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 – 10: 23 May 2017

The Indonesian media has recently featured seemingly conflicting articles about the future for Indonesia’s coal industry. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in 2014 pledged to increase power generating capacity 35,000 MW by 2019. Of this, 20,000 MW were expected to be generated by coal.  This week by Sri Raharjo, a senior official in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources announced plans to restrict coal exports in2019 to preserve supplies for domestic power generation. Contradicting this somewhat, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister, Ignasius Jonan said that the country would only need 15,000 MW of additional generating capacity in 2019, less than half of Jokowi’s original target.  Jonan attributed the U-Turn to below-target economic growth.  According to the World Bank, Indonesia’s economy will grow 5.2% this year, up from 5.0% in 2016 but below the government’s 7% target, leading to a 5,000 MW oversupply to the Java-Bali grid by 2024, the minister said. Between 2008 and 2013, Indonesia’s coal production almost doubled, driven mainly by imports from China, India and South Korea, making Indonesia the world’s biggest coal exporter. But demand for thermal coal exports started to decline in 2015. Low international prices and tougher regulations on mining operations, such as production quotas and the introduction of a certification system, forced higher-cost small miners out of the market and tightened supply, explains Sylvie Cornot-Gandolphe. The plan to increase generating capacity by 35,000 MW over five years may have originally been partly intended to rescue coal producers. More recently, however, Chinese regulations on coal mining suddenly forced utilities in China to increase their imports, flipping the international coal market back from over-supply to under-supply in mid-2016, at least temporarily. “Growing domestic demand and falling investment call into question the availability of coal to fuel both domestic and export markets,” according to Cornot-Gandolphe.

Marine & Fisheries

Indonesia’s fisheries enforcer blasts poachers: ‘That’s my fish!’
— Associated Press The Jakarta Post 13 May 2017
Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti acknowledged that her crackdown on illegal fishing still has not completely eliminated the problem, but she said the policies have boosted fishing stocks, improving the catch for anchovies, king prawns and yellow fin tuna, helping local fishermen, reducing food prices, and curbing smuggling.  “What we actually earn also is respect,” Pudjiastuti said, speaking in Washington DC where she was being honoured as a recipient of the Peter Benchley Ocean Award for her efforts protecting Indonesia’ marine ecosystems and tackling poachers and organized crime.  Pudjiastuti acknowledged some tensions with neighboring countries whose boats have been targeted for illegal fishing, but she noted that she had briefed ambassadors of neighboring countries, including China, before the crackdown.  “Poaching is not a part of good bilateral relations,” Pusjiastuti said.  “For me it’s more clear. Once it’s in my EEZ, that’s my fish.”

Customs and Excise patrol seizes 63.8 tons of ammonium nitrate in Bali Sea
— Indonesian Customs and Excise, 15 May 2017
The Indonesian Custom Office “Operation Sea Patrol Jaring Wallacea” confiscated 63.8 tonnes of ammonium nitrate from a container vessel, KM Hamdan V, near the Kangean Islands in the Bali Sea on 11 May 2017. The vessel had sailed from Tanjung Belungkor in Malaysia, bound for the Kei Islands in Maluku Province, but did not have permits to enter Indonesian waters or carry ammonium nitrate. Ten suspects have been detained.  Heru Pambudi, Director-General of Indonesian Customs, said that the ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer, could be used to manufacture fish bombs or terrorist explosives. One kilogram of ammonium nitrate can be used to make 20 fish bombs, so the 63.8 ton cargo could produce as many as 1.27 million bombs.

Trawling Troubles
— Ayu Primasandi et al Tempo 21 May 2017
Minister Susi Pudjiastuti was surprised when she met with President Joko Widodo at the State Palace to weeks ago to discuss the ban on cantrang (trawl) nets to find Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki attending the meeting as well. Teten’s report contradicted the Ministry’s data and showed that Susi’s policy to replace trawl gear with sustainable gill nets was badly behind schedule. In reality, trawl nets have already been banned in in Indonesia for more than 35 years, under Presidential Decree 39 of 1980, but the use of trawl gear has continued to go.  In 2015, Indonesia had 5,781 boats using trawl nets, of which the Ministry replaced 1,529 with environmentally friendly gear, but the cheating continued, according to Sjarief Widjaja, Director-General of Capture Fisheries.  By 2017, the Ministry reported that the number of trawl nets in use had climbed to 14,357. In Central Java alone, the number trawl boats has grown from 3,209 in 2004 to 5,100 in 2007 and 10,758 in 2015.  While fishers in Central Java reject Minister Pudjiastuti’s policy of banning cantrang (trawl) nets, fishers in East Java support the policy and oppose use of trawl nets, which they say has ruined their catch.

Interview with Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pujiastuti
— Abdul Malik Tempo 21 May 2017-05-22
In a brief interview with Tempo Magazine, Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti provided further comments on the trawling issue, excerpted as follows:
Q:  What will happen during the extension period for providing substitute sustainable fishing gear for boats up to 10 gross tons (GT).
A:  We will finish boat measuring to validate data on boats claimed to be less than 10 GT.  It is difficult to determine which fishers use pukat hela (trawls) and which use pukat tarik (seine nets).  We also provide 89 types of fishing supplies, including gill net, trammel net, purse net, crab trap, hand line, bottom line, drift line, as well as poles and lines.
Q:  Businesses and fishermen are asking for independent studies on trawl nets.
A:  There are already studies on trawl nets.  Hauling fish from the bottom of the sea causes significant damage to the seabed ecosystem.  The use of trawl nets can damage the substrate ecosystem where micro-organisms grow into fish food.  This condition causes the seabed’s productivity to decline.

Joining the global maritime axis
— Ayu Primasandi et al Tempo 14 May 2017 
President Joko Widodo’s dream of revamping the maritime sector has begun to take shape.  After successfully launching six sea toll routes over the past year, the government is set to add seven new routes this year.  The maritime connectivity program to minimize disparity in prices of basic commodities between Indonesia’s main islands and remote areas has proved successful and has cut down logistic costs by 25%.  The success can also be seen in the number of large, foreign container vessels that now dock directly at Tanjung Priok instead of in Singapore.  Twenty-four major port projects are no underway across the archipelago, with a total investment value of IDR 39.5 trillion (USR$2.97 billion).  Indonesia’s seven main ports are:  Kuala Tanjung Port (Sumatra); Batam Port (Batam); Tanjung Priok Port (Java); Tanjung Perak (Java); Makassar (Sulawesi); Bitung (Sulawesi); and Sorong (West Papua).  (Note: This link does not include graphics provided in printed magazine.)  

Indonesian and Vietnam vessels clash in Natuna
— Fadli & Tama Salim The Jakarta Post 23 May 2017 
Vietnamese coast guard vessels freed five Vietnam-flagged boats which had been captured by Indonesian authorities for fish poaching in the Natuna area, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti confirmed. The five boats were being escorted to the Batam Monitoring Base in Batam when two Vietnamese coast guard vessels obstructed the arrest. “The Vietnamese coast guard vessels entered Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)”, Eko Djalmo Asmadi, Director-General of Fisheries Resources Monitoring said.  One of the Vietnamese Coast Guard vessels reportedly rammed into one of the arrested boats and boarded the vessel, holding the Indonesian sailors sent on board hostage in exchange for the release of the Vietnamese fishermen. A TNI source who requested anonymity said the Indonesian Navy had immediately deployed several warships to the location following reports of the incident.

Forestry & Land Use

Opinion:  A one true map, not a ‘no-one’s map’
— T. Nirarta Samadhi Jakarta Post 17 May 2017
Weak forest and land governance is the reason fires are such a regular occurrence in Indonesia. In response to this, President Joko Widodo issued the ‘One Map Policy’—a breakthrough initiative to synchronize maps from various sectors. This makes it possible to overlay concession maps to check whether mining, forestry and oil palm concessions overlap protected forests and to clarify conflicting claims with indigenous communities. The ‘One Map Policy’ could be a ‘no-one’s map’ if the synchronization process exclusive, wrong or unfair.  Synchronizing maps should be aimed at achieving consensus over boundary issues. This requires all key stakeholders to come together in a process to facilitate conflict transformation. The government must lead and facilitate an inclusive and credible multi-stakeholder forum that transforms relationships between stakeholders. This is a key step to managing our forests and lands in an accountable manner.  (T. Nirarta Samadhi is the Director of World Resources Institute Indonesia.)

Insight:  Peatlands matter for Indonesia, and the world
— Daniel Murdiyarso Thomson Reuters Foundation News 18 May 2017
Indonesia’s peatland management hit rock bottom in 2015, when millions of hectares of peatland burned, millions of tons of greenhouse and toxic gases were released communities suffered severe health problems and billions of dollars were lost as national and regional economies were disrupted, opening the world’s eyes to the impact of mismanaging peatlands and allowing uncontrolled forest fires. Solutions need to be multi-dimensional, addressing people’s livelihoods, how climate is disrupted by peatland emissions, and the need to conserve biodiversity, translated into simple actions that everyone can understand and which contribute to the restoration of degraded peatlands. Lessons learned are invaluable to peatland-rich countries like the Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Peru.  This week Jakarta hosted the Global Landscapes Forum: Peatlands Matter conference, led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the World Bank, and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to discuss the need to sustainably manage and preserve peatlands globally and the lessons we can share from Indonesia. (Daniel Murdiyarso is senior scientist at CIFOR).

Definitely no haze this year, Indonesia says  
— Azian Othman  Borneo Bulletin 19 May 2017 
Indonesia assured its ASEAN neighbors that there will no transboundary haze problems plaguing the region this year.  Advisory to the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, Arief Yuwono, said the prediction was based on last year’s record following implementation of stringent measures to curb forest fires and control smoke haze pollution.  “With a weaker El Niño, we anticipate we can repeat 2016, which saw almost zero recurrence of haze,” Yuwono said after a meeting of the 19th Technical Working Group and Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (19th MSC) on Transboundary Pollution in Kuala Lumpur on 18 May.   However, in a Joint Statement, the ministers noted the outlook for dry weather conditions for the region between June and October, with a chance of El Niño conditions emerging with below normal to normal rainfall, and “hotspot” activities are likely to be more active in 2017 than last year.

Ministry seeks to extend forest moratorium for two more years
— Bernadette Christina Munthe Reuters 10 May 2017
Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry seeks to extend the moratorium on the issue of new licenses to use primary forest and peatland for two more years, Yuyu Rahayu, acting Director-General of Forestry at the ministry said.  If approved, this would be the third extension of the moratorium, which was first approved in 2011 under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to forest fires.  Despite the moratorium, some primary forest and peatlands area were still being used by farmers and plantations that had been cultivating the land prior to the moratorium.  As of November 2016, the forest moratorium covered more than 66 million hectares.

West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis asks permission to let timber plantations drain peatlands, despite national ban on draining peatland 
— Lusia Arumingtyas and Philip Jacobson Mongabay 20 May 2017
Governor Cornelis’ wrote to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, asking that timber plantations in West Kalimantan be allowed to resume draining peatlands, despite the national ban on draining peatlands in effect since 2016.  The letter was issued days after the Ministry of Environment and Forestry sanctioned plantation firm PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa firm for building an illegal drainage canal through Sungai Putri, one of the last coastal peat swamps on the island of Borneo.  “Companies will lose confidence to invest in the forestry sector,” Cornelis’ letter read. He said that exemptions were needed “to maintain a conducive and comfortable investment climate.” He also argued that allowing plantation companies to continue operations in peat lands would enable them to protect the forests in their concessions from local people who encroach on them.’

Wilmar appeals RSPO ruling that it grabbed indigenous lands in Sumatra
— Rachel diaz-Bastin Mongabay 17 May 2016
Wilmar International, one of the world’s largest palm oil production and refining companies, is appealing a January ruling by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which it had initially indicated it would accept.  The ruling said Wilmar violated community rights and RSPO rules when it tried to take out a Land Use Right (HGU) permit over land owned by the indigenous Kapa people of West Sumatra, and called for re-allocation of lands between Wilmar’s core estate and smallholdings areas for the Kapa people.  Wilmar now claims that the decision was flawed because the RSPO Complaints panel reached its decision before the independent consultant had received Wilmar’s input.  However, Marcus Colchester, senior policy advisor with the Forest People’s Programme (FPP), noting that Wilmar did not have the consent of community members to obtain a HGU over their lands in the first place, said Wilmar was stalling.

Palm oil firm pledges to stop deforesting after RSPO freezes its operations in Papua Province
— Philip Jacobson Mongabay 11 May 2017
Goodhope Asia Holdings has issued a new sustainability policy committing the company to stop clearing forests and peatlands.  The move came a week after the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil froze seven Goodhope concessions in Indonesia, following charges of environmental and human rights abuses, including claims that that the company had seized land from an indigenous community and conducted poor quality High Conservation Value assessments for its subsidiaries PT Nabire Baru and PT Agrajaya Pakitata in Papua Province. The company set a deadline of May 4, 2019 for achieving full traceability of its palm oil.

Energy, Climate Change and Pollution

Facing oversupply, Indonesia scales back its coal-based electric power plan
— Lucy E.J. Edwards Mongabay 11 May 2017
In 2014, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced plans to increase electric power generation by 35,000 MW by 2019, with much of the increase fuelled by coal.  However, Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Ignasius Jonan recently stated that only 15,000 MW of additional power will be required by 2019, in part because of setbacks to the government’s goal to achieve upwards of 7% annual economic growth.  Actual GDP growth, 5.0% in 2016, is expected to reach 5.2% in 2017, according to the World Bank.  At current development rates, there would be a 5,000 MW oversupply of energy to the Bali-Java grid by 2024, Jonan said.  As a result, 9,000 MW of power plant projects have been put on hold until 2024, and some projects will be cancelled, including the 2,000 MW Java 5 plant planned for West Java.  But the 1,000 MW Cirebon plant which recently had its environment permit revoked, the controversial 2,000 MW expansion of Tanjung Jati, and the 2,000 MW Batang power plant are still going ahead.  Scaling back the 35,000-megwatt plan could hurt Indonesia’s coal mining industry, which has badly been hit by reduced demand for Indonesian thermal coal from China and India.  The government’s current electric power purchasing price limit, IDR 983 (US$0.07) per kilowatt-hour is very low, making it difficult for new coal power plants to be profitable, and creating new opportunities for renewables, particularly on small islands and in rural areas, according to Sawung, an energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Indonesia.

Oil and gas losing ground to renewables
— Fedina S. Sundaryani The Jakarta Post 18 May 2017
While investment in Indonesia’s upstream oil and gas sector plunged to US$12.01 billion in 2016, roughly half its normal level, partly in response to continuing low global price for oil, the costs of renewable energy resource have become less expensive.  “New and renewable energy is a sector that we have to consider seriously,” Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan said at a conference of the Indonesian Petroleum Association.  Globally, the costs of electric power generated from gas range from US$0.07-0.14 per kilowatt hour (kWh), while utility-scale photovoltaic systems can now cost as little as US$0.08/kWh, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).  “The competition between fossil or traditional and renewable energy will mount. … They might compete, whether we use oil or gas, or renewable energy,” Minister Jonan said.

Indonesia serious about clean coal technology
— Viriya P. Singgih Jakarta Post 19 May 2017
Indonesia has reaffirmed its commitment to use clean coal technology (CCT) in developing new coal-fired power plants, in line with its commitments under the Paris Agreement which it ratified in October 2016. Indonesia is currently pursuing economic development by building electricity infrastructure reliant on coal, according to Alihuddin Sitompul, Director for Electric Power Development in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.  Indonesia plans to build at least 27 new coal-fired power plants with a total generating capacity of 21,579 MW within the next eight years using CCT, part of a national plan to boost electric power production, including super-critical and ultra-critical combined cycle gasification systems.  The push for coal-fired power plants is expected to more than double total coal consumption from 111 million tons in 2016 to a projected 240 million tons by 2019.

Government to restrict coal exports in 2019
— Viriya P. Singgih Jakarta Post 18 May 2017
The Indonesian government plans to tighten coal export policy and limit coal production to 400 million tons in 2019, down from 419 million tonnes in 2016, in order to preserve supplies for domestic power generation.  Sri Raharjo, Director of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources’ coal and mineral program said that he expects domestic consumption to soar to 240 million tons in 2019 from only 111 million tons last year and an estimated 107.8 million tons this year, in line with the opening of new coal-fired power plants across the country.

Indonesian Government to develop geothermal plants worth S$4.3 billion 
— Viriya P. Singgih Jakarta Post 22 May 2017 
The government plans to develop twelve geothermal power plant with a combined capacity of 865 megawatts (MW) and a total investment value of US$4.3 billion.  Indonesia currently operates geothermal plants with a total capacity of 1,698.5 MW, which will be increased to 1,858.5 by year-end 2017 with the completion of three facilities currently under construction.  By 2025, the target is 7,200 MW of geothermal power, which would represent 3.8% of the total target 23% of national energy mix from renewable sources. The government will offer five geothermal working areas in the eastern part of the country through an auction, expected to be held by the end of June.  There are also another seven working areas which are planned for development by state-owned firms through direct assignment.  To make geothermal investment more attractive while reducing the costs for the private sector, the government has allocated IDR 3 trillion (US$225.5 million) from the state budget and received a US$55.25 million grant from the World Bank to fund exploration for geothermal resources. These exploration funds would be repaid by auction winners, thereby creating a revolving fund to support new exploration activities.

Harnessing nuclear power:  good or bad for Indonesia? 
— Tama Salim & Viriya P. Singgih Jakarta Post 18 May 2017 
PLN, Indonesia’s state-owned electric power company, confirmed that nuclear power should remain the last resort for electric power procurement, stating that nuclear was only to be considered if renewable energy sources fail to achieve the desired target of 23% [of all commercial electric power] by 2025.  Rahmat Budiman, former Indonesian representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that nuclear power was not on the table for the current administration as long as coal and gas remain abundant.  “We need to build up our national nuclear safety system,” a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency said.  A 2016 emergency preparedness review conducted by the IAEA concluded that Indonesia still needs to set up a nuclear emergency system that is integrated into the national all-hazards emergency management system.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Chesapeake Bay earns ‘C’ for overall ecosystem health; #2980b9 crabs, rockfish, anchovies thriving
— Josh Hicks Washington Post 8 May 2017
University of Maryland environmental scientists gave the Chesapeake Bay a ‘C’ for overall health in 2016, with improved fish populations and water conditions contributing to the second highest grade the ecosystem has received in 30 years of scoring. The report said the bay is 54% of the way toward achieving key health benchmarks, an uptick of one percentage point compared to the previous year. US President Donald Trump had proposed slashing funding for Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts, but Congress last month approved a fiscal 2017 budget that maintains funding at US$73 million, the same as the previous year.


FPI member bids for Komnas HAM post
— Margareth S. Aritonang Jakarta Post 19 May 2017
Zainal Abidin, one of 60 candidates for a post as commissioner at the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) is the head of the legal team of the Semarang, Central Java branch of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).  Attending a public debate and screening for new commissioner candidartes, Zainal said that his motivation in seeking to join the human rights body was to put a human face on the FPI.  If elected, he said he would make no effort to protect minority sects like the Ahmadiyah, “But I will not promote violence against them.”  Another candidate, Welya Safitri, who is not an FPI member, said in her opening statement that she wants to defend Indonesia’s controversial law criminalizing blasphemy.  “I also believe Ahmadiyah is a heretical group,” Safitri said.  The multi-stage selection process will culminate in October with the House of Representatives Commission III, which expected to select seven new commissioners to serve over the 2017-2022 term.




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