Environmental News Archive

An almost weekly update of environmental news, particularly marine updates, with occasional splatters of transportation, indigenous, ideas of sustainability and sustainable development from around the world.


MacRitchie Reservoir to have new car park with luscious greenery

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia
20 February 2007 0930 hrs

SINGAPORE: Work on a new car park adorned with luscious greenery will start this week at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park.

The PUB says the reservoir park's Carpark A will be closed from Wednesday for the construction of the new car park.

The improvement works will see more greenery added to the front of the reservoir park.

When completed, the new car park, with its greenery, will blend in with the surroundings, creating a fitting gateway to the reservoir and the nature reserve.

The two-storey car park is expected to be completed by November this year.

It can accommodate about 300 cars, which is nearly 110 lots more than the current three car parks combined at the MacRitche Reservoir Park.

Carpark B will be converted into a gathering area that can be used for warm-ups during school cross-country runs, for prize presentation ceremonies and so on.

Carpark C, also known as Reservoir Road, will be turned into a pedestrian walkway.

"MacRitchie Reservoir is well loved as a haven for nature and wildlife. As such, even though we are upgrading a basic facility such as a car park, it is done with sensitivity to the natural environment and in line with preserving the heritage of MacRitchie Reservoir," said Mr Tan Nguan Sen, PUB's Director for Catchment and Waterways. - CNA/ir

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Expect more wet weather in next three days despite dry spells

By Julia Ng, Channel NewsAsia
26 February 2007

SINGAPORE : It has been a drier-than-usual February. In fact, the first 12 days of this month saw no rainfall over most parts of central and eastern Singapore.

The meteorological service says the generally dry weather has also affected many parts of the region, including Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia.

But some parts of Singapore got a reprieve on Monday afternoon - a short but windy storm swept through the island and caused some damage at least in one area.

The rains uprooted a tree in Soo Chow Garden Road, off Upper Thomson.

No one was hurt but the tree fell on some parked motorcycles.

The metrological station says more afternoon showers with thunder are expected in the next three days.

This is due to the transition to the northeast monsoon season, which brings occasional strong winds.

The metrological station says the rains will help subdue the hotspot activities in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

As of 4pm on Monday, the average PSI reading stood at 37, in the good range.

But on the whole, February will be one of the driest month Singapore has seen. - CNA /ls

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Singapore monitoring impact of global warming

27 February 2007 (CNA)

SINGAPORE: Singapore is monitoring the localised impact of global warming on the country.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan gave the assurance in Parliament on Tuesday in response to a concern raised by MP Lily Neo over the impact of global warming on parts of the island which are made up of reclaimed land.

Noting that the most pessimistic scientific predictions indicate that the sea level would rise by at most 70cm to 80cm, Mr Mah pointed out that land reclaimed in Singapore is some 120 centimetres above sea level.

Even so, he said there is a need to further understand what is going is.

Mr Mah said: "So several agencies including the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, National Environment Agency, and the National Development Ministry are studying the localised impact of climate change on Singapore.

"But we also have another inter-agency task force which is led by MND - their job is to review the existing infrastructure development in Singapore to see how we can adapt to any changes in sea level."

- CNA/so

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Minister Yaacob to attend haze meeting in Brunei

27 February 2007 (CNA)

SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, will attend the second Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution and the 12th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting On Haze in Brunei.

He will be there from Wednesday till Thursday.

Minister Yaacob will be accompanied by senior officials from the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and the National Environment Agency. - CNA/ir


MP hits out at reason given by Indonesian media for sand ban

By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia
27 February 2007

SINGAPORE: The land sand ban issue was not forgotten in Parliament, even though it has been over a month since Indonesia decided to bar sand exports to Singapore.

Speaking during the budget debate, Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Indranee Rajah hit out at the reasons given by the Indonesian media for the ban and said that resource-shortage Singapore would have to be resourceful.

Singapore used to import a large amount of sand from Indonesia for construction purposes, until last month's ban.

Indonesia cited environmental reasons and border protection to back its move.

As a sovereign state, MP Indranee said, Indonesia has the prerogative to impose the ban.

And Singapore must find alternative for sand and other construction methods.

Ms Indranee took the opportunity to point out another pressing environmental issue.

She said: "It is heartening to note Indonesia's concerns about the environment. With the environment being of such great concern, it is hoped that Indonesia will take equally firm and decisive steps to deal with the problem of the haze and the forest fires that caused such devastating deforestation, especially in the light of the anticipated El Nino effect this year.

"And it's also hoped that the ban against forest fires will be enforced by the enforcement agencies with the same zeal and diligence that the sand ban is now currently being enforced."

Other than environmental reasons, Ms Indranee cited media reports saying the ban could be a way to pressure Singapore to resolve differences in extradition and some border negotiations.

She said: "If the reason is pressure, clearly we cannot accede. The extradition treaty negotiations are linked to the defence cooperation treaty negotiations and when it comes to something as important as defence cooperation, it cannot be entered into (with) anything less than equal standing between two countries, with equal give and take."

Ms Indranee said Indonesia should not forget that Singapore is also a sovereign state.

There should be no place for pressure in dealings between two sovereign states, especially not between friendly neighbours. - CNA/ir


Poor Cambodians make big gains with organic farming

Don Cayo, Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - The story of leap-frog technology is a common one throughout the developing world.

Scores of societies are rocketing from isolation -- from conditions, especially in rural areas, that were little better than feudal Europe -- straight into the information age. They're skipping right over the half-century or more of ubiquitous land lines -- which changed our lives in rich countries -- and embracing cellphones and even wireless computer networks.

But a sizable number of small-scale farmers in the Kingdom of Cambodia are not leaping into today's chemically dependent monocultures. Rather, they're using intelligent low-tech to take them straight to what many believe should become the norm of the future -- modern, high-yield, organic farming.

About 50,000 farm families in 15 of Cambodia's 20 provinces are learning to double and triple their yields and diversify their harvests without the high-cost, high-risk chemical and mechanical inputs found on most modern farms almost everywhere else.

The 10-year-old project is the brainchild of Prak Sereyvath, a 35-year-old agrologist and the managing director of CEDAC (Centre d'Etude et de Developpement Agricole Cambogien).

Ironically, CEDAC's success is possible thanks in part to Cambodia's tragic recent past -- an internal five-year genocide that began, after five years of fighting, in 1975 under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, and was followed by an invasion from neighbouring Vietnam and still more civil war.

These terrible times, Prak says, destroyed the agricultural infrastructure of the country. And they caused it to miss out on the fruits of Asia's Green Revolution which, beginning in the 1960s, provided the essential under-pinning for the spectacular economic performance of so many other southeast Asian countries.

Thus, Prak was able to begin his work with a more or less clean slate when he helped to found CEDAC in 1997, just four years after the country's return to a semblance of normalcy and two years before the first full year of peace in almost three decades.

CEDAC started out in just three villages. Today, it spends $1 million US a year to work in 1,500 rural locations, thanks to grants from a dozen countries. (CIDA, Canada's federal aid agency, is involved in only one of its hundreds of projects.)

It teaches a wide range of organic techniques as well as farm organization and marketing. A key tool is a huge assortment of simple, well-illustrated publications in the Khmer language. They include a highly subsidized monthly magazine that sells for less than three cents a copy.

Cambodia officially boasts an 85-per-cent literacy rate, but Prak estimates that half of CEDAC's farmers can't read even a simple document. Some get their children to read to them, others get the information from literate neighbours.

The productivity gains of modern organic farming are dramatic and hugely important to profoundly poor peasants who previously saw little or no cash income. But Prak concedes they can't match the gains for farmers who turn to chemical fertilizer and pesticides.

But there are other advantages. For example: "It is much better for human health and the environment."

It's also much cheaper. There are no expensive inputs, and some techniques -- like spacing rice plants farther apart so each one fills out better -- increases the yield while requiring fewer seedlings and less work.

And organic farming fosters diversification, avoiding the all-eggs-in-one-basket trap of modern monocultures.

"A Khmer proverb says where there is water there are fish," Prak said. "Because of chemicals and pollution, that has become much less true. We make it more true again."

Organic rice production allows the reintroduction of both fish and frogs -- important protein sources as well as cash generators -- to paddies where fish and amphibians would die if chemical fertilizer and pesticides were used.

To date, the market for these organic products is entirely internal, and they command only a tiny premium. But, given rich consumers' appetite for organics, that could change.

This nation where, a few short years ago, people used to starve, is now producing a surplus. Rice has grown to become its fourth-biggest export behind only mass-produced clothing, timber and plantation-grown rubber.

And there's potential for a lot more organic rice. Cambodians are starting to move to the cities, thanks in part to new jobs in textile plants. But 78 per cent -- down from 80 per cent -- of the 14 million citizens still depend on farming. So as more and more learn to double or triple their harvests, the export potential becomes huge.


- - -

Don Cayo is in Cambodia as the volunteer project leader for "Seeing the World through New Eyes", a short-term fellowship program that sends new or beginning B.C. journalists to report from developing countries. It is funded by CIDA and administered by the Jack Webster Foundation.



ndonesian remarks linking sand ban to extradition treaty disappointing: MFA

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia
19 February 2007 1820 hrs

"A disappointment to us" - that is what Singapore's Foreign Ministry says of remarks by a Director-General of the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs, Primo Alui Joelianto on the recent sand ban to the Republic.

The Jakarta Post of 16th February had reported Mr Primo as saying the ban was a "key way of placing more pressure" on Singapore to resolve differences in extradition and some border negotiations.

Singapore's Foreign Ministry said the official reason given for the ban last month was environmental protection.

But Mr Primo's remarks now leads Singapore to wonder whether that was the main reason.

Singapore had expressed willingness to work with Indonesia on environmental protection, but Indonesia ignored this offer and proceeded with the ban.

Singapore says it embarked on negotiations with Indonesia on the Extradition Treaty and border delineation in good faith on the basis of mutual benefit.

On the Extradition Treaty, both Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had agreed in Bali on 3 October 2005 that it would be in parallel and linked to the negotiation on a Defence Cooperation Agreement.

On that basis, good progress has been made on both agreements even though some difficulties remain.

What is needed now is political goodwill on both sides to finalise the agreements which, from Singapore's perspective, is within reach.

However, unilaterally making sand an additional issue with the objective of delinking the Defence Cooperation Agreement from the Extradition Treaty, contravened the earlier agreement by the leaders of Singapore and Indonesia when they met in Bali in October 2005. - CNA/ch



Antarctic water world uncovered

By Jonathan Fildes
Science and technology reporter,
BBC News, San Francisco
15 Feb 2007

Giant "blisters" containing water that rapidly expand and contract have been mapped beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.

Fed by a complex network of rivers, the subglacial reservoirs force the overlying ice to rise and fall.

By tracking these changes with Nasa's Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) scientists were able to map the extent of the subglacial plumbing.

The results, published in the journal Science, show that some areas fell by up to 9m (30ft) over just two years.

"We didn't realise that the water under these ice streams was moving in such large quantities, and on such short time scales," said Dr Helen Fricker of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California and one of the authors of the paper.

"We thought these changes took place over years and decades, but we are seeing large changes over months."

The results are important for understanding how the Antarctic Ice sheet, which contains nearly 90% of the world's ice, may respond to global warming and how much it may contribute to sea level rise.

Climate response

Nearly 150 subglacial lakes have been mapped beneath the vast Antarctic ice sheet, mostly by glaciologists drilling holes through the ice.

The new ones, detected by satellite, were found under the fast-flowing Whillans and Mercer Ice Streams that carry ice from the interior of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to the floating Ross Ice Shelf.

These streams of ice move many metres every day and are of particular interest to climate scientists.

"It's the fast-moving ice that determines how the ice sheet responds to climate change on a short timescale," said Professor Robert Bindschadler of Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, and one of the researchers on the study.

As atmospheric temperatures rise, melting the ice shelves, their ability to hold back the ice streams on land would be reduced.

"We aren't yet able to predict what these ice streams are going to do."

However, understanding how much water flows beneath the ice is critical because it is one of the factors that determine how fast they flow. More water could speed up the flow of ice into the sea, raising sea levels.

"It's essentially the grease on the wheel," said Professor Bindschadler.

Ebb and flow

Using elevation data from Nasa's ICESat, cross-checked with other Nasa satellites, the team were able to map the rise and fall of the overlying ice, and hence areas where water pooled or flowed away.

Launched in 2003, ICESat can measure changes in elevation as small as 1.5cm (0.6ins) from its orbit 645km (400 miles) above the Earth.

The study revealed a complex network of ponds and rivers, the largest of which occurred under the Whillans ice stream and covered an area of 500 sq km (190 sq miles).

It also showed that water was constantly moving between different reservoirs.

For example, a feature known as Lake Englehardt took just under three years to empty two cubic kilometres (2 trillion litres) of water.

In the same period, Lake Conway filled with an additional 1.2 cubic kilometres (1.2 trillion litres) of water.

Not all of the water was the same as some escaped to the ocean or was refrozen on to the base of the glacier.

Observations like these were only possible using the new satellite technique.

"Until now, we've had just a few glimpses into what's going on down there," said Professor Bindschadler.

"This is the most complete picture to date what's going on beneath fast flowing ice,"

The findings were presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in San Francisco, US.


Canada vote reignites Kyoto row

By Lee Carter
BBC News
15 Feb 2007

Politicians in Canada's parliament have voted, by 161 votes to 113, in favour of a motion that would force the government to meet its Kyoto targets.

Canada remains a signatory to the landmark international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

But the Conservatives have rejected most of the targets since forming a minority government in 2006.

The bill gives the government 60 days to table a detailed plan for getting in line with the Kyoto targets.

But the Conservative government has caused controversy by calling those targets unattainable and a threat to Canada's economy.

The new law is binding but Canada's Environment Minister, John Baird, has called the vote a stunt.

Fierce debate

He has suggested the minority government might simply ignore it, essentially challenging the opposition to bring down the government and force a spring election.

Such a scenario would be unpopular with politicians across the political spectrum.

The vote comes after months of fierce debate between the Conservatives and the opposition Liberals over each other's environmental policies.

The Conservatives accuse the Liberals of doing very little to reduce greenhouse gases during the 12 years they were in power.

But the Conservative government has been on the defensive over its own record.

One environment minister has already lost her job over a series of mistakes, and an embarrassing letter written by the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, in 2002 recently surfaced.

It derided the Kyoto accord as a socialist scheme designed to suck money out of rich countries.


7 Green Global Heroes To Be Honoured

17 Feb 2007 (TODAY)

Nazry Bahrawi

Seven champions of the green movement, including well-known personalities
such as former United States Vice-President Al Gore and Jordan's Prince El
Hassan bin Talal, will be recognised for their work at an international
event to be held in Singapore on Monday.

The Champions of the Earth 2007 award, given out by the United Nations
(UN), recognises the contributions of influential leaders towards
improving the state of the environment, notably by encouraging world
leaders to implement policy changes in their respective countries.

The winners will be honoured at the event, which will be held at
Shangri-La Hotel and hosted by the UN's Environment Programme (UNEP),
Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and Singapore Tourism
Board (STB).

Mr Achim Steiner, UNEP's director, described the winners as "role models"
who inspire change.

Mr Gore, who played a key role in negotiating and drafting the Kyoto
Protocol aimed at cutting emissions of greenhouse gases while he was in
politics, is still active in promoting environmental causes.

His film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, is a contender for best
documentary at the upcoming 79th Academy Awards and has announced plans
to launch a rock concert to raise funds and awareness on global warning.

A special prize will also be given out to the International Olympic
Committee President Jacques Rogge and his team for introducing strict
environmental requirements for cities bidding to host Olympic Games.

Last year, Singapore's Ambassador-At-Large Professor Tommy Koh was
honoured for his contributions to environmental awards and sustainable


Villas Of The Rich Blamed For Floods

Feb 17 2007 (TODAY)

Officials urged to build better drainage systems following floods in

JAKARTA - Indonesian leaders must bear responsibility for floods which
inundated the capital and other recent disasters to hit the country, said
the country's Vice-President Jusuf Kalla.

Jakarta is still struggling to clear up the mess from floods earlier this
month, which killed 85 people and forced half a million others to flee
their homes.

While climate change was partly to blame, Mr Kalla said Jakarta's Governor
Sutiyoso and other officials should take responsibility for the
devastation because of over-building, which had not been accompanied by
better drainage systems. "The richer people are, the more villas they
build. So the mountains are full of villas. The green areas, including the
rivers, are getting smaller and it is not balanced with a proper drainage
system," he said.

"Sutiyoso must also be responsible for what has happened, be that good or
bad," he added. "But on the other hand, the national government must also
be held responsible."

Mr Sutiyoso has said that the disaster was a "cyclical natural phenomenon"
and that neighbouring regions also had to be involved in flood prevention

But critics have accused his administration of dragging its feet in taking
steps to protect the capital, such as the delayed building of another
flood canal.

A recent construction boom has seen shopping malls, tower blocks and
villas built over traditional drainage areas in Jakarta, which is partly
below sea level. Satellite photographs chart the shrinking areas of
vegetation and ever-expanding urban sprawl in Jakarta over the past 30
years. Mr Kalla said a joint effort by the city and authorities in
adjoining areas would reduce the impact of the annual floods.

Construction projects have reduced the ability of the ground to absorb
water and will now have to include flood prevention measures. "Now I have
made it obligatory to plant trees, build water drainage tanks and water
ponds," he said.

In Jakarta, Mr Kalla said canals built by former Dutch colonists in the
1920s would be repaired and new ones built to improve drainage. An early
warning system is already in place, but Mr Kalla said many residents were
so used to the annual floods that they only took it seriously when the
waters reached their doorsteps. - AFP


Indonesia To Look Into The Alleged Sale Of Its Islands To Foreigners

Feb 17 2007 (TODAY)

BATAM - The Indonesian Government is investigating claims of foreigners
buying islands in the Riau province, citing security as an issue, The
Jakarta Post reported.

Indonesia's Sea Security Coordinating Agency commander, Vice-Admiral Djoko
Sumaryono, told the daily newspaper that the sale of islands to foreigners
not only violated existing regulations, it also showed that the local
provincial officials could not ensure security in its region.

Mr Djoko cited a presidential decree that was enacted in 2005, which put
the management of small islands on the nation's frontier areas under the
authority of the local administration and banned the sale of islands.

"Claiming ownership of parts of the beach is not allowed, let alone owning
islands," said Mr Djoko, who added that the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Ministry had already been instructed to investigate the sale of islands.

Mr Djoko was quoted as saying that the most recent Riau Islands sale
concerned Segayang Island near Batam, where small resort facilities had
been owned by a Singaporean since 2000. The business on the 20-ha island
had been operating over the last five years without any official permits
or consent, Mr Djoko claimed.

The Jakarta Post reported that the island had been sold by local residents
to a Singaporean for 55 million rupiah ($9,300). The sale of another
island was still being negotiated, Mr Djoko said, adding that it was on
offer for 100 million rupiah.

Indonesian news agency Antara reported that the government had taken to
naming the islands in Riau to prevent illegal sales. About 1,014 out of
the province's 1,050 isles have since been given names.

"The name would make them easy to detect and prevent them from being
illegally sold," said Riau's second assistant for administrative affairs

But Batam's deputy mayor Ria Saptarika said the capability of the local
administration to monitor the condition of the isles would still be
restricted by the huge number of islands and unclear ownership of many of
the islands.


High tides, heavy rain expected over Lunar New Year holidays

By Valarie Tan, Channel NewsAsia
16 February 2007 2306 hrs

SINGAPORE : High tides of at least 3.1 metres are expected during the Lunar New Year weekend.

The Meteorological Services Division said heavy rains are also expected from February 18 to 21.

And flash floods may occur in low-lying areas, especially if the high tides coincide with heavy rain.

PUB has also advised shop-owners and residents in these areas to take precautions to protect their belongings against possible floods.

The low-lying areas include Chinatown, Tanjong Katong, Geylang, Lorong Buangkok and the roads between Weld Road and Kitchener Road. - CNA/ms



Exxon Chief Warns Policymakers Against Hasty Action On Issue Of Climate Change

Feb 16 2007 (TODAY)

HOUSTON - The chief executive of Exxon Mobil, Mr Rex W Tillerson, has
warned that governments should not rush into policies that could damage
the global economy in order to limit carbon emissions, The New York Times

In a speech at a major industry gathering, Mr Tillerson acknowledged that
the planet was warming while carbon dioxide levels were increasing. This
suggested a more accommodating position than the hard-nosed stance Exxon
had held.

But Mr Tillerson - who leads the world's largest publicly-traded company -
gave an unalloyed defence of the oil industry and predicted that
hydrocarbons would dominate the world's transportation as energy demand
grows by an expected 40 per cent by 2030.

"The scale advantages of oil and natural gas across a broad array of
applications provide economic value unmatched by any alternative," he
said, adding that Exxon will continue to make oil and natural gas its
primary products.

Mr Tillerson's remarks were his first formal and extensive comments since
the publication of a report two weeks ago by the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change, a leading panel of international scientists and
reviewers, which concluded that it is 90 per cent certain that human
activity played a major role in changing the climate.

Mr Tillerson's statements suggested that Exxon was navigating between
positions defending oil as an energy source and its core business, and
showing sensitivity to growing concerns about global warming.

However, Mr Tillerson also expressed concern that policymakers could
damage the world economy with hasty environmental policies. He noted that
some scientific reports concluded with varying outcomes, indicating a
"degree of uncertainty about climate change", which should be accommodated
for in policy decisions.

Exxon has been a target of environmental groups because of its business
activities and for financing organisations that have questioned climate
science. Much of the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming
come from the burning of fossil fuels such as petrol and natural gas.


Public gives Budget feedback at REACH website

By Satish Cheney, Channel NewsAsia
16 February 2007 2208 hrs

SINGAPORE: Members of the public have been logging on to the REACH website to air their views on the Budget.

Minister of State for Finance and Transport Lim Hwee Hua and Chairman of the REACH panel Dr Amy Khor were on hand to answer queries real-time online.

It is the first time REACH has organised a townhall meeting online.

But the response was quite muted, with only 11 registered users logging on to air their views and ask questions.

Ms Lim Hwee Hua said: "To be fair, this is the first time we're doing it. It's an experience we have to learn from, whether it's in the area of publicising this to more people and to get more participation or whether it's the right time of the day, bearing in mind it's pretty close to Chinese New Year as well."

Among the key points discussed were whether enough is being done for the middle income group and if the non-English speaking Singaporeans have avenues to air their views on the Budget.

Dr Amy Khor said: "We are also using other means to reach out to the non-English speaking population, for instance through our ministerial dialogues that can be conducted in Mandarin."

More of these interactive townhall meetings will be planned later in the year for upcoming issues of interest. - CNA/ir


Over-50s 'worst carbon culprits'

16 February 2007 (BBC)

People aged between 50 and 64 have the UK's largest "carbon footprints", according to research.

But they are also the most concerned about climate change, and want the government to do more to tackle global warming, the study says.

The report - Greening the Grays - is published by the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York.

The research included analysis of UK residents by age and expenditure, along with surveys and focus groups.

Researchers found that people in the 50-64 age group have a carbon footprint of 13.52 tonnes per capita per year, compared with the UK average of 11.81 tonnes.

Carbon intensive activities, such as high car dependence, holidays abroad and eating out, are factors which contribute to the size of their footprint.

But the report adds that the over-50s worry about the climate their grandchildren will inherit, and feel frustrated by what they see as the failure of the government and businesses to tackle the problem adequately.

'Open door'

Dr Gary Haq, researcher on lifestyle and climate change and lead author of the report, said the government should take measures to help everyone in the UK lead a less carbon intensive life, not just the older population.

"The government is essentially pushing at an open door with regard to achieving a change in behaviour in the over-50s and a move to a low carbon lifestyle," he said.

"In order to close the gap between concern for climate change and the impact of current lifestyles, the government needs to take action to make a low carbon lifestyle an easier option not just for the over-50s, but for everyone."

Researchers found those aged between 65 and 74 have a carbon footprint of 12.10 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita per year, while the figure for those aged 75 and over is 11.11 tonnes.

But the over-75s have the highest impact on the climate pound spent compared with other age groups because home heating - which is carbon intensive - represents 40% of their carbon footprint.

More than 54% of over-50s are worried about the impact of climate change and are particularly concerned about the impact on the UK climate, economy and weather, according to the report.

And 75% of the over-50s believe they are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate.


Those questioned for the study identified barriers related to energy, travel and waste which they said prevented them from following a low carbon lifestyle.

The report calls for a number of measures to help the people of all ages improve their carbon footprint.

These include increasing the energy efficiency of the UK housing stock, especially for those aged 70 and over; investing in high quality public transport and a reduction in its cost; and the introduction of packaging waste tax to encourage manufacturers to reduce packaging levels.

The report's researchers conducted an attitudinal survey of over 700 people aged 50+ in North Yorkshire, and held five focus groups involving 50 people.

50 to 64: 13.52 tonnes
65 to 74: 12.10 tonnes
75+: 11.11 tonnes
UK average: 11.81 tonnes
Source: Greeing the Grays report



Japan whaling ship catches fire

15 February 2007 (BBC)

A Japanese whaling ship has caught fire near Antarctica, leaving one crew member missing and raising fears of environmental damage.

The blaze on board the Nisshin Maru prompted the evacuation of its crew onto other ships.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but New Zealand authorities said it had nothing to do with whaling protesters.

The whaling fleet has been pursued by activists, protesting at plans to hunt 850 minke whales and 10 fin whales.

In recent days, protesters from the Sea Shepherd environmental group have clashed with the whalers, and thrown acid and other objects on the ships to try to stop them from carrying out their hunt.

Mechanical fault

The alarm was sounded on board the Nisshin Maru - an 8,000 tonne processing ship - just before daybreak.

About 120 members of its crew were evacuated to three other ships in the whaling fleet, while 40 sailors stayed on board to fight the fire in the ship's engine room.

One crew member is reported missing, but it is not clear whether he was caught up in the flames or went overboard into the icy waters of the Ross Sea.

New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter said that while the safety of the whaling ship's crew was the top priority, "we are also gravely concerned about the environmental risk to Antarctica's pristine environment, if the ship is sufficiently damaged to begin leaking oil".

New Zealand maritime authorities - whose country is responsible for search and rescue operations in the area - have ruled out any possibility that anti-whaling protestors had something to do with the fire.

Instead they think the blaze was caused by a mechanical fault.

Earlier this week, Japanese fisheries officials described members of the Sea Shepherd group as terrorists, after one of their vessels collided with a whaling boat in the southern ocean.

After that incident activists threatened to ram the Nisshin Maru to prevent whales being hauled on board for processing.

But the activists' ships were at least two or three days' sailing distance away from the whalers when the fire occurred.

"We haven't had contact with the vessel for about three days now and have been heading back to port because we are short of fuel," Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson told Australian TV.

Objection - A country formally objects to the IWC moratorium, declaring itself exempt
Scientific - A nation issues unilateral 'scientific permits'; any IWC member can do this
Aboriginal - IWC grants permits to indigenous groups for subsistence food


Johor floods: Tekong works not to blame

Straits Times 14 Feb 07
Letter from Errol Goodenough

MALAYSIANS who believe the floods in Kota Tinggi are a result of reclamation works on Pulau Tekong need to revisit their local geography.

Kota Tinggi town lies way up the Johor River, some 45km from Pulau Tekong. The very name (High Fort) suggests it is on elevated ground.

All the way downriver are numerous villages. None was inundated, although all are on lower terrain on the river bank.

Kampong Belungkor and the province of Pengarang, which lies directly opposite Pulau Tekong, were not affected either.

Surely these settlements would have been the first to flood if reclamation were to blame, especially as they lie at the mouth of the Johor River where water flow is significantly slower.

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Indonesia dismisses criticism of sand export ban

Jakarta Post 13 Feb 07
Abdul Khalik

Jakarta: Indonesia on Monday rejected Singapore's accusation that the ban on sand exports to the city-state was unnecessary, replying that Indonesia had good reason to impose the ban and that such attacks were unjustified.

"We have very strong reasons to ban sand exports to any country, including Singapore," Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Desra Percaya said.

Desra, who is also the ministry director for international security and disarmament, said the sand mining had caused very severe environmental damage in many Indonesian islands, including in Sebayik and Nipah islands.

A high-ranking official at the ministry said that sand mining had deteriorated areas of Indonesia's outer islands, threatening to narrow the nation's territory. The official, who asked for anonymity, added that since some parts of the Indonesia-Singapore border were still in dispute, the mining, which is often in these areas, could cause Indonesia to lose the basis for some territorial claims.

Indonesia's ban on the export of sand took effect last week, and applied to all states. But Singapore was hit hardest by the ban.

The nation has been by far the largest importer of Indonesian sand, for use on its ongoing land reclamation projects. The ban sent shares in the nation's construction companies plummeting amid speculation they would have to import concrete sand from more expensive sources.

Singaporean ministers promptly responded to the ban, saying Indonesia had no grounds for banning sand exports to the country.

Singapore's National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan told the nation's Parliament on Monday that the ban was unjustified, and that the price of the exports was already supposed to have factored in the cost of environmental degradation.

"Based on what we know, the Indonesian sand suppliers who are licensed by the Indonesian government are obliged to plow some of their proceeds ... into environmental reconstruction, and that is built into the price of the sand," he told The Associated Press.

Mah also said it was regrettable that Indonesia did not take up Singapore's offers to assist in addressing environmental concerns over sand mining before imposing the ban.

Foreign Minister George Yeo also disputed Indonesia's claims the ban was imposed to protect the sprawling archipelago's national border. "It is not possible for Indonesia's export of land sand to affect its maritime boundaries," Yeo was quoted as saying by AP in the same Parliament session.

"According to our contractors who imported the land sand from Indonesia, the sources of their Indonesian suppliers were from inland locations away from the border islands of Indonesia," Yeo said.

Singapore's building authority on Jan. 31 said it would release concreting sand from its stockpile to make up for shortfalls caused by the ban. Mah said that sand from alternative sources was expected to be more expensive due to higher transportation costs, and said it would only increase the overall cost of project development by a "manageable" one to three percent.


Food, water and a question of stability

Straits Times 14 Feb 07
By Li Xueying

RAISING Singapore's population from 4.5 million to 6.5 million will also raise a host of issues that can pose a threat to stability.

They include making sure there is enough food and water, that the environment is not damaged by pollution and not least of all, social stability. These factors were highlighted by visiting population expert Joel Cohen at a public lecture yesterday.

One question he posed is whether Singapore's multi-racial fabric can withstand the pressure from the extra two million people - of whom foreign immigrants will form a significant portion.

'If you add four or five more ethnicities to it, will it work?' he asked, in response to a question on whether the new population goal announced last week was an optimum figure.

It is not a question of numbers, he said. Rather, the question to ask is: 'Will my society hold together as layers of heterogeneity are added on top of my current ethnic mix?'

Prof Cohen heads the Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller and Columbia Universities in New York. During his lecture, organised by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, he gave a macro view of the world's human population trends and their implications.

But the interest among some in the audience of 100 students and academics was clear - they wanted his views on Singapore's new target of 6.5 million. Is it optimum, and what are the factors that he will advise the Government to look out for?

While he demurred from commenting specifically on Singapore, Prof Cohen offered some insights on what the country should consider.

Other issues to look at include: Where will the food and water to feed the extra people be coming from? 'Singapore does not grow its food, so it is dependent on a world economy that permits trade. If there is no trade, Singapore is sunk,' he said.

Thus, it needs to determine if the global geo-political situation allows peaceful trading to continue in the long term.

Another factor is whether the country is educating its people sufficiently so that they will 'have something to offer in exchange for food'.

As for the environment, the question is: Can the population be transported without pollution?

Singapore's target adds to the ballooning global population that is predicted to grow from 6.6 billion now to 9.1 billion by 2050, assuming the world's fertility rate continues its present pace of decline.

Not every country will boom: The developed world's population will shrink by one million a year, while the developing world's will swell by 35 million each year.

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Singapore Day to be held in New York to engage overseas citizens

By May Wong, Channel NewsAsia
14 February 2007 1937 hrs

SINGAPORE : The first-ever Singapore Day will be held in New York's Bryant Park to update overseas Singaporeans on the developments back home.

It will be held on April 21.

The day-long event is expected to attract over 1,000 Singaporeans living in and around New York.

The event will enable overseas Singaporeans to meet fellow citizens and enjoy Singapore food and entertainment.

A Connect Contest will also be launched to get Singaporeans around the world to interact with one another and invite them to Singapore Day.

The three-week long contest, from February 15 to March 5, will be open to those above 18 years old.

Two winners will be picked and each will receive a pair of round-trip air tickets on Singapore Airlines. - CNA/ms


PAP Town Councils launch S$32m plan to make HDB estates barrier-free

By Noor Mohd Aziz, Channel NewsAsia
14 February 2007 1713 hrs

SINGAPORE : All HDB estates managed by the 14 PAP Town Councils are expected to be barrier-free by 2011.

More than S$32 million will be spent to upgrade and interlink the common areas, under a five-year masterplan to help elderly residents as well as those with disabilities.

Ninety-five percent of the money will be funded by the government's Community Improvement Projects Committee, with the rest coming from the town councils' coffers.

Pilot projects are being carried out in 87 precincts involving more than 1,300 blocks.

Bukit Panjang precinct has seen several improvement works over the past year.

Steps have been levelled, and ramps and railings constructed, to make the place barrier-free.

Homemaker Heng Geok Hong, who is pleased with the outcome, said, "With the slope, it is much better, easier. The children won't hop up and down and going up is much smoother...."

The man overseeing the entire project, NorthWest CDC Mayor Dr Teo Ho Pin, has promised that the improvement works would be cost-effective and functional.

Residents and grassroots leaders would be consulted for feedback, and improvement works would continue even after all 8,200 HDB blocks have been upgraded.

Dr Teo, who is Coordinating Chairman of PAP Town Councils, said, "Even after the next five years, with the completion of the masterplan, we would need to relook into the plan again to see how we can make the whole town, all the towns run by the PAP Town Councils, user-friendly, handicapped-friendly and also elderly-friendly."

The Town Councils will also work closely with other government bodies like the Land Transport Authority, PUB, National Environment Agency and NParks to create a barrier-free environment. - CNA/ms


Hawkers In The Park: First Singapore Day To Be Held In New York

ONE year after it was set up, the Overseas Singaporean Unit is throwing
its first big party - pulling out all the stops to bring Singaporeans in
New York and its vicinity a slice of life back home.

The inaugural Singapore Day will be held in New York's Bryant Park on
April 21, featuring favourite hawkers, entertainers and more flown in from
the Republic.

Organisers hope to attract more than 1,000 Singaporeans in and around New
York. Part of the idea is to update them on the latest developments back
home, and let them meet industry captains and fellow citizens. The unit
plans to make this an annual affair - though it will be held in a
different city each year - in its ongoing efforts to keep overseas
Singaporeans engaged and connected to home.

And to get more Singaporeans and others involved, the Connect Contest will
offer a tempting lure: A pair of round-trip economy-class tickets on
Singapore Airlines to join in the festivities in New York.

All participants need to do is nominate their Singaporean friends and
family who are living, studying or working in New York state to receive
invitations to Singapore Day, by providing their names and valid email

Visit www.singaporeday.sg until March 5 to participate. The contest is
open to anyone above the age of 18 of any nationality. Friends and family
can also get involved in the interactive activities on the website. -


The Long Shadow Of Australia's Dry Spell

Feb 15 2007 (TODAY)

Govt imposes limits such as specific days for watering plants, ways to
wash cars

CANBERRA - Major cities in Australia have introduced various limits on the
use of water as the country - in its sixth year of drought - struggles to
cope with water shortages, Reuters reported.

Households currently account for only 9 per cent of Australia's total
water consumption except for Darwin, which is experiencing high rainfall

Over the past five years, all other Australian major cities have imposed
restrictions on the use of water. Across the nation, the Australian
government wants to reduce water consumption by between 20 and 35 per cent
from 2001 to 2030. New South Wales' Goulburn, which is Australia's oldest
inland city, has limited household water consumption to 150 litres per
person a day.

In Sydney, residents can only water their gardens at specific times on
Wednesdays and Sundays.

Using hoses to wash cars was banned in 2003, angering some who said
washing cars using buckets wasted more water.

Authorities in the capital of Canberra have ruled that cars can only be
cleaned at commercial car washes that recycle their water.

The use of sprinklers for water lawns has been banned in Adelaide,
Brisbane and Perth, while officials have been seen patrolling the suburbs
of Melbourne, issuing fines to people who waste water.

Even Australia's national Parliament has implemented several
water-conserving measures, such as setting the air-conditioners to a
temperature 2°C higher.

Despite the inconveniences for households, the water restrictions have
boosted some of Australia's businesses.

Hardware stores reported higher sales of buckets, while suppliers of
rainwater tanks are struggling to cope with demand, with delays of up to
eight weeks on filling orders. Landscape gardeners are also benefiting
from more households wanting to reconfigure their gardens' water-saving
irrigation systems.

The Australian public has appeared to support these water saving measures.

A report commissioned by the national government late last year found that
household water consumption had declined by more than 13 per cent in all
major cities from 2001 to 2005.


China Goes Green In Ambitious Water Plan

Feb 15 2007 (TODAY)

BEIJING - In an ambitious plan with two outcomes, the Chinese government
plans to reduce water usage and increase national income by 20 per cent by
the end of the decade, Reuters reported yesterday.

The Asian economic giant's per capita water resources are currently well
below global averages and climate change is expected to make the situation

The plan, which was approved by the water resources and construction
ministries, will aim to boost more efficient use of water in agricultural
irrigation systems.

Two other aims of this plan, according to the National Development and
Reform Commission, is increasing recycling of urban water and reducing
leaks from urban pipe networks. The authorities expect to save about 69
billion cubic metres of water.

The move comes at a time when China is placing more importance on
environmental issues due to the growing costs of pollution and the
people's unhappiness about the resulting problems.

This year alone, residents in the north-western Shaanxi province
experienced drought, which caused a shortage of drinking water and
affected some 300,000 residents.


Chinese New Year Feasting Sends Price Of Fish Soaring

Feb 15 2007 (TODAY)

First, vegetables prices were sent soaring by the floods in Johor. Now,
the price of fish has gone the same way this festive season - possibly
hitting a five-year high.

While price hikes around the Chinese New Year period are common, extreme
weather patterns have given consumers a double whammy this year.

A fish porridge stall-holder at Thomson Road, Madam Tan, said: "I've been
selling mackerel since 1997, and this year's price increase is the worst.
Normally, the fish is about $8-plus a kilogramme. Now, it's $12 to $13."

At Tiong Bahru market, mackerel was selling for an increase of between $4
and $12 a kilogramme. Stall-owners blame floodwaters and strong winds in
Indonesia and Malaysia, from where most of the fish is imported.

The price of pomfret, too, has shot up from about $20-plus a kilogramme to
as much as $40. Topping this is the threadfin, which costs about $45 a

But the price of salmon - the choice of fish for yu sheng dishes
(picture) - is not expected to rise, as the fish is farm-bred in places
such as Norway and not caught at sea, according to the president of the
Singapore Fish Merchants' General Association Lee Boon Cheow.

He and Mr Kenneth Lim, chairman of the Punggol Fish Merchants Association,
believe that windy conditions, which hinder fishermen, are mainly to blame
for the price hikes. But the impact is cushioned by the fact that
Singapore also imports fish from Australia, New Zealand, China, Taiwan,
Canada and India.

Meanwhile, stall-owners say the prices of leafy vegetables such as spinach
have gone down, from $5 a kilogramme to $2. But brinjals and lady's
fingers are still going for between $4.50 and $5 a kilogramme, twice as
much as usual. - 938LIVE


Hope for end of climate deadlock

14 February 2007
By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst

Leading US politicians are meeting legislators from the EU, China, Japan and India to seek a breakthrough in the international climate deadlock.

The meeting, organised by British-run parliamentarians' group Globe, is strongly supported by the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

On Thursday, it will publish recommendations for a new world deal on climate change at the G8 summit.

G8 leaders will be meeting in Germany this summer.

The gathering in the US senate has attracted two presidential candidates - John McCain and the Senate Foreign Relations committee chair Joe Biden.

In addition, four other Senate committee chairs will attend; Joe Lieberman (homeland security); Jeff Bingaman (energy), Olympia Snow (finance) and Barbara Boxer (environment).

Complex equation

US climate-watchers say it is an indication that since the mid-term elections the US is shifting towards re-joining the international fold on climate.

It is highly likely, they believe, that even if President Bush continues to refuse mandatory emissions cuts the next president will want to return to the fray.

But this is a complex equation.

Many Republicans still demand that the competitor economies of China and India accept emissions cuts to prevent industry being re-located without any benefit to the global atmosphere.

This question will need somehow to be addressed, but China and, particularly, India are outraged that the US refuses to take the lead in emissions cuts when it has much higher pollution per person and has signed the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which obliges rich nations to reduce emissions first.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the only Indian delegate to the meeting has dropped out.

Mr Blair hopes the Globe (Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment) forum will clear the way for a historic agreement between the G8 and five biggest developing nations on a stabilisation goal for greenhouse gases - a limit beyond which the world should not pass.

Clear message

He also wants to see a global price for carbon and a big increase in the funds available for developing countries to expand their economies more cleanly.

If a stabilisation goal is agreed it could prove a surprising legacy for Mr Blair - depending on the CO2 level agreed.

But without a matching deal on mandatory cuts for the US it could amount to little more than a resolution in a student flat that someone needs to do the washing up.

In the diplomatic game we are still lagging behind 1992 when the Framework Convention clearly delineated responsibilities, or 1997 when the US promised to cut emissions as part of the Kyoto Protocol.

Signs of hope may lie in the steely scientific consensus on the human origins of climate change and in the increasing recognition by big business that something must be done - a message that major corporations are transmitting clearly to the White House.

But the major stumbling block remains the President's Office itself.

While Congress moves steadily greenwards, America's policy remains dictated by a knot of advisers in the White House Council on Environmental Quality with close links to the oil industry. It is not yet clear whether they will attend this week's meeting.



Giant squid lights up for attack

14 February 2007 (BBC)
By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News

Enormous deep-sea squid emit blinding flashes of light as they attack their prey, research shows.

Taningia danae's spectacular light show was revealed in video footage taken in deep waters off Chichijima Island in the North Pacific.

Japanese scientists believe the creatures use the bright flashes to disorientate potential victims.

Writing in a Royal Society journal, they say the squid are far from the sluggish, inactive beasts once thought.

In fact, the footage, taken in 2005 - the first time T. danae had been captured on camera in their natural environment - reveals them to be aggressive predators.

The squid, which can measure over 2m (7ft) in length, deftly swim backwards and forwards by flapping their large, muscular fins. They are able to alter their direction rapidly by bending their flexible bodies.

The films, taken at depths of 240m to 940m (790 to 3,080ft), also show the cephalopods reaching speeds of up to 2.5m (8ft) per second as they attack the bait, capturing it with their eight tentacles.

Blinding flashes

However, the intense pulses of light that accompanied the ferocious attacks surprised the research team.

Dr Tsunemi Kubodera from the National Science Museum in Tokyo, who led the research, told the BBC News website: "No-one had ever seen such bioluminescence behaviour during hunting of deep-sea large squid."

The footage reveals the creatures emitting short flashes from light-producing organs, called photophores, on their arms.

Writing in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the team said: "[The bioluminescence] might act as a blinding flash for prey."

The light would disorientate the squid's intended prey, disrupting their defences, they added.

It could also act, the scientists commented, "as a means of illumination and measuring target distance in an otherwise dark environment."

However, further investigation revealed the light bursts may also serve another, quite different, purpose away from the hunting field - courtship.

As the squid drifted around torches that had been attached to the bait rig, they emanated long and short pulses of light.

The team believe the torch lights may have resembled another glowing T. danae, and the squid were possibly emitting light as courtship behaviour.

Difficult subjects

Deep-sea squid - once thought to be legendary monsters of the sea - are notoriously difficult to study, and little is known about their ecology and biology. Several species prowl the ocean depths.

T. danae is thought to be abundant in the tropical and subtropical oceans of the world. The largest reported measured 2.3m (7.5ft) in length and weighed nearly 61.4kg (134.5lbs).

Larger species of giant squid belong to the Architeuthidae family: females are thought to measure up to 13m (43ft) in length.

But the aptly named colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) is thought to be the largest of all - possibly reaching up to 14m (46ft) long.


Dry spell in Feb, with expected rainfall much lower than average

By Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia
13 February 2007 2042 hrs

SINGAPORE: It has been unusually dry this February – a sharp contrast to the heavy rains that lashed out only a few weeks ago.

The Meteorological Services said little or no rainfall was recorded over most parts of Singapore in the first 12 days of February.

Historic average rainfall for February was 162.7mm, but two-thirds of Singapore received less than 5mm of rain in first 12 days of this month.

But Singapore was not the only area affected.

Parts of Western Malaysia and Sumatra have also reported little rain.

It is likely going to be a dry and sunny Lunar New Year weekend, although scattered showers are expected in some afternoons. - CNA/so



Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei agree to save "Heart of Borneo"

Yahoo News 12 Feb 07

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei have agreed to conserve a large swathe of mountainous rainforest covering a third of Borneo which is home to endangered orangutans, elephants and rhinos.

"This will put the 'Heart of Borneo' on the world stage as one of the last great blocks of forest in the world," Indonesian Forestry Minister Malem Sambet Kaban said after he and his counterparts from Malaysia and Brunei signed the "Rainforest Declaration" on the resort island of Bali.

Under the declaration, the three countries agreed to work together to conserve about 220,000 square kilometres (88,000 square miles) of equatorial rainforest covering about a third of the island, environmental group WWF said in a statement Monday.

"This event is more than symbolic, as it represents a commitment between our three countries to conserve and sustainably manage the 'Heart of Borneo'," said Malaysian Environment Minister Azmi bin Khalid.

WWF said the agreement also ended plans to create the world's largest palm oil plantation in Kalimantan, along Indonesia's border with Malaysia.

"The scheme -- supported by Chinese investments -- was expected to cover an area of 1.8 million hectares and would have had long-lasting, damaging consequences to the 'Heart of Borneo'," it said.

Borneo's rainforests have been under threat from unsustainable logging, forest fires and conversion to plantations. Since 1996, deforestation across Indonesia has increased to an average of two million hectares (five million acres) a year and now only half of Borneo's original forest cover remains.

Borneo's forests are home to 13 primate species -- including endangered orangutans -- more than 350 bird species, 150 reptiles and amphibians and about 15,000 species of plants.

Scientists continue to make many new discoveries in the forests -- more than 50 new species were discovered last year alone.

Brunei's Industry Minister Ahmad bin Haji Jumat said "the world outside our countries is excited by what we are doing and is prepared to lend us support."

The three governments first announced their joint intention to conserve the "Heart of Borneo" during the Convention on Biodiversity in Brazil in March 2006.

WWF 12 Feb 07
A third of Borneo to be conserved under new rainforest declaration

Bali, Indonesia: An historic declaration to conserve the "Heart of Borneo" was officially signed today between the three Bornean governments - Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The tri-country declaration will conserve and sustainably manage one of the most important centres of biological diversity in the world, covering approximately 220,000 square kilometres of equatorial rainforests--almost a third of the island.

"This is an historic occasion which marks new collaboration between our three countries," said MS Kaban, the Indonesian Minister of Forestry. "This will put the Heart of Borneo on the world stage as one of the last great blocks of forest in the world."

The Heart of Borneo Declaration, signed by ministers from the three South-east Asian countries at an official ceremony held in Bali, is a lifeline for Borneo's rainforests that are threatened by unsustainable logging, forest fires and forest conversion for plantations.

Since 1996, deforestation across Indonesia has increased to an average of 2 million hectares per year and, today, only half of Borneo's original forest cover remains.

The declaration also formally ends the plans to create the world's largest palm oil plantation in Kalimantan along Indonesia's mountainous border with Malaysia. The scheme--supported by Chinese investments--was expected to cover an area of 1.8 million hectares and would have had long-lasting, damaging consequences to the Heart of Borneo.

The island is home to 13 species of primates, 150 species of reptiles and amphibians, over 350 species of birds, and around 15,000 species of plants, and continues to be the source of many new discoveries--more than 50 new species were discovered last year alone.

"This event is more than symbolic as it represents a commitment between our three countries to conserve and sustainably manage the Heart of Borneo," said Dato Seri Azmi bin Khalid, Malaysian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.

"It has become clear since we started to discuss cooperation on the vision for the Heart of Borneo that the world outside our countries is excited by what we are doing and is prepared to lend us support," said Pehin Dr Awang Haji Ahmad bin Haji Jumat, Minister of Brunei Darussalam's Industry and Primary Resources.

"Future generations will look back on this occasion and admire the leadership and courage shown by the three governments today to conserve the Heart of Borneo," said James Leape, WWF International's Director General. "That three countries have come together with a shared vision that will promote sustainable development, protect vital natural resources and reduce poverty, should be an inspiration to everyone."

WWF has supported the three governments in their desire to conserve the Heart of Borneo since the announcement of their joint intention at the Convention on Biodiversity in Brazil in March 2006.

"WWF stands ready to assist Borneo's three governments in realizing the groundbreaking commitment they have made today," added Leape.

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Pig-nosed turtles at Underwater World help usher in Year of the Pig

By Dominique Loh, Channel NewsAsia
13 February 2007 1820 hrs

SINGAPORE: It may soon be the Year of the Pig on the Lunar calendar but over at the Underwater World Singapore, turtles with snouts like the pigs' may very well steal the limelight.

These freshwater animals, an endangered species, were donated by members of the public and given to the Underwater World.

The oceanarium has constructed a special aquarium for the pig-nosed turtles - a tank shaped like a gold ingot.

Visitors are encouraged to toss coins into the tank for good fortune and for a good cause.

The money collected will go towards supporting conservation efforts by Singapore volunteer group WaterWays Watch Society. - AFP/so


Linking Indonesian sand ban to extradition treaty unfortunate: Yeo

Channel NewsAsia 13 Feb 07
By Pearl Forss

SINGAPORE : Indonesia's ban on sand exports to Singapore was one of the key concerns in Parliament on Monday.

Members of Parliament were keen to find out about the impact of the ban on the construction industry and Singapore's relations with Indonesia.

In his reply, Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo said linking the sand ban to the extradition treaty being sought by Indonesia and border talks would be unfortunate and counterproductive.

Singapore will soon fix the price of sand used in its booming construction sector at S$25 per tonne to ensure stable prices, after Indonesia banned all sand exports to the island last month.

Most construction activities are back to normal except for a few cases where the contractors, developers and suppliers cannot agree on the price of concrete. Sand is one of the main raw materials in concrete.

Industry sources have said that the price of ready mixed concrete has increased 50 percent and some are wondering if suppliers are profiteering from the sand ban. The government said it could not fix the price of ready mixed concrete but it would step in to help in negotiations if necessary.

But Members of Parliament were still concerned about whether the ban has wider ramifications.

West Coast GRC MP Ho Geok Choo wondered if the ban was a result of the politics of envy, and Singapore's neighbours becoming insecure as Singapore's economy charges ahead.

Tampines GRC's Irene Ng asked if the Indonesian government was using sand as a pressure point in its negotiations for an extradition treaty.

Indonesia has linked the sand ban to ongoing border talks and an extradition treaty it is seeking with Singapore. This remark came from Vice-Admiral Djoko Sumaryono, the head of the maritime security coordinating board, who was quoted by the Jakarta Post earlier in the month.

But Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo said it was counterproductive to make such a connection. He said, "Our border limitation talks are complicated enough; if there is additional linkage, it will only make the talk more difficult. As for the extradition treaty, Prime Minister Lee and President Yudhoyono had already agreed in a meeting in Bali on 3rd October 2005 that the extradition treaty and the defence cooperation agreement should be linked together and negotiated in parallel as one package.

"The talks have made good progress although there are still a few issues to overcome. Singapore hopes that both agreements as a package could be concluded early."

The extradition treaty has been a sticking point in bilateral relations between Singapore and Indonesia for nearly a decade.

Some quarters in Indonesia allege that corrupt businessmen and politicians are hiding and putting their illegal gains in Singapore, hence the need for an extradition treaty.

But Mr Yeo said many of these comments were connected with Indonesia's domestic politics and Singapore does not want to be involved.

He said, "...One reason why the extradition treaty is not easy to negotiate is because if they make a case for someone to be extradited from Singapore, then a cause of defence will be whether proper procedures were observed in Indonesia, which means that, inevitably, a judge in Singapore will have to examine the conduct of their police and judges. The last thing we want is for the extradition treaty to complicate further all bilateral relations with them."

Mr Yeo also said Singapore's land reclamation works did not affect its existing maritime boundaries with Indonesia.

Singapore's existing maritime boundaries with Indonesia have been settled in a 1973 agreement. With Malaysia, maritime boundaries were settled in a 1995 agreement.

However, there are some waters near the common junctions between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore that have not yet been demarcated and will have to be done through negotiations. - CNA/ms


More people? Singapore is already bursting at the seams

Today Online 13 Feb 07
Letter from Lim Boon Hee

We are a nation of people who queue--from automated teller machines and banks to Housing Board walk-in and property sales.

Our public transport can barely cope with the existing populace and struggles to improve its frequency and reliability. Roads and highways are congested with too many vehicles despite increasing Electronic Road Pricing rates.

Queues at hospitals' accident and emergency departments, and to see specialists are chronically and unacceptably long.

And our resources for health, recreation, educational services and social spaces are already stretched to the limit with queues and congestion everywhere.

Yet, we still talk of increasing the population to 6.5 million. The social tensions from such cooped-up living conditions and limited resources can only result in more conflict, mental stress or even emigration, when Singaporeans feel they can no longer stand the claustrophobic conditions and competition from new immigrants.

Are we really prepared in all aspects for an exponential increase in people living on this tiny island?

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Ancient chimps 'used stone tools'

13 February 2007 (BBC)

Chimpanzees in West Africa used stone tools to crack nuts 4,300 years ago.

The discovery represents the oldest evidence of tool use by our closest evolutionary relative.

The skill could have been inherited from the a common ancestor of chimps and humans, the authors say, or learnt from humans by imitation.

Alternatively, humans and chimps may have developed tool use independently, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal reports.

Chimpanzees were first observed using stone tools in the 19th century.

Julio Mercader and colleagues found stone tools at the Noulo site in Ivory Coast, the only known prehistoric chimpanzee settlement.

Nut crunch

The excavated stones showed the hallmarks of use as tools for smashing nuts when compared with ancient human or modern chimpanzee stone tools.

Also, several types of starch grains were found on the stones, which the researchers say is residue derived from cracking local nuts.

"Chimpanzee material culture has a long prehistory whose deep roots are only beginning to be uncovered," write the researchers in Proceedings.

The tools were found to be 4,300 years old, which, in human terms, corresponds to the later Stone Age, before the advent of agriculture.

The age of the tools was determined by subjecting charcoal from the same ground layers to the technique of radiocarbon dating.


Anti-whalers boycott Japan push

13 February 2007 (BBC)

A special meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) called by Japan has been boycotted by nearly half of the membership.

Just 34 of the commission's 72 nations have turned up for the meeting, which Japan hoped would ease the stand-off between pro- and anti-whaling members.

Tokyo wants a moratorium on commercial whaling to be lifted and the IWC to focus instead on whale management.

The meeting comes amid clashes at sea between Japan's whalers and activists.

Japan's IWC commissioner, Minoru Morimoto, opened the meeting by expressing disappointment at the non-attendance of nearly half the whaling body.

"One of our goals is to improve the atmosphere of the IWC, which has become one of confrontation, and to improve dialogue," he told delegates.

"It's a shame most anti-whaling nations chose confrontation," he added.

Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK were among the 26 nations that have shunned the three-day conference.

The UK said before the meeting opened that the IWC was the "only recognised forum in which to hold these discussions".

"We are grateful to Japan for trying to further discussions on issues of division in the IWC," said a spokesman for the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

"However we believe this initiative may serve to further polarise and distract members from the IWC's important conservation work."

High seas drama

Some of the countries that have attended, such as Cambodia, do not have a traditional interest in whaling.

Japan has been accused by environmentalists of buying the support of poorer nations with aid packages, but this was denied by delegates at the conference.

"We are not a whale-hunting country, but the matter of resources within our sea is very important to us," Cedric Liburd, fisheries minister of St Christopher-Nevis, told the Associated Press. "No one can buy our vote."

The IWC banned commercial whaling in 1986.

Japan, which says whale meat is part of its culture, has been continuing to hunt whales for what it calls scientific research purposes.

Japanese whaling ships left port in November for the Antarctic seas to hunt 850 minke whales and 10 fin whales.

They have recently been caught up by conservation groups, leading to some fraught confrontations at sea.

A collision between Japan's Kaiko Maru and the Farley Mowat, operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, on Monday saw the Japanese vessel damage its propeller, with some reports suggesting it may have to return to port.


Objection - A country formally objects to the IWC moratorium, declaring itself exempt
Scientific - A nation issues unilateral 'scientific permits'; any IWC member can do this
Aboriginal - IWC grants permits to indigenous groups for subsistence food


Fewer Bus Bays To Make Your Trip Faster

Feb 13 2007 (TODAY)
Leong Wee Keat

EVEN bus bays can add to a commuter's travelling time by slowing down bus
speeds. To ensure a smoother ride, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is
looking into bus stops without bays.

It will use a planned road widening along Jalan Eunos for a trial run in
2009 to test the benefits of such bus stops, which the LTA aid would cut
down the amount of time buses take to travel out of bus bays.

Together with full-day bus lanes, the agency hopes such bus stops will
improve bus speeds by 30 per cent - from 17 to 18kmh now to 23 to 25kmh -
during peak hours.

"By so doing, it will further help enhance the travelling experience,"
said LTA chief executive Yam Ah Mee yesterday. "We want to encourage and
make public transport a choice mode (of transportation)."

Studies by the LTA indicate that buses trying to exit from bus bays are
often impeded by fast-moving traffic and motorists who do not give way. A
survey conducted by SBS Transit also found that attempts by drivers to
exit bus bays take up 9 per cent of the average time a bus commuter spends
per trip.

Said BG (NS) Yam: "If the results are very good ... then clearly we should
explore expanding (the scheme) to other areas."

Meanwhile, SBS Transit has launched a "Move To The Rear" campaign aimed at
encouraging commuters to move to the rear. Three bus services - 15, 27 and
36 - will have speakers playing a public announcement which urges
commuters to avoid crowding the front of the bus, hence reducing boarding


Between the sand and a flooded place

By Derrick A Paulo, TODAY
13 February 2007 1039 hrs

After weeks of seeing the Republic caught in the crosshairs of diplomatic snipes by its neighbours, it was time yesterday for some Singapore MPs to let off a little steam of their own.

Indonesia's sand ban, Thailand's tapping allegations and Malaysia's attempt to link its flooding to Singapore were all raised in Parliament.

As MPs sought answers from the Cabinet, they aired their thoughts on the issues.

"Is it true the Indonesians are very concerned over the significant impact to the environment arising from our purchase of sand from them? If so, can we not impress upon Indonesia to be equally concerned about the haze problem?" asked Mr Sin Boon Ann of Tampines GRC.

"What's (the Foreign Minister's) view on the politics of envy in this instance? Does he see the ban on sand arising from a situation of 'I see you little red dot — tak puas (not satisfied), rather than from border and environmental concerns?" enquired West Coast GRC's Madam Ho Geok Choo.

"In view of the recent suspension of the civil service exchange programme by the Thai government ... shouldn't the Foreign Ministry cancel all such programmes and channel the money to better use, such as expediting the lift upgrading programme in Nee Soon South?" said Ms Lee Bee Wah of Ang Mo Kio GRC.

The latter request, in particular, prompted Foreign Minister George Yeo to caution all involved against aggravating matters by "reacting in an emotional way".

"It's certainly not in our interests," said Mr Yeo, who was reluctant to comment on the domestic politics of Singapore's neighbours.

Nonetheless, as MPs probed about Singapore's bilateral relations in the region, Mr Yeo and National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan parsed the issues in detail.

On the sand ban, Mr Mah said that Indonesia's environmental claims were unjustified. "We were aware that various quarters in Indonesia had been calling on their government to ban land sand exports because of claims of environmental damage and the potential impact on Indonesia's boundaries. These claims are not justified," he said.

Indonesian sand suppliers already plough some proceeds from the sale of sand into environmental reconstruction. "That is built into the price of sand," Mr Mah noted.

Neither is it clear how the mining of land sand — which is used only for construction — or sea sand can affect maritime boundaries, said Mr Yeo.

Indonesia banned the export of sea sand in 2003.

Regardless, the reclamation works cannot affect the demarcated boundaries and current agreements between Singapore and its neighbours, he said. Areas not yet demarcated will have to be done so through negotiations.

Referring to Indonesian media reports linking the ban to border talks and extradition treaty negotiations between both countries, he said: "Such a linkage, if true, would be unfortunate and counterproductive. Our border limitation talks are complicated enough. An additional linkage would only make talks more difficult."

On floods in Malaysia, he said this had been "extensively studied", and the effects on Malaysia from Singapore's reclamation works were "not an issue".

Turning to ties with Thailand, he said that while the Thai government had lobbied to cancel former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra's dinner with Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar, the Republic emphasised there would be no publicity.

"It was the Thai side which made public the DPM's meeting with Mr Thaksin, despite our assurance it would be kept private and discreet," said Mr Yeo.

On the eavesdropping allegations, he said there are telecommunications companies under foreign ownership in many countries. For example, a Norwegian company owns a Thai telco.

The Thai authorities and Thai nationals at the Temasek-owned telcos would not allow domestic calls to be routed through Singapore, he said, adding that "it would also have been absurd for Temasek to sully its reputation by doing something like this".

Summing up, Mr Yeo said, "Relations between countries, even close neighbours and partners, sometimes have their ups and downs ... (and) we have to take the current unpleasantness in our stride." - TODAY/fa

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Church tips for simpler weddings

12 February 2007 (BBC)

Couples getting married should spend less and think green when planning their big day, according to the Church of England.

A new Church guide says the true meaning of marriage is becoming lost in a spiralling culture of spending.

It advises brides to travel to the church in a taxi, wear a fair-trade dress, and get guests to bring their own alcohol.

And it says weddings should also aim to be more environmentally friendly.

Recent figures suggest the average cost of a wedding in the UK has now reached £17,000, with the bride's dress alone costing an estimated £826.

Former Relate counsellor the Revered Andrew Body, who penned the new guide, believes the Church has a duty to "blow the whistle" on this out-of-control commercialism.


The pocket-sized book, called Making the Most of Weddings, advises couples to embrace a more simplistic approach to their nuptials.

And as well as saving money, he says they can prevent their happy day costing the earth by adopting green principles.

For example, the bride's dress could be made from fairly-traded material or could even come from a charity shop and the wedding list itself could allow guests to donate to good causes.

Friends and family could provide their own drinks and instead of a limousine or horse-drawn carriage to get to the church on time, the bride could travel by a taxi or hitch a ride.

Mr Body has conducted more than 500 weddings in his 35 years as an Anglican priest.

In the book, he writes: "Increasingly, people are asking about how their wedding can save the natural world and be a blessing not only to them but to God's world."

The more creative suggestions contained in the guide come from Karen Holford, the former chair of Churches Together for Families.

The guide, which reminds couples that a wedding should be about a public commitment before God, also advises on the right hymns and vows to choose, and the role of church ministers.


The Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, commended its "can do" attitude.

He said: "Marriage is absolutely fundamental to our human life and therefore, to society's health. Couples need every possible help an encouragement to walk this path.

"The Church is brilliantly placed to provide that assistance. There is a great deal here to encourage and help all congregations to assist couples at the start of their married life."

"Blogging" vicar the Rev Jan Harney, who writes on www.newlyweds-uk.com, also praised the book.

She said: "Andrew has drawn together a wealth of expertise and good practice, wrapped in a heart-warming blend of pastoral concern and sound business sense."

Other ideas in the guide include:

* Buy second hand rings or use ones handed down through the family

* Make your own invitations on recycled paper

* Use silk flowers rather than real ones and give them to a nursing home after the service

Making the Most of Weddings - A Practical Guide for Churches is available from Christian bookshops at £6.99.

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Japan whale ship in protest clash

12 February 2007 (BBC)

A Japanese whaling ship sent up a distress signal in the Antarctic after it reportedly collided with a boat carrying anti-whaling activists.

Campaigners for the US-based Sea Shepherd group said the clash happened as they tried to block the Japanese ship's access to a pod of whales.

They said their boat suffered a 1m (3ft) gash to its hull, and the whaling ship's propeller had been damaged.

Japanese officials said the group was behaving like pirates.

Anti-whaling activists have been pursuing the Japanese whaling ships for weeks, in the icy southern waters, as they hunt 850 minke whales and 10 fin whales.

A temporary truce was called on Friday when the whalers joined a hunt for two activists, who became lost during a confrontation.


The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said the latest collision happened when its two boats moved in to stop the Japanese whaling ship Kaiko Maru, as it tracked some whales.

"They backed into us," the group's spokesman, Paul Watson said, adding that their ship the Robert Hunter had received a "gash in the steel of the hull".

He told AFP news agency that the Kaiko Maru's crew "are saying they have got a damaged propeller".

New Zealand's Rescue Co-ordination Centre confirmed it was aware that a Japanese ship had sent out a distress signal and that it was investigating.

No-one was believed to have been hurt, and no serious damage to either ship was reported.

The incident was condemned by the Japanese authorities.

"The attack was like that of a pirate, with people on one boat throwing warning flares and a rope in an attempt to entangle our ship's propeller," Hideki Moronuki, of Japan's fisheries agency, said.

Mr Watson admitted the situation was dangerous. "It's a circus, that's for sure. But it could all be prevented by upholding international law," he said.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.

Japan - which says its hunt is for scientific research purposes - hosts a meeting of IWC members this week, to push for a partial resumption of commercial hunts.


Cockroaches don't give you flu

Electric New Paper
By Siva Choy
February 12, 2007

IN all my life, I've never met anybody who's had a nice thing to say about cockroaches.

Instead, I've met hundreds of people who would be happy to squash a cockroach with a slipper or spray it with insecticide or (if their conscience forbids them to kill) ask somebody else to do it.

The sad thing is that cockroaches are not fierce creatures - they can't hurt us like bees or scorpions can. In fact, they're terrified of us.

Maybe that's why we're so brave about whacking them with folded newspapers. (If you saw a cobra, would you whack it with a newspaper?)

Most people say they don't like cockroaches because they're dirty and spread germs, but hey, that last bout of flu you caught didn't come off a cockroach. It came off some neatly dressed accounts clerk next to you in the office, so maybe you ought to go and flatten him with your shoe.

And when a pretty, perfumed young woman coughs in your face on your bus ride home, maybe you'll remember that the worst epidemics have been spread by human-to-human contact.

I personally don't like cockroaches, but that's probably something to do with childhood dislikes that have continued into adult life (like cod liver oil, peppermint cure and school prefects).

I've tried to understand cockroaches better lately but it has been impossible to get a dialogue going.

I don't squash cockroaches any more (they mess up the floor), and I don't gas them anymore (it messes up my breathing) and I don't put cockroach bait out anymore (it kills crickets).

But I haven't seen any cockroaches lately, and I think they're being eaten by the big spiders in the house (which I don't kill either).

The spiders in turn are attracting birds, which is good news, but the birds seem to be attracting local cats, which is not good news.

You can't treat cats as pests (though you're welcome to chop spiders to bits, use vicious traps on rats in spite of their invaluable contribution to laboratory science, and carry out ethnic cleansing on entire colonies of ants).

I could get a dog to discourage the cats (that's permitted) but dogs expect long-term personal commitment and I'm already married.

But I'm glad I've got a symbiotic, sustainable system of pest management going by allowing nature to take care of itself.

So okay, the cobwebs can look a bit spooky and the occasional spider taking a short-cut through the living room can frighten guests, but the house is feeling less like a slaughterhouse now.

I compare my house with that of my friend David and his wife Davidia, whose home is totally pest-free. It's that way because they kill everything that doesn't belong in their house (except relatives and friends).

There is a lingering whiff of insecticide in the whole house. All nooks and corners are sprayed, cupboards are booby-trapped with pest poisons, wardrobes stacked with enough naphthalene balls to blow the flat apart, mouse-traps permanently set to terrorise mice and odour-killers applied regularly to camouflage the mass murders.

The cockroach is a hardy creature. If insecticides can knock it out, insecticides can knock out anything over time.

So watch it, Dave & Dave - the cockroach might have the last laugh if the two biggest pests in the house get zapped.


Would you let leeches suck blood for beauty?

Electric New Paper
By Maureen Koh
February 12, 2007

THIS is not a scene from Fear Factor.
It is the face of faith and expectation.

The expectation that slimy leeches sucking your face will rid you of pimples.

For some, a blemished face causes more dread than creepy crawlies feeding from their skin - and they are willing to seek this peculiar form of beauty treatment.

Just ask the customers of an alternative therapy centre in Kuala Lumpur.

At the busy shopping district of Bukit Bintang, it's not unusual to find a queue of customers waiting outside a two-storey shophouse.

Inside is the Aishilai Foot Reflexology centre.

Go up the second floor and you will see rows of plastic bottles placed on tables at a corner.

Crawling in the bottles are hundreds of black slugs, each measuring about 8cm.

In the room are customers lying on reclining chairs, with fat slugs clinging to their faces.

Whose curious idea is this? Not an elderly sinseh's, no.

But a 21-year-old man's.

Mr Ee Wenbing, who owns the centre, claimed he learnt to administer such treatments from his father before taking over the business. There is no reason to be afraid of leeches just because they look horrible, he said, adding that these are commonly known as freshwater leeches.

In a telephone interview with The New Paper on Sunday, Mr Ee said: 'The practice of using leeches to treat certain conditions dates back hundreds of years in China.

'And this trend of bloodletting appears to be catching on again with some people in Malaysia.'

Mr Ee, who charges a flat rate of RM120 ($52) for a session, said most of his customers approach him because they want a 'beauty treatment'. They are usually recommended by others who have done it.

He did not want to reveal if this form of therapy formed the bulk of his earnings.

While most of his clients are women, he said he has also seen men seeking the treatment.

One of his customers is a 25-year-old Malaysian, who wanted to be known only as Ms Cass.

She told The New Paper on Sunday that a man friend told her about the centre and she decided to try this unorthodox therapy because she has acne problems.

She said: 'My friend had pimples on his face and after a few visits, his skin condition improved considerably.'

Just like other first-time customers, she found the initial treatment harrowing.


'I was scared when I first saw the slimy creatures. There was an icy cold and sticky feeling when the leeches were placed on my face.

'After that, I felt as if tiny needles were poking into my skin.'

She confessed that while she had reservations over this treatment initially, she was 'willing to suffer' just so she could treat her acne problem.

While some doctors are doubtful if such a treatment could reduce pimples or acne (see other report), Mr Ee said his customers are willing to give it a try because the treatment is inexpensive.

He said these freshwater leeches are used to stimulate blood flow.

'It'd attach itself to the skin and bite it. And with each bite, it would draw blood. It has been documented that leeches restored the flow of blood in healthy as well as damaged organs while they fed.'

This is because the saliva of leeches reportedly contains hirudin, a natural blood thinner. 'They don't just drink the blood, they filter it,' Mr Ee explained.


Aside from its use as a facial treatment, Mr Ee claimed that bloodletting is also effective in treating simple illnesses such as sinusitis, migraines and flu.

'The thing is, most people feel considerably better after each treatment.'

But the process is not as simple as merely placing the leeches on the affected or wounded spots.

Mr Ee pointed out: 'It's important to detect where the acupuncture points are.'

Patients will feel some itchiness at first when the leeches begin feeding, and as they suck, the sensation may feel like ant bites.

After about two hours, the leeches become bloated with blood. They can then be removed easily.

Mr Ee said: 'There will be blood trails oozing from the bites. This is normal and can continue for about six hours or up to about two days. It's just 'toxic' blood. The 'wounds' will heal on their own without leaving any scars.'

He said he has a team of 'leech catchers' who also see to it that they release the fed leeches 'back to nature', to the fields or streams in Penang and Kedah. They are left there for about six months before they are dug up and used to treat patients. Freshwater leeches can go without food for up to a year, Mr Ee said.

Freshwater leeches detect their 'prey' by vibrations in water. An excellent swimmer, the leech usually hides under rocks or leaves on the river bed.

'Once they detect a 'prey', the leeches attach themselves to the 'host' or, in this case, the feet of our catchers,' he said.

After their 'capture', the leeches are placed in bottles filled with
clean water.

Mr Ee claimed that there is no risk of infection from these bloodsuckers. 'The parasites in their digestive tract cannot survive in humans,' he added.

'I tell my customers that the most important thing is not to scratch the wounds. Otherwise, bacteria may get in.'

Another customer, Mr Huang Zhangzheng, said he had been convinced after just one treatment.

He told The New Paper on Sunday: 'I had wanted to try a foot massage on my first trip to the centre, but because I had read about bloodletting, I thought there was no harm trying it.'

Mr Huang, a Malaysian, said he has a back problem and has always suffered aches and pain at the waist and lower back.

'Now, with regular sessions, my backache has virtually disappeared.'

Makeup artist Jowie, who did not want to give her full name or age, was quoted in Feminine magazine as saying: 'To improve the condition of my skin, I just had to try it. Now, even my friends have commented that my face looks rosier.'

Mr Ee remarked: 'While women are generally the ones who have mixed feelings about the treatment at first, their love for beauty will normally overcome their fear.'

Leeches used for over 2,000 years

BLOODSUCKING leeches are used to treat certain medical conditions in some parts of the world.

In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US approved the marketing of leeches for medicinal purposes - to heal skin grafts or restore blood circulation.

A year later, the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City became one of the first US hospitals to offer leech therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee.

Leeches are also used in Europe, where the tradition dates back to 5 BC in Greece.

The International Leech Centre, a laboratory in Moscow, raises leeches to treat various conditions, including blood disorders and immunity problems.

In India, bloodletting is an outgrowth of ayurvedic medicine, a holistic approach to health which also includes diet, herbal remedies and relaxation techniques.


Studies showed that a leech has sharp teeth, which it uses to cut into the skin of its 'host'. It then releases a special chemical which serves two purposes.

It works as an anaesthesia, numbing the area where the leech is feeding so the host doesn't feel it, and it is also an anti-coagulant - it helps the blood to flow freely.

Hirudin, the natural blood thinner found in the saliva of leeches, dilutes all organic obstacles such as cysts and clots that surround and protect malignant growths from the immune system's agents.

In 20 minutes to an hour, a leech can go through several litres of blood, filtering and thinning it before it is returned to the vein.

But using leeches to treat beauty problems such as pimples or acne is another matter entirely.

Dr Henry Loh, a consultant dermatologist at Dermatology Associates, has his reservations.

He said: 'It is important to remember that the cause of acne is not due to the toxins in a person's body but its genetic predisposition. This includes taking into consideration if the patient's parents have similar acne problems, and other factors such as lifestyle habits.'