Best of our wild blogs: 15 Mar 19

SG #climatestrike: 15 March 2019
Green Drinks Singapore

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OBS stops water activities after Johor chemical dumping incident

SAMUEL DEVARAJ The New Paper 15 Mar 19;

Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) has stopped all water-based activities following the illegal chemical-dumping incident at Pasir Gudang in Johor.

The adventure school, which conducts outdoor activities and camps for schools and young people at its campus in Pulau Ubin, is taking the precaution, even as the authorities have declared the seawater quality around the island to be within normal levels.

The National Youth Council, which oversees OBS, told The New Paper yesterday: "As the safety of our youth participants is the priority, the National Youth Council has directed Outward Bound Singapore to take active precautions and cease all sea-based activities around Pulau Ubin for now, while closely monitoring for possible spillover effects of the incident" with the National Environment Agency (NEA).

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Malaysia: Clearing chemical waste for Sg Kim Kim a priority for now

Syed Umar Ariff and Teh Athira Yusof New Straits Times 14 Mar 19;

KUALA LUMPUR: Efforts are being made to ensure that the clean-up works ongoing in Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang, Johor do not lead to any further spread of toxic waste in the air.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment, and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said containing the vaporisation of toxic waste as well as cleaning up the river are the main focus of the authorities at the moment.

“When the cleaning process is carried out, such as digging out the soil, there are volatile organic compounds which will vaporise into gas. This is why the spread of the chemical (methane gas) must be suppressed.

“That is why, when digging out toxic waste, it must be contained as we want to prevent the vapour from traveling further. There are gas detectors as well to monitor the level of gas let out during the vaporisation process.

“Contractors have a way to tackle this, which is by adding water to contain the vapour from spreading,” she said, noting that the hazardous material (Hazmat) team and Department of Environment (DoE) are currently monitoring the clean-up process.

Yeo said the phase two of the river clean-up is expected to complete within a week or less as four contractors will be appointed to do the works.

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Malaysia: Johor toxic waste incident under control - Mahathir

No need to declare state of emergency, but there is need to be cautious: Malaysian PM
Hazlin Hassan Straits Times 15 Mar 19;

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that the toxic chemical incident in Pasir Gudang district in Johor is "under control", as he visited the southern state which is grappling with the clean-up of a river and the treatment of more than 2,700 people who had taken ill after inhaling the noxious fumes.

Seven people were still in critical condition yesterday, down from the 12 reported on Wednesday.

The alarm caused by the incident led the Malaysian Parliament to debate yesterday whether the federal government should declare an emergency for the area in south-east Johor, just north of Pulau Ubin.

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Singapore shares efforts to turn trash to cash

Masagos speaks of move towards circular economy at UN event
Cheryl Teh Straits Times 15 Mar 19;

Singapore will continue to step up efforts to turn trash to cash, with initiatives like the $45 million "Closing the Waste Loop" fund to support research and development and businesses that want to work towards a zero waste future, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said.

Speaking at the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday, he said: "We must take urgent action to protect our planet for future generations."

The minister added that to develop in a sustainable manner, a paradigm shift is needed, for people to change their production and consumption patterns from a linear "take-make-throw" approach, to a circular one where resources can be re-used endlessly.

This circular approach, Mr Masagos said, will be supported by three pillars of action.

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Air pollution causes as many as 7 million premature deaths each year: UN report

Rei Kurohi Straits Times 14 Mar 19;

SINGAPORE - Air pollution is the largest environmental health risk, causing between six million and seven million premature deaths and an estimated US$5 trillion (S$6.78 trillion) in welfare losses each year, the United Nations said on Wednesday (March 13) in a landmark 700-page report on the state of the planet.

The sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report, compiled by 250 scientists from 70 countries, said a quarter of all disease and early deaths are due to air pollution and other poor environmental conditions which cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

The number of global deaths resulting from exposure to dangerous levels of PM2.5 - referring to particulate matter fine enough to enter a person's bloodstream through the lungs - rose 11 per cent from 2010 to 2016.

Countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa saw sharp increases in such deaths due to rising levels of air pollution even as deaths in Western Europe and North America fell.

Professor Benjamin Horton, who chairs the Asian School of the Environment at the Nanyang Technological University, said: "Despite Singapore's prosperity, it is not isolated from human-induced environmental change occurring elsewhere in South-east Asia. For example, large fires caused by peat burning in Indonesia directly impact air quality and human well-being in Singapore."

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Malaysia: All out to save Harimau Malaya

sim leoi leoi The Star 14 Mar 19;

KUALA LUMPUR: The next two years will be critical for Harimau Malaya’s survival in the wild with the launch of an operation by Wildlife and National Parks Depart­ment (Perhilitan) to monitor known tiger habitats or “hotspots” in its battle against poaching. This comes even as Perhilitan put in a request for a number of army personnel to beef up their patrols as well as consider a “shoot-on-sight” policy against poachers.

“Ops Belang is a drastic programme to ensure our staff are everywhere – ‘boots on the ground’ – involving our staff at all levels in ensuring that wildlife is protected.“The main purpose of Ops Belang is to protect the species of our country’s icon – Harimau Malaya – which is now facing a reduction in numbers due to poaching and snares,” said its director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim recently.

Among the activities under Ops Belang are patrols in known tiger habitats, including along timber roads, wildlife trails, along rivers and lakes, and detecting and recording traces of encroachment and poaching as well as destroying the snares.

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Indonesia: Prioritizing preventive measures against forest fires

Fardah Antara 15 Mar 19;

Jakarta (ANTARA) - The Indonesian authorities have claimed that the number of forest fires had reduced some 85 percent over the past several years.

Thanks to the significant reduction, no neighboring countries had lodged complaint over the past few years as their countries were not free from haze usually exported by wildfires in Indonesia.

Despite that achievement, however, some Rp1 trillion had to be spent for fighting wildfires on peatlands in South Sumatra province last year, Chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Board (BNPB) Lt. Gen. Doni Monardo said on March 12, 2019.

In view of the high cost, he felt it was necessary to familiarize the public with the effort to preempt wildfires

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Indonesia: Six orangutans released back into wild

Fardah Assegaf Antara 14 Mar 19;

Palangka Raya, Central Kaliman (ANTARA) - Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan (ANTARA) - Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation in cooperation with Central Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Office (BKSDA) and Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park (TNBBBR) authority released six orangutans into the park, first of 2019's planned releases.

Preserving wildlife in its natural forest habitat was a vital step in ensuring that conservation efforts were successful in the long term, Agung Nugroho, the TNBBBR head, stated here on Thursday.

The orangutans were released after having completed years of rehabilitation. They had to endure an approximately 10-to 12-hour-long journey across both land and river to predetermined release points in the TNBBBR forest.

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Indonesia: Jambi villagers struggle to keep elephants away

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 14 Mar 19;

The last time Usman and other residents of Semerantihan village in Sumay district, Tebo regency, Jambi, had a good night’s sleep without worrying that a herd of Sumatran elephants would roam into their residential area was four years ago.

Semerantihan village is located within the 508,000-hectare Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem that stretches from Riau to Jambi. The ecosystem is considered to be the last sanctuary for several endangered species, including the Sumatran orangutan, tiger and elephant.

Every night, villagers go on patrol around the village to drive away the elephants and prevent them from entering their local plantation. Usman said a herd consisting of at least 30 elephants regularly circled the village.

“These elephants like to come into our plantation. They eat or stomp on our crops,” Usman told The Jakarta Post recently.

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