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
2019 – 2: 23 January 2019

Marine & Fisheries

‘One fish at a time’: Indonesia lands remarkable victory
—    Hannah Summers, The Guardian, 15 January 2019
Indonesia, the world’s largest tuna fishing nation, pulled out all the stops to transform an industry blighted by depleted stocks and illegal poaching. The fishing sector has now reached an important milestone: one of Indonesia’s tuna fisheries has become the first in the country (and only the second in Southeast Asia) to receive Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, the gold standard for sustainable fishing practices. With MSC certification, the PT Crac Sorong Pole and Line Skipjack and Yellowfin Tuna fishery has become a beacon of best practice in the region as its newly attained status will create new export market opportunities. PT Crac, which operates in West Papua province, runs 35 pole and line fishing vessels and employs 750 local fishers. “The efforts made by the fishery to achieve MSC certification will help safeguard livelihoods, seafood supplies, and healthy oceans for future generations,” Patrick Caleo, MSC’s Asia Pacific Director, said.

Norpac commits to not import immature fish from Indonesia
—   Admin, Pallet & Plate, 14 January 2019
Honolulu-based Norpac Fisheries Export (Norpac) has signed a commitment with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to not purchase immature snapper and grouper from Indonesia. If adopted by other companies, this first-of-its-kind agreement could help prevent the collapse of a lucrative yet vulnerable fishery where catch of pre-reproductive age fish has led to declining fish stocks. Indonesia’s deep-water snapper/grouper fishery, involving an estimated 8,600 vessels from motorized canoes to large ships, is largely fully-exploited or over-exploited. Norpac also agreed to share data on purchased catch, including origin, species and size. “We understand that fish caught before they have the ability to spawn cannot contribute to the natural growth of the population,” Norpac founder Thomas Kraft said. “It is important that the industry as a whole commit to responsible fishing and mitigate the burden on fishers.” TNC, which has worked to improve the health of the Indonesian snapper/grouper fishery since 2014, is part of a growing stakeholder coalition embracing government, industry, and civil society seeking to address overfishing issues.

Maritime diplomacy to pick up speed in political year
—    Dian Septiari and Agnes Anya, The Jakarta Post, 10 January 2019
Indonesian foreign policy practitioners are putting more focus on the maritime sector as the government prepares to host about half a dozen international events on maritime and related infrastructure initiatives this year, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in her annual policy address. The Foreign Ministry’s push aligns well with President Joko Widodo’s vision for Indonesia to become a ‘Global Maritime Fulcrum’. “We are reminded that we, Indonesia, are a maritime nation,” [and that] “starting from that point, consistently, Indonesia [has] continued to strengthen its maritime diplomacy,” Marsudi said. She added that Indonesia’s maritime diplomacy has also continued at the regional level, with Jakarta seeking to introduce a shared vision for the Indo-Pacific region that ASEAN member states can get behind. Adding, “For Indonesia, [the] Pacific and the Indian oceans are a single geo-strategic theater.” Dewi Fortuna Anwar of the Jakarta-based Habibie Center said that “Indonesia is the only country with a clear Indo-Pacific concept, and [they are currently] preparing the concept for ASEAN.”

Seafood dealer sentenced to jail for falsely labeling Indonesian crab as US crab
—    Undercurrent News, 15 January 2019
James R. Casey, owner of Casey’s Seafood, a seafood wholesaler in the US state of Virginia, will spend three years and nine months in prison for falsely identifying about 180 metric tons of crab meat as being sourced from the US. Casey plead guilty to mixing discounted blue swimming crab meat from Indonesia and other foreign countries with Atlantic blue crab from the Chesapeake Bay from 2012 thru 2015 and labeling it as “Product of the USA.” Prosecutors said some of the crab meat sold contained no locally-sourced blue crab. The illegally-labeled crab meat was sold for a combined US$4.3 million at wholesale prices in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida during the four-year period.

National fishery export products increase, 2015 - 2018
—    Kompas, translated, 12 January 2019
The export volume of Indonesian fishery products has continued to rise since 2015, according to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (KKP). Nilanto Perbowo, KKP’s Secretary General, credits the government’s efforts to eradicate illegal, unregulated, or unreported (IUU) fishing and ban transshipment at sea as key factors in reducing pressure on fish stocks. In 2018, both the volume and value of fishery product exports increased. From January to October, export volume increased 6.2% compared to the same period in 2017, while the value of seafood exports rose 10.3% from US$3.61 billion to US$3.9 billion. Based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), Indonesia’s main fishery products are seaweed, shrimp octopus, tuna, skipjack tuna, and blue swimming crab.

Raja Ampat regulates cruise ships
—    Ernes BK, Antara, 10 January 2019
The Raja Ampat Regency Government has issued a new regulation controlling the operation of cruise ships entering its waters. Yusdi Lamatenggo, head of the Raja Ampat Tourism Agency, said that a meeting with tourism operators was held recently to discuss the issue. All cruise ships and yachts entering Raja Ampat waters are now required to report to the port of Waisai, the capital of the archipelagic regency and the newly designated entry point for all maritime tourism in Raja Ampat. Such vessels are obliged to pay all applicable fees in rupiah to cover conservation and environmental services. The vessels will be required to carry out provisioning of fresh water, food and fuel in Waisai, rather than in Sorong or other ports. “Only when they meet all conditions will the authorities allow them to sail in Raja Ampat waters,” Yusdi said.

Forestry & Land Use

Thousands of merbau trees illegally cut down
—    Vina Oktavia, Kompas, translated, 14 January 2019
Illegal smuggling of timber from Papua is back on the rise. On 16 January, law enforcement agents seized 199 containers of illegal merbau (Intsia bijuga) timber at Teluk Kamong Container Port, Surabaya, East Java. Since December 2018, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has confiscated 384 containers of merbau timber sourced from Papua and West Papua, the equivalent of 1,500 mature merbau trees. Officials noted that the wood still appeared wet, indicating that it was most likely processed directly in the forest, not in a factory, and had been cut down in the preceding month. Rasio Ridho Sani, the Director General of Law Enforcement for the ministry, said the value of the seized illegal timber since December 2018 has reached US$8.4 million (Rp. 120 billion).

Palm oil company accused of criminalizing farmers in Sumatra
—    Gaurav Madan, Mongabay, 14 January 2019
Nearly five years after Friends of the Earth (FoE) first reported escalating conflict in Bengkulu Province between farmers in the village of Lunjuk and the palm oil company PT Sandabi Indah Lestari (PT SIL), the conflict continues, despite international efforts to mediate. Now, however, instead of directly clearing villagers’ farms and forests itself, PT SIL relies on the police and courts to annex community lands for its plantation. The entrenched conflict poses significant reputational risks to PT SIL and its partner Wilmar International, a Singapore-listed company said to be the world’s largest palm oil trader. A 2016 study, by the independent consulting firm Daemeter on the costs of social conflict in Indonesian oil palm, found that the tangible costs of conflicts in the cases studied ranged from US$70,000 to as high as US$2.5 million. Wilmar recently announced plans to comprehensively map its suppliers as part of its effort to prevent deforestation in its supply chain.

Hazy figures cloud Indonesia’s peat restoration as fire season looms
—    Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 8 January 2019
Indonesia has restored thousands of hectares of degraded peatlands in the three years since President Joko Widodo launched an ambitious program aimed at preventing a repeat of 2015’s disastrous forest fires. However, that success may have more to do with luck than anything else, activists from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) say. In 2015, fires raged across 26,100 km2 of land, much of it peat forest that had been drained for agriculture and rendered highly combustible. “We attribute the decrease in the intensity of forest fires not to an improvement in [peat and forest] management, but to natural factors,” Khalisah Khalid, a spokeswoman for Wahli, the country’s biggest green NGO, told Mongabay. Activists argue that spatial analysis demonstrates that most of the hotspots detected during the peak of the dry season in August 2018 were inside areas that were either prioritized for peat restoration or supposed to be protected under a moratorium on developing peatland.

REDD+ evaluation must be done
—   CIFOR, 21 December 2018
At the COP24 climate talks in Katowice, Poland at the close of 2018, the Center for International of Forestry Research (CIFOR) hosted a side event aimed at evaluating what REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation with conservation and sustainable management of forests and enhancement of carbon stocks) has achieved. “When REDD+ was launched, it was intended to be transformational, but we now know we need more time to adequately measure impacts,” said Malgorzata Buszko-Briggs, a FAO programme officer with UN-REDD. While REDD+ may not have achieved its target of rapid and inexpensive solutions to emissions reductions in tropical forests, it has delivered important intermediate results, including improvements in national forest monitoring capacity. Amy Duchelle, senior scientists at CIFOR stated, “while there are huge challenges in evaluating impacts of real-world policies and programs, it must be done. We need more reliable evidence on impacts of forest-based mitigation efforts to promote learning and inform future efforts.”
Energy, Climate Change, & Pollution

Indonesia inherits a US$13 billion pollution problem
—   Gemma Holliani Cahya, Mongabay, 14 January 2019
At the end of 2018, the Indonesian government acquired a majority stake in the operation of the PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) Grasberg mine, one the world’s largest copper and gold mines. The US$3.85 billion deal has been lauded as a historic step toward national and economic resource sovereignty, but there’s been little mention of who inherits the massive pollution legacy left from decades of mining waste being dumped into the adjacent rivers and forests. “Does the completion of the divestment deal mean that the environmental problems can be resolved? No,” said Merah Johansyah Ismail, national coordinator of the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam). Following the takeover, the national and provincial governments will have to take the brunt of the fallout from environmental damage caused by the mining operations, Ismail said. The fallout could amount to some US$13 billion, according to a review by state auditors.

Government reduces renewable energy target
—    Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, 11 January 2019
The Indonesian government has set a lower target for investment in renewable energy this year, down 10% from last year’s target of US$2.01 billion. Although the government failed to achieve its target last year, booking investments of only 80% or US$1.6 billion, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (KESDM) said it was still a “good achievement.” Rida Mulyana, the KESDM’s Director General of Renewable Energy, acknowledged that last year’s target was too ambitious. “This year’s target [US $1.79 billion] is actually higher than last year’s investment realization, so hopefully we can achieve it, as we have set it in accordance with ongoing projects,” Mulyana noted, explaining that this year’s investments in renewable energy will comprise investments in geothermal energy, bioenergy, hydropower, energy conservation, and other types of renewable energy. This year, the ministry aims to build 21 new power plants, 14 of which are mini-hydro power plants set to begin operation in 2019. The ministry will also seek to draft a new biodiesel policy, as well as, a 100% palm oil fuel plan this year.

PLN to acquire coal mines to secure supply
—   Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, 16 January 2019
Indonesia’s state-owned electric power firm plans to acquire more coal mines by 2023 as part of a plan to secure 40% of the coal required for its power grid, which accounted for 95 million tons of coal last year. PLN President Sofyan Basir said that the demand for coal, primarily driven by the company’s growing number of thermal power plants, is expected to almost double to about 180 million tons by 2023. Coal currently accounts for more than half of PLN’s total electric power generation, but the company wants to increase the share of coal-fired power to 58.5% of the total by 2027. “We have been eyeing five coal mines,” Basir said, “but this year we are only targeting two coal mines for our portfolio. They are located in South Sumatra and in Kalimantan.”

City eyes cleaner rivers with new regulations
—    A. Muh Ibnu Aqil, The Jakarta Post, 11 January 2019
The Jakarta administration is set to issue a regulation on the use of hard detergents to prevent cleaning products from polluting the city’s rivers, such as what happened to the Sentiong River in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, which was recently covered in foam. Nicknamed Kali Item(Black River), the Sentiong is notorious for its foul stench, but its most recent condition prompted city officials to start working on a solution to clean up the waterway. The use of detergents with a high content of polluting chemicals which nature cannot process “is a problem existing all over Indonesia,” Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said. The best solution, Baswedan explained, was to push for the use of soft detergents and urge the central government to issue better regulations. The Sentiong River last made headlines in August during the 2018 Asian games, when the city’s administration covered its surface with a black net in an effort to hide it from the view of the athletes’ village, which was located next to the polluted waterway.

Toxic waste mounds worry North Jakarta residents
—   The Jakarta Post, 12 January 2019
Residents of Marunda sub-district in Cilincing district, North Jakarta have demanded that authorities act swiftly to restore their environment after soil mounds suspected of containing hazardous and toxic waste were found in the area in late December 2018, one of which caused a fire near an elementary school. The Jakarta Environment Agency said the mounds contained hazardous and toxic waste in the form of spent bleaching earth (SBE), a common waste material generated during the processing of crude palm oil. SBE is susceptible to spontaneous combustion and handling and disposal are a fire risk, an operating expense, and a source of environmental regulatory concern. Marunda residents who were unaware of SBE’s potential for harm have been using it for years for a variety of purposes, such as filling their fish ponds and gardening. “Now that we know the waste is dangerous, it must be cleared from the area soon,” said Nasrullah Dompas the head of Marunda Community Unit 10.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Komodo National Park to close for one year for habitat restoration
—   Markus Wisnu Murti and Ricky Mohammad Nugraha,, 18 January 2019
Only Komodo Island to be closed to tourists
—   Antara News, 21 January 2019
The East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) provincial government has announced plans to temporarily close Komodo National Park to visitors for one year to improve habitats and allow local populations of Komodo dragons and deer to increase. “The Komodo dragons are not as huge as they used to be because the population of deer, their main food, continues to decline following rampant deer poaching in the region,” NTT Governor Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat said on 18 January.  However, national news outlet, Antara News subsequently reported that only Komodo Island would be affected by the closure. "The plan to close Komodo National Park will only be applicable for Komodo Island. Tourists will still be able to visit Rinca Island, Padar Island, and others," Governor Laiskodat said in a clarifying statement on 21 January, adding that the closure would take place after the national government agreed on a partnership with NTT province to manage the national park.

Deer from illegal hunting on Komodo Island confiscated
—   Panca Nugraha, The Jakarta Post, 1 January 2019
A joint team of Indonesian military and national personnel in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, seized at least 9 dear which had been hunted on Komodo Island. The team apprehended a motor boat that carried the deer carcasses from Komodo as they were about to unload at So Toro Wamba Beach in Sape District of Bima Regency, on the adjacent island of Sumbawa. The authorities also confiscated the head of a water buffalo and two modified long rifles equipped with laser sights and ammunition. The raid was conducted following reports from locals in Sape District of the smuggling of illegally hunted deer from Komodo National Park. “Unfortunately, all the suspects [from the boat] managed to escape, and our team could only arrest the driver of the pick-up vehicle,” Wirabima military command post spokesperson Maj. Dahlan said.


Five years on, Indonesia’s Village Funds program still problematic
—   Gemma Holliani Cahya, The Jakarta Post, 21 January 2019
In January 2014, a law was passed transferring more authority to rural villages, allowing them to manage their own funds. Five years later, the Village Funds program has become a flagship policy for President Joko Widodo’s administration, providing between Rp 800 million (US$ 56,000) and Rp 1 billion (US$ 70,000) to each of the 73,670 villages across the archipelago. But there have been problems. Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) researcher Egi Primayoga said management of village funds has been poor. “What worries us is that most of those implicated in graft cases are village heads,” Edi said. There were also imbalances in the distribution of funds, according to the Australian Indonesian Government Partnership. Aceh and West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) provinces are each home to around 800,000 poor people, but Aceh, with more than 6,000 villages, received Rp 3.8 billion from the program, while NTB, with 995 villages, received only Rp 667.5 billion. More than 80% of the funds disbursed were used to build infrastructure, improve roads, health facilities, market places, and schools.


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