New 4.8-hectare Bukit Gombak Park to open by end-2019

Toh Ting Wei Straits Times 11 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE - Residents in Bukit Gombak can look forward to a new park in the area by end-2019, in addition to the other existing parks in the area.

Construction of the 4.8ha Bukit Gombak Park, which is almost the size of seven football fields, is expected to start by the end of 2018 and will be completed by the end of 2019.

It will be located on an empty field along Bukit Batok West Avenue 5, opposite Bukit Batok Driving Centre.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling said that the new park will enlarge the green recreational space in Gombak.

The plot of land is about 1.6km away from the picturesque Little Guilin in Bukit Batok Town Park, and about 3.1km away from Bukit Batok Nature Park. All three parks will be linked by the Choa Chu Kang Park Connector.

"We are fortunate to have the beauty of Little Guilin anchoring this area's verdant attractions. This expanded recreational space close to nature will enhance our iconic status as a lush and green oasis, and nature lovers' spot," said Ms Low.

"Many of our residents here are drawn to Bukit Gombak by the distinct benefit of being able to live close to nature, especially in a built-up urban city like Singapore."

In the light of Singapore's ageing population, the park will be designed for inter-generational activities to encourage young and old to bond, and for older Singaporeans to keep active with family and friends.

The facilities include a cafe, outdoor fitness areas, a dog run and a hill trek through a nature zone.

Ms Kartini Omar, group director of parks development at National Parks Board (NParks), told ST in a statement that the new park will complement Little Guilin and Bukit Batok Nature Park, and bring the community closer to nature. NParks is working with Ms Low and grassroots leaders to gather feedback from residents on the park's design.

Residents said the park will be a welcome addition to the area.

Student Mikhail Razip, 18, said he hopes the new park will have more accessible areas, compared with Little Guilin, which has some parts blocked off by dense vegetation.

Housewife Amy Cheung, 45, who lives next to the proposed site of the new park, said she is looking forward to having more space for the community to enjoy gardening.

The Bukit Gombak Park will have a community garden and a seedling garden.

Said Ms Cheung: "The last time we held a ballot for the gardening plots in our estate, there were almost 300 residents balloting for over 30 plots. So, of course, it is good that more residents get an opportunity to try gardening."

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Indonesia: Four people named suspects in C Kalimantan`s land fires

Antara 11 Sep 18;

Sampit, C Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - Police in East Kotawaringin district, Central Kalimantan, have named four suspects in land and forest fires in a number of areas in the district.

"We have been investigating six cases. Four people have been named suspects. The frequent rains (falling in the district) does not discourage us to investigate land fire cases," Chief of the East Kotawaringin District Police Adjunct Chief Commissioner Mohammad Rommel said here on Tuesday.

However, he stopped short of revealing the four suspects in land fires.

He said the police had investigated the cases of land fires in Ujung Pandaran, Samuda, Baamang and Mentawa Baru Ketapang.

One of the suspects has begun to stand trial. But the suspect is only accused of violating a regional regulation.

"He set fire to trash but the fire spread to empty land, which led to land fires. The other cases are still being investigated. May the suspect stand trial.

Only one of the four suspects has been detained. The suspect is believed to get involved in land fires in Samuda.

That other suspects have not been detained did mean that the investigation of their cases are stopped.

The police are also investigating the case of large land fires in Mentaya Hilir Selatan district, he said.

Romel said the police would not tolerate any land arsonist.

Land fires have a far-reaching impact on the people at large, he said.

He called on the public to help prevent and mitigate land and forest fires. *

Reporting by Norjani
Editing by Suharo
Editor: Andi Abdussalam

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Indonesia: Extreme dry season hits East Nusa Tenggara

Antara 12 Sep 18;

Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - The Kupang Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG) office has said long days without rain have hit most areas of East Nusa Tenggara province.

"Most areas in the province are hit by long days (21-31 days) without rain and very long days (31-60 days) without rain. Some even are hit by extreme drought of more than 60 days," head of the Kupang meteorology office Apolinaris Geru said here on Wednesday.

Areas hit by extreme dry season include the districts of Nagekeo (around Rendu), Rote Ndao (around Olafulihaa), Kupang (around Hueknutu and Kupang) and Belu (around Weluli), Apolinaris said quoting the result of a survey.

The people, therefore, have to be more efficient in using water as currently NTT is being hit by worst dry season resulting in worst shortage of clean water, he said.

He called on the government to take the necessary steps to provide clean water in drought hit areas .

"The same condition happens every year , therefore, I believe the government already anticipates and has made preparation," he said.

Reporting by Bernadus Tokan
Editing by A Saragih, suharto
Editor: Fardah Assegaf

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'Climate change moving faster than we are,' says UN Secretary General

Matt McGrath BBC 10 Sep 18;

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that if the world doesn't change course by 2020, we run the risk of runaway climate change.

Mr Guterres said he was alarmed by the paralysis of world leaders on what he called the "defining issue" of our time.

He wants heads of government to come to New York for a special climate conference next September.

The call comes amid growing concerns over the slow pace of UN negotiations.

Mr Guterres painted a grim picture of the impacts of climate change that he says have been felt all over the world this year, with heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods leaving a trail of destruction.

Corals are dying, he said, the oceans are becoming more acidic, and there are growing conflicts over dwindling resources.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at their highest level in three million years.

Despite the fact that the world agreed on a plan to tackle climate change in Paris in 2015, Mr Guterres said the world is way off track to achieve the modest goals of the pact.

Despite the dire situation, the world could still tackle climate change effectively, he said. Saying it was too expensive to do so was "hogwash".

"For every dollar spent restoring degraded forests, as much as $30 can be recouped in economic benefits and poverty reduction," Mr Guterres said.

The world has the tools, and the ability. Renewables are cost-competitive with coal and oil, he said. By 2030, wind and solar could power more than a third of Europe.

But the lack of decisive political leadership was hampering everything, he said.

Calling for global leaders to meet with him at a special summit in New York in September next year, Mr Guterres argued this would give the world the push it needs at a critical moment.

It comes just before the countries that have signed the Paris agreement will review and increase their commitments to cut carbon.

Progress on that road is currently stalled. UN negotiators met in Bangkok last week to try and push the process forward. But arguments between rich and poor nations over money have seen tempers rise and ambition decline.

Delegates will meet again in Katowice in Poland in December to try to finalise the rule book for the Paris pact, but the omens are not good.

In his speech Mr Guterres warned that "we cannot allow Katowice to remind us of Copenhagen," referencing the infamous failed meeting in the Danish capital in 2009.

Many observers believe that the influence of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement and his general scepticism towards climate change and multilateralism has soured the atmosphere in the UN talks.

"The US attempts to slow down this process should come as no surprise," said Jesse Bragg from the non-governmental organisation, Corporate Accountability.

"It has a long history of watering down and undermining multilateral agreements. But, in leading the charge to block practically every discussion on finance for the Paris guidelines, the US administration is threatening the future of the agreement and multilateralism itself."

Mr Guterres says he is committing himself and the UN to the effort of transforming the political landscape to tame the threat of climate change. He pointed to the forthcoming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on how to keep the world from warming by more that 1.5 degrees C, which he says will be a sobering assessment.

"We are careering towards the edge of the abyss," Mr Guterres said. "Our fate is in our own hands."

Fossil fuel dependence poses 'direct existential threat', warns UN chief
A rapid global shift to clean energy is needed to prevent runaway climate change, says António Guterres
Associated Press The Guardian 11 Sep 18;

United Nations secretary general António Guterres has warned that the world is facing “a direct existential threat” and must rapidly shift from dependence on fossil fuels by 2020 to prevent “runaway climate change”.

Guterres called the crisis urgent and decried the lack of global leadership to address global warming.

“Climate change is moving faster than we are,” Guterres said on Monday. “We need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action.”

He said people everywhere are experiencing record-breaking temperatures and extreme heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods “are leaving a trail of death and devastation”.

As examples, Guterres pointed to Kerala, India’s worst monsoon flooding in recent history, almost 3,000 deaths from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, disappearing Arctic sea ice, some wildfires so big that they send ash around the world, oceans becoming more acidic threatening food chains, and high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere threatening food security for billions of people.

Guterres said scientists have been warning about global warming for decades, but “far too many leaders have refused to listen, far too few have acted with the vision the science demands”.

When some 190 nations signed the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change they agreed to limit the global temperature increase by 2100 to less than 2C and as close as possible to 1.5C.

“These targets were the bare minimum to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” Guterres said. “But scientists tell us that we are far off track.”

“According to a UN study, the commitments made so far by parties to the Paris agreement represent just one-third of what is needed,” the secretary general said.

Guterres said the mountain that needs to be climbed is very high but not insurmountable.

“We need to rapidly shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels,” he said. “We need to replace them with clean energy from water, wind and sun. We must halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and change the way we farm.”

He appealed for leadership “from politicians and leaders, from business and scientists, and from the public everywhere” to break what he called the current “paralysis” and act now.

“If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us,” Guterres warned.

The alternative to moving to green energy, he said, “is a dark and dangerous future”.

Guterres said that when he addresses world leaders at their annual general assembly gathering in two weeks, he will tell them “that climate change is the great challenge of our time” and what is missing is leadership and a sense of urgency to respond.

He said an international meeting in Bangkok that ended on Sunday made some progress on negotiations to help reach an agreement in December in Poland on guidelines for implementing the 2015 Paris accord “but far from enough”.

“Nothing less than our future and the fate of humankind depends on how we rise to the climate challenge,” Guterres said. “Keeping our planet’s warming to well below 2C is essential for global prosperity, people’s wellbeing and the security of nations.”

He said that is why he will convoke a climate summit for world leaders in September 2019 “to bring climate action to the top of the international agenda”.

Guterres said technology is on the side of those seeking to tackle climate change.

He cited the rising use of renewable energy, saying “today, it is competitive with and even cheaper than coal and oil, especially if one factors in the cost of pollution”. And he singled out innovative programs in China, Sweden, Morocco, Scotland and Thailand.

Guterres also pointed to other signs of hope including oil-rich Saudi Arabia investing heavily in renewable energy and oil-rich Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world, moving away from investments in coal, as well as in palm and pulp paper companies because of the forests they destroy.

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Global hunger levels rising due to extreme weather, UN warns

Progress made in the past decade has been reversed, with climate extremes such as droughts and floods identified as a main cause
Fiona Harvey and Karen McVeigh The Guardian 11 Sep 18;

Global hunger has reverted to levels last seen a decade ago, wiping out progress on improving people’s access to food and leaving one in nine people undernourished last year, with extreme weather a leading cause, the UN has warned.

Hunger afflicted 821 million people last year, the third annual rise since 2015, with most regions of Africa and much of South America showing worsening signs of food shortages and malnutrition. More than half a billion of the world’s hungry live in Asia.

The reversal of progress made in slowing malnutrition in the first half of this decade has caused serious concern among international agencies. Climate shocks, such as droughts and floods, were identified by the UN as “among the key drivers” for the rise in 2017, along with conflict and economic slowdowns. Nearly 100 million people were left dependent on humanitarian aid during the year.

The UN report covers last year, and does not take account of 2018’s extreme weather which has brought heatwaves and high temperatures to much of the northern hemisphere, accompanied by droughts in some parts of the globe and floods in others. However, the changing climatic trends are likely to spell trouble for years ahead.

Robin Willoughby, head of food and climate policy at Oxfam GB, said the last few months were likely to have made the situation even worse, and called on governments to commit funds to help poor countries adapt to the effects of global warming. “The extreme weather we have seen this year is likely to have exacerbated the crisis,” he said. “A hotter world is proving to be a hungrier world.”

According to the report, there are more undernourished people in areas of the world that are highly exposed to extremes of climate. The authors note that there have been more frequent spells of extreme heat in the last five years, and that the nature of rainfall is changing in some areas, with rainy seasons starting earlier or later. Staple crops such as wheat, rice and maize are particularly at risk from climate extremes.

“It is shocking that, after a prolonged decline, this is the third consecutive year of rising hunger,” said Willoughby. “The inescapable fact is that climate change is now leaving people around the world without enough to eat.”

Adapting to climate change can be a matter of switching to less thirsty crops in some areas, and selectively breeding varieties for drought-resistance, or diversifying crops and using natural methods to make the best use of rainfall. Giving farmers access to transport to take their produce to market, and modern technology, such as weather forecasting communications, can also help.

The UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 report, released on Tuesday, is the joint work of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Unicef, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organisation.

The heads of the agencies combined to warn of a worsening future, if action is not taken to help people adapt to climate change. “If we are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030 [as the sustainable development goals state] it is imperative that we accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people’s livelihoods in response to climate variability and extremes,” they wrote in the foreword to the report.

Cindy Holleman, a senior economist at the FAO and editor of the report, said: “What is alarming about this analysis is that climate variability and climate extremes now are contributing to the rise in hunger. Not just emergency levels of hunger, but chronic hunger.

“We see this report as an early warning call that we need to accelerate and scale up climate resilience especially in countries in Africa and Latin America that are most vulnerable.”

She added: “This is the beginning of a very serious situation. We have a target to end hunger by 2030, and we are not going to do that unless we are going to tackle new challenges and the new challenges are climate extremes and variability.”

The analysis also showed that one in eight of the world’s adults – 672 million people – are now obese. This is increasingly regarded as a form of malnutrition associated with poverty, as poor people often lack access to good quality food.

Other effects of malnutrition noted include 151 million children under five too short for their age owing to malnutrition, a fall from the 165 million recorded in 2012, with Asia accounting for 55% of the total. One in three women of reproductive age around the world have anaemia, which can also affect the development of their children, and only 40% of babies are breastfed exclusively to six months.

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