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 – 15: 9 August 2017

Marine & Fisheries

Indonesia calls for expanding regional cooperation to fight IUU fishing at ASEAN annual meetings
— Tama Salim The Jakarta Post, 8 July 2017
Indonesia is using the week-long meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila to push for expanded regional cooperation in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.  At the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Indonesia put forward a statement on “Cooperation to Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing” through effective implementation of relevant international laws and instruments, Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno LP Marsudi said. The statement was backed by the US, Timor Leste and Canada. International support for Indonesia’s rise the IUU fishing issue at other multilateral forums, such as the UN, is growing, but there is much to be done before IUU fishing is acknowledged as “transnational organized crime”, a key Jakarta’s objective.

Opinion: Overcoming resistance to save our fish and oceans
— Gilang Kembara The Jakarta Post, 27 July 2017
Plastic pollution, weak maritime enforcement, and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing have only recently been more strongly addressed by President Jokowi “Joko” Widodo.  But the government’s efforts to rejuvenate fisheries and protect marine environments are being challenged.  Faced with strong resistance, President Jokowi decided to delay the implementation of the Ministerial Regulation banning the use of trawls and seine nets until December. Worst of all is the politicization of these issues by figures such as Muhaimin Iskandar of the National Awakening Party (PKB). But nlike previous administrations, however, the government has introduced regulations to help alleviate impacts on the lives of those engaged in the fishing industry, including a 2016 law which obliges central and local governments to provide education, incentives, insurance and livelihood protection for fishermen and salt famers. In the long run, the government will also have to expand its attention to secondary and tertiary stakeholders.
(The writer is a research associate at the China-Southeast Asia Research Centre (CSARC) in Haikou, China, researching maritime issues for CSARC and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Jakarta.)

Why Indonesia’s new map is not (all) about the South China Sea
— Evan Laksmana The Strategist (ASPI) 1 August 2017 
Indonesia’s new official map [released in July] renaming the waters northeast of the Natuna Islands bordering the South China Sea as the “North Natuna Sea” was quickly condemned in a statement by a spokesperson from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said the renaming of the Natuna waters was merely an “exercise” to strengthen economic cooperation, while  his deputy Havas Oegroseno had previously stated at the press conference held to announce the map that it is an official document signed onto by 21 different agencies and ministries. This incoherent articulation of China-related policies underscores the ongoing debate among Indonesia’s political elites between those wanting Jakarta to take a tougher public stance on crucial strategic interests (including the South China Sea) and those preferring to eschew “megaphone diplomacy” and engage Beijing to resolve tensions behind closed doors. Nevertheless, the new map continues Indonesia’s long-held position of seeking to strengthen the UNCLOS-based rules order in the region. Indonesia has cited the July 2016 Arbitration Tribunal Ruling rejecting China’s claims over strategic reefs and atolls in the South China Sea in drawing its new map the first country to do so.

Diana Shipping dry bulk carrier runs agrounds on an Indonesia island
— World Maritime News 26 July 2017
A 76,426 dead-weight-ton Panamax dry bulk carrier, the M/V Melite, ran aground on Pulau Laut, off Kalimantan Selatan in the Makassar Strait. The ship’s owner, Athens-based Diana Shipping, said there had been no pollution as a result of the incident, but that the vessel had suffered damage to its hull.  There was no information about possible salvage operations or whether the grounding incident had resulted in damage to marine resources of the site.

Minister Susi rejects idea to auction off confiscated fishing boats
— The Jakarta Post, 24 July 2017
Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti has rejected a proposal to auction off three fishing boats confiscated after being used for poaching in Indonesian waters.  The Batam Prosecutor’s Office had reportedly suggesting auctioning the three vessels, the 150 Gross Ton (GT) IKM KNF 7444, the 100-GT KM KNF 7858, and the 16-GT KM SLFA 5066.  “If there is a proposal to convert them into research ships, we may discuss it further,” Minister Susi added, noting that many confiscated foreign vessels were not only used for illegal fishing but also for other crimes, like smuggling.

Forestry & Land Use

Indonesia Disaster Mitigation Agency warns of forest fires escalating through dry season
— The Straits Times [Singapore], 26 July 2017
Indonesia’s National Agency for Disaster Management (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana, PNPB) has warned of an escalating threat of forest fires.  “The peak of the dry season is predicted to be in August and September, so the threat of forest and field fires, and drought will escalate,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a BNPB spokesman said. In July, fires spread to around 64 ha of fields and forests in Aceh Province, blanketing the area in haze and resulting in some residents being taken to hospital for breathing problems.  Satellite imagery showed 170 hotspots across the country, including 35 in Aceh Province, 44 in East Nusa Tenggara and 21 in West Kalimantan, the agency said.

Malaysia is willing to assist Indonesia to battle forest fires
— News Desk The Jakarta Post, 1, 3 August 2017 (citing reports from Sin Chew Daily and ANN)
Malaysian Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Wan Junaidi Tungku said he had made a request to visit Indonesia to discuss Malaysia’s intention to send Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART), bombardier planes and firemen to help Indonesia fight forest fires.  “Our request is as soon as possible. If we can go tomorrow, I will go, but we have to seek permission from the Indonesia side first,” Junaidi told reporters attending the 12th national water resource committee meeting.  Junaidi added that four days ago, there had been 72 fire “hotspots” in Aceh, but the area is without hotspots now, showing that Indonesia’s efforts to control forest fires on its own has been effective.

Conservation and Protected Areas

Nations will start talks to protect fish of the high seas
— Somini Sengupta  The New York Times, 2 August 2017-08-08
Diplomats at the UN have initiated talks on creating marine protected areas (MPAs) in waters beyond national jurisdictions. “The high seas are the biggest reserve of biodiversity on the planet,” said Peter Thomson, ambassador of Fiji and president of the UN General Assembly. “Without a new international system to regulate all human activity on the high seas, those international waters remain a pirate zone.” However, consensus may remain elusive. Russia objected to the phrase “long-term conservation efforts” in the draft document that emerged from the talks, while other countries want regional fishing management bodies to take the lead in developing high-seas MPAs. Fishing on the high seas, often subsidised by governments, is a multibillion-dollar industry, focused in part on high-value [endangered] species such as Chilean sea bass and bluefin tuna. Ending fishing in some vulnerable parts of the high seas is more likely to affect large, well-financed trawlers and less likely to affect fishermen who lack the resources to venture into the high seas, said Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine program at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In fact, Mr. Lundin said, marine reserves could help to restore dwindling fish stocks.

Calamity for coral reefs
— Edi Faisol Tempo, 30 July 2017
When the west wind blows, barges carrying coal enter the conservation zone of Karimunjawa National Park off the northern coast of Java, damaging coral reefs and coastal ecosystems. The most severely affected island is Tengah Islands, with 16 damaged spots covering 1,245 m2, according to Amiruddin, deputy of the Indonesia Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN). Mrican, Cilik and Gosong have also suffered damage. Locals blame damage to coral reef ecosystems for the fact that it is now more difficult to catch crabs, collect clams or edible jellyfish and that fishermen now have to go far offshore to catch fish. Local guides use two-way radios set at unlicensed frequencies to monitor and guide boats and barges which moor in the conservation zone during bad weather. Some barges moor at piers built by illegal boat guides. As many as 10 to 20 barges moor in the islands at one time, said one guide. During Tempo’s visit, a barge slammed into coral reefs at the tip of Mrican Island just 100 meters from a recently established undersea park. Karimunjawa’s reefs have more than 90 different coral species, including two protected species, and 242 species of fishes, and other protected marine biota.

Road projects threaten Sumatra’s last great rainforests in Indonesian national parks
— Hans Nicholas Jong Mongabay 7 August 2017
Local governments plan new roads in through three Indonesian national parks in western Sumatra: Mount Leuser, Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat.  The area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS), occupying 2.5 million hectares (ha) on the spine of the Bukit Barisan mountain range, is home to an estimated 10,000 plant species and more than 200 mammal species, including the Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan, tiger, rhinoceros and elephant. Officials cited economic opportunity and the need for evacuation corridors as the reasons for expanding road access. A recent UNESCO coordinated environmental assessment found that there are currently 12 road corridor development plans in Kerinci Seblat NP, totalling 1,360 km of new or newly paved roads, 3 new or improved roads planned for Bukit Barisan Selatan NP, and plans for a 400-km road network have been revived for Mount Leuser National Park in Aceh Province. The latter, which would slice through highly sensitive areas of the Leuser Ecosystem to connect Aceh’s west and east coasts, has been cited as one of the most environmentally damaging projects worldwide by Dr. William Laurence at James Cook University.

Borneo orangutans in rapid decline despite conservation efforts
— Truly Santika et al, Scientific Reports 7 July 2017 (as reported in Wilson Conservation Ecology Lab, 28 July 2017)
An integrated population trend analysis shows that the Critically Endangered Bornean orangutan is in rapid decline, with populations dropping at an annual rate of 25% over the last ten years. This finding, covering both Malaysian Borneo and Indonesian Kalimantan, contradicts population estimates proposed by other researchers indicating increasing orangutan populations across the island, which reflected increasingly available data on the species and not an absolute increase in orangutan population. Orangutan survival rates are lowest in areas of intermediate and which have the highest threat from human wildlife conflict.  Survival rates are positively associated with forest extent, but are lower in areas which have recently been converted to industrial plantation agriculture. Lowland natural forests (i.e., primary old-growth forests and degraded forests which have not been clear-cut) with an altitude > 500 m above sea level are primary habitats for orangutans on Borneo.

Illegal deer hunting returns to threaten Komodo National Park
— Markus Makur The Jakarta Post, 8 August 2017 
A recently circulated photograph showing a fishing boat carrying dozens of dead deer has triggered concerns about wildlife conservation violations at Komodo National Park in East Nusa Tenggara Province.  The deer were reportedly killed by suspected illegal hunters operating in the park, which is home to the rare and critically endangered Komodo dragon.  Dwi Putro Sugiarto, head of Komodo NP’s management division, said his office was still investigating whether the photo is authentic.  Sugiarto said deer are the primary natural food source for Komodo dragons, and that illegal deer hunting has long been a major problem facing conservation efforts in the park. Komodo Survival Program (KSP) director Achmad Ariefiandy said tighter security operations previously conducted by Komodo National Park rangers once managed to stop illegal wildlife hunting in the area.

Scientists find evidence that tigers and other animals are using forest corridors in Sumatra
— Mongabay 28 July 2017 (based on earlier reporting in Mongabay by Benji Jones)
Remnant protected forest corridors along riverbanks in Sumatra are helping populations of Sumatran tigers, tapirs, bears, pangolins and elephants hang on despite increasing pressures from the expansion of pulpwood plantations.  The study in Tropical Conservation Science was based on camera traps positioned at 57 location within a commercial acacia timber plantation adjoining Tesso Nilo National Park in Sumatra to assess corridor design, land cover and animal behaviour in four linear riparian forests.  The paper concluded that many mammal species use riparian forests regardless of whether they are surrounded by intact acacia forest or recently cleared land, and that linear remnant riparian forests 200 meters or more wide can facilitate movements of many large mammal species, but wider riparian forest corridors would be more effective.

Sumatran rhino horn and pangolin parts seized in Aceh wildlife trafficking bust

— Junaidi Hanafiah Mongabay 27 July 2017 
Police in Aceh Province posed as buyers before arresting a local man and confiscated the hacked horn of a Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) along with body parts of pangolins and other protected animals.  The suspect, who police allege is to be part of a wildlife trafficking network, claimed he was only a middleman and that the rhino horn and other body parts did not belong to him.  However, officials said the rhino horn may not be the result of recent poaching, which has been suppressed by patrols and also limited by the drastically reduced number of Sumatran rhinoceros remaining in the wild, currently estimated to be fewer than 100.

Energy, Climate Change and Pollution

New incentives planned for geothermal energy
— Fedina S. Sundaryani, The Jakarta Post, 4 August 2017
The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR) is pushing for new fiscal incentives to revive investor interest in Indonesia’s geothermal sector as it tries to lure US$23 billion in investment by 2025.  Indonesia plans to source 23% of its total energy requirements from renewable sources by that year, with geothermal targeted to reach 7,241.5 megawatts (MW), up from 1858.5 MW this year. But investors have been deterred by recent government policies, such as capping tariffs paid by the country’s sole electric power off-taker, the state-owned firm PLN.  MEMR Minister Jonas Ignasius is hoping to persuade the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Industry to consider a tax allowance and also reduced import duties on components used in the high-risk geothermal exploration and exploitation sector.  Indonesian Geothermal Association chairman Abadi Poernomo said the most important incentive would be reducing the 25% corporate income tax, which he said was “too high” in light of the government’s recent move to cap geothermal tariffs at 17.5 US cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), compared to the 29.6 US cents per kWh tariff set in 2014.

Opinion:  Quo vadis renewable energy in Indonesia?
— Aretha Aprilia, The Jakarta Post, 26 July 2017
Indonesia’s existing policy landscape may be limiting renewable energy (RE) investment, chilling the country’s ability to meet national targets. In addition to new price caps for RE-based electric power under Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR) Regulation No. 12/2017, Industry Ministry Decrees No.4 and No.5/2017 setting local content requirements for solar PV installations pose new challenges as a result of the higher costs of domestically-produced components compared to imported products, resulting in a higher cost for solar-PV derived electricity compared to the cost of electricity generated from burning fossil fuels.  The MEMR recently planned an increase in the revised state budget for electric power subsidies by US$127.64 million, a move which would primarily benefit fossil-fuel based producers, while the state-owned electric power supplier PLN is considering reviving plans for nuclear power plants in remote regions.  With higher subsidies for fossil-based electricity and even nuclear power, it is not surprising that the development of RE in Indonesia is dwindling. (The author is a renewable energy specialist at CDM Smith.)


Activist who championed rights of Indigenous people to run for North Sumatra Governor
— Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarata Post, 7 August 2017 
Abdon Nabadan, the environmental and indigenous rights activist, plans to run as an independent candidate for the governorship of North Sumatra Province.  “I’m ready to participate,” the outgoing secretary-general of the Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago (ALAM) said.  “This is the best way to rid North Sumatra of corruption, drugs and environmental destruction.”  Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has named North Sumatra as one of the 10 provinces most prone to corruption.  Abdon said he wanted to translate support for his candidacy into work that inprove the welfare of the people of North Sumatra. “I also want to make indigenous people, farmers and fishermen the main actors in the economic sector,” he said. Abdon was the winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2017 for his persistence in fighting for indigenous people’s rights and campaigning to protect the environment.  His greatest achievement was leading an AMAN team that won a judicial review at the Constitutional Court in 2013, which granted indigenous people rights over customary forests and stipulated that these indigenous forest lands no longer belonged to the state.




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