Best of our wild blogs: 22 Nov 17



Be a part of the NUS–NParks Marine Debris Monitoring Programme!
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

19 Dec: Bea Johnson in Singapore!
Green Drinks Singapore


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Nature Society (Singapore) president wins top environmental accolade

LOUISA TANG Today Online 21 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE — Botanist Shawn Lum once saved a tree species from extinction by accident.

The last Chengal Pasir tree in a forest conservation area in Changi Village was cut down without permission in 2002 by a contractor, which was later heavily fined.

By a stroke of luck, Dr Lum, 54, had collected some seedlings and grown them in his kitchen.

Today, the trees can be found in places such as the Botanic Gardens and Changi Airport.

Whenever Dr Lum goes to the Singapore Zoo, he would say a quick “hi” to the Chengal Pasir growing in its carpark.

“They’re like my babies,” said the Nature Society (Singapore) president.

The longtime conservationist added another feather to his cap on Tuesday (Nov 21), receiving the President’s Award for the Environment at the Istana. The award, also given to Anchor Green Primary School and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital this year, is the nation’s highest accolade for individuals, educational institutions and organisations that have made significant contributions towards environmental and water resource sustainability in Singapore.

After this edition, the annual award will be given out every two years.

Dr Lum, an American, has spent over 20 years in Singapore and is a permanent resident here. Since 1992, he has been overseeing a long-term study on the dynamics of the Bukit Timah forest, tagging and measuring the trees there.

He has headed the Nature Society (Singapore) since 2008. Known for his non-confrontational approach and friendly demeanour, Dr Lum said he “prefers discussion to arguments”.

He has collaborated extensively with parties such as policymakers and other non-profit organisations to promote environmental conservation.

Under his stewardship, Nature Society (Singapore) representatives have worked with the authorities on studies for the proposed alignments of the future Cross Island MRT line, for example. But the society has not shied away from affirming its stand on issues such as the development of the Mandai area by the Mandai Park Holdings.

Said Dr Lum: “I think that we need different voices — some quiet leaders, some supporting from behind the scenes, some louder and urgent-sounding than most, and everything in between.”

The diversity of views and approaches is crucial in having a meaningful discussion, he added. “After all, it is a conversation about nature, our ultimate life support system, that we are talking about.”

The Republic’s biggest environmental challenge is ensuring there are enough green areas outside the nature reserves and parks to support current levels of biodiversity, he said.

Besides the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, there are a lack of mangroves or mudflats in coastal areas specifically set aside for wildlife, he noted.

Dr Lum also felt the Nature Society (Singapore) has not done enough to engage residents in the heartlands who do not speak English. It is something he is looking into.

Little steps are needed to encourage members of the public, who may be “too preoccupied” with other matters, to care about nature, he said.

The society is kickstarting an initiative called Every Singaporean A Naturalist that will reach out to primary and secondary schools and teach students to identify, monitor and appreciate the flora and fauna around them.

“It starts with the realisation that no effort is too small,” he said. “By taking little steps, things like caring for wildlife or buying things that are sustainably and ethically produced, it’ll become second nature to them.”

Over at Anchor Green Primary School, students are taught green and sustainable ways of living through several programmes.

One of them is Buddy Clean, where Primary Four students are introduced to school cleaners to get tips on how to clean their classrooms. They then thoroughly clean their classrooms and hallways once every term.

Primary Five students get the opportunity to become guides and take preschoolers on tours of the Sengkang Floating Wetland nearby.

Anchor Green Primary principal Norliza Rahim said it was important to “start from a young age, so children can be sensitive to environmental issues”.

“We want them to reach out to their parents and siblings, too,” she added.

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), meanwhile, has 14 rooftop and five ground-level gardens. Staff and members of the public can grow fruits and vegetables in its eco-garden.

About 20 dementia patients participate in horticultural activities, where they get to touch, feel and smell lemongrass, which may bring back old memories.

The hospital was also the first to implement an Energy Display Dashboard last year to monitor its energy usage.

The green surroundings make for a less stressful environment for patients and their family members, said Mrs Chew Kwee Tiang, KTPH’s chief executive.


Man who 'raised' the young of endangered tree wins President's Award for the Environment
Shelina Ajit Assomull Straits Times 21 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE - In little plastic cups, he "raised" the young of an endangered tree, and cared for the seeds like they were his children.

This was in 2002 when Dr Shawn Lum, then vice-president of the Nature Society (Singapore), learnt of the illegal felling of the endangered giant - Hopea Sangal - in Changi Village.

Fortunately, seeds were collected prior to the felling and Dr Lum, an American and permanent resident here, helped them grow into strong saplings over the next eight years.

"I don't have any children of my own, but I know where those Hopea Sangal are planted," he said at a media conference recently, after being named one of three recipients of the President's Award for the Environment (PAE) this year.

The saplings, including those grown by the National Parks Board, were planted at the Singapore Zoo, Changi Airport, Botanic Gardens and Changi museum.

Dr Lum, who is now president of the Nature Society (Singapore), received the award for his significant involvement in biodiversity projects in Singapore.

This includes a long-term study of the Bukit Timah forest, which involves monitoring up to 20,000 trees in 4ha of forest.

Professor Leo Tan, director of special projects at the science faculty at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and one of the nine judges of the awards, said: "Dr Lum should have won this award long ago."

Anchor Green Primary School won the award in the institution category.

The school collaborates with firms such as Ikea and Brother, as well as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore and NParks, to promote recycling and conservation. The school also includes water education and cleaning in their everyday learning.

A "buddy clean system" is one such initiative, where pupils from Primary 2 and Primary 4 work together using tips provided by the cleaning staff, to keep the classrooms clean.

"If children are sensitised from a young age, they will gravitate naturally towards environmental education," said Madam Norliza A. Rahim, the school's principal.

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) picked up the award in the organisation category for its "hospital in a garden and a garden in a hospital", as Mrs Chew Kwee Tiang, chief executive officer of KTPH and Yishun Health, described it.

The hospital's nature-friendly design includes large gardens in and around the hospital which boast 70 species of butterflies and 100 species of fish.

Fruits and vegetables grown in the gardens are sold as well.

"I'm quite sure that when you enter Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, you don't feel stressed," said Mrs Chew of the calming effect nature has on those who visit the hospital. "The best view is reserved for patients in the Intensive Care Unit," she added.

This is the second time a hospital has bagged the organisation category. Alexandra Hospital won it in 2008.

Dr Lum said although the three winners are from different fields of work, "the three of us have an overlapping theme - nature is a part of everything. By taking care of the local environment, we make sure there's space for people but also for nature".

The awards were presented by President Halimah Yacob at the Istana on Tuesday (Nov 21) night. The PAE, now in its 12th year, had 48 nominees this year, and the three winners were selected by a panel of judges.

From next year, the awards will be a bi-annual affair to better cultivate potential nominees.

Having germinated the Hopea Sangal, Dr Lum now wants to plant the seeds of environmentalism.

He said: "The next step is to make those clearer connections between the groups that focus on energy, resources, waste management and those who look at green issues, biodiversity and nature, like myself.

"If nature's important, we need to lead more sustainable lifestyles, we need to get people to work across this divide."


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'Rampaging' wild boar in Punggol euthanised after gunshot wound to neck

Today Online 21 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE — A "rampaging" wild boar which was shot by a police officer on Tuesday (Nov 21) evening had to be euthanised after sustaining a gunshot wound to its neck, wildlife rescue group ACRES said.

The tusked wild boar — measuring 1.5m from head to tail — was involved in an accident with a car at Punggol West Flyover prior to the encounter with the police.

"It is a very unfortunate situation where the boar most certainly became very stressed due to injuries sustained from its collision with a vehicle," said an ACRES spokesperson. "The poor animal probably found itself cornered and became defensive."

The police said in a statement that they were initially alerted to an accident involving the wild boar and a car at the flyover around 7pm. The injured animal was lying on the road when the police and staff from ACRES arrived at the scene.

"The wild boar (then) got up and charged towards the officers and members of the public within the vicinity. The officers fired their Tasers at the boar, but it continued to charge towards them and the public," the police added.

This prompted one of the officers at the scene to draw his revolver and fire at the wild boar "to stop it from injuring anyone", the police said.

ACRES noted that while wild animals tend to be shy and avoid human contact, "in this situation, the cramped area with high human traffic stressed the boar".

The wildlife rescue group urged the public not to approach wild animals and give them space when in their presence.

No one was injured in the incident.


Wild boar shot by police after endangering public safety at Punggol West Flyover
Channel NewsAsia 21 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: A wild boar was shot by police on Tuesday evening (Nov 21) for "endangering public safety" at Punggol West Flyover.

In a statement, the police said they were alerted to an accident involving a wild boar and a car on Punggol West Flyover at about 7pm.

An injured wild boar was lying on the road when police officers and staff members from the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) arrived.

"The wild boar got up and charged towards the officers and members of the public within the vicinity," the police said.

Officers fired their tasers at the boar, but it continued to charge towards them and members of the public.

"As the wild boar was rampaging and was a danger to the people within the vicinity, an officer had to draw his revolver to fire a shot at it, to stop it from injuring anyone," the police said.

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The boar, which measured 1.5m from head to tail, was shot in the neck. It was injured and was handed over to ACRES, the police added.

Nobody was injured in the incident.

In a statement, ACRES said it had to euthanise the animal due to its injuries from the gunshot. "We have assessed this particular case and it is a very unfortunate situation where the boar most certainly became very stressed due to injuries sustained from its collision with a vehicle. The poor animal probably found itself cornered and became defensive."

It added that wild animals in general are shy animals who usually move away when sighted. However in this situation, the cramped area with high human traffic had stressed the boar.

ACRES urged the public not to approach wild animals but to give them space.

Several people also posted on social media about the incident.

Facebook user Nazrin Bin Suhaimi warned commuters to avoid the Tampines Expressway exit to Sengkang East Road because of a "dead wild boar on the road covering two lanes".

"Massive jam," he added.

Another Facebook user Abang Pete wrote in a post that he saw it "struggling and kicking away" while he was driving on Sengkang East Road.

"It looked somewhat like a cow lying on the road," he wrote. "When my headlights shone on the poor thing, I realised that it was a huge wild boar, possibly hit by a passing vehicle.

"What registered in my memory was its eyes looking at my lights," he added. "It was fearful, and noticeably in pain.

"You know, I hate wild boars and they are what I consider the apex adversaries of the Singaporean soldier, but to see it like that, to put it mildly, was disturbing."

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a Facebook post that it will monitor the situation at Punggol area closely.

"We will continue to work with the relevant stakeholders, such as ACRES, WRS (Wildlife Reserves Singapore), NParks and NUS to manage the wild boars so as to ensure public safety," it said.

It added that they are exploring various measures, such as erecting barriers to prevent wildlife from encroaching onto roads, and putting up signs about wildlife crossings to warn motorists.

AVA advised the public to keep a safe distance from the wild boars and avoid confronting or cornering them.

"Do not interact with the wild boars and keep young children and pets away from them."

In a tweet at around 7.45pm, the Land Transport Authoirty warned of an accident on Sengkang East Road near the junction between Punggol Road and Sengkang East Road.

Last month, a man was injured after a wild boar attacked him at Hillview Road. He suffered a deep cut of about 10cm on his thigh. A Taiwanese woman was also injured by a boar near Windsor Park in July.

Authorities have said that they are working on managing wild boar issues in Singapore after reports of more sightings near residential areas.
Source: CNA/nc


Police shoot wild boar that was rampaging in Punggol
Lydia Lam Straits Times 21 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE - Police shot a wild boar that was rampaging on a road in Punggol on Tuesday night (Nov 21).

It was later euthanised due to injuries sustained by the shot fired.

In a statement, the police said they were alerted at 7.08pm to an accident involving a wild boar and a car on Punggol West Flyover.

The injured wild boar was lying on the road when policemen and members of wildlife rescue group Acres arrived at the location.

The wild boar got up and charged towards the officers and passers-by in the area.

The policemen fired their tasers at the boar, but it continued to charge towards them and the public.

"As the wild boar was rampaging and was a danger to the people within the vicinity, an officer had to draw his revolver to fire a shot at it, to stop it from injuring anyone," said the police.

The tusked wild boar, which measured 1.5m from head to tail, was shot in the neck. It was handed over to Acres, who had to put it to sleep due to its injuries from the gunshot.

No one was injured in the incident.

Acres deputy chief executive Kalai Vanan told The Straits Times: "We have assessed this particular case and it is a very unfortunate situation where the boar most certainly became very stressed due to injuries sustained from its collision with a vehicle. The poor animal probably found itself cornered and became defensive."

Wild animals in general are shy animals who usually move away when sighted, said Mr Kalai.

"However in this situation, the cramped area with high human traffic stressed the boar," he said, adding that the public should never approach wild animals and should give them space when in their presence.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a Facebook post on Tuesday night that it will monitor the situation at the Punggol area closely and continue to work with the relevant stakeholders, such as Acres, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, NParks and the National University of Singapore, to manage the wild boars so as to ensure public safety.

"We are exploring various measures, such as erecting barriers to prevent wildlife from encroaching onto roads, and putting up signage about wildlife crossings at specific locations to warn motorists," it added.

The boar had been spotted by motorists and passers-by alike, who commented about it on social media.

Facebook user Abang Pete said in a post at 7.38pm that he was driving at Sengkang East Road when he saw something he thought was a black plastic bag on the road and steered to avoid it.

"I was shocked to see it struggling and kicking away," he wrote. "When my headlights shone on the poor thing, I realised that it was a huge wild boar, possibly hit by a passing vehicle."

This is the latest in a string of wild boar incidents in recent months.

Last month, a man was injured after a wild boar charged at him outside a condominium at 25, Hillview Avenue.

In September, a motorcyclist and his pillion rider were taken to hospital after a wild boar appeared suddenly on the Ayer Rajah Expressway after the Tuas Checkpoint.

The public can call AVA at 1800-476-1600 to report wild boar sightings.


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Scaling up local fish production for the dining table with vaccines

Channel NewsAsia 21 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: The grouper you’re thinking of cooking for dinner was very likely kept healthy with vaccines, if it came from a Singapore fish farm, said experts at Nanyang Polytechnic’s (NYP) inaugural seminar on Singapore’s aquaculture industry on Tuesday (Nov 21).

Titled Food Fish Made in Singapore - A More Sustainable & Healthier Choice, the event discussed how vaccination can be key to help the local aquaculture industry increase production for the dining table.

Currently, Singapore’s fish farms meet just 10 per cent of the country’s fish consumption, said Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade & Industry.

Singapore imports up to 95 per cent of the food the population consumes.

Coupled with declining global fish production caused by climate change, it is important to “build up some degree of local production to buffer against intermittent, and sometimes, very sudden supply shocks,” said Dr Koh at NYP's School of Chemical & Life Sciences Applied Science Conference.

“We will therefore need to ensure that our local food fish stock takes on a lot more protection for disease prevention, even as we scale up our local aquaculture production,” he said.

But ramping up production also means keeping fish in a higher density in a given area. This spells greater susceptibility to bacterial and parasitic infection.

The scenario has spurred researchers to create vaccines that are specific to the unique combination of bacteria in Singapore’s waters. One such solution is a locally developed autogenous vaccine that help fight microbial infections in fish, said Dr Koh.

The vaccine has led to Singapore’s first autogenous fish vaccine production company UVaxx Pte Ltd, which plans to work with several local fish farms to develop customised fish vaccines specific to the disease situation of individual farms.

HOW IS FISH VACCINATED?

Like human vaccinations, fish vaccinations are carried out via injection, said Dr Diana Chee, deputy director of aquaculture from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore’s (AVA) Technology & Industry Development Group.

Before the injection is administered in the fish’s abdomen, they are not fed for 24 hours to let them empty their stomachs, said Dr Chee.

A sedative is added to the water to calm them before they are lifted out for a quick jab that delivers a minute amount of vaccine into their abdomens. The vaccinated fish is then placed in a recovery tank where they are monitored for the next 24 hours, she said.

Dr Jeffrey Seng, senior specialist (aquatic health and diagnostics) and senior lecturer at NYP’s School of Chemical & Life Sciences, said that fish weighing 10g are ideal for vaccination as they fit well in the palm.

The ease of handling also makes it less stressful for the fish, he said.

By the time the fish reaches 1kg and is ready for sale, typically in eight or 10 months’ time, the vaccine would have been expelled from the fish’s system, said Dr Seng.

To ensure food safety, AVA also conducts frequent checks for the presence of chemicals used in the vaccines.

According to him, Singapore's top three most common fish produced are the grouper, local sea bass and threadfin (or ikan kurau in Malay).

THE EFFECT ON ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE

Vaccination isn’t just about minimising the fishes’ odds of falling sick but also about reducing their reliance on antibiotics.

This tampered use of antibiotics arises from the global concern of antimicrobial resistance, where the over-use of antibiotics has led to superbugs that no longer respond to current drugs, said Dr Lee.

“Residual antibiotics in the food chain entering into the human food chain will become a threat to antimicrobial resistance. That has a lot of downstream implications for us,” he said.

Fish vaccination is a practice not unique to Singapore. Norway, which is known for its export of farmed salmon, mandates that its salmon are vaccinated as part of its quality assurance and accreditation, said Dr Chee.

“Vaccines enable the animal’s natural defences, the immune system, to fight and defend itself against disease,” said Dr Chee.

Similar to human vaccines, the fish versions consist of a weakened or killed pathogen that causes disease in fish. It is usually combined with an adjuvant, a substance that increases the body's immune response to the vaccine.

Quality controls and safety checks are carried out before the vaccine is released for sale, said Dr Chee.

Find out the difference between fresh and frozen fish as well as the pros and cons of choosing wild fish vs farmed fish here.
Source: CNA/bk


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Closure of section of Rail Corridor to be extended to Q2 2018: PUB

Channel NewsAsia 22 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: The closure of a section of the Rail Corridor will be extended to the second quarter of 2018, for enhancement works to make the corridor more inclusive and accessible, PUB said on Wednesday (Nov 22).

The section of the Rail Corridor between Holland Road and Commonwealth Avenue was originally due to reopen in the fourth quarter of this year.

It follows the completion of pipe laying works for a section of the 22km Murnane Pipeline, a major water infrastructure project designed to meet future water demand in the city area, the national water agency said in its press release.

PUB said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will “strengthen the sub-base of the trail along this southern half with suitable materials to make it more resilient to wet weather and use”.

“The trail surface will also be improved with a material comprising a mixture of earth from the Rail Corridor and cement to retain the rustic character and 'look-and-feel' of the Rail Corridor trail,“ PUB said.

Works on these enhancements will take six months to complete, it added.

URA and the National Parks Board announced last month their plans to enhance the Rail Corridor so that visitors can enjoy continuous connectivity along the entire 24km Corridor by 2021.
Source: CNA/ms


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PUB guide to help non-domestic buildings save water

Lim Min Zhang Straits Times 22 Nov 17;

National water agency PUB is aiming to improve water use by non-domestic consumers - a group that represents nearly three-quarters of future demand.

As non-domestic water consumption is expected to increase, PUB is publishing a guidebook, Best Practice Guide For Water Efficiency - Buildings. It aims to help large water users, namely office, hotel and retail buildings, adopt more water-efficient practices.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who spoke about the guidebook at the inaugural Water Efficiency Awards at HDB Hub yesterday, said PUB will be refining it by seeking views from the industry.

Mr Masagos said: "Non-domestic water demand is expected to increase from 55 per cent of our current water demand to 70 per cent of our future water demand by 2060.

"Therefore, it is important that our partners in the non-domestic sector join us in this move to conserve water, and reduce water demand."

While a draft copy of the guide is already available on the PUB website, the final version will be launched next year, after the consultation period ends this year.

Data from water-efficiency management plans now in force for non-domestic buildings, which are large water users, was used to develop the guidebook.

The data for buildings which use 5,000 cubic m of water or more a month has been submitted to PUB yearly since 2015. This volume of water can fill about two Olympic-size swimming pools.

With water demand for cooling needs taking up 25 per cent of total water demand for large users, PUB has also published a document to provide developers, building owners and managing agents with guidelines on good cooling tower management.

The Technical Reference For Water Conservation In Cooling Towers is also available online.

Dr Cecilia Tortajada, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said: "The value of best practices and sectorial benchmarks should not be understated."

She added that such information was not only essential for self-assessment but could also shape a user's behaviour. She said: "Best practice guides that are endorsed by the industry can also be valuable guidance for newcomers to build in water-efficient measures at the point of design, so that good water management practices can be incorporated from the outset."

A total of 27 organisations from seven categories won the Water Efficiency Awards this year, including Junction 8 shopping mall, Clementi Primary School, Jalan Besar Town Council and the AXA Tower.

The awards recognise the most water-efficient organisations, in terms of their Water Efficiency Index - which is calculated based on their water-efficiency management plans - or if they had the highest water recycling rates.


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Malaysia: Project to widen Linggi river to solve Seremban's flash flood woes

New Straits Times 21 Nov 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The flash flood which hit Seremban town on Nov 10 was due to unusually heavy rain, with 114mm falling from 5pm to 8pm, the Dewan Rakyat was told on Monday.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said clogged drains and a poor drainage system hampered the movement of water towards the Temiang river, resulting in an overflow at main roads in the town.

“The floodwaters subsided after 40 minutes. (In housing areas, the flood) was caused by a poor drainage system, which could not accommodate excessive running water capacity during heavy rains.

"The flash flood only occurred for three hours and fully receded (after) 8pm," he said in a reply to a question from Teo Kok Seong (DAP-Rasah) during ministers’ question time in the Dewan Rakyat.

He added that the state government has carried out large-scale cleaning of rubbish indiscriminately disposed of by the public, which led to drains being clogged.

Teo had asked the Natural Resources and Environment Minister to state in detail the causes of the severe flood in Seremban town, Taman Jesper Jaya, Taman Mutiara Galla and other areas on Nov 10; and the measures being taken by the government to mitigate floods and ensure that relief aid had reached all victims.

Wan Junaidi added that there are 107 flash flood hotspots in Negri Sembilan.

“We have a plan to widen the Linggi river with a RM75 million (project) and hopefully, it will help solve the flash flood issue,” he said.

The deluge had struck low-lying areas of the town and surrounding residential districts, temporarily paralysing the communities there. Reporting by FARHANA SYED NOKMAN, FERNANDO FONG AND ARFA YUNUS

377 rivers in M'sia becoming narrower, shallower from unbridled development
New Straits Times 21 Nov 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Of Malaysia’s over 4,000 rivers, 377 are becoming narrower and shallower, thus raising the risk of flooding during heavy rains, the Dewan Rakyat was told on Tuesday.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the worrying development is the result of unchecked human activities, including logging, agriculture and construction, which have caused mud to settle into the affected rivers.

He said that the importance of rivers as water catchment areas which can mitigate flooding is disregarded by many quarters, especially developers.

“Gazetted areas for water catchment are ignored by developers,” said Wan Junaidi in a reply to a supplementary question from Datuk Tiong King Sing (BN-Bintulu) at Dewan Rakyat.

He added that when the farming, agriculture, logging and construction sectors brush aside the importance of water catchment areas, rivers end up being filled in with mud.

"If we want to save our rivers, an allocation of hundreds of billions of ringgit is needed,” he said.

Wan Junaidi also said that the government is always quickly judged and criticised when a concession is awarded for the right to conduct sand mining at the mouths of rivers.

“The volume and duration of sand mining operations are not (done) blindly, but in accordance with certain agreements,” he added.

King Sing had raised complaints by the public on the conditions of rivers in Malaysia which have been affected by various development projects.

Reporting by FARHANA SYED NOKMAN, FERNANDO FONG and ARFA YUNUS


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Malaysia: Concerns over booming illegal sea sand trade

ALIZA SHAH New Straits Times 21 Nov 17;

BESIDES river sand, this newspaper was also alerted to the booming illicit marine sand extraction and export business.

This has been going on just outside of Perak’s waters. This newspaper was told that there were 10 areas under federal jurisdiction approved for sand mining.

Mining is sanctioned with licences that could only be issued by the Lands and Mines Department, a federal agency parked under the Natural Resources and Environmental Ministry.

“Some companies, licensed by the department to mine in 10 specific and designated plots, had been encroaching on waters that come under states’ jurisdiction (three nautical miles from the shoreline) and the sand is sent to the Penang and Klang ports.

“There is also the problem of smugglers who would keep their stockpile close to ports, to facilitate illicit export.”

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Maritime 3 district director Maritime Captain Wan Mat Wan Abdullah said the agency had received reports from miners that their areas were being encroached by others.

“Some companies came to us claiming they have been licensed to mine, but when they arrived at the designated area, they discovered that it had been mined.”

NST also spoke to sources in other marine enforcement agencies who said that Malaysian sand had been illegally exported to a neighbouring country.

“They declared that they were sending it somewhere in the country, but the consignment never arrived.

“There are also cases of false declaration. They claimed that the consignment was silica when it was sand. The problem is we do not have the expertise to identify which is which.” Wan Junaidi said he wanted to make clear that the ministry had never issued any approved permits for sand export from Perak.

“The menteri besar would not agree to it. I have given the instruction to put everything related to Perak’s sand on hold, following the menteri besar’s request.

“I will have the ministry’s secretary-general, who is leading a task force comprising the Navy, police, MMEA and others, to look deeper into this matter.”

He expressed concerns about the possibility that these smugglers might have been exporting the sand as silica.

“Silica can be exported, but I am worried that they might be exporting sand using silica permit. We need everyone to be wary of this, including the Customs Department.”


'Govt to allow more to mine, export river sand'
ALIZA SHAH New Straits Times 21 Nov 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The government is planning to introduce an unconventional approach in their battle to stop illegal sand miners from continuing to rob one of the country’s most valuable natural resources.

As the rivers in the country continue to become shallower, the Natural Resources and Environmental Ministry feels the time has come for the government to allow more people to mine and export sand.

The move, the ministry said, would not only save the government billions of
ringgit spent on deepening rivers and protecting their embankments, but would also allow the state governments to collect royalties and prevent illegal sand export.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said most of the rivers in Malaysia were at a serious siltation stage, and that this was caused by both human and environmental factors.

The government, he said, had spent at least RM500 million in the past few years to deepen rivers.

“Other than Kelantan and Pahang, rivers in most states have become shallower, especially in areas where logging, plantation and development are taking place, which cause siltation.

“This is a serious issue. If you go to Sabah, Sungai Kedamaian has become almost flat and we estimate that the cost to deepen the river is almost half a billion ringgit.

“I have discussed this issue with the prime minister, and we agreed (to allow export of sand),” he told the New Straits Times.

The country, he said, boasted billions of metric tonnes of sand that could be put to good use.

“One example is Sungai Pahang. When I was young, the river was not as murky. Then, you could hardly see islands formed because of siltation.

“Now, you can see ‘islands’ in Sungai Pahang. They will make the river shallow and this can lead to floods.”

Wan Junaidi said the ministry had agreed to give permission to eight companies to apply for the approval permits (APs), which would allow them to export river sand.

However, only three companies met the ministry’s stringent requirements and were granted the APs.

“They may have our ‘approval in principle’, but they will have to satisfy our requirements, which include obtaining the state government’s approval to extract sand and ‘passing’ the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment as well as the Irrigation and Drainage Department reports before they get the APs.

“We would also have to make sure the companies have enough equipment and skills to extract and export the sand.”

Wan Junaidi said the AP issuance would be used as a control measure to regulate sand export and prevent industry players from going overboard.

“AP would be given on a case-by-case basis so that we can monitor the mines and their impact on the environment.

“I also told the prime minister that the reason why it has to be done on a case-by-case basis is to prevent illegal miners from stealing our resources. If that happens, the state will not benefit from anything.”

Of the three companies issued with APs to export, two send sand to India while the other exports to Singapore.


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Malaysia: Over 2,000 endangered animals killed on M'sian roads since 2012

New Straits Times 22 Nov 17;

SEREMBAN: Up to 2,130 wild animals – most of them members of endangered species – were killed in traffic accidents over the past five years, Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Dr Hamim Samuri revealed on Tuesday.

He said that for the first nine months of this year, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan) recorded the deaths of 212 wild animals.

"Most of the wildlife killed (belong to) endangered species, such as tapirs, sun bears, elephants, mountain goats and tigers.

“I was told that tapirs are (the number one) victims in roadkill incidents. Perhilitan records show that 43 tapirs were killed in road accidents in the last five years.

"Most of the accidents occurred because the animals were trying to cross roads or highways to find shelter, food, mates and habitats," Dr Hamim said in his opening speech at the Biodiversity Seminar 2017 here.

He advised motorists to be careful and pay attention while driving near forests, and especially at wildlife crossings. -- Bernama


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Malaysia: Wild monkeys 'invading' Ijok, Bukit Melawati

New Straits Times 22 Nov 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Troops of wild monkeys are invading human homes and harassing people as a result of deforestation, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Noting that the primates have lost their fear of humans and become real pests, Datuk Seri Irmohizam Ibrahim (BN-Kuala Selangor) said they are causing anxiety to residents in his constituency, notably in Ijok and Bukit Melawati, with their aggressive behavior.

He said it is also worrying that the monkeys, a familiar sight for Malaysians but not always welcome, have been breeding at a fast pace.

“Some of the female monkeys gave birth to more than seven infants.

“Residents in affected areas have complained that the infants have been sleeping in human homes,” he said during the debate on the 2018 Budget at the committee stage for the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Irmohizam said the monkeys move into housing areas as their forest habitat are dwindling.

He urged the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) to help look into the matter.

Perhilitan had set up traps, including metal cages, and placed food in them to lure monkeys which invade human dwellings.

The Wildlife Department's move has invited the ire of animal lovers.

Perhilitan had also advised the public to avoid feeding monkeys as they could become aggressive.

The department warned that monkeys are carriers of zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans), and therefore one needs to take preventive measures by avoiding the animals.


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India: Rehabilitating seagrass in Gulf of Mannar

The Times of India 22 Nov 17;

Chennai: Concerned at the near decimation of seagrass off the state's coast, researchers have begun a vital rehabilitation programme. They planted saplings in a 200sqm area off Thanjavur and Pudukottai districts, part of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, between March and May this year and are thrilled to find that about 75% of the colourful plants "are now growing well".

Seagrass communities, vital for the survival of the marine ecosystem, including coral reefs, once covered more than 60,000 hectares in the Gulf of Mannar, but various marine activities almost sounded their death knell and the efforts now being taken seem minuscule given the magnitude of the destruction.

The damage has not been limited to Tamil Nadu, with researchers saying as much of 35 % of seagrass beds in the country have been destroyed in the past 35 years. Besides, very little study has been done on the plants.

After taking up the three-month rehabilitation project, for which the state forest department sanctioned Rs 4 lakh for each of the two districts, Organisation for Marine Conservation, Awareness and Research (OMCAR) scientists, who possessed scuba diving skills, began extensive fieldwork and planted the saplings.

OMCAR founder V Balaji told TOI the 400 sprigs of seagrass species Cymodocea serrulata and Syringodium isoetifolium were planted in each square metre field formed by burying PVC frames and tied with jute ropes. "We have been monitoring the growth of the transplanted seagrass (as they have vegetative reproduction) periodically.

Last month, the buried PVC frames were taken out of the sea to prevent pollution," he said.

While admitting that some of the frames had been damaged by fishing nets, Balaji, however, appeared optimistic that the rehabilitation project would flourish and help convert dead seagrass sites into healthy, thriving beds in the near future.


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Best of our wild blogs: 21 Nov 17



17 Dec (Sun): FREE workshop just for youths on IYOR outreach!
Singapore Celebrates our Reefs 2018

28-29 Nov: Sustainable Foods Summit
Green Drinks Singapore


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