Indonesia Sustainable Development News Digest

Starling Resource produces a bi-weekly Indonesia Sustainable Development News Digest email for circulation to a broader cohort of practitioners, funders, and experts. The purpose of the digest is to present readers with a brief, easily digestible summary of significant, recent news items, reports, and papers relevant to conservation, sustainable development, and the environment in Indonesia, compiled from domestic Indonesian and international media sources. The digest is produced once every two weeks throughout the year. If you are interested in receiving the digest, please let us know by email at or subscribe here

News Digest
2017 – 5: 27 February 2017

Marine & Fisheries

Indonesia declares sovereignty over more outermost islands
— News Desk, Jakarta Post, 2017-03-12
Indonesian president Joko Widodo has issued a presidential decree asserting sovereignty over 111 islands, including some which had not formally been claimed, revising a 2005 decree that only mentioned 92 islands.  Minister of Marine Affairs and Fishers Susi Pudjiastuti welcomed the decree, which she said was enacted “to prevent issues of occupation or claims of possession by other nations.”  The move follows several disputes over peripheral islands with Malaysia and Singapore.

Indonesian Navy apprehends two Malaysian-flagged vessels
— Apriadi Gunawan, Jakarta Post, 2017-03-13
The Navy arrested two Malaysian-flagged vessels allegedly fishing illegally in Indonesian waters in the Strait of Malacca.  A Navy spokesman said the vessels had been caught while fishing near Aceh Tamiang using trawls.  Use of trawl nets for fishing is prohibited in Indonesia, as is all fishing by foreign vessels.

Jokowi highlights commitment to eradicate illegal fishing at IORA summit
— Jakarta Globe 2018-03-07 
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo highlighted his commitment to eradicate illegal fishing in Indonesian waters as part of an effort to preserve the country's maritime ecosystem and environment during the Indian Ocean Rim Association, or IORA, Summit in Jakarta.  In 2016, Indonesia sank more than 236 foreign-owned fishing boats caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters, and plans to sink more than 90 more foreign-owned vessels that have also violated Indonesian waters.

Report exposes the global scale of transshipping at sea
— Global Indonesian Voices 2017-02-24
Oceana released a report exposing the global scale of transshipping at sea, a practice that can mask illegal fishing practices and conceal human rights abuses. The report uses a new dataset released by Global Fishing Watch and Oceana’s partner, SkyTruth, to identify likely transshipping hotspots, the top countries whose vessels were involved in suspected rendezvous at sea, and the ports they most frequently visited.  “The practice of transshipping at sea can undermine fisheries management, threaten food security and facilitate unethical activities on our oceans,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Senior Vice President for the United States and Global Fishing Watch at Oceana. “The only way to ensure an end to illicit activities on our oceans is to ban transshipping at sea, require vessel tracking for all fishing vessels and establish consistent seafood catch reporting requirements worldwide.”

Forestry & Land Use

Government agencies to investigate illegal logging activities in Tesso Nilo National Park
— Reiny Dwinanda Republika 2017-03-13
The Ministry of the Environment and Forestry (MEF) and the High Prosecutor’s Office are conducting a joint investigation to crack down on illegal logging activities in Tesso Nilo National Park, a conservation forest in Riau Province, the Ministry’s Director-General of Law Enforcement Rasio Ridho Sani said. Two suspects have been detained for manipulation of land certificates for 550.15 ha of forest land.  Sani said the crime had triggered several fires and haze in the province in 2016.

Mount Leuser National Park fights back against illegal plantations
— Apriadi Gunawan Jakarta Post 2017-03-11
More than 2,000 hectares of forests in Mount Leuser National Park have been illegally converted into oil palm, rubber trees, cacao trees and coffee plantations growing, but the park management is taking steps to curb the spread of illegal plantations and restore converted areas by cutting down plantation trees and crops and replanting with indigenous flora.  Most of the illegal conversions were carried out by local people who received financial support from outside investors, a park spokesman said.  Mount Leuser and two other national parks in Sumatra were listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage in Danger List in 2011.  Seven non-governmental organizations have recently formed the Mount Leuser National Park Rescue Coalition and asked Indonesian President Joko Widodo to save the park from rampant encroachments.

New governor pledges to cancel controversial geothermal project in Mount Leuser National Park
— Junaidi Hanafiah and Philip Jacobson, Mongabay 2017-03-11
Newly-elected Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf vowed to revoke a project to drill for geothermal energy and build a power plant in the heart of Indonesia’s largest intact rainforest ecosystem.  The present Aceh administration had asked the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to rezone the core area of Mount Leuser National Park to allow Turkish-owned Hitay Holdings to develop a geothermal energy project in one of the last habitats for rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutan left on the island of Sumatra.

Jokowi bans use of mercury in small-scale gold mines
— Jakarta Globe 2017-03-10 Jakarta Post and Reiny Dwinanda Republika 2017-03-09
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has issued a ban on the use of mercury in gold mining, including small-scale gold mines, citing the damaging impacts of the toxic metal on human health and the environment. Jokowi stated that he had received information on the use of mercury in 850 hotspots which had affected the health of 250,000 miners and their families. Mercury is used to sequester amalgamate gold from ore in small-scale mines. Jokowi said monitoring of mercury imports, supply and distribution would be tightened following reports that mercury used in small-scale mines has been illegally imported. | |

Village in Central Kalimantan conserves a forest listed for conversion to plantation
— Indra Nugraha and Melati Kaye, Mongabay 2017-03-10
Residents of Bawan village in Pulang Pisau, Central Kalimantan successfully applied for a permit to manage their land as a “village forest”, a form of community forestry promoted by Indonesian president Joko Widodo.  The area had previously been designated by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry as “production forest”, meaning it could be sold to a plantation or mining company.  Five years ago, Bawan villagers turned down an offer from a palm oil company to acquire the land.  Under the new “village forest” management, tree felling, poaching and hunting is now prohibited.  Villagers can gather non-timber forest products such as rattan, damar latex, and honey.  Members of the village forest agency are mostly rubber farmers who have groves in the village forest’s buffer zone.

Supreme Court orders Jokowi administration to hand over palm oil permit data
— Philip Jacobson, Mongabay 2017-03-10
Indonesia’s Supreme Court ordered the Joko Widodo administration to hand over detailed maps showing the precise boundaries of areas where oil palm companies have permits to operate and the name of the company holding the permit. Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), an NGO, has been seeking release of the documents from the Ministry of Land and Spatial Planning (MLSP) since 2015. The MLSP has resisted, arguing that releasing the name of permit holder companies would violate their privacy. The decision is a victory for FWI and other groups seeking to better monitor the oil palm plantations companies, which critics allege routinely clear land outside of their licensed areas.

HSBC commits to stop financing deforestation-linked palm oil firms
— Alice Cuddy, Mongabay 2017-03-03
HSBC has announced it has revised its Agricultural Commodities Policiy to include “no deforestation, no peat and no exploitation” (NDPE) commitments in its financing of palm oil firms.  The move follows the publication of a report by Greenpeace, which accused the bank of marshalling $16.3 billion in financing for six firms since 2012 that have illegally cleared forests, planted oil palm on carbon-rich peat soil, and grabbed lands owned by traditional communities.  The new policy, which extends to palm oil refiners and traders as well as oil palm growers and mills, requires HSBC customers to commit to protecting natural forest and peatlands by 30 June and to provide independent verification of their own NDPE commitments by 31 December 2018. |

Climate Change & Pollution

Study: Less than 10% of international climate fund cash reaches local projects
— Laurie Goering, Thomson Reuters Foundation News Trust 2017-02-07
Less than 10 percent of finance from international climate funds to help developing countries adapt to climate change impacts and adopt clean energy is reaching local-level projects, researchers at the London-based International Institute for Environmental and Development (IIED) said. In part, that is because international climate funds have opted to work with development banks and big international agencies rather than with smaller-scale local governments and projects. The Paris Agreement on climate change also lacks a target for local level funding.  Richer nations promised to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries switch to clean energy and adapt to climate change problems such as droughts, flooding and sea level rise. As of today, however, donors have given only 11% of the climate funds they promised.

Indonesian government plans switch to eco-plastic use by 2019 and 2021
— Ani Nursalikah, Republika 2017-03-07
The Indonesian government will ban the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags by modern retailers in 2019 and in traditional markets by 2021, according to R. Sudirman, the Director-General for Waste Management of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Indonesia is reported to be the second biggest source of plastic trash ocean pollution in the world, producing about 65 million tons of waste a year, of which about 9 million tons (14%) is in the form of plastic trash. The government is committed to reducing plastic waste pollution by 70% by the end of 2025.

ADB Study: Green Growth Opportunities for Asia
- Sam Fankhauser et al, ADB Economics Working Paper Series No. 508 (January 2017)
The paper argues that while some Asian countries have achieved impressive scale in the deployment of climate change mitigation technologies (CCMT) such as China, or are frontier innovators (South Korea, Japan), much of developing Asia have revealed comparative advantages in key low-carbon technologies, for example India in smart grids and wind, or the Philippines in efficient lighting and photovoltaics.  However, other countries, such as Indonesia, have not developed innovations nor export specialization in CCMTs and could benefit from a strategic approach to assessing which technologies and sectors to pursue. The key is for countries to avoid under-innovating in technologies where they have an inherent comparative advantage or which carry immense spillover benefits for the economy, the paper concluded.

Japanese, Singaporean banks finance controversial Indonesian coal power plant
— Isabel Esterman, Mongabay 2017-03-06
Singaporean and Japanese banks will provide US$3.36 billion in loans to support expansion of the Tanjung Jati B coal-fired power plant in Central Java.  Société Générale reversed plans to participate in funding the plant last October in accordance with its pledge to cease funding projects that are incompatible with the Paris climate agreement. Crédit Agricole also pulled out. Final funders include Mizuho Bank, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, other Japanese banks and Singapore’s OCBC.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Cruise ship smashes into coral reef in Raja Ampat
— News Desk, Jakarta Post 2017-03-13 and Tempo 2017-03-14
The Caledonian Sky, 90-meter British-owned Bahamas-registered cruise ship smashed into coral reefs near Kri Island in Raja Ampat on 4 March. The area is within the Dampier Strait Marine Protected Area established by the Raja Ampat Regency government. The vessel, carrying 102 passengers and 79 crew, ran around after a bird-watching visit to Waigeo Island. Ricardo Tapilatu, from the University of Papua, revised the initial estimate of damaged coral reef area from 1,600 m3 to 13,533 m3, saying the decision to tow the vessel off the reef using a tug boat while it was still low tide caused even more damage.  Noble Caledonia said it was willing to cooperate fully with authorities to address the issue. The Caledonian Sky suffered only minimal damage and was allowed to resume its journey. | |

Komodo National Park welcomes more cruise ships
— Markus Makur, Jakarta Post, 2017-03-11
The number of cruise ships visiting Komodo National Park in West Manggarai Regency, Flores, has increased, with 13 ships carrying hundreds of passengers arriving in January and February 2017.  A total of 24 cruise ships visited Komodo in 2016.  According to WWF-Indonesia, 95,410 visitors came to Komodo National Park in 2015, an increase of 113% over the 44,672 visitors who came in 2010. |

Indonesian police arrest fishermen for trafficking 38 sea turtles from a nesting site in the Southeast Aru Nature Reserve in the Arafura Sea
— Mongabay 2017-03-01
Five fishermen were arrested for taking 38 sea turtles from an important nesting site in the archipelago country’s eastern waters. Six of the turtles were dead. The reptiles had been taken from Enu Island, at the heart of the 114,000-hectare Southeast Aru Nature Reserve in the Arafura Sea, the area’s richest turtle nesting grounds.  Sea turtle populations have fallen sharply as poachers harvest their meat and eggs, as well as the shells and skins, which are used to make jewelry, tourist souvenirs and other objects.  “The decline in the number of sea turtles … will affect the fertility and stability of the ecosystem, reducing the fish population and harming local fishing communities because their catches and revenues will decline,” said Brahmantya Poerwadi, a director at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. 

Never-before-seen gatherings of hundreds of humpback whales
— Mallory Locklear, New Scientist 2017-03-10
Humpback whales are forming massive groups of up to 200 animals off the southwest coast of South Africa, an area which has not been an important feeding ground for humpbacks for over 100 years, according to a paper in PLOS One. Scientists speculated the change in behavior might be a response to changes in available prey, or possibly a restoration of their normal behavior before whaling reduced the global humpback population by 90%.  Humpback populations have exhibited an unexplained resurgence in recent years. |

Trump wants to cut State Department and USAID budget by 37%
— Zack Beauchamp, Vox 2017-03-01
U.S. President Donald Trump has floated a plan to cut the State Department and USAID budget by 37%, slashing diplomacy and foreign aid to make room for an $54 billion increase in defense spending.   Several Republican Party senators and several high-ranking military officials have joined congressional Democrats in criticizing the plan, which would reduce the State Department’s annual budget from $50.1 billion to $36.1 billion.

NOAA budgets at risk under US President Donald Trump
— Steve Mufson, Washington Post 2017-03-03Ema Foehringer Merchant, Grist 2017-03-07
The Trump administration seeks to slash funding for the government’s premier climate science by 17%, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The cuts would eliminate funding for coastal management, estuary reserves, and slash spending by NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research by 26%, with the biggest cut targeted at the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, which recently angered Republicans in Congress when it released a study showing there had been no recent slowdown in the rate of climate change. |


Future of Freeport-McRoran Grasberg mine uncertain after production shutdown and arbitration threat
— James Wilson Financial Times 2017-03-10 and John McBeth 2017-03-01 
US mining giant Freeport McMoRan has shut down production at its Grasberg mine in Papua Province, retrenched 1,400 workers and put thousands more on furlough after threatening to invoke international arbitration over Jakarta’s pressure on the company to convert its Contract of Work (CoW) to a Special Business License (IUPK) four years ahead of the contract’s expiration date. Freeport insists it has the right to renew the CoW for two more decades, to 2014. Conversion of the COW is required under Indonesia’s 2009 Mining Law, but failure to settle the dispute could disrupt Freeport and partner Rio Tinto’s planned US$17.2 billion project to convert Grasberg’s open pit into the world’s biggest underground mine. The mine dispute could be a subject of discussion with President Widodo when US Vice President Mike Pence visits Indonesia, possibly in April. |

Opinion: Ecotourism imperative for sector development
— Amol Titus Jakarta Post 2017-03-13
Indonesia has set itself the target of attracting 20 million tourists by 2019, an increase of 67% over the estimated 12 million visitors who came in 2016.  In that year, tourism already accounted for 11% of GDP, provided employment for 11.7 million people, and generated Rp 172 trillion (US$13 billion) in revenues.  In light of the UN’s designation of 2017 as the “year of sustainable tourism”, however, Indonesia should examine the strategic and policy framework in which tourism is being developed, balancing the economic rationale for tourism development with environmental safeguards, social priorities, and cultural preservation, including local communities in tourism development planning, and considering such realities as “haphazard zoning, the rush to construct hotels, severe vehicular congestion, increases in waste and garbage, and a shortage of trained labor.”

Pacific nations call for UN investigations into human rights abuses in West Papua 
— Liam Fox, 2017-03-02
Ronald K. Warsal, the Vanuatu Minister of Justice, addressed the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of seven Pacific nations, calling on the Council to “request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to produce a report on the situation in West Papua” with “recommendations for immediate action to halt the pattern of human rights violations.” A representative of the government of Indonesia rejected the allegations, stating that the Indonesian government “has always endeavored to address any allegation of human rights violation as well as taking preventative measures and delivering justice.”  A former Dutch colony, West Papua became part of Indonesia after a UN-supervised referendum in 1969 that involved only a small segment of the indigenous Melanesian population.

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