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 – 20: 18 October 2017

Marine & Fisheries

No ocean for old fish:  Old-growth fishes become scarce under fishing
— Lewis A. K. Baarnett et al, Current Biology 18, 25 September 2017
In a study of 63 fish populations spanning five ocean regions, researchers found that the percentage of fish in the oldest age class declined significantly in 79% to 97% of populations compared to historical or unfished values, with declines of 90% or more in 32% to 41% of populations. A shift towards more fish in younger age classes can harm the stability of populations, while the decrease in the number of mature fish makes populations less diverse and more vulnerable to environmental challenges. The authors suggest more emphasis should be placed on management measures that minimize the impact of fishing on age truncation, including no-take zones, slot limits that prohibit fishing on all except a narrow range of fish sizes, and rotational harvesting.

Evidence for systemic age underestimation in shark and ray ageing studies
— Alastair Varley Harry, Fish and Fisheries, 23 August 2017
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the most common method of estimating the age of sharks and rayscounting growth zones on calcified structures can underestimate true age. A review of nuclear bomb carbon isotope dating and fluoro-chrome chemical marking age validation studies determined that age was likely to have been underestimated in nine of 29 genera and 30% of the 53 populations studied, including half of those validated using bomb carbon dating, with older and larger individuals most likely to have their true age underestimated. Key processes such as growth, mortality and reproduction change with age. If age information is wrong, then so are models used by fisheries to guide decisions about how many animals can be safely caught. Living longer might mean that animals mature and start reproducing later in life, and so are more vulnerable than had been realized.

Jakarta Bay reclamation project resumes as moratorium lifted
—  Fardah, Antaranews 11 October 2017
Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, on Oct 5 issued a Ministerial Decree No S-78-001/02/Coordinating Minister/Maritime/X/2017 to revoke a decree on moratorium of Jakarta Bay reclamation project issued in 2016 by his predecessor, Rizal Ramli. Pandjaitan sent a letter informing outgoing Jakarta Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat that the moratorium was officially lifted as developers had fulfilled several requirements demanded by Ramli. he requirements included a revision to the Environmental Impact Analysis (Amdal), taking into account technical designs for power plant pipes, sedimentation mitigation, and sailing routes for traditional fishermen.

Global Action Taken on Ocean Challenges
— The Maritime Executive 7 October 2017
Public and private actors from 112 countries around the world made commitments worth over $7 billion (€6 billion) to tackle global oceans challenges at the Our Ocean Conference 2017 held in Malta on October 5-6.The resources will be invested to strengthen the fight against marine pollution and enlarge protected areas, reinforce security of the oceans, foster blue economy initiatives and sustainable fisheries and intensify E.U. efforts against climate change, in line with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals under Agenda 2030.  Participants also announced the creation of new Marine Protected Areas spanning more than 2.5 million square kilometers, more than half the size of the entire European Union. Starting in 2014, high-level participants from more than 100 countries have attended the Our Ocean conferences including Heads of State or Government and ministers, companies ranging from large industry and the traditional fisheries sector to Silicon Valley tech, NGOs and philanthropic organizations. Next year's conference will be hosted by Indonesia, followed by Norway in 2019.

Forestry & Land Use

The palm oil fiefdom: Part I in the “Indonesia for Sale” series
— The GECKO Project and Mongabay, 10 October 2017 
This first installment in a series about how local government officials in Indonesia grant concessions to turn forests into palm oil plantations focuses on the complexity of how land deals get done. It follows the trails of paper and money involved in the land deals carried out in Seruyan, a new district carved out of Kotawaringin Timur in Central Kalimantan in 2002 and a former logging area subsequently became part of one of the greatest explosions of industrial agriculture that the world has ever seen. It explores how Indonesia’s local governments after decentralization came to be dominated by “a netherworld of personalized political relationships and networks, secretive deal-making, trading of favors, corruption, and a host of other informal and shadowy practices,” the influence of local political dynasties, and how local elections became a cornerstone of the game.  It also chronicles local resistance to the abuses, and the reasons why the KPK (Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency) has found it difficult to investigate and prosecute corruption in the palm oil industry

“Queen of Coal” named corruption suspect in palm oil case
— Hans Nicholas Jong Mongabay, 5 October 2017
Rita Widyasari, head of Kutai Kutanegara District in East Kalimantan has been named a corruption suspect by the KPK for allegedly accepting a bribe of IDR 6 billion (US$442,000) from Hari Susanto Gun, the CEO of PT Sawit Golden Prima, in exchange for issuance of a plantation permit in 2010.  Widyasari, who has announced plans to run for governor of East Kalimantan next year, was dubbed the “Queen of Coal” by the local media because of the large number of permits she has issued allowing companies to establish coal mines in Kutai Kutanegara, which has issued more mining permits than any other district in the province.  KPK Commissioner Basaria Pandjaitan, noting that the antigraft agency plans to use the 2010 bribe case as a lever to uncover other corruption cases in the region, said that Widyasari and her accomplices were suspected of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes or kickbacks for other projects.  Widyasaria has denied the charges, saying that the IDR 6 billion she received was payment for gold she had sold.

Energy and Climate Change

Activists spy silver lining as officials warn of financial clouds over coal-fuelled grid
— Basten Gokkon, Mongabay, 4 October 2017
Electricity sales by state-owned power utility PLN grew lesss than 3% to 146,366 gigawatt hours (gWh) over the first eight months of 2017, compared to 7.5% over the corresponding period in 2016, according to company director Ahmad Rofiq.  The shortfall in demand means PLN currently has a glut of idle capacity.  Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, in a letter leaded to the media in September, warned of mounting debt and risk at PLN and called for the country’s electricity infrastructure plans to be scaled back.  Under so-called capacity agreements with energy providers, PLN is legally committed to paying private power developers a fixed fee based on their achieved generating capacity rather than actual energy production. Green activists see the current energy glut as an opportunity for Indonesia to cut back its ambitious plan to boost Indonesia’s national grid by an additional 35 gigawatts (GW), which relies heavily building new coal-fired plants.

NASA Pinpoints Cause of Earth’s Recent Record Carbon Dioxide Emissions Spike
— News, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 12 October 2017
A new study has confirmed that the earth’s tropical regions were the source of the largest annual increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration seen in at least 2,000 years during the 2015-2016 El Nino incident.  Data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite showed that impacts of El Nino-based heat and drought in tropical South America, Africa and Indonesia were responsible for the record spike in global CO2, which grew 50% faster in 2015 and 2016 than it had in previous years. The three regions released 2.5 billion tons (gigatons) more carbon into the atmosphere than they did in 2011. The increase in carbon emissions was mainly due to increased peat and forest fires.

ASEAN banks need to raise the bar in sustainable finance
— Robin Hicks, Eco-business 11 October 2017
Southeast Asia’s private sector has made some progress in recognising the impact that companies have on the environment and society in recent years, but one important industry remains well off the pace banking. A report by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the National University of Singapore, titled Sustainable Banking in ASEAN: Addressing ASEAN’s FLAWS found that ASEAN’s banks have taken some steps to clean up their own operations, the penny hasn’t dropped that these powerful institutions also shoulder responsibility for who they lend money to. Banks in ASEAN or the Association of Southeast Asian nations continue to fund planned coal-fired power stations in Vietnam and Indonesia. Burning fossil fuels will undermine these countries’ ability to meet their commitments to the Paris Agreement on climate change, and this is especially troubling because global warming is expected to affect Southeast Asia more adversely than almost anywhere on Earth. Of the 34 banks in the study which analyzed the public data on the leading banks in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore 13 consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks to apply only to their own businesses.

US$750 million marine energy project moves forward in Indonesia
— Gregory B Poindexter Hydroworld 9 October 2017
Indonesia’s first ocean energy independent power producer, SBS Energi Kelautan (SBSEK), has announced it has completed final investment decision with SBS International Ltd. (SBS) to move forward with the 12 MW, Phase I of the 150-MW Nautilus marine energy project in Lombok, Indonesia. SBS is a privately-owned international marine, subsea and renewable energy project developer based in Aberdeen, Scotland. The company has branch offices in Bangkok, Thailand; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; London, England and Jakarta, Indonesia. SBS said Phase 1 of the development is valued at US$64 million and will take 36 months with completion expected by 2020, and the combined value to complete all three phases of the Nautilus development is $750 million and will take an additional 48 months. On Oct. 5, SBSEK, which is a 100% Indonesian-owned and operated independent power producer, said it is accelerating its development of engineering activities for Phase I. It has a 30-year power purchase agreement sold to state-owned electric utility, PT. Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), to support the project.

Lawsuits test local governments’ ability to clean up Indonesia’s coal mining sector
— Taufik Wijaya, Mongabay, 4 September 2017
An Indonesian court has again ruled in favour of coal mining companies whose licenses had been revoked by the South Sumatra Provincial Government for failure to comply with laws regarding environmental impact assessments, payment of taxes and royalties, or proper registration of concession boundaries.  The South Sumatra government and revoked 34 licenses and did not renew 43 more.  Ten coal mining firms have filed suit in local court against the government for revoking their licenses. In September, the Palembang court ruled in favour of two mining companies, bringing the total number whose law suits succeeded to five. The South Sumatra government is appealing the verdicts, some of which involve companies whose activities threaten customary land held by indigenous people in South Sumatra.

APRIL loses legal basis for operations due to non-compliance 
— Foresthisnews, 12 October 2017 
PT RAPP, the pulp and paper subsidiary of APRIL Indonesia is now officially operating illegally in the country. It has previously received numerous warning letters from the Ministry of Forest and Environment on its non-compliance with the new peat regulations that has been implemented. The Ministry has declared invalid the company’s annual 2017 work plan as well as its existing 10-year work plan – which provides the legal basis for its on-ground activities. This effectively means RAPP cannot operate in Indonesia and any violations is illegal and directly against the law. The invalidation of both these work plans is equal to the APRIL company’s operations being declared illegal, until and unless a new 10-year work plan that complies with the new peat regulations is approved. In other words, the APRIL company no longer has a legal basis for operating as its existing legal work plans are now considered illegitimate.


Sriwijaya’s trick of the trade in maintaining maritime sovereignty  
— The Jakarta Post 6 October 2017
The ancient kingdom of Sriwijaya maintained a successful society that depended almost entirely on the ocean. Sriwijaya thrived by maximizing the potential of the sea, utilizing its resources, trade routes and suku laut (sea tribes) as the kingdom’s manpower in running its business operations. Sriwijaya became a port where traders from all over the world gathered. “Aside from spices, traders from Persia [now Iran], India and China also came to Sriwijaya to deposit their goods. The Persians sold glass bottles and fragrances while the Chinese traded porcelains and ceramics as their primary commodities. The Indians, meanwhile, traded metal ornaments,” National Archaeology Center researcher Bambang Budi Utomo said. although many traders and foreign ships entered Sumatran waters during the period of Sriwijaya control, the kingdom never once compromised its maritime sovereignty because of the strong manpower it wielded. Currently, the Indonesian government has its sights set on strengthening Indonesia’s identity as a maritime country as part of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s Nawacita (nine key programs). Protecting maritime sovereignty is an important element to this vision.




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