Best of our wild blogs: 4 Sep 15



Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walks by Toddycats (Oct-Nov 2015)
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Be part of the 30th International Coastal Cleanup – join us @ Tanah Merah 7, Singapore on Sat 19 Sep 2015!
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Clash of the Titans – Snakes at NTU!
BES Drongos

Invasion of Alien Seed-eating Birds in our Grasslands
Singapore Bird Group


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Singapore waiting on details from Johor for cloud-seeding to begin

Today Online 4 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE — The Republic is waiting for the Johor state government to provide details of its cloud-seeding operations before the two sides can move forward on the issue, said an official at the Singapore Consulate-General in Johor Baru yesterday (Sept 3).

The official was commenting on remarks made recently by the chairman of Johor’s Works, Regional and Rural Development Committee, Mr Hasni Mohammad.

Mr Hasni had been quoted as saying that cloud-seeding operations in the airspace over Sungai Layang dam would be conducted within the two weeks before water-rationing is lifted on September 15.

The water level in the dam has been low in recent weeks because of the dry weather, affecting Johor’s water supply.

According to earlier reports, the Johor government had submitted to Singapore a request to begin cloud-seeding operations in the airspace over two dams.

Bernama news agency quoted Mr Hasni as saying on Tuesday: “With the help and cooperation of the Singapore Consulate-General office in Johor Baru, we need not wait for an official reply and need only notify the date and method of the operation to be executed.”

Mr Hasni added that the matter was being handled by the Johor Meteorological Department, and no longer at the federal level.

Yesterday, the Singapore Consulate-General official said: “As we have consistently and clearly stated, Singapore fully supports cloud-seeding operations in Johor during this dry season.

“However, in order to move forward on this together, we will need the Johor state government to provide concrete operational details, which we still have not received. We hope to receive the necessary details as soon as possible, so that the civil aviation authorities of both sides can then coordinate the operations. We will work with Malaysia to expedite the cloud-seeding operations once we receive the details.”

Singapore still waiting for cloud-seeding details from Johor: Consulate-General
Singapore supports Johor's cloud-seeding operations but has not received any operational details, according to an official of the Singapore Consulate-General in Johor Bahru.
Channel NewsAsia 3 Sep 15;

PORE: The Republic is still waiting for the Johor State Government to provide details on its cloud-seeding operations, an official of the Singapore Consulate-General in Johor Bahru said on Thursday (Sep 3).

This is in response to comments in Malaysian media articles dated Sep 1 and 2 on cloud-seeding operations.

“As we have consistently and clearly stated, Singapore fully supports cloud-seeding operations in Johor during this dry season. However, in order to move forward on this together, we will need the Johor State Government to provide concrete operational details, which we still have not received,” said the official in a statement.

The southern Malaysia state has been experiencing critical water levels since July.

"We hope to receive the necessary details as soon as possible, so that the civil aviation authorities of both sides can then coordinate the operations. We will work with Malaysia to expedite the cloud-seeding operations once we receive the details,” the statement added.

In July, Malaysian media reports cited Johor state public works, rural and regional development chairman Hasni Mohammad as saying that Singapore had refused to allow cloud-seeding operations at Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi and Layang dam in Pasir Gudang as they would purportedly encroach into Singapore's territory.

The Consulate-General then refuted those claims, saying they were "baseless".

- CNA/ec


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Hazy conditions could persist up to 2 days: NEA

AsiaOne 3 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE - Singapore has been experiencing hazy conditions since early this morning, said the National Environmental Agency (NEA) in a news release, and current hazy conditions are expected to persist for the next one to two days.

The air quality in Singapore is expected to move into the low end of the Unhealthy range over the next few hours. The conditions can improve if the wind speeds pick up.

The haziness is due to the spread of smoke haze from Sumatra under weakening wind conditions over Singapore. A total of 395 hotspots were detected in Sumatra yesterday, according to NEA.

Latest satellite image today showed persisting widespread moderate to dense smoke haze in central and southern Sumatra.

NEA's Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ronnie Tay, wrote to his Indonesian counterpart two days ago to register Singapore's concerns over the situation and to seek an urgent update on the ground situation.

NEA said they had first contacted them two weeks ago, and will continue to be in touch with them regarding the deteriorating hotspot situation in Sumatra.

Healthy persons are advised to reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion in these weather conditions.

Elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, NEA advised.

Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention, said NEA.

NEA said they will continue to monitor the situation closely and issue updates as the need arises.

- See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/hazy-conditions-could-persist-2-days-nea#sthash.mrpfiwnb.dpuf


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Confusion clouds regional cooperation to fight haze

SIMON TAY AND LAU XIN YI Today Online 4 Sep 15;

It is clear that the haze from fires burning in Indonesia has returned and is worsening. On Tuesday last week (Aug 25), visibility in Palembang, the provincial capital of South Sumatra, was down to about 300m. The count of possible fire hot spots has risen and prevailing winds carry the haze to parts of Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, where the Pollutant Standards Index, a measure of air quality, has been hovering between moderate and unhealthy.

Dry conditions will continue in the coming weeks. Some meteorologists even fear this can take a turn for the worse with an El Nino bringing prolonged drier and warmer weather. Last year, airports were forced to close in the Indonesian provinces of Riau as well as in Jambi. In 2013, haze levels were at hazardous peaks.

Clearly, governments should do everything possible to avoid such situations. Yet, progress and cooperation that were seen in the past years may be receding.

Last year, when the haze struck, the Indonesian government reacted by declaring a state of emergency in Riau and sent special troops to help suppress fires. Some suspects were arrested. After coming into office, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo visited Riau and has extended the country’s moratorium on the clearing of primary forests and peatland, which can be highly flammable when dried and degraded.

At the regional level, environment ministers earlier committed to sharing land-use concession maps among governments, and an Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) Haze Monitoring System (AHMS) was endorsed by ASEAN leaders at their 23rd ASEAN Summit in October 2013.

The AHMS has yet to be operational, in part because Indonesia had said that it lacked an authoritative, consolidated and all-encompassing map for all its lands and concessions.

But assurances were given that this could be done after the completion of its One Map Initiative. The ASEAN environment ministers also agreed in April last year to share satellite and other information on hot spot areas.

In addition, a number of plantation and forestry companies — industries often implicated in the fires — made pledges to improve their record. Some also report their progress regularly to maintain accountability with their stakeholders.

While the haze was not immediately solved, these steps seemed to be going in the right direction. The moves align with our analyses and those of leading, non-governmental organisations in Indonesia, suggesting a more cooperative way of managing the issues among governments and with corporations.

BEFUDDLING COMMENTS

Now, however, reports from Indonesia raise doubts on whether cooperation will continue to grow because of questions over the local authorities’ commitment to follow national plans.

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister, Dr Siti Nurbaya Bakar, said in an interview with Batam Pos newspaper early last month that the Jokowi administration has made funds available to construct canal blockers, which will prevent the draining of peatlands and make them less prone to fire, but this has not been done on site by local authorities. Unless local governments and companies work together on the ground, little real progress will be seen.

The minister’s comments also created confusion over Indonesia’s sincerity in sharing available information with other ASEAN governments, including Singapore. She was quoted as saying that Indonesian domestic laws, particularly the Act on Public Information Disclosure, prevents the sharing of relevant information, even with other governments.

This was reinforced by a statement from the ministry’s Director-General of Climate Change, Dr Nur Masripatin. Her comments, reported in The Straits Times on Aug 26, suggest that Indonesia also cannot extend information on hot spot locations, in case its ownership might be traced.

It is unclear why such comments were made. After all, considerable information about hot spots from satellites is already publicly available.

There is also added confusion over whether the ministry is right in saying Indonesian laws prohibit them from sharing information.

Some Indonesian law experts take the view that there is no regulation prohibiting the sharing of concession maps, and certainly not of hot spot locations. On the contrary, many believe such transparency will advance the quality of environmental and forestry management in Indonesia.

Another issue that requires clarification is whether companies can share the information and maps they have, if they wish to do so. Many member companies have submitted their concession maps to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a non-profit body that promotes sustainable practices in the industry.

Yet there have been reports that the Indonesian authorities have instructed companies and the RSPO not to publish the maps and to restrict the maps already in circulation.

It would seem preferable to let companies decide whether to volunteer this information. Some companies do so to assure their customers and stakeholders that they have taken precautionary and remedial measures to protect their concessions against fire.

This month, ASEAN environment ministers and officials will meet. This can be an occasion to clarify the accuracy of these media reports and statements, and to strengthen cooperation on this challenging issue.

ISSUES OF SOVEREIGNTY

Some have argued that issues of sovereignty underlie the confusion.

The Singapore Parliament last year passed a law to prosecute those who cause haze to affect Singapore. Even if the fires are on Indonesian soil, this is justified under international law so long as damage from the haze is suffered within Singapore and its airspace. What experts call the effects or impact doctrine has long been recognised as a basis for making laws.

The Act is a reflection of Singapore doing what it can to take responsibility over errant companies and individuals that cause harm. This can complement Indonesian laws that also prohibit fires on Indonesian soil.

These intentions bear clarification and reemphasis when the governments meet.

It can be tempting to hide behind nationalism, technicalities and corporate interests, but governments should remember and protect the ordinary citizens who suffer the ill effects of the haze.

Such citizens are not only those of Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia but first and foremost those of Indonesia who live in the most severely affected provinces.


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Malaysia: Penang providing face masks to primary schools

JOLYNN FRANCIS The Star 3 Sep 15;

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang state government will be giving out masks to primary schoolchildren after air quality approached unhealthy levels here.

State Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh the state exco meeting Wednesday decided that the masks would be distributed on Thursday and Friday.

"The haze for the last three days has averaged 84 on the air pollution index (API) for the island and 98 on the mainland," he told a press conference in Komtar.

He added that the haze is expected to last till November.

"The Meteorological Department said haze conditions are expected to last till October, but based on our experience it will continue until November when the northeast monsoon starts," he said.

He also said he managed to meet Indonesia's Minister of Environment during the Fifth Regional 3R Forum in Asia and the Pacific in February last year to discuss the matter.

"They have given assurance to do their best to curb open burning," he said, adding the topic was also in discussion among Malaysian and Indonesian delegates in the Sixth Regional 3R Forum in Asia and the Pacific in Male this year.

380 hotspots detected
HANIS ZAINAL The Star 3 Sep 15;

PETALING JAYA: The haze could become worse should the smoke from hotspots in neighbouring Indonesia cross over to the country.

There are currently 380 hotspots in Sumatra and nine in Kalimantan, up from 200 on Monday, according to the Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the Environ­ment Department was closely monitoring the situation.

The department, he said, was monitoring the status and trend of air quality hourly due to the uncertainty of the haze (pattern).

The increase in the number of hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan could potentially cause the haze (in Indonesia) to cross the border into the West Coast of Malaysia and Sarawak, he said yesterday.

“Seven hotspots have been identified in the country, one in Sabah and the other six in Pahang,” said Dr Wan Junaidi.

The Fire and Rescue Department’s assistant director-general (operations) Zulkarnain Mohd Kassim said the department would also closely monitor the hotspots.

“Now it’s still raining quite a lot, so it helps us in putting out the hotspots quite fast,” Zulkarnain said.

He said the rain meant there were fewer hotspots this year than during the same period last year, adding that the department was prepared to respond fast should the hotspots in the country increase.

The Malaysian Meteorological Depart­­ment’s National Weather Centre senior meteorologist Dr Hisham Mohd Anip said the dry season started late this year, which could explain the delayed presence of hotspots and haze.

“It usually starts in July but we had a lot of rain in July and August this year.

“The rainfall is considered above normal as during the south-west monsoon season, the rainfall is normally very little,” said Hisham.

He said the situation was similar in Indonesia, which was why the haze season started late this year.

“We are lucky this year, because the haze only started last week (in this country) and will hopefully clear out in two to three weeks when the inter-monsoon season starts,” he said.

As of 6pm yesterday, the Air Pollutant Index reached the unhealthy level in two areas – Bakar Arang in Sungai Petani (103) and Nilai, Negri Sembilan (101).


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Indonesia: 478 hotspots detected in West Kalimantan

Antara 3 Sep 15;

Sungai Raya, West Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - As many as 478 hotspots were detected in West Kalimantan Province until September 1, according to the meteorology office in Pontianak.

Most of the hotspots were found in the districts of Ketapang, Melawi, Sintang, North Kayong, and Kubu Raya.

Plantation and peatland fires in the province have caused haze that has reduced visibility up to one thousand meters. Some parts of the province have received rainfall, and the visibility has improved over the past few days.

The general manager of the airport management company PT Angkasa Pura branch of Supadio Airport in Pontianak noted that the haze did not affect Wednesday's flight schedules.

On the previous day, haze had forced the postponement of 16 flights to and from Pontianak until 9 a.m. local time.

"But after 9 am local time, the flight operations were back to normal," he added.

In the meantime, in the neighboring province of Central Kalimantan, a total of 1,183 hotspots had been detected over the past eight months, of which 708 were found in August.

"The number of hotspots has increased from 266 in July to 708 on August 26," staff member of the early surveillance division of Central Kalimantan Provinces Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Andreas Dody noted last week.

The hotspots, mainly caused by forest and bush fires, were detected in the districts of Kotawaringin Timur, Kotawaringin Barat, Pulang Pisau, Kapuas, Seruyan, Katingan, Palangka Raya city, Sukamara, Lamandau, Murung Raya, Barito Utara, Barito Selatan, and Barito Timur, he affirmed.

According to the province's Natural Disaster Mitigation Agency Head Brigong Tom Moenandaz, forest and bush fires have affected 665.8 hectares of land until August 26.

Forest and bush fires were detected in various districts, including Sukamara, Kotawaringin Barat, Palangka Raya city, Barito Utara, Pulang Pisau, Kapuas, and Katingan, he revealed.

Passengers crowd Pekanbaru airport as haze grows thicker
Rizal Harahap, thejakartapost.com 3 Sep 15;

Hundreds of passengers crowded an airport in the Riau provincial capital of Pekanbaru on Thursday as flights were delayed as haze grew thicker in city, caused by intensifying forest fires in Riau and its neighboring provinces.

“Those passengers are certainly disappointed because their flights have been delayed. But they understand because they also don’t want to fly in such conditions,” officer in charge at Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru Tony Hendri said on Thursday.

He said that the airport had distributed food and drink to the waiting passengers.

Tony said that 15 flights had been delayed as visibility at the airport had decreased. “There is no other choice but to wait for the haze to clear. With such visibility, the pilots cannot see the airstrips,” he added.

Based on reports from four monitoring posts of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru, visibility was 200 meters in the morning, having worsened from 500m on Wednesday.

Haze has disrupted flights at the Riau airport since Tuesday. On Wednesday, 14 flights were delayed, including a plane that was scheduled to take haj pilgrims to Mecca. Meanwhile, nine other flights were suspended.

Haze also disrupted flights to and from Dumai and Rengat. The visibility in Dumai and Rengat regencies was 300 meters and 800 meters, respectively.

“Pelita Air and Trans Nusa, serving Dumai-Jakarta and Dumai-Batam could not fly as scheduled,” said Pinang Kampai Airport in Dumai head Catur Hargowo. (bbn)

Thick haze paralyzes schools, airports in Sumatra, Kalimantan
Rizal Harahap and Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post 3 Sep 15;

Thick haze caused by ongoing land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan has forced local authorities on the two islands to temporarily shut down schools and delay or cancel flights on safety concerns.

In Riau, the Pekanbaru municipal administration on Wednesday decided to close down schools until Thursday in response to ever-thicker haze that has blanketed the city over the past few days.

Fuad Jabbar, a student at SMP 8 Pekanbaru state junior high school, expressed relief that students were finally sent home, saying that he had been suffering from a cough for the past week.

“My nose hurts and it’s hard to breathe. I’m also suffering from an eye irritation, making it hard to concentrate,” he said, adding that some of his friends were suffering similar symptoms.

Pekanbaru Education Agency head Zulfadil said the decision to send local students home was necessary, as the air quality in the city had continued to drop in recent days.

“We want to anticipate any negative impacts,” Zulfadil said, adding that the agency might extend the schools’ closure if the city’s air quality did not quickly improve.

In Kampar and Rokan Hulu regencies, a number of schools also decided on Wednesday to send their respective students early.

Pelalawan regency, meanwhile, had taken the same policy earlier on Tuesday and schools are scheduled to resume activities by Friday.

“We are advising schools to give their students days off if the air quality in their respective region stays at unhealthy levels for three consecutive days,” explained Riau Health Agency head Andra Sjafril.

Local authorities in many parts of the country, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan, have been struggling over the past few months to extinguish massive land and forest fires triggered mainly by this year’s extended dry season.

Haze has also played havoc with flights at a number of airports in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

According to authorities at Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport in Pekanbaru, limited visibility on Wednesday forced 10 domestic and international flights to delay their arrivals at or departures from the airport, Antara news agency reported.

In North Sumatra, 11 flights were canceled from landing at or taking off from Kualanamu International Airport in Deli Serdang regency on Wednesday on similar concerns.

“Before 1 p.m., 10 flights canceled their arrivals at or departures from the airport. Another flight was canceled at 3:10 p.m.,” Kualanamu airport duty manager Indra Lubis told The Jakarta Post.

Meanwhile in Central Kalimantan, Susi Air’s flights from and to Beringin Airport in Muara Teweh, North Barito regency, were also canceled on Wednesday because of thick haze.

“The flights were canceled because the haze has been relatively thick since this morning,” airport officer Akhmad Sidik told Antara.

While most of the recent land and forest fires are the result of natural causes, others have been intentionally sparked by irresponsible parties.

In Jambi, the local police announced on Wednesday that they were investigating five cases of intentional land burnings in the province.

Jambi Police chief Brig. Gen. Lutfi Lubihanto said three people had been named suspects for allegedly burning 819 hectares of land in Tebo Ilir district, Tebo regency. The case, he said, was being handled by the Tebo Police.

Jon Afrizal in Jambi contributed to the article.


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Myanmar floods deal major blow to country’s agriculture

While assessments are underway, situation remains largely ignored by international community
FAO 3 Sep 15;

3 September 2015, Yangon -- Heavy storms, floods and landslides across nearly all provinces in Myanmar have dealt a major blow to the country's agriculture and are expected to severely limit the availability of food if aid is not provided to farmers swiftly, FAO warned today.

Urgent support is needed to help farmers recover from a month of extreme monsoon weather, worsened by the arrival of Cyclone Komen at the end of July, that has affected more than 1.6 million people and inundated more than 1.4 million acres of farmland.

The deluge also destroyed some 972,000 acres of standing crops -- most of all paddy rice -- 36,000 acres of fish and shrimp ponds, and an estimated 20,000 head of cattle.

"Now that the water is receding, we need to act swiftly to help rural communities get back on their feet, providing them the seeds, equipment and other support they need to grow food, raise animals, restore their livelihoods and build their resilience to future shocks," said Bui Thi Lan, FAO Representative in Myanmar.

"Having seen the scale of it first hand, it's stunning that this emergency situation is widely being underestimated by global media and international donors," she added.

Displacement and destruction

Twelve out of the country's 14 provinces are affected, with northern and western regions suffering the hardest blows.

Some 385,000 households have been displaced by the floods and landslides that destroyed thousands of homes, and irrigation canals.

Humanitarian agencies, meanwhile, are supporting the Government of Myanmar with critical supplies of food, shelter, sanitation and medical aid. But many UN agencies are reporting funding shortfalls that prevent them from responding to the best of their abilities.

Severe damage to roads, bridges and railways is making these ongoing relief and recovery efforts extra challenging.

Assessing the full effect on food security

The partners of the Food Security Sector (FSS) led by FAO and WFP are currently conducting a joint assessment of the impact of the cyclone and floods on agricultural livelihoods and food security: JICA, UN Women, LIFT, NRC, CESVI, CARE Australia and Oxfam, in consultation with the concerned Ministries and the Emergency Operations Centre. The assessment is focusing on the six most affected states and regions to get a more detailed picture of the interventions needed to help rural communities restore their livelihoods and get the farming sector back on its feet.

The results of the initial assessment will be ready and shared by the second week of September.

Based on previous experience in similar emergencies, FAO is preparing the distribution of rice, pulses and winter crops that can be planted as soon as the dry season starts in October. Other likely interventions include vaccination drives for cattle and distribution of animal feed to help farmers keep their herds alive and healthy.

Farmers will also need assistance in repairing drainage infrastructure and animal shelters, while small-scale aquaculture in heavy-hit areas will likely need to be built up from scratch by providing farmers fingerlings and other inputs. Results of the in-depth assessment will also help define the nature of longer-tem resilience building activities.

Compounding an existing crisis

Out of the six provinces hit hardest by the monsoonal floods, four have been the stage of recurrent intercommunal tensions since June 2012 that have displaced more than 660 000 people, making those regions especially vulnerable to the impacts of the floods.


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India's monsoon rains seen falling short of previous forecast

Mayank Bhardwaj PlanetArk 3 Sep 15;

Commuters use an umbrella to protect themselves from a heavy rain shower as they travel in a cycle rickshaw in Chandigarh, India, July 20, 2015.
Photo: Ajay Verma

India's monsoon rains are likely to be below the prior forecast of 88 percent of the long-term average, the weather office chief said, which could make it the driest year since 2009 and worsen rural distress by cutting farm output.

The July-September rains irrigate nearly half of India's farmlands, bringing relief to millions of poor farmers who till small plots of land to sustain their families.

This would be the second straight year of drought- or drought-like conditions for only the fourth time in 115 years, which is another setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi struggling to win over political opposition to pass reforms and unshackle Asia's third-largest economy.

"Overall monsoon rains will fall a notch or two below the 88 percent forecast that came out in June," India Meteorological Department's Laxman Singh Rathore told Reuters on Wednesday.

The World Meteorological Organization said on Tuesday that the current El Nino weather phenomenon, which leads to dry weather in some parts of the world and causes floods in other, was expected to peak between October and January and could turn into one of the strongest on record.

Rathore said the monsoon will start withdrawing from the western state of Rajasthan this weekend and farmers could be left with too little soil moisture to sow winter crops.

For rice grower Buddha Singh, whose crop is just starting to develop grains, patchy rains over the past two weeks are threatening to damage his cultivation.

"We need showers at short intervals, but that's not happening for the past 15-20 days," said Singh, a farmer in Delhi's neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh. "We'll lose a lot of money."

Though rainfall was scanty last year too, a late surge delayed the retreat by about 15 days and left enough moisture for farmers to start planting wheat and rapeseed from October.

The monsoon was 88 percent of the average in 2014 and cut grains output by 4.7 percent in the crop year to June 2015. Output could fall about 3 percent this year, said D.H. Pai Panandiker, president of non-profit organization RPG Foundation.

In 2009 which saw the worst drought in nearly three decades, rains were 22 percent below the average of 50 years since 1951. It had forced India to import large quantities of sugar.

Weak rains this year could lead to imports of cooking oil, though India has sufficient stocks of wheat, rice and sugar.

(Editing by Greg Mahlich and Louise Heavens)


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The Planet Has 3 Trillion Trees, but They Could Be Gone in 300 Years

Taylor Hill Takepart.com Yahoo News 4 Sep 15;

Before 38 scientists got together to crunch some seriously big data, it was estimated that there were about 400 billion trees left on Earth. Luckily, the scientists were a few trillion off.

A new review of the world’s forests shows that 3 trillion trees cover the planet—meaning there are 422 trees for every person.

But before you celebrate, the scientists warn that we aren’t out of the woods yet. That’s because there would be way more than 3 trillion trees if it weren’t for humans. The study estimates that since the invention of the axe, the number of trees has fallen by 46 percent.

Today, people are responsible for the loss of 15 billion trees every year, owing to development and agriculture. With around 5 billion new trees sprouting up annually, that’s leaves the world with a 10 billion-tree deficit annually.

At that rate, the planet will be treeless in about 300 years.

“Trees are among the most prominent and critical organisms on Earth, yet we are only recently beginning to comprehend their global extent and distribution,” Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and lead author of the study, said in a video.

Crowther teamed up with scientists from 15 countries to get a clearer picture groups like the United Nations’ Billion Tree Campaign, which wanted a solid baseline figure on tree totals around the world.

Scientists had based the previous 400 billion tree estimate on satellite imagery. But the study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, combined that imagery with more than 400,000 measurements from on-the-ground studies and government forestry inventories around the world.

RELATED: The World Lost Two Portugals’ Worth of Forest Last Year

The U.N.’s Plant for the Planet program has planted 14 billion trees in 193 countries in the past eight years. In the wake of the study, the group called for more “afforestation,” which means planting trees where there had been none before.

“It spells out that we need the greatest afforestation effort in human history,” Paulina Sanchez Espinosa, president of Plant for the Planet, said in a statement. “Each tree sequesters 10 kg of CO2 per year, which makes afforestation the cheapest, simplest to implement and the only globally scalable method of carbon capture and storage.”

That type of carbon storage is key to keeping average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Scientists believe any temperature increase above that would trigger a climate catastrophe.

A study released Tuesday by researchers at Global Forest Watch showed that the planet lost more than 45 million acres of trees in 2014 alone—enough to cover the country of Portugal twice.

The main culprit? Us. Consumer demand for everything from toilet paper, tires, steak, margarine, and even skin cream is leading to massive deforestation—especially in tropical hot spots in Africa and South America.

“We’ve nearly halved the number of trees on the planet, and we’ve seen the impacts on climate and human health as a result,” Crowther said. “This study highlights how much more effort is needed if we are to restore healthy forests worldwide.”


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Best of our wild blogs: 3 Sep 15



Sharing the marvelous marine life at Marina at Keppel Bay
wild shores of singapore

Crested Goshawk at Bishan Park, Singapore
Bird Ecology Study Group

AVA’s Relative Abundance Survey for Urban Birds 2015
Singapore Bird Group


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PUB to build 4th desalination plant

Singapore's water agency says the new plant will have a capacity of 30 million imperial gallons per day, which would help meet future water demand in the city area and strengthen the country's resilience against droughts.
Channel NewsAsia 3 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: National water agency PUB announced on Thursday (Sep 3) that it plans to build a fourth desalination plant, which would help meet future water demand in the city area and strengthen the country's resilience against droughts.

A tender for the provision of professional engineering services for the Marina East plant will be called, and the new facility will have a planned capacity of 30 million imperial gallons per day.

Located near water demand zones in the city and eastern Singapore, the desalination plant will also have the capability to treat freshwater from Marina Reservoir, the press release said.

“PUB has been making investments to build up and diversify our water supply sources in order to strengthen our water security. During the dry weather in recent years, we were able to ensure supply by increasing the production of NEWater and desalinated water," said Deputy Chief Executive for Policy and Development at PUB Chua Soon Guan.

"Building up weather-resilient water sources will help us be better prepared for possible prolonged periods of dry spells in future.”

- CNA/kk

4th desalination plant for S’pore
KIM SO-HYUN Today Online 3 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE — The Republic will build a fourth desalination plant in Marina East to help meet the demand for water in the city area as prolonged dry spells tighten the island’s water supply.

The new plant will have the capacity to produce 30 million imperial gallons of freshwater per day (mgd) from sea water, the PUB said today (Sept 3), adding that it will call a tender for the provision of professional engineering services for the project.

The announcement comes just six months after Singapore unveiled plans to build a third desalination plant in Tuas, due to be completed in 2017. The fourth desalination plant will be completed in four to five years, said the PUB.

Located near water demand zones in the city and eastern Singapore, the Marina East desalination plant will also have the capability to treat freshwater from Marina Reservoir, the national water agency said.

“PUB has been making investments to build up and diversify our water supply sources in order to strengthen our water security,” said Mr Chua Soon Guan, Deputy Chief Executive of PUB. “Building up weather-resilient water sources will help us be better prepared for possible prolonged period of dry spells in the future.”

Once the third and the fourth plants are completed, Singapore will be able to produce up to 160 million gallons of freshwater per day from sea water.

Desalinated water, or treated sea water, now meets up to a quarter of current water demand, which is about 400 million gallons of water a day. This could almost double by the year 2060.

During the Committee of Supply debate for his ministry in March, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan told the House that beyond the third desalination plant in Tuas, the Government is planning for more plants sited in other parts of Singapore, to be announced in due time.

Singapore’s second desalination plant, the S$1.05-billion Tuaspring – which is the largest seawater reverse-osmosis desalination plant in Asia with a daily capacity of 70 million gallons – started running two years ago. The first, the SingSpring desalination plant which can produce 30 million gallons of freshwater per day, began operations in 2005.

Singapore also uses NEWater, or treated used water, as well as treated rainwater and water imported from Malaysia. The agreement with Malaysia will expire in 2061.

Last month, PUB agreed to Johor authorities’ request for Singapore to supply more potable water to the state in light of the dry weather afflicting the state’s water supply. Water-rationing was implemented in parts of the city starting last Sunday and lasting till Sept 15, after the dry weather severely affected water levels in the state’s Sungei Layang dam. Since Aug 14, PUB has been drawn an additional 5 to 6 million gallons per day of potable water from the Johor River Waterworks it operates at the Kota Tinggi district to supply to Johor Baru.

Before that, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan had cautioned that with the water levels of Linggiu Reservoir — which enables Singapore to reliably draw water from the Johor River — at a historic low, the public should save water, and restrictions could kick in if the situation worsens.

PUB to build fourth desalination plant in Marina East
AsiaOne 3 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE - A fourth desalination plant is being planned, national water agency PUB announced on Thursday.

In a statement, PUB said it will call a tender for the provision of professional engineering services for the Marina East desalination plant.

Planned with a capacity of 30 million imperial gallons per day (mgd), the plant will help meet future water demand in the city area and strengthen Singapore's drought resilience, PUB said.

The plant will be located near water demand zones in the city and eastern Singapore. It will also have the capability to treat freshwater from Marina Reservoir.

Chua Soon Guan, PUB's Deputy Chief Executive (Policy & Development), said: "PUB has been making investments to build up and diversify our water supply sources in order to strengthen our water security. During the dry weather in recent years, we were able to ensure supply by increasing the production of NEWater and desalinated water. Building up weather-resilient water sources will help us be better prepared for possible prolonged periods of dry spells in future."

The tender will include the engineering design for the development of the plant under a Design-Build-Own-Operate (DBOO) arrangement.

- See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/pub-build-fourth-desalination-plant-marina-east#sthash.CyyUzQZx.dpuf


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BCA introduces new Green Mark scheme for commercial buildings

The Building and Construction Authority's (BCA) Green Mark 2015 will have an expanded focus to "address sustainability in a more balanced and holistic manner", the agency says.
Channel NewsAsia 2 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: There will be a new benchmarking scheme, called Green Mark 2015, for non-residential buildings, and this will have an expanded focus to "address sustainability in a more balanced and holistic manner", said the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) on Wednesday (Sep 2).

The Green Mark 2015 has been structured into four main sections: Climactic response; building energy performance; resource stewardship; and smart and healthy building. There is also a bonus section on advanced green building efforts, to "spur efforts beyond requirements".

Key benefits for building occupants and users include a stronger emphasis on indoor environmental quality in relation to enhanced health and well-being, and buildings that are equipped with smart controls and analytics to assist in the management and optimisation of building resources, it said.

The revamped scheme will also enable projects to analyse its energy effectiveness in both the optimisation of energy efficiency and consumption, while greater recognition for renewable energy will be considered, BCA said.

Dr John Keung, Chief Executive Officer of BCA, said: “Green Mark 2015 will play a more prominent role in driving and communicating sustainability outcomes in Singapore, as buildings consume more than 30 per cent of the total electricity."

Findings from the BCA Building Energy Benchmarking Report (BEBR) were also released, and it showed that commercial buildings had better energy performance in 2014 compared to 2013. Retail buildings showed the most improvement.

BCA Green Mark-certified commercial buildings continued to perform better than non-certified ones, it added.

Additionally, the world's first high-rise rotating laboratory for the tropics will be built on the roof of a new building at the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Academy, the agency touted.

The BCA SkyLab will be located on the roof, and can turn 360 degrees to test energy-efficient building technologies. It will also have two similar indoor units that simulate an office environment to compare tests results. The units are equipped with sensors to measure energy performance and environmental parameters.

Each unit measures 40 square metres and its layout can be easily changed and configured for installation of different testing technologies, BCA said.

Dr Keung said: "With the BCA SkyLab, we are moving another step closer to the ambitious goal of achieving 'low-energy high rise' buildings and 'zero-energy low-rise' buildings in the tropics."

The BCA SkyLab is expected to be opened in the first half of 2016.

- CNA/wl

BCA to build rotating rooftop lab for green tech R&D
Audrey Tan Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Sep 15;

Singapore has rotating restaurants. Now it is going to get its first rotating rooftop laboratory.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will build this special 132 sq m lab at the top of one of its buildings at its Braddell Road premises.

Located on the sixth floor, and costing $4.5 million, the BCA SkyLab will give researchers a new place to test and develop green technology and materials.

BCA chief executive John Keung told The Straits Times that the advantage of building a lab here which rotates and on the top floor is that it can catch sunlight and wind any time of the day - and be tailored specifically for the tropics.

Ready by the first half of next year, the lab is being developed in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, which has a similar rotating lab suited for a temperate climate.

Environment and Water Resources Ministry Permanent Secretary Choi Shing Kwok said getting buildings to become greener is key in reducing Singapore's carbon emissions. "In cities worldwide, including Singapore, buildings contribute about a third of all global greenhouse gas emissions and make up nearly 40 per cent of energy consumption," he said, adding that this is why the sector has to lead the way in sustainability.

He was speaking at the official opening ceremony of the International Green Building Conference, Bex (Build Eco Xpo) Asia and MCE (Mostra Convegno Expocomfort) Asia 2015 at Marina Bay Sands.

During the event, the BCA also launched the revamped Green Mark scheme, which recognises buildings for their environmentally friendly features. More than 2,500 buildings, or around 30 per cent, are considered green here. The revamped scheme will, among other things, take into consideration passive features which cut electricity use, such as the use of natural lighting. Buildings that tap renewable energy, such as solar power, will also be better recognised.

Dr Keung said: "Green Mark 2015 will recognise the leadership of building owners who drive improvements to the overall environmental credentials of projects."

Yesterday, the BCA also released its Building Energy Benchmarking Report for 2015, which helps building owners get a sense of their energy performance as compared to buildings of similar types and sizes.

One of its key findings showed that commercial buildings here are getting greener. While gross floor area grew at a rate of 25 per cent from 2008 to 2014, electricity consumption for commercial buildings increased by only 16 per cent.

- See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/bca-build-rotating-rooftop-lab-green-tech-rd#sthash.AsX2NHqT.dpuf


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