Best of our wild blogs: 2 Mar 15



Dead fish update: Changi, Ubin, Pasir Ris, Punggol
from wild shores of singapore

Morning Walk At Venus Drive (28 Feb 2015)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (February 20, 2015)
from Rojak Librarian and Birdwatching in Tampines Echo (February 22, 2015)

Spotted-tail Frogfish (Lophiocharon trisignatus) @ Pasir Ris
from Monday Morgue


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More dead fish, marine life at Pasir Ris beach

SIAU MING EN Today Online 2 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — Following the mass fish deaths that affected farmers along the eastern Johor Straits over the weekend, other marine wildlife, including species such as Frogfish, horseshoe crab and puffer fish, have washed up on Pasir Ris beach.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said the post-mortem results of fish samples collected from the affected farms indicated the fish had died as a result of gill damage caused by plankton, which are micro-organisms found in seawater. They can bloom or multiply quickly in a very short time, draining the seawater of oxygen.

“Laboratory tests conducted so far did not detect marine biotoxins in the fish,” it said.

Local fish farmers said the fish deaths on Saturday morning were worse than those during a similar event that happened at around the same time last year.

Mr Teh Aik Hua, who owns two fish farms in Sembawang and Pasir Ris, said he is left with only 1 per cent of his fish stock, compared with a 20 per cent survival rate last year.

“The problem is more serious this year. Even wild fish were found dead,” he added.

With the recent hot and dry weather, which is expected to stretch into this month, Mr Teh said about 40 per cent of his fish stock at the Sembawang farm has also died from the increasing salinity of the water.

Another fish farmer, who only wanted to be known as Simon, painted a similar picture. Nearly all his fish were wiped out this time, whereas last year, half of his stock had survived.

Around this time last year, there were fish deaths at 34 fish farms along the East Johor Straits and five farms along the West Johor Straits. About 160 tonnes of fish were found dead because of low levels of dissolved oxygen in the waters or a plankton bloom, or both, as well as the hot weather.

In response to queries, the AVA said fish harvested from local farms are safe for consumption.

The largest supermarket chain here, NTUC FairPrice, also assuaged consumer concerns, saying it imports fish from local farms that are accredited by the AVA, which has taken steps to ensure only live and healthy fish are being supplied.

FairPrice, which has more than 120 outlets, said some of these fish farms, including those in Pasir Ris, Changi, Lim Chu Kang and inland Kranji, have taken steps to move their harvests to other locations and increase the aeration of the water.

“As such, our supply of local fish remains unaffected,” said a FairPrice spokesperson.

Fish farmers source donations online to tide them over during plankton bloom
JALELAH ABU BAKER Straits Times 2 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE - Offshore farmers from a fishing farm here have put up an appeal for donations online after an environmental crisis that has caused them huge losses.

Ah Hua Kelong, which is located off Lorong Halus on the north-east coast, attributed the loss in 80 per cent of their fish to a plankton bloom. The phenomenon happens when the micro-organisms found in seawater multiply quickly in a very short time, draining the seawater of oxygen. Majority of the farm's fishes have died as a result.

The farmers wrote on crowdfunding site Indiegogo: "We are on the verge of losing the workers, the farm and everything we have and it is not just because of broken supply but because of the news and speculations."

They added that 20 per cent of their fish are healthy and safe to sell and eat because they were transferred out of "troubled waters". Ah Hua Kelong specialises in farming Grouper, Seabass and Golden pomfret, according to its website.

The Straits Times reported on Sunday that thousands of fish died in coastal farms off Changi. Dead fish were also seen along the Pasir Ris shoreline. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton. AVA was quoted as saying that lab tests conducted so far did not detect biological toxins in the fish, and fish from local farms remains safe to eat.

Ah Hua Kelong started the project on Feb 28, and has set a goal of US$20,000 (S$27,303). By Monday morning, it has raised US$3,563 (S$4,864). The fund-raising will continue till March 30.

"We are not asking for much. We hope to raise enough to only help us pay off expense for at least 3 months since now both demand and supply are in the ditch," the farmers wrote.


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Malaysia: ‘Spread of toxic plant under control’

TASHNY SUKUMARAN The Star 2 Mar 15;

PETALING JAYA: The toxic invasive weed spreading through the country is under control for now, said the Agriculture Department’s Plant Biosecurity Division.

The weed (Parthenium hysterophorus), which currently covers 60ha of land across most states, is being held at bay by herbicides.

“The affected areas were sprayed with herbicide and follow-up sprays were carried out. People are also more aware about its existence and impact on plants, animals and humans.

“Nine agencies have come together to battle the weed including the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) and the Institute of Medical Research,” it said in an e-mail.

Research is being carried out about the effects of the weed, also called congress grass, on human health.

DVS has since stepped up its monitoring of imported animals to ensure they are not transporting any seeds, and it is ready to impose quarantine conditions on countries found exporting livestock with parthenium seeds in or on them, especially in faecal matter.

The Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services would also quarantine agricultural materials, especially seeds and planting material, if there is sufficient risk of parthenium coming through Malaysian entry points.

Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Malaya Kelantan (UMK) are researching control methods for the weed, which has been dubbed the “worst weed of the century”.

UMK Prof Dr S. M. Rezaul Karim, who first discovered the weed in Ulu Yam in 2013, warned the public to avoid it at all costs.

“The pollen grains, airborne dried plant parts, and roots of parthenium cause various allergies like contact dermatitis, hay fever, asthma and bronchitis.

“Its pollen is responsible for asthma, especially in children playing outdoors,” he said when contacted.


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Malaysia: Teamwork can keep forest fires at bay, says department

MENG YEW CHOONG The Star 2 Mar 15;

KUALA SELANGOR: There must be interagency and community-based partnerships to fight forest fires, especially at peatland forest reserves. says Selangor Forestry Department director Dr Puat Dahalan.

He said they welcomed the contributions from the community when it came to keeping forest encroachment to a minimal level – a measure that reduces the probability of irresponsible behaviour such as setting fires, accidentally or otherwise.

“This joining of hands has proven to be effective, especially at the North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest,” Puat said at the opening of the World Wetlands Day 2015 celebrations at the Raja Musa Forest Reserve here on Saturday.

The reserve is a peat forest that is being rehabilitated via a joint programme between the Global Environment Centre (GEC), the state government as well as the state forestry department.

The effort seeks to restore 4,000ha of peat swamp within the North Selangor peat swamp forest that has been logged in the past, and subsequently encroached by illegal land-clearing for agriculture.

At 73,392ha, the North Selangor peat swamp is located in the north western part of the state, and it consists of Raja Musa Forest Reserve (23,486ha) and the Sungai Karang forest reserve (50,106ha).

GEC is a Malaysian-registered charity that works on environmental issues of global importance, and its community partner at Raja Musa are villagers nearby who are members of the Sahabat Hutan Gambut Selangor Utara (Friends of North Selangor Peat Forest), an NGO for forest protection and rehabilitation.

“For this year, we intend to increase the number of patrols conducted by the villagers who live on the fringe of the forest,” said Faisal Parish, GEC’s director, who added that the villagers would report suspicious activities besides being on the lookout for possible fires.

“The key to successful management here is the engagement of stakeholders outside the peat forest. We have to sensitise all landowners and work with plantation owners such as Sime Darby and Felda.

“Smallholders are also very important, as fires normally start on their land. We also have to ingrain the message that fires are not good for the peat land as it will destroy the land, rather than enhance the land,” he added.

Selangor is also trying something new this year to prevent peat fires and it involves tapping water from disused mining ponds.

“We have built a network of pipes stretching 2km, and we intend to add more length so that we can pump water from the pond to moisten the peat forest during extended dry periods.

On the message for World Wetlands Day, Puat said there needed to be awareness among the younger generation as well as villagers on the importance of peat swamps.

“Only then will they care about the forest, but this cannot be nurtured overnight. It needs time, money and other resources,” said Puat.

“We are satisfied with the level of interagency and community cooperation and we are looking at replicating this model at the Kuala Langat North and South peat forests.”


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Indonesia: Govt to make artificial rain in Riau

The Jakarta Post 1 Mar 15;

The government is set to start modifying the weather on Monday to create artificial downpours in an endeavor to put out forest fires in Riau.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said on Sunday that according to a report from the forest fire directorate at the Environment and Forestry Ministry, the ministry in cooperation with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) would begin the weather modification on Monday.

She said that the government would maintain a state of emergency in the handling of forest fires and land burning in the hope that all sides would comply with the banning of burning for land-clearing purposes.

“We have made a coordination with security and law enforcement authorities to arrest any companies or farmers using fires in land clearing,” she said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Riau and several other provinces are entering the dry season.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru, Riau, has detected 39 hotspots, mostly in Bengkalis, Meranti, Rokan Hulu, Indragiri Hilir and Pelalawan.

In the past few years, the province has been covered by thick haze during dry season, triggered by forest fires and land clearing. The haze has disturbed not only air transportation to and from Riau but also daily activities both within the province and in neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. The thick haze has also triggered health problem for locals. (rms)(++++)


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Best of our wild blogs: 1 Mar



Mass Marine Mortality at Pasir Ris
from Diary of a Boy wandering through Our Little Urban Eden

Thousands of dead fishes at Pasir Ris
from wild shores of singapore

Mar 14, Saturday: We are resuming our Free Chek Jawa Guided Walks
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walks 21 Mar & 4 Apr
from Love our MacRitchie Forest

Pellets from Tuas: 3. It’s a mouse!
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Happy Yellow-vented Bulbuls
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Life History of the Grand Imperial
from Butterflies of Singapore

CAT Walk with us!
from Cicada Tree Eco-Place

Sharing with the Sustainability Mentorship Programme
from wild shores of singapore


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Large stocks of fish wiped out by plankton blooms

Channel NewsAsia 28 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE: Several fish farmers in the East saw large stocks of their fish wiped out early Saturday (Feb 28) morning after the coast was hit by a tide containing huge plankton blooms.

When this happens fish have to compete with the micro-organisms for oxygen, which could cause them to die.

Philip Lim, who owns three fish farms, said: "It's huge. It'll cost me about S$50,000. All the fishes have come in just about three months ago, some of them just came in one month ago."

Mr Lim sent Channel NewsAsia videos of the scene on Saturday, saying his entire stock of fish was either dead or dying.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) had said in a statement on Friday that it would monitor the situation, and work closely with the fish farmers to mitigate the situation.

It had warned the farmers early last week after detecting elevated plankton levels in the area, said AVA.

AVA has also deployed waste disposal vessels to assist farmers in the disposal of dead fish at the East Johor Straits caused by the elevated plankton levels.

On Feb 18, coastal fish farms at the Straits reported dead fish in the area. Since then, AVA has been visiting the fish farmers to ascertain the situation, offer advice to them to mitigate the situation, such as canvas-bagging, and collecting fish samples from the affected farms for analyses.

AVA said some farms have carried out emergency harvest of the fish in view of the elevated plankton levels.

It had earlier reported that laboratory tests conducted did not detect marine biotoxins in the fish. AVA said fish harvested from local farms are safe for consumption.

- CNA/al

Mass fish deaths overnight hit Changi farmers hard

BY KASH CHEONG Straits Times 1 Mar 15;

Thousands of fish have died in coastal farms off Changi, in a repeat of last year's nightmare for farmers.

Farmers woke up yesterday morning to the sight of their fish floating belly up - the mass deaths had occurred through the night, so they had no opportunity to try to save their fish.

Dead fish were also seen along the Pasir Ris shoreline.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton. Lab tests conducted so far did not detect biological toxins in the fish, and fish from local farms remains safe to eat, an AVA spokesman said.

At around the same period last year, 160 tonnes of fish died suddenly, also after being poisoned by plankton, and the 39 affected fish farms lost hundreds of thousands of dollars..

Yesterday, some despairing farmers told The Sunday Times that they hope to get more support and training in modern farming methods that can minimise pollution and bacteria growth, particularly since the authorities are encouraging the trade to help boost Singapore's self-sufficiency in food production.

AVA had advised farmers to take precautions since Feb 16, when there were elevated plankton levels detected in the East Johor Strait.

But the overnight deaths took most by surprise.

"I thought I was prepared this year. I even had aerated tanks to save the fish if a few started dying," said fish farmer Timothy Hromatka, 42, who studied marine biology.

"But it was too late," said Mr Hromatka, who lost most of his fish.

Fish farmer Phillip Lim, 53, noting that a few fish had started dying as early as mid-February, added dejectedly: "That was just the 'appetiser'. Friday night was the 'main course'."

The former president of the Singapore Marine Aquaculture Cooperative estimates that almost 50 farms were affected this time round.

"It could be worse than last year. This year, it looks like more fish died and the wild fish also died," added Mr Lim, who estimates his losses at more than $50,000. He reared popular species such as seabass, snapper and pomfret.

Fish farmer Daniel Wee, 40 is in the same predicament.

He had received tens of thousands of dollars from the AVA to kick-start his fish farm again after last year's mass deaths wiped out his stock, and spent another $20,000 on fish feed. But yet again, most of his 70,000 fish were wiped out. "It's a really, really tough business now," said Mr Wee, who estimates he lost $100,000.

"We need to learn new methods to take local fish farming to the next level,"

Too late to act

"I was prepared this year. I even had aerated tanks to save the fish if a few started dying... But it was too late. This morning, when I came in, I saw my fish dying."

MR TIMOTHY HROMATKA, a fish farmer


Workers showing the dead pompano and red snapper at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach yesterday. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM


Workers showing the dead pompano and red snapper at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach yesterday. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM


Dead snappers at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach on Feb 28, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM


Workers showing the dead sea bass at a kelong. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) attributed the deaths to gill damage caused by plankton.  -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM


Workers looking at dead fish at a kelong off Pasir Ris beach on 28 February 2015.. Lab tests conducted so far did not detect biological toxins in the fish, and fish from local farms remain safe to eat, an AVA spokesman said.  -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM


Dead fish were also seen along the Pasir Ris shoreline. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM


The dead fish, believed to have come from the wild, washed ashore along Pasir Ris beach. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM


Related links
This was also reported on Channel 8 News: http://www.channel8news.sg/mobile8/latestnews/20150228-sg-farm-fish/1686338.html


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New satellite to keep sharper, quicker tabs on Singapore skies

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE - Want better and more frequent forecasts and alerts about the weather in Singapore? You are in luck, and it could happen well before the end of this year.

The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) will be getting data from a new and improved Japanese weather satellite called the Himawari-8 after it becomes fully operational later this year.

Launched in October last year, it will orbit Earth at an altitude of 36,000km above the Equator. The satellite will provide snapshots of the planet and its weather, including developing storm clouds, every 10 minutes.

This is a marked improvement over the information provided by the Japanese MTSAT satellite currently used by the MSS, as the MTSAT can give updates only once every half-hour.

The Japan Meteorological Agency plans to switch its operations from MTSAT to the Himawari-8 in the middle of this year.

An MSS spokesman told The Straits Times: "With more frequent observations and a higher spatial resolution, (the Himawari-8) can detect weather systems, as well as smoke haze, at more frequent intervals."

Experts said the satellite's features are especially suited to predicting the type of storm that is common in the tropics, including in Singapore.

Weather scientist Koh Tieh Yong said: "Most of the storms here are convective storms, which are caused by the rising of hot air and the sinking of cold air.

"The time-scale for such rising and sinking is in the order of 10 minutes, so the satellite's frequent observation is a good improvement in terms of observing this phenomenon of convective weather."

Dr Koh, a professor at Nanyang Technological University and a principal investigator at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, noted that the Himawari-8 is able to provide greater detail about temperatures and humidity at various heights.

This information, plugged into weather-modelling computer systems, would allow forecasters to better predict the likelihood of storms over the ensuing four hours.

Even so, Dr Koh added, the horizontal resolution of the Himawari-8 images might not be high enough to capture isolated clouds or small clusters of clouds that could bring showers to Singapore.

"The resolution is already fantastic for most countries, but Singapore is very small, so we will always need better data," he said.

Dr Santo Salinas, a senior research scientist at the National University of Singapore's Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing, said the satellite could help the authorities monitor forest fires and smoke haze more effectively.

However, he said, it might not be able to detect small fires or fires that burn underground, which are common in the region.


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Malaysia willing to work with Singapore on regional oil pricing

Today Online 27 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE, Feb 27 - Malaysia is willing to work with Singapore to become part of a regional oil pricing area, including offering land for storage the island state lacks, the head of a Malaysian state body coordinating a major new oil hub said.

Despite being an oil and gas exporter, Malaysia lacks sufficient storage and refineries to allow it to act as a pricing hub like Singapore, Europe's ARA hub (Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp) or Houston in the United States.

In a bid to remedy this, Malaysia is building the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) at its southern most point in Johor state, about 10 km east of Singapore. The first phase of the project, led by state-owned firm Petronas as well as private firms Dialog Group and Vopak, is expected to be completed by 2019.

Singapore is Asia's leading oil and petrochemical trading hub, but a lack of land is capping further expansion.

"We should work with Singapore. We can offer new land, which Singapore doesn't have," said Mohd Yazid Ja'afar, chief executive of the state run Johor Petroleum Development Corporation (JPDC), which is in charge of coordinating the oil hub developments.

Commodity price reporting agency Platts has said it is "actively studying the evolution of the geographical coverage of its 'FOB Singapore' refined oil products benchmarks" due to "the limited possibility of further expansion of Singapore's on-land oil storage."

Platts already includes some Malaysian assets located nearby in its FOB (free on board) Singapore price, but Singapore's sites on Jurong Island still far outweigh them.

"There's an idea by Platts for a FOB Straits (price). That would involve Johor," said J'afar, who was speaking during an interview with Reuters this week. He added that any cooperation had to be on terms in which all sides got a fair share of profits.

Inclusion of a large integrated hub in Malaysia would shift the balance towards a more regional hub.

Singapore's agency for International Enterprise (IE), which is in charge of attracting commodities companies to the island-state, was not immediately available for comment. IE has previously said that "Singapore recognises the growing energy requirements of Asia and the continued importance of oil storage terminals to support the trading needs of the region." REUTERS


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Malaysia: River confluence caused worst floods

PATRICK LEE The Star 28 Feb 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Many of the towns worst hit by floods last year such as Kuala Krai in Kelantan are located in valley areas where rivers meet.

Dr Edlic Sathiamurthy of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu said these towns saw flood waters come from two bodies into one, swamping people there.

“Dabong, Temerloh and Kuala Krai, these are in areas of river confluence.

“These are areas where usually two water bodies meet, bringing an accumulation of flood flow,” he said at a workshop on the floods yesterday.

Some areas such as Kuala Krai, he said, also had depressed topographies (or lower landscapes), making them prone to floods.

Referring to Kelantan’s past rainfall data, he warned that massive floods may happen again, adding that there was a “pattern”.

In 1967, 38 people died and 537,000 people were displaced in Kelantan’s massive floods then.

He said China and the United States destroyed their levees (or embankments) at less “sensitive” areas in dealing with floods, so waters could overflow there instead of hitting the towns.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Prof Dr Zulkifli Yusop said the Drainage and Irrigation Department had done a study to look into building a dam upstream of Dabong.

“This is a flood mitigation dam but it must have a multi-purpose function for water resources, aquaculture and floods,” he said.

Meteorological Department spokesman Dr Hisham Mohd Anip confirmed there was a “blind spot” in weather detection over Cameron Highlands and Gua Musang.

Although there were already six radars covering the peninsula, he mooted the idea of building another one for this region.

He also revealed that Typhoon Hagupit (Dec 1 to Dec 12), the worst cyclone to hit the Philippines last year, helped to reduce the massive rainfall over Malaysia then.

This was because the typhoon drew a portion of the cold air from the north of the world away from the monsoon storms here, he said.

“If there was no Hagupit, we would have had (heavy) rain for more than three weeks instead of two (over December),” he said.

He said the department was trying to update its forecasting models.

He admitted that some years might be needed before they were properly equipped to forecast, adding that even the United States had similar problems in getting things accurate.

National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia senior researcher Marini Ideris said land use contributed to the floods in Kelantan.

Later, when asked to elaborate, she said that the findings were still preliminary and needed more research.

Though many factors led to the floods last year, it is widely agreed that an extreme rainfall of over 1,500mm in December last year led to many areas being submerged under several metres of water.


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Malaysia: Those caught with toxic weed can land behind bars

TASHNY SUKUMARAN The Star 28 Feb 15;

PETALING JAYA: Anyone caught spreading or transporting the eczema-causing weed Parthenium hysterophorus into or across Malaysia risk facing a RM10,000 fine or two years’ jail or both.

The species has been declared as a noxious plant under the Plant Quarantine Act 1976 by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry on Wednesday.

Under the Act, a noxious plant cannot be cultivated, kept or imported. Those who find the plant on their land should destroy it by fire or other methods stipulated by the relevant authorities.

The authorities are empowered to enter the land where the plant grows and destroy it, and recover any expenses incurred from the owner or occupier of the land. Those who contravene these directives can be fined up to RM10,000.

Agriculture Department director-general Datuk Ahmad Zakaria Mohd Sidek said that the plant was declared as a noxious weed to enable the authorities to control its spread.

“We can enter private premises to take care of the weed, as well as improve quarantine measures,” he added.

P. hysterophorus, which is found in every Malaysian state except Sarawak, Terengganu and Kelantan, is being held at bay by herbicides.

The Star first revealed that this weed was sweeping the nation last December, with people in parts of Kedah reportedly suffering from itchy red rashes.

A highly-allergenic plant, P. hysterophorus or ‘congress grass’ can cause severe skin disease and hay fever.

It is also toxic to livestock such as goats and cows, causing fevers, ulcers, anorexia and intestinal damage.

It can quickly replace native flora by releasing toxic substances, causing massive crop loss – leading to it being dubbed ‘the worst weed of the century’.

In a media release, the Agriculture Department advised the people to destroy the weed in its early stages before it flowers and produces seeds.

Those staying in residential areas can use salt water in a 1:4 ratio of salt to water to destroy the weed.

Similar in appearance to ulam raja, some Malaysians have cultivated the weed for its delicate white flowers, leading to its propagation.


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Indonesia: 20 hectares of tourism forest areas in Batam catch fire

Antara 1 Mar 15;

Batam, Riau Islands (ANTARA News) - The Fire Danger Mitigation of the Batam Concession Agency has reported that in the last two weeks, at least 20 hectares in the Nongsa tourist area caught fire due to hot weather and irresponsible activities.

"There were many cases of forest fire in Nongsa in the recent days. Some of them in less than one-hectare area and some in more than five hectares," an official of the Fire Danger Mitigation of the Batam Concession Agency (PBK BP), Damar Nugroho, stated here on Saturday.

The Nongsa tourist area has a number of resorts, golf courses, botanical gardens and a beach. The fire there originated from roadside.

According to him, road users carelessly throw burning cigarette butts without realizing they can burn bushes and the fire can spread to nearby forests.

"We strongly discourage road users or the public from carelessly discarding cigarette butts and burning trash in forest areas. They might cause large fires due to hot weather and strong winds," he explained.

Meanwhile, the head of the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency of the Hang Nadim station, Philip Mustamu, predicted that the hot weather will continue until mid-March 2015.

The government has declared a state of emergency to prevent and handle forest fires in Riau Province, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

"The step is to anticipate forest and field fires in 2015," Chief of the Public Relations and Information Center of the agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated on Sunday (Feb. 22).

According to Sutopo, Riau Province bears the brunt of forest fires every year. Based on the hotspot data for the 2006-2014 period, forest fires occurred twice every year in Riau between February to April and June to October.

Although the government has recognized the vested interest of people in starting forest fires and has established regulations to prevent them, the disaster continues unabated.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has sought BNPBs assistance to take emergency steps in case of a spread of hotspots and fires in Bengkalis District in Riau Province.

Riau province is the neighboring province of Riau Islands. (*)


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