Best of our wild blogs: 26 Jul 17



Open for registration – National Day Walk with Cicada Tree Eco-Place (9 Aug 2017)
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Little Sisters Island is alive
wild shores of singapore

JOB OPPORTUNITY: Management Assistant Officer, Visitor Services (1 Year contract- renewable)/Casual Visitor Services Officer (6 months contract – renewable)
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum


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Indonesia Flags Risk of Forest Fires That Triggered 2015 Haze

Yoga Rusmana Bloomberg 25 Jul 17;

Indonesia sees the risk of forest and land fires increasing until the peak of dry season in September, reigniting concerns of a repeat of 2015 haze that enveloped much of Southeast Asia.

Satellite images showed 170 hotspots across the country, including 35 in Aceh province on Sumatra island, 44 in East Nusa Tenggara and 21 in West Kalimantan, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. Affected areas also include other parts of Sumatra, Kalimantan on Borneo, Java and Sulawesi, the agency known as BNPB said on Twitter.

Stinging smoke from the illegal burning to clear land for palm oil and paper plantations blanketed Singapore, parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand for over a month in 2015. Besides prompting school closures and disrupting sea and air travel in the region, the smog also forced some in Indonesia to flee their homes. The haze also cost Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, $16.1 billion of losses, according to World Bank estimates.

The event in 2015 prompted several palm oil producers to increase efforts to prevent forest fires. Sime Darby Bhd. and IOI Corp Bhd. joined Fire Free Alliance to support Indonesian government efforts to prevent land burning. The program covers more than 200 villages, measuring at least 1.5 million hectares of land in various parts of Indonesia, and encourages citizens to participate in community-based fire prevention initiatives.

The disaster agency has stepped up efforts to fight the fire in western Aceh, caused by land clearing on peatlands and mineral soil by local residents, it said. Efforts to put out the fires have been hampered by limited road access, water sources and fire-fighting facility, it said.

Separately, President Joko Widodo asked ministers and governors to enforce a moratorium on new permits to clear forest and peatlands for another two years, the cabinet secretariat said in a statement Tuesday. The ban issued in 2011 has now been extended twice as environment groups and consumers including Unilever and Nestle SA push for production of palm oil that’s certified as sustainable.


Indonesia's disaster agency says forest fire threat to escalate
Reuters 25 Jul 17;

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) has warned of an escalating threat of forest fires with the dry season expected to peak in coming months, while hot spots detected in the province of Aceh have already been causing choking smoke.

Fires had spread to around 64 hectares (158 acres) of fields and forests in Aceh, a northern province on the island of Sumatra, producing haze and some residents had been taken to hospital due to breathing problem, the agency said on Tuesday.

"The peak of the dry season is predicted to be in August and September, so the threat of forest and field fires, and drought will escalate," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for BNPB said in a statement.

The fires in Aceh started on Tuesday last week and authorities are still trying to extinguish them in some areas.

Meanwhile, a satellite image showed 170 hot spots across Indonesia as of Monday evening, Nugroho said.

Indonesia is regularly hit by forest fires, which can result in choking smoke blowing across to neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia.

Indonesia suffered some its worst forest fires in 2015, hitting mainly the island of Sumatra and in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo island.

The World Bank, citing government data, said that 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of land in Indonesia burned between June and October 2015, causing $16 billion of estimated economic damage.

Draining and conversion of peatland, often driven by palm oil plantations, contributed to the intensity of haze from the fires, the World Bank said.

The head of Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency told a conference in May there would be "no more haze going to the neighbors", as authorities implemented new measure to combat fires, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported.

Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry said on Monday she wanted to make permanent a current moratorium on issuing new licenses to use land designated as primary forest and peatland.

By November last year, the government has put more than 66 million hectares under the coverage of the moratorium.

Reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe and Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Ed Davies


Fires burn 64 hectares of land in West Aceh
The Jakarta Post 25 Jul 17;

Fires spread across 64 hectares of forest and peatland have been reported in five districts in West Aceh regency, Aceh.

Three residents suffering from respiratory problems caused by the haze were rushed to the Cut Nyak Dhien Regional Hospital in Meulaboh, West Aceh, on Sunday, kompas.com reported.

According to data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Johan Pahlawan district was the most affected district with 19 hectares of peatland reportedly burnt while the Arongan Lambalek and Meureubo districts each recorded 15 hectares of burnt land.

Ten hectares were reportedly burnt in Sama Tiga district while five hectares of burnt peatland was reported in Woyla district.

The fires were allegedly caused by local farmers' slash-and-burn practices, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement.

Read also: West Kalimantan readies 4 choppers for water bombing

The BNPB, in collaboration with the police, the military and the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), have intensified efforts to control the fire and haze, Sutopo said.

“Challenges include difficulty in accessing the locations of the fires, a lack of firefighting vehicles and equipment, as well as a lack of water sources near the fire spots,” he said.

According to data collected by Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Aqua and Terra satellites and a National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (Lapan) SNNP satellite, 170 hotspots were detected across Indonesia, 35 of which were in Aceh. (yon/bbs)


West Kalimantan readies 4 choppers for water bombing
Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 25 Jul 17;

Authorities in West Kalimantan have prepared four helicopters for water bombing operations as the dry season, predicted to take place from August to October, has the potential to trigger land and forest fires, which may lead to a haze disaster.

Mega Fitriyawita, a forecaster with the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that radars in several locations had begun to detect a number of hot spots.

On Sunday, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites detected seven hot spots in four out of 14 regencies and municipalities across West Kalimantan. On Monday, the number of hot spots increased to 23, which spread in seven regencies, according to the Modis sensor satellites.

In May, local authorities announced an emergency alert status to handle a haze disaster caused by land and forest fires. The status will take effect until October.

West Kalimantan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head TTA Nyarong said the province’s administration had anticipated the condition by preparing four helicopters for water bombing operations, and by activating disaster mitigation command posts in several disaster-prone areas.

Peatlands with the highest burning potential are spread across 174 out of 2,031 villages in 14 regencies and municipalities across West Kalimantan. Mappings show that two regencies have the highest number of villages prone to land and forest fires.

“They are Ketapang, which has 45 fire-prone villages, and Sintang with 34 villages. Other regencies have up to18 villages [prone to land and forest fires]," Nyarong said. (afr/ebf)


Indonesia warns of forest fires escalating in dry season
Straits Times 25 Jul 17;

JAKARTA • Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) has warned of an escalating threat of forest fires with the dry season expected to peak in coming months, while hot spots detected in the province of Aceh have already been causing choking smoke.

Fires had spread to around 64 hectares of fields and forests in Aceh, a northern province on the island of Sumatra, producing haze, and some residents had been taken to hospital due to breathing problem, the agency said yesterday.

"The peak of the dry season is predicted to be in August and September, so the threat of forest and field fires, and drought will escalate," Mr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a BNPB spokesman said in a statement.

The fires in Aceh started on July 18 and the authorities are still trying to extinguish them in some areas. Satellite images showed 170 hot spots across the country, including 35 in Aceh province on Sumatra island, 44 in East Nusa Tenggara and 21 in West Kalimantan, according to the National Disaster Management Authority.

The BNPB said on Twitter that affected areas also include other parts of Sumatra, Kalimantan on Borneo, Java and Sulawesi.

West Kalimantan Disaster Mitigation Agency head TTA Nyarong said the province's administration had anticipated the condition by preparing four helicopters for water bombing operations, and by activating disaster mitigation command posts in several disaster-prone areas.

Indonesia is regularly hit by forest fires, which can result in choking smoke blowing across to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia.

Indonesia suffered some its worst forest fires in 2015, mainly in the island of Sumatra and in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo island.

The World Bank, citing government data, said that 2.6 million hectares of land in Indonesia burned between June and October 2015, causing US$16 billion (S$22 billion) of estimated economic damage.

Draining and conversion of peatland, often driven by oil-palm plantations, contributed to the intensity of haze from the fires.

The head of Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency told a conference in May there would be "no more haze going to the neighbours", as the authorities implemented new measures to fight the fires.

The Indonesian government has extended a moratorium on issuing new licences to land designed as forest and peatland for another two years, the presidential office said yesterday.

The move is partly aimed at protecting the ecosystem, restoring peatland after forest fires, and reducing emissions.

President Joko Widodo inked a presidential instruction on the extension of the moratorium.

"I instruct to continue moratorium on awarding a new licence for land designed as primary forest and peatland located in conservation forest, protected forest, and productive forest," the statement said.

The ban issued in 2011 has now been extended twice as environment groups and consumers, including Unilever and Nestle, push for production of palm oil that is certified as sustainable.

By November last year, the government had put more than 66 million hectares under the coverage of the moratorium.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, XINHUA, THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK


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Eco-Link at Mandai to be ready by 2019

Lee Li Ying Channel NewsAsia 26 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: Come 2019, local wildlife in the Mandai precinct can travel between two sections of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve using a dedicated bridge, Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) announced on Wednesday (Jul 26).

Construction of the Eco-Link, which will span the width of Mandai Lake Road, started in June. It forms part of efforts to allow habitat connectivity as the area transforms into a mega-nature attraction. Mandai Park's rejuvenation project will see the relocation of Jurong Bird Park and the development of a new Rainforest Park in the same area as the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari.

The wildlife crossing will be located within a 50-metre forested strip set aside as buffer and will measure 44m wide and 110m long. While the Eco-Link is being constructed, artificial crossing aids will be put up along Mandai Lake Road to help arboreal and gliding animals such as colugos and squirrels move across more easily, MPH said.

It added that curated tree and shrub species will be planted to attract and cater to the needs of different species. Fencing around the precinct will also guide animals to the bridge and act as a barrier to the road. Animals expected to use the bridge include colugos, squirrels, pangolins, lesser mousedeer and lizards.

Said Mike Barclay, CEO of MPH: “Our existing wildlife parks at Mandai are already sanctuaries for local wildlife in the area, as indicated in our regular biodiversity surveys conducted in the parks. It is our vision for the future precinct to continue providing conducive habitat corridors for local wildlife to find shelter in our parks and to connect with the adjacent nature reserve.”

OTHER CONSERVATION EFFORTS

Development work for the Mandai project started in February this year and an “extensive range” of measures are being taken alongside it to ensure the process is sensitive to the surroundings, said the developer.

An example is the effort being made to preserve trees of conservation value. Arborists will survey and tag trees based on their species, health, size and conservation status. Selected trees could be incorporated into the park design where possible or transplanted to other parts of the development. Trees to be retained will have a protection zone erected around it during the construction period to minimise any damage.

Other measures include shepherding wildlife to safe areas before work starts at each part of the site, inspecting trees for active bird nests, tree hollows or burrows before any transplanting or removal is done, and conducting biodiversity awareness training to workers at the sites.

“Our priority is to ensure that the project is developed sensitively and in careful considering of the neighbouring nature reserve and local wildlife in the area … We take this role very seriously and will continually refine and enhance our measures as the project progresses,” said MPH senior vice-president Philip Yim.

Mandai makeover: Eco-bridge, biodiversity classes for contractors among measures to protect wildlife in area
Audrey Tan Straits Times 26 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE - To reduce impact on native wildlife found in natural forests surrounding an upcoming eco-tourism hub in Mandai, a new wildlife bridge crossing 9m above ground will be built by end-2019.

Mandai Eco-Link, which will be 110m long and 44m wide, will have native trees that would provide food and cover for wildlife crossing Mandai Lake Road.

Developer Mandai Park Holdings will also provide biodiversity awareness training sessions for contractors in a bid to reduce impact on native wildlife.

Contractors will learn more about animals that roam the forests of Singapore, like the straw-headed bulbul, king cobra, and lesser mousedeer, and what to do if they were to encounter one during the course of their work.

MPH released details of these measures during a press conference on Wednesday (July 26). Preparatory work in the area is currently underway with Mandai Lake Road now lined with bright yellow hoarding.

The plan is to build a new Rainforest Park and relocate the Bird Park from Jurong to join the existing trio of attractions there - the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari by 2023.

Mr Philip Yim, senior vice-president and project lead at Mandai Park Development, said on Wednesday that a wildlife shepherding plan will also be implemented to gradually funnel wildlife away from work sites - similar to what the Urban Redevelopment Authority did in 2016 for a forested area in Lentor that had to make way for a private housing project.

The Mandai area is rich in wildlife as it sits right next to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The land on which the Rainforest Park and Bird Park will be built is on state land but secondary forest has over the past few decades regenerated, resulting in a rich landscape of wildlife that workers could encounter.

The training sessions aim to teach them more about the denizens of Singapore's forests, such as their conservation status, or whether an animal is endangered in the wild.

They are also taught how to respond to these sightings. If a rare animal is sighted, a response protocol is in place for wildlife specialists to be activated to handle the animal professionally and safely.

Mr Yim also gave details on the wildlife bridge that it had last year said it would build, to provide safe passage for animals crossing between fragments of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on both sides of Mandai Lake Road.

Similar to the Eco-Link spanning the Bukit Timah Expressway, the Mandai bridge will have native trees that would provide food and cover for native animals using the crossing.

While work on the Eco-Link is underway, artificial crossing aids, such as poles and rope ladders, will be put across Mandai Lake Road to help arboreal and gliding animals, like the Malayan colugo and the slender squirrel, get across safely.

MPH said such aids will also be deployed around the nature precinct to aid wildlife connectivity, which is important to ensure that animals can move around to feed and breed, and not get isolated.

Since plans for the area were announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2014, environmental groups have expressed concern that development work in the area, noise from visitors, and the possibility of escapee species from the parks, would threaten native wildlife in the neighbouring nature reserve.

MPH said it conducted an environmental impact assessment and has been engaging with the green groups since 2012, well before plans were firmed up.

The Eco-Link was one suggestion set out in an Environmental Impact Assessment report released last July (2016), detailing environmental protection measures including creating buffer zones around work sites.

Another recommendation from the report, which MPH has done, was to swop the locations of the new Rainforest Park and Bird Park, such that existing trees do not have to be cleared.

Nature guide Ivan Kwan welcomed the new measures MPH said it will implement.

"The eco-link, and plans to rejuvenate the habitats, sound good. But they appear to be effective only after the development is complete," he said.

"However, I'm curious to see what other interim steps will be taken during construction. Rope ladders can benefit arboreal animals but aren't useful for terrestrial species. Especially with the expected increase in road traffic, native animals from the nature reserve could end up as roadkill."

Primate researcher Andie Ang, who studies the critically endangered Raffles' banded langur in Singapore, said it is good that the developer has committed to installing rope ladders to help arboreal animals cross Mandai Lake Road.

Dr Ang urged them to do so quickly, especially now that work has started. Rope ladders have to be carefully designed so larger animals, such as monkeys, could use them too. The langur, for example, has been spotted in the area.

Bird scientist David Tan from the National University of Singapore said there has to be strong science backing the eco-link. For example, when the National Parks Board built the BKE eco-link, it did biodiversity studies, camera trapping work and bird surveys on both sides of the bridge before, after and during construction.

"However, there is no indication that there will be pre- and post-monitoring schemes in place in the Mandai Eco-Link. It's currently being taken on faith that the bridge will work," he noted.

When asked, MPH said biodiversity studies on both sides of the proposed eco-link are ongoing, and that long-term monitoring will be done.

They also said the rope ladders design is still being worked out.


Zones to protect trees in Mandai to be set up, with steps taken to ensure their health
Audrey Tan Straits Times 26 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE - The secondary forests on both sides of Mandai Lake Road will soon make way for two wildlife parks - the Bird Park, which will move from Jurong, and the new Rainforest Park. But developer Mandai Park Holdings is taking steps to preserve some of the decades-old trees growing on both plots, by engaging an arborist - a tree expert - to do an assessment.

"We determine which trees to preserve based on a number of factors, including their size and species, based on the species status set out in the Singapore Red Data Book," said arborist Derek Yap, who was engaged by Mandai Park Holdings for the job. The Singapore Red Data Book lists species which are endangered in the Republic.

The trees will be preserved in a way that will ensure they remain healthy for years to come, Mr Yap told The Straits Times on the sidelines of an event organised by Mandai Park Holdings on Wednesday (July 26) to brief the media on its environmental protection strategies.

"The development plans set out tree protection zones that are more than the bare minimum. We also don't just preserve individual trees. As this is a forested context, we keep trees in clusters, and there will be a buffer around each cluster to ensure work doesn't encroach into these tree-protection zones," said Mr Yap, who runs a private consultancy for trees and had previously been with the National Parks Board for a decade.

A tree-protection zone is essentially about giving a tree room to grow, so its health is not impaired and its roots do not become unstable.

His assurance comes after a 270-year-old tembusu tree fell in the Singapore Botanic Gardens in February, killing a woman.

Evidence presented earlier this month (July) during a coroner's inquiry had shown that the tree was decaying from the inside, although signs of the rot had not been visible to inspectors, making it hard to predict that it would topple. Mr Yap, the tree expert who took the stand in the Botanic Gardens case, told the court that rot could have started with the roots, and raised the possibility that this could have set in as far back as 1859, when the roots were last cut. That was the year the Botanic Gardens was founded.

On Wednesday, he noted that there have been significant advances in arboriculture, the management and study of trees, over the years.

Mr Yap said: "The good thing is that the industry is learning fast... Many people understand now that there is a need for arboriculture.

"What we do is that we will screen the construction processes, to ensure works would not result in a predictable failure of trees. Whenever an arborist determines that works would result in a predictable failure of a tree, there has to be a dialogue between the parties involved. Either the works are moved elsewhere, or the tree is removed.

It is important to work with the contractor and designers - everyone has to come on board with the right mindset."


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Malaysia: Law to control the use of plastic bags vital, say activists

The Star 24 Jul 17;

MIRI: Environmental activists have called authorities to introduce a law to ban the use of plastic bags in shopping complexes and supermarkets.

Miri Malaysian Nature Society adviser (for campaign on waste pollution) Dr Loh Yunn Hwa said it was high time for retailers to stop giving plastic bags to customers.

“Supermarkets and shopping complexes must stop this or there will be mountains of plastic wastes in cities such as Miri, which has huge problems with wastes, particularly plastic materials.

“Miri City Council (MCC) has tried persuading the public not to indiscriminately dispose plastic waste but the campaign had failed, she said in response to the failure of MCC’s “Say No To Plastic” campaign.

The habit of indiscriminate dumping of wastes, especially plastic bags and bottles, seemed hard to kick, Dr Loh said, adding that most of these wastes ended up in the rivers and seas instead of being recycled.

Miri Red Crescent recycling unit adviser Judy Wan Morshidi concurred with Dr Loh that stricter measures should be implemented to reduce pollution from plastic wastes in Miri.

She hoped education campaigns in schools would help inculcate caring attitude towards the environment among schoolchildren.

“I was involved in the ‘Say No To Plastic’ campaign when I was a city councillor .

“It was frustrating that the campaign failed to get support from the public.

“I believe we need to use the full force of the law,” she said.

Miri mayor Adam Yii recently said the campaign failed to garner the support of the business community and the public in Miri.

He said it was up to the state’s Local Government Ministry to impose a law refraining supermarkets and shopping centres from providing plastic bags to shoppers.


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Exxon, Shell and other carbon producers sued for sea level rises in California

As a trio of lawsuits claim compensation for sea rises resulting from fossil fuel emissions, campaigners say carbon majors must change their business models
Laura Paddison The Guardian 26 Jul 17;

Three Californian communities have launched legal action against some of the world’s biggest oil, gas and coal companies, seeking compensation for the current and future costs of adapting to sea level rises linked to climate change.

San Mateo and Marin Counties, coastal communities in northern California, and Imperial Beach, a city in San Diego County, have filed complaints against 37 “carbon majors”, including Shell, Chevron, Statoil, Exxon and Total.

They claim greenhouse gas emissions from the fossil fuel companies’ activities over the last 50 years have locked in substantial sea level rises, which will cause billions of dollars’ worth of damage to properties and businesses, as well as endangering lives.

According to the complaint, the defendants “have known for nearly 50 years years that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products has a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and sea levels”. Rather than working to reduce impacts, the complaint claims the companies engaged in a “co-ordinated, multi-front effort to conceal and deny their knowledge of these threats”.

A spokeswoman for Shell said “we believe climate change is a complex societal challenge that should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change to drive low-carbon choices for businesses and consumers, not by the courts.” A spokesman for Statoil said this lawsuit was not the first against the industry and that “previous cases have been dismissed as [providing energy while meeting climate commitments] is a political, not a judicial, issue”.

Exxon and Chevron declined to comment specifically on the litigation. BP and Total did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.

Climate change litigation

“This an unprecedented moment for climate change litigation,” says Sophie Marjanac of campaigning lawyers Client Earth, which is monitoring the case.

Coastal California is already experiencing the effects of rising sea levels, says Deborah Halberstadt, executive director of the state’s Ocean Protection Council which recently released a study (pdf) about the threat of rising seas. “The rate of ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets could rapidly accelerate, leading to extreme sea-level rise, [...] with potentially catastrophic impacts for California,” she says.

Serge Dedina, the mayor of Imperial Beach, a low income coastal community in San Diego County, says that up to 30% of the city could be affected by climate change. “As the lowest-income, highest poverty-rate city in San Diego County, we have no capacity to pay for the extensive adaptation measures.”

It’s a similar story for Marin County. Within 15 years, says county supervisor Kate Sears, flooding could affect tens of thousands of residents and cause upwards of $15.5bn (£11.9bn) in property damage. “This lawsuit is intended to shift those costs back where they belong – on the fossil fuel companies,” she says.

“We are at the point of no return in fighting climate change,” says San Mateo supervisor Dave Pine, “and if we don’t reduce emissions there will be catastrophic impacts.” Potential property damage in the county is estimated to be in the region of $39bn, with sea level rises set to affect more than 100,000 residents (pdf).

This isn’t the first time fossil fuel companies have found themselves facing legal action over climate change. Kivalina – an Alaskan barrier island community of fewer than 400 people – filed a lawsuit in 2008 against oil companies including BP and Chevron demanding up to $400m for relocating their village in the face of rising sea levels. They were ultimately unsuccessful, with their case dismissed on the basis that it was a political question, not one for the courts.

“This claim has a better chance,” says Marjanac, “we have better climate science now.” She also believes the “vacuum in the US at a federal level” when it comes to climate change, may make the state court more willing to step in.

She does, however, acknowledge there are significant hurdles to success. These include the “utility argument”: that companies are providing energy to the world, something that is demanded and sanctioned.

Pressure heating up on carbon majors
While all parties acknowledge the claim is likely to be prolonged, awareness raising is an important element. “This kind of litigation is a vital tool in the spreading effort to force oil companies to change their business models,” says Jeremy Leggett, founder of solar energy company Solarcentury.

Exxon, Total, Shell and Statoil are among those already making some shifts away from fossil fuels.

Shell’s CEO, Ben van Beurden, announced earlier this month that the company would invest up to $1bn per year in its New Energies division to explore alternative energy. But the energy transition will be “change that will take place over generations”, he said, not a revolution.

Exxon told the Guardian “oil and natural gas will remain prominent in meeting global energy”, but a spokesman said the firm is working on alternatives and “invests about $1bn a year to support a broad portfolio of R&D projects ranging from advanced biofuels to carbon capture.”

Total has made significant investments including the purchase last year of battery company Saft for $1bn. And Statoil has established Statoil Energy Ventures with $200m in investment capital for four to seven years.

However, many campaigners and analysts remain sceptical. “These investments amount to lip service,” says Kelly Mitchell, climate and energy director for Greenpeace USA, “while [fossil fuel companies] dump resources into more fossil fuel projects around the world, lobby politicians and lock us into decades of fossil-fuel infrastructure.”

Leggett sees varying levels of seriousness among the big players. “No company has admitted the game is up yet. Some have taken out substantial hedged bets in the form of significant investments in clean energy, notably Total and Statoil. Others have dug in, seemingly for a fight to the death,” he says.

“The bottom line,” says Mitchell, “is that these companies are clinging to an outdated business model that is not compatible with a safe climate and liveable communities.”


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Best of our wild blogs: 25 Jul 17



St John's with dolphins, seahorses!
wild shores of singapore

Threatened and Vulnerable in Singapore
Hantu Blog

Don’t miss Jane Goodall in Singapore! 6 to 8 Aug 2017
biodiversityconnections


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Temporary fences put up at Tuas bus terminal to prevent wild boars from entering

Natasha Razak Channel NewsAsia 24 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: Barriers have been put up at Tuas bus terminal to deter wild boars from entering the premises, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said on Monday (Jul 24).

Wild boars have been spotted entering the bus terminal due to "persistent feeding by people", ACRES said, adding that this is "not good and will result in animals being reliant on people for food which could cause a potential conflict situation".

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, ACRES said that the fences, provided by TKHSingapore, were put up in conjunction with SBS Transit as a "potential solution" to the problem.

ACRES also said that proper enforcement action will also be put in place to deter feeding of wild animals island wide. This "might involve" a collaboration between different entities and organisations so as to build "a more compassionate society".

ACRES added that putting up the temporary fences "took a while" to be implemented as they were looking at various solutions to form a barrier.


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Malaysia, Forest City: Green projects must also consider habitats lost

SERINA ABDUL RAHMAN Today Online 25 Jul 17;

Rising out of freshly reclaimed land in the Tebrau Straits between Singapore and Malaysia is an 800-hectare mixed development with homes, businesses, recreational areas and an international school for 700,000 people.

Named Forest City, its developer, Country Garden PacificView (CGPV), has touted its sustainability and green features. The development uses the latest in smart green technology to control energy use.

It has extensive plans for rainwater harvesting, and it uses recycled materials in the tiniest details such as road humps and parking bumps. Its masterplan, designed by Sasaki Associates, promises a “symbiotic relationship” between the natural and built environments, with a 250-hectare seagrass preserve, 9km of mangrove forests and 10km of shallow coves and mudflats.

The project also boasts a breathable transport hub, where cars are parked underground, and with free monorail services and kilometres of car-free pathways. This utopia is capped by the well-publicised use of Vernonia elliptica creeping plants on its buildings. The rest of Forest City’s marketing strategy is focused on its proximity to Singapore.

Back in China, news has emerged of another Forest City in Liuzhou Province, where one million plants and 40,000 trees will ensconce a 142-hectare project that will house 30,000 people. The designers predict that the development will absorb 10,000 tonnes of CO2 and 57 tonnes of pollutants annually, and will produce 90,000 tonnes of oxygen.

Similar to the Malaysian version of Forest City, its buildings are “nature-based” and draped in green; its architectural visualisation has the mandatory train station and no visible cars.

It all looks very attractive, and fits perfectly into China’s 2016 State Council guidelines to focus on the construction of buildings that are economic, green and beautiful. Liuzhou’s version of the revolutionary balanced urban environment takes it a step further, with its plans for solar panels for renewable energy and the use of geothermal energy to power its air-conditioning.

With China’s push to be the new leader in renewable energy and climate change action, these two projects fit perfectly into the new environmentally friendly image that China is building for itself. The irony is in the details.

The Malaysian Forest City project is blossoming in what was otherwise planned as an industrial hub; this Western Gate of the Iskandar Development Region was designed around the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, the Tanjung Bin power plant and other oil, gas and chemical processing and storage facilities. This part of south-west Johor is just across the water from Singapore’s Tuas industrial area and the future Tuas Megaport.

Of course, it would make sense to have these large carbon- and pollutant-absorbing development projects placed nearby to offset the environmental damage inflicted by industries.

The Liuzhou Forest City is set to grow next to an industrial area for exactly that reason.

The designers for both projects stress the importance of bringing “the forest into the city” to counter the problems of climate change. But just how much damage is being done by the development itself?

The Liuzhou project has just had its groundbreaking ceremony along the Liujang River, known for its 19 bridges and summer swimming activities. In Johor, the impact of development is already visible.

The CGPV Forest City project is in an area that harboured good biodiversity despite its proximity to port and industry. Within six months of reclamation beginning, a strip of sand had cut across Malaysia’s largest intertidal seagrass meadow. Sedimentation in the adjacent waters increased, leading to extraordinary blooms of green algae that smothered the already-stressed seagrass areas.

Long-term habitat monitoring of the area by a local community organisation has revealed that a smaller coastal seagrass patch that was a known source of prawns and the feeding grounds of the endangered dugong has disappeared under the first reclaimed island.

The sand strip is to be removed and the rest of Forest City’s islands will be built around the biggest seagrass meadow that remains to minimise further damage.

Coastal mangroves are also affected by this development. The new islands will be linked by bridges to the mainland, and stretches of coastal mangroves are making way for these new roads and highways.

CGPV has also recently begun a new phase of its development; the creation of three golf courses and an associated resort complex in 809 hectares of formerly Ramsar gazetted mangroves.

This is in addition to its newly launched 160-hectare integrated building system facility. Visits to these sites show that clearfelling of these mangroves is already in progress.

But why should mere seagrass or messy mangroves matter?

Seagrass is nature’s solution to climate change. Coastal wetlands comprising seagrass and mangrove forests sequester carbon at a rate that is 10 times greater than mature tropical forests. These habitats trap sediments that would otherwise pollute and muddy coastal waters. They also produce oxygen.

On top of that, the combined seagrass, mangrove and coral reef habitats reduce the impacts of large waves and create a complete nursery, feeding and breeding ground for species of fisheries value. Fish caught in these waters supply seafood buyers in Singapore, Johor Bahru and Pontian. Put simply, without these habitats, we would have less seafood to eat.

There are other intrinsic values; the habitats are host to charismatic endangered species such as dugongs, seahorses, otters and turtles, and generate ecotourism and other revenues for the local community. They are, of course, the bedrock of the surrounding fishermen’s livelihoods.

To be sure, CGPV is taking steps to mitigate damage to the seagrass. A local university has been hired to independently monitor the health of the seagrass meadows, and habitat rehabilitation and species restocking is in the plan. But there is yet little word on how the impact of the coastal mangroves will be contained.

Truly sustainable development needs to take into account habitats lost, not just ecosystems rebuilt. Post-2004 tsunami research by Kyoto University showed that a buffer of natural mangrove forests could have reduced wave impacts by up to 90 per cent, a far higher success rate than any artificial structure. We can only hope that both projects achieve their lofty green goals. At the rate that the planet is tumbling towards climate disaster, there is no time for a mirage that misses the forest for the trees.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr Serina Abdul Rahman is a Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.


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Indonesia: 73 hotspots detected across Sumatra Island

Antara 24 Jul 17;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News)- The meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG) has detected 73 hotspots in 10 provinces across Sumatra Island, on Monday morning.

Of the total 73 hotspots, 14 were found in North Sumatra, 13 in Riau, 10 in Aceh, and eight respectively in Jambi, South Sumatra and Bengkulu, six in West Sumatra, four in Bangka Belitung, and one each in Riau Islands and Lampung, Sukisno, head of the Pekanbaru meteorology office, said.

In Riau Province, the 13 hotspots were detected in districts of Pelalawan (three), Rokan Hilir (five), Bengkalis (one), Indragiri Hilir (one), Indragiri Hulu (one), and Rokan Hulu (one).

Of the 13, five of them were believed to come from wildfires.

Since early this year, the Riau provincial administration had declared a forest fire emergency status to optimize forest fire prevention efforts.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has deployed five helicopters to carry out water bombing to extinguish forest and plantation fires.

Despite the country being relatively free of haze smog arising from forest fires last year, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has urged all stakeholders to undertake early preventive measures against wildfires.

The head of state has reminded ministers and regional authorities to remain vigilant against forest fires, starting from early this year.(*)

Wildfires gutted over 60 hectares of Aceh forest
Antara 24 Jul 17;

Banda Aceh, Aceh (ANTARA News) - Wildfires have gutted more than 60 hectares of forest and bush areas in West Aceh District, Aceh Darussalam Province, due to drought.

Wildfires had spread to wider areas in the western coast of Sumatras northernmost province, Yusmadi, head of the Aceh disaster mitigation office, said here, Monday.

He opined that several local farmers had started the fires to clear farming land during the ongoing drought.

"This is caused by farmers and not companies. They cleared land and burnt dried leaves, but the fires spread deep into the forest," he remarked.

Last week, Captain Sudarsono, commander of the Johan Pahlawan regional military command, had said that around 50 hectares of peatland area in West Aceh was gutted by fires.

Meanwhile, the meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency has detected 73 hotspots in 10 provinces across Sumatra Island on Monday morning.

Of the total 73 hotspots, 14 were found in North Sumatra; 13 in Riau; 10 in Aceh; eight respectively in Jambi, South Sumatra, and Bengkulu; six in West Sumatra; four in Bangka Belitung; and one each in Riau Islands and Lampung, Sukisno, head of the Pekanbaru meteorology office, said.(*)


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Indonesia environment minister wants permanent ban on licenses to use forest land

Reuters 24 Jul 17;

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's environment minister said on Monday she wants to make permanent a moratorium on issuing new licenses to use land designated as primary forest and peatland.

The moratorium, part of an effort to reduce emissions from fires caused by deforestation, was extended by President Joko Widodo for a third time in May.

"So far its only been extended, and extended again. I want a permanent (moratorium)," said Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar. "Our primary forest cannot be cleared out."

Indonesia is prone to outbreaks of forest fires during dry seasons, often blamed on the draining of peatland forests and land clearance for agriculture such as the cultivation of palm oil.

The resulting choking smoke from the world's biggest palm oil producer often blows across to neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia, slashing visibility and causing a health hazard.

Established in 2011, the moratorium covered an area of more than 66 million hectares (163 million acres) by November 2016.

Reporting by Jakarta bureau; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Christian Schmollinger


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Best of our wild blogs: 23-24 Jul 17



Return of underwater garden at Pulau Ubin
wild shores of singapore

Mangrove fun with R.U.M. at Ubin Day 2017!
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Favourite Nectaring Plants #10
Butterflies of Singapore

Princess Carplet (Amblypharyngodon chulabhornae) @ Kranji Marshes
Monday Morgue


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Best of our wild blogs: 22 Jul 17



Volunteer opportunity for NUS‒NParks Marine Debris Project (Jul – Aug 2017)
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Celebrate National Day with a Coastal Cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang East (Sat 05 Aug 2017)
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Night Walk At Punggol Promenade Nature Walk (21 July 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG


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