Best of our wild blogs: 24 Aug 16

Birding Hindhede Nature Park
Singapore Bird Group

Green Drinks: The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint + People’s Expedition to Experience Peat
Green Drinks Singapore

corridor closures & halus heartstoppers
Winging It

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Dengue cases rise again after two-week decline

Channel NewsAsia 24 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE: The number of new dengue cases in Singapore is on the rise again, with 222 cases reported in the week ending Aug 20, according to latest figures on the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) dengue website.

This is an increase from the previous two weeks, when 210 cases and 198 cases were reported, respectively. Another 39 cases were reported between Aug 21 and 3pm on Aug 22.

A total of 10,769 dengue cases have been reported in Singapore since the start of the year. Seven people have died of the disease so far, with the latest fatality a 79-year-old man who lived in Eastwood Drive near Upper East Coast Road. There were four dengue fatalities in the whole of 2015.

There are now 46 active dengue clusters in Singapore – up from 43 the previous week – including 11 classified as high-risk. The biggest cluster is in the area around Tampines Ave 8, Tampines Street 81, Street 83 and Street 84, where 55 cases have been reported, including two in the past fortnight.

In an advisory on its dengue website, NEA said that although the number of cases has been fluctuating within the same range for the past few weeks, it expects the figure to climb in the coming months as Singapore is in the traditional peak dengue season.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and NEA have warned that the number of dengue cases in Singapore may exceed 30,000 this year, higher than the record of 22,170 reported in 2013.

- CNA/cy

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Singapore still among world's liveable cities

Despite ranking 46 out of 140 cities in global survey, Republic remains attractive to highly mobile top talent
Janice Heng The Straits Times 24 Aug 16;

Singapore's score in a global ranking of livable cities has stagnated since 2011, which may make a difference to highly mobile top talent.

But it remains one of the world's more liveable cities, ranking 46th out of 140 cities assessed, while Hong Kong was 43rd.

Singapore did particularly well in providing a safe and stable habitat, but scored lower in culture, environment and healthcare in the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) annual Liveability Ranking. which began in 2002. In response to queries, the EIU supplied the results since 2011.

Although Singapore's overall ranking might look middling, it is not cause for alarm, said experts.

"Singapore has a high score and the EIU classifies it in the top tier of liveability," said Mr Simon Baptist, EIU chief economist and managing director for Asia.

Singapore scored 88.7 out of a possible 100, based on five areas: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

Its score has not changed since 2011, though its ranking improved from 51st to 46th because other cities fell behind in stability - factors such as crime rate, risk of terrorism and risk of social unrest.

Singapore performed worst in the area of culture and environment, with a score of 76.6.

Not much can be done about environmental factors: humidity and temperature, and "discomfort of climate to travellers".

But its cultural score - which includes factors such as corruption, censorship, sports, the arts, and food and drink - can be improved, said Mr Baptist.

"Singapore is dragged down due to its high level of censorship, which means the local media is less diverse and interesting, and residents do not have the same possibility to engage in public debate or get involved in campaigning or NGOs."

Singapore's healthcare score also lags behind some cities despite high quality healthcare, he added. This is mainly because of a lower number of doctors and hospital beds per capita, and lower public healthcare spending as a percentage of gross domestic product.

This may affect expatriates here on local packages, but will have less impact on those with private healthcare insurance, said expat expert Yvonne McNulty.

Liveability has been a focus of the Government, from efficient transport to vibrant public spaces.

This is both to improve citizens' everyday lives and to boost competitiveness by ensuring Singapore is an attractive place to live for top talent.

OCBC economist Selena Ling said liveability may make a difference for top global talent, who can choose where to go.

But she and other economists said foreign investors' top concerns are the domestic cost environment, overall availability of talent and competitive advantages such as good corporate governance and transport links.

"Liveability is more like icing on the cake after the basics have been taken care of." Otherwise, places such as Australia and Canada, which rank high for liveability, would top competitiveness rankings - which is not the case.

DBS economist Irvin Seah agreed. "I think we've reached a certain stage of development where we can feel more confident about the standards of living in Singapore.

"If there is any ranking that we need to focus on, it'll be those pertaining to innovation and overall economic competitiveness."

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Indonesia: Disaster Agency declares six provinces in emergency of forest fires

Antara 23 Aug 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said six of Indonesian provinces are in emergency of forest and bush fires.

"BNPB, therefore, has put into operation eight water bombing helicopters," chief spokesman of the agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said here on Tuesday.

The six provinces are Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.

Sutopo said it is feared the worst of dry season is yet to come, adding normally in September forest fires are more devastating.

Sumatra and Kalimantan always had the largest number of hot spots from August until October with the worst in September, he warned.

The West Kalimantan Governor has even extended the emergency period until November for that province, he added.

"The declaration of emergency status would give BNPB and its regional units easier access to potential sources in its efforts to mobilize fire fighting forces," he said.

Currently, BNPB already has in its disposal eight units of water bombing helicopters, two units of water bombing fixed wing aircraft and another two planes for artificially made rain.

"Three of the water bombing helicopters, two water bombing fixed planes and a a CASA plane for artificial rains would be placed in Riau," he said.

Riau has always been the most devastated by forest and peat land fires, which comes almost every year.

Sutopo said this year , preparations in dealing with the forest fire emergency situation is better than in previous years.

"In 2015, preparation and action came late in dealing with forest and bush fires resulting in greater difficulties in poutting out the fires," he said. (*)

Dry season to peak in September, aircraft prepared to tackle fires
The Jakarta Post 23 Aug 16;

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is preparing water-bombing aircraft to anticipate haze problems, following the emergency status declared by at least six provinces, with the dry season predicted to peak in September.

The six provinces are Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. September would be the peak of the dry season this year, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Tuesday. As part of preemptive actions, the provinces declared the alert status earlier than last year, when Indonesia suffered its worst forest and land fires.

"Usually September is the peak of forest and land fires when more hot spots are detected," he said as quoted by

In order to tackle worsening forest and land fires, the BNPB has prepared eight helicopters and two aircraft for water bombing and two Cassa airplanes for artificial rain across the six provinces.

"A total of 21.7 million liters of water has been used by the water-bombing aircraft to put out forest and land fires from April 1 to present," Sutopo said.

Around 2,937 hectares of forest and land fires in Riau had been put out by ground personnel, he said. The Riau Police have named 85 people as suspects for allegedly clearing land by burning, which resulted in haze problems from January through August.

Indonesia suffers annually from forest and peatland fires resulting from slash-and-burn practices for clearing land. The worst haze crisis happened last year when at least 19 people died and 500,000 people suffered acute respiratory illnesses. (rin)

Soldier missing after forest fire in Riau
Jakarta Post 23 AUg 16;

Indonesian Military (TNI) soldier Pvt. First Class Wahyudi remains missing four days after helping to extinguish a forest fire in the Riau regency of Rokan Hilir.

Wira Bima Military Command chief and Riau Land and Forest Fire Task Force commander Brig. Gen. Nurendi went to the location where Wahyudi went missing and led search efforts involving a joint team from the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), the TNI, the National Police and local residents.

“The search has not been fruitful yet. I have instructed the Wira Bima Military Command to hold a joint prayer at each unit pleading to Almighty God that Wahyudi will soon be found,” said Nurendi on Monday.

Apart from a conventional search, Nurendi said various methods to track Wahyudi’s whereabouts had been employed, including cell phone signal tracking technology and soothsayers, because locals believed Wahyudi had been hidden by spirits disturbed by the fires that hit the region.

Wahyudi went missing during a firefighting mission in Medan hamlet, Labuhan Tangga Besar village, Bangko district, on Friday.

At around 3 p.m. local time, Wahyudi and two of his colleagues were replacing a piece of fire-extinguishing equipment with a larger device. Wahyudi then returned to the forest to collect a small hose that had been left behind. He is believed to have become engulfed in thick smoke and to have lost his way back to his colleagues.

Fires detected again in lands owned by companies given SP3
Antara 23 Aug 16;

Photo document dated August 10, 2015 on the condition of land burned in oil palm concession company in Pelalawan, Riau, as evidence of the police in case of fires in Riau. (ANTARA/Deputi Direskrimsus Polda Riau AKBP Ari Rahman Nafarin-HO)
Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - Environmentalist organizations said fires have been detected again in lands owned by eight companies given SP3 (order to stop investigation) over cases of forest fires in Riau by police.

Wahana Lingkungan Hidup (Walhi) and Jaringan Kerja Penyelamat Hutan Riau (Jikalahari) said almost every year fires hit land owned by plantation and forestry companies in the province.

Police have granted SP3 over last years forest fire cases of 15 companies and now fires have been detected again in lands owned by eight of the companies, deputy coordinator of Jikalahari Made Ali said here on Tuesday.

The eight companies are PT Dexter Perkasa Industri Indonesia, PT Siak Raya Timber, PT Bina Duta Laksana, PT Perawang Sukses Perkasa Industri, PT Ruas Utama Jaya, PT Huta Sola Lestari, PT Suntara Gajah Pati and PT Sumatera Riang Lestari.

Walhi executive director Riko Kurniawan said the police decision in granting SP3 was a big mistake, as proven by the repeat of wrong doing committed by the companies.

The companies dared to use fires for land clearing as they have always escaped the law, observers said.

Police said a number of individuals have been named suspects but none of the companies are named suspect.

"Yes, it was true. We have named 85 individual suspects. No corporation is among the suspects yet," Riau police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo said.

Earlier deputy chairman of the commission III of the House of Representatives Benny K Harman strongly demanded state police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian to give explanation of the SP3 issued by Riau police chief Brig.Gen. Supriyanto.

"The state police chief has to openly give reasons for SP3," Benny said in Jakarta.

He also asked President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) to summon the state police chief to explain the decision as the cases have national and international dimensions.

However, after a meeting later with the the Riau police chief Benny said the Commission respected the reasons given by the general in issuing order to drop forest fire cases involving the 15 companies.

"The Commission III respects and supports the Riau police in resolving the legal cases of forest fires," he said.

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Indonesia obtains developed world EU's Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade license

Suherdjoko The Jakarta Post 24 Aug 16;

Indonesia became the first country to obtain the EU's Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) as the European Parliament approved the European Commission’s proposal for the extending the FLEGT license to Indonesia on Aug. 9.

With the decision, Indonesian wood products are allowed to enter 28 EU member countries without having to pass a due diligence process, which was expensive and a lengthy procedure, as previously required by EU trade laws.

“As a follow up to the decision, on Aug.18, the European Commission issued an EU regulation, which acknowledges that Indonesia has fulfilled the requirements within the framework of the EU Trade Regulation and Voluntary Partnership Agreement signed by Indonesia and the EU in 2013,” the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s sustainable production forest management director general, Putera Parthama, said in Semarang, Central Java, on Tuesday.

With the EU regulation, he said, Indonesia left behind its competitors, which also exported wood products to the European market. They included African countries, which had signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU; Latin America countries; ASEAN member countries—Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos—and China.

“It’s real proof that Indonesia’s timber legality system [SVLK] has been acknowledged by the 28 EU member countries as guaranteeing that Indonesian wood products do not come from illegal logging activities,” said Putera.

Since the implementation of the SVLK in 2013, Indonesia’s export value in wood products has increased from year to year. In 2015, the country’s export value increased two fold from the previous year. In July, Indonesia’s wood exports amounted to US$500 billion with the three biggest export destinations comprising China, Korea and Japan.

“The EU market accounts for 11 percent of our total wood products market. However, the EU can become a barometer in relation to environmental requirements and timber legality,” said Putera. (ebf)

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Indonesia: Hundreds of illegal birds confiscated at Surakarta airport

Ganug Nugroho Adi The Jakarta Post 23 Aug 16;

Customs officers at Adi Sumarmo Airport in Surakarta, Central Java, confiscated on Monday more than 300 birds sent from Kualanamu Airport in Medan, North Sumatra, using fake documents.

The birds, which comprise several different species, were put inside a large case and equipped with a quarantine letter. In the letter, it stated the case contained 87 birds, containing three different species, namely the oriental magpie-robin or locally known as kacer, lovebird and blue-winged leafbird or also popular known as cucak ranting.

After a thorough inspection, the officers found the cargo contained 332 birds with 10 different species. They said the cargo’s content was not a match with the documents and that they were probably falsified.

“We didn’t deliver the birds to the recipient because we considered the documents as not valid,” the airport’s agriculture quarantine coordinator, M.Farid, said at the Tarui Jurug Animal Park (TSTJ) in Surakarta, on Monday.

Improper handling: Officials find more than a half of the 332 birds they confiscated during an operation at Adi Sumarmo Airport in Surakarta, Central Java, on Monday, died due to improper handling. ( Nugroho Adi)

Farid said hundreds of birds confiscated were sent by Joko Perdana in Medan to a recipient identified only as Harno in Surakarta. The confiscation began from the customs officers’ suspicions over the large case, he went on.

“The case was very large, where it was unlikely that it only contained 87 birds. Therefore, the officers opened the case, witnessed by the recipient,” said Farid. He said 193 out of the 332 birds died due to improper handling while several of the remaining 139 birds were wounded.

Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Surakarta official Joko Triono said those birds were not categorized as protected species but their handling and delivery process had violated existing rules. (ebf)

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Vietnam: World’s second largest Delacour’s langur population found in Vietnam

Vietnam Net 23 Aug 16;

The world’s second largest population of the critically endangered Delacour’s langur was recently discovered by Fauna & Flora International (FFI), giving fresh hope for one of the planet’s rarest species.

Following reports of sightings in a once largely unexplored forest in north Vietnam, scientists from conservation NGO FFI Vietnam conducted field assessments to ascertain whether this species does indeed live in the area.

"Our surveys and assessment revealed that there was a population of significant size. We detected seven groups of Delacour’s langur, with the total number of primates in the population being as high as 40. Only one other area in Vietnam has a larger population of Delacour’s langur," said FFI Vietnam’s Biodiversity Technical Advisor Trinh Dinh Hoang.

Delacour’s langur is indigenous to Vietnam, but because of human activities such as hunting, stone mining and charcoal production, it faces a severe threat of extinction with fewer than 250 left, a press release issued yesterday said.

Although they remain under grave danger of being wiped out within a decade, scientists now have renewed hope that they can be saved.

"This discovery is good news – both for the species and for the people of Vietnam, particularly because we have also identified a number of infants and juveniles among the groups. This means that they are breeding and, if we can protect them, they should be able to thrive in this habitat once again," Hoang said

However, Dr Benjamin Rawson, country director of FFI Vietnam, warned that urgent interventions to curb human activity such as hunting and mining were needed to safeguard these prized primates and their habitat.

Speaking at the Congress of the International Primatological Society in Chicago, he said: "We’ve notified the Vietnamese authorities of our findings and recommendations, and we continue to work alongside officials and local communities to ensure the Delacour’s langur doesn’t become this century’s first primate extinction."

Delacour’s langur (Trachypithecus delacouri) is a primate endemic to Vietnam, first discovered by Jean Théodore Delacour in 1930 and described by Wilfred Hudson Osgood in 1932.

In the early 1990s, a comprehensive survey recorded 19 isolated subpopulations comprising 50 to 57 groups and 281 to 317 individuals in an area of about 5, in north Vietnam.

More recent surveys indicated that there has been a significant decrease in both the number of groups and the number of individuals.

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Regulators Put Limits on Fish No One Wants to Eat

That’s because the “forage fish” are food for ever-expanding fish farms, and overfishing them could destroy the ocean food web
Annie Sneed Scientific American 23 Aug 16;

Atlantic saury, pearlsides, sand lances—you’ve probably never tasted any of these fish (or heard of them). But they and other “forage” species play a vital role in our oceans—they’re food for the fish we eat. In fact, these lowly forage species are so essential to the health of marine ecosystems that some people are taking extra steps to protect them—especially as the global demand for seafood soars. Last week the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which oversees fishing in U.S. waters from New York State to North Carolina, decided to start managing more than 50 species of forage fish.

The council’s decision is a bit unusual—after all, none of the forage fish populations are in danger of collapse, and only one of the 50-plus species is harvested on a large scale in the mid-Atlantic today. In the region, people have mostly ignored these fish because they tend to be small, low-value and not very appetizing. But the council is trying to handle its fisheries more holistically because it has realized that putting controls on a single species at a time just will not work. “There's a move now to manage all fisheries as part of a bigger system,” says Steve Ross, a research professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington who is one of the council’s scientific advisors. “When you manage one fish, you try to manage its whole environment—and that includes the food web.”

These small, nutrient-rich forage fish pump energy through the ecosystem in a way that no other marine animal can. They feed on the bottom of the food chain—on single-celled plankton, which larger fish cannot eat—and then they become prey for all sorts of upper-level predators like tuna, sea bass and halibut as well as seabirds and marine mammals. “I like to say that forage fish help turn sunlight into salmon,” explains Ellen Pikitch, a professor of marine biology at Stony Brook University. “They support so much of the ocean ecosystem.”

The council also made its decision because it is concerned that as people around the world eat more seafood than ever, demand for mid-Atlantic forage fish will grow. That’s because, increasingly, people rely on aquaculture (fish farms) to meet their seafood needs. And enormous quantities of forage fish are caught worldwide and processed into fish meal and fish oil that is used as fodder for farmed fish. The council decided to be proactive and regulate forage catch in case mid-Atlantic fishermen start targeting these fish in a big way.

This is a smart move, scientists say, because if humans ever wipe out forage species, it will be catastrophic for both the ocean and us. The many marine animals that depend on them would lose their food source, predator fish populations would fall and the effects would likely ripple throughout the entire food web, hurting organisms that don’t even rely on those fish directly. “If you take too many forage fish out,” Pikitch says, “you risk pulling the rug out from under the ocean ecosystem.”

Not only would this be terrible for the marine environment, it also would undercut fishermen who target big-money fish like cod or tuna—the fish we actually like to eat. “Someone could just go over with a net, catch a shitload of these fish and screw me out of the tuna fishery,” says council member John McMurray, who owns a charter fishing business in New York.

The Mid-Atlantic Council intends to limit a boat’s haul of forage fish to 1,700 pounds each time it goes out to sea. That is not a huge catch, but mid-Atlantic fishermen today rarely harvest more than that. “It’s almost the highest amount of what has been caught in the past,” explains Julia Beaty, a fishery management specialist for the council. “The thought was that that number wouldn’t be overly burdensome on existing fisheries.” The council’s decision is not in effect, yet; the Secretary of Commerce still needs to approve it before it becomes regulation.

The council will also consider expanding fisheries for forage species if there is scientific evidence that fishermen can do it sustainably. This is a big shift from how people have built fisheries in the past. “Before, fisheries developed pell-mell and then we sorted out the impact after the fact,” says Rich Seagraves, a senior scientist for the council. “Now we’re shifting the burden of proof. If you’re in the business and you want to ramp up a new fishery, you need to prove there won’t be significant negative effects on the ecosystem.”

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Embrace social complexities in water policy

EZRA HO Today Online 23 Aug 16;

The way we use water is shaped by social and cultural norms. And if you ask the average person why and how they use water, you will find interesting and varied responses, no doubt.

This is a vital point to consider when Singapore’s policymakers attempt to reduce and manage water consumption. From a historical perspective, the infrastructural landscape of modern societies has always co-evolved with social norms and cultural conventions linked to ways of using natural resources.

For example, taking baths and showers became widespread in the West only after the 19th century, due to socio-political movements that gave cities integrated piping networks. Simultaneously, washing oneself with water gradually became a sign of moral superiority and social status.

In Katherine Ashenburg’s book, The Dirt on Clean, she explains how our obsession with personal hygiene was promoted by various lobbying groups and associations, and those with commercial interests who had much to gain. Likewise, companies in health, personal care and fashion also contribute their share in shaping how people wash and clean themselves.

The proposal that the Government take these social conventions and day-to-day realities of water use into consideration when drafting policy is timely as we are given a look at Singapore’s sustainability credentials and its impressive water success story at the recent Singapore International Water Week.

Despite Singapore being precariously dependent on Malaysia for water, our four national taps and integrated water management have significantly enhanced water security today.

Our emphasis on technological innovation and infrastructural planning ensures an adequate and affordable supply. At the same time, various tax and pricing mechanisms help regulate demand and maintain the water infrastructure.

In this way, Singapore’s water policy reflects the primacy of engineering and economics as key policy tools.

By most measures, this approach to overcome supply scarcity by building a new water plant or increasing taxes has served the country well. However, there is a need to improve policies that manage demand because per-capita water consumption — declining since the 1990s — rose last year.

Yet, insofar as technocratic innovation and management prove effective, their success depends on picking the lowest-hanging fruits.

To substantially reduce water use, we need to look beyond the traditional disciplines and policy tools to get a more refined understanding of why and how people use water. Here are some suggestions.

First, we should see beyond the supply-demand distinction. Segmenting water policy into production (supply) and consumption (demand) may make analytical sense to engineers and economists. However, this false dichotomy between production and consumption ignores how infrastructure can influence and lock people into unsustainable ways of using water.

For instance, the codes and standards of everyday water systems such as our toilets require significant amounts of water to transport our waste away even if water-less alternatives are available.

Similarly, the rubbish chutes originally built into public housing units to maintain hygiene are now hindering recycling efforts.

By separating how water is produced and made available from how it is used, policymakers lose an analytical foothold that could result in a fundamental reorganisation of society. Being overly focused on technical efficiencies and “innovation”, they inevitably reinforce conventional paradigms of using water.

Secondly, social and cultural norms should be recognised. Going by statistics reported in TODAY in 2014, national water agency PUB said that the top three water-consuming activities at home are showers (29 per cent), dishwashing (22 per cent) and laundry (19 per cent). Consumption of water in homes makes up 45 per cent of daily usage, with the non-domestic sector taking up the rest.

Contemporary water policy assumes that people use water in “wrong” ways, so the role of policy is to “correct” such behaviour through education, incentives and moralising. For example, persuading people to take shorter showers, washing the dishes in a filled sink, or using the washing machine at full loads.

However, people behave according to what they believe “makes sense” to them. For instance, even though long showers waste water, people may not see it that way because long showers in the morning are refreshing or provide a form of relaxation after a long day. Or using the washing machine with less than a full load, because there is an unwashed outfit one wants to wear.

Similarly, when I interviewed Singaporeans for my honours thesis on household energy consumption two years ago, there was no such thing as “wrong” reasons to use electricity. Even though one respondent acknowledged that using the air-conditioner had high environmental and financial costs, she still preferred to use it because it provided a comfortable environment for her children to sleep in.

In trying to change people’s behaviour, policymakers have to consider the everyday experiences that guide how water is used, and how these norms were formed. While most policymakers live like everyone else, the assumptions behind the paradigm of “educate, incentivise, moralise” alienate people.

Environmental campaigns will not have a lasting effect because they do not resonate with people. To achieve a more human-centric water policy, planners need to leverage how people understand and use water in qualitative ways.

Japan did this with energy. In 2005, its government launched the Cool Biz campaign to reduce energy demand. By promoting a more casual office dress code for civil servants, offices would save on air-conditioning during the summer.

Not only did the Cabinet appear on television in casual office wear, but fashion companies also had a hand in changing what was culturally acceptable and desirable office wear. In 2012, the campaign helped Japan cut 2.2 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

Here in Singapore, to raise birth rates, the Government recognises that it needs to create conducive social environments that ease the many challenges mothers face. Similarly, recent efforts to promote a “car-lite” culture involve investing in infrastructures that would promote the usage of bicycles, walking and public transport, as well as initiatives to influence public attitudes on car ownership.

Why not do the same with water as well? Or electricity? Or waste, for that matter? To change how people use resources, we need to change what is deemed “normal” and “desirable” given our social, cultural and infrastructural environment rather than chiding or penalising people for acting in ways that “make sense” to them.

When policymakers understand how disparate aspects of society relate and influence each other, they will design better policy interventions. As a crucial first step, they need to invest more in acquiring sociological and anthropological knowledge apart from relying on economic and engineering expertise. For a Government that prides itself on long-term, strategic planning, its water policy cannot remain a purely technical affair.


Ezra Ho is a research assistant at the Nanyang Technological University. He graduated from the NUS Environmental Studies programme.

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RWS dolphin 'nibbled' man's toes out of playful curiosity: Trainer

Jalelah Abu Baker MyPaper AsiaOne 23 Aug 16;

PLAYFUL NIBBLE? Dental surgeon Lim said he stayed calm when the dolphin bit the second toe of his right foot.

The last thing dental surgeon Michael Lim expected in a chance to get up close to the dolphins at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) was to be bitten.

Dr Lim, 48, was sitting at the edge of a lagoon at an attraction for the public to interact with the bottlenose dolphins, with his legs in the water, when he was bitten on the second toe of his right foot.

He told The Straits Times yesterday that he was at an "encounter programme" at Dolphin Island, an up-close experience without getting in the water, two weeks ago.

He wanted to cool himself on that hot afternoon, and got permission to dangle his legs in the water from the dolphin trainer.

Shortly after the dolphin did a trick of jumping high into the air, flipping and swimming backwards, he felt a painful bite. Dr Lim, who had gone to RWS with his 22-year-old daughter, said he stayed calm.

"I have had dogs and cats before, so I know that when animals bite, we are not supposed to pull away or scream," he said.

He added that the trainer did not see what had happened until he got her attention.

Twenty minutes later, a nurse came and bandaged the toe. He stayed until the show, for which he paid about $100, ended at 6pm. A doctor gave him a seven-day course of antibiotics.

The bite marks looked like razor cuts and Mr Lim said they measured 13mm and 15mm. Though his wound is healing well, he is now wary.

"We have the idea they are friendly and harmless but they are still wild animals."

Brittney Iverson, the dolphin trainer, described it as an "isolated incident where one of our dolphins nibbled the toes of a guest during an interaction programme".

She said: "We believe the dolphin behaved out of playful curiosity, rather than hostility, as it explores its surroundings."

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Indonesia: MI-8 helicopter deployed in Riau to put out wildfires

Antara 22 Aug 16;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The National Disaster Mitigation Agency has deployed an MI-8 helicopter in Riau Province to help douse forest, peatland, and plantation fires.

"One MI-8 helicopter landed (in the Roesmin Nurjadin airport in Pekanbaru) yesterday afternoon. Today, we hold a meeting with the forest fire task force to discuss the deployment of the helicopter," Head of the Riau Disaster Mitigation Office Edwar Sanger noted here, Monday.

With this new deployment, the Riau task force currently has three MI-8 helicopters, one MI-171, and two air tractors to fight wildfires.

Several areas have been razed by wildfires in the Riau districts of Rokan Hilir, Dumai, Bengkalis, Pelalawan, and Rokan Hulu.

"With the inclusion of an additional helicopter, we hope to maximally curb the wildfires, while undertaking preventive measures as well," he added.

Riau police name 85 suspects over wildfire cases
Antara 22 Aug 16;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The Riau Police have named 85 suspects over wildfires during the January-August 2016 period.

The cases are being handled by 11 resort police stations across Riau, Adjunct Senior Commissioner Guntur Aryo Tejo, spokesman of the Riau Police, remarked here, Monday.

The suspects comprise land owners or farmers who used slash and burn methods to clear land for farming or plantation, the policeman noted, adding that no plantation company was involved in the wildfires.

The Riau provincial authorities have extended the emergency status for wildfires from March to November 2016 to optimize the efforts to control the fires.

As the result, Riau, which had been shrouded by haze every year for the past 18 years, is now almost free from it.

Head of the Riau Disaster Mitigation Office Edwar Sanger, however, reported that from January to August 2016, a total of 1,559.9 hectares of forest, peatland, and plantation areas had been razed by fires across the province.

Last Saturday, Indonesias National Institute of Aeronautics and Space reported that the number of hotspots across Sumatra Island had reached 74, seven more than the 67 reported a day earlier.

Of the 74 hotspots, 34 were found in Riau, 15 in South Sumatra, nine in North Sumatra, six in Bangka Belitung, five in West Sumatra, four in Lampung, and one in Aceh.

Riau Police name 85 suspects in land-clearing cases
The Jakarta Post 22 Aug 16;

The Riau Police have named 85 suspects for allegedly clearing land by burning, which resulted in haze problems from January through August, a senior police officer has said.

“The 85 suspects are being handled by 11 police precincts under the Riau Police,” Riau Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo said as quoted by Antara news agency in Pekanbaru on Monday.

Guntur said the suspects, who were linked to land-clearing cases on privately owned land, were associated with 67 police reports. Currently, the police have submitted most of the dossiers to the prosecutor’s office for further legal proceedings.

The Riau administration raised the alert status for forest and land fires in the province in March. The status is expected to remain in place until November in anticipation of prolonged haze woes.

Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency head Edwar Sanger said fires had engulfed more than 1,559.9 hectares across the province between January and August. (dmr)

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Malaysia's waterbomber ready for Sumatra mission as haze worsens

Today Online 22 Aug 16;

PETALING JAYA (Malaysia) — As the haze continued to worsen air quality in the Klang Valley, the government said on Sunday (Aug 21) that it was prepared to deploy its firefighting aerial waterbomber to assist Indonesian authorities tackle forest fires there.

“We are prepared to send our Bombardier aircraft to Sumatra to help put out the forest fires that have been responsible for the cross-border haze,” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dr Shahidan Kassim said.

He said the National Security Council was in a state of full preparedness to assist in the operation.

“We did the same last year. This year, we are just waiting for the request (from Indonesia),” he said.

Dr Shahidan said the use of the Bombardier aircraft was more efficient as it was able to deliver massive quantities of water to suppress forest fires, and Malaysia was the only country in Asia to have the aircraft.

Deploying the Canadian manufactured firefighting plane would be an added assistance to Indonesian air force aircraft and Bell 412 helicopter presently involved in waterbombing exercises.

Air quality in the Klang Valley deteriorated slightly on Sunday with several areas recording “moderate” Air Pollutant Index (API) levels.

The Department of Environment’s API reading for Shah Alam rose from 71 at noon to 86 at 3pm.

Other areas which showed moderate API readings at 3pm were Cheras and Batu Muda (77), Petaling Jaya (61) and Klang (69).

According to Malaysia's Department of Environment, an API reading of between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; between 51 and 100, moderate; between 101 and 200, unhealthy; between 201 and 300, very unhealthy; and more than 301, hazardous.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department said on its website visibility in Petaling Jaya was 6km at 3pm.

Malacca was worst hit when visibility was recorded at 1km at 8am before improving to 4km at 3pm.

The lower visibility was attributed to forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

According to the Indonesian National Institute of Aerospace, 167 hotspots were detected on Saturday, with 154 in Kalimantan and 13 in Sumatra. THE MALAY MAIL ONLINE

Over 2,000 cases of open burning since January
The Star 22 Aug 16;

PETALING JAYA: There have been more than 2,000 cases of open burning nationwide from January till last Saturday.

Natural Resources and Envi­ron­ment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said a total of 2,262 cases of open burning had been detected by the Department of Environment (DOE).

Most of the cases, said Dr Wan Junaidi, involved forests (300 cases), bushes (515), construction sites (48), landfill sites (70), industrial areas (15), agricultural land (589) and other small open burning cases (725).

He said the DOE was monitoring the air quality nationwide.

“Hotspots in Sumatra and Kali­mantan, Indonesia, that are still active can cause transboundary haze to reach the west coast of Pe­­ninsular Malaysia and Sarawak,” said Dr Wan Junaidi in a statement yesterday.

The DOE, he said, had increased preventive efforts on open burning activities.

One of the measures taken is activating the Open Burning Prevention Action Plan since Jan 12 that includes land surveillance and enforcement on areas identified, court action and issuance of compounds.

Other measures include monitoring of areas that can catch fire easily and aerial surveillance to prevent burning in forest and rural areas.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the DOE had issued compounds, amounting to RM233,566, for 208 cases from January till August.

As of 5pm yesterday the Air Pollution Index reading in most ci­ties across the country were “healthy” and “moderate”.

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