Best of our wild blogs: 18 Jan 17



2017 class of TED Fellows and Senior Fellows
Neo Mei Lin


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Local companies among world's most sustainable

Yasmine Yahya, The New Paper AsiaOne 18 Jan 17;

Three of corporate Singapore's most well-known firms have been named among the 100 most sustainable companies in the world.

Developer City Developments (CDL) was placed 30th, with Singtel 52nd and fellow telco StarHub 69th in the annual rankings announced at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday.

German conglomerate Siemens topped the list, followed by Norwegian insurer Storebrand, tech giant Cisco Systems from the United States, Denmark's Danske Bank and the Dutch ING Group.

CDL said in a statement that it came in top globally among real estate management and development companies, adding that it is also the first Singapore company to be listed in the Global 100 rankings for eight consecutive years.

CDL chief executive Grant Kelley noted that the firm has been pursuing sustainable development for over 20 years.

"In the long run, this not only enhances CDL's reputation, but also assists in risk mitigation, cost management and drives improved operational performance," he said, adding that there are "tremendous opportunities" for firms to create value through sustainability.

"With increasing interest in socially responsible investment, we believe that CDL's sustainability commitment will enable us to tap these prospects."

CDL said in the statement that it practises sustainability by designing and developing "green" buildings, managing buildings in an energy- and resource-efficient way and engaging and influencing stakeholders to support its commitment to sustainability.

The firm began sustainability reporting in 2004, before the Singapore Exchange's rules in the area were introduced last year.

The WEF ranking is compiled by Toronto-based firm Corporate Knights. Its chief executive Toby Heaps said Global 100 firms are "powerful exponents of the idea that doing better by society and the planet can be financially rewarding".

"I am glad to see that companies like CDL have been consistent in their long-term commitment to sustainability best practices," he said.


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New zero-waste concept for April's Income Eco Run

Philip Goh Channel NewsAsia 17 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: In 2013, a “mystery winner” for the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore was famously outed for taking shortcuts to the finishing line, all because he wanted the finisher medal and T-shirt.

But if Marcus Chew has his way, he would love to see more participants in mass running events reject these customary entitlements and simply enjoy the day out running, apart from learning to lessen their impact on the environment.

Mr Chew, 41, is the chief marketing officer of NTUC Income, which organises the Income Eco Run. Billed as the nation’s premier eco run since its inauguration in 2010, the event has introduced eco-friendly measures such as giving out post-run e-certificates, producing finisher medals from recycled metal, using biodiesel fuel for the generators, and encouraging runners to bring their own bottles so as to reduce the use of plastic bottles and paper cups. Runners are also encouraged to cycle to the race venue, with bike racks readily available.

This year, the race has set aside a tenth of its 10,000 slots for Zero Waste Runners. These are participants who opt out of receiving finisher medals and T-shirts and who will be given a water bottle to use at refilling stations during the run, rather than rely on bottled drinks and paper cups.

An avid runner himself, Mr Chew said he would have appreciated having an option like that for the many races he has taken part in, both in Singapore and overseas.

“I ended up collecting many finisher T-shirts which were left unopened and ended up being donated to the Salvation Army,” he said. “As for the medals, what am I going to do with them? These aren’t Olympic medals which I can keep.”

His views are echoed by school teacher Carmen Kee, who has signed up as a Zero Waste Runner for April’s Income Eco Run, where she will be tackling the half-marathon.

In her late 20s, Ms Kee considers herself a social runner and started tackling long-distance races so as to share an activity with her father and brother.

“For me, the sense of satisfaction comes from finishing the race itself and not really from the finisher’s medal, which I only use on the day itself to take a few photos,” said Ms Kee, who has completed two full marathons so far.

“At first, I thought I wanted to display the medals, but they all ended up in a bag at the corner of my cupboard not to be seen ever again.

“Recently, my family decided to adopt a minimalist lifestyle. And while clearing out clutter, I found I had two big bags of medals which I didn’t know what to do with. So I threw them away and felt very bad about it.”

The Income Eco Run will be Ms Kee’s first ever as a Zero Waste Runner, and she hopes to see this concept adopted by more race organisers locally.

“It is a good option for me, as someone who finds little meaning in the finisher medals and the T-shirts, and I think other runs should also have that option so that we can cut down on the waste,” she said. “In fact, I would probably be bringing my own water bottle too.”

"GREEN" AUDIT

Singapore is said to average more than one mass run a week - there were 76 events in 2014, 60 in 2013, and 55 in 2012 - from which one can expect plenty of waste to be generated including plastic bottles, paper cups, all manner of litter and debris.

A 2011 report on the New York City Marathon, one of the world’s premier races which attracts more than 45,000 participants and two million spectators annually, said race officials handed out nearly 240,000 free disposable plastic water bottles and 2.3 million paper cups. That means the New York City Department of Sanitation collects more than 100 tonnes of litter and debris, six tonnes of paper and nearly three tonnes of metal, glass and plastic after the race each year.

Last December’s Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore attracted a comparable 46,000 runners, although there are no figures for the amount of waste generated.

For this year's Income Eco Run, a "green" audit will be carried out to find out the carbon emissions generated by the use of transport by participants, volunteers and staff, as well as the use of direct electricity and fuel; waste and recyclables generated; water consumption; and usage of materials and responsible sourcing.

Results from the audit will be used to set environmental benchmarks for future races.

“Our run’s objective is to encourage responsible use of resources so that we and the generations ahead of us have a sustainable future,” said Mr Chew. “The ‘green’ audit will ensure that future runs can be even more eco-friendly, and we hope it will inspire and encourage others to do more to protect the environment and to generate less waste.”

Three months away from the race, about 800 of the 1,000 Zero Waste Runner slots have been taken up, and Mr Chew is confident that it will be fully subscribed before the Mar 31 closing date.

The zero-waste concept has struck a chord with runners of all ages, including 52-year-old Alan Cheong, an airline customer service supervisor. The father of three will take on the half-marathon, and while he hopes to do better than his previous race, he also hopes to do his part for a better environment for his children.

Asked if he would expect to pay a lower entry fee as a Zero Waste Runner since he will not be getting his race entitlements, Mr Cheong said: “I’m sure the organisers have worked out their cost of running the event, and I won’t quibble with them on this.

"Perhaps if more people are encouraged to sign up for this, we can really help to reduce wastage and the cost of holding this event overall. But this is certainly the way forward.”

Mr Chew acknowledges that there are those who appreciate these items, especially newcomers, but added: “We’re hopeful that one day, we will have a race which doesn’t give out medals or T-shirts but still attracts enough runners to advocate the message of environmental friendliness.

“We’re trying to create this group of people that will be the lobbyists, to get the other participants to cut down on waste as well. Ultimately, we want to emphasise the three ‘Rs’ of reduce, reuse and recycle, and hope they carry this into their daily lives and not just for running.”

- CNA/pg


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Kim San Leng Food Centre in Bishan to be suspended over rat infestation

Justin Ong Channel NewsAsia 17 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Operations at Kim San Leng Food Centre, a popular coffee shop located next to the Bishan bus interchange, will be suspended for a day on Friday (Jan 20) for failing to keep the premises free from rats.

The food centre at Bishan Street 13 accumulated 12 demerit points for rat infestations and another four demerit points for failing to deposit refuse in a bin lined with a plastic bag - all within a 12-month period, according to a suspension notice on the National Environment Agency's (NEA) website posted on Monday.

The food centre's operator has also been fined S$1,100 for the offences.

According to NEA, operators of coffee shops, food courts and canteens that accumulate 12 or more demerit points within 12 months may have their licences suspended for between one and three days as a result of their offences, depending on their past records. All food stalls within the premises will also have to stop operations for the same period of time.

NEA also urged members of the public to avoid patronising food establishments that practise poor hygiene practices, and to contact the agency at 1800-225 5632 if they come across such outlets.

“RATS ARE EVERYWHERE IN SINGAPORE”

When Channel NewsAsia visited Kim San Leng on Tuesday at lunchtime, the coffee shop was packed with customers and there were more waiting for seats. No rats were spotted and refuse bins wheeled around by the cleaners were lined with plastic bags.


All 10 stallholders said they had been instructed to close on Friday but no reason was given to them. All expressed confidence in their hygiene standards - drinks stall helper Ah Mei stated that she had never seen rats during her daytime shift.

The stallholders were also nonchalant about having to stop business for a day.

Workers at the popular Ming Ji Chicken Rice stall, who did not want to be named, said they believed the one-day closure was for cleaning. Some also said they would welcome a few more days of rest.

"Closing for one day is no big deal, in fact it's good - now I can go Chinese New Year shopping," said Sherry Yap, 40, who mans a snacks stall.

Most customers who were having their lunch when approached said they did not find Kim San Leng any dirtier than other coffee shops in Singapore.

Mr Lim, 27, a data analyst who works nearby, said the suspension would not prevent him from eating there again. Bishan resident Nelson Gan said the same. "I'm not surprised there are rats here ... Rats are everywhere in Singapore," said the 24-year-old student.

Fellow Bishan resident and retiree Chan Mui agreed. "Kim San Leng doesn't look very dirty to me," said the 76-year-old in Mandarin. "So what if there are rats? Rats also need to eat."

But some, like public relations professional Darren Ng, said the one-day closure was enough to put him off from ever returning to Kim San Leng. "I'm particular about the food I eat and hygiene standards," said the 31-year-old, who lives nearby. "How are they going to fix the rat problem in just one day?"

- CNA/dl


Oh, rats: Bishan's Kim San Leng Food Centre fined S$1,100 and suspended for a day
Today Online 18 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Rats on its premises and other hygiene problems have landed the popular Kim San Leng Food Centre in Bishan a one-day suspension, so that it can clean up the premises.


A rat trap seen at the back of Kim San Leng Food Centre in Bishan, Block 511 Bishan Street 13, taken on Jan 17, 2017. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY

The centre, which has 10 stallholders, was also handed a S$1,100 fine. The closure will take place this Friday (Jan 20).

According to notices posted on its website, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has issued suspension notices to four eateries this year so far under the Points Demerit System for operators, including the Kim San Leng outlet at Bishan Street 13.

Two others involve pest infestations: Rats at an eating house at Block 511, Bishan Street 11, and cockroaches at a food stall at Block 350, Ubi Avenue 1.

The fourth was a two-week suspension for a food shop at Westlink Techpark at 123 Tuas View Walk 1, for failing to register its assistants.

From 2014 to last year, the NEA has sent out 319 licence suspension notices to food stalls, food shops and eating houses.

Kim San Leng group has more than 30 coffee shops in Singapore. In its suspension notice, which was published on Monday, the NEA said the eating house had chalked up 16 demerit points over the past year under the Points Demerit System.

It received 12 demerit points for two offences of failing to keep its premises free of rat infestation, and another four points for an offence of failing to deposit refuse in a bin lined with a plastic bag.

The NEA said main operators of coffee shops, food courts and canteens that accumulate 12 or more demerit points in a year may have their licences suspended for one, two or three days, depending on their previous records. All food stalls within the premises will also have to close for the same period.

Food handlers working in the suspended premises would also be required to attend and pass the Basic Food Hygiene Course again, before they can resume work.

It did not say why Kim San Leng did not have to close immediately.

Some diners TODAY interviewed on Tuesday said they have seen rats at the eatery but appeared unfazed by the news.

Mr Tng Chee Wei, 42, an airline crew member who comes to the coffee shop every other day, said he has seen rats at the premise occasionally.

Another diner who gave her name as Veronica, 50, said she eats there six days a week, adding that she has seen rats running around in the vicinity. “We complained to the HDB (Housing and Development Board). They’ve brought pest control to come, and it has gotten much better,” said the cleaning assistant.

But a worker at one of the stalls at Kim San Leng, who did not want to be named, said there are no rats at his stall and no hygiene issues. “We clean up everything, every night,” he said, adding that he was told that the closure on Friday was for cleaning before Chinese New Year.

Ms Sylvia Thong, who works in marketing, said that she has not spotted any rats. But the 27-year-old felt the place could be cleaner. “You can even smell the (food-waste) push carts and the table is obviously not clean even though they just cleaned it,” the 27-year-old said.


Rat infestation earns eatery suspension, fine
Kimberly Lim, The New Paper AsiaOne 18 Jan 17;

In 43 visits spanning nine months, Aardwolf Pestkare Singapore, a pest control company hired by Kim San Leng Food Centre, a popular coffee shop in Bishan Street 13, caught 44 rats on the premises.

But the problem persisted.

And after accumulating 12 demerit points for failing to keep the premises free from rats, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said it will suspend the coffee shop's licence for a day on Friday.

The coffee shop has 10 food stalls and one drink stall.

The place will be thoroughly cleaned on that day.

Apart from rat infestation, it also accumulated four more demerit points for failure to deposit refuse into refuse bins lined with plastic bags.

Mr Patrick Chong, 56, managing director of Aardwolf Pestkare Singapore, told The New Paper: "We intensified our visits to the hawker centre from March to June and September to December last year. If there are rats, we will keep going down.

"Now the situation is under control. We caught only one rat last month."

In May last year, active rodent burrows found in the bushes outside the coffee shop were destroyed, he said.

Mr Alfred Hoon, 34, manager of Kim San Leng Food Centre, told The New Paper: "We will lose $100,000 from closing the place to allow the clean-up to take place.

"We can try to minimise the number of rats in the area, but it cannot be completely solved. I don't think the clean-up will do much to resolve the problem."

NETS

He explained that as the coffee shop is in an open area, rats can still enter from the back and the side.

Using nets in front of the shops also doesn't help, he said.

A vendor from Koo Kee Yong Tow Foo Mee, who did not wish to be named, said: "We have no choice but to close for a day, but it is not really a big deal to us."

Another vendor from Ming Ji Chicken Rice, who also did not wish to be named, said that the shutdown would give them a day off.

When TNP visited the hawker centre yesterday during lunch time, it was bustling with customers. There were several pigeons but no rats.

Customers told TNP that they had not seen any rats on the premises before.

Miss Amanda Low, 18, who works at Junction 8, said: "I come to the hawker centre thrice a week just for the chicken rice. I would not stop coming here just because of the rat infestation."

An employee from SKP, a shop which sells partyware, food packaging and stationery, who also did not wish to be named, said: "There will be rats everywhere in Singapore, but I don't think the problem here is serious."

The NEA released a statement on its website stating that the main operator has accumulated 16 demerit points over the last 12 months and will be fined a total of $1,100.

It added: "NEA takes a serious view of these offences and would like to remind food operators to observe good food and personal hygiene practices at all times and to engage only registered food handlers."


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PUB to take action against contractor over Upper Thomson floods

Channel NewsAsia 17 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: National water agency PUB on Tuesday (Jan 17) said that it will take action against a contractor over flash floods that hit Upper Thomson Road on Christmas Eve.

On Dec 24 last year, businesses in the area were flooded with knee-deep water after heavy rain. Reports said that some of the businesses suffered damage worth thousands of dollars.

An investigation by PUB at the nearby Upper Thomson MRT station construction site found that the contractor, Sato Kogyo, had carried out works that affected the public drainage system.

“A temporary diversion drain constructed by the contractor within the worksite was found to be undersized, and the contractor did not inform PUB prior to the commencement of these works,” PUB said.

A public drainage system across Upper Thomson Road, near Lorong Mega, was also found to have been altered by the contractor without approval, it said.

The agency said it will take action against the contractor under the Sewerage and Drainage Act. The contractor has also been instructed to carry out rectification work to improve the drainage in the area.

“Contractors must seek approval from PUB and notify PUB before carrying out any works affecting the stormwater drainage systems within and near their construction sites to ensure that these do not affect the functioning of the public drainage system,” PUB said.

Contractors may be fined up to S$50,000 for works affecting the public drainage system, and up to S$20,000 for unauthorised alteration of the public drainage system.

CANAL WIDENING WORKS TO BE EXPEDITED: LTA

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it has been widening the existing canal along Upper Thomson Road and Jalan Keli as part of construction works for the Upper Thomson MRT station.

It added that Sato Kogyo is currently carrying out canal widening works along Jalan Keli where a temporary canal needs to be constructed. "Due to the narrow site conditions along Jalan Keli, the contractor was not able to achieve the desired width, resulting in a localised constriction," an LTA spokesperson said.

LTA added that since the flash flood incident, it has instructed Sato Kogyo to expedite the completion of the canal widening works. "Once the canal is complete, it will improve the recurring flash flood situations at Jalan Keli," said the spokesperson.

- CNA/cy/am


PUB to take action against MRT contractor over works that caused Upper Thomson floods
Today Online 17 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Sato Kogyo had carried out unauthorised works that affected the public drainage system, and the national water agency PUB will be taking action against the company, it said after it carried out investigations into the Upper Thomson flooding incident.

The works carried out had contributed to the flooding, which took place on Christmas Eve, filling the area with knee-deep water. Some of the businesses in the vicinity were reported to have suffered damage worth thousands of dollars.

In a statement on Tuesday (Jan 17), the PUB said after the incident, it carried out an investigation at the Upper Thomson MRT station construction site and found that Sato Kogyo had carried out works that affected the public drainage system. Sato Kogyo had earlier been awarded the contract for the station’s construction.

“A temporary diversion drain constructed by the contractor within the worksite was found to be undersized, and the contractor did not inform PUB prior to the commencement of these works.

“The public drainage system across Upper Thomson Road (near Lorong Mega) was also found to have been altered by the contractor without PUB’s approval.”

The contractor, which has been told to carry out rectifications to improve the drainage in the area, will also be facing action under the Sewerage and Drainage Act, PUB said.

Contractors may be fined up to S$50,000 for works affecting the public drainage system, and up to $20,000 for unauthorised alteration of the public drainage system.

In its statement, PUB noted that contractors must seek approval from the agency and notify it before carrying out any works affecting the stormwater drainage systems within and near their construction sites. This is to ensure that these do not affect the functioning of the public drainage
system.

“They must not construct, alter, discontinue or close up any stormwater drain without approval from PUB. PUB takes a serious view of unauthorised works on the public drainage system,” it added.


PUB takes action against contractor responsible for Upper Thomson flood
Lydia Lam, The New Paper AsiaOne 18 Jan 17;

Singapore's national water agency PUB will take action against a contractor for carrying out unapproved drainage works at Upper Thomson.

The unauthorised drainage diversions led to flooding last month that cost businesses thousands of dollars.

PUB investigations showed that the contractor, Sato Kogyo, had constructed an undersized temporary diversion drain at the Upper Thomson MRT station construction site.

The contractor failed to inform PUB before constructing the drain, PUB said in a press release yesterday.

Upper Thomson Road was flooded on Christmas Eve last year after a heavy downpour.

The drain at the construction site was choked, leading to a flash flood.

Eight businesses there were affected by the flood, The New Paper reported last month.

PUB said it would be taking action against Sato Kogyo under the Sewerage and Drainage Act and has also instructed the contractor to carry out rectification works to improve drainage in the area.

It said in a release: "Contractors must seek approval from PUB and notify PUB before carrying out any works affecting the stormwater drainage systems within and near their construction sites to ensure that these do not affect the functioning of the public drainage system.

"They must not construct, alter, discontinue or close up any stormwater drain without approval from PUB.

"PUB takes a serious view of unauthorised works on the public drainage system."

Contractors who carry out works that affect the public drainage system can be fined up to $50,000, and up to $20,000 for unauthorised alteration of the system.

LOSSES

The Roti Prata House, one of the businesses affected, lost about $15,000.

Mr Syed Ridzwan, 39, a waiter at the eatery, told TNP that they had to repair three chillers.

He said: "We don't get any benefit from PUB fining the contractor. We already suffered the losses, and we spent $2,000 repairing the three chillers."

Udders, an ice cream parlour, was also affected.

The director of Udders, Miss Wong Peck Lin, told TNP: "Our first concern is that it should not happen again because it was a disruption of business. We're trusting that the people in charge will ensure that the drainage will be cleared."

She added that its estimated loss was $3,000, including damaged products and lost business.


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Malaysia aims to have half of country covered in forests

The Star 18 Jan 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will push to make five million hectares of forests as permanent reserves by 2020, says Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said the ministry’s 2017 plan to preserve the country’s green areas was to ensure at least half of the country was covered in forest land.

With timber exports making up nearly RM22bil of the country’s economy, Dr Wan Junaidi said it was time for Malaysia to look at the other potential its forests had to offer besides wood.

“We hope all the state governments can agree on this with us. We want them to see the potential of the forests for tourism and not just timber. But so far it’s not a realisation yet, perhaps because there is a lack of awareness,” he said at the launch of his ministry’s new campaign “Forest Beyond Timber” at Menara KL yesterday.

He said for starters, the ministry would set up a dedicated forestry unit to look after the 68 hectares of forests in the Federal Territories by April.

Meanwhile, the Forestry Department said it planned to increase the size of gazetted forest reserves in Peninsular Malaysia from 4.94 million hectares to five million hectares by 2020.

Currently, 44.7% of the peninsula was still covered in forests, he said.

“That is not enough,” he said.

As the country continues its rapid growth, he expressed concern that Malaysia would end up like “Western countries which lost their natural resources” for modernisation.

“Only 17% of Europe is covered in forest now. They have poisoned the world and now expect us to save it for them,” a candid Dr Wan Junaidi told his ministry staff.


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Indonesia: Army wary of forest and land fires in Riau province

Antara 17 Jan 17;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The personnel of the Indonesian Army (TNI AD) are wary of the catastrophic forest and land fires in Riau Province, as new hotspots indicating fires were detected across the region in the last week.

"The potential for forest and land fires is currently quite high, especially in the peatlands of the Kunto Darussalam area," Commander of District Military 10 Captain Czi Sudarmaji stated here on Tuesday.

He said the first step to addressing the threat of forest and land fires in the local area is to increase patrols and the dissemination of information.

Patrolling is intended to narrow the space for perpetrators of forest fires, while dissemination of information is expected to educate the community on the dangers and threats of land burning activities.

The next step is to check the firefighting equipment and infrastructure either owned by the military or the Community Care Fire.

"We also began examining the boundaries of canals and ponds that have been built," he stated.

Meanwhile, coordination between the TNI AD, local community, and the Indonesian National Police also continues to increase, as joint partners, in the process of prevention and law enforcement with regard to forest and land fires.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) began detecting the emergence of hotspots indicating forest and land fires in the province in the past week. Based on data from BMKG, hotspots were detected in the districts of Rokan Hilir, Siak, Pelalawan, Kuantan Singingi, and Indragiri Hulu.

According to Head of the Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) of Riau Province Jim Gafur, several areas were facing drought in recent days that had made them more prone to forest fires.

Hence, the provinces BPBD is closely monitoring the emergence of hotspots by improving coordination between regional authorities in the region.

In addition, the provincial government has adopted a policy to immediately conduct integrated patrols to prevent fires. The effort was supported by the military, police, and other related institutions.

In 2016, forest fires had plagued thousands of hectares of land in Riau Province. However, the fire did not cause smog as was the case in previous years.

(Reported by Anggi Romadhoni/Uu.M052/INE/KR-BSR/F001)


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Indonesia: Bonn Challenge to discuss water channels in plantation areas

Antara 16 Jan 17;

Palembang (ANTARA News) - Indonesia will host the Bonn Challenge in the South Sumatran city of Palembang to discuss water channel problems on plantation and forest areas.

The Special Staff on Climate Change for the governor of South Sumatra, Najib Asmani, said on Monday that the issue was chosen for discussion as the problem is still present in Indonesia. According to Asmani, disorganized water channels in some plantations are the cause of some water shortages.

The organization, says Asmani, consists of environmental experts from various countries. "Good water channels are needed by plantation and forest areas," Asmani added.

He also said that proper water channels can support environmental preservation in forested areas.

At least 30 countries committed to environmental issues will join the Bonn Challenge that will be held in Palembang City on either March or April in 2017.

President Joko Widodo previously urged the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Ministry of Agriculture to rigorously enforce their policies regarding the preservation of ecosystems in utilized areas of peat land, while considering the welfare of the local population.

Jokowi also specifically asked for the maximum protection of the 6.1 million hectares of unutilized peat land.

According to the website www.bonnchallenge.org, the Bonn Challenge is an international effort to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land around the globe by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.

It aims to put issues such as water and food security and rural development at the top of national priorities for member states, as well as climate change, biodiversity and land degradation.

(Reported by Ujang Idrus/Uu.B019/INE/KR-BSR/A014)


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Indonesian govt threatens to revoke permits of mining companies

Andi Abdussalam Antara 14 Jan 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Mining companies have, so far, benefited from exploiting and exporting Indonesias mineral ores without processing it at home, thereby causing losses to the nation.

Hence, in 2009, the government had taken a decision to ban the export of raw minerals and made it mandatory for mining companies to build smelters. It decided to ban the export of unprocessed mineral ores as of January 2004 in a bid to encourage miners to process ore domestically.

However, after protest from the industry, the implementation of the ban was pushed back to January 11, 2017, to give an opportunity to mining companies to build smelters.

The government has currently issued an ultimatum to miners who have yet to build smelters. Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) Minister Ignasius Jonan affirmed that he will revoke the concentrate export permits of companies that delayed the construction of their smelters.

"They have to build smelters if they want to export concentrates. They have to at least promise to build the smelters in five years, with a stamped statement, or else I will revoke their permits," Jonan stated at the ESDM ministry building in Jakarta on Thursday (January 12).

According to the minister, if in the span of five years, the construction of the smelters is not yet completed, the government will not extend their concentrate export licenses.

Besides this, the recent issuance of Government Regulation (PP) No. 1 of 2017 necessitates mining companies to change their contract of work (CoW) status to a special mining business license (IUPK). This applies to mining firms willing to export concentrates.

"The change of status to IUPK will not, however, guarantee that a mining firm can have its permit extended if its smelter development had not made progress. The IUPK and permit are two different things. They both have to be applied," Jonan noted.

The government has also set a condition on export fees of about 10 percent on concentrate exports based on the physical progress of the smelters development.

The ministers policy is related to the issuance of PP No. 1 of 2017 on the fourth amendment to PP No. 23 of 2010 on the Implementation of Mineral and Coal Mining Activities.

The government is introducing the policy in a bid to develop smelters and encourage the processing and extraction of mineral ores to increase the added value of the countrys mineral resources. It is also intended to offer maximal benefits to the state and to offer legal certainty to businesses.

In the meantime, PT Freeport Indonesia and PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara are optimistic that the change in the company status from CoW to IUPK will not hinder their operations.

Mining companies operating under the CoW are currently required to change their status to IUPK after the issuance of PP No. 1 of 2017.

The two mining companies continue to operate under the CoW. They are still evaluating PP No.1 of 2017 that allows IUPK companies to export mineral ores. Miners currently having a CoW must obtain the IUPK to continue exporting concentrates.

"What we want is that it would not disturb the companys operations. This will depend on our talks with the government because it would affect us in many ways," spokesman of Freeport Indonesia Riza Pratama remarked at the office of the Directorate General of Mineral and Coal of the ESDM in Jakarta on Friday (January 13).

PT Freeport Indonesia, PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara, and Director General of Mineral and Coal Bambang Gatot Ariyono discussed the new policy that had been signed by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi).

Pratama noted that with the issuance of the new regulation, the company is no longer allowed to export concentrates. Freeport has also halted its exports for six months due to the constraint of the concentrate export license. He could not as yet predict when it would start exporting concentrates again.

He expressed hope that the ban on copper exports would not last too long, as it could have an impact on the states revenues. Nonetheless, Freeport remains committed to developing a mineral smelter.

"We are committed to developing a smelter, but we are still waiting for the contract, as developing a smelter will require contract certainties," Pratama emphasized.

On the same occasion, President Director of PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara Rachmat Makkasau said his company was also still evaluating the new regulation, particularly with regard to the companys obligations to the government.

Makkasau noted that currently, his companys operational activities were still running.

"Our operations remain normal. It is our focus to ensure that our operations will all run well," he added.

The ESDM ministry has issued two ministerial regulations on mineral processing and extraction in Indonesia and on requirements for the issuance of a recommendation for exporting processed and extracted minerals.

Jonan said ESDM Ministers Regulation No. 5 of 2017 and No. 6 of 2017 had been issued.

Ministers Regulation No. 5 of 2017 regulates the added value of mineral ores processed and extracted at home, while Ministers Regulation No. 6 of 2017 concerns procedures and recommendations for exporting minerals after processing and extraction.
(T.A014/INE/KR-BSR)


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Indonesia: Greenpeace's 'Dirty Bankers' Report Accuses HSBC of Funding Deforestation in Indonesia

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 17 Jan 17;

Jakarta. HSBC, one of the biggest banks in the world, has been accused of funding deforestation in Indonesia by environmental group Greenpeace International.

In a report titled "Dirty Bankers: How HSBC is Financing Forest Destruction for Palm Oil," the environmental activist group accused HSBC of arranging loans and other credit facilities totaling $16.3 billion for six companies profiled in Greenpeace's Dirty Bankers report, as well as nearly $2 billion in corporate bonds since 2012, despite the lender's proclaimed sustainable policy.

The UK-headquartered bank is known as one of the largest lenders to the palm oil industry in the world.

Greenpeace's report specifically highlights a list of HSBC clients that have been linked to unsustainable palm oil practices.

The NGO accused six companies — Singapore’s Bumitama Agri and Goodhope Asia Holdings, Malaysia’s IOI Group, Noble Group, and Korea’s POSCO Daewoo and Indonesia’s Salim Group — of destroying tropical rainforests, land grabbing, operating with zero permits, employing child labor and peatland draining.

"For a bank that proclaims 'sustainability underpins our strategic priorities and enables us to fulfil our purpose,' funding companies like Noble is a strange move!" Greenpeace's campaigner Annisa Rahmawati said on the NGO's website.

Specifically, the NGO said in its report that evidences are now available in the public domain showing that the six companies were responsible for unacceptable activities including having been subjected to Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) complaints or suspensions.

They have also been been cited by the Indonesian government in cases of unrestrained fires and or been the subject of numerous critical reports from social and environmental NGOs.

"Even the most basic due diligence on these companies should have set alarm bells ringing, which raises the question: is HSBC failing to apply its policies altogether, or just failing to apply sufficient scrutiny when assessing whether current or prospective customers comply?" the Greenpeace report said.

The NGO called out HSBC to disclose details of all financial services to palm oil companies, halt financing to existing customers and refuse financing or other services to potential customers that do not comply to the "No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation" policy.

HSBC's response

HSBC released a statement on Tuesday (17/01) to comment on the Greenpeace report, which started in a diplomatic tone, saying HSBC shares Greenpeace's concern about deforestation in Indonesia.

The bank said it "has no interest in financing customers involved in: illegal operations; land clearance by burning; the conversion of high conservation value areas; harmful or exploitative child labor or forced labor; the violation of the rights of local communities, such as the principle of free prior and informed consent; and operations where there is significant social conflict."

Regarding companies named by Greenpeace, HSBC said "customer confidentiality restricts us from commenting on specific companies. We recognize that this can cause frustration but do direct stakeholders to public information where we are aware of it."

The lender also claimed that following its policy revision in 2014, it has closed about 60 forestry and 104 palm oil banking accounts for failing to comply with their so-called "No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation" policy.

"We do not consider closing a relationship a success, as we lose influence to promote higher standards, although we have no doubt that our policies benefit from having a bar, below which relationships will be ended," HSBC wrote in the statement.

"We are not aware of any current instances where customers are alleged to be operating outside our policy and where we have not taken, are not taking, appropriate action," the bank added.

Looking specifically at the palm oil sector, HSBC said it "believes that palm oil can bring many benefits to society, such as economic development and the alleviation of poverty. And we agree with Greenpeace that palm oil can also result in negative impacts if not managed legally and sustainably."


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Myanmar's 'smiling' Irrawaddy dolphins on brink of extinction

Channel NewsAsia 17 Jan 17;

Sin Kyun, MYANMAR: Tears fill Maung Lay's eyes as he describes losing the dolphin he knew since his childhood, the latest casualty of a battle against pollution and electrofishing that may see the species disappear in Myanmar.

Loved for generations for corralling the catch into fishermen's nets, the 'smiling' Irrawaddy dolphins are being killed in record numbers by rogue gangs who use car batteries to stun aquatic life.

The illegal technique now threatens to wipe out the dolphins and the tourist bonanza they promise.

Maung Lay's dolphin, known as Thar Gyi Ma, was found washed up on the banks of the river in November. When locals cut her body open, they found she was pregnant.

"She is irreplaceable because she's like my own parents. I'm heartbroken," the 55-year-old told AFP inside his bamboo hut, in a small village a few hours by boat from Mandalay.

"I laid wreaths and flowers for her by the river."

Irrawaddy dolphins can be found in rivers, lakes and seas across southern Asia, from the northwest Bay of Bengal, in India, to the south of Indonesia.

In Laos, the Irrawaddy dolphin was declared 'functionally extinct' by the World Wildlife Fund in October 2016 (Photo: AFP/World Wildlife Fund)

On this stretch of river in Myanmar the animals have developed a deep bond with local fishermen, who they work with in a generations-old partnership that has become the stuff of local folklore.

With careful choreography, locals call the animals using a throaty purr, splashing their oars and tapping on the side of the boat.

The dolphins signal they are ready to begin with a flick of a fin, before driving the fish towards the fishermen's boats where they are scooped up by waiting nets.

Maung Lay said he had spent more than 30 years fishing with one group of seven dolphins, led by Thar Gyi Ma.

"I'm sorry for the great loss because she's the leader of her group," he said sorrowfully. "The others are not skilled like her."

RECORD DEATHS

In neighbouring Laos, the Irrawaddy dolphin was declared "functionally extinct" by the World Wildlife Fund in October 2016 after just three individuals were counted during their latest survey.

"There is now little hope for a reversal of the situation," the WWF said.

In Myanmar, officials say there only 62 Irrawaddy dolphin thought to be left, after a record three were killed last year.

"We lost the highest number of dolphins (in 2016)," said Jaw Kar, the deputy head of Mandalay's fishery department during a recent visit by AFP.

He blamed pollution from mining upriver in Kachin state, where chemical-heavy gold prospecting has boomed since the former military government stepped down in 2011.

Run-off from agricultural fertilizers is also thought to be poisoning the water.

But fishermen say the greatest danger comes from rogue gangs who are wiping out river life in their quest for easy money.

Initially these electro-fisherman used small batteries attached to wire wound around bamboo poles to shock fish within a close radius, a cheap and effective way to bolster their catch.

Now locals say they have moved on to using car batteries, high-voltage transformers and trawling nets.

"Even a big buffalo couldn't stand such an electric shock," said fisherman Thein San Min, 26, who lives in another village on the river's edge.

Electrofishing around Mandalay is punishable by up to three years in jail and a fine of 200,000 kyat (US$150) - a small fortune for local villagers.

But conservationists say there is little they can do to stop the fishing gangs, who attack anyone daring to venture into their territory.

Villagers refused to take AFP to where the electrofishermen live citing safety concerns.

BROKEN BOND

For Irrawaddy locals, losing the dolphins is not just about destroying traditions from their past - it threatens their future.

With fish stocks plummeting there are hopes ecotourism will prove a lifeline to bolster meagre incomes.

Irrawaddy dolphins can be found in rivers, lakes and seas across southern Asia, from the northwest Bay of Bengal, in India, to the south of Indonesia AFP/Wildlife Conservation Society

Visitor numbers have soared in the five years since the end of military rule and authorities are hoping to lure as many as 7.5 million people a year to Myanmar by 2019.

Wildlife Conservation Society ecotourism manager Thant Zin has set up a dolphin-watching programme to attract tourists, which he believes will incentivise locals to protect the animals and their habitat.

He is training villagers from a string of Irrawaddy villages in cooking, hospitality and environmentally responsible guiding.

"This is a very important business for the community," he said.

But some fishermen fear the electrofishing gangs may already have destroyed the special bond that existed between man and beast.

"Dolphins in the Irrawaddy river used to appear wherever we called them," Thein San Min said.

"We worry because they won't come close to us, although we coax them. It seems now we will have to watch them from far away."

- AFP


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