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 – 16: 22 August 2017

Marine & Fisheries

Indonesian seaports must be further developed for global maritime axis: President
— Antaranews, 7 August 2017
Indonesia needs to develop its seaports properly in a number of regions to realize its global maritime axis concept, according to President Joko Widodo.  "It would be impossible for us to become a world maritime axis if we do not have seaports that can accommodate large ships to carry our products," Jokowi stated in his State of the Nation Address before members of the Parliament (DPR) and the Regional Representative Council (DPD), at the Parliament Building here on 2 August.  Earlier, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti noted that integrated maritime and fisheries hubs (SKPT) should be developed in Indonesian waters areas to reduce logistic burdens in the maritime and fisheries sectors.

Troubled Waters? The unresolved issue of fisheries in the South China Sea
— Oliver Ward, Aseantoday, 14 August 2017
Indonesian-Vietnamese relations are under stress after an Indonesian naval vessel opened fire on a Vietnamese fishing boat. Two fishermen were wounded in the bloody encounter. Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister has put pressure on the Indonesian Foreign Ministry to investigate the incident and clarify what happened. The Indonesian Navy denied firing on the fishing vessel, insisting they only let off a “warning shot”.   Indonesia is seeking assurance that Vietnamese fishermen will stop illegally exploiting Indonesian resources, while Vietnam wants the assurance that if Vietnamese fishermen do stray into Indonesian waters, they will not be harmed.

More foreign ships captured in Natuna
— Angelina Anjar Sawitri, Tempo, 7 August 2017
The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries’ Resources Monitoring Base (PSDKP) in Batam said that 29 foreign ships have been captured in the waters of Natuna. Six of those ships were captured in 2016.  "The remaining 23 ships were captured this year," said the PSDKP chief Slamet in Natuna on August 6.  Slamet said the number of foreign ships captured in Natuna waters had increased this year. Throughout 2016, only 35 vessels were caught. Slamet added that the 29 foreign ships and their crew members currently being held at Natuna are being investigated or tried. After their legal status is determined, the PSDKP will wait for the ministry's instruction to sink the boats.

$20m impact fund launched with focus on fishing in Indonesia and the Philippines
— Jason Smith, Undercurrentnews, 18 August 2017
The Meloy Fund, an "impact" investment fund created by the Arlington, Virginia-based non-profit Rare Conservation, has raised $10 million in capital that it plans to deploy in support of coastal fisheries in Indonesia and the Philippines. The fund plans to raise another $10m by the fall, lending to companies or buying stakes in them and then winding down those positions after six years in order to be fully exited by 2027.  Through this effort, the beneficiaries of the investments — fishing companies, processors and projects — will hopefully be better incentivized to stop overfishing, Dale Galvin, Rare's managing director of sustainable markets, told Undercurrent News.

Supreme Court gives reclamation project green light
— Jakarta Post, 13 August 2017
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) and the People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice Indonesia (Kiara) allowing PT Agung Podomoro Land (APL) —a publicly listed property giant—to continue with construction work on Islet G, one of 17 islets to be created in the Jakarta Bay. This decision reaffirmed a decision by the Jakarta Administrative Court that had rejected the two plaintiffs’ appeal against the Jakarta Government, which had issued a permit for the island construction, as the defendant in the dispute.

Forestry & Land Use

New land-swap regulation is the most recent of Indonesian President Jokowi’s peatlands reforms
— Hans Nicholas Jong Mongabay, 11 August 2017
To prevent another round of devastating wildfires, Indonesian President Joko Widodo's administration has issued a series of policies governing the management of peatlands.  The most recent is No. 40 (Permen LHK No. 40/2017), which establishes  a mechanism for land swaps and outlines the requirements for timber planters to manage substitution land in their concessions. The administration hopes a new land-swap scheme will help it claw back peatland from big oil palm and timber planters, while supplying the firms with additional land elsewhere in the country.?Business associations complain about the new policy, saying it's not feasible for a company in Sumatra to move its operations all the way to Papua.?Environmental pressure groups, meanwhile, call the regulation an unfair boon for large firms, providing a rapacious industry with even more land on top of  the vast amounts it already controls.?

New satellite data shows that El Niño drove up carbon emissions over 2014-2016
— Gabriel Popkin, Nature, 17 August 2017
The monster La Niña-El Niño weather pattern over 2014-2016 caused tropical forests to emit as much as 3 billion tones (Gigatonnnes) of carbon, equivalent to nearly 20% of the carbon emissions produced over the same period by burning fossil fuels and cement production.  Measurements taken by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) satellite showed that the high temperatures and drought associated with the El Niño increased the number and severity of forest fires in southeast Asia while also stunting plant growth in the Amazon rainforest, reducing carbon absorption and also increasing CO2 emissions by forests in Africa.  The overall jump in emissions from tropical forests was three times the annual average global carbon output from deforestation and land-use change between 2006 and 2015.

Peatland Restoration Agency earmarks Rp 10 billion for South Kalimantan Peatland Restoration
— Dianita P Sumedi, Tempo, 14 August 2017
The Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) chairman Nazir Foead said that South Kalimantan received only Rp 10 billion out (US$748,475) of Rp 24 billion (USU$1.8 million) proposed for  peatland restoration. Nazir said that the funds have been reduced as the central government slashes its budget. Nazir is confident that the restoration program in South Kalimantan will continue despite the decision, adding that more funds will be provided next year. In South Kalimantan, BRG will restore 105,023 hectares of peatland spread across four peatland hydrological units (KHG). Besides South Kalimantan, the BRG is tasked with restoring 2 million hectares of peatland across seven provinces. Nazir is optimistic that the agency will complete the restoration program by 2020.

Government accelerates land certification for agrarian reform: Jokowi
— Antaranews, 16 August 2017
The government has continued to accelerate land certification in various regions to complete agrarian reform and address the land ownership problem. "Through an equal and just economic policy, the government has accelerated land certification, reaching 250 thousand (certificates) now," President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said in his State to The Nation Address before members of the House of Representatives (DPR) and Regional Representative Council (DPD) at Parliament Building.  The government has also redistributed 707 thousand hectares of forest land to adat communities who are expected to manage them productively.

Energy, Climate Change and Pollution

Freeport unrest escalates
—  Nethy Dharma Somba, Jakarta Post, 21 August 2017
The long-running dispute between PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) and hundreds of its former employees is unlikely to end soon. So far, no deal has been reached between the two parties. In a sign of growing frustration, a workers’ rally led to outbreak of violence on Saturday.  A mob of striking employees invaded a security post at Check Point 28 near the Mozes Kilangin Airport in Timika and continued their rally on the main road to the firm. The mob also set fire to some Freeport facilities. The workers are protesting the company’s firing former workers who lost their jobs due to furloughs and layoffs and demanding their reinstatement. Following the incident, the Mimika Police raised the security status of Mimika regency, where the world’s second largest copper mine, PTFI’s Grasberg mine, is located, to the highest level. IndustryALL, an international union, threw its support behind the workers and called for negotiations to prevent the situation deteriorating further. “This is not just a labor dispute. This is not just a violation of the right to strike. This is a human rights crisis. PT Freeport is attempting to do serious harm to strikers, their families and their communities in order to crush the strike. This cannot continue,” Secretary-General Valter Sanches in a statement on the IndustriALL website.

Indonesian Government plans excise tax on plastic bags in 2018 budget
— Indonesia-investments, 19 August 2017
Stakeholders in Indonesia's plastics industry are unhappy to see the government’s eagerness to impose an excise tax on plastic bags in the proposed 2018 state budget. Fajar Budiyono, Secretary-General of the Indonesian Olefin, Aromatic and Plastic Industry Association (Inaplas), opposes the excise tax, saying it will not be a solution to environmental pollution. Instead, the government should focus on enhancing plastic waste treatment.  It is not the first time the Indonesian government announced an excise tax plan related to plastics. In mid-2016 it proposed to impose an excise tax of at least IDR 200 (approx. USD 0.02) on plastic bottles and packaging in an attempt to raise tax revenue, while protecting the environment as the tax should lead to a reduction in the consumption of plastic products. It then also conducted a six-month trial in the bigger cities of Indonesia.

Persian-Arabian Gulf corals’ acquired ability to tolerate high temperatures unlikely to be exported to help other Indian Ocean or Pacific Ocean coral reefs resist bleaching events associated with climate change
 — Edward G. Smith et al, PLOS On, 30 June 2017
Coral reefs have undergone significant global declines, in part due to bleaching events characterized by breakdown of the symbiotic relationship between coral hosts and algal partners. Mass bleaching events in the Indo Pacific typically occur under elevated sea temperatures, particularly when a very strong La Niña (cooler sea temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific) is followed by strong El Niño (warmer waters in the western Pacific) conditions, with increases of only 1-2°C over normal maximum temperatures often resulting in mass mortality. The frequency and severity of these mass mortality events may be intensifying as a result of global warming. Corals in the Persian-Arabian Gulf (PAG) can survive extreme sea temperatures in excess of 34° C for several months with maximum of more than 36° C. The study found that it was likely adaptations of both P. daedalea corals and their algal symbionts contributed to the high bleaching threshold of PAG corals, and that the wide presence of algal symbionts representing a newly described species (Symbiodiniumthermophilum) in the region may be an important factor in the corals’ ability to survive high temperatures. The authors also concluded that direct natural export of the acquired thermal tolerance traits of PAG corals to the wider Indian Ocean is unlikely.

Indonesian coal firms shut down for violations fight back in court, with mixed results
— Taufik Wijaya Mongabay, 15 August 2017
Indonesian authorities have revoked or not renewed more than 2,100 mining licenses that fail to meet legal standards. In South Sumatra province, where 77 licenses were canceled, 10 coal mining firms have sued local officials for taking away their permits.?So far, one lawsuit has succeeded, while four other companies have failed to get their licenses reinstated.?The legal challenges in South Sumatra underscore the difficulties officials face as they try to clean up Indonesia's mining sector.?

Plastic Fantastic? Indonesia plans to turn waste into road tar
— Luh De Suriyani Mongabay, 10 August 2017
The Indonesian government tried out its first plastic-road trial at Udayana University in Bali, where a 700-meter (0.43-mile) stretch of plastic road was laid on July 29. Indonesian officials announced plans to use the material on roads in Jakarta and other cities.?So-called “plastic roads”, which incorporate melted plastic into road tar, are promoted as a novel waste-disposal method that also produces cheaper and more durable roads than conventional materials.?Some environmentalists are concerned about the potential for plastic roads to leach hazardous chemicals and shed micro-plastics into the ecosystem.?

Conservation & Protected Areas

Orangutan rehabilitation forest encroached in Kalimantan
— SG Wibisono, Tempo, 25 July 2017
The Samboja Lestari Orangutan Rehabilitation Center discovered signs of forest encroachment at an orangutan rehabilitation area in East Kalimantan. The perpetrators are suspected to be migrants attempting to clear the land and transform it into a plantation.  According to Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation CEO Jamartin Sihite, the forest encroachment happened at the rehabilitation area that is managed by BOS Samboja. The 1,850-acre (749 ha) forest area in Samboja, East Kalimantan, has been managed by the non-profit organization for the past few years. As much as 340 acres (138 ha) of forest, used to train orangutans, has been transformed into an open area. According to Jamartin, the findings have been reported but the authorities have not been responsive.


Jokowi signs election bill into law
— Jakarta Post, 19 August 2017
A controversial election bill was enacted after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo signed Law No. 7/2017 into law on Wednesday, presidential spokesperson Johan Budi said on Saturday. The House of Representatives approved the bill during a protracted and heated plenary meeting on July 21 in which lawmakers of four political parties, rejecting the bill, walked out. The Gerindra Party, the Democratic Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) demanded that the 20% presidential threshold— the minimum percentages of voter support required for a political party to be allowed to nominate a presidential candidate—be scrapped from the bill. Soon after the bill was endorsed, Crescent and Star Party (PBB) chairman Yusril Ihza Mahendra and Peaceful and Benign Islam (Idaman) Party Chairman Rhoma Irama filed a judicial review with the Constitutional Court challenging the law.

A rich person’s profession? Young conservationists struggle to make it
— Jeremy Hance, Mongabay, 16 August 2017
Mongabay interviewed young conservationists about their experiences launching their careers. Many of them related similar stories of having to reconsider their career choice as a result of the conservation sector’s tight job market, high educational and experience requirements, and often-temporary entry-level jobs. To meet prospective employers’ demands for experience, many graduates become stuck in full-time unpaid internships or long-term volunteering. As a result of these trends, the field of conservation may be hemorrhaging passionate, qualified, and innovative young people.



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