Best of our wild blogs: 4 Oct 18

Corals: Nature’s Construction Company
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Electric car-sharing firm BlueSG opens 100th charging station

Elizabeth Neo Channel NewsAsia 3 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE: Electric car-sharing firm BlueSG has opened its 100th charging station in Singapore, with the company saying there has been strong demand for its services - although it has yet to make a profit.

The new station, located at the Pinnacle@Duxton at 1 Cantonment Road, will help service the 230 BlueSG electric vehicles that ply Singapore’s roads. The company currently has 393 charging points.

In an update on Wednesday (Oct 3), BlueSG said it has more than 17,000 registered members and 70,000 rentals as at end-September.

The company said it has received more than 6,000 requests for new stations, and is working with the authorities and private landlords to expand its network.

“Shopping malls, universities and the airport - there is a very strong demand," BlueSG managing director Franck Vitte told Channel NewsAsia.

"So we are working with the different stakeholders, some of them are very enthusiastic, such as the shopping malls. And with some of them, it is taking more time depending on their willingness to have our service within their premises."

The company started with 80 cars and 32 charging stations, and aims to roll out 1,000 cars and 2,000 charging points by 2020.

READ: Commentary: Electric vehicles have a long way to go, so don't write off oil yet
Close to 10 months after launching its electric car-sharing programme, Mr Vitte said the company has yet to turn a profit.

“But again, of course we never anticipated to make a profit right from the beginning because there's a lot of investments, but we hope to be able to break even much faster than we hope for in the coming years," he said.

Associate Professor Nitin Pangarkar from the National University of Singapore’s School of Business said this was not surprising for a new company.

"It's okay not to make profits in the start-up stage because there are a whole lot of costs and uncertainties that a start-up gets burdened with that get resolved over time," he said.

“To me, one of BlueSG's stumbling blocks is that they are creating their own infrastructure and they are paying for it. And that hurts, especially when you have a small base," he added.

"So when the petrol kiosks start offering charging stations, I think that is when BlueSG will have a real shot at taking off."

To further enhance user experience, the firm announced updates to its mobile application for a new function that allows users to register for the next available parking lot or car and to be informed when they are next in line. This will enable members to plan better, said BlueSG.

It has also entered into a partnership with Sembcorp Power, the electricity retail arm of Sembcorp Industries, for the supply of electricity to its charging stations.

Source: CNA/nc(ra)

Electric car-sharing scheme draws over 17,000 members, launches 100th charging station
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 3 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE — Less than a year after its launch, Singapore's first large-scale electric car-sharing scheme has more than 17,000 members on its books, operator BlueSG said on Wednesday (Oct 3).

This is about nine times the 2,000 or so members recorded at its launch last December.

Demand for its cars has been healthy, BlueSG said, adding that there were some 70,000 rentals as of the end of last month, with more than 10,000 in September alone.

Right now, the service has 230 electric cars and 100 charging stations comprising nearly 400 charging points. During its launch, there were 80 cars and about 30 charging stations.

By 2020, BlueSG aims to put 1,000 electric vehicles on Singapore roads and set up 2,000 charging points at 500 stations — with 80 per cent in residential areas. About one-fifth of the charging points will be available for the public to charge other private electric cars.

The operator on Wednesday announced its 100th charging station at public housing development Pinnacle@Duxton on Cantonment Road. Its charging stations are in various parts of the island, including Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Jurong East and Tampines.

The operator said it has received more than 6,000 requests for new stations, and is working with the authorities and private landlords to enlarge its network in residential and other areas.

Mr Franck Vitte, BlueSG's managing director, said that with 100 charging stations and a presence in nearly every town, it has become a "convenient and competitive commuting option" that complements the public transport network.

"More importantly, BlueSG is becoming a viable alternative to car ownership and some of our users have already started selling off their private vehicles," he added.

BlueSG is tying up with Sembcorp Power — the electricity retail arm of utilities, marine and urban development group Sembcorp Industries — to supply electricity to its charging stations.

The electric car-sharing operator's mobile application has also been refreshed with a new function that allows users to register for the next available car or parking spot, and find out if they are next in the queue.

This will enable its members to better plan their transport needs, the company said.

To mark the opening of its 100th charging station, BlueSG is offering free one-hour rental to all its "premium" members who clock more than 100 minutes of rental between Wednesday and next Friday.

Premium members subscribe to a yearly plan, at S$15 monthly, and pay 33 cents a minute to rent a car.

Weekly members pay a higher fee of 50 cents per minute. All users must rent the cars for at least 15 minutes.

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Exxon Mobil eyes multi-billion dollar investment at Singapore refinery: Vice president

Channel NewsAsia 3 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE: Exxon Mobil Corp is considering a multi-billion dollar investment at its Singapore refinery, the company's largest, ahead of new global shipping fuel regulations starting in 2020, a senior executive said on Wednesday (Oct 3).

"We are currently assessing a multi-billion project in our integrated manufacturing facility here in Singapore," Matt Bergeron, vice president of Asia Pacific Fuels Business at Exxon, said at a bunkering conference.

"Should the project proceed, we plan to implement proprietary technologies that will convert lower value by-products into cleaner higher value products including 0.5 per cent sulphur fuels that we believe will be the compliant option for the vast majority of the marine sector," Bergeron said.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is introducing new rules on marine fuels from 2020, limiting the sulphur content to 0.5 per cent, from 3.5 per cent currently, to curb pollution produced by the world's ships.

The shipping and oil refining industries are scrambling to prepare for the shift and have made large investments to comply with the new standards since they were announced in 2016.

Exxon's Singapore refinery is the company's largest, with a capacity of about 592,000 barrels a day. Singapore is also home to the oil giant's biggest integrated petrochemical complex.

"We have already made significant investments at a number of other refineries around the world in order to increase our production capacity of cleaner fuels with lower sulphur content," Bergeron said.

Exxon in September announced it was planning to spend more than US$650 million to upgrade the UK's largest oil refinery, Fawley, on England's south coast.

Source: Reuters/ng

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Malaysia: Saved orang utan back in the wild

stephanie lee The Star 4 Oct 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Tiger, the rescued baby orang utan that spent 17 years in the Sepilok Forest Reserve, is back where he belongs.

Now 19 years of age and considered an adult, Tiger was set free at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (TWR) in Lahat Datu yesterday.

Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said they were confident that Tiger would not face many problems adjusting to his “new and bigger home”.

He said this was because Tiger had been living free at the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre since his rescue.

“The veterinarians and wildlife rangers also agreed that it is time for Tiger to live on his own,” he said.

Dr Sen said the veterinarians conducted their final medical check-up and tests on Tiger on Tuesday.

“At 3am yesterday (Wednesday), we loaded Tiger into a transport cage and started the first stage of his journey to freedom.

“First was a three-hour car journey from the Sepilok centre, then onto the TWR’s helipad,” he said.

Dr Sen said from there, Tiger was flown to the wildlife reserve core area where he last made contact with humans.

The TWR comprises about 120,000ha mature secondary jungle and virgin primary forest.

Dr Sen said the process was made possible through the cooperation between the Sabah Wildlife Department, Orangutan Appeal UK and the Danau Girang Field Centre.

Orangutan named "Tiger" released into the wild
Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 4 Oct 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A male Bornean orangutan nicknamed “Tiger” was released into the wild after 18 years in the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.

Tiger, aged 20, was translocated to the Tabin wildlife reserve in Lahad Datu yesterday, through a joint effort between Sabah Wildlife Department and a UK-based charity Orangutan Appeal UK.

State wildlife director Augustine Tuuga, in a statement today, said Tiger was brought to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center some 18 years ago as a very timid two-year-old orphaned baby orangutan.

“He spent the next few years undergoing the rehabilitation process there. Ironically, Tiger was actually rescued from a logging camp somewhere in Lahad Datu and now is being translocated back to Tabin Wildlife Reserve’s Core Area, also in Lahad Datu.

“The department would like to thank Orangutan Appeal UK for funding this whole translocation operation which cost more than RM50,000,” he said.

A male Bornean orangutan nicknamed “Tiger” was released into the wild after 18 years in the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.
Tuuga added that Tabin Wildlife Reserve was an ideal place to release Tiger as it was a large area for him to comfortably forage in.

He also expressed his gratitude to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council for funding the department’s Wildlife rescue Unit, which played a critical role in making the translocation operation a success.

Meanwhile, Orangutan Appeal UK founder and chairperson Sue Sheward said the release of Tiger from Sepilok to the Tabin reserve made history, with everyone in the organisation and wildlife department pooling their resources to achieve the goal.

“With the assistance of good friends within Sabah and the UK, yet another magnificent orangutan was saved,” concluded Sue

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Malaysia: Kedah to stop logging in crucial water catchment of Ulu Muda forests

andrew sia The Star 3 Oct 18;

ALOR SETAR: Kedah has announced it will stop logging at the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve, which is crucial to the water supply of Kedah and Penang.

"Kedah has decided to stop logging in the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve area and parts of the Kedah forest gazetted as a permanent forest or catchment area to ensure water supply to the people and the padi industry in Kedah is guaranteed," said Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Tun Dr Mahathir in a statement on Oct 3.

"In addition, all new applications for logging concessions in the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve have been rejected and the old concessions were discontinued,"

To make up for the loss of logging revenue, Kedah will explore new sources of wealth.

One of these is for international agencies to pay Kedah to refrain from logging, a programme known as Reduction of (CO2) Emissions Programme as a result of Logging and Degradation of Forest (REDD).

As such, Mukhriz said he had initiated a discussion with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in New York recently on the possibility that this can be done, especially since the UNDP is the main driver of REDD.

In May 2017, 10 environmental groups, including WWF, the Malaysian Nature Society and Sahabat Alam Malaysia, appealed to the Kedah state government to stop logging and protect Ulu Muda.

The forests here are a crucial water catchment area that provides 96% of Kedah’s and 80% of Penang’s water supply.

“It is water from the Greater Ulu Muda forests that enables farmers to practise double cropping of padi, contributing to about one-third of the nation’s rice production and the livelihood of 55,000 families,” said the groups.

Apart from padi, the forests also provide water for industries and household use in Penang and Kedah.

The ten groups asked that the whole area, known as the Greater Ulu Muda Forest Complex covering 163,000 hectares, be given permanent protection by declaring it a state park, similar to the Royal Belum State Park in northern Perak.

In 2003, the Federal Government agreed to pay Kedah RM100mil annually if the state did NOT log its forests.

However, that was the last year of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure as Prime Minister and, subsequently, the money was never paid.

When PAS took over the Kedah State Government in 2008, logging accelerated as its Menteri Besar, the late Tan Sri Azizan Abdul Razak, claimed that the state lacked other sources of income.

In the 2013 election, Mukhriz and Barisan Nasional attacked the PAS administration for the logging and made an election pledge to halt it.

Mukhriz famously said then: “To me, a tree is worth more standing than felled.”

But two years after winning the state and becoming Menteri Besar, Mukhriz told the Kedah state assembly in 2015 that the Kedah state government had to issue logging licences as this had been approved by the previous PAS administration.

Mukhriz himself had to step down as Mentri Besar in 2016 after a political crisis.

Pakatan Harapan managed to form the Kedah state government after the May general elections and Mukhriz returned as Mentri Besar.

He said that from the discussion with WWF and UNDP, they were impressed with Kedah's stand and invited him to a discussion on Forest and Finance at the German representative's office in the United Nations (UN).

"Meeting with experts in the field of finance and sustainable forestry has revealed to me the numerous approaches taken by countries that face the same issue as Kedah ... for example, the success achieved by Brazil and Peru can be the basis for formulating strategy in Kedah, " said Mukhriz.

Mukhriz said this upcoming international link would indirectly help Kedah ensure the sustainability of its forests while exploring the potential of economic activities such as eco-tourism.

He said all parties were aware that Kedah did not have natural resources that could generate wealth such as oil and gas.

As for forest products and raw materials such as iron ore, tin and other minerals, these were limited and could not contribute much to state revenues.

"The agriculture sector focuses on padi which is subject to the Food Supply Guarantee policy. Various subsidies are provided, but farmers are still not among the rich," said Mukhriz.

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Indonesia: Death toll in Donggala-Palu quake nears 1,407

Antara 3 Oct 18;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The death toll from Friday`s Donggala-Palu earthquake and tsunami has risen to 1,407, National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) Head for Data, Information, and Public Relations Center Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated.

"Some 519 dead people have been buried after being identified," Nugroho noted in a press conference here on Wednesday.

Nugroho remarked that the city of Palu had the highest number of dead, reaching 1,177 people.

He remarked that the joint search and rescue team had continued to prioritize the capital of Central Sulawesi for the evacuation of victims.

In addition to Palu, the death toll in Donggala District had reached 153 while 12 in Parigi Moutong District and 65 in Sigi District.

"The number of dead will continue to increase. The joint search and rescue team has started to move into the districts of Donggala, Parigi Moutong, and Sigi," he explained.

Nugroho noted that although no foreigners were found dead, the whereabouts of a Belgian and South Korean were still unknown.

An earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter Scale, which was updated by BMKG to 7.4 on the Richter Scale, shook the Palu and Donggala regions last Friday evening.

The epicenter of the earthquake at a depth of 10 kilometers was located 27 kilometers east of the Donggala Sea.

The BMKG has issued a tsunami alert, warning of potential for waves of 0.5 meters to three meters on western Donggala coast, and Waspada status, with warning of potential tsunami waves of less than 0.5 meters on northern Donggala beach, northern Mamuju, and the western city of Palu.

In the meantime, President Joko Widodo stated that the handling of the impact of the earthquake and tsunami, especially in Palu City, was going well.

"I think everything, including evacuation, is going well, and heavy equipment has entered all areas," President Jokowi informed reporters while reviewing disaster management and handling at Petobo Village, South Palu Sub-district, Palu City, on Wednesday.

He noted that clearing and search activities were being conducted for victims at that location and elsewhere.

"The wounded are also being taken to the hospital in Makassar, so that better treatment would be offered," he remarked.

The head of state undertook a field visit again to review the real conditions after having given instructions on the handling of evacuation, electricity, fuel, logistics, and especially assistance to the injured four days ago.

With regard to electricity, President Jokowi remarked that 500 teams from PLN were working on the field to repair networks, poles, and cables.

"The incoming report of 40 percent of electricity has begun to run, although not from the substation but from generators," he revealed.

Reporting by Dewanto Samodro
Editing by Azis Kurmala, Yoseph Hariyadi
Editor: Heru Purwanto

Small quakes hit Southeast, South Sulawesi
The Jakarta Post 3 Oct 18;

A 4.8-magnitude earthquake was felt in Luwu Timur regency in South Sulawesi on Wednesday at 1:14 p.m. Jakarta time, following a 3.8-magnitude earthquake in Konawe Utara regency in Southeast Sulawesi, which occurred at 4:12 a.m. Jakarta time, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) reported.

BMKG Kendari official Rosa Amelia said the epicenter of the quake in Konawe Utara was about 63 kilometers northeast of Kendari and it was 11 km deep.

“As of now, there are no reports of casualties and damaged buildings,” Rosa said as quoted by Antara, adding that there was no tsunami threat.

As of 8 a.m., no aftershocks were recorded by the agency.

“We call on all residents to stay calm and conduct their activities normally.”

The epicenter of the 4.8-magnitude earthquake in South Sulawesi was on land, 58 km northwest of Luwu Timur regency, the BMKG reported.

Sulawesi, one of Indonesia’s largest islands, has been hit by natural disasters like earthquakes, a tsunami and the eruption of a volcano this week.

Last Friday, a 7.4-magnitude quake, which was followed by a tsunami and soil liquefaction, hit Central Sulawesi leaving more than 1,400 people dead. The quake was also followed by several big aftershocks.

On Wednesday morning, Mount Soputan in North Sulawesi spewed a 4,000-meter high column of ash into the air, prompting authorities to raise the alert status to Level III, which is the lowest level. (vny)

Residents warned to steer clear as Mt. Soputan continues to erupt
Ivany Atina Arbi The Jakarta Post 3 Oct 18;

The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) has warned residents to steer clear of anywhere within a 4-kilometer radius from the peak of Mount Soputan in Minahasa, North Sulawesi, following a second eruption at 11:12 a.m. local time, or 10:12 a.m. Jakarta time.

The center has expanded the restricted area up to 6.5 kilometers to the west and southwest from the peak, over concerns of potential lava and hot ashes.

“Residents are advised to use dust masks to avoid any potential respiratory problems in the event of falling ash,” the warning stated on Wednesday.

Those living near Ranowangko, Lawian, Popang and Kelewahu rivers on the mountain have also been warned of potential lava flows in the case of rain.

The authorities previously raised the volcano’s status to Level III (alert) in the four-level national volcano alert system, following an eruption that occurred at 8:47 a.m. local time. A 4,000-meter column of ash was spewed by the volcano during the eruption that lasted for around six minutes. (swd)

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Thailand bay made famous by The Beach closed indefinitely

Visitors flocked to Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh island after it was in Leonardo DiCaprio film
Hannah Ellis-Petersen The Guardian 3 Oct 18;

One of the world’s most popular beaches, made famous by the 2000 film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is to be closed indefinitely to allow it to recover from the damage caused by millions of tourists.

The golden sands and crystal blue water of Maya Bay, ringed by cliffs on Ko Phi Phi Leh island, has become one of Thailand’s most-visited tourist destinations since it shot to fame as the movie’s location.

The small beach has sustained extensive environmental damage in recent years, receiving up to 5,000 tourists and 200 boats a day.

Thai authorities announced they would be temporarily closing the bay from 1 June, but have now extended the planned four-month closure to at least a year, due to the extent of the destruction caused by the thousands of day-trippers.

Thanks to pollution from litter, boats and sun cream, it is estimated that more than 80% of the coral around Maya Bay has been destroyed.

Songtam Suksawang, the director of the national parks department, said: “We have evaluated each month and found out that the ecological system was seriously destroyed from tourism of up to 5,000 people daily.

“It’s very difficult to remedy and rehabilitate because its beach was completely destroyed as well the plants which cover it,” he said, adding that it was “impossible” for recovery to occur in the allotted time.

Despite evidence of the mounting damage to Maya Bay, for years, Thai authorities had been reluctant to shut it, because the location generates about 400 million baht (£9.5m) in revenue a year.

However, a royal gazette published on 1 October by Thailand’s department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation announced the restrictions on tourism would not be lifted until the ecosystem “fully recovers to a normal situation”.

The news will come as a relief to local environmental campaigners, who had said a four-month closure was not nearly enough. Coral only grows about half a centimetre a year, so it will take years for the reef to be fully restored.

The Maya Bay park chief, Worapoj Lomlim, said the parks agency and others had already rehabilitated coral reefs in the bay by planting more than 1,000 corals, and would keep expanding the project.

Countries across the region from the Philippines to Indonesia are waking up to the problems that can be caused by excessive tourism.

In April, the Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, announced a six-month closure of the Boracay beach resort, calling the destination a “cesspool”.

Indonesia declared a “garbage emergency” last year along a stretch of the island of Bali, after coastal pollution was highlighted in a viral video that showed a diver swimming through water full of rubbish.

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Europe fires to worsen even if climate goals met: study

Patrick GALEY AFP Yahoo News 3 Oct 18;

Paris (AFP) - Even reaching the most optimistic goals in the Paris climate treaty will still increase the area of southern Europe devastated by forest fires each year by at least 40 percent, researchers warned Tuesday.

Following two years of often deadly blazes across Portugal, Spain, southern France and Greece, scientists at the University of Barcelona said more woodland areas could be lost to the flames if the targets laid out in the 2015 climate deal were missed.

The agreement aims to limit global temperature increases to "well below" 2.0 degrees Celsius -- and to 1.5C if at all possible.

In the first study of its kind, the team tested computer models of how much worse fires would get if global temperatures were to rise 1.5C, 2C, or 3C by the end of the century.

"It's relevant because there are a lot of fires in this area, for instance, in Greece this year or last summer in Portugal," Marco Turco, from the university's Department of Applied Physics and lead study author told AFP. "These are examples of things to come in the future."

Turco and the team found that the area of southern Europe lost each year to fire would increase between 40-54 percent, even if temperature rises were limited to 1.5C -- the most ambitious goal in all climate change mitigation efforts.

"1.5C is really ambitious... but it's not physically impossible," said Turco.

Were temperatures to climb 2C above the preindustrial benchmark, the area destroyed by fire was projected to increase between 62-87 percent, and for 3C it could grow by as much as 187 percent as climate change-induced droughts produce more combustible material.

Southern Europe currently loses around 4,500 square kilometres -- three times the area of Greater London -- each year to fire.

- Deadliest blazes -

In July, nearly 100 people perished in blazes at coastal resorts near Athens, the country's worst fire in modern history.

The government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras came in for thunderous criticism after a combination of tactical errors by emergency responders and poor infrastructure trapped hundreds of holidaymakers in the path of the flames.

In August 2017, 64 people burned to death in Portugal's worst ever fires.

Scientists have consistently predicted that extreme weather events such as wildfires, drought, superstorms and flooding will become more frequent and severe as our planet heats up.

Turco said his study highlighted the importance of trying to stick to 1.5C rises -- something some studies already suggest may be beyond reach.

Ultimately, in seaside regions where holiday homes predominate, people may wish to reconsider buying a property that could become increasingly prey to fire as the century progresses.

"In these areas the climate has meant that people have to be really careful considering these future scenarios," Turco said.

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