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 – 23: 29 November 2017

The political talk over the past few weeks has been dominated by the recent car crash of House of Representatives (DPR) speaker, Setya Novanto. Novanto’s car collided with a telephone  pole after the anti-corruption commission (KPK) named him a suspect for the second time on allegations that he pilfered US$ 42 million from the now abandoned US$ 430 million electronic ID project. Novanto was named a suspect in the case once before but, using Indonesia’s controversial pretrial motion mechanism, a District Court judge declared Novanto’s suspect status invalid. Setya, who has been linked to several previous corruption-related scandals, including the 2015 “Papa Wants Shares” affair in which Novanto allegedly tried to extort shares of Freeport Indonesia, the country’s largest mining operation, and the 1999 Bank Bali scandal, has now filed another pretrial motion. 

As speaker of the house and chairman of the Golkar party, Novanto has been an important ally for President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and led Golkar to support the president. One of the nation’s oldest political parties, Golkar remains a political force, and new leadership could realign the party politically. While there is no clear front-runner, business tycoon Aburizal Bakrie remains well positioned to resume leadership. In his previous tenure as chairman, Bakrie led the party to support Jokowi’s opponent, Prabowo Subianto.

However, some observers appear unconcerned with the political implications of Novanto’s potential departure, and recent polling indicates that Jokowi’s approval ratings remain high. Pollsters highlighted that Jokowi could further secure political support with the selection of a strong vice-presidential running mate, and pointed toward current Finance Minister, Sri Mulyani, and Indonesian Military chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo.  The polling team posited that Nurmantyo, who caused his own controversy recently by accusing other government institutions of ordering illegal firearms, might help Jokowi pull support from likely repeat challenger, and Gerindra party chairman, Prabowo Subianto.

Marine & Fisheries

Public Service Unit to finance fisheries sector
— LKT, Kompas 10 November 2017
The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) began to mobilize a Public Service Unit (Badan Layanan Umum, BLU) with the disbursement of financial assistance to the fisheries sector in 157 districts and municipalities. Sahrin Syarial, the Director of Fisheries Investment Management, MMAF, stated that the revolving fund of Rp 500 billion (US$ 34.03 million) has been disbursed and allocated as capital investment for microcredit institutions in coastal area, business groups, fishers cooperatives and individuals. Loans for the fishers can be accessed through Micro-Credit Agency (Lembaga Keuangan Mikro, LKM) or cooperatives can disburse the microcredit to its member or fishers.

Government to hand over 373 fishing boats this month
— Syifa Yulinnas, The Jakarta Post 16 November 2017
The Indonesian government is set to hand 373 fishing boats over to fishermen cooperatives in November in an effort to boost their catches, said the MMAF Director-General of Capture Fisheries Sjarief Wijaya in Jakarta. The ministry plans to distribute a total of 782 fishing boats this year. “We have distributed 151 fishing boats, and the construction of another 373 boats will be finished by late November,” Sjarief said, “while the remaining 258 boats will be finished in December,” according to a report in

Pushing for balance
—Lukita Grahadyarini, Kompas 22 November 2017
National Fish Day, on 21 November, was a reminder to many of the challenges of achieving sustainable fisheries and food security. Alongside efforts to eradicate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUUF), the national target for capture fisheries and aquaculture production is set for 41.79 million tons, double the production in 2014 which amounted to 20.84 million tons. The government has also set a target for national fish consumption to reach 54.49 kg per capita in 2019, and has introduced a program to encourage people to consume more fish. Although Indonesia is a major seafood producer, it has not yet maximized its potential. Indonesian ships are virtually powerless to operate on the high seas and are unable to meet their catch quotas in international waters. The size of our fleet continues to decline, from 768,123 units in 2015 to 687,049 units in 2016. In 2017, thousands of cantrang, dogol and arad vessels will cease to operate under the ban on environmental destructive fishing gear. In the aquaculture sector, there is a high demand for small fish for use as animal feed, while the same commodities are also widely consumed by humans. Breakthroughs are needed in order to avoid conflict with the demand to increase fish consumption in society.

Indonesia to issue new regulation to protect tuna from overfishing
—   Dames Alexander Sinaga, The Jakarta Globe 20 November 2017
Indonesia is planning to issue a new regulation to protect tuna from the dangers of overfishing, said a senior MMAF official on November 20. The global tuna population is continuing to decline, according to Secretary General Rifky Effendi Hardijanto.  Recent assessment from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), indicate that the Pacific Bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) now faces a real danger of becoming extinct. The IUCN has already declared the Atlantic Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) as endangered in 2011 and the Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) as nearly threatened.  We need a new regulation on tuna fishing in Indonesia, desperately. Tuna has been overfished for too long," Rifky said.

Opinion: Indonesia boosts its air and sea denial capabilities
— Emanuele Scimia, Asia Times 20 November 2017
Indonesia was reported to be among the countries expressing interest in the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile at the recent Dubai Air Show. Under its Minimum Essential Force program, Jakarta aims to improve air and sea denial capacities, with a primary focus on anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare in coastal waters. The Indonesian military expansion is coming amid escalating tensions with China over a contested area around the Natuna Islands. Indonesia has maintained a low profile in the South China Sea until recently. The Indonesian military build-up in the region bordering the South China Sea can be viewed mostly as geopolitical posturing. Jakarta wants to send a message to Beijing that it will defend its sovereign rights.

Walton family backs IPNLF Indonesian tuna fisheries project
— Undercurrent News 10 November 2017
The International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) and the Asosiasi Perikanan Pole & Line dan Handline Indonesia (AP2HI) announced a new two-year partnership with the Walton Family Foundation (WFF), according to a press release. The foundation will fund IPNLF and local AP2HI's efforts to accelerate fisheries reform in Indonesia, the world’s leading tuna fishing nation, through improvements in the one-by-one fishing sector. Heather D’Agnes, who leads WFF’s Indonesia strategy, said the project "will demonstrate the value that well-managed, responsible fisheries can generate for fishermen, consumers, and a healthy ocean".

Impact investment fund strengthens support to sustainable coastal fisheries
— FIS 22 November 2017
The impact investment fund Meloy Fund I, LP, has partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help safeguard critical marine ecosystems of coastal fisheries in Indonesia and the Philippines, with an additional US$ 7 million funding, bringing the total available capital to US$ 17 million. The Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Fund’s anchor investor, as well as Ceniarth, LLC, a single-family office which funds market-based solutions that benefit underserved communities, are also participating, joining a diverse group of family offices, investment managers, and foundations. The Meloy Fund also announced the finalization of a partial debt guarantee with the USAID. The guarantee assistance will help borrowers expand their sustainable fish and seafood production or supplemental livelihood activities, resulting in increased incomes for fishers and the application of sustainable practices and technologies to protect coastal systems.

Forestry & Land Use

Top palm oil growers go on defensive against EU curb threat
— Anuradha Raghu, Bloomberg 20 November 2017

As concerns about palm oil’s sustainability continue to simmer in Europe, the world’s biggest producers are ramping up their defence of the most-consumed edible oil. Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo will discuss concerns that a resolution passed by the European Union in April calling for tougher environmental standards for palm oil may hurt the industry.  Indonesia’s president has asked the EU to end discrimination against palm oil as it harms economic interests. Palm oil is the country’s number one export commodity to the EU, representing 49 percent of the region’s imports. The industry helps alleviate poverty, narrow the development gap and develops an inclusive economy, according to Widodo.

Indonesian president recognizes land rights of nine more indigenous groups
— Basten Gokan, Mongabay 12 November 2017
In October, Indonesian President Joko Widodo gave several indigenous communities back the land rights to the forests they have called home for generations. However, the total amount of customary forests relinquished to local groups under this initiative remains far short of what the government has promised, and the target looks unlikely to be fulfilled before the next presidential election in 2019. At a recent conference in Jakarta, a senior government official said the president would sign a decree to help more communities secure land rights.

Malaysia lauds Indonesia’s efforts in handling haze disaster
—Tempo 23 November 2017
Malaysian Prime Minister Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak has lauded Indonesia`s recent efforts in handling the haze disaster. "In the last two years, no haze has spread from Indonesia to Malaysia. I laud Indonesia's efforts in addressing the haze disaster," Razak stated on Wednesday. The statement was conveyed during the 12th Annual Consultation Meeting between Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo held at the Hilton Hotel in Kuching on Wednesday.

Borneo Atlas' to help palm oil buyers check on forest damage
— Michael Taylor, Reuters 24 November 2017
Researchers have created for the first time a detailed map that will help palm oil buyers and consumers work out whether the supply chain is harming forests on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. Developed over the past year, the “Borneo Atlas” was unveiled this week by the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). The map shows the location and ownership of 467 palm-oil mills on the island of Borneo, which is shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.  To create the Borneo Atlas, CIFOR researchers sifted through online and other documents published by companies, non-governmental organizations, palm-oil certification agencies, mapping websites and social media networks. An on-line tool linked to the Borneo Atlas will use regularly updated satellite imagery to show a 10-km (6-mile) radius around each mill, detailing its impact on nearby forested areas and any expansion of existing plantations.

RSPO tops among palm oil certification schemes, though all must improve
— Mongabay 22 November 2017
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world’s largest association for ethical production of palm oil, has the strongest standards among certification schemes for edible oils and biofuels, according to a report comparing the leading palm oil certification standards by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), an international NGO, but the organization still faces challenges to ensure that RSPO members actually apply the standard in practice.  The report noted that the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO), the Indonesian government’s official certification scheme, provides very little protection of human rights and community livelihoods.  Also, roughly half of REPO members’ palm oil sold in Europe, mostly for biofuels, is certified by the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC), not RSPO.  This is troubling, an FPP spokesman said, because the ISCC standard, while quite strong on environmental requirements, falls way below the RSPO standard on social protection.

Energy, Climate Change and Pollution

World scientists’ warning to humanity: a second notice
— William J. Ripple and 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries
Twenty-five years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more than 1700 independent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates in the sciences, penned the 1992 “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.” These concerned professionals cautioned that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse. The letter warns that by failing to adequately limit population growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere.

Illegal miners reoccupy national park
—Ruslan Sangadji, The Jakarta Post 15 November 2017
Illegal gold miners hailing from many different areas have surreptitiously returned to Lore Lindu National Park in Dongi-Dongi village, Poso regency, Central Sulawesi. The illegal miners came in groups at night and dug open pits in the protected area, the head of Lore Lindu National Park, Sudayatna, said. Security guards and police were stationed at the entrance gate of the national park, but as the miners crept in at night, it had been hard to catch them, he added. The miners allegedly used illegal routes through local plantations to get into and out of the park.

Government revokes 406 mining permits in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan
—  Yovanda, Mongabay 16 November 2017
The provincial mining board of East Kalimantan province has revoked 406 coal mining permits, close to 30% of the total 1,404 issued in the province. All but 12 of those revoked were deemed not “clean and clear,” meaning the companies failed to meet all legal requirements, including registration to pay taxes, land rent and other royalties. Another 403 permits will be revoked in the future, bringing the total to 809, said Rusmadi, the East Kalimantan government official leading a team tasked with review mining permits in the province. The revocation is a part of a nationwide effort to stamp out irregularities in the country’s mining sector, which has long been plagued by corruption, legal violations, and environmental and social damage.

Indonesia begins consolidation of state-owned miners
—  Erwida Maulia, Nikkei Asian Review 16 November 2017
Indonesia began formal moves to merge four state-owned mining companies under one giant holding company, in order to allow it to take over large-scale concessions -- including one of the world's largest copper mines operated by U.S.-based Freeport-McMoRan. State-owned nickel producer Aneka Tambang (known as Antam) and tin miner Timah reported in separate stock exchange filings on Wednesday that a new government regulation has been issued to formalize the long-planned policy. These are their first filings referring to the plans to form a holding company. The companies said that the government's 65% stake in each will be transferred to Indonesia Asahan Aluminium, or Inalum, making them subsidiaries of the aluminium producer, which is currently fully owned by the government.

Indonesian mosques to take up mantle of fighting climate change
— Mongabay 21 November 2017
Indonesia will establish one thousand “eco-mosques”, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said in a statement at the UN Climate Summit in Bonn. The program is expected to instil mosques with a concern about the relationships among living things and the environment, Kalla said. The initiative is intended to help mosques and their communities to source renewable energy, manage water and food needs sustainably, and reduce and recycle waste. More broadly, it aims to cultivate a sense of stewardship toward the natural world among worshippers, in part through educational programs that frame the environmental movement as a moral challenge. Hening Parlan, coordinator for environment and disaster management at Aisyiyah, the woman’s wing of the mass Islamic organization Muhammadiyah, said the eco-mosque movement could unite Indonesian Muslims to fight climate change. “Merely adapting to climate change isn’t enough,” she said.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Politicians, state officials urged to surrender endangered animals     
—M Iqbal Ichsan, Tempo 21 November 2017
Environment and Forestry Ministry official Wiratno has urged politicians and state officials to voluntarily surrender endangered animals kept in their homes to authorities. “They ought to set good examples to the people,” Wiratno was quoted as saying by Tempo magazine in this week edition’s investigative report. Tempo learned that the endangered animals were found in villas belong to the People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Zulkifli Hasan, the House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon and House’s Legal Commission Speaker Bambang Soesatyo. Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya also had an endangered bird from an obscured source. But the politicians and state officials have claimed that they have a permit to own endangered animals. Wiratno said that some state officials have already secured such a permit. Others have already filed for one.

Indonesia smugglers stuffed exotic birds in pipes
— Phys 16 November 2017
Smugglers who allegedly stuffed 125 exotic birds into drain pipes have been arrested in Indonesia, officials said Thursday, as part of a bid to clamp down on a lucrative illegal trade in wildlife. Four men have been charged after 41 endangered white cockatoos and 84 parrots were discovered squashed into plastic piping that had been cut and sealed at each end by wire. Police said the men were arrested in four separate locations in eastern Indonesia, and are part of a suspected wildlife trafficking ring. They face a maximum five years in prison and 100 million Rupiah (US$7,400) fine if found guilty.

New species of Rafflesia discovered in Indonesia
—Enrico de Lazaro, Science News 22 November 2017
An international team of scientists from the United States and Indonesia has described a new species of flowering plant of the genus Rafflesia from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The newly-discovered species, named Rafflesia kemumu, occurs in several regions of the Indonesian province of Bengkulu. “Four populations of Rafflesia kemumu occur in the Palak Siring area consisting of 2-12 flower buds per population,” said Universitas Bengkulu researcher Agus Susatya and colleagues. “The species is reported to occur in the Kuro Tidur area as well, also part of the Bukit Daun Protection Forest, and at Ipuh Production Forest, Muko-Muko Regency, Northern Bengkulu.” The flowers of Rafflesia kemumu can reach 15-17.3 inches (38-44 cm) in diameter, according to the team.

Alien plants have invaded protected areas on the Indonesian island of Java
—Michael Padmanaba et al, Nature Scientific Reports 7:9334, 24 August 2017
Alien plant invasions of protected areas are recognized as a major and growing threat worldwide. With a population of 145 million, Java is the most populous island in the world.  Java’s 12 National Parks contain the last significant remnants of the major natural ecosystem types that once covered this island. A total of 67 invasive alien plant species were found in the parks, ranging from 8 in Ujung Kulon and Alas Purwo to 27 in Meru Betiri.  These include deliberate plantings of Acacia nilotica as a firebreak and the escape of several species from state-owned forest concessions and a botanical garden into protected areas. Invasive alien species are abundant and diverse along trails in national parks in Java, and a few invasives threaten critical savanna habitats which are used by charismatic large fauna.  However, the limited resources available for invasive species control means that management actions must focus on a small number of priority areas and species.  Cutting and herbicide applications remains a viable means of limiting damage, but biological control should be explored as a potential long-term solution for some invasive aliens.


Indonesia’s green information gap
— Harry Surjadi et al, Al Jazeera 12 November 2017
Despite temperatures and sea levels rising and putting 2,000 of the country's islands and 42 million households at risk of being submerged by 2050, it is still hard to find Indonesian mainstream media covering stories that go beyond catastrophes like forest fires or mudslides.  Even with forest fires, which are an annual occurrence in Indonesia, the country's media seldom devotes the column inches and airtime needed to explore causes and context. The shape of the media landscape is key to how the media covers environmental stories. Most of the country's TV channels and radio stations are owned by conglomerates, many of which have big stakes in agribusiness and mining companies. "Media owners are often connected to owners of extractive industry companies, like mining or palm oil, which are among the greatest contributors to deforestation, environmental damage and air pollution," says Sapariah Saturi, senior editor for Mongabay-Indonesia.

Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions
— Shreya Dasgupta, Mongabay 21 November 2017
Conservation groups constantly make strategic decisions about projects all over the world, but how do they know what works.  Overall, there has been a rise in peer-reviewed studies, but the NGOs don’t seem to be using them, suggesting the persistence of a culture in which conservation practitioners neither use available scientific evidence to make decisions nor measure the outcomes of their actions. “In some ways, we have too much evidence about some strategies and not enough about others,” according to Edward Game, lead scientist for TNC’s Asia-Pacific Region. When it comes to strategies that are relatively new, conservation groups rely heavily on people’s experiences, local expertise, and anecdotes. “That type of evidence is no less valuable than the quantitative information,” said Louise Glew, director of conservation evidence at WWF. Research may be carried out at different spatial scale or time scales than NGOs need, and the available science is highly fragmented, some of it locked behind the paywalls of lesser-known journals.  NGOs are extending impact evaluations to more of their projects, but rigorous evaluations are expensive, field staff may lack the expertise to assess social or economic changes, and many donors are more uninterested in good impact stories than in full-blown evaluations.

100 articles every ecologist should read
— Franck Courchamp & Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Nature Ecology & Evolution 16 November 2017
With the upsurge of currently available articles and the increasing specialization, it becomes difficult for scientists [and conservation practitioners] to identify, let alone read, important papers covering topics not directly related to one’s own specific field or that are older than a few years. The authors generated a list of 544 papers proposed by 147 leading ecology experts, which were ranked via random sample voting by 368 of 665 contacted ecology experts. Most of the papers which made it to the top 100-list were not published in the highest-ranked journals, nor did they have the highest number of mean annual citations.


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