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 – 17: 4 September 2017

Marine & Fisheries                                                                                                                                 

Indonesia registers names of more than 2,500 islands, aims to develop tourism and fishing industries
— The Straits Times 31 August 2017
Indonesia registered the names of 2,590 new islands with the UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) during its 30th meeting and the 11th UN Conference on Standardization of Geographical Names. Following the verification process, Indonesia now has 16,056 islands recorded on the UN's world's island list, including standardized details on the names and geographic coordinates for the islands. "The UN, especially the UNGEGN, has a clear position here that it only standardizes the naming procedure of an island and it does not give any sovereignty acknowledgment or any acknowledgment regarding the legal status of an island," explained Arif Havas Oegroseno, Deputy Minister for Maritime Sovereignty at the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs. Rifky Effendi Hardijanto, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said the government had prepared development programs for the outermost of the newly registered islands and was ready to set up marine centers and integrated fisheries. The government will also encourage local administrations of the new islands to develop their fisheries sector through public support, such as building ports or ice factories and other assistance for the non-cultivated fishing industry. The government is also committed to maximizing the tourism potential on the new islands, Hardijanto said.

Indonesia expects relocation of Japanese fish farms from Thailand
— The Jakarta Post 28 August 2017
As a result of Indonesia’s tough measures against illegal fishing, a number of Japanese fish-processing firms have expressed a commitment to relocate their factories from Thailand to Indonesia, Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti said on 25 August.  “One of the firms that has already confirmed plans to relocate its factory is Itochu,” the Minister said, referring to Japan’s second-largest general trading company (sogo shosha). Another benefit of the relocation will be that Japanese companies will help decrease tariff barriers set by the Japanese government.  “Japan does not impose tariffs on processed fish from Thailand, but it imposes a 7% tariff on Indonesian products.  They [Japanese business people] will demand their government remove the tariff, otherwise it will impact their profits,” Minister Susi explained. The minister met with her Japanese counterpart, Ken Saito, in Tokyo to discuss tariff exemptions for Indonesia’s seafood exports.  Indonesia’s seafood exports rose 7% to US$3.9 billion in 2016, while Thai seafood exports were said to have declined 30% by value between 2012 and 2016.
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Indonesia’s decision to share vessel tracking data ‘ill-advised,’ some say
— Basten Gokkon, Mongabay 21 August 2017
In June, Indonesia became the first company to publicly share its Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data which tracks the location and activities of commercial fishing boats with Global Fishing Watch, a partnership among Google, the conservation group Oceana, and Sky Truth, which uses satellite imagery and other tools to monitor environmental issues. Environmentalists initially praised the move as a useful means of controlling and deterring illegal fishing, but some have argued that making this data public will reveal the locations of Indonesia’s best fisheries.  “Without access restrictions, fishing vessels will rush to locations with the most fishing vessels, resulting in massive exploitation of marine natural resources,” said Marthin Hadiwinata of the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen’s Union (KNTI).  However, Goenaryo, Director of Monitoring at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), said the move would help the government deter illegal fishing.  At a recent UN Conference in New York, MMAF Minister Susi Pudjiastuti called for other countries to share their VMS data too in order to boost transparency and end illegal fishing.

Fish Quarantine Agency: Coral reef damage in Indonesia reaches 46 percent
— Netralnews, 28 August 2017
Fish Quarantine Agency for Quality Control and Fishery Products Safety (BKIPM) reports that coral reef damage rate in Indonesia has reached 46 percent of the total area nationally. "Nationwide level of damage has reached 46 percent and the figure is not much different from that in South Sulawesi waters," said Head of KIPM Makassar Sitti Chadijah in Makassar, Monday (08/28/2017). She said based on data, the number of marine conservation areas in South Sulawesi reached 16 million hectares, comprised in part by one marine park area, a tourism park and four conservation areas.
Sitti said, the high number of incidents involving fish bombing or illegal use of a compressor in the search for fish through illegal means affects all marine biota.

How tourism can be good for coral reefs
— The Nature Conservancy
In a study published in the Journal of Marine Policy, The Nature Conservancy’s Mapping Ocean Wealth (MOW) initiative and its partners used an innovative combination of data-driven academic research with crowd-sourced and social media-related data to reveal that the world’s coral reefs support 70 million trips each year, making these reefs a powerful engine for tourism. Some 30% of the world's reefs are of value to the tourism sector, with a total value estimated at nearly US$36 billion, equivalent to more than 9% of all the total value of coastal tourism in the world's coral reef countries. Indonesia ranks second on annual expenditures by reef-based tourism, estimated at more than US$ 3.1 billion, study finds. Understanding the full value of coral reefs to tourism and the spatial distribution of these values will provide an important incentive for sustainable coral reef management.

Indonesians wonder if the water is safe to drink?  Without better access to pollution information, there are few answers
— World Resources Institute (WRI) [Press release] 30 August 2017
A three-year investigation into the accessibility of information about pollution in local waterways is in Indonesia, Mongolia and Thailand by the World Resources Institute (WRI) revealed that Asian countries are failing to inform people if the water they use for drinking, irrigation or fishing is polluted or dangerously toxic. Although Indonesian law guarantees citizens the right to obtain information about pollutants in their water, in reality access is impeded at every turn. In 2012, the Water Environment Partnership in Asia (WEPA) reported that 75% of Indonesia’s rivers are classified as polluted. Government agencies in Indonesia ignored 58% of information requests. “People have the right to know about hazardous pollution in the waterways on which they rely,” said John Knox, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment. Elizabeth Moses, an environmental democracy specialist who co-authored the report, noted that without water pollution information, “poor marginalized communities cannot participate in decision-making, let along hold governments and more powerful corporations accountable for contaminating their local water resources.”

NOAA Determination that Pacific Bluefin tuna is not endangered is unwarranted
— Margaret Spring, Monterey Bay Aquarium [Press Release], 7 August 2017
|The decision by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that the Pacific Bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) is not endangered and therefore does not require protection under the federal the Endangered Species Act (ESA) does not change the dire status of the species, whose population has declined to just 2.6% of unfished levels, nor does it obviate the need for swift and meaningful international action to recover the population to a healthy level. It is time for more aggressive action by governments to reduce fishing for the Pacific Bluefin tuna in the Western Pacific, especially the catch of the smallest, youngest fish, so that these fish can live long enough to migrate across the Pacific and ultimately return to spawning grounds. Global governments were expected to meet in late August in South Korea to address the recovery of Pacific bluefin tuna. [See following item] It is time for these nations to live up to their international responsibilities and make meaningful progress to recover this important species.” [Margaret Spring is the Chief Conservation Officer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.]

Tuna-fishing nations agree on plan to replenish severely depleted Pacific Bluefin tuna stocks
— Anna Fifield, The Washingtonpost 1 September 2017
Tuna-fishing countries reached an agreement to gradually rebuild severely depleted stocks while still allowing nations such as Japan to catch and consume the delicacy. At the long-week meeting in Busan, South Korea, two organizations the northern committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission agreed to a target to rebuild tuna stocks back up to 20% of historic levels by 2034, the minimum level that scientists consider necessary to protect the species. If the chances of meeting the 2034 rebuilding target fall below 60%, the parties agreed to immediately reduce their catch levels. Over the next seven years, countries’ catch quotas could be increased only if there is a 75% chance of meeting the new goal. Japan, which is by far the world’s biggest consumer of Bluefin tuna, taking about 80% of the global haul in the US$42 billion industry, had been resisting new rules, while conservationists were warning about the commercial extinction of the Bluefin tuna in the Pacific Ocean.

Forestry & Land Use

Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association fights for the palm sector at UN Forum
— Herry Barus and Aldo Bella Putra, Indonesian Industry 2 September 2017
Joko Supriyono, Chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI), will attend a summit on the development of the Indonesian palm oil sector at the United Nations Headquarters in September.  Chairman Joko will explain the position of the business world regarding sustainability issues in Indonesia with respect to palm oil. With foreign exchange earnings in 2016 reaching US$$18.5 billion (Rp240 trillion), palm oil has become a strategic sector for Indonesia. The palm oil sector absorbs more than five million workers and encourages economic growth in peripheral regions. Gapki’s presence at this UN summit is at the invitation of the UN Development Program (UNDP), which has initiated discussions on sustainability issues in a number of economic sectors for developing countries.

Indonesia to replant 4.7 million ha of oil palm plantation
— UkrAgroConsult [press release] 30 August 2017
The government of Indonesia has set a replanting plan for 4.7 million hectares (ha) of oil palm plantation to boost productivity, the Ministry of Agriculture announced. Oil palm productivity in Indonesia is only 2-3 tons per ha, significantly lower than the 12 tons per ha in Malaysia, according to Bambang M.M., Director-General for Plantations. “We can raise our productivity to 8 tons per ha,” Bambang said. According to the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI), Indonesia’s production of processed palm oil declined from 35.5 million tons in 2015 to 34.5 million tons last year.

A clouded future: Asia’s enigmatic clouded leopard threatened by palm oil  
— Sean Mowbray Mongabay 17 August 2017
While it is widely known that oil palm development threatens orangutans and the Sumatran tiger, the enigmatic and little known clouded leopard is equally under threat. There are two species of Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diarti), both classified by the IUCN as “Vulnerable”. N. Diarti, also known as the Sunda clouded leopard, is found only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, in habitats spanning the heart of oil palm development.  palm oil development severely threatens the long-term survival of the Clouded Leopard in the wild.  A highly arboreal species, the Sunda clouded leopard prefers contiguously forested areas because it sleeps and sometimes hunts from trees.  The animal cannot adapt when forests are cleared for oil palm plantation monoculture.  Clouded leopards are also subject to poaching by oil palm plantation workers when plantations expand into their habitat.

Energy, Climate Change and Pollution

Freeport, Indonesia to end years of wrangling over mining rights
— Wilda Asmarini and Hidayat Setiaji, Reuters 29 August 2017
Following eight years of sometimes tense negotiations, Freeport-McMoRan, the US mining company has agreed to transfer additional shares of its Indonesian company, PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) to an Indonesian entity to bring local ownership up to a controlling 51% stake in Grasberg, the world’s biggest gold mine and second biggest copper mine in Papua province. At present, Freeport-McMoran owns 90.64% of PTFI, while the Indonesian government owes 9.36%. Freeport also agreed to build a new smelter to process copper concentrate in Indonesia within five years a long-standing priority for the Indonesian government to create jobs and increase domestic value-added processing and will invest an additional $17-20 billion in the mine through 2031. In response, the Indonesian government agreed to extend Freeport’s permit to mine at Grasberg and export copper and gold from the mine, converting the company’s current contract of work (CoW) to a special mining license (IUPK) which will give Freeport operating rights through 2041. The company will also relinquish international arbitration rights and pay new taxes and royalties. However, the valuation of shares, which Indonesian buyers will take up the stake, and the timing for the transfer of shares all remains to be determined. Also unresolved is what to do about an unincorporated joint venture between Freeport-McMoran and the Australian mining company Rio Tinto in PTFI. The agreement is a victory for Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who faces a re-election challenge in 2018.  It is hoped that the new arrangement will reduce labor unrest at the mine and reduce the risk of another halt to copper concentrate exports from Grasberg.

First wind power plant in Indonesia to begin operation
— Tempo 1 September 2017
Indonesia first wind power plant, located in Sidrap, South Sulawesi, will begin operation before the end of 2017. State-owned electricity company PT PLN procurement director Supangkat Iwan Santoso said that the wind power plant will have a generating capacity of 70 MW, which would enable PT PLN to be able to attract 70,000 new household customers. A power purchase agreement (PPA) signed in 2015 will be worth US$11 per kWh. Aside from Sidrap wind power plant, the government is also conducting feasibility study for another wind power plant in Jeneponto, South Sulawesi, which will have a capacity of 60 MW.

Protests over geothermal development heat up in Central Java
— L. Darmawan Mongabay 22 August 2017
The people of Karangtengah Village in Central Java are protesting pollution of the Prukut River by mud and debris since January from a once-forested plot of land cleared to make way for a geothermal power plant in Baturraden, a tourist resort site on Mt. Slamet.  Mt. Slamet is an active stratovolcano which last erupted in 2009 and 2014. Indonesia currently has 1,403 MW of installed capacity from geothermal fields in Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, and plans to increase total geothermal generating capacity to 7,200 MW by 2025. The country is estimated to have a total geothermal capacity of more than 28,000 MW, the largest in the world. The pollution of the Pruket River has discouraged tourists from visiting a waterfall, which has now turned completely brown in color. PT Sejahtera Alam Energy, the project developer, apologized for the incident and promised to install filters to clean up the water, but the river turned brown again in July.   A local activist group, the Save Slamet Alliance, is gathering signatures for a petition to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to revoke the permit for the project.  The petition highlights the threat of wildlife habitat loss due to the plant’s development. Species including the Endangered Javan hawk-eagle (Nisaetus bartelsi) and the Vulnerable Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas) have been spotted in the Mount Slamet area.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Three companies owe Indonesia millions of dollars for damaging the environment. Why haven’t they paid?
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay 23 August 2017
Since 2014, Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry has scored big wins by suing environmentally destructive companies, at least on paper.  PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari (MPL), a timber plantation company, convicted of illegally clearing 5,590 ha of forest, was ordered to pay a record total of IDR 16 trillion (US$1.19 billion) in fines.  But one year after the Supreme Court’s verdict, the Ministry has not collected a single rupiah.  The Ministry is also struggling to collect IDR 366 billion (US$27.44 billion) from plantation firm PT Kallista Alam, convicted in 2015 of clearing 1,000 ha of peat swamp land in part of Sumatra’s Leuser ecosystem.  It has also not been able to collect fines totaling IDR 31.5 billion (US$2.36 million) and mining company PT Selat Nasik Indokwarsa following the company’s conviction for damaging the environment on Belitung Island in 2014.

Controversial bridge puts East Kalimantan’s green commitment to the test
— Basten Gokkon, Mongabay 30 August 2017
A bridge under construction across Balikpapan Bay connecting the fast-growing city of Balikpapan with nearby rural outskirts has drawn protest from conservationists and locals due. Construction has already disrupted marine life in part of the bay, and the bridge and its access road would pass through or near some of the few remaining tracts of primary forest in the region.  The project would impact some 1,400 individuals of the endangered Proboscis Monkey (Nasalis larvatus), which live in the mangroves surrounding Balikpapan Bay. The coral reef waters around Balang Island in the bay are a core habitat for the Vulnerable Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris).  Loss of mangroves and coral reef habitats has also jeopardized the local small-scale fishing community, whose members say they can no longer find economical fish species to catch.  In addition, ongoing development of the 5,130 ha Kariangau Industrial Zone (KIK) is blamed for degrading the ecology of the bay, threatening the Sungai Wain Protection Forest, home to scores of the Vulnerable sun-bear (Helarctos malayanus).  Hamsuri, a local activist, criticized the government’s monitoring efforts following a forest fire in May and growing claims of land ownership linked to infrastructure development in the area.  Law 23/2014 on Regional Governance shifted authority to manage protection forests to the provincial government.  “The East Kalimantan [provincial] government doesn't set aside funds for management of the Sungai Wain Protection Forest, Hamsuri said.


Rakhine conflict could ignite regional religious tensions
— Michael Vatikiotis Nikkei Asian Review 4 September 2017
The resurgence of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state, leaving 400 dead and displacing at least 40,000 people in a few days, has opened a dangerous fissure in Southeast Asia that threatens to divide the two most life important religious faiths in the region: Buddhism and Islam.  In Indonesia, the government has come under intense pressure to act. A Molotov cocktail bomb was thrown at the Myanmar Embassy in Central Jakarta on 3 September, causing a small fire which was extinguished by police. A statement issued by Muhammadiyah, the country’s second largest Muslim organization, has called for an investigation by the International Criminal Court into the Rakhine fighting, Myanmar’s expulsion from ASEAN, and the withdrawal of Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize. President Joko Widodo’s government is vulnerable to hardline Islamic sentiment, particularly if the situation in the Rakhine state is used to whip up further Islamic anger to weaken him ahead of elections in 2019. There will be pressure on the security forces in Indonesia to clamp down on protests to prevent Myanmar citizens from being harmed, or Buddhists temples attacked. An alarming plan has already surfaced on social media for fundamentalist Islamic groups to surround the ancient Buddhist monument of Borobudur in central Java. There are also fears that with the end of the monsoon rains, more Rohingya will try to escape the conflict by boat and land in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, triggering a new boat people crisis in the region. Indonesia so far has played a constructive role in the eyes of the Myanmar government.  Last year after Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited Myanmar, Suu Kyi was persuaded to host an ASEAN ministerial meeting to provide a briefing on Rakhine state.  Indonesia’s aid program in Rakhine state has scrupulously targeted both the Rakhine and Muslim communities, deploying both Muslim and Buddhist NGOs and building trust with local and central government officials because of its low-key approach and the efficient, albeit modest, delivery of aid. Minister Retno Marsudi has also prodded Myanmar and Bangladesh to cooperate more closely to alleviate the humanitarian crisis along their common border. But he fiercely nationalistic, often anti-Muslim, rhetoric appearing on Myanmar social media is throwing fuel on the angry fires smoldering in neighboring countries, where the rise of identity politics has in turn created a conducive environment for sectarian strife. If these flames continue to be fanned, then the security of Buddhists and Muslims across the region will be jeopardized.


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