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
17th Edition :  19 September 2018

Marine & Fisheries
Government tells Indonesian fisherfolk to refrain from sailing after abductions
— Agnes Anya and Novan Iman Santosa, The Jakarta Post, 14 September 2018
Indonesian consulates-general in in eastern Malaysia have called on Indonesian fishers to refrain from sailing after two fishermen were abducted in waters off Gaya Island by what was described as an “armed group”. Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi has communicated with her Malaysian counterpart and requested security assurances for Indonesians working in Sabah, Malaysia, particularly fishers. Two Indonesian nationals from West Sulawesi were abducted by an armed group while working on a Malaysian-flagged fishing vessel. Prior to this incident, 11 other Indonesians had been kidnapped in Sabah waters, of which 8 have so far been released.

Indonesia calls for technical cooperation to ease tensions in the South China Sea
— Eva Aruperes, The Jakarta Post, 10 September 2018
Increasing cooperation in technical and scientific fields in the South China Sea (SCS) could help resolve disputes and lead to improved stability, Deputy Foreign Minister AM Fachir said at a workshop conducted by the Policy Analysis and Development Agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Center for South East Asian Studies, which was attended by officials and experts from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan in their personal capacities. China, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam all claim some or all of the SCS and its myriad shoals, reefs, and islands, and Taiwan also has claims. China has recently come under fire for its activities in the SCS such as construction of military bases and deployment of military assets on man-made islands in disputed areas. “There are many proposals for future cooperation and projects that are already ongoing,” Fachir said. “We also proposed [new] projects related to plastic pollution in the sea.”

Opinion: Responsibly celebrating whale sharks
— Casandra Tania and Elis Nurhayati, The Jakarta Post, 12 September 2018
Whale sharks are fully protected in Indonesia under a 2013 ministerial decree forbidding extraction of the fish, its meat, oil, skin or fins. At Teluk Cenderawasih National Park (TCNP) in West Papua, which boasts the largest number of whale sharks in Indonesian waters, snorkelling with these giants has become a flagship attraction for visitors, whose activities are governed by the Shark Interaction Code of Conduct adopted by park authorities in 2012. However, code of conduct violations still occurs. In 2017, an inflight magazine showed a snorkeler hugging a whale shark from behind. In August, a video of a group of divers riding a whale shark in TCNP went viral. The offenders were identified and caught, but in the absence of binding rules, no punishment could be brought against them. Swimming with whale sharks must be done responsibly.

Connectivity matters for sustainable fishing in Indonesia
— Devex 6 September 2018
Commercial satellite operator Inmarsat, Indonesia’s Ministry of Fisheries (KKP) and PT Hatfield have launched a project to deploy the POINTEK satellite-based Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) to track fishing vessels and provide connectivity between the crew and coordinators on land. The overall aim of the initiative, part of the UK’s International Partnership Program (IPP), is to help improve the sustainability of Indonesia’s fisheries. The additional impacts are potentially far-reaching, according to Lida Pet, who heads the marine unit at PT Hatfield. Improved connectivity between vessels helps with a range of issues, from the prevention of tragic accidents to improving food security and helping to protect livelihoods. The project is still in the early stages, and there remain challenges to improved connectivity, such as access to electricity. PT Hatfield is working in partnership with a local company to install solar panels to help prevent this from being a major issue in the future.

Trouble in MSC tuna ‘paradise’ as PNG breaks from Pacifical
— Matilde Mereghetti and Tom Seaman, Undercurrents, 14 September 2018
An association of powerful tuna firms in Papua New Guinea (PNG), including some Asian giants, intends to obtain its own Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, terminating a collaboration with Pacifical, an EU-based company which uses the marketing slogan “sustainable tuna straight from paradise” and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), an association of eight small Pacific islands and Tokelau (a dependent territory of New Zealand) which together control 25-30% of the world’s tuna supply. Earlier this year, following an independent adjudication that rejected 24 objections by the International Pole and Line Foundation, (IPNLF), PNA was re-certified by the MSC for five more years. Critics of the fishery have argued that PNA vessels use the same nets to catch MSC-certified tuna and then on the same day can unsustainably harvest tuna along with a bycatch of turtles, sharks, juvenile tuna, and other protected species.

U.N. makes a bold move to protect marine life on the high seas
— Olive Heffernan, Scientific American, 7 September 2018
The United Nations is pushing for better protection of marine life on the high seas through a legally binding treaty. Delegates from 193 nations are in meetings at UN headquarters in New York to work on the problem, yet tension is already in the air. Russia has expressed opposition to global governance of international waters, while other nations, from Africa and South America in particular, have made it clear any benefits reaped from international waters should be shared with countries worldwide. Delegates hope to thrash out the framework of an agreement to be drafted and circulated to nations for review before the next summit in April 2019. The new treaty could be adopted as an extension to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by 2020.

Forestry & Land Use
Prolonged drought triggers forest fires in Kalimantan and Java
− Fardah, Antara, 15 September 2018
Severe dry season conditions have induced forest fires on the islands of Java, Kalimantan, and Sumatra and caused water shortages in East Nusa Tenggara and West Java. In West Kalimantan, smoke from forest fires forced schools to close. In Central Kalimantan, the East Kotawaringin district police recently named four persons suspected of starting land and forest fires. On Java Island, wildfires were reported on at least three mountainous areas: Mount Lawu, Mount Sindoro, and Mount Argpuro. At least 30 hectares of forest area were razed by fires on Mount Lawu, located on the border of Central and East Java provinces. Joint efforts have been made to extinguish the forest fire, but the prolonged drought and strong winds hindered the fire fighters` endeavors, Djohan Surjoputro, a Mount Lawu administrative authority said.

Encroachers and illegal loggers plague forest-based Ecosystem Restoration Concession
— Dyaning Pangestika, The Jakarta Post, 14 September 2018
In 2018, over 20,000 ha out of 95,000 ha in Hutan Harapan (Forest of Hope) has been occupied by encroachers who planted palm oil trees on the land, illegal loggers and poachers. Hutan Harapan, in Jambi and Sumatra, is Indonesia’s first Ecosystem Restoration Concession (ERC), managed by PT Restorasi Ekosystem Indonesia (REKI). Adam Azis, REKI’s head of strategic partnerships and land stabilization, said the company is outnumbered by the number of encroachers, illegal poachers and illegal logging industries in the area. The Danish government has been the main donor to Hutan Harapan since 2011, supplying up to US$12.7 million in funds as well as technical assistance, channeled to REKI via Burung Indonesia. However, 2018 is the last year of Danish funding for the project, which is seeking to identify new donors and develop a new business plan, Azis said.

Sinar Mas APP commits to forest conservation, launches tree planting on concession land
— Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post, 10 September 2018
Sinar Mas Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) inaugurated the planting of 10,000 Meranti trees on concession land in Riau to boost confidence in the company in the Japanese market. The commitment prioritizes 10 areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan, including the now-degraded Giam Siak Kecil forest in Riau. From 2016 to 2017, the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry investigated 9 industrial timber estates larger than 1.1 million ha in size in South Sumatra and Riau after they were burned by forest fires in 2015. The investigation revealed that all 9 companies had violated regulations by replanting acacia trees on the burned peatland areas. One of the companies, PT Bumi Andalas Permai (BAP), a Sinar Mas subsidiary, had more than 80,000 ha of its concession burned in 2015, 60% of which was on peatland. Over 2013-2018, APP claims to have invested US$300 million in forest conservation and restoration efforts, including research on peatland and public development programs.

Burning peatlands is a bigger climate threat than coal, infrastructure investment official says
— Robin Hicks, Eco-Business, September 2018
Harold Tjiptadjaja, Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer of Indonesia Infrastructure Finance (IIF), said that deforestation in Indonesia poses a bigger problem for the climate than burning coal. IIF is a private, non-bank financial institution established by Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance with the support of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and other financial institutions. Speaking at the 11th Asean and Asia Forum (AAF) in Singapore, Tjiptadjaja noted that coal is the single biggest overall cause of anthropogenic climate change, accounting for 46% of global CO2 emissions, but deforestation is a much bigger contributor to climate change than coal in Indonesia. Emissions from deforestation and peatlands make up about two-thirds of the country’s overall carbon emissions, Tjiptadjaja noted, while the energy sector only contributes about 20%. However, emissions from coal have been growing rapidly in recent years. Indonesia plans to add 56 GW of generating capacity by 2027, mostly through construction of new coal-fired power plants.

Plantations can produce more palm oil if riverbanks remain forested
— Rachel Fritts, Mongabay, 10 September 2018
Oil palm plantations are the largest source of agriculture-related deforestation in Southeast Asia, with at least 95,000 km2 (9.5 million ha) of land converted to palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia since 1990. Conservationists have long known that keeping riverbanks forested helps protect wildlife and habitats in plantation areas, but a new study shows maintaining forested buffers of 10-30 m width along rivers can also improve palm oil yields by reducing erosion, with the wider buffers associated the best long-term results. Riparian forests on the banks of tropical rivers are also perfect candidates to provide forest corridors connecting protected areas and habitat areas, facilitating the migration of species like the endangered Bornean elephant.

Indonesian mine watchdog sues government for concession maps
— Indra Nugraha and Basten Gokkon, Mongabay, 13 September 2018
Environmental activists in the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) are suing the Indonesian government for the release of records of mining licenses and concessions after earlier requests for the data in shapefile (SHP) format went unanswered by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. Jatam said having access to the mining data in this format is important for monitoring concessions from which residents have been evicted. SHP files make it possible to overlay mining maps onto maps from the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Environment and Forestry to determine whether mining concessions overlap onto conservation zones or farmland. Ahmad Saini, a Jatam activist, noted that the materials requested were public documents, and that failure to release the maps violates Indonesia’s Freedom of Information Act.

Opinion: Land certification a ticking time bomb
— Zulkarnain Tihurus, The Jakarta Post, 13 September 2018
As the government pursues its vision of agrarian reform, there is a need to rethink the actual impact of land certification. The program can harm the societies it is intended to help, because the social-cultural backgrounds of some societies do not conform to the program’s mindset which is that land is owned by individuals. For example, in the Maluku tenure system, land is never been owned by individuals, but instead by clans, villages (negeri) and multiple-clan groups (soa) — individuals can own trees, but not land. This allows several different people to own different crops or trees growing on the same plot of land. Land tenure systems like this have deeply rooted histories in the ways societies organize not just their economy and space, but also how they managed peaceful relationships within communities. Blindly enforcing individual-centred national land certification programs without considering local systems risks ruining the social security of local communities.

$459 million commitment to help save indigenous forest peoples
— Mongabay, 12 September 2018
A coalition of local governments and international foundations have pledged to work to protect indigenous rights. The 17 foundations pledged at least $459 million through 2022 to support land-based solutions to climate change, including forest conservation and restoration and recognition of the land and resource management rights of indigenous communities. The announcement at an event ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco was notable because it brought together philanthropies which often take siloed approaches to social and environmental problems. Donor organizations included the Ford Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, ClimateWorks Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and others. “There isn’t a single solution to the climate problem, but protecting forests, land, and the people who defend them is an important part of the constellation,” said Carol Larson, President and CEO of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

PLN told to convert fossil diesel power plants to CPO-diesel fuel
— The Jakarta Post 19 September 2018
Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan called on state-owned electricity firm PLN on Monday to covert energy plants powered by fossil diesel fuel to plants powered by crude palm oil-based biodiesel. “I expect that within two years from now PLN can convert its 2,000 MW power plants, especially plants that have low performance,” he said in a speech to commemorate the 73rd National Electricity Day in Tangerang, Banten. Jonan’s statement came after Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data revealed a US$1.01 billion trade deficit in August, mostly caused by higher oil imports. The government introduced the mandatory use of 20 percent blended biodiesel (B20) to reduce oil imports. The government aims to lower fossil fuel composition in the national energy mix to only 1 percent by 2025 from 6 percent currently. The minister urged PLN to keep electricity rates at current levels despite though energy being generated from renewable resources.

Central government urged to clean up Bekasi River
— Andi Muhammad Ibnu Aqil, The Jakarta Post, 12 September 2018
The Bekasi River in West Java has become so polluted that the Bekasi administration and civil society groups are calling on the central government to restore the river. The Cileungsi and Cikeas rivers [tributaries of the Bekasi River] have been heavily polluted for years, regularly turning dark and malodorous, especially during the dry season, according to Puarman, Head of Community Care for the Celeungsi-Cikeas Rivers (KP2C). At least 12 industrial enterprises are suspected of dumping untreated waste into the river. Bekasi Environment Agency head Jumhana Luthfi said the central government should handle the river restoration because the river and its tributaries run through different cities and administrative areas. The request followed President Joko Widodo’s recent call for Jakarta’s rivers to be restored and made as attractive as the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul.

Jakarta’s rivers more polluted than ever
— Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, The Jakarta Post 17 September 2018
The Jakarta Environment Agency has reported that 61% of the city’s rivers are heavily polluted cesspools of industrial, household and human waste. E. coli levels in the upstream parts of the Ciliwung river has risen to 40 times greater than the legal standard. Ali Maulana Hakim, the agency’s deputy head, said his office tested water samples from 90 sites in rivers and tributaries across Jakarta, and found that pollution levels were increasing every year. About 73% of the river pollution is attributed to household grey water and black water waste, while commercial areas account for 17% and industrial activities contribute another 10%. The almost complete lack of wastewater treatment plants (IPALs) in the capital city has contributed to the problem.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Indonesia allocates $1.2b for marine conservation
— Agnes Anya, The Jakarta Post, 7 September 2018
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic country, has proposed providing US$1.2 billion through the Archipelagic and Island States (AIS) Fund to promote marine conservation programs. The AIS Fund was initiated by Indonesia, according to Verania Andria, the UNDP’s Senior Adviser for Sustainable Energy. Andria said program funding would be entrusted to the UNDP for marine preservation programs through the exchange of experts and knowledge and technological innovations, as well as provision of assistance to smaller countries in creating marine-friendly development. Luhut Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs, said that marine debris is a global problem to which Indonesia has contributed and that Indonesia “is committed to removing this ‘crown title’” by reducing its land-based plastic leakage by 70% by 2025. Luhut added that the budget for AIS was insufficient, given magnitude of the transboundary challenges.

Mt. Leuser Park engages infringers to restore ecosystem
— Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, 12 September 2018
Mount Leuser National Park straddling the provinces of North Sumatra and Aceh has cleared illegal plantations using infringers who had clandestinely planted oil palm and rubber trees deep inside the park in several areas. The infringers were offered the option of voluntarily cutting down the trees they had planted or facing legal consequences. “The main objective is to keep the sustainability of Mt. Leuser National Park,” said Edward Sembiring, head of the Sumatra Environment and Forestry Law Environment Agency. One infringer who had planted out 2 ha of oil palms inside the park said there were about 1,500 families living in the national park area, most of whom planted fruit trees while the others planted rubber and oil palm. The park contains a range of endemic and endangered flora and fauna, including Sumatran tigers, orangutans, rhinoceroses and elephants.

Indonesia to limit visitors at 23 protected mountains
— Ivany Atina Arbi, The Jakarta Post, 10 September 2018
Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry will limit visitors to 23 mountains in order to better protect the environment and reduce the risk of forest fires. The list includes Mount Gede in West Java, Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru in East Java, Mount Rinjani on Lombok, and Mount Kerinci in West Sumatra. The plan is related to a similar new policy announced earlier to limit the number of visitors to Komodo National Park “to maintain the stability of the ecosystem” following a fire that razed 10 ha of savanna on the island of Gili Lawa Darat. Fires recently razed 9-ha of forest on Mount Sindoro in east Java and 65 ha of savanna in the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) recently reported 538 hot spots, most of which are likely to be forest fires.

Giving in to bird traders, Indonesia rescinds protection for 3 species
— Basten Gokken, Mongabay 7 September 2018
The Indonesian government has removed three popular songbirds from its newly updated list of protected species; white-rumped shama, straw-headed bulbul and Javan pied starling. The last two are listed as endangered and critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This list now totals 919 species, 562 of which are birds, all of which are banned from hunting or trade. The move came amid protests from songbird owners and breeders, who raised concerns about the loss of livelihoods, claiming the updated list lacked scientific and cultural basis and that several species included in the update were currently bred in captivity on a large scale and were far from endangered. Owners and breeders say they will push for more species to be removed from the list. Conservationists and scientists blasted the ministry for backing down and called into question its assessment that continuing to protect these three avian species would have adverse economic impacts.

Despite thousands in captivity, this rare songbird is going extinct
— Joshua Repp Learn, National Geography 5 September 2018
Three closely related black-winged mynah species endemic to Indonesia face functional extinction with only about 500 individuals remaining in the wild, while some 40,000 of the birds live in captivity, according to new research assessing the trade in black-winged mynahs led by Vincent Nijman of Oxford Brookes University. Nijman said it is difficult to tackle Indonesia’s mynah trade problem because even though there are laws banning their capture, transport, or trade, it is still legal to breed the birds in captivity. Captive breeding causes problems when captive birds escape or are released into the wrong range, which can result in breeding local wild birds out of existence over time. Captive breeders are supposed to release 10% of the birds they raise back into the wild, but often this does not happen. Furthermore, because regulations are not strongly enforced, there is little to stop people from recapturing released birds immediately after they are released.

Editorial: Conservation
— the native way
— The Jakarta Post, 10 September 2018
Preserving the environment should not be regarded as the monopoly of international environmentalists or scientists, because indigenous people of archipelagic Indonesia have been able to perform such vital tasks through their local wisdom for centuries. The call for indigenous involvement in preserving the environment is in line with a recent publication by the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, “Report on the State of Indonesia’s Forests, 2018” which emphasizes the government’s efforts to involve native communities in forest management through setting aside of “social forests”—including adat (customary) forests—following the country’s successful effort to reduce deforestation from 1.09 million ha in 2015 to 480,000 ha in 2017. The Marena Kulawi indigenous community in central Sulawesi, illustrating how nature can only be preserved on the condition that customary law is truly upheld, has taught us that law enforcement is key to sustainable environmental preservation in Indonesia.

Special Report: Saving forests the customary way
— Safrin La Batu, The Jakarta Post with CNN and Mongabay, 10 September 2018
A forest in Eastern Marena in Central Sulawesi is protected under the customary law of the Marena Kulawi indigenous, called ombo. Ombo prescribes what plants can be harvested, when and what for. Forest products may be harvested for domestic consumption but harvesting the forest for commercial purposes is prohibited except with a permit from the Customary Council. The villagers began implementing their customary land management practices a few years ago after regaining access to their communal forests and putting up a fight against the government. Part of the forest falls within the Lore Lindu Biosphere Reserve and National Park. Kulawi residents were left with tiny plots of land, each measuring less than 1 ha, to grow food and cash crops. In October last year, President Joko Widodo recognized 1,160 ha of land as property of the Kulawi community, of which over 750 ha is within Lore Lindu National Park.




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