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
20th Edition :  1 November 2018

Marine & Fisheries 

President Jokowi spotlights maritime development
— The Jakarta Post, 30 October 2018
Opening the 5th Our Ocean Conference (OOC) in Bali, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo highlighted the achievements to turn Indonesia into a leading global maritime power.  “Indonesia would like to enhance maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region,” the president explained. “Together with ASEAN and ASEAN partners, Indonesia is developing the Indo-Pacific cooperation concept by reiterating the habits of dialogue and cooperation, inclusivity, and respect for international law.”  Without mentioning the South China Sea by name, Jokowi expressed his concern that “overlapping maritime claims, if not resolved through negotiations based on international law, may pose a threat to stability.” The president also warned about the rise of crime at sea, including piracy, human trafficking, drug smuggling, slavery, and illegal fishing, and highlighted the threats to the ocean’s health due to climate change, water pollution and plastic waste.  Also addressing the opening session of the OOC were Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi and Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Minister Susi Pudjiastuti.

Kerry warns “time is running out”
— I Wayan Juniarta, The Jakarta Post, 30 October 2018
Former US Secretary of State and initiator of the first Our Oceans Conference (OOC) John Kerry issued a warning in his keynote speech on the opening day of the 5th OOC that failure to radically step up efforts to protect the ocean and recognize the intertwined fate of the ocean and climate change would have dire consequences.  “There will be no Blue Economy.  There will be an unrecognizable fishing industry that pits country and against and promotes even more money-driven decision-making than we face today,” Kerry said.  Moreover, [recent] climate change has changed the basic chemistry of the ocean faster than it did in the last 50 million years, threatening the existence of some forms of marine life.  Kerry called on participants to put pressure on corporations, public figures and governments to abandon coal and embrace cleaner and renewable sources of energy.

Indonesia committed to recovering seaweed ecosystems and mangrove forests
— Antara, 30 October 2018
Indonesia is committed to recovering its seaweed ecosystems, mangroves, and preserving its forests, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, told international environment activists at the OOC in Bali.  Luhut said problems confronting the world are endless, citing climate change, natural disasters, pollution and sea waste as common threats that require urgent solutions.  Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the Environmental Program of the United Nations (UNEP) expressed appreciation for Indonesia’s efforts to recover environments such as mangrove forests, oil palm plantations, and natural forests.  “We will always be ready to help the government of Indonesia in maintaining environmental balance,” Solheim said.  Pavan Sukhdev, President of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International, also thanked Indonesia for its support over oil palm plantations, but he expressed concern about the declining endemic Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) population in Batang Toru, north Sumatra, which are threatened by plans to build a hydroelectric power plant in that location.

Indonesia to propose review mechanism for sustainable ocean conservation commitments
— Sheany, The Jakarta Globe, 18 October 2018
As host of the upcoming Our Ocean Conference, Indonesia will propose a review mechanism to strengthen international commitments on sustainable ocean conservation, two ministers said. Speaking at a joint press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti highlighted the importance of tracking commitments by countries, particularly in light of the urgency of preserving the ocean's health to safeguard the future. "We no longer want a conference where there is only talking, without any concrete [action], so our aim with the 5th Our Ocean Conference in Indonesia is to establish a tracking [mechanism]," Minister Susi said. Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi added that Indonesia would also propose the establishment of a best-practices directory, which could serve as a reference for countries to tackle similar issues.

Future of fisheries toward Industry 4.0
— Muhammad Habib Abiyan Dzakwan, The Jakarta Post, 23 October 2018
Indonesia’s fisheries sector has made significant progress with advanced technologies in recent years, including partnering with Google in its vessel monitoring system (VMS) under the Global Fishing Watch platform, initiating development of a maritime satellite for monitoring illegal fishing with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Inmarsat, and technical advances in aquaculture.  But Indonesia has not yet got on board the “Industry 4.0” wave, which highlights four core approaches:  integration of digital and physical systems, the internet of things (IoT), big data analytics, and robotics and artificial intelligence. Rather, it is still concentrating on securing the quantity of capture fisheries and aquaculture products, rather than working to improve the quality of those products. Realizing the values of Industry 4.0 in the fisheries sector will require educating our fishers and aquaculture farmers on using technology to improve the quality of their products and supporting quality improvements at national fish processing companies.

China calls it fishing; Indonesia calls it transnational organized crime
— David G Rose, South China Morning Post, 18 October 2018
Indonesia’s Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs has a strong message for China, owner of the world’s largest fishing fleet.  “What they are doing is not fishing, it is transnational organized crime,” Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said after a press conference in Jakarta. Ministers and heads of state from 35 nations will attend this month’s Our Oceans Conference along with 200 non-governmental and private sector organizations. Maritime security, climate change and pollution of the seas will be on the agenda as well as overfishing. But so far will not be sending any high-level delegations, and nor will many of Indonesia’s neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Undeterred, Pudjiastati claims many island or coastal nations which are most vulnerable to over-fishing and climate change in her corner and says she will campaign for increased monitoring and enforcement of existing protected territories such as marine conservation areas.

Amid lack of enforcement, fishermen take the fight to blast fishing
—   Ian Morse, Mongabay, 29 October 2018
In 2017, amid widespread lack of enforcement of Indonesia’s ban on blast fishing, local fishing groups in Lambangan and Uwedikan (villages located in the Banggai Regency on the island of Sulawesi) started enforcing their own protected area. Any fishers using bombs, trawl nets or cutting down mangrove trees will be detained, the fishers say. The new rules have been formalized by regulations issued by the two village governments, but these won’t carry any legal force unless the Central Sulawesi Province Fisheries Office signs off on them.  Once that happens, the local fishing groups will be able to impose finds on violators. “We used to fight the fishers who came from other villages,” said Lutfi Bullah, head of Lambangan’s fisher group. “This is our protected area. Now nobody uses bombs here.”

Forestry & Land Use

Taking Stock of Indonesia’s Social Forestry Program
— Nabiha Shahab, CIFOR Forest News, 29 October 2018
Indonesia’s ambitious plan to provide forest-dependent communities with access to 12.7 million ha of forests through social forestry permits, launched in 2014 and slated for completion in 2019, was intended to bring more justice into forest resources and address tenurial conflicts. However, as of July 2018, the program has only distributed permits to around 395,000 households for 1.75 million ha, only 15% of the overall target, and even those households and communities that have received the permits are not yet reaping the anticipated benefits. For many local communities, full ownership rights over land and recognition of their customary institutions are key. Elsewhere, in Kalimantan, some farmers who had received permits did not know what to do with them, so they sold them to palm oil plantation companies. Some problems have been caused by a lack of facilitation for the community for implementing social forestry after permit issuance,” said Nining Liswanti, a CIFOR researcher.

Real-time plantation map planned to throttle deforestation in Indonesia’s Papua region
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 18 October
A new interactive map developed by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) will track the progression of plantation areas and road developments in Papua and West Papua in real time, allowing users to track the development of oil palm and pulpwood plantations and new forest roads.  The map will incorporate a function enabling users to identify the parent company of concession holders.  “The Atlas will ink land use and land cover change based on satellite imagery with land an ownership map,” said David Gaveau, a co-developer of the map at CIFOR. The map was conceived as a means to address the lack of public information about how plantation concessions were being farmed out in Papua. The Papua region accounts for 35% of Indonesia’s remaining rainforest. Until recently, Papua’s forests and rich biodiversity have stayed largely of the reach of the mining and plantation companies that have ravaged the Indonesia’s forests.

KPK raids Sinar Mas subsidiaries’ offices in bribery investigation
— Kharishar Kahfi, The Jakarta Post, 30 October 2018
Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators raided the offices of palm oil company PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (SMART) and PT Binasawit Abadi Pratama (BAP) in Jakarta on Tuesday as part of their investigation into an alleged bribery case in Central Kalimantan. KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah said investigators had conducted searches in the offices of both corporations, which are subsidiaries of Singapore-listed palm oil company Golden Agri-Resources Ltd., from Monday afternoon until early Tuesday morning. Apart from the offices in Jakarta, graft busters also conducted searches of three other locations in Central Kalimantan, namely the offices of the provincial regional council, forestry agency and one-stop integrated agency. The KPK named seven individuals, including BAP president director and SMART deputy director Edy Saputra Suradja and councilor Borak Milton, as suspects in alleged bribery to influence the council’s supervision of the palm oil company’s plantation around Sembuluh Lake in Seruyan regency.

Indonesia’s anti-graft agency “eager to intervene’ in palm oil sector
— Mongabay, 25 October 2018
Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is helping to guide a sweeping review of existing licenses for oil palm plantations, many of which were issued in violations of existing laws and procedures. The agency recently released a video arguing that palm oil could be a positive force for change if the widespread corruption underlying the social and environmental problems associated with the industry can be solved. Palm oil companies have taken advantage of the lack of legal clarity over ownership of land, seizing territory occupied by indigenous peoples and sending in the police when they resist. Corruption is rife in the permitting and licensing processes for plantations, according to the KPK. Many companies have been allowed to establish plantations in protected forest areas, and palm oil tax revenues have declined even while production and exports soared.

Prolonged drought triggers wildfires on mountains in Java
— Fardah, Antaranews, 18 October 2018
Some parts of Indonesia`s regions have entered the rainy season, while several others, including Java and the islands of Nusa Tenggara, are experiencing a prolonged, severe dry season, which is causing drought, water shortages, and also wildfires. On Java, the prolonged dry season has triggered wildfires in forest areas. Across the country as a whole, the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Forestry reported in September that some three thousand hotspots had been detected, according to Agus Hariyanto, the Chief infrastructure official of the ministry’s Directorate General for Climate Change Control. This was higher than the number of hotspots detected by this time in 2017, but far lower than the fifteen thousand hotspots recorded over the same period in 2015. Hariyanto pointed out that several regions in Indonesia will continue to face drought until November, based on the forecast for a relatively weak El Niño event by the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics (BMKG).

Commentary:  Is S&P Dow Jones greenwashing conflict palm oil
— Guarav Madan, Mongabay, 16 October 2018
Singapore-listed palm oil company Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), part of Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Group, remains included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI), despite reports and official complaints that its operations in Indonesia and Liberia are driving widespread deforestation, human rights violations, and theft of communities’ traditional lands. In 2017, GAR became the first palm oil company listed on the DJSI’s Asia/Pacific Index, despite consistent and credible allegations of land grabbing, environmental destruction, and violations of sustainability principles. In August, new complaints were filed with the RSPO charging that GAR-controlled “shadow companies” under disguised ownership were actively clearing lands and forests in contravention of the companies claimed sustainability policies. DJSI’s decision to retain GAR in its sustainability portfolio raises questions about whether it is serving as a tool for greenwashing destructive companies in the high-risk palm oil sector.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

Japan-led consortium to lend US$1.3bn to Indonesia LNG power plant
— Chiaki Kameda, Nikkei Asian Review, 21 October 2018
A consortium of international banks, led by the government owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), will jointly lend US$1.31 billion for a thermal power station in Indonesia fueled by liquefied natural gas. The power station, to be built on the west side of the island of Java, will begin construction this year with a goal of starting operations in 2021. The generator will be connected by gas pipes to facilities used to unload and store LNG. With a generating capacity of 1,760 megawatts, the station will sell power to Indonesia's government-owned electricity giant PLN over 25 years.  Thermal power stations fueled by natural gas have lower carbon and particulate emissions than coal- or oil-fired plants.   Of the 56 gigawatts worth of new generating capacity expected to be installed in Indonesia over the next decade, natural gas-fueled plants are expected to account for more than 20%.

US$100 million Indonesia Geothermal Resource Risk Mitigation Project approved
— Alexander Richter, ThinkGeoenergy, 21 October 2018
The 21st meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in Bahrain approved over US$1 billion in resources to be deployed for climate financing, including US$100 million in funding for the Indonesia Geothermal Risk Mitigation Project by the World Bank.  The project is intended to scale up Indonesia’s investment in geothermal energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In addition to the US$100 million in GCF financing (of which US$90 million will be in the form of grants), phase one of the project will also include US$225 million in co-financing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), US$25 million in co-financing from the Indonesian Ministry of Finance, and US$60 million in private sector equity. The 10-year risk mitigation project will be executed by PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (Persero), a state-owned corporation. |

Proposed Sumatran dam could have dire ecological and social consequences
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 23 October 2018
A study by the Sustainable Ecosystem Foundation (Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari, or YEL) warns that the proposed 428-megawatt Tampur dam and power plant would flood 40 km2 of land in Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, wreaking havoc on one of the world’s largest remaining tropical rainforests. YEL argues that the ecological impact would extend to more than 300 km2 of forest, because the project will require infrastructure such as roads, buildings, and power lines. Dedi Setiadi, project manager for the project developer, PT Kamirzu, refuted YEL’s claims, which he said were based on an earlier version of the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (Amdal). Dedi said the new Amdal addressed all concerns about the project’s environmental impact and showed that the flooded area would not impact elephant and orangutan habitats. Asked then why Kamirzu had not publicly released the new Amdal to NGOs for scrutiny, Dedi said the company was not required to do so.

Report: Missing Pathways to 1.5° C
— the role of the land sector in ambitious climate action
— Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance (CLARA), October 2018
An alternative response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s advocacy of reliance on untested mitigation approaches such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), this report seeks to support the IPCC’s objective of strengthening global responses to climate change while meeting sustainable development goals and reducing poverty through low-risk land-sector approaches to protect, restore, and sustainably manage natural ecosystems, while respecting human rights.  CLARA seeks to focus on approaches that are already available which safeguard land rights, biodiversity and food security.  These include strengthening indigenous and community land rights, restoring forests and other ecosystems (including peat forests), and developing eco-agriculture as an alternative to industrial farming.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Five bird species lose protected status, more at risk in new Indonesia decree
— Basten Gokkon, Mongabay, 17 October 2018
Five bird species have lost their protected status under a new decree from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry following complaints from songbird collectors.  Capture and trade of the species without a permit will remain illegal, but violators will no longer face jail time or hefty fines prescribed in the 1990 Conservation Act for taking protected species. The decree also establishes new guidelines for birds to be granted protected status, which will make it easy for any species deemed of high economic value to the songbird fan community to be dropped from the list. “There’s a huge local economy aspect to the bird keeping business,” said Wiratno, the ministry’s Director General for Biodiversity Conservation. Mohammad Irham, a senior ornithologist at LIPI, criticized the move, saying it would hasten the decline of these species in the wild.

Impacts of deforestation and wildlife trade on tropical biodiversity severely under estimated
— William Symes et al, Nature Communications, 3 October 2018
Habitat loss due to deforestation and exploitation for the wildlife trade has resulted in precipitous declines in the populations of many forest-dependent birds in the Sundaland biogeographical region (consisting of Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo, their surrounding small islands, and part of the Malay peninsula), a global hotspot of biodiversity.  As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List under-estimates the threat of extinction facing many species.  Currently, only 27 species in this region are Red-listed as Vulnerable (VU), Endangered (EN) or Critically Endangered (CR).  The paper argues that incorporating quantitative measurements of habitat loss and exploitation would result in increasing this number by more than 80% to 51 species. While a slowing of deforestation is essential to limit extinctions of forest-dependent birds, without coordinated efforts to curb commercial exploitation, including better protection in PAs and stronger law enforcement, numerous extinctions of commercially valuable species appear inevitable.

Commentary:  In Bali and beyond:  An urgent focus on coral conservation
— Cristián Samper, Mongabay, 29 October 2018
Millions of people around the world depend on the 800-odd known species of reef-building corals for their nutritional health and well-being, chiefly by fishing for the marine life that depends on reefs.  Seventy countries have reefs that generate more than one million dollars per square km.  But a recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented a bleak future world completely devoid of coral reefs.  It is hard to overstate the devastating impact that result from the loss of all corals.  This week, the Our Oceans Conference (OOC) is taking place on the coral-dependent island of Bali, at the heart of the Coral Triangle, which has the highest diversity of corals in the world.  The work is urgent and the stakes are high.  Let’s make sure people understand just how fragile these incredible and misunderstood animals that millions rely upon before it’s too late.




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