Trekking From USR Park to Bukit Panjang
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature
Morning Walk At Upper Pierce Reservoir (18 Dec 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG
Pedal Ubin on Ubin day (30 November 2014)
Trekking From USR Park to Bukit Panjang
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature
Morning Walk At Upper Pierce Reservoir (18 Dec 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG
Pedal Ubin on Ubin day (30 November 2014)
SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 19 Dec 14;
JOHOR BARU: Flood has worsened at the east coast of Johor in the afternoon, with 355 villagers from three villages relocated to three relief centres in Endau, an east coast town of Johor, as of 8pm.
The villagers are 18 from three families in Kampung Air Tawar, 84 from 18 families in Kampung Tenglu and 253 from 74 families in Kamping Sri Pantai.
They have been evacuated to the flood relief centres in SK Air Tawar, SK Tenglu and SK Sri Pantai respectively.
Information from the Johor police revealed that the number of flood victims are 355 at present.
This morning, only six villagers from three families in Kampung Air Tawar and 11 villagers from Kampung Tenglu in Endau near the Johor/Pahang border were affected after their homes were hit with flood waters measuring 1.5 metre deep.
Johor Environment and Health Executive Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the affected villagers are those staying at low-lying areas which are prone to flooding.
Non-stop rain forces 300 to evacuate villages in Johor
The Star 20 Dec 14;
MERSING: Continuous rainfall in several villages here since yesterday has forced more than 300 villagers out of their homes and raised concerns that the evacuation exercise will take longer than expected.
The affected villagers are from Kampung Che Wook (250 victims), Kampung Tenglu (49) and Kampung Air Tawar (six).
They are currently seeking shelter at relief centres set up at three schools – SK Sri Pantai, SK Tenglu and SK Air Tawar.
Heavy rain started to fall at 9am and caused water levels to rise quickly with many villagers moving out to relief centres on their own.
Mersing OCPD Deputy Supt Mohamed Shahar Abdul Aziz said all the flood victims were in good shape at the relief centres.
“The authorities have taken several precautionary measures in anticipation of the floods,” he said.
A Johor Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said the Mersing and Endau fire stations were on standby if conditions got worse.
“The department has instructed both stations to be on alert,” he said.
He added that assets from other districts may be deployed if the situation did not improve.
Heavy rain hits Pahang, Johor
New Straits Times 20 Dec 14;
KUALA LUMPUR: THE floods in three east coast states are heading for the southern part of the country as heavy rains begin to lash southeastern Pahang and Johor.
The Meteorological Department forecasted intense downpours for Pekan and Rompin in Pahang towards the end of the month.
The same situation was expected to occur in Kluang and Kota Tinggi in Johor next month.
One or two continuous rain cycles in these areas could last up to five days.
The flood in Kelantan, which has seen four lives lost up until yesterday, had the highest number of evacuees with 14,508 people evacuated, despite the flood easing in several districts. A total of 17,185 people from 4,724 families were evacuated in the east coast.
National Security Council (NSC) secretary Datuk Mohd Tajuddin Abdul Wahab said residents in
Tumpat were told to prepare themselves as the district was expected to experience a longer duration of flood.
The border town of Rantau Panjang, which is usually bustling this time of year, came to a standstill after traders packed up their wares to place them on higher ground.
Residents said the flood was the worst in 40 years as Sungai Golok overflowed and inundated the town in 4m-deep waters.
Meteorological Department commercial and corporate services division director Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said Kelantan and Terengganu were at the peak of the monsoon season.
He said last year, the two states received an average of 300 millimetres of rain per hour (mm/h) but this year it surged to 600mm/h.
“Residents in flood-prone areas should be extra cautious as heavy rain is expected to continue until the end of this month,” he told the New Straits Times.
Hisham confirmed that Pahang was expected to experience heavy rain starting in the next few weeks while Johor would experience the same early next month.
He said the rainfall intensity in Pahang and Johor was expected to reach 600mm/h, which was less than last year’s figure of 1,000mm/h.
He said the monsoon season that began in November may end in early March with Sarawak expected to be the last state hit by heavy rain.
Johor Environment and Health Committee chairman, Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the state government had learnt from the floods in 2006 and 2007 in Kota Tinggi, and was prepared.
He said agencies had mobilised its resources since September in light of deteriorating weather.
He said Johor’s flood control mechanism had improved in preparation for unexpected weather over the years.
In Pahang, there was a decrease in the number of flood victims from 1,586 to 1,556 people at noon.
In Terengganu, there were
evacuees in Hulu Terengganu (3,066), Besut (2,232), Setiu (1,904) and in Kemaman (946) and Dungun (950). In Johor, 355 people from
two villages in Endau were evacuated.
Tajuddin said the NSC was seeking help from Pahang, Selangor, Malacca and Perak to prepare truck, boats and helicopters to
send goods to villages affected by flood.
‘Crucial Importance’ Incidents such as the recent Banjarnegara landslide are more than just humanitarian and economic calamities
Bantarto Bandoro Jakarta Globe 18 Dec 14;
Heavy rain has triggered many catastrophes that cannot be addressed by one party alone. What we saw in Jemblung in Central Java’s Banjarnegara district is a fatal landslide, evidence that humans cannot resist the forces of the nature. This is one of the worst landslide disasters recorded in Indonesia in recent years.
The landslide claimed the lives of nearly 80 people, while dozens remain missing. Around 570 people have also been displaced from their homes.
Local infrastructure was badly damaged in the landslide, preventing rescue teams from reaching certain areas.
Economic activities have also been interrupted as many lost their workplaces and livelihood.
The Banjarnegara landslide highlights the country’s vulnerability to disasters as well the government’s slow reaction, if not total inability, to effectively deal with such chronic catastrophes.
The media has reported the landslide comprehensively and no day passed without discussion of the event.
A Jakarta Globe story published earlier this week titled “Most of Indonesia at risk of landslide,” says among other things that around 9 percent of the country’s 250 million people live in an area at very high risk of natural disaster.
This suggests that Indonesia’s government must consider disasters, be it landslides, heavy floods or earthquakes, from a much more comprehensive perspective. The response of the government in addressing these disasters must make full use of all resources available.
Indonesia has experienced natural disasters from minor floods to devastating tsunamis. In response to the vulnerabilities and risk of disasters, a presidential decree established the Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency (known as BNPB) in 2008.
The existence of BNPB is necessary to help the government respond to national disasters, but it alone is not sufficient to manage and address the widespread impact of future disasters the country will certainly face.
It is not clear if the government’s security planners consider disasters from a comprehensive perspective of national security.
The government in Jakarta tends to responds to natural disasters with actions framed as disaster relief and assistance, rather than through a security lens.
Armed conflict, war or trafficking of small arms and light weapons, to mention just a few, are some of the conventional security hazards constantly reviewed by the security planners to update preventive steps for the security of the nations.
On the contrary, several non-traditional security threats, that can have as disastrous an impact on human security as the more conventional threats, are often overlooked by the agency concerned.
Some of these non-traditional security threats to Indonesia such as flooding, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis and the recent landslides highlight the need for the government of President Joko Widodo to frame the response through a security lens.
Human vulnerability — especially to natural disasters — must be part of the nation’s security agenda.
The devastating Banjarnegara landslide should not be seen as merely the BNPB’s business. How other government agencies respond to environmental threats and disasters is a key issue and how the response is securitized is of crucial importance.
Because Indonesia has many areas that are prone to natural disasters, it is perhaps not an exaggeration if the government reveals elements of securitization such as landslides identified as existing threats; a multiplicity of securitizing actors, such as the BNPB and other disaster-related government agencies; and the complexity of various agencies — both central and local government.
Thus, when the landslide drew a large number of rescue teams dispatched by various national agencies, the securitization of the landslide conformed to the particular “logic of security” found in security studies, but separated it from a singular type of actor and threat, as is usually found in traditional security issues.
Landslides and other forms of natural disasters can be perceived as threats to human security and the environment, as well as other aspects of national security. The BNPB and the government agencies, such as the military, National Police, and the coordinating office for law, politics and security, are the securitizing actors that play central roles in mitigating the security impact of landslides.
When President Joko Widodo visited the site he was reported as saying the landslides should provide lessons for us on the importance of a balanced environment, suggesting blame on those who convert lands into farms.
The government’s short- and long-term response to the landslide should not only target rebuilding a balanced environment, or only be based on disaster-relief considerations.
Given the severe casualties in landslides, it is not wrong to suggest that Joko should start framing his government’s policy response through a security lens.
When his responses are securitized, the presidential communication would focus on non-traditional security concerns such as human or environmental security issues.
This suggests that, for natural disaster response such as the recent landslide, human security and other aspects of this should significantly influence the framing of the issue at the presidential level.
Bantaro Bandoro is a senior lecturer at the Indonesian Defense University’s School of Defense Strategy, in Sentul, Bogor
Warm sea temperatures are causing massive coral reef die-off across the Northern Pacific in what could be the start of an historic bleaching event around the world
Karl Mathiesen The Guardian 19 Dec 14;
Scientists warn extreme sea temperatures could cause a “historic” coral reef die-off around the world over the coming months, following a massive coral bleaching already underway in the North Pacific. Experts said the coral die-off could be the worst in nearly two decades.
Reports of severe bleaching have been accumulating in the inbox of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch programme since July.
A huge swathe of the Pacific has already been affected, including the Northern Marianas Islands, Guam, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Kiribati and Florida. Some areas have recorded serious bleaching for the first time.
“On a global scale it’s a major bleaching event. What it may be is the beginning of a historic event,” said Coral Reef Watch coordinator Dr Mark Eakin.
In the Marshall Islands, bleaching of unprecedented severity is suspected to have hit most of the country’s 34 atolls and islands. The Guardian witnessed devastated expanses of coral that look like forests covered with snow.
Warm water will soon begin hitting reefs in the southern Pacific and the Indian Ocean as the seasons and currents shift. Eakin said coral watch modelling predicts bleaching on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as early as January.
Bleaching is caused by persistent increases in sea surface temperature. Just 1C of warming lasting a week or more can be enough to cause long-term breakdown of reef ecosystems.
The worst coral bleaching event on record is a mass die-off during 1998. A massive El Niño event combined with climate change to raise global sea and air temperatures to never-before-recorded levels and killed around 15% of the world’s corals.
2014 has already surpassed 1998 as the hottest year recorded - with a mild El Niño still predicted in the new year.
Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a coral reef expert from the University of Queensland, said the current bleaching event was on track to be as bad or worse than 1998.
“Many coral reef scientists are expecting something similar to 1997-98 to unfold in the next six to 12 months.”
Eakin said even under a weak El Niño, bleaching could continue until 2016 – lasting twice as long as the 1998 event. High sea surface temperatures due to climate change are making El Niño a less decisive factor in coral bleaching.
“Despite the fact that there’s really not a big El Niño, we’re seeing these patterns of severe bleaching. So what’s happening is, as global temperatures increase and especially as the ocean warms through the increase of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases in the atmosphere, it’s warming the ocean so that it doesn’t take as big an El Niño to have the same effect on water temperatures,” said Eakin.
Initial analysis of the Guardian’s photos from the Marshallese atoll of Arno showed its reefs could be added to the fast-growing list of seriously affected places. In less extreme temperatures bleached coral may not die completely.
But Karl Fellenius, a coral reef manager from the University of Hawaii said that in the Marshall Islands “it’s looking like the thermal stress was so profound that the corals died within days of getting bleached”.
This does not augur well for the future of the world’s reefs under climate change.
“The real problem is that recovery from a major bleaching event can take decades and these events keep coming back every 10 years or less… [Reefs] just don’t have time to recover,” said Eakin.
The combined effect of rising temperatures and sea levels – corals can only survive near the surface – could mean the end for coral reefs in the next 50 years even if world leaders combine to keep global temperature rise below their target of 2C, said Hoegh-Guldberg, who was lead oceans author for the UN’s definitive climate science report.
“Temperatures projected under even mild climate change scenarios may be too damaging to coral reefs for them to survive beyond the mid to late part of this century.”
RAHIMY RAHIM The Star 18 Dec 14;
GOMBAK: More than half a million Malaysians were affected by disasters in the past 10 years, according to the World Disasters Report 2014.
This represented a five-fold increase from 103,168 people between 1994 and 2003 to 532,851 people between 2004 and 2013.
However, the report, Focus on Culture and Risk, noted that the number of people killed in the country due to disasters decreased from 660 to 310. It revealed that floods, which accounted for 44% of deaths, were the most frequent natural disasters in the world last year. Storms, which caused 41% of deaths, were the second.
The two deadliest natural disasters last year were Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in November and killed 7,986 people, and a flood caused by monsoon rain that claimed 6,054 lives in India.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Asia-Pacific zone director Jagan Chapagain said Malaysia was lucky that it was not situated in a disaster-prone area, as almost 90% of natural disasters happened in the region.
“Malaysia can play a big role in supporting other South-East Asian countries as it assumes the chairmanship of Asean in 2015,” he told a press conference at the International Islamic University Malaysia here after releasing the report.
“I hope that it can show huge leadership to neighbouring countries as it also holds a seat in the United Nations Security Council in handling and coordinating humanitarian aid during natural disasters.”
He said international aid agencies should consult local communities hit by natural disasters before introducing any development or humanitarian aid programme.
“We always get feedback from the community first as we want to be accountable and we want to change the hand-out mentality to the empowerment mindset,” Chapagain added.
Thick tar clogging 350 sq km of delicate mangrove forest and river delta, home to endangered Bengal tigers and rare dolphins
Agence France-Presse The Guardian 18 Dec 14;
The United Nations said on Thursday it has sent a team of international experts to Bangladesh to help clean up the world’s largest mangrove forest, more than a week after it was hit by a huge oil spill.
Thousands of litres of oil have spilt into the protected Sundarbans mangrove area, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins, after a tanker collided with another vessel last Tuesday.
A team from the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) has arrived in the capital Dhaka to support Bangladesh’s “cleanup efforts of the oil spill in the Sundarbans”, a statement from the UN said.
Experts have slammed authorities for failing to organise a proper clean-up effort of the oil spill, which has now spread 350 sq km (135 sq m) inside the delicate mangrove forest area.
Until now, the forest department was relying on villagers and fishermen to scoop up the thick tar from the water and river banks with sponges and pans.
The UN team, sent in response to a request from Bangladesh, will help in the ground work in coordination with the government and will also conduct an assessment and advise on recovery and risk reduction measures.
The European Union and United States, Britain and France are supporting the UN effort.
The UN expressed concern over the disaster, urging Dhaka to impose a “complete ban” on the movement of commercial vessels through the 10,000 sq km ( 3,850 sq m) forest that straddles the border between Bangladesh and India and is home to a number of rare animals including the endangered Bengal tigers and Irrawaddy dolphins.
Chris Arsenault, Reuters Yahoo News 18 Dec 14;
ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tropical deforestation in the southern hemisphere is accelerating global warming and threatening world food production by distorting rainfall patterns across Europe, China and the U.S. Midwest, a study released on Thursday said.
By 2050, deforestation could lead to a 15 percent drop in rainfall in tropical regions including the South American Amazon, Southeast Asia and Central Africa, the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change said.
Much of the logging taking place is to clear land for agriculture. This can cause a vicious cycle, increasing global warming, lowering food production on farms which in turn leads to growers cutting down more trees for farmland, experts say.
"When you deforest the tropics, those regions will experience significant warming and the biggest drying," Deborah Lawrence, a University of Virginia professor and the study's lead author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Removing trees and planting crops releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. At the same time, deforested areas are also less able to retain moisture, immediately altering local weather patterns.
The study said if current deforestation rates persist in South America's Amazon rainforest, the region's soy production could fall by 25 percent by 2050.
Logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Thailand could also have consequences in other parts of the world, leading to more rainfall in Britain and Hawaii and less rainfall in southern France and the U.S. Midwest region, the study said.
Globally, levels of deforestation are increasing slowly, Lawrence said.
Brazil has brought rates down in a "wonderful success story", she said, while the situation in Indonesia's tropical forests has worsened.
Complete tropical deforestation could lead to a 0.7 degree rise in world temperatures, on top of the impact from greenhouse gases, doubling global warming since 1850.
"Tropical forests are often talked about as the 'lungs of the earth,' but they're more like the sweat glands," said Lawrence.
"They give off a lot of moisture, which helps keep the planet cool. That crucial function is lost – and even reversed – when forests are destroyed," she added.
(Reporting By Chris Arsenault)
Chris Arsenault, Reuters Yahoo News 18 Dec 14;
ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Global warming could cause an 18 percent drop in world food production by 2050, but investments in irrigation and infrastructure, and moving food output to different regions, could reduce the loss, a study published on Thursday said.
Globally, irrigation systems should be expanded by more than 25 percent to cope with changing rainfall patterns, the study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters said.
Where they should be expanded is difficult to model because of competing scenarios on how rainfall will change, so the majority of irrigation investments should be made after 2030, the study said.
"If you don’t carefully plan (where to spend resources), you will get adaptation wrong," David Leclere, one of the study’s authors, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Infrastructure and processing chains will need to be built in areas where there was little agriculture before in order to expand production, he said.
International food markets will require closer integration to respond to global warming, as production will become more difficult in some southern regions, but new land further north will become available for growing crops.
Based on the study's models, Leclere expects production to increase in Europe, while much of Africa will remain dependent on imports.
If climate change is managed correctly, food production could even rise 3 percent by 2050, the study said, as a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a fertilizing effect on plants.
Managing water resources is expected to be the biggest challenge for farmers steming from climate change.
Water "may become dramatically scarcer much earlier than previously thought", Michael Obersteiner, another study co-author, said in a statement.
(Reporting By Chris Arsenault; Editing by Tim Pearce)
Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 17 Dec 14;
SINGAPORE: The authorities are investigating an oily sheen on the Kallang River in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park following reports from members of the public on Tuesday (Dec 16).
When Channel NewsAsia visited the park on Wednesday, the water was largely clear, save for several small patches of oil in the river.
Mr Thomas Tan Kok Hin, who works at the McDonald’s outlet next to the river, said the smell of the oil was very strong on Tuesday. “Fishes were flapping about struggling to breathe,” he added.
Channel NewsAsia understands that the sheen could be caused by sediments from the bottom of the river.
A spokesperson from national water agency PUB said that it received a report of oil sheen on the river at about 6pm on Tuesday and sent officers to the site to investigate. Preliminary investigations by the PUB show that the oil sheen is not likely to be kerosene and they have applied dispersants to disperse the oil.
PUB added that on-site checks show no abnormality in water quality and fish behaviour. Water samples have also been collected for further testing and they will continue to monitor the situation closely. The PUB also assured the public that the quality of raw water in reservoirs is monitored and treated to international guidelines before it is supplied to households.
Oily sheen seen on river in Bishan park
Lee Joon Lei The New Paper AsiaOne 20 Dec 14;
Visitors to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park have been noticing, since Tuesday, what appears to be an oily substance on the surface of the river water there.
Mr Joshua Sng, 34, who is self-employed, said: "I don't know where it came from but it can't be good for the park's ecosystem."
The river smelled like kerosene, said others The New Paper spoke to. One local resident said he could even smell it from his 11th-storey flat.
Residents said they had seen oily patches in the river before, although they were much smaller.
"The substance used to appear in small patches, but the patches were much wider on Tuesday. I even saw fishes leaping out of the water for air," said a resident who declined to be named.
When TNP returned to the scene yesterday, much of the oil-like substances had dissipated.
Officers from the national water agency PUB were also at the scene to take water samples.
A spokesman said PUB had received a report about the oily sheen around 6pm on Tuesday, adding that it is not likely to be kerosene.
Dispersants had been applied to disperse the oil. Rain yesterday afternoon also diluted any remaining oil.
On-site checks showed no abnormality in the water quality and fish behaviour, the PUB spokesman said.
PUB also said that the water, which flows into the Marina Reservoir, would not have its quality compromised because of the substance.
"PUB would like to assure the public that it has a comprehensive system to monitor the quality of the raw water in our reservoirs, and the raw water is treated at the waterworks to World Health Organisation drinking water quality guidelines before it is supplied to households."
AFP AsiaOne 17 Dec 14;
TANJUNG LUAR, Indonesia - Sharks are hauled ashore every day at a busy market on the central Indonesian island of Lombok, the hub of a booming trade that provides a livelihood for local fishermen but is increasingly alarming environmentalists.
Now a Singaporean is luring the fishermen away from Tanjung Luar market, where an array of other sea creatures including manta rays and moray eels are also sold, by offering them jobs as local guides for the growing number of tourists visiting the island.
"The whole dream is that there's enough tourists coming, not on a daily basis because the corals would be affected, but maybe on a weekly basis," said Kathy Xu, a former teacher who gave up her job to focus on the project.
"Hopefully I can engage more fishermen to do this."
But Xu recognises that she faces an uphill battle to tackle a lucrative industry, which is fuelled by demand for fins, particularly from China, and has transformed the vast Indonesian archipelago into the world's biggest shark fishery.
On a recent visit by AFP to Tanjung Luar, 10 sharks were laid out on the dirty tiled floor before being auctioned off, but an environmental group said on a busy day up to 300 are brought to the market.
"Sometimes there are so many sharks we can't fit them all in here," Ismail, a businessmen who finances local shark fishermen and goes by one name, told AFP.
So far Xu has persuaded a handful of fishermen to work with tourists, mostly from Singapore, taking them snorkelling on beautiful coral reefs and to secluded white-sand beaches, on average twice a month.
She also takes visitors to the market to raise awareness about the impact of shark-fishing in Indonesia, where 110,000 tonnes are caught a year, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.
During a recent tour, 25 Singaporean students aged 13 to 15 watched women transfer fish from colourful baskets into buckets, workers sharpen their machetes and porters haul sharks hung over their shoulders.
"Normally you find out these problems from picture books, saying killing sharks for their fins is bad, but they don't really go further than that and you don't really think about it anyway," said 14-year-old Ray Chua.
World's biggest shark fishery
Despite Xu's efforts, hunting sharks remains a better option for many local fishermen.
"We get much more money from hunting sharks than taking tourists to swim. On a lucky day, I can get 10 times more for catching sharks," said Sulaiman, who goes by one name.
While the fins are sold on to China and other countries where they are considered a delicacy, the rest of the shark is sliced up and its meat and skin made into meatball soup and snacks that have become part of the local diet.
There has even been a recent trend towards eating shark pups, which are being sold in major grocery chains on the main island of Java, said shark protection campaigner Riyanni Djangkaru.
Conservationists have long been raising the alarm about shark-fishing in Indonesia, and point to signs that populations have been declining around Tanjung Luar and across the whole archipelago, which consists of over 17,000 islands.
The Lombok market is one of the few where sharks are openly landed. In other parts of country, fishermen hunt sharks in the open sea, slicing off their fins and dumping them back in the water to die.
However, protection groups point out that careless fishing by tuna trawlers is the biggest killer of sharks.
Far more of the creatures die when they are accidentally caught in trawlers' nets in places such as Bali, central Sulawesi island and in the south of Java, than by fishing, they say.
They say the responsibility to protect the creatures should lie with the government. Only one species of shark, the whale shark, currently enjoys full protection in Indonesia and the few regulations that exist are not properly enforced, they say.
At the moment, it is left to conservationists and others such as Xu to help the world's oldest predator. And while she recognises that her effort alone will not be enough, the Singaporean is happy to do what she can.
"The more I dived the more I got to see the sharks and they just grew on me," she said. "It is just too beautiful, and I don't want my grandchildren to not get this experience."