies will work with MPD to determine the location of these hoardings," she added.

Following at least five reported incidents of animals killed in the area since development started last year, wildlife activists have asked why the planned Eco-Link overpass was not completed before construction works started.

Mr Ng also asked if the overpass is one of the measures listed in MPD's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

"I have to check whether it's part of the EIA. In my understanding, it was," she said.

She added that construction of the Eco-Link bridge has already started.

Source: CNA/fs

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Seaman responsible for fatal ship collision near Pulau Sebarok jailed for two years

Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib Straits Times 11 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE - The first chief officer of a 108m-long dredger which was involved in a fatal collision in the waters off the southern island of Pulau Sebarok last year was neither qualified nor certified to be in control of a ship that size, a district court heard on Wednesday (July 11).

Nevertheless, Chinese national Ding Zongde, who was working on board the Dominica-registered JBB De Rong 19, continued to navigate the vessel and ignored the directions given by the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

It ended up in the path of the Indonesia-registered Kartika Segara, an 180m-long tanker, which ploughed into the right side of the dredger, causing it to sink. Five crew members of JBB De Rong 19 were killed.

Ding, 53, was jailed for two years on Wednesday after pleading guilty to causing the deaths by performing a rash act on Sept 13 last year.

With 12 crew on board, the JBB De Rong 19 was passing through Singapore waters to deliver sand for reclamation works in Johor.

Kartika Segara, which had 26 crew members, was on its way to the port of Baubau, in south-east Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Assistant Public Prosecutor Dillon Kok said Ding was one of two chief officers on board JBB De Rong 19.

Ding took over from the other chief officer at around 11pm on Sept 12 last year while Malaysian Mohd Zuhair Roslan, 26, manned the radio as the Chinese national could not speak English.

APP Kok said: "The accused and Mohd Zuhair had difficulties communicating verbally... As such, the pair communicated by using simple hand gestures."

Ding later spotted Kartika Segara on his ship's right side a distance away. After receiving instructions from Singapore's Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) operated by MPA, Mr Zuhair signalled to Ding that he should give way to the tanker.

The court heard the Chinese national ignored the instructions as he felt that JBB De Rong 19 could make it ahead of Kartika Segara.

At 12.35am on Sept 13 last year, VTIS Central asked JBB De Rong 19 to take immediate action to avoid a collision.

APP Kok told the court: "JBB De Rong 19 was ordered to slow down and give way. Mohd Zuhair acknowledged the direction and signalled to the accused to slow JBB down. The accused then cut the vessel's engines. Only when the accused realised that a collision was imminent did he put the vessel's engine in full reverse. A few seconds later, Kartika Segara collided into the starboard quarter (right side) of JBB."

The dredger lost power and was plunged into darkness. It sank less than a minute after the collision . The bodies of four Chinese nationals and Mr Zuhair were discovered between Sept 13 and Nov 5 last year.

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Urban warming worsening problem in Singapore, action needed while studies are ongoing: Researchers

Today Online 12 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE — Government agencies and researchers have embarked on studies to make Singapore cooler, with surprising findings already unearthed along the way.

Besides the effects of climate change, Singapore is hotter than it should be because of the urban heat island (UHI) effect.

At certain times of the day, built-up areas can be more than 7°C hotter than areas which are more rural. This is due to heat trapped from energy consumed by air-conditioning systems and vehicles, for instance, the presence of less vegetation, and building materials that absorb and store heat from the sun.

Mr Peter Ho, chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), said that urban warming is a complex problem that poses a long-term risk, but it is “not easy to see”.

Speaking at the Cooling Singapore symposium on Wednesday (July 11), he highlighted that addressing the UHI effect is “vital to maintaining or improving the liveability of our city”.

“As we continue to urbanise, provide jobs and homes to a growing population, urban warming will only increase unless we take steps to address the problem.”

Singapore ranks second in the world in population density, after Monaco, Mr Ho noted. If unchecked, further warming can increase the risk of heat-related fatalities.

Together with the URA and the Housing and Development Board (HDB), researchers began modelling studies this year on areas in the Jurong Lake District, Punggol housing estate and a new area to be developed in the Central Business District (CBD) near Asia Square.

They want to see how different mitigation measures can be applied, and the benefits of each measure.

Dr Juan Angel Acero from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (Smart) said that having plants on the facade of buildings can improve the level of comfort felt outdoors by people within a 4m range, but this has little or no impact at greater distances.

Void decks at public housing blocks can have a positive impact, especially in the late afternoon and evening. And new developments can change air patterns and increase thermal stress, depending on weather conditions.

Some results have been counter-intuitive. For instance, more vegetation does not always improve the comfort felt outdoors by people, because trees can reduce wind speed and increase humidity, Dr Acero said.

The Jurong Lake District and CBD case studies — done with the URA — aim to get the best “urban parameters” for outdoor thermal comfort, he added. Actions have focused mainly on the orientation and arrangement of buildings, with the aim of considering shadow and spaces for airflow.

The Punggol case study, done with the HDB, aims to analyse the impact of mitigation measures, such as retrofitting, for an existing development.

The researchers have also found that more reflective roofs can achieve up to a 1.29°C reduction in temperature, and increasing density will lead to higher temperatures of up to 1.4°C in certain areas at certain times of the day, Dr Acero said.

Industrial areas lead to a maximum increase of 0.6°C and the impact on neighbouring areas can reach 0.2°C.

The studies are part of the ambitious Cooling Singapore research project, which started last year and is led by the Singapore-ETH Centre. Funded by the National Research Foundation’s Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (Create) programme, its collaborators are the National University of Singapore, Smart and TUM Create, which comprises research teams from Nanyang Technological University and Germany’s Technical University of Munich.

A 14-member UHI taskforce that includes representatives from the HDB, URA, Land Transport Authority and universities has been set up.


The project has also captured the voices of residents here.

Researchers held a workshop for 48 HDB dwellers, and surveyed more than 400 Punggol residents face-to-face between February and June this year on their preferred mitigation strategies and activities they would like to do outdoors, among other questions.

Green streetscapes and green facades were among their preferred choices, while nobody was in favour of cool bus stops.

Ms Lea Ruefenacht of the Singapore-ETH Centre, who is one of four researchers on the citizen participation surveys, said that the respondents preferred improving the traffic situation and spending as little time as possible at bus stops.

An online survey will be conducted from next month, and the researchers hope to get about 2,000 respondents, Ms Ruefenacht said.

In the private sector, Singapore District Cooling — a subsidiary of utility provider SP Group — could try out outdoor cooling systems at an event space near the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort with the URA, and at an al fresco cafe later this year, its deputy managing director Foo Yang Kwang said.

On Tuesday, HDB and SP Group signed an agreement to explore the development of a centralised cooling system for flats in the new Tengah HDB town. It is envisaged as a more energy-efficient service to which residents may subscribe, instead of using conventional air-conditioning systems. Based on its calculations, savings of 30 to 35 per cent are possible, Mr Foo said on Wednesday.

The urban warming problem is not only about temperature. Cooling Singapore’s principal investigator Peter Edwards said that there is good evidence to suggest it has contributed to a marked increase in the intensity of extreme rainfall.

“Singapore has a very substantial UHI effect and it’s getting worse, and it clearly is going to be important to do something about it,” he said.

While more research is needed, “the implementation needs to begin now”, Professor Edwards said. “We can’t wait until the final best research results are in. The research and the implementation will have to go hand in hand.”

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PUB launches smart road map to improve water management

Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 11 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's national water agency has devised a road map that will progressively see artificial intelligence, big data and smart work redesign being rolled out over the next five years to improve its operations and water management.

PUB announced on Wednesday (Jul 11) that the road map will help to achieve smarter water quality management and work process.

"Business as usual is not sustainable," said Mr Michael Toh, PUB's chief information officer.

"Not adopting new technology exposes us to inefficiencies and risk, and can render us obsolete or unable to adapt to technological disruptions," he added.


As part of its smart road map, the water agency is exploring two pieces of innovation for remote water quality management.

The first is an autonomous boat that can navigate itself through choppy waters to collect samples. First piloted at Pandan reservoir in November 2017, the boat's effectiveness in monitoring water quality is currently being evaluated.

PUB is also developing a device that can perform automated microscopic imaging of water samples and identify micro-invertebrates - small organisms found in raw water.

This will help to improve the existing process, which requires a trained biologist to manually count the number of micro-invertebrates in a sample. This process could take up to two hours per sample.

Source: CNA/ec

PUB to test self-driving boats, insect-identifying sensors in drive to digitalise water system
Jose Hong Straits Times 11 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE - National water agency PUB on Wednesday (July 11) launched a five-year road map to digitalise Singapore's water system in the light of constraints such as increasing demand, rising operational costs, manpower constraints and climate change.

The road map leverages technology, such as self-piloting boats to monitor water quality, or artificial intelligence that can identify insect larvae species almost immediately, as ways to boost efficiency and productivity.

Similar to the agency's robot swans, the self-piloting boat will monitor the quality of water. It can measure indicators such as acidity, temperature, oxygen levels and the presence of algae.

Unlike the swans, which operate in reservoirs, the boat can withstand waves of up to 2m in height and PUB hopes to deploy it in the seas around desalination plants.

"With desalination as a source of water for us, there is a need to monitor water from the sea more closely," said the PUB's chief information officer Michael Toh.

The boat is currently undergoing testing at Pandan Reservoir.

PUB is also testing a system that can identify the presence and species of insect eggs and larvae in water. Dragonflies, for instance, are extremely sensitive to pollution and their presence can tell how healthy an environment is.

PUB microbiologist Martin Tay said that if the sensor detects a sudden drop in larvae or eggs, it can alert the agency immediately, letting it know that something is wrong.

Dr Tay said that trained microbiologists are currently needed to manually identify eggs and larvae, with each sample taking two hours to analyse.

The water agency will start training the system to differentiate different species of eggs and larvae, and plans to start deploying sensors around reservoirs by 2020.

PUB is also looking at installing a pre-emptive leak management system to tackle the issue of pipe leaks, which have led to fountains on the roadside and traffic disruptions several times in the past 12 months.

Sound will play a key role in the system, which will consist of sensors placed along a length of the piping network.

By knocking on the pipes and calculating how long sound takes to travel from one sensor to another, PUB will be able to tell how thin - and hence corroded - a pipe has become from the inside and can then decide if it needs to be either reinforced or replaced.

PUB's latest announcements come amid a broader move to leverage technology in the environment and environmental services sector. The French energy management and automation company Schneider Electric, for example, is using the Internet of things to improve the sustainability of water and waste water plants.

"Employees can now use mobile devices, data analytics, augmented reality and transparent connectivity to monitor and control their facilities, hence, increasing productivity levels," a company spokesman said.

Talking about the benefits to consumers, he said: "While the long-term impact of digitalisation is difficult to predict, we believe that through technology, an ecosystem can be built which helps customers reduce their own energy consumption by 30 per cent through active energy efficiency and sustainability solutions."

PUB's Mr Toh said: "Business as usual is not sustainable. Not adopting new technology exposes us to inefficiencies and risk, and can render us obsolete or unable to adapt to technological disruptions."

He added: "Data driven insights will also help PUB attain higher levels of operational efficiency, improve our incident response times, and ultimately serve our customers better."

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AI-powered system in the works to help new Tengah town save energy

KELLY NG Today Online 10 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE — In a future "smart energy town" that city planners here are dreaming up, an artifical intelligence-powered system will detect power failures in residential blocks, traffic lights and street lamps, then channel energy from alternative sources to revive them.

Excess energy generated by solar panels mounted on top of public flats would also be stored and used later for servicing the estate, such as in operating lifts or water pumps.

With the vision of transforming the new Tengah town into Singapore's first "smart sustainable town", the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and utility provider SP Group signed an agreement on Tuesday (July 10) to study the development and testing of a centralised energy software system, envisioned to work like a "brain" that will collect and process data to analyse how each household, each neighbourhood, and the entire town use energy.

Dubbed the "smart energy concierge", this system will tap artificial intelligence to spot patterns and anomalies in energy flows to minimise disruption to services and optimise the use of energy.

It will be connected to the energy grid, energy storage systems and solar photovoltaic generators, the HDB said in a statement on three research agreements it signed on Tuesday.

This project will also explore a mobile application for future Tengah residents to pay utility bills, subscribe to "smart" household products and services, and track their energy usage.

The HDB-SP Power study, which will enable a more efficient and sustainable model of energy management, is expected to complete within a year.

The project will also explore the development of centralised cooling system in a housing development. This is envisaged as a more energy-efficient service that residents can subscribe to, instead of using the conventional air-conditioning systems.

On Tuesday, at the World Cities Summit, the HDB inked another two more research agreements with external partners to enhance the construction efficiency and design capabilities of future estates.

The first — which involves a three-year partnership with prefabrication firm Robin Village Development, consulting agency Witteveen+Bos and Nanyang Technological University — explores the use of a 3D concrete printer to create full-scale building elements.

Currently, customised mould sets are used in designing precast architectural building forms. Depending on the intricacy of the design, fabricating a set of large, volumetric moulds could take up to two months.

If successful, the new concrete printer will improve productivity and reduce dependency on precast fabrication workers. This collaboration is expected to cost S$3 million.

Finally, HDB signed the partnership with landscaping firm ISO Landscape to explore setting up floating solar panels in the open sea.

Looking to the sea is one way to further harvest solar energy given the Republic's land constraints, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who was at the signing ceremonies on Tuesday.

New technologies offer "much potential" for transforming and improving the living environment, said the minister.

"While we have done well in building a green and liveable city in Singapore, we also recognise that we must never rest on our laurels. There is still much more we must do to make Singapore more liveable and sustainable," he said.

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Malaysia: Baby elephant found wandering alone in estate

stephanie lee The Star 12 Jul 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife rangers have taken in an elephant calf, the youngest ever found, under their care after it was spotted wandering alone at an oil palm estate in Tawau.

The calf, believed to be barely three months old and still in need of feeding by its mother, was found by estate workers at the Brumas Oil Palm area on Tuesday.

The workers then alerted their manager, who immediately called the wildlife rangers.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said their officials found that the calf was in weak condition.

He added that they had tried searching for its mother or herd, but found no trace of either.

Tuuga said they would continue the search, although they would probably need to take the calf under their care for good if they failed to locate its herd within the next few days.

“It is quite surprising how the calf could have wandered off alone without its mother or herd searching for it,” he said.

Tuuga said the calf had been taken back to the base in Tawau, adding that they hoped to give it the care it needed as it was still very young.

“We have begun treatment and feeding to make sure that it will be all right,” he added.

The Brumas area is considered a high-risk human-animal conflict zone.

A rogue bull elephant killed a plantation worker and seriously injured a couple there two years ago. Wildlife rangers eventually culled the bull.

Human-animal conflict, especially in the east coast and interiors of Sabah, is increasing due to rapid development and land clearing.

In April and May alone, six elephants were found dead in Sabah’s east coast, most likely due to diseases.

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Malaysia: The Malaysian Nature Society calls on hotels to eliminate single-use plastic materials

Borneo Post 11 Jul 18;

MIRI: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has called on hotels to eliminate single-use plastic such as bottled water and straws.

In a press statement yesterday, MNS Miri chairman Iqbal Abdollah said this is one way to cut down on plastic pollution in the ocean.

“The hotel industry buys and distributes huge numbers of single-use plastic water bottles for the convenience of their customers either during their stays or meetings.

“However, seeing how the single-use plastic water bottles have impacted our oceans, I strongly believe that more sustainable methods could be used and which could also save costs and, probably, bring more profit to the hotels,” he said.

He pointed out that Miri, which is being promoted as a resort city, is known for its long coastline.

“However, the trash that washes ashore on beaches here is giving tourists and the community the wrong impression,” he said.

He stressed the community needs to have sustainability in mind and make the effort to reduce rubbish in the oceans.

“To be honest, it is never-ending work, seeing more trash is being washed up and pulled in. The main issue is that we have yet gotten to the root of this problem. It would be good if we incorporate the effort from private entities such as hotels and resorts,” he said.

He stressed that single-use plastic bottles take up to 450 years to decompose, while plastic straws require up to 200 years or longer.

“To make things worse, plastic breaking up into smaller pieces and becoming micro-plastics will enter our food chain, which will eventually end up in our bodies,” he said.

In March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) found more than 90 per cent of the world’s most popular bottled water brands contained traces of plastic.

“What is more worrying is that, according to World Economic Forum (WEF), there will be more plastic than fish in our ocean by 2050 judging from the current rate of plastic pollution worldwide.

“Perhaps it is time local hoteliers adapt initiatives by international hotels by offering their guests glass refillable water bottles, filtered water stations and dispensers, reusable bottles, and straws made out of recycled aluminium,” he added.

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Indonesia: Forest Fire Begins to Occur in Areas of Kalimantan

Netral News 12 Jul 18;

SAMPIT, NNC - Land fires began to occur in Sampit, East Kotawaringin District, Central Kalimantan, which allegedly was cauesd by a reduce in rain intensity.

"Land fire occurred at Jenderal Sudirman St. KM 10 with two hotspots," East Kotawaringin Fire and Rescue Department Chief Rihel said in Sampit.

The fire occured on empty land on the side of the highway. Personnels received information from the public at around 4 p.m and immediately rushed to the location.

The East Kotawaringin Fire and Rescue Department deployed one firetruck. Personnels from the East Kotawaringin Police Resort also rushed to the scene by deploying motorcycles equipped with an extinguisher. East Kotawaringin Resort Police Operational Division Chief Adj. Commissioner Boni Ariefianto came to the scene along with several armed forces and East Kotawaringin Regional Disaster Management Agency personnels.

"We urge the people to take part in preventing land fires. The lack of rainfall has increased the chances of forest and land fire," Rihel said.

Head of East Kotawaringin Regional Disaster Management Agency Muhammad Yusuf said according to the information from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, the peak of dry season is expected to happen in August.

The people of East Kotawaringin must stay alert as the district is included as an area prone to forest and land fires.

"Drought is predicted to start on the third week of this July, possibly somewhere around July 20. Inorder to anticipate it, a forest and land fire emergency alert status is planned to be set mid-July," Yusuf said Thursday, July 12.

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Indonesia: Sighting of Tapanuli orangutan twins raises hope for saving species

The Jakarta Post 11 Jul 18;

Two wildlife conservationists spotted a Tapanuli orangutan with her twin babies in Batang Toru forest in Tapanuli, North Sumatra,raising hopes for saving the critically endangered species.

The three Tapanuli orangutans were spotted in May in a tree at a height of around 15 meters in the early afternoon.

The staff members of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP), Andayani Oerta G. and Ulil Amri Silitonga, who are both based at the Batang Toru forest observation post, were on their regular patrol round when they spotted the orangutan family.

“The babies looked identical, although one seemed quite bold while the other was very shy and stayed close to the mother,” recalled Andayani.She added that the female orangutan remained in the tree for about an hour before she left the area, the twins clinging to her.

Rare sighting: Twin babies of the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan species hang onto their mother in a tree in Batang Toru forest, North Sumatra. According to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP), twin births generally happen in captivity and rarely in the wild.
Rare sighting: Twin babies of the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan species hang onto their mother in a tree in Batang Toru forest, North Sumatra. According to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP), twin births generally happen in captivity and rarely in the wild. (Courtesy of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program/File)

SOCP biological diversity monitoring head Matius Nowak said he once documented twin orangutans in the wild, but they were not Tapanuli orangutans.

“Twin births happen among animals bred in captivity. In the wild, it’s very rare for both babies to survive,” Nowak said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Tapanuli orangutan, which is distinguished by their smaller head and frizzier cinnamon-red hair, was identified as a distinct species in 2017 and was immediately listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Around 800 Tapanuli orangutans currently live in Batang Toru, but the IUCN has estimated that at the current rate of deforestation, the population would drop to just 275 by 2060. (nor/ebf)

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Indonesia: Papua indigenous communities declare 'customary fishing area' in Raja Ampat

Kharishar Kahfi The Jakarta Post 11 Jul 18;

Indigenous communities from 19 villages at the Dampier Strait Marine Protection Area (MPA) in Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua, declared on Tuesday the customary fishing area in the regency, asserting their commitment to conserve marine ecosystems and utilize resources sustainably.

“The customary fishing area in Raja Ampat is a system that regulates members of the indigenous Maya tribe in maintaining and utilizing the sea and its fishery resources wisely and responsibly,” said Kristian Thebu, the chief of the Maya Tribe Council, in a statement on Wednesday.

The declaration will lead people of eight villages living on Batanta Island as well as 11 others on Salawati Island to agree to protect the 211,000 hectares of marine area, securing sustainably the livelihoods of 2,000 households on both islands.

Such a declaration is considered helpful for the MPA management in managing the area thanks to “community involvement in planning and management,” according to Raja Ampat MPA technical implementation unit head Syafri.

The Marine Protected Area in Raja Ampat was determined through a 2014 decree from the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.

However, damage to marine ecosystems and fishery resources in the region continued to threaten the region in the form of irregular and unsustainable fishing practices as well as a growing number of fishermen from outside Raja Ampat.

Nongovernmental organization RARE, with support from the USAID Sustainable Ecosystem Advanced (SEA) project, will assist with the implementation of the declaration, as well as other attempts at conservation and sustainable resource utilization in the region. (ebf)

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