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
15th Edition :  23 August 2018

As the 10 August deadline approached for presidential incumbent Joko Widodo and challenger Prabowo Subianto to name their vice-presidential candidates, an Ijtimak Ulama (Meeting of Islamic scholars) was held by the Guardians of the MUI Fatwa National Movement (GNPF) to identify the ideal Islamic running mate <>  for Prabowo. The GNPF led public protests against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, in 2016. In June, Prabowo travelled to Mecca to meet with Rizieq Syihab <> , founder of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a radical Islamist organization that also played a leading role in the demonstrations against Governor Basuki.  Observers and the Jakarta political media mostly concluded that Prabowo was working with the 212 Alumni Brotherhood (planners of the Anti-Ahok demonstrations) and that the upcoming presidential election would feature dynamics similar to those coloring the previous presidential election <>  and Jakarta Gubernatorial election.
However in a later meeting with ulama from the GNPF, Prabowo explained that he could not get his party coalition to accept the results of the Ulama Ijtima.  Sobri Lubis, General Chair of the FPI, reportedly said that “If this recommendation is not followed, the ulama will not support you.”  “It is alright if you do not support me,” Prabowo’s responded, “but I will still fight for the interests of the Muslim community.” In the meantime, head of the Democratic Party, former president Susilo Bambang Yidhoyono (SBY), was still pushing for his son, Major Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, to be Prabowo’s running mate, after tensions again flared up between SBY and PDI-P chairwoman <>  and Jokowi benefactor Megawati Sukarnoputri. Finally, on August 9th, Prabowo announced that his running mate would be Sandiaga Uno, 49, the current Vice Governor of Jakarta, Vice Chair of the Board of Patrons of Prabowo’s Gerindra Party, and 37th richest person in Indonesia (Forbes, 2011), a distinct departure from expectations.
Earlier on the same day, Jokowi selected Ma’ruf Amin, a last-minute <>  switch from ex-constitutional court judge Mafud MD.  Mahfud became a front-runner once it became clear that Jokowi’s first choice, current vice president Jusuf Kalla was term-limited out of the race.  However, Mahfud proved politically contentious <>  partly due to his future presidential ambitions, and was opposed by the national awakening party (PKB), the United Development Party (PPP) and Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), the nation’s largest Islamic organization.
At 75, Ma’ruf lacks greater political ambitions, making him a more politically viable candidate. In addition, Ma’fur serves a central objective of preempting religious opposition to Jokowi’s ticket.  Chair of the MUI, Indonesia’s leading Muslim clerical body, Ma’ruf was instrumental in pushing the case against Widodo-ally, Governor Basuki, signing the fatwa accusing him of blasphemy and serving as a key witness in the trial which sentenced Basuki to two years in prison. As the organization’s Supreme Leader, Ma’ruf also shores up support from NU.  However, some have questioned Ma’ruf’s record supporting fatwas against the rights <>  of religious minorities and the LGBT community. Many claim the choice illustrates Jokowi’s willingness to compromise for political objectives <> , and may lead some Jokowi supporters to reassess their commitment to the ticket <> .
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Marine & Fisheries

What drives Indonesia's Pacific Island strategy?
— Grant Wyeth, The Diplomat 13 August 2018
Indonesia has recently been lifting its presence in the Pacific, courting a number of Pacific Island countries in an attempt to quell the region’s sympathies for the independence movement in the Indonesian province of West Papua. For Indonesia, the unity of its state remains non-negotiable. Yet sentiment among the Melanesian states and throughout the wider Pacific poses a threat to Indonesian sovereignty, emanating from outside Indonesia’s immediate area, and based on ethnic solidarity, which marks it as a distinct challenge compared to the ongoing disputes over the placement of borders with Malaysia. It is a challenge that cannot be addressed with traditional hard power tools. Current moves to forge a wider engagement strategy with Pacific Islands states could be seen as both an attempt to subdue this irritant, and also a testing ground for Jakarta’s future power projection.

AI identifies heat-resistant coral reefs in Indonesia
— Johnny Langenheim, The Guardian 13 August 2018
A recent scientific survey off the coast of Sulawesi Island in Indonesia suggests some shallow water corals may be less vulnerable to global warming than previously thought. Between 2014 and 2017, the world’s reefs endured the worst coral bleaching event in history as the cyclical El Niño climate event combined with anthropogenic warming. But the June survey, funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s family foundation, found that Sulawesi reefs were surprisingly healthy. In fact, the reefs exhibited no significant decline in condition compared to when they were first surveyed in 2014. A combination of 360-degree imaging technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) allowed scientists to gather and analyze more than 56,000 images of shallow water reefs. The findings of the Sulawesi survey will help scientists and conservationists target coral conservation programs elsewhere in the world.

Tax haven link to rainforest destruction and illegal fishing
— Stockholm Resilience Centre, Phys 13 August 2018
Researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) have published the first study showing how tax havens are linked to economic sectors which potentially cause serious global environmental impacts. The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, revealed that 70% of known vessels involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are, or have been, flagged under a tax haven jurisdiction. The study also found that on average, 68% of all investigated foreign capital (US$18.4 out of US$26.9 billion) flowing to sectors associated with deforestation of the Amazon rainforest between the years 2000-2011 was transferred through tax havens. "Tax havens [are] not only a socio-political and economic challenge, but also an environmental one. While the use of tax haven jurisdictions is not illegal in itself, financial secrecy hampers the ability to analyze how financial flows affect…environmental impacts," according to Victor Galaz, lead author of the new study.

Blue Swimming Crab aquaculture: No longer completely reliant on natural reproduction
— Andy Jauhary, Antara 12 August 2018
Jepara Brackish Water Aquaculture Development Centre (BBPBAP) has successfully harvested Blue swimming crab (BSC) raised through a cultivation system for the first time.  "In the future, the system and technology of crab cultivation can be developed in community ponds, so that the crab seeds no longer need to rely solely on natural production," said the Head of BBPBAP Jepara, Sugeng Raharjo. BBPBAP has been collaborating with the Indonesian Blue Swimming Crab Association (Asosiasi Pengelolaan Rajungan Indonesia, APRI) to restock of Jepara BBPBAP since 2011. Sujeng acknowledged that crab cultivation science still needs improvement and further development. Meanwhile, Hawis Madduppa, a marine and fisheries expert from the Bogor Agricultural Institute (IPB), told Antara that the development of crab cultivation in ponds is expected to reduce pressures on the environment and natural capture. Crab cultivation began in June 2018 with the spreading of crab seeds and in about two months the crabs were stocked, weighing between 80-100 grams per head when harvested.

Technological breakthroughs change how researchers observe global fisheries
— Nadine Freischlad, Mongabay, 14 August 2018
Automatic Identification System (AIS) devices carrying information about a fishing vessel such as its name, country of origin, speed and position to overhead satellites is fueling a revolution in fisheries management, according to marine scientist Boris Worm. A collaboration between the environmental watchdog SkyTruth, Global Fishing Watch and Google has been instrumental in creating algorithms that can be applied to large amounts of data showing fishing activity, including transshipment.  The hope is that this technology will lead to a more comprehensive reform of the fishing industry and curb fraud, prevalent in seafood everywhere in the world.

China threatens PH in latest SCS skirmish
— Francis Mangosing, Philippine Daily Inquirer 12 Aug 2018
The Chinese Navy has threatened a Philippine military aircraft in its latest known flight over China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea, telling it to leave or else it will face consequences. BBC, which was able to pick up the radio warning of the Chinese to the Philippine military aircraft supposedly flying nearby, noted the difference in tone compared to Chinese warnings issued to the US.  The Philippine aircraft received at least five warnings during the flight, while China appeared to have issued milder warnings to US aircraft. A US pilot said the warnings from the Chinese Navy were a “routine occurrence” and have no effect on their operations. Nine vehicles were also spotted moving around on one of the reefs during the surveillance flight. Philippine defense and military officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Forestry & Land Use 

RSPO should ban deforestation, say investors representing $6.7t in assets
— Mongabay 13 August 2018
More than 90 institutional investors managing more than US$6.7 trillion in assets have called on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to impose a blanket ban on deforestation.  The investors outlined their demands in a letter sent on 1 August to the RSPO, the world’s largest association for the ethical production of palm oil.  At present, RSPO treats production by members that clear certain kinds of forest to make way for their plantations as “sustainable”. The investors called on RSPO to ban cutting down and planting on High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests in high forest cover landscapes, adopt tougher policies on plantation operations in carbon-rich peatlands and phase out development and replanting on peat and improve policies on workers’ rights and use of pesticides.  “We want the RSPO to succeed,” said Adam Kanzer of Domini Impact Investments LLC.  “Companies, investors, consumers and local communities will all benefit from a single gold standard for sustainable palm oil.

Have APP and APRIL both broken their no-deforestation promises?
— Robin Hicks, Eco-Business 17 August 2018
Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), may have defaulted on their landmark no-deforestation commitments by using suppliers linked to forest clearing in Indonesia, according to research by a non-government organizations (NGOs). Data from Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry ministry show that the firms sourced timber from two suppliers that cleared some 32,000 hectares (ha) of rainforest in Borneo over the past five years. The two suppliers—PT Fajar Surya Swadaya (FSS) and PT Silva Rimba Lestari (SRL)— are both owned by members of the Hartono family, which controls the tobacco giant Djarum Group. APP said it “strongly rejects” the allegations in the report, claiming that the purchase of wood fiber from FSS last year was an “error” following an “administrative lapse”. The NGOs called on buyers and investors to avoid doing business with APP and APRIL until they meet their own sustainability targets.

Indonesia’s ‘one-map’ database blasted for excluding indigenous lands
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay 10 August 2017
The Indonesian government has decided to not include maps of indigenous territory in its unified land-use map database when it is launched this month, despite the fact that some of the maps have been formally recognized by local governments. The exclusion has drawn criticism from indigenous rights activists, who say it defeats the purpose of the so-called one-map policy, which is to resolve land conflicts, much of which involve disputes over indigenous lands. The activists say the exclusion of the customary maps effectively signals the government’s denial of the existence of indigenous lands. For its part, the government says the customary maps will be included once all of them have been formally recognized by local governments — a tedious and time-consuming process that requires the passage of a bylaw in each of the hundreds of jurisdictions in which indigenous lands occur.

Hot spots detected as dry season peaks in Indonesia
— The Jakarta Post 12 August 2018
Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry has warned of a potential increase in hot spots in several regions, including West Kalimantan, where slash-and-burn practices remain "a local tradition".The warning came after hot spots were detected in West Kalimantan this month. August is when the dry season is expected to peak. The ministry's Manggala Agni Fire Brigade has been preparing for an expected increase in forest fires, with teams stationed in disaster-prone areas across the country. As the land-clearing period begins, the West Kalimantan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) reported on Wednesday that 466 hot spots were detected in 11 regencies. But the hot spots cleared up after heavy unseasonal rain battered the area. As of Friday, however, the ministry's forest fire monitoring system had detected 78 hot spots across the province. BPBD head TTA Nyarong said the earlier increase in the number of hot spots was a result of slash-and-burn practices carried out by local farmers.

Rubber exports from North Sumatra begin to revive
— Antara, 12 August 2018
Export of natural rubber from North Sumatra has begun to revive after a sharp fall in June this year. Rubber exports from the province rose to 41,489 tons in July from 29,499 tons in the previous month, Secretary of the Federation of Indonesian Rubber Companies (Gapkindo) of North Sumatra Edy Irwansyah said. He said rubber exports from North Sumatra generally averaged 40,000 tons every month. "However, despite the increase in the export volume, the price of the SIR 20 type declined from US$1.385 per kg in June 2018 to US$1.317 per kg in July. Edy noted that the export price of rubber has remained stagnant at low levels since April 2018. Indonesia is the world`s second largest producer of natural rubber after Thailand, and North Sumatra is one of the largest producing provinces.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

Sustainability concerns cloud B30 plan
— The Jakarta Post 13 August 2018
The government’s plan to make the 30% biodiesel blend (B30) mandatory in the transportation sector by 2019, one year earlier than originallyi planned, may contribute to unsustainable crude palm oil (CPO) production, by encouraging palm oil producers to increase their CPO output, according to Coaction, a think tank specialized in sustainable development. Plantation expansion could lead to deforestation as the remaining productive areas allocated for oil palm plantations are limited. The government’s plan to increase the use of CPO in the biodiesel mix is intended to reduce fuel imports, which contribute to the country’s current account deficit. In addition to making the policy mandatory, the government also planned to expand the existing B20 policy by having it include non-subsidized diesel and expand the B15 biodiesel program to the mining sector. Indonesian Biofuel Producers Association (Aprobi) chairman Paulus Tjakrawan called the criticism against an increase in palm oil content in diesel fuel “preposterous”.

Indonesian court rejects bid to stop coal power plant expansion
— Michael Taylor, Reuters 17 August 2018
An Indonesian court has rejected a legal challenge from local residents attempting to halt the expansion of the Celukan Bawang coal power plant on the holiday island of Bali. The suit claimed that the expansion, which would more than double power capacity at the site, would damage the tourism and fishing industries in the area.  Increased air and water pollution would damage crops and have a negative effect on wildlife at a nearby national park, argued the plaintiffs.  In its ruling, the Denpasar administrative court said the law suit “had no legal standing” and that new technology would be able to mitigate the risk of pollution. The court also ruled that expansion work should not be halted during any appeal process. “The court only used the perspective of our opponents, said Didak Wicaksono, from Greenpeace Indonesia, adding that activists and community members plan to protest near the plant.

Indonesia to require oil contractors to sell crude output to Pertamina
— Bernadette Christina Munthe, Reuters 14 August 2018
The Indonesian government will require all oil contractors in the country to sell their crude output to state-owned energy company PT Pertamina, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resouces spokesman Agung Pribadi said. The government is drafting a regulation to implement the change, which Pribadi said will be released “as soon as possible”. The policy is aimed at reducing Pertamina’s oil imports and supporting the weakening rupiah, he added. Contractors, such as Chevron and Exxon Mobil, currently split their crude oil output with the government and are allowed to export their shares.

Conservation & Protected Area

Press Release: Indonesian firm using “deplorable” tactics to push orangutan-killer project
— ALERT, 9 August 2018
An organization of environmental scientists, the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers (ALERT), has called for Indonesian president Joko Widodo to halt a hydro-energy project in North Sumatra to save the Tapanuli Orangutan.  ALERT claims a project by PT North Sumatera Hydro Energy (PT NSHE) could doom the newly-discovered yet critically-endangered Tapanuli Orangutan. “PT NSHE [has] hired a public relations firm specializing in corporate crisis management,” said Professor William Laurance from James Cook University in Australia. ALERT researchers say the case for the China-funded Batang Tor project, falls apart on close inspection. Both the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank refused to support the project, largely on environmental grounds. The Tapanuli orangutan is the rarest of all great ape species with only 800 of the orangutans survive in three fragments of a shrinking tract of rainforest.

Hydroelectric dam threatens to wipe out world's rarest ape
— Stephen Leahy, National Geographic 9 August 2018
Tapanuli orangutans will not survive the building of a $1.6 billion hydroelectric power plant and dam in the middle of its habitat in Sumatra, Indonesia, wildlife experts warn. Forest clearing has already begun for the project, which is financed and built by state-controlled Chinese companies under China’s Belt and Road. PT North Sumatera Hydro Energy, the Indonesian company behind the project, told Indonesian media that the hydro power plant won’t be in primary forest and that much of the 650 hectares of land disrupted will be returned to a near-original state. The dam is scheduled to go into operation in 2022, generating 510MW of electricity. It involves blasting a tunnel eight miles long and more than 30 feet wide through a rugged region of primary forest. Experts question the need for such a project. Not only does Sumatra currently have excess electricity production, there is a geothermal electricity project nearby that could be expanded without impacting orangutans.

Wildlife trafficker sentenced to 4.6 year for trading pangolin and sun bears
— [translated] Vinolia, Mongabay 14 August 16, 2018
Ramil, a wildlife trafficker, has been sentenced to 4.6 years in prison and fined Rp100 million (US$ 6,847) by a court in Sumatra. The sentence was lighter than the prosecutors' demand of five years' imprisonment. The animal trafficking charges originated from reports from people who were suspicious of activities at the defendant's house since mid-January 2018. Sijunjung District Police who carried out raids on the house found 23 dead pangolins and 64 sun bear paws. Ramli said that he purchased the protected animals from Suku Anak Dalam, a Sumatran minority ethnic group. Dwi Nugroho Adhiasto, Wildlife Trade Program Manager for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the judge's decision was sufficiently high, considering that the case did not involve tigers, rhinos or elephants, noting that prosecutors and judges who have acquired a better understanding of the importance of conservation of protected animals  make significant indictments and sentences.

In protecting songbirds, Indonesia ruffles owners & breeders’ feathers
— Basten Gokkon, Mongabay 13 August 2018
Songbird owners and breeders have denounced the Indonesian government’s recent decision to add hundreds of bird species to the national list of protected species. The move comes in response to the ministry’s expansion of the list of protected species to 919, from 677 previously. The majority of the listed species, which are prohibited from being traded or hunted, are birds, including species typically caught and caged for the popular and highly lucrative songbird trade. The government has sought to accommodate the owners’ concerns by insisting that enforcement of bans on capturing and trading in the newly-protected species will not be applied retroactively. It has also given owners and breeders a generous window in which to register their birds — an opportunity that conservation activists say could be exploited by people looking to stock up on wild-caught birds.

Ministry plans to cap number of visitors to Komodo National Park
— Ivany Atina Arbi and Djemi Amnifu, The Jakarta Post 13 August 2018
In the wake of a fire that burned 10 hectares of savanna on Gili Lawa Darat earlier this month, the government has announced a plan to limit the number of visitors “to maintain the ecosystem’s stability”. The Wiratno, Director-General for Natural Resources and Ecosystems of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said that the overwhelming number of tourists had caused multiple types of damage to the park’s nature, this fire being just one example. Ministry data show that 10,250 tourists visit the Komodo National Park per month. That number stands in stark contrast to just 130 officers and rangers assigned to manage and monitor the park. “.. We will limit it to 5,000 per month, probably,” Wiratno said, adding that his office would issue a decree regulating the matter by the end of this year.

Saving the “maleo” is a mission possible
— Ruslan Sangadji, The Jakarta Post 13 August 2018
The megapode or maleo (Macrocephalon maleo), endemic to Sulawesi and Buton islands and the official bird of Central Sulawesi, is listed as endangered. The bird population in the wild is estimated at between 8,000 and 14,000. Herman Sasia, a maleo conservationist said there were two serious threats to the maleo — land clearing and poaching. Indigenous people also believe that maleo is a bird of luck. Its eggs are highly prized as a sacrifice in religious rituals. Houses are built on the ground where eggs are buried, as there is the belief that doing so brings prosperity, and the eggs are also believed to have medicinal properties. As the awareness of local people about conservation improves, government authorities and NGOs have noticed more poaching involving people from other areas. This has led to popular support by local people for maleo breeding projects initiated by Lore Lindu Biosphere Reserve and National Park. The breeding sites are located in three regencies; Sigi, Moutong and Banggai.

Conservation not on newly-elected provincial governors’ agendas
— Apriadi Gunawan, Jakarta Post 16 August 2018
Environmental conservation was the last thing on the minds of 17 politicians elected as new provincial governors in the recent regional elections, according to a study by Madani Berkelanjutan, an NGO focused on forest and land management.  The study found that only three governors came on board with real plans to promote or implement conservation strategies.  This is a problem because these regional leaders will control a total of 78.8 million ha of forest, and they have the authority to issue permits allowing conversion of forest land and forest exploitation. The winning governor and vice governor in South Sumatra, Herman Deru and they plan to allow further expansion of oil palm plantations, industrial forests and coal mining. West Kalimantan’s Sutarmidji-Ria Norsan came out with a new plan to prevent forest fires, but the pair are also looking to increase the oil palm plantation production.


Jakarta, the fastest-sinking city in the world
— Mayuri Mei Lin & Rafki Hidayat, BBC 13 August 2018
Home to 10 million people, Jakarta is one of the fastest-sinking cities in the world. North Jakarta has sunk 2.5 meters in ten years, and it is continuing to sink by as much as 25 cm a year in some locations, leaving almost half the city already below sea level.  The rest of Jakarta is also sinking, though at a slower rate. "[B]y 2050 about 95% of North Jakarta will be submerged," says Heri Andreas, of the Bandung Institute of Technology. This dramatic subsidence rate is caused by excessive extraction of groundwater.  But this message has not yet been taken to heart by Jakarta’s new Governor Anies Baswedan, who thinks people should be able to extract water from underground aquifers legally as long as they replace it using biopori method. Critics say the biopori method, which involves replacing water in holes 100 cm deep, would only replace water at a superficial level, whereas in Jakarta water is often pumped out from several hundred meters below ground level.

Group sues Jakarta administration and mall for violating smoke-free decre
— Andi Muhammad Ibnu Aqil, The Jakarta Post 13 August 2018
The Jakarta Citizen Forum (Fakta) has filed a lawsuit against the Jakarta municipal administration and the management of Cilandak Town Square (Citos) shopping mall in South Jakarta for allegedly allowing people to smoke in restricted zones. The lawsuit is the second case the group has pressed against malls that are lenient to smokers. Fakta head Azas Tigor Nainggolan said the group chose the governor as the main defendant for failing to implement regulations on smoke-free areas. The group filed a lawsuit against ITC Cempaka Mas in Central Jakarta in 2011 for failing to enforce the smoke-free zones and allegedly letting visitors smoke indoors but lost the suit. He said the group would let the court decide the result of the lawsuit against the governor, because their objectives were not necessarily to win a victory in court, but rather to remind the administration that the law had been violated.




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