Local fishermens’ livelihoods threatened as developments like Forest City ‘shrink’ the sea

Today Online 9 Oct 18;

TANJUNG KUPANG (Johor) — Like his father and his grandfather, Mr Shalan Ju'at is a fisherman. But he will not allow his children to follow in his footsteps.

"Why? Because the sea has shrunk," he said.

The 25-year old Mr Shalan is among many in Tanjung Kupang, Johor, whose livelihoods — and seafaring legacy — are threatened by development, such as the expansion of the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) and more recently, the mammoth Forest City project, just across the border with Singapore, which began construction in 2016.

Much of the 1,380ha Forest City as well as the PTP expansion are built on land reclaimed from the sea, where the fishermen cast their nets.

Beneath the elevated Tanjung Pelepas Highway leading to Forest City's main entrance, small clusters of ramshackle kampung houses, some of which are abandoned, form a striking contrast to the US$100 billion (S$138 billion) Forest City.

"We have been relocated three times," Mr Shalan told The Malaysian Insight at the tiny Kampung Pendas jetty.

"If they try to move us again, I think the fishermen will revolt."

Mr Shalan said that prior to 2012, before the PTP expansion encroached onto the sea banks, a fisherman was able to take home a catch of at least 50kg of flower crabs. Today, the haul has been reduced to as low as 2kg. Sometimes they even go home empty-handed.

"The fishermen are forced to venture further out, sometimes putting their lives at risk due to unpredictable sea conditions, or when they trespass into Indonesian or Singaporean waters.

"It is dangerous, and I myself dare not do it. But many have no choice because they are no longer able to rely on the catch in these waters."

He said many fishermen here, burdened with higher cost of living, take up multiple jobs to make ends meet. Some double up as taxi drivers, others take tourists seafishing.

In an interview with The Malaysian Insight, Forest City spokesman Ng Zhu Hann said the project developer Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV) had paid large amounts in cash and in kind to compensate those living in the villages neighbouring the development.

"We have engaged with the fishermen's association very closely… If there's anything our project does that affects their livelihood, we make sure their livelihoods are taken care of with the necessary compensation," he said.

Mr Ng, who is the strategy director, said besides the fishermen, other locals have also benefited from the company's contribution.

"We work very closely with the heads of the village. We do corporate social responsibility projects, donate to the local religious facilities such as the surau and mosque.

"In terms of education… (the village) schools are heavily supported by us, not only in their operations, but also in the education of the students – the language classes, the extra classes. Apart from that, we help build facilities such as the wakaf," he said.

Documents sighted by The Malaysian Insight showed CGPV had paid out at least RM4 million in cash to the South Johor Fishermen's Association. A local conservation non-government organisation, Kelab Alami, which MR Shalan heads, received about RM200,000 (S$66,568).

Mr Shalan said Kelab Alami used the money to fund conservation programmes, as well as some programmes that help fishermen increase their catch.

On how the money for the fishermen's association was distributed, Mr Shalan said not everyone got a share.

"The association said that only the 'real' fishermen who are licensed will be given a portion of the money, and that they will conduct interviews to determine who qualifies," he said.

"But there are some fishermen who really needed help, and their whole livelihood depended on their catch at sea, but they didn't get any money. Then there are those who don't even go out to sea, but received money."

Mr Shalan and his wife eke out a living on her salary as a teacher and his as a middleman selling the fisherrmen's catch from his wooden home in Kampung Pendas.

Mr Johari Lasim, who is known as Pak Atan, has been fishing off the coast of Tanjung Kupang for 54 years, since he was just 13. Like many others in the area, he comes from a long line of fishermen.

At 67, with his children grown up and none of them fishermen, Pak Atan has laid down his nets and only fishes for recreation.

Although he feels sad that the coastal area which once provided sustenance to generations of his family is now gone, he is less critical of the on-going developments.

"We just have to accept it. Hopefully the fishermen here will be fairly compensated and not neglected," he said.

But for the younger folk like Mr Shalan, the future seems bleak and hopeless. He is reluctant to move away from his ancestral home to seek a better living, but hints that there might be no other way.

"There is no certainty that this place will even exist in the near future. Even if we wanted to fight this, we are mere fishermen, we don't have the means."

"Like I said, the sea has shrunk, and we have to think long-term." THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT

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Woman bitten by python on second storey of Sembawang HDB block

Timothy Goh Straits Times 10 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE - It was around 4am on Tuesday (Oct 9) when Mrs Chan Yin Ha was looking for her cat on the second storey of the Sembawang Drive Housing Board block she lives in.

As she searched among a row of potted plants, she suddenly felt a sharp pain in her left leg. Thinking her cat had scratched her, she kicked out instinctively and looked down.

It was then that she saw what bit her was a 3m-long python.

The 42-year-old store assistant, who is afraid of snakes, told The Straits Times that she "freaked out" when she saw the python.

"I thought it would coil around me," she said, adding that she was terrified and immediately ran away from the snake.

Fortunately, the snake did not pursue her. Mrs Chan then ran to her neighbour's unit to get help but nobody answered the door when she knocked.

She then returned to her third storey home, bleeding profusely.

Pest control attempts to catch a snake at Blk 470 Sembawang Drive

Her family members helped her wash her wounds and called for an ambulance.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said that it received a call for assistance at 4.04am in the area.

Mrs Chan's neighbour on the second storey eventually opened the door after she had already left, and the neighbour found her slipper at the doorstep and a trail of blood along the corridor, Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported.

Thinking that there had been a fight, the neighbour called the police.

When the police arrived, they followed the trail of blood to Mrs Chan's residence, where they were told about the python. Mrs Chan said that the police then called a pest control agency for assistance.

According to Wanbao, the python retreated into a water pipe. The pest control agency later arrived and poured hot water into the pipe to force the snake out.

The snake fled into a drain on the ground floor, where it was caught by the agency.

Mrs Chan told ST that she was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where she received stitches and was placed under observation for a few hours. She was later given four days' medical leave and is now recovering.

The store assistant said that this is not the first time a snake was spotted near her home.

Mrs Chan said that in 2016, she encountered another snake in the drain on the ground floor of her block. At the time, she spoke with the town council, which called in a pest control company to remove the snake. She also gave feedback to the town council following the most recent incident.

Mrs Chan said her cat eventually returned home safely. Noting that there is a forested area near her housing estate, she added that she would try not to let her cat out of the flat too often as she fears for both its safety and hers after the snake encounter.

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Malaysia: Living in harmony with elephants

Borneo Post 9 Oct 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Locals can now find ways to live in harmony with the elephants.

“We can now contribute geoinformatics data to inform wildlife mitigation projects,” said Romineshon Kumpil, an active member of the Community Elephant Ranger Team (CERT) based in Telupid.

With Sabah’s 26th elephant death recorded this year, passionate people are what the state needs most to explore and test community-based solutions for mitigating human-elephant conflicts.

Formed in March 2018, CERT deploys citizen science for the practical management and monitoring of elephant migrations between Telupid, Beluran and Tongod.

CERT comprises of trained volunteers from the villages the elephants visit, namely Kg Liningkung, Kg Bauto, Kg Gambaron and Kg Telupid.

Instead of defining the issue as conflict, CERT chose to name their project Human-Elephant Harmony (HEH) and CERT is known locally as ‘Kopisuladan di Yaki’ meaning friendship between villagers and elephants in Dusun Labuk dialect.

The HEH is a 22-month capacity building project funded by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry through Forever Sabah under the National Conservation Trust Fund (NCTF) scheme.

The project is carried out in partnership with Dr Nurzhafarina Othman (Seratu Aatai Project), Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Project, Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Wildlife Department.

The ultimate aim of HEH is to transform conflict into harmony, thus creating a sustainable model to support humans and elephants co-existent in the landscape.

The project stems from a nine-month consultation exercise facilitated by Forever Sabah from March to November 2016 with the Telupid District Office, government agencies and local communities in response to increasing numbers of disturbing incidents.

The locals shared that as far back as 1972, elephants were known to live on a flat area named Gana close to the Labuk River in Telupid.

Following a huge forest fire in 1985, the locals observed that the herds had moved out of Gana and were not seen in Telupid for many years.

In 2014, elephants reappeared in Kampung Bauto.

By 2016, the locals observed elephants on an average of every three weeks.

Locals believe there are now over 100 elephants visiting the Telupid area.

Most recently, a sub-adult elephant wandering into SMK Telupid’s canteen made headlines in March 2018.

Elephant herd movement data is still being collected and analysed to ascertain factors that influence herds’ distribution Telupid.

Big plantations can fence out the elephants, especially when the palms are young, but smallholders’ plots were often severely damaged.

Some villages and infrastructure lay in the elephants’ migration routes but the rural communities lacked the resources to solve these issues alone.

Likewise, complexity of the issue suggested it should best be addressed through a community-based platform.

The CERT team members are also concerned that the Pan-Borneo Highway routing in Telupid would further aggravate the problem.
Harrowing video footage on social media has already shown a young elephant separated from its herd while trying to cross the existing highway.

CERT has geoinformatics data to show that the proposed Pan-Borneo Highway routing overlaps with the natural trails that are heavily used by the herds.

Besides cutting off elephant migration routes, roads built in inappropriate area will cause vehicular accidents with elephants, especially during night time when visibility is low.

CERT is now attempting to map out the hierarchical social structure of each herd in Telupid.

The herds may interact, divide or reform over the course of weeks or months due to environmental pressures.

The study result is expected to advance the understanding of overall elephant distribution pattern in Sabah.

Currently, CERT is working with Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Wildlife Department and the Telupid district office for collecting field data to inform the design and routing of electric fences.

“Landscape changes create the type of ripple effects that passes a problem from one place to another”, said Claudia Lasimbang, the project facilitator of HEH.

“It is imperative that any new development, whether for infrastructure or industrial crop, should consider the inputs and engagement with the local indigenous community who understand local wildlife more than anyone else,” she added.

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Malaysia: Malayan tigers in danger

Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah New Straits Times 10 Oct 18;

HUNTING Malayan tigers in remote forests is still rampant due to the high demand for them in neighbouring country.

Many villagers living in Dabong, Gua Musang, claimed that foreign poachers started hunting Malayan tigers a few months ago and sold them for RM20,000 each.

A villager, who only wanted to be known as Osman, 48, said the foreigners worked on a vegetable farm owned by a local in Gua Musang.

“They started hunting for the protected species after they spotted the animal roaming the vegetable farm.

“They managed to capture a tiger rec ently and sold its carcass to one of the traders in a neighbouring country for RM20,000,” he told the New Straits Times Press here yesterday.

Osman said the foreigners started to hunt Malayan tigers after learning they could fetch a handsome price from traders in the neighbouring country.

He said besides tigers, the foreigners also hunted other exotic animals, such as pangolins and snakes.

“The demand for exotic animals is high, not only to be served as food but also for medical purposes,” said the farmer.

It was reported last month that the price of a Malayan tiger could fetch up to RM1 million each.

Its meat was said to be nutritious.

This has caused the dwindling of the already small Malayan tiger population in the country.

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar was reported to have said the species was highly prized overseas as it could be used in medicine.

He said Malayan tigers also received demand from the black market.

Dr Xavier said he would instruct his officials to hold a meeting with the army, police, Wildlife and National Parks Department to discuss the issue.

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Cost of climate-linked disasters soars: UN

AFP Yahoo News 10 Oct 18;

Geneva (AFP) - The economic cost of climate-related disasters hit $2.25 trillion over the last two decades, an increase of more than 150 percent compared to the previous 20 years, the UN said Wednesday.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) noted that "climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events" such as floods and storms.

Between 1978-1997, total losses for climate-related disasters was $895 billion (780 billion euros), UNISDR said in a report based on data compiled by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium.

But between 1998-2017 that figure hit $2.25 trillion, the report said, listing the United States, China, Japan and India as the countries where the financial toll has been highest.

The findings were released as Michael, a Category Four hurricane, rumbled towards the Gulf Coast of Florida, in the latest storm to threaten vast destruction across the eastern US.

"The report's analysis makes it clear that economic losses from extreme weather events are unsustainable and a major brake on eradicating poverty in hazard exposed parts of the world," the UN secretary general's special representative for disaster reduction, Mami Mizutori, said in a statement.

UNISDR counted the number of climate-related disasters between 1998-2017 at more than 6,600, with storms and floods the most common events.

The report notes gaps in data collection, but says the findings clearly show investing in disaster risk reduction must become a central part of policy making in response to climate change.

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