436 – Asia & SE Asia Tree News

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Index:

–Russia: 1) Jouranalist beaten for attacking deforestation plans, 2) Cont.3) Russian log market declines,
–China: 4) New National Parks created, 5) Great Green Wall,
–Taiwan: 6) Forest preserve reopens,
–Papua New Guinea: ) Disputes over REDD begin,
–India: 7) Mangrove forests in the Kali basin, 8) Last forest park loses trees for flowers, 9) enculturating 25 years of tree hugging, 10) India is creating it’s own version of google earth, 11) Gov has the right to confiscate everything from smugglers,
–Bangladesh: 12) Undisturbed Mangroves rapidly recover from cyclone,
–Nepal: 13) Deforestation estimates
–Japan: 14) Forestry agency to focus on favorable habitats
–Burma: 15) Shortage of mangrove seedlings limit recovery,
–Vietnam: 16) 100,000 hectares of Mangrove reforestation, 17) Mangrove protector-restorer is honored, 18) 1/3 of province’s pine forest to be cut down,
–Philippines: 19) Training residents as forest protection officers in Kalinga, 20) Giant hotel builder thwarted by tree protection,
–Borneo: 21) Rainforest of Tears author interviewed,
–Malaysia: 22) Indigenous granted land rights for the first time, 23) What are indigenous really being granted? 24) Dreams to gazette the entire Belum-Temengor, 25) Global biodiversity panel knocked back at UN talks, 26) Over 9,000 species of trees in peninsular Malaysia, 27) Pipeline plans, 28) Malua BioBank, 29) New mill to use oil palm pulp to make paper, 30) Death of a tribe,

Articles:

Russia:

1) A newspaper editor in the Moscow suburb of Khimki was brutally assaulted by unidentified assailants in an attack his colleagues said Friday was linked to his criticism of local authorities’ deforestation plans. Mikhail Beketov, editor and owner of Khimkinskaya Pravda, a weekly in the town on Moscow’s northern outskirts, was discovered Thursday bloodied and unconscious near his home, his friends said in a statement. Beketov suffered a closed skull and leg fracture, a concussion and multiple contusions, said a doctor at Khimki’s Hospital No. 1, where the editor was being treated. The patient’s condition was serious but stable, said the doctor, who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to talk to the media. A duty officer at Khimki police headquarters said a criminal investigation had been opened into the attack but that it was too early to say whether the beating was connected to Beketov’s work. Beketov had repeatedly told friends that he had received threats “from criminals” over his newspaper’s critical articles about plans by the Khimki city administration to fell swathes of trees in the Khimki Forest, said Serafima Naomicheva, an activist with a group fighting to prevent the deforestation. Naomicheva accused the Khimki administration of being behind the attack. “This is the administration’s revenge on him after all of the threats he has been getting,” Naomitcheva said by telephone. Repeated calls to the Khimki city administration for comment about the allegation went unanswered Friday. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists urged investigators to bring the attackers to justice. “We condemn this vicious attack on Mikhail Beketov and call on the authorities to undertake a thorough and transparent investigation into it,” Nina Ognianova , the group’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said in a statement. “Russia’s record on attacks on independent and critical reporters is appalling, and authorities should not let impunity prevail in yet another case.” http://www.moscowtimes.ru/article/1010/42/372401.htm

2) Mikhail Beketov, a newspaper editor and environmental activist in the Moscow suburb of Khimki who was brutally assaulted last week, has been transferred to a Moscow hospital for treatment and for his own safety after a series of threatening phone calls, colleagues said Monday. Beketov, editor and owner of Khimkinskaya Pravda, a weekly in the town on Moscow’s northern outskirts, was discovered Thursday bloodied and unconscious near his home after an attack that his friends say is linked to his criticism of local authorities’ deforestation plans. He was transferred over the weekend from a Khimki hospital to Moscow’s Sklifosovsky clinic, where he remained in a coma Monday, said Ludmila Fedosova, an environmental activist who had worked with Beketov on anti-deforestation initiatives. Beketov told friends and colleagues that he had been receiving threats in the weeks and months before last week’s attack, and Fedosova said Monday that he was transferred in part because of menacing phone calls to Khimki’s Hospital No. 1, where he was being treated. “He is still in a coma, but he was receiving telephone threats even as he was being operated on,” Fedosova said. The callers said they would eventually kill Beketov, Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin said Monday, citing conversations with the doctors who received the calls.The move to the Sklifosovsky clinic was also necessitated by a lack of sophisticated medical equipment at the Khimki hospital, Fedosova said. Beketov had his leg amputated, but a necessary skull operation has been delayed because of his critical condition, Mitrokhin said. Khimki police said last week that they had opened a criminal investigation into the attack. Oleg Mitvol, the outspoken and embattled deputy head of the Federal Inspection Service for Natural Resources Use, said Monday that he had asked President Dmitry Medvedev to “take [the Beketov] situation under his personal control,” Interfax reported. http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/1010/42/372447.htm

3) So far this year, lumber production is down about 7% and logging has declined by about 9% compared to last year. Spruce sawlog prices fell by about 7% in the 3Q, while pine log prices increased slightly because the pine lumber export market was still reasonably active early in the quarter. A continued slowing in the production rate in the sawmilling sector in the coming months is likely to result in further declines in sawlog prices this winter, even with the delay in implementation of the log export tax increase (previously scheduled to increase to Euro50/m3). Softwood pulplog prices in northwest Russia fell by 13% in the 3Q to their lowest level since early 2007. With slowing demand for domestic wood fiber and reduced consumption of wood fiber in Finland, the largest export market for Russian logs, it is probable that pulplog costs will continue to decrease slightly next year. It is not to be expected that forest companies which have relied on softwood logs from Russia will abruptly change their long-term procurement strategy of reducing their dependence on Russian wood based on the recently announced short-term delay in the hike of the Russian log tax. Softwood log shipments from Western Russia to Finland will probably continue to decline as Finnish companies are expected to consume less in 2009, domestic wood and imports from other countries around the Baltic Sea will be substituted for Russian logs. The major benefit for companies using Russian logs is that the transition period for becoming independent of this source has been prolonged by a few months. http://www.newsdesk.se/view/pressrelease/log-costs-fell-in-russia-in-the-3q-08-as-the-forest-industry-cut-back-production-reports-wri-254355

China:

4) TANGWANGHE — Snow-frosted trees, subzero temperatures, precious few people and one-story wooden houses. It sure looks like Siberia — and it was for a generation of Chinese exiled here to labor in logging camps in the late 1960s. This land close to the Russian border where vast forests were stripped bare to help fuel the communist revolution was named last month as China’s first “national park.” PHOTOS: China’s National Parks The move was inspired in large part by the USA, home to Yellowstone — the world’s oldest national park. China’s central government is now planning a parks system to curb destruction of the country’s most beautiful and biodiverse areas. While there are still disputes over using the word “national” in a park’s name, the new title for the 49,000-acre park in Heilongjiang province in northeast China illustrates the challenges that conservationists face. The swath of red pines is a rare sight after decades of over-logging. Since 1948, the red pine forest area has shrunk a whopping 93.5%, the provincial government estimates. “The (remaining) virgin pine forests would be cut down without extra protection,” says Bai Chengshou, director of nature reserve management at China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection in Beijing. Bai, whose agency approved Tangwanghe as the first national park, wants “a balance between conservation and tourism” as China develops a parks system. Tangwanghe National Park is dotted with granite stones weathered over time into strange shapes. Many are named for what they vaguely resemble, such as “drunken tortoise” and “alien guest.” The trees, some several hundred years old, include Korean red pine, white birch, larch and Dragon spruce. Bai says another seven or eight pilot parks will be established in the next three to five years. “If the pilots are successful, we will spread the project nationally,” he says. This depressed logging town of 40,000 around the new park needs an economic boost. Bans on hunting and logging the past decade have hurt this frontier town carved out of virgin forest in the late 1950s. Sun Dongwu, 56, recalls that his father came here in 1958, like many residents, as Communist leader Mao Zedong launched his failed “Great Leap Forward” to overtake the Western nations. These pioneers toiled in 40-below temperatures to lay railway tracks and to extract the area’s resources. The trees were used nationwide for everything from mine shafts to wooden stools for students. http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2008-11-20-chinaparks_N.htm

5) A study published in Journal of the American Water Resources Association states that the “Green Great Wall,” a forest shelterbelt project in northern China running nearly parallel to the Great Wall, is likely to improve climatic and hydrological conditions in the area when completed. The project, which relies on afforestation (a process that changes land without dense tree cover into forest), could lead to an increase in precipitation by up to 20 percent and decrease the temperature in the area. The findings could have important implications for similar projects throughout the world. “Many regions in the world are facing climate-related environmental disasters such as persistent drought, dust storms and water shortage,” says Dr. Yongqiang Liu, lead author of the study. “Furthermore, it is very likely that disasters will become more severe in the future due to projected climate change in response to greenhouse effects.” Many climate models predict an increased occurrence of environmental disasters in the future because of expected hotter and drier conditions. A recent study, for example, projects that the dust bowls in the 1930s could return to the southwestern U.S. as a result of climate change. Forests have the ability to regulate regional climate. Afforestation, therefore, may be a useful approach to mitigate the effects of the environmental disasters and climate change. The study used a regional climate model to simulate the potential of improving regional hydroclimate conditions resulting from the afforestation project. The results show that, in addition to precipitation and temperature changes, the project also will improve relative humidity, soil moisture and reduce prevailing winds and air temperature. Forests play an important role in mitigating the effects of greenhouse gases. While their effect on the carbon cycle has received the most attention from environmental conservation groups, this study provides evidence for the importance of water and heat exchange. The effect of these processes on temperature and precipitation could be equally important in offsetting greenhouse effects. Public release date: 24-Nov-2008 Journal of the American Water Resources Association

Taiwan:

6) The Nanjenshan Ecological Reserve Area in Kenting National Park, a low-lying, pristine slice of nature in southern Taiwan, will be reopened for limited visits beginning Jan. 1, 2009, after being closed for seven months for maintenance. According to a statement released Friday by the Kenting National Park Administration Office, the area was closed May 1 due to ground bed relocation that damaged hiking trails within the rain forest. During the closure, new hiking paths were built, and the precious fauna and flora in the more than 5,800-hectare forest were left to flourish without being disturbed by humans, the statement said. The reserve is again ready for tourists, the officials managing the national park said, with five locals who once hunted now protected gray-faced buzzard hawks having been trained as tour guides. Those who want to visit the reserve area can apply for an entrance permit on the park’s Web site at www.ktnp.gov.tw. Up to 400 people per day will be allowed entry in the geographically diverse reserve, featuring hills, valleys, swamps and lakes, rivers, hills and grasslands. The area is home to over 2,000 different kinds of plants and wild animals, including over 1,200 kinds of higher-grade plants, 129 kinds of butterflies and nearly 100 kinds of birds. Every October, the protected gray-faced buzzard hawk arrives in the area to winter, according to the park. http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=794397?=eng_news

India:

7) KARWAR: A visit to mangrove forests in the Kali basin arranged by the Forest Department for journalists recently has revealed the wanton destruction of mangroves. According to Assistant Conservator of Forests Mohan Kangil, mangroves cover an area of nearly 200 hectares in the river estuary. There are more than 14 species of mangroves in this forest. He attributed many reasons for its depletion in the region. He pointed out that mangroves were exploited by the locals for firewood. Large scale sand mining in the river bed destroy the roots of the mangrove. The fishermen clear the mangroves near the river bank considering them an obstacle for fishing and free movement of boats. Kangil disclosed that most of the mangrove forests are destroyed for brackish water shrimp farming in the swamps. Mangrove forests fall under the ambit of Coastal Regulatory Zone-1. Punitive action can be initiated against those who indulge in destroying mangroves. Kangil said that it has been proposed to create awareness among the people in this regard. The department is engaged in planting mangrove seedlings along the river bank on a large scale, he asserts. Marine scientist Dr V N Nayak, who accompanied the journalists on their visit to mangrove forest, said mangroves arrest soil erosion. The mangrove swamps are the cradle for marine species. It is here that the marine species breed. Therefore, mangroves should be protected. Some averred that mangroves should be declared a reserve forest to prevent human interference. http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=%E2%80%98Declare+mangroves+reserve+forests%E2%80%99&artid=|x8UXimWJPo=&SectionID=7GUA38txp3s=&MainSectionID=fyV9T2jIa4A=&SectionName=zkvyRoWGpmWSxZV2TGM5XQ==&SEO=

8) Around 70-80 full-grown trees, most with trunks three to four feet thick, have been hacked down in one of the city’s last sanctuaries of greenery, apparently to create a flower garden. The garden’s joint director, Girija Shankar Giri, claimed that only 20-odd trees had been felled to “revive the garden’s original condition”. But environmentalists and regulars at the garden are furious. Only last year, a storm had wreaked havoc here, uprooting nearly 60 trees and damaging hundreds. When TOI visited the garden on Sunday afternoon, a dozen felled trees were lying on the ground. A huge tract had been ‘cleared’, and it appeared that between 70 and 80 full grown trees had been felled. Most of the timber had been carted away, but much remained to tell of the massacre. While some of the trees had been felled from the roots, others had been chopped from the middle. A few, surprisingly, had split trunks. At a time when the city is losing its green cover, the tree felling in Botanic Garden has come as a shock to many. “So many trees have already been uprooted by storms. There were dozens of large trees in the area where the authorities now plan to set up a flower garden. I do not think there was any need to mercilessly chop off large trees,” said Bimalendu Mukherjee, a regular at Botanic Garden. “How can a government agency do something like this? Clearing space for a flower garden cannot be an excuse to cut down so many large trees. There is enough open space in the Botanic Garden to set up parks. The trees didn’t need to be cut,” said green activist Mukuta Mukherjee. “Does it make any sense to chop off so many trees to set up a garden? Botanic Garden is the largest man-made plant kingdom in the country. Its greenery must be protected at all costs. The garden authorities say they do not require any permission to cut trees. Who are they to take the law in their hands? I will go to court and see this to the end,” said environment activist Subhas Datta. State forest minister Ananta Roy did not know about it until TOI called him for a comment. “I will discuss the matter with my officers,” he said. The Botanic Garden joint director insisted the trees had been cut for a good cause. “We are not setting up a park. We are just trying to bring back the flower garden that once existed at the very spot many years ago. For this purpose, we have to remove some trees that had grown up naturally. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Kolkata_/Trees_hacked_in_Botanic_to_create_flower_garden/articleshow/3721030.cms

9) The 25 years of Appiko or, hug the tree Green Movement on the Sahyadri Mountain ranges in the western ghats of Karnataka has created a tremendous impact here. This movement started in Gubbi Gadde, a small village near Sirsi in the (north) Uttara Kannada district, has forced the forest department to change the forest policy on felling of trees. Besides affecting the forest policy, it also spread to other parts and saved forests. On Sep.8, 1983, Pandurang Hegde, the fiery activist, started the Appiko (to hug) movement. He derived inspiration from Sunderlal Bahuganas Chipko movement in Uttar Pradesh, in which villagers used to hug trees to save them from being felled by the State, which then had no laws against felling of timber inside protected areas. Appiko movement was started against monoculture (the agricultural practice of producing or growing one single crop over a wide area) in the western ghats. Today, it has become a part of the lives of people. Their non-violent protest movement has compelled the forest department to amend the policy against felling of forests in eco-sensitive region. There has been a silent revolution in the Western Ghats. Panduranga Hegde, the founder of Appiko Movement says that this movement has become a part of the culture in the western ghats and has saved the very sensitive eco sphere. This movement, started to protest against felling of trees, monoculture, forest policy and deforestation, has succeeded in changing the forest policy. The Gandhi of environmental movement, Sundarlal Bahuguna, has not only inspired the movement but visits here regularly to guide the people, Hedge added. Mahabaleshwara Hegde, said: The river Kali meanders through the valley linking the past and the present. The song of Apppiko reverberates in the hills. Appiko is seen by some as a kind of echo of the more prominent Chipko movement of north India. The western Ghat biodiversity include 120,000 living species, 4,500 flowering plants, 500 species of birds, 120 species of mammals, 160 species of reptiles, 70 species of frogs, 800 species of fish and 1493 species of medicinal plants. http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/india-news/25-years-of-appiko-a-green-movement-to-save-trees-in-karnataka_100120079.html

10) Emboldened by its first mission to the Moon, India is to take on a target closer to Earth: Google. The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), which is based in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of the sub-continent, will roll-out a rival to Google Earth, the hugely popular online satellite imagery service, by the end of the month. The project, dubbed Bhuvan (Sanskrit for Earth), will allow users to zoom into areas as small as 10 metres wide, compared to the 200 metre wide zoom limit on Google Earth. It comes as India redoubles its efforts to reap profits from its 45-year-old space programme, long criticised as a drain on a country where 700 million people live on $2 (£1) a day or less. It also follows in the slipstream of the country’s first Moon probe, Chandrayaan-1, which reached the lunar surface successfully on Friday. Bhuvan will use a network of satellites to create a high-resolution, bird’s-eye view of India – and later, possibly, the rest of the world – that will be accessible at no cost online and will compete with Google Earth. If a pilot version passes muster, Bhuvan will be fully operational by the spring. There are also plans to incorporate a global positioning system (GPS) into the online tool. The data gleaned by the state-sponsored project will be available to the Indian Civil Service to help with urban planning, traffic management and water and crop monitoring. G Madhavan Nair, the Isro chairman, said: “This will not be a mere browser, but the mechanism for providing satellite images and thematic maps for developmental planning.” There could also be commercial spin-offs. Experts say that Google Earth is being built as a platform for advertising that could be worth billions, and that Bhuvan will also address one of the issues taxing the web’s biggest companies: how to engage users amid the mass of digital detritus that has accumulated on the internet. http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/the_web/article5182639.ece

11) In a significant judgment with wider implications on the fragile environment of the North East, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the Government has every right to confiscate vehicles and other materials used by forest wood smugglers and auction the same if needed. In the North East, wood smugglers often go scot-free by misinterpreting the laws of the land. The apex court’s verdict would come to the rescue of the authorities to nail the culprits. Forest, being a national wealth, the Government is well within its rights to take necessary steps for preserving it, the apex court said. The bench consisted of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Mukundakam Sharma.Quoting its earlier judgement in the West Bengal versus Sujit Kumar case, the apex court said “Forest is a national wealth which is required to be preserved. In most of the cases, the State is the owner of the forest and forest produce and depletion of forests would lead to ecological imbalance.” The apex court passed the ruling while dismissing the appeal of Mohd Ashique whose truck was confiscated in 1999 by the Maharashtra forest officials after he was allegedly found smuggling ‘Neem’ and ‘Katsawar’ wood. The sessions court and the Bombay High Court had dismissed his plea. Interpreting the Indian Forest Act, the apex court said that a duty is cast upon the vehicle’s owner or his agent to prove to the satisfaction of the authorised officer that smuggling had taken place without his consent and he had taken all precautions against smuggling or poaching. http://ne.icrindia.org/2008/11/26/sc-establishes-govt-authority-on-forests/

Bangladesh:

12) DHAKA — The world’s largest mangrove forest is recovering fast from one of the worst disasters in its history, a year after it was badly damaged by a devastating cyclone, Bangladesh officials say. The Sundarbans bore the brunt when Cyclone Sidr — packing winds of up to 250 kilometres (150 miles) an hour — slammed into southern Bangladesh on November 15, 2007, killing over 3,500 people and wiping out thousands of villages. Assessments by the forest department said the cyclone had left a trail of devastation unseen for decades, with some 1,500 square kilometres (600 square miles) of the forest damaged. But now, Bangladeshi officials say things are looking up for the mangrove swamp, made up of around 200 lush forested islands, separated by a complex network of hundreds of tidal rivers and creeks. “There are positive signs all around. The government’s policy to leave the forest untouched has helped,” said Sundarbans forest chief M. Shahidullah on Saturday. Officials say the vast swamp has recovered substantially and that the government’s policy of leaving the forest to regenerate without human intervention helped it to regrow quickly. “Golpata, the main tree of the mangrove forest, have started growing in the severely affected areas. Some of the areas have become leafy and the animals have returned,” said Shahidullah. The 10,000-square-kilometre forest straddles the borders of Bangladesh and India’s West Bengal state and lies on the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. Experts say the huge expanse forms an important buffer shielding millions of people from the worst impact of the Bay of Bengal’s many cyclonic storms and tidal waves. Although uninhabited, the jungle is a magnet for thousands of impoverished villagers who live along its boundaries and work as fishermen there or collect honey and wood. It is also one of the few havens for the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger, and is thought to be home to around 10 percent of the animal’s worldwide population of between 5,000 and 6,000 – down from 100,000 in 1900. Cyclone Sidr ripped through vast swathes of the Bangladesh side of the forest, uprooting hundreds of thousands of trees. The force of the winds left many more stripped of their foliage and bark, giving the appearance of having been hit by a forest fire. The forest department had initially considered assisted regeneration, such as clearing fallen trees or sowing seeds in the worst-hit areas. But the government changed its mind after experts said the Sundarbans forest, a United Nations World Heritage site, would be best served if it was left alone. The country’s emergency government banned any human entry or collection of honey, leaves and fallen trees in the worst affected eastern parts of the forest.”It worked amazingly,” said Ashraful Islam, head of the government’s Bangladesh Forest Research Institute. http://www.mangroveactionproject.org/news/current_headlines/left-untouched-worlds-largest-mangrove-forest-recovering-fast

Nepal:

13) Recent government data shows that the rate of deforestation has increased since the end of the decade-long conflict. According to Department of Forests (DoF), about 100,000 hectares of forest cover was encroached and denuded in the last fiscal year that ended mid-July 2008. This figure stood at 80,684 hectares in fiscal year 2006/2007, and 79,987 hectares in 2005/2006, the government data stated. Director General of the Department of Forest (DoF) Krishna Chandra Poudel, said, “Encroachment for illegal settlements in forest land and massive felling of trees for illegal trade are the major reasons behind deforestation at present.” The rate of deforestation was high during the decade-long insurgency due to lack of security in the forest sector. “Out of a total of 74 district forest offices, 40 were destroyed and security persons posted in forests were also halved during then,” said the DoF director general. But during the current political transition, various groups are involved in encroachment and illegal felling of trees with the patronage of political parties, say officials. “The components responsible for encroachment, such as land mafia, are more active now than they were during the insurgency,” said Uday Raj Sharma, secretary at the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC). Official data shows the country’s forests are vanishing at the rate of 270 hectares a day, even after restoration of peace in the country. Political parties had promised free land to the landless during elections earlier this year and now the landless have encroached on forest land, say officials at MoFSC. But on the other hand, lack of human resources and armed officers in various district forest offices of the country are also to blame for the growing the rate of deforestation, according to Sharma. Data from DoF shows that the rate of deforestation was 2.1 percent per year in the period 1990-2000, which amounts to about 920 square kilometres of forest. Between 2000-2005, the total annual deforestation rate was only 1.4 percent. “This decrease could be because people were afraid to encroach on forest land and fell trees illegally during the insurgency,” said Sharma. According to DoF, the total forest cover in 1990 was 4,817,000 hectares, in 2000 it fell to 3,900,000 hectares and in 2005 the forest cover stood at 3,636,000 hectares. Rautahat, Kailali, Banke, Nawalparasi, Kanchanpur, Siraha, Bara and Saptari are the hardest hit Tarai districts, according to the Department of Forests. http://nepaleseingoettingen.blogspot.com/2008/11/forests-shrinking-says-dof.html

Japan:

14) The Forestry Agency will carry out a revitalization project to provide favorable habitats to numerous species of wild animals and plants as part of measures against global warming. The agency will draw up guidelines for the use and conservation of forests, ahead of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity in Nagoya in 2010. In Japan, where forestry has been on the decline, some 3.3 million hectares out of a total of about 11 million hectares of artificial forests need to be thinned. Forest thinning allows sunlight to reach the ground and provides habitats for insects and small animals, as well as birds of prey like eagles. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan is obliged to reduce 6 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels. The government is planning to cut 3.8 percent of the amount through forest absorption, which is limited to thinned forests and newly forested areas. The agency will form a study team of experts, consumer group representatives and nongovernmental environmental organization members with the aim to maintain forests for the protection of biological diversity and the prevention of global warming. http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20081125p2a00m0na004000c.html?inb=rs

Myanmar:

15) YANGON – A shortage of seedlings is undermining the restoration of mangrove forests along the southern coast, six months after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar, environmentalists told IRIN in Yangon. “We have very few seedlings this year to replant the [mangrove] trees in Yangon division and the Ayeyarwady delta,” Win Sein Naing, chairman of the Mangrove Service Network (MSN), an NGO, which has been restoring mangrove forests in the delta since late 2001, told IRIN. “We also don’t have enough funds to rebuild the plantations.” According to the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA) report, 16,800 hectares (30 percent) of mangrove forest were destroyed, while an estimated 20,999 ha of forest plantations were damaged in Yangon and Ayeyarwady Divisions. In addition, clearing before the cyclone made the area more vulnerable. In recent decades, farmers in the Ayeyarwady Delta cleared vast tracts of coastal mangrove forests to expand rice cultivation and also used the trees for timber and charcoal. In 1924, mangrove forests were estimated to cover more than 242,811ha. By 1998, only one-fifth, or 48,562ha, remained. Much of this loss was due to a boom in the charcoal industry in the 1970s, when urban demand for cheap cooking fuel resulted in a rapid degradation of the forests. In the 1990s, agricultural encroachment and the introduction of shrimp farms further cut into the mangrove forests. The loss of mangrove forests and associated ecosystems will have a significant impact on those segments of the rural population that depend on forestry for their livelihoods, environmentalists said. A large number of artisans, fishermen, landless poor and marginal farmers rely on them as a source of direct and indirect income. Masakazu Kashio, a forest resources officer for FAO in Bangkok, suggested the government establish a proper land-use plan that recognises the need to protect vulnerable areas from high winds, storm surge and flood water. Most of the thousands of people who perished when Cyclone Nargis hit are believed to have drowned in the 3.5m storm surge that swept nearly 40km inland. “It will probably take more than half a decade to restore the [mangrove] forest,” said U Ohn, general secretary of the Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association (FREDA), a semi-official NGO formed by retired personnel from the Forest Department of the Ministry of Forestry. U Ohn said the group needed international funding to restore the mangrove forests. The estimated cost of restoring one hectare of mangrove forest is between US$400 and US$500, according to environmental specialists. Mangrove forests are a source of food and shelter for myriad species. Many types of fish rely on them as nurseries, with fallen leaves supplying nutrient-rich food to fish too small to survive in open waters. http://www.mangroveactionproject.org/news/current_headlines/shortage-of-seedlings-holds-back-mangrove-recovery-burma

Vietnam:

16) The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Vietnam has plans to plant 100,000 hectares of mangrove forest between now and 2015 to compensate for the loss of mangrove forest area over the last six decades. The project, which was submitted to the government last month and requires a total budget of 2.5 trillion dong, aims at raising the mangrove forest area from 209,000 to 307,000 hectares by 2015, said Nguyen Quang Duong, deputy director of the ministry’s Forestry Department. According to the ministry, the total mangrove forest area in 1943 was 408,000 hectares, nearly doubling what it is today. At a seminar on the restoration and development of mangrove forests for climate change mitigation and adaptation on Wednesday, Duong said that the destruction of the mangrove forests has threatened the ecosystem and environment along the coast. He also stressed that mangrove forest restoration and development would help minimise the damages caused by storms, big waves, erosion and salinity intrusion inland. In recent years, storms have caused 1.5 trillion dong to 5 trillion dong in damages each year, with the horrible storms in 2006 causing 19 trillion dong in damages.. The ministry blamed the alarming reduction of mangrove forest for natural calamities mostly affecting aquaculture and agriculture, especially shrimp cultivation. Klaus Schmitt, chief technical advisor for a project of mangrove forest management in Soc Trang Province, told the Daily that it is important for the ministry to carefully balance the benefits for local people and the targeted area of mangrove cultivation during the implementation of the project. http://www.mangroveactionproject.org/news/current_headlines/ministry-plans-to-grow-100-000-hectares-of-mangrove-forest

17) Professor Phan Nguyen Hong from the National University of Education here has won the international Cosmos Prize for his contribution to saving mangrove forests. Hong was selected from 131 candidates from 25 countries to become the first Vietnamese scientist to receive the award – and prize money of US$380,000. The award ceremony was held in the Japanese city of Osaka. The prize is awarded annually by the Expo 90 Commemorative Foundation to an individual or team who contributes to the interdependence of life and the global environment. “His 40-year research project plays an important role in protecting bio-diversity and reducing global warning,” said Mai Sy Tuan, dean of the National University’s Faculty of Biology. “It helps humans discover the best way to preserve harmony with nature.” Nguyen Lan Dung, chairman of the General Biology Association, said the prize was an honour for all Vietnamese scientists. “The most significant fact is that Hong’s work has helped revive many mangrove forests destroyed in war time,” he added. The 73-year-old professor is a pioneer in the study of the bio-ecology of tropical wetlands in Viet Nam. He began his research in 1964 to solve the long-term effects of the chemical war on mangroves. Hong went on to establish Can Gio Province’s Biosphere Reservation Centre. He also helped local residents replant mangrove forests in eight different provinces and improved their living standards by using the forest wetlands to raise aquatic products. He established more than 400 classes in 10 coastal provinces to train fishermen in new ways of raising sea products and planting mangroves Hong has published 20 books about preserving the mangrove ecosystem and become a top-ranking expert in Asian wetland systems. He intends to continue his studies on coastal forest conservation and contribute to marine resource protection and poverty reduction. “I’ll donate part of my prize money to support scientific research for university teaching staff and students,” said Hong. http://www.mangroveactionproject.org/news/current_headlines/vn-academic-honoured-for-mangrove-work

18) Scientists have asked for more details of the plan to chop down the 52,000 hectares of the province’s 150,000 hectares of pines. The province, which is home to about 90 percent of Vietnam’s Khasi pine (Pinus kesiya) forest, wants to log the trees over a period of 35 years. The provincial government estimates logging will generate income of between VND10 million–15 million (US$593-890) per hectare per year. The natural forest would be replanted so that at least 62 percent of the province’s original forest area would be planted at any one time, according to the Lam Dong Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). However, scientists who attended the “Managing, using and sustainably developing Khasi pine in Lam Dong Province” seminar last Friday said the plan had some glaring omissions. “The beneficiaries of this plan have not been identified,” Forest Inventory and Planning Institute Director Ngo Ut said. Around 250,000 people in Lam Dong live in or near a forest. Pham Ngoc Hung of the Vietnam Forestry Science and Technology Association (VIFA) said crops should be interplanted with pines to benefit local residents. VIFA’s Nguyen Ngoc Lung also warned that other provinces had encountered problems with plantation projects. Lung said a program to plant 110,000 hectares of rubber trees in Central Highlands and Southeastern provinces was halted recently after it was discovered that outsiders, rather than locals, were benefiting from the plantations. Tan Mai Paper Joint Stock Company from Dong Nai Province said it would open a factory in Lam Dong to buy the logged pine if the plan went ahead. http://www.thanhniennews.com/society/?catid=3&newsid=44026

Philippines:

19) A government agency tasked to protect the environment have banded together with the concerned citizens of the country’s landlocked northern province of Kalinga in the fight against the denudation of its remaining forest cover. At least 60 male residents here are set to be deputized by the provincial environment office to serve as forest protection officers and to beef-up the handful of forest guards in protecting the 17 identified timber poaching hotspots in the area. The future forest protection officers who will be trained under the supervision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), are also expected to control if not totally stop the rampant kaingin (slash and burn farming), commonly practiced by some natives or immigrants who are slowly moving upland due to lack of livelihood opportunities in the lowlands. According to Ricardo Dang-iw, acting provincial environment officer, the hiring of forest protection officers is also part of the agency’s emergency projects to augment the income of poor residents of the province from where most of the trainees come from. “We have allocated some P5 million for the salaries of these trainees and they will all be given the standard agriculture sector regulated minimum wage,” he said. The project is part of the DENRs community involvement projects and the “Bantay Gubat” programs wherein the local residents themselves can earn extra income aside from having the opportunity to help in the protection of their own environment. In Isabela, Gov. Grace Padaca who has been in the forefront of the fight against rampant timber poaching in the province, told GMANews.TV that the forest protection project in Kalinga is worth emulating. “Right now we are working actively with Non-Government Organizations (NGO) and several other national and provincial-based environmental groups in the protection of our forests, but with the DENRs “Bantay Gubat” program, I believe we can harness more people to concern themselves in joining our efforts to rid the province of illegal logging,” said Padaca. Rising to peaks ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 meters in height, Kalinga’s rich forests is in danger of being stripped of its centuries-old hardwood and pine forests if timber poaching goes unabated. http://www.gmanews.tv/story/135524/DENR-to-train-Kalinga-residents-as-forest-protection-officers

20) The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) will not allow the cutting of trees to make way for a multi-million hotel-casino project here, officials said on Wednesday. SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the agency has told project proponent Grand Utopia, Inc. that the trees should be saved and incorporated in the development plan, which will be subject to SBMA review. “We won’t stand for the cutting of trees. Definitely, we won’t allow it,” Arreza said in a statement sent to media organizations. He said a news report saying that the project would destroy some 300 trees in the two-hectare site is speculative. The report quoted architect Jun Palafox, who said that he was initially tapped to design the project but backed out when he found out that the management “intended to cut the trees.” Arreza said, however, that he did not know why the deal between Palafox and Grand Utopia fell through. “But the trees are still there, because all that the developer has done at this time was to fence in the area and inventory the number of trees preparatory to balling, which was the procedure we have recommended,” Arreza said. “It’s pure speculation that 300 trees will be destroyed because, in fact, Grand Utopia has already applied for a permit to ball the trees,” he added. http://www.gmanews.tv/story/135846/SBMA-Trees-wont-be-cut-for-hotel-casino-project

Borneo:

21) “You have to be consumed with passion to sit in a hotel room night after night, punching the words into a laptop, and thank goodness, I was,” he recalls during a recent interview after the launch of his debut effort, Rainforest Tears: A Borneo Story. The book centres on a fictitious love story between a British man and a Chinese/Melanau woman in Sarawak. When the Japanese invade Borneo during World War II, the couple suffer under the harsh regime. Smith’s greatest challenge in putting the book together is finding time to write it. “Probably, about half the book was written in hotel rooms around the world as I travelled on business,” he says. In the end, he took six months off from work to complete the novel. Smith interviewed some 20 people in Miri who had lived through the war. They include a 82-year-old Chinese businessman who moved him to tears with his tragic tale. “He told me how they had a fine, thriving town before the Japanese arrive,” Smith recalls. “Then he said the Japanese spent three years beating them, raping them, killing them and leaving them with nothing.” He also met an old Chinese woman who was forced to be a comfort woman. But not everyone hated the Japanese. Smith met one particular man who had worked for the Japanese as an apprentice in the oil fields. “Because he was treated well, he has nothing bad to say about his Japanese colonial masters,” Smith says, adding that the man surprised him by singing the Japanese national anthem. His research made the war experiences so real in the book that it motivated a reader, an expatriate living in Kuala Lumpur, to track him down. “Her father had gone to Burma to fight during the war,” he says. “She was only three days old then and her father never returned. The ghastly deaths of the prisoners of war described in my book really distressed her. She feels that was how the father she never knew might have died.” Smith hopes his book will inspire Malaysians to love their history more. “It saddens me that Malaysia does not make more of its wide and varied history.” http://www.thesundaily.com/article.cfm?id=27779

Malaysia:

22) Malaysia’s government will for the first time grant ownership rights of land farmed by indigenous people, reports the Associated Press. Jaafar Jantan, a spokesman for the government’s Orang Asli Affairs Department, said that some 20,000 Orang Asli families will obtain permanent ownership of 50,000 hectares of rural land currently belonging to state governments. The Orang Asli consist of 140,000 people from 18 ethnic tribes in Malaysia. They are some of the poorest people in the country and are often displaced by logging and development projects. While indigenous rights groups will likely welcome the change, they may be perturbed by the second part of the proposal. Jaafar said that authorities plan to plant oil palm and rubber on lands granted to the Orang Asli so they will have a source of income. It was not clear whether the Orang Asli would be given the option to determine how their land will be used. Further if the land titles allow re-zoning of forest land for conversion to oil palm (as has been know to occur with protected areas in Malaysia), critics may see these changes as simply a ruse to expand cash crop production in areas where agricultural land — and domestic labor — is scarce. But if the titled land is already under agricultural cultivation and the Orang Asli are given guidance on plantation management, a shift towards oil palm and rubber could boost their income. http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1119-malaysia.html

23) So here, “Malaysia’s indigenous people to get land rights for first time” (http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1119-malaysia.html), we see a classic example of neoliberal decentralization. Malaysia’s government is devolving control over land and resources to a local level, allowing for indigenous people to hold permanent title to their land. At the same time palm plantations are being implemented on this land to provide these people with income. So the government is devolving land ownership to a local level, but at the same time devolving the externalities associated with the management of natural resources and the environment to those who have little money, training, or experience in dealing with them. The government is also imposing cash-crops upon land that may not have grown them before, potentially creating new and unforeseen environmental and social externalities for these indigenous people to deal with. Though the local people involved may benefit from wage labor and the like, I would bet that those who will truely be accumulating here are not indigenous. It is those who will export and trade these cash crops that will make the money. Though I do believe that indigenous people should be able to manage their own resources, often government titling of private property breaks down complex property regimes that may be a melange of common and private ownership and use. The neoliberal agenda to privatize and control seems to be played out in this case, perhaps creating more trouble than good. http://consblog.org/index.php/2008/11/24/neoliberal-forests/

24) Dreams to gazette the entire Belum-Temengor rainforest for preservation may finally come true with discussions underway to iron out Malaysia’s first integrated management plan of the 130-million-year-old jungle. Environmental groups like the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) have expressed hopes that the proposed management plan would be a positive step towards preserving the entire 300,000ha rainforest complex. MNS executive director Dr Loh Chi Leong recommended that the Royal Belum State Park be extended to include the Temengor Forest Reserve, parts of which are being logged under forestry concessions. So far, only Royal Belum — which covers 117,500ha — had been gazetted as a state park under the Perak State Park Corporation in April 2007. The other parts of the rainforest are the Temengor Forest Reserve, Gerik Forest Reserve and the (South) Belum Forest Reserve. Dr Loh pointed out that many endangered animal species migrated freely across reserve borders, adding that logging could cut off their access to their feeding or nesting grounds. Citing an example, he said the vulnerable plain-pouch hornbill tended to roost in Temengor but fed in the Belum forest area. Therefore, the long-term survival of the hornbill cannot be achieved by protecting Royal Belum alone,”he said during the inaugural workshop on the Belum-Temengor management plan at Banding Island near here on Monday. WWF-Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma felt that more areas of Temengor could see complete protection if alternative sources of revenue could be identified to replace activities like timber sales. Stressing that he understood the state’s need to generate revenue through logging, Dr Dionysius said the workshop was a landmark event, involving state and federal agencies, and organisations in the management of the rainforest. “It is not going to happen overnight. The days of NGOs and state governments pointing fingers at each other are over. The planet is going through a critical climate change,” he said. Organised by the Pulau Banding Foundation, the two-day workshop attracted over 100 participants including those from the Orang Asli Affairs Department, Wildlife and National Parks Department, and researchers from UKM, USM, UPSI and FRIM. Natural Resources and Environment Ministry secretary-general Datuk Suboh Mohd Yasin, who launched the event, said the Government would look into helping with funding once the management plan was worked out after several discussions. http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/11/17/nation/20081117173653&sec=nation

25) KUALA LUMPUR — Plans for a scientific panel on biodiversity, similar to a Nobel-winning group on climate change, have been knocked back by representatives of 80 countries at UN-sponsored talks. Government officials and representatives of 129 organisations held a three-day conference in Malaysia to discuss the need for an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The IPBES would have mirrored the functions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which helped drive climate change to the top of the global agenda. The panel was intended to be an independent authority on species loss, bringing together experts who can guide governments on the issue, amid warnings about the accelerating rate of extinction and its implications for humans. “Many delegates supported the need for (a platform)… but others considered that it is too early to conclude whether there is a need for a new and independent body,” the UNEP said in a statement late Wednesday. Delegates, who included representatives from the United States, China, India and African and European nations, called for a study into the weaknesses and strengths of all existing mechanisms before embarking on a new panel. UNEP boss Achim Steiner had said at the opening of the conference that the IPBES was aimed at bringing scientific knowledge on biodiversity into the political arena to enable governments to make informed decisions. “Data alone does not create options on how to act, you have to turn that into politically and economically viable actions,” he said at the meeting in Malaysia’s administrative capital Putrajaya. Malaysian officials said on condition of anonymity that the Putrajaya conference was “too premature to be able to reach any decisions”. “There were fears by some that this was just another agenda waiting to be hijacked by the north to dictate to the south and to curtail their development activities. There is still a long way to go,” one official told AFP. He was referring to allegations by developing nations in the global “south” that the industrialised “north” is unfairly imposing on them the burden of addressing issues like climate change. The conference did not decide when and where the next round of meetings would be held. Biodiversity advocates have struggled for decades to sound the alarm over the need for a plan to save Earth’s vanishing flora and fauna, much of it in tropical rainforests and the sea. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hI-_ffSCAInMhBcD52HVMhdMSfQQ

26) Malaysia has an astonishingly diverse forest flora. One estimate puts the number of tree species in Peninsular Malaysia at over 9,000. Many of these trees are rare and highly localized. The state of Perak, in northern Malaysia, has identified five sites where very rare trees are located, and is acting to preserve those sites. The sites are Segari Forest Reserve, Gunung Bubu and Temengor Forest Reserve, and Taman Negeri Royal Belum (Royal Belum State Park). Univeristi Kebangsaan Malaysia botanist Prof. Datuk Dr. Abdul Latiff Mohamad said that balau putih, Shorea lumutensis, is found in Segari Forest Reserve and Sungai Pinang Forest Reserve in Lumut, and nowhere else in the world. Logging of these reserves would likely cause extinction of these species, said Datuk Dr. Abdul Latiff. Pokok sang, Johannesteijsmannia perakensis, is another rare tree in Perak, found only in Gunung Bubu near Kuala Kangsar, according to Datuk Dr. Abdul Latiff. It is found occasionally in cultivation and is known as Johnny-on-a-stick in the horticulture trade. Local people, known as Orang Asli (original people) use the leaves of Pokok sang for roofing material. In addition to its exceptional tree flora, Perak is home to four species of Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower. http://www.kimmerer.com/perak-malaysia-home-to-rare-trees/

27) They were among 50 surveyors carrying out demarcation work for a multi-billion ringgit inter-state 500km gas pipeline project from Kimanis near Kota Kinabalu in Sabah to Bintulu in Sarawak. Then they went missing on October 28. The police sent out search and rescue teams but they could not be found. They were in great peril. Fortunately for our lost travellers, some Penans hunting and gathering in the jungle of Long Seridan found them and brought them to safety in their mountain settlement. For the Penans, the wild frightening jungle of Borneo is just like their backyard. They have been at the forefront of many such search and rescue missions in the past. This story with a happy ending was reported in the Star on November 3 under the headline Penans decline reward. The Penans are a shy people; they would indeed never dream of getting a reward for doing what they see as a natural moral duty to help one another in the jungle in times of great peril. Being shy, they would shun all forms of public attention. My question is this: when the Penans need help in their turn, how is the rest of Malaysia going to respond to them? Recently, two letters found their way to my desk. I published the first one in another net portal www.thenutgraph.com. The second letter is rather long, and so I have chosen to publish it below in my English translation of the original Bahasa Malaysia version. http://forestexplorers.blogspot.com/2008/11/letter-from-sarawak-forest.html

28) In August, New Forests launched the groundbreaking Malua BioBank in Sabah, Malaysia, a project which uses biodiversity conservation certificates, to protect a host of threatened species and the rainforests in which they reside; in May 2008 the company announced the sale of a minority stake to Generation Investment Management, co-founded by former US Vice President Al Gore. With the BioBank, Brand says, “There’s an opportunity, ultimately, to create a growing network of these biodiversity banks around critical ecosystems all around the world.” The trick, he says, is to move from a marquee initial project like the one in Malaysia to a standardized approach, molding an emerging market in the same way that the carbon market began to shape itself around the rules coming out of Kyoto and the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS). Brand, whose work has spanned on-the-ground forestry, forest policymaking, international negotiations, and investing, can’t help imagining the possibilities. “I like to be creative,” he says. “I like to think about what we can do in a way that actually creates value around these ecosystems which have been un-priced, and because they’ve been un-priced, they’ve effectively been wasted.” A veteran of lengthy canoe trips in Canada, Brand began studying forestry in university, taking summer jobs in remote spots like northern Saskatchewan and Longlac, Ontario. But when his classmates signed on for traditional elective classes (what Brand dubs “Road Construction 302”), he leaned toward environmental science. Once he graduated, he sought new experiences, hitchhiking to British Columbia for a silviculture job on Vancouver Island, then working with Weldwood in the province’s fjords, where forests teem with grizzly bears. “Amusing,” he recalls, “wearing cowbells in the bush…” Brand went on to get his forestry doctorate, and moved up through the Canadian forestry world to become the director-general of science and sustainable development for the Canadian Forest Service. http://ecosystemmarketplace.com/pages/article.people.profile.php?component_id=6341&component_version_id=9451&language_id=12

29) The world’s first oil palm-based pulp and paper mill is expected to start operations in Tawau by the third quarter of next year. Using technology researched by the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), the mill will produce pulp and paper from empty fruit bunches, oil palm bunches where the fruits have been removed. FRIM director-general Datuk Dr Abd Latif Mohmod said the mill would be capable of producing high quality A4 paper for export and local use. The paper would be produced by a private company. Dr Abd Latif said it was an industry with a potential earnings of RM2bil annually. “It will not only allow us to save hardwood trees from being cut down for paper but also on foreign exchange as Malaysia imports a lot of its paper from overseas. “It is a perfect example of waste to wealth,” he was reported as saying. It is understood that five tonnes of empty fruit bunches would produce one tonne of pulp. Some 30 million tonnes of empty fruit bunches are generated annually. Dr Abd Latif said oil millers would be paid RM30 per tonne for the bunches whereas the current market rate of pulp is between US$600 (RM2,160) and US$700 (RM2,520). FRIM forest products division senior director Dr Mohd Nor Mohd Yusoff said the Government had invested about RM35mil for the project that was supposed to have taken off in 2005. “There were some technical delays but now everything has been sorted out. The factory will have all operations under one roof — from shredding the empty fruit bunches, pulping and producing paper,” he said. Dr Abd Latif said this particular project was one example of the potential available in commercialising FRIM’s research. He has invited stakeholders and clients to come to FRIM so they could learn about its research findings during a Technology Transfer Forum on Nov 25 and 26. Check http://www.frim.gov.my/ for further details on the forum. http://www.newsabahtimes.com.my/nstweb/fullstory/23787

30) I have lived off the sea all my life but I never dreamed that the sea around me would die in my lifetime. Gone were the days when my fellow tribesmen could be guaranteed a good catch at sea or among the mangroves. This has been replaced with the certainty that our way of life will wither along with the catch. There are not many of us now, even if all the Seletar people from other villages are counted. In Kampung Bakar Batu Danga (Johor) where I live, there are only 27 families, with fewer than 200 people. It’s a stark contrast with the times of my childhood in the 1930s when one could hardly look at any stretch of the Tebrau Straits without spotting tens or even hundreds of our tribesmen’s boats floating in the water. Before the Causeway was built, our tribe was one large close-knit community as we could visit each other no matter where we lived around the Tebrau Straits. We could just row our boats from Gelang Patah in the west of the Tebrau Straits to Stulang Laut at the other end, as did the merchant ships plying the waterway to get to the Tanjung Puteri Port. The Causeway split our community in two as we could no longer visit those on the other side. Travelling there by land was out of the question as we rarely even set foot on dry land, let alone travelled across it. During the Japanese occupation, we did not venture out to the Tebrau Straits, hiding under the cover of riverine mangroves of Sungai Pulai, Sungai Skudai, Sungai Melayu and other small rivers in the area. We heard loud explosions in the distance but I was not sure whether they came from Johor Baru or Singapore. The war took human lives, but the mangroves’ fish, mud crabs and shellfish flourished. As we spent the war years hiding in the mangroves, the most notable difference to us when it ended was that we could go out to sea again. Soon after our country’s independence, we were given a piece of land (which later became our present settlement) by the late Sultan Ismail, who said we should change our nomadic ways. Those who have lived on land all their life would not understand what a fundamental change it was for us to make the change from living a life at sea to one anchored on land. However, for the past 10 years, very few fish or crabs have been snagged by our nets and fish traps. The rivers and mangroves that were impervious to bombs and bullets seem to be dying in peacetime. I have seen many things in my life and I have learned to accept things that I once thought impossible, but it really baffles me when the landward buildings seem to be heading towards water and getting nearer to the mangroves. http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/Monday/National/2403760/Article/index_html

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