Best of our wild blogs: 24 Jun 17



Green Drinks: Mapping Food Sharing Landscape in Singapore
Green Drinks Singapore

Sharing Chek Jawa and Ubin with Youth Corps Singapore
wild shores of singapore


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More students to get a chance to plan the greening of their own schools

Yap Li Yin Straits Times 23 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE - Another 10 schools have joined a programme that gives secondary school students the chance to propose action plans to green their schools.

The Greenovate programme - a collaboration between the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC), Republic Polytechnic (RP) and Johnson Controls - was launched last June with an initial group of nine secondary schools.

Following energy audits by RP students and Johnson Controls, an energy service company, secondary school students in the programme draw up plans to improve the environmental sustainability of their school buildings.

Last year (2016), students from the first nine secondary schools achieved positive results with Commonwealth Secondary School and Woodgrove Secondary School attaining BCA's Green Mark Gold and GoldPlus certifications respectively.

The other schools will be undergoing assessment for the certification, which is a benchmarking scheme that aims to promote sustainability in the built environment.

Speaking on Friday (June 23) at the opening ceremony of the Build-it-Green (BiG) carnival, Mr Desmond Lee, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, announced that the collaboration has been extended for another year.

The three-day carnival, held at Bedok Town Square, is aimed at families with children and hopes to raise awareness of the importance of being environmentally sustainable and eco-friendly. The event is jointly organised by the BCA and SGBC, for the third year running.

Mr Lee, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs and National Development, said that all Singaporeans, especially the young, play a significant role in ensuring the environmental sustainability of the built environment.

"Changing our behaviour and mindset is the main challenge, which is why it is important to start young," he said.

The event also saw the release of an illustrated storybook entitled The Adventures Of Greco And Beco: The School In The Glass City, to further spread the green message of conserving resources to school children.

It is the sequel to a 2015 book, The Adventures Of Greco And Beco: The Glass House.

The BCA has also commissioned theVoice, a local performing arts company, to produce and stage a musical based on the new book. Performances will be held at shopping spaces and libraries from July onwards, and at all primary schools by end 2019. There was a preview on Friday for carnival visitors.

Nine-year-old Tan Kai Yee, who was at the carnival with her grandmother Madam Goh Ai Hock, 73, a retiree, said she is looking forward to seeing the performance at her school.

The carnival is open to members of the public and will run until Sunday (June 25).


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Malaysia: Carcass of endangered turtle found tied to rock

DINA MURAD The Star 23 Jun 17;


Picture credit to Mohd Forzi Zahari

PETALING JAYA: A group of divers on an excursion in Pulau Bidong on Wednesday stumbled upon a devastating sight – the carcass of a critically endangered hawksbill turtle tied to a rock.

The dead turtle was discovered by the group of nine divers in Terengganu's Underwater Gallery in Pulau Bidong.

"One of its hind legs (paddle-like flippers) was tied to a rock. Our dive instructor then cut the turtle loose," Universiti Malaya Terengganu (UMT) student Kong Mei Shuet, 21, told The Star Online on Friday.

According to Kong, someone must have tied the turtle to the rock.

"The knot was neatly tied to a rock and to the deeper part of the leg. It is impossible for a turtle's leg to be stuck that deep into that tightened knot," she explained.

Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles and need to surface occasionally to breathe.

"The body of the turtle simply floated to the surface after we released it from the rock. Before it floated away, we honoured it by taking it for one last swim. We do not want to bury it on land as the natural habitat for turtles is the ocean," said the marine biology student.

She expressed her dismay at the treatment of the rare and vulnerable species.

Kong also said that she was more motivated to protect the ocean after the encounter.


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Malaysia: Fatal accident claims life of endangered panther

T.N.Alagesh New Straits Times 23 Jun 17;


A male panther, locally known as 'harimau kumbang', was found dead along Jalan Sungai Yu-Merapoh near here yesterday. Pic by STR/MOHD RAFI MAMAT.

LIPIS: A male panther, locally known as 'harimau kumbang', was found dead along Jalan Sungai Yu-Merapoh near here yesterday.

State National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) director Ahmad Azhar Mohammed said the carcass of the protected animal was recovered some eight kilometers from the Sungai Yu eco-viaduct (wildlife crossing) about 10am on Thursday.

He said checks revealed the adult-sized panther might have been hit by a heavy vehicle between midnight and early yesterday before some villagers stumbled upon the carcass.

"The animal sustained injuries on the head and this is the first incident reported along the stretch near Sungai Yu in Lipis," he said.

Images of the panther has gone viral on social media with many expressing concern for the safety of the endangered species especially when they roam close to the main roads at night and early morning.

On June 19, a two-year-old elephant was found dead by the roadside of the Gerik-Jeli Highway in Gerik, Perak after a motorist crashed into the calf about 2.30am.


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World Heritage coral reefs likely to disappear by 2100 unless CO2 emissions drastically reduced - UNESCO Assessment

UNESCO Press Release 23 Jun 17;

Today, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre released the first global scientific assessment of climate change impacts on World Heritage coral reefs.

Soaring ocean temperatures in the past three years have subjected 21 of 29 World Heritage reefs to severe and/or repeated heat stress, and caused some of the worst bleaching ever observed at iconic sites like the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), Papahānaumokuākea (USA), the Lagoons of New Caledonia (France) and Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles). The analysis predicts that all 29 coral-containing World Heritage sites would cease to exist as functioning coral reef ecosystems by the end of this century under a business-as-usual emissions scenario.

Bleaching is a stress response that causes coral animals to expel the microscopic algae (zooxanthellae) whose photosynthesis provides the energy needed to build three-dimensional reef structures. Mass bleaching is caused by rising water temperatures associated with climate change. It only takes a spike of 1-2°C to cause bleaching, and carbon emissions have caused a 1°C increase in global surface temperature since pre-industrial times. This effect has been magnified by strong El Niño and La Niña events. Ocean acidification caused by dissolved atmospheric CO2 weakens corals further.

“ The 29 globally significant coral reefs on UNESCO’s World Heritage List are facing existential threats, and their loss would be devastating ecologically and economically,” said Dr. Mechtild Rossler, Director of the World Heritage Centre. “These rainforests of the sea protect coastal communities from flooding and erosion, sustain fishing and tourism businesses, and host a stunning array of marine life.”

The social, cultural and economic value of coral reefs is estimated at US$1 trillion. Recent projections indicate that climate-related loss of reef ecosystem services will total US$500 billion per year or more by 2100, with the greatest impacts felt by people who rely on reefs for day-to-day subsistence.

Widespread coral bleaching was first documented in 1983, but the frequency and severity is increasing. The last three years were the hottest on record, and they caused a global bleaching event that reached 72% of World Heritage-listed reefs.

“We know the frequency and intensity of coral bleaching events will continue to increase as temperatures rise,” said Dr. Scott Heron, NOAA Coral Reef Watch and lead author of the assessment. “Our goal was to document climate impacts on World Heritage-listed coral reefs to date, and examine what the future may hold. The fate of these treasures matters to all humankind, and nations around the world are bound by the 1972 World Heritage Convention to support their survival.”

Coral communities typically take 15 to 25 years to recover from mass bleaching. The assessment looked at the frequency with which World Heritage reefs have been subjected to stress that exceeds best-case rates of recovery. It also examined future impacts to World Heritage reefs under two emissions scenarios. The results were sobering and concluded that delivering on the Paris Agreement target of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C” offers the only opportunity to prevent coral reef decline globally, and across all 29 reef-containing natural World Heritage sites.

The assessment was developed with satellite data from the United States National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch and received the support from the French Agency for Biodiversity (Agency Française pour la Biodiversité).

Impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage Coral Reefs
A First Global Scientific Assessment
http://whc.unesco.org/document/158688


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Best of our wild blogs: 22-23 Jun 17



Successful breeding of Yellow-bellied Prinia
Singapore Bird Group

Restoration of shattered coral reef at Raja Ampat on hold
mongabay.com


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The $100 Billion City Next to Singapore Has a Big China Problem

Beijing's capital controls are spooking some property buyers
Bloomberg News 23 Jun 17;


Construction continues on reclaimed land at Country Garden's "Forest City", with Singapore in the background.PHOTOGRAPHER: ORE HUIYING/BLOOMBERG

The $100 billion city rising from the sea next to Singapore has hit a roadblock: China’s capital controls.

The dream of a Malaysian version of Shenzhen — largely funded by Chinese developers and buyers — with hotels, offices, golf courses, tech parks and thousands of ritzy new apartments, is having to adapt after China’s government clamped down on an exodus of money for investment in overseas property.

Developers’ sales offices in China that once brought in buyers by the hundreds are now pushing developments in Chinese cities. Subsidized junkets that flew in prospective buyers to development sites in the southern Malaysian state of Johor have dwindled. And some buyers who paid deposits for yet-to-be-built homes are considering canceling their purchases.

“I feel I’m on the horns of a dilemma,” said Michelle Gao, who paid about 600,000 yuan ($87,825) toward the 1.2 million yuan cost of a two-bedroom apartment at Country Garden Holdings Co.’s vast Forest City development. “If the project relies so much on Chinese buyers like me, how on earth are they able to sell in future? Will the construction ever finish?”

The crackdown on outflows of money from China has spooked some buyers. While Chinese citizens are allowed an annual foreign exchange quota of $50,000, the government said in December that all buyers of foreign exchange must sign a pledge that they won’t use their quotas for offshore property investment. Violators would be added to a watch list, denied access to foreign currency for three years and be subject to a money-laundering investigation.

The restriction threatens to take the wind out of residential property sales in cities around the world where prices have been driven in the past few years by buyers from China. Few projects are likely to be affected as much as the Chinese-financed developments in Johor, some of which had relied on mainland customers for as much as 90 percent of sales.

Six Chinese buyers interviewed for this story said they paid a 10 percent down-payment to Country Garden in showrooms in China by swiping debit or credit cards or using payment services like Alipay. They said the property agents are now telling them they need to go to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau to swipe their cards to pay the balance of installments, or wire funds to Country Garden’s overseas accounts.

Many are worried that would still make them liable under China’s foreign exchange rules. This month, the Chinese government said domestic banks will have to provide daily reports of clients’ overseas transactions of more than 1,000 yuan.
“I was told it can still be done from Hong Kong, but I’m just scared now,” said buyer Elaine Xiao. “I don’t know what punishment I may get.”
Country Garden said the controls have not had a material effect on sales and construction at Forest City is continuing. It has completed a luxury hotel and handed over the first batch of 132 apartments on May 1.

The Johor developments stem from Iskandar Malaysia, a government effort to leverage Singapore’s success by building a new metropolis near the causeway that connects the island state to the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru. When the 20-year project was announced in 2006, it envisaged a total investment of 383 billion ringgit ($87 billion) and much of the early investment came from Singapore.

But then Chinese developers like Country Garden and Greenland Holdings Group Co. moved in with projects that dwarfed those of their Malaysian and Singaporean rivals. Country Garden’s “Forest City” alone called for a $100 billion high-rise town to be built on artificial islands within a few hundred yards of Singapore.

The projects were marketed in China, and thousands paid deposits for apartments that cost as much as double the rate per square meter of homes for Malaysian buyers in Johor Bahru.

A buyer whose family name is Yu said she doesn’t intend to pay the next installment on her apartment when it comes due this month. She said her agent advised her to swipe her credit card in Hong Kong to get around the rules. “I asked the sales agent will you take responsibility when I’m blacklisted in China?”

Yu, from Guangzhou, put down a deposit on a 1.2 million yuan, 59-square-meter apartment in Phase III of the project while visiting the vast landscaped sales gallery at the construction site in December. She’s among those now considering walking away from the agreement because of concern about breaking the rules.

Country Garden announced on June 20 it would proceed with stage 2 of the Forest City development, a $280 million plan that includes golf courses, an international school and another hotel. The developer said in April it was in discussion with fewer than 60 Chinese buyers who indicated their intention to cancel bookings. The company said it sold 16,000 residential units in Forest City last year.

Country Garden said earlier it had stopped marketing Forest City in its sales galleries in China and ceased organizing tours to its Johor projects for would-be buyers. Its agents in China are pushing domestic projects in the country’s tropical southern resort of Sanya and the seaside city of Beihai.

The developer said it has opened Forest City showrooms in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, and plans to open more this year in Vietnam, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Dubai, the Philippines and Laos.

Construction at Greenland’s Jade Palace development was suspended in November while the company considered revising the project density to build more, but smaller apartments, according to a sales agent with knowledge of the project. No construction work was going on during a weekday visit to the site in May.

In a response to written questions, Greenland said on June 3 that construction had not stopped and that the design of the apartments will be optimized pending feedback from previous buyers. It declined to give sales figures, but said it is looking for more buyers outside China.

Samuel Tan, executive director at KGV International Property Consultants, said approvals for all new serviced apartments in Johor have been frozen since 2014 and existing projects were introducing more affordable properties at around 600,000 ringgit instead of 800,000 to 1 million ringgit.

“Given the oversupply, we don’t foresee any recovery until 2019 for high-rise projects,” Tan said. He said China’s capital controls were only significant to the Chinese-owned projects.

The glut of properties being built in Johor has also affected local developers, Petaling Jaya-based Tropicana Corp. is giving a 25 percent rebate on the list price of homes they are marketing an interest-free, 36-month deferred payment plan.

Resale asking prices of properties in Johor have dropped 2 percent in the past two years, according to real estate listings website PropertyGuru.com.

Yu, the buyer from Guangzhou, worries that the thousands of apartments still to be built at Forest City will be hard to sell without Chinese buyers.

“My home is still in the ocean,” Yu said. “Locals will not buy homes with prices double the local rate. Without enough residents from China, everything will change.”


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Sun Electric wins tender to install solar panels on JTC buildings

JTC CEO Png Cheong Boon says its SolarRoof initiative can "overcome" some of the challenges faced by the local solar market.
Nicole Tan Channel NewsAsia 21 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: Government agency JTC on Wednesday (Jun 21) announced it has awarded Sun Electric the first tender under its SolarRoof initiative to boost the generation of solar energy in Singapore.

The 15-year contract with Singapore-based Sun Electric will allow the latter to install solar panels on the rooftops of 27 JTC buildings, which will in turn generate more than 5 megawatt-peak (MWp) of electricity that can be fully exported to the national power grid and sold on the open energy market.

The solar energy company will pay JTC a monthly rental for up to 43,000 sq m of rooftop space - the size of about four football fields, the agency said.

JTC claimed its SolarRoof business model will address limitations of intermittent power supply, as the solar-generated power will be fully exported to the grid, and consumers will be receiving a stable, constant supply from the grid.

With existing models, JTC said consumers that install their own solar panels and depend directly on power generated from these panels would have to alter their infrastructure to manage the intermittent nature of the power supply.

JTC CEO Png Cheong Boon said the SolarRoof model can "overcome" some of the challenges faced by the local solar market, such as roof constraints and high capital costs. With it, he hoped to optimise the roof space under its stable of real estate developments and provide more sustainable energy options to its customers.

Sun Electric is expected to install the solar panels over the coming year and start selling solar-generated power by mid-2018, JTC added.

Singapore's solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity has tripled over the last three years, reaching 129.8 MWp in the first quarter of 2017, according to the Energy Market Authority.


JTC awards contract under new solar leasing model
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 22 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE — In a move aimed at encouraging more building owners to install rooftop solar panels, JTC yesterday awarded a contract that will allow the solar energy generated at 27 of its buildings to be fully exported to the national power grid.

The new solar leasing model offers greater flexibility to building owners, who can make money from unused space on their rooftops even if the occupants of the properties do not tap the renewable resource. This is a departure from existing leasing models in Singapore, which may be more suited for building owners that want to generate solar energy for their own use, said industrial landlord JTC.

Under the existing models, excess solar power may be channelled to the grid. Under the 15-year contract with clean energy firm Sun Electric, worth about S$2.7 million, JTC will charge the firm monthly rentals for rooftop spaces that are pegged to market prices of electricity.

Sun Electric will supply, install and maintain the solar panels, which will generate up to 5 megawatt-peak (MWp) of electricity and be ready within a year. It will own all the power generated by the solar panels, which will occupy 43,000 sqm, about the size of six football fields.

The occupants of JTC’s 27 buildings involved — which include those in Biopolis and JTC’s Launch Pad@one-north — may continue buying electricity from their existing suppliers.

The power from solar panels can be sold by Sun Electric to larger users elsewhere, such as businesses that want to adopt clean energy but whose buildings do not have roof space.

Under the contract, JTC may include more of its properties, such as the future JTC FoodHub @ Senoko for solar-panel installation. JTC may also call a new tender if it feels the market in future has matured, with more players able to support such a solar leasing model.

The new model overcomes obstacles that lessees had raised in previous discussions with JTC. They said solar power supply was intermittent in nature and could not be used for key manufacturing operations without substantial alterations to infrastructure. Their property leases may be shorter than the solar contract period, and power generated during non-operating hours would be wasted.

The cost of electricity from traditional energy sources has also been low, said Mr Mark Koh, JTC’s director of facilities and estate management.

Under the new leasing model, solar energy users do not need to change their infrastructure and may enjoy discounted solar power. Solar-generation companies no longer need to limit their customers to the building owners and occupants that their solar panels sit atop.

Sun Electric chief executive Matthew Peloso said its platform, called SolarSpace, allows buildings to sign up and sell power to any electricity consumer connected on the national power grid. “Today, a number of Reits (real estate investment trusts) see the benefit in this programme, and we are developing solar-power projects on industrial rooftops from Changi to Tuas,” he said.

Sun Electric’s electricity prices are typically 10 to 20 per cent lower than the tariff rate in Singapore, added Dr Peloso.

JTC chief executive Png Cheong Boon said: “By leading the way with this new ... model, we also hope to encourage more solar installations in Singapore, since building owners will now be able to generate revenue from the use of their roof space, regardless of their own energy demands.”

Singapore’s solar energy deployment is now about 130MWp, and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said this month that the plan is to have more than 1 gigawatt-peak after 2020, which will represent about 15 per cent of electrical power demand at peak during the day.


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Two new Zika cases at Kensington Park Drive at Serangoon

Today Online 21 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE — A new Zika cluster has been discovered at Kensington Park Drive at Serangoon, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said Wednesday (June 21).

Both cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infection are residents in the vicinity.

The latest cluster is bordered by Serangoon North Avenue 1, Kensington Park Drive, and Worthing Road, with the Kensington Park Condominium at the heart of the cluster.

It is also about 1km from the previous clusters across Yio Chu Kang Road around Parry Avenue, the Glasgow Road area, and Poh Huat Road.

Residents in the cluster were notified on Wednesday, and NEA has commenced vector control operations at the cluster area.

Outreach efforts by its officers and grassroots volunteers will commence in the vicinity of Kensington Park Drive, NEA added.

Residents are advised to apply insect repellent as a precaution, and to allow NEA officers to carry out inspections and indoor spraying of their homes.

According to NEA's website, the previous Zika cluster was at Parry Avenue, reported on June 9.

The latest cases bring the total number of Zika cases in Singapore to 39 for 2017.


New Zika cluster at Kensington Park Drive
Channel NewsAsia 21 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: Two new cases of locally transmitted Zika have been confirmed at Kensington Park Drive at Serangoon Gardens, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Wednesday (Jun 21). Both cases involve residents in the vicinity.

This new cluster was notified on Wednesday, and NEA has commenced vector control operations at the cluster area.

"Residents and stakeholders are urged to maintain vigilance and continue to eliminate mosquito breeding habitats, as there could be asymptomatic or mild, undiagnosed cases which might result in further transmission of the virus if there are mosquitoes in the vicinity," NEA said.

NEA urged residents in the area to allow its officers to carry out inspections of their homes, and advised them to apply insect repellent as a precaution.

"Members of the public are advised to seek medical attention if they are unwell, especially with symptoms such as fever and rash. They should also inform their doctors of the location of their residence and workplace," the agency added.

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As of Wednesday, Kensington Park Drive is the only Zika cluster in Singapore. The Parry Avenue cluster, which was announced on Jun 9, is now closed and under surveillance.


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Woman fined for abandoning pet cat

Channel NewsAsia 21 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: A 23-year-old woman was on Wednesday (Jun 21) fined S$2,500 in court for abandoning her pet cat at a staircase landing.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a media release that it was alerted to the incident on Jan 10 after a member of the public found the cat at a staircase landing along Canberra Road. Details of the owner were on the carrier next to the cat.

Upon questioning, the owner of the cat, Illya Natassia Abdul Manaf, admitted to abandoning it after a "family conflict", AVA said.

The cat was cared for by a fosterer while investigations were underway, and has been successfully rehomed with the help of an animal welfare group, AVA said.

"AVA takes a stern view on pet abandonment. We investigate all feedback on pet abandonment and will take enforcement action, where necessary. Individuals who abandon their pets are liable to a maximum fine of S$10,000 and/or 12 months' jail for first convictions," the authority added.

It also urged members of the public to report cases of pet abandonment by calling its 24-hour hotline at 1800-476-1600, or submitting tip-offs via its website.


Woman gets S$2,500 penalty for abandoning cat
Today Online 22 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE — A 23-year-old woman was fined S$2,500 on Wednesday (June 21) after she was found guilty of abandoning her pet cat at Canberra Road, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said.

On Jan 10, a member of the public found the abandoned cat and alerted the AVA. Also found nearby was a pet carrier which had the personal details of the accused, Illya Natassia Abdul Manaf.

She was taken in for questioning, and lllya Natassia admitted to abandoning her cat after a family conflict.

The cat was subsequently rehomed with the help of an animal welfare group.

“The AVA takes a stern view on pet abandonment. We investigate all feedback on pet abandonment and will take enforcement action, where necessary,” the authority said. First-time offenders found guilty of abandoning their pets could be jailed up to a year or fined up to S$10,000, or both.

“Safeguarding animal welfare is a shared social responsibility requiring the cooperation of all stakeholders, including the public,” said the AVA.

“While the AVA continues to ensure that the necessary enforcement action is taken and to raise awareness on animal welfare, members of the public can play their part by being vigilant,” it added.

Members of the public can report cases of pet abandonment to the AVA via its 24-hour hotline, 1800-476-1600 or its website www.ava.gov.sg.


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APP mill can produce far more than expected, stoking worries

Green groups fear firm will break promise not to cut down natural forests to supply new mill
Audrey Tan Straits Times 23 Jun 17;

Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), one of the Indonesian firms blamed for the record-breaking haze in 2015, is facing fresh allegations over its lack of transparency, this time over its newly operational mill in Indonesia's South Sumatra province.

A document obtained this month by The Straits Times showed that the mill in South Sumatra's Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) district has the option to produce far more than APP had given the impression that it can - causing environmental groups to worry that the company would have to cut down natural forests to feed the mill's appetite.

The government licence, issued by Indonesia's Capital Investment Coordination Agency (BKPM), showed that the mill had approval to produce up to 3.25 million tonnes of pulp a year.

BKPM media relations officer Iwan Ungsi confirmed that the document was an approval licence which allowed pulp production capacity at APP's OKI mill to go up from 2 million tonnes to 2.5 million tonnes. Existing legislation in Indonesia also allows companies to produce up to 30 per cent more than the amount stated in their licences without the need for further approvals, which means that the APP mill can produce up to 3.25 million tonnes of pulp annually.

APP had applied for and been given the licence in December 2015.

But as recently as in February this year, during a media visit to the mill, APP told The Straits Times that "the initial production licence for the OKI mill... and an approval from the Environment Impact Analysis licence granted production of 2 million tonnes of pulp annually".

On why APP's recent communications did not reflect the updated figure, an APP spokesman said: "The initial production licence for the OKI mill which was issued by BKPM in June 2012 and accompanied by an approved Environmental Impact Analysis licence was granted... for the production of 2 million tonnes of pulp annually, with the option of seeking further permits for increasing production in the future. This was why the 2 million figure was used as that was the initial production licence that the government granted."

With an output of 2 million tonnes of pulp a year, enough wood could be sourced from its plantations to feed the mill, APP said.

But Mr Aidil Fitri from Indonesian environmental group Hutan Kita Institute said: "I think APP has not been transparent about the mill's capacities."

It is not the first time that APP has faced accusations over its lack of transparency.

In March this year, Singapore's National Environment Agency, which is investigating firms believed to be responsible for the haze under the Republic's Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, said APP had not provided investigators with enough information.

The Singapore Environment Council had also, in the wake of the 2015 crisis, revoked APP's use of its eco-label, which resulted in its products being pulled from supermarket shelves here.

WOOD SOURCING

Environmental groups worry that APP will renege on its no deforestation policy, now that it has emerged its mill can legally produce much more than it has given the impression that it can.

This is especially as APP had applied for the licence in December 2015 - after the catastrophic fires earlier that year that razed many of its plantations, and caused the intense haze. The Indonesian government had forbidden firms from replanting on burnt peats after the crisis, reducing the amount of land for planting pulpwood.

An analysis by a group of Indonesian environmental organisations showed that the 2015 fires had burnt an estimated 86,000ha of planted acacia within the OKI mill's supply areas in South Sumatra - accounting for 26 per cent of APP's total planted area in the province.

Mr Bas Tinhout, technical officer for climate-smart land use at environmental group Wetlands International, said: "The demand for raw material will present a very high plantation fibre shortage... What APP will do is speculation but will APP default on its zero-deforestation commitment?"

APP said the 2015 fires were unfortunate, and that its concessions in South Sumatra were affected. "But we have suppliers elsewhere who also supply to OKI mill," said APP's spokesman. In all, the mill will acquire raw materials from two regions in South Sumatra, with a total concession area of 808,000ha. The mill also has support from other sources or suppliers in Riau, Jambi, West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and South Sumatra, with a total of 42 suppliers, said the spokesman.

UPGRADEABLE MACHINERY?

APP said the OKI mill's maximum output capacity currently is 2.8 million tonnes of pulp a year.

But environmental groups pointed out that the machinery may be upgradeable to produce more.

Hutan Kita Institute's Mr Fitri said: "In 2013, it was indicated in an environmental impact assessment report that the mill will have capacity of about 2 million tonnes of pulp a year. Later, the director of OKI Mill said they will produce 2.8 million tonnes of pulp a year. But trade reports have also said that the OKI mill machinery is upgradeable to 3.2 million tonnes of pulp a year."

Mr Aditya Bayunanda, director of policy sustainability and transformation at WWF-Indonesia, said: "The licence that allows such a huge capacity without ensuring that they have enough fibre supply makes us very concerned," he said.

Pressed on whether APP plans to upgrade its machinery beyond the 2.8 million tonnes capacity, its spokesman said: "The mill currently has no intention of expanding output beyond what the licence allows for."

He added that production levels have been at a low level since operations started last year, and this year, the mill is expected to produce 1.7 million tonnes of pulp. "Output (will) increase at a gradual pace subject to demand and availability of raw materials from APP's suppliers, who are bound by our Forest Conservation Policy commitments. Put simply, we are not seeking to achieve maximum output in the shortest period of time," he said.

Mr Bayunanda said there was a "dire need" for independent checks, now that it has been revealed the OKI mill can legally produce much more than what was communicated.

"There is widespread scepticism by civil society about the limits of their plantation supply. This has heightened our deep concern that APP may go back to sourcing natural forest timber to make up for the timber shortage to feed their mill.

"Reliable and truly independent verification of wood supply is the only way we can ensure that this will not happen, but the company has not implemented any such measures to date."


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Malaysian caught smuggling exotic animals

The Star 23 Jun 17;

BANGKOK: Thai wildlife officers have arrested a Malaysian man attempting to smuggle two baby orang utan, 51 tortoises and six raccoons into the kingdom across its southern border.

The animals were packed into plastic boxes and suitcases loaded into the man’s car, officials said on Thursday.

The 63-year-old was stopped Wednesday as he was attempting to drive through a border checkpoint in Thailand’s southern Songkhla province.

“The suspect said he was hired to transport the animals from (neighbouring) Perlis state in Malaysia to Hatyai (in Thailand) for 1,000 baht (RM127),” said Prach Kongthong, a wildlife officer manning the checkpoint.

The two tiny orang utan were less than six months old and will be transferred to a local shelter, he added.

Orang utan are native to Borneo and Sumatra but they are often illegally smuggled throughout mainland South-East Asia, either for private zoos or as pets.

Most of the 51 rescued reptiles were Indian star tortoises – an endangered species from South Asia coveted for its star-patterned shell.

Thailand has long served as a transit hub for wildlife products bound for major markets like Vietnam and China, where exotic animal parts are often used in folk medicine.

Thai police frequently seize trafficked animals and wildlife products but they usually only catch low-level couriers, leaving the kingpins behind the lucrative trade at large.

In December, Thai police rescued two baby orang utan in a sting operation that saw undercover officers pose as buyers over a smartphone messaging app. — AFP


Perlis Aksem to get details on Malaysian caught for wildlife smuggling in Thailand
ILI SHAZWANI New Straits Times 22 Jun 17;

KANGAR: Perlis National Border Security Agency (Aksem) is checking further into how the baby orang-utans, tortoises and raccoons managed to be slipped out of the country to Thailand recently.

Its commander Syed Basri Syed Ali said the agency will obtain more details on the smuggling of the wildlife and arrest of a 63-year-old Malaysian who was alleged to have transported the animals from Perlis to Hatyai yesterday.

“We will get more information on the incident from our counterpart in Thailand and at the same time work out ways to prevent the incident from recurring in the future.

“If the suspect’s account was true that he was hired to transport the two baby orang-utans, 51 tortoises and six racoons from Perlis to Hatyai, Thailand for 1,000 baht (RM126), we will investigate what was the modus operandi he used,” he said when contacted today.

Syed Basri dismissed the possibilities that the animals, which were found packed into plastic boxes and suitcases in the suspect’s car, were sneaked out via rat lanes in Wang Kelian or Padang Besar.

He said based his observation on the topography of the rat lanes, the terrain was too tough to be accessed by car.


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