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 – 5: 6 March 2019

Marine & Fisheries

First handline tuna fishery in Indonesia to enter full MSC assessment
—    Business Wire, 26 February 2019
North America’s leading sushi-quality tuna company, Anova Food announced it will enter into a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) full assessment for its premier Fair Trade fishery in North Buru Island, making it the first handline tuna fishery to do so in Indonesia. “Years of data collection and sustainable fishery practices by Fair Trade fishermen have set the stage for fulfilling the rigorous demands of MSC certification for this handline fishery and we couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Blane Olson, Anova Managing Director. Since the fishery received the first Fair Trade certification in 2015, Anova has continued to expand the program throughout its Indonesian supply chain. “This assessment sets a precedent not only for Indonesia, but also for small-scale fisheries around the world for which the MSC standard is most challenging to achieve. This has been made possible thanks to the hard work and commitment in the past few years of all parties involved,” said Zulficar Mochtar, Director General of Capture Fisheries at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Indonesia moves to establish fishing zone near the South China Sea
—    Radio Free Asia, 26 February 2019
Indonesia is pushing ahead with plans to develop a fishing zone on the edge of the South China Sea, as the country seeks to assert sovereignty in the face of overlapping marine territorial claims by China. The government plans to construct the Integrated Marine and Fisheries Center, including a cold storage facility, in the Natuna Islands, part of a plan that has been in development for two years, according to Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan. The Natunas island-chain lies in the far southern reaches of the South China Sea. “We have the right to be there,” Pandjaitan said when asked if the plans were part of Indonesia’s effort to maintain sovereignty over waters off the Natunas. In 2016, navy patrols confronted Chinese fishing boats in waters off the islands at least three times, as the government increased its crackdown on illegal fishing. Indonesia accused the Chinese of fishing within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone. China responded by calling the waters traditional fishing grounds and said there were overlapping “maritime rights and interests” in the area.

Padjadjaran University to host marine conservation program
—    The Jakarta Post, 3 March 2019
A new master’s program in marine conservation was officially launched in Padjadjaran University (Unpad) in Bandung, West Java by Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti. The program, part of the Fisheries and Marine Science Faculty Program (FPIK), aims to nurture the development of capable marine conservation managers. Unpad FPIK dean Yudi Nurul Ihsan said that Indonesia desperately needed competent human resources in marine conservation, especially as the government has set a target of developing 20 million hectares of a marine conservation area (KKL). He said, "of course we will need reliable human resources to realize and manage this conservation area.” The master’s program, set to welcome students starting in late 2019, is also part of the University's response to pledges made at the Our Ocean Conference (OCC) in Bali in October 2018, which included a commitment by world leaders to marine conservation.

Indonesia eyes top position as exporter of decorative fish
—    The Jakarta Post, 20 February 2019
Indonesia aims to become the world’s leading exporter of decorative fish, capitalizing on its large maritime territory and rich marine life, according to Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Director General of Aquaculture Slamet Soebjakto. Since 2015, exports of decorative fish have grown at a rate of more than 13% annually. “Decorative fish with significant export growth potential include guppy, chef, hickey, corydoras and koi,” Soebjakto said, adding, “the commodity has great [potential]. We hope we will become the largest exporter of decorative fish.” The government expressed an interest in selling decorative fish directly to destination markets like Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates or Hawaii in the US. Soebjakto revealed that Indonesia produced 1.8 billion decorative fish in 2018 (up from 1.3 billion in 2015) with exports totaling US$304 million (Rp 4.3 trillion). This year, the government aimed to export 2.3 billion fish, Soebjakto added.

Fish from Jakarta Bay dangerous
—    The Jakarta Post, 23 February 2019
Eating fish and mussels from Jakarta Bay is dangerous because of toxic compounds that damage fish organs and can paralyze mussels, Etty Riani, a professor at Bogor Agricultural University’s maritime affairs and fisheries department said. “People who consume fish from Jakarta Bay are more susceptible to cancer and degenerative diseases like kidney failure,” she said. In a polluted environment, fish are prone to contamination from hazardous compounds. The Citarum River and Jakarta Bay are among the most polluted river and coastal areas in Indonesia, according to Riani. Hazardous compounds have been found in barracuda, pepetek, sokan, beloso, and mussels from Jakarta Bay.

Opinion – Fighting illegal fishing: Making a big bang with data
—    Ahmad Baikhaki, The Jakarta Post, 28 February 2019
Historically, Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fishery had not attracted many news headlines, let alone registered on the world stage. That is, not until 2014 when the businesswoman Susi Pudjiastuti became Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister. Minister Susi arrived with a bang—quite literally—by blowing up seized boats caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters. Minister Susi caught the world’s attention when she made the unprecedented move to share Indonesia’s fishing vessel tracking data, known as VMS, with the public through the Global Fishing Watch map platform in 2017. In Indonesia, Global Fishing Watch assists the DG Surveillance and Presidential Task Force 115 in fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Clamping down on IUU fishing could deliver real results for Indonesia. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara found that curtailing IUU fishing combined with capping annual harvests at its maximum sustainable level could generate a 14% increase in catch and a 15% increase in profits by 2035 without short-term losses to the local economy.

Forestry & Land Use

Indonesia to get first payment from Norway under $1b REDD+ scheme
—   Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 20 February 2019
It’s taken nearly a decade, but Indonesia is finally set to receive the first part of a US$1 billion payment pledged by the Norwegian government for preserving some of the Southeast Asian country’s vast tropical rainforests. Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, and her Norwegian counterpart, Ola Elvestuen, made the announcement in Jakarta on 16 February. The payment, whose amount is yet to be determined, is for Indonesia preventing the emission of 4.8 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent through reducing its rate of deforestation in 2017. “Indonesia has embarked on bold regulatory reforms, and it is showing results,” Elvestuen said. “It may be too early to see a clear trend, but if deforestation continues to drop we stand ready to increase our annual payments to reward Indonesia’s results and support its efforts.” The two countries signed the US$1 billion pact in 2010, under the REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) mechanism.

FAO urges Indonesia to expand use of conservation farming techniques
—    Rahmad Nasution, Antara News, 7 February 2019
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has urged Indonesia to expand the use of conservation agriculture techniques to develop more resilient farming. Currently, Indonesia’s "conservation agriculture techniques have allowed smallholders to leave behind inefficient practices that could lead to the loss of most of their crops in dry years," said FAO Representative in Indonesia, Stephen Rudgard. In response, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture and provincial authorities of East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara have been working with over 16 thousand smallholders since 2013 to help them adapt to climate change using conservation agriculture techniques. This new approach helps farmers to cope with extreme weather events while increasing their production and improving their soil. According to East Nusa Tenggara Province Governor Victor Laiskodat, the techniques had enabled the farmers to preserve water and land as well as to utilize fertilizers effectively. After four years of implementation, farmers have demonstrated that the quality of their soil has significantly improved.

Indonesian minister blasted over palm permit for graft-tainted concession
—    Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 22 February 2019
Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency has joined a growing chorus of criticism against a government decision to permit deforestation in a concession at the heart of a bribery scandal. It was revealed in February that Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar approved a permit last year to convert, or clear, 100 km2 of rainforest in the district of Buol on the island of Sulawesi. The land in question lies within a concession held by palm oil firm PT Hardaya Inti Plantations (HIP), owned by business tycoon and politician Hartati Murdaya Poo. Poo was arrested in 2012 by Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for bribing the then Buol district chief, Amran Batalipu, to grant her the concession. Both Poo and Batalipu were convicted for bribery, but the concession remained with PT HIP. KPK commissioner Laode M. Syarif said the recent move by Minister Siti to accept the company’s request for a forest conversion permit, knowing that it had obtained the concession through bribery, was unacceptable.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

Is Indonesia losing favorable clean energy policies?
—   Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, Mongabay, 5 March 2019
Once upon a time, Indonesia had policies to support the development of clean energy, but regulatory changes over the past decade seem to be at the root of why abundant potential sources of renewable power in the country have been left mostly untouched for more than 70 years since the country’s independence. Indonesia’s own regulator, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources is pessimistic about reaching development targets. Nanang Hamdani Basnawi, director of local hydro-based power plant developer Bumiloka and a member of the Indonesian Renewable Energy Society said that it was a “mystery” to clean energy players why renewable energy policies turned unfavorable. According to Andy N. Sommeng, Director General of Electric Power at the Ministry, the “current electricity system is not ready to handle the technical aspects of [renewable energy].” Sommeng said “we are not lagging in [renewable energy development, but] we have to consider supply and demand. Renewable energy is good, but what’s the point if it does not bring added value to our country.”

Indonesian candidates find common ground in support for palm oil
—   Basten Gokkon, Mongabay, 20 February 2019
Indonesia’s two presidential candidates, Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, have both pledged to increase the use of palm oil in biofuels to achieve energy self-sufficiency should they win the general election in April. Under President Widodo, Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, has pushed for greater use of palm oil feedstock in diesel. Environmental activists and experts have criticized both candidates for not addressing the negative aspects of palm oil production, which both are pushing as a feedstock for biodiesel, in what is seen as a voter-pleasing appeal to resource nationalism. Merah Johansyah, the executive director of Jatam, an NGO that monitors the mining industry in Indonesia, called the emphasis on biofuel “a fake solution” to the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, particularly given how the industry benefits just a handful of major corporations. “The business approach to biofuel is still the same as that of fossil fuel: massive, industrial, and prone to corruption,” said Johansyah.

Miners call for more government support amid rising problems
—   Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, Mongabay, 5 March 2019
A group of top executives of foreign and local mining firms have expressed their wishes that the government do more to help their industry. CEOs from the country’s mining firms expressed three main hurdles in the mining industry right now: a lack of government attention to mining exploration, regulatory uncertainty, and unfair fiscal treatment in terms of royalties for their commodities. Each year, the government earmarks state funding for mining exploration in the budget of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry’s Geology Agency. However, data from the Indonesian Geologists Associations shows that the country saw a drop in the amount of overall expenditure for exploration of mineral commodities, such as gold and copper. Boosting exploration in the mining sector is important to ensure adequate reserves in the future. Government data shows that Indonesia’s coal reserves will be depleted in 50 years. Beyond coal, Indonesia still has big untapped resources of other minerals, such as nickel.

Conservation & Protected Areas

World’s rarest orangutan under threat after court battle against dam fails
—    The Guardian, 5 March 2019
Environmentalists in Indonesia have lost a court challenge to a Chinese-backed dam project that will clear forest habitat of the most critically endangered orangutan species, the Tapanuli. A state administrative court in North Sumatra ruled that construction can continue despite critics of the dam providing evidence that its environmental impact assessment was deeply flawed. Experts say that the dam will flood and alter the habitat of the orangutan species, which numbers only about 800 primates, and is likely to make it impossible to ensure the species survives. Presiding Judge Jimmy C. Pardede said the witnesses and facts presented by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the country’s largest environmental group, in its case against the North Sumatra provincial government were irrelevant. Walhi said it will appeal. “We will take all available legal channels,” said Dana Prima Tarigan, the group’s executive director for North Sumatra.

Commentary –  Keep calm and save Komodo dragons
—    Jessicha Valentina, The Jakarta Post, 27 February 2019
Last month, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Governor Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat shared a proposal to close Komodo National Park for a year, saying that the closure was needed to increase the local population of Komodo dragons and deer, the giant lizard’s natural prey. As expected, the plan sparked debate. Located in West Manggarai regency, Komodo National Park is among the most popular tourist attractions in Indonesia. Based on Tourism Ministry data, the national park welcomes over 10,000 tourists monthly, 95% of who are foreign tourists. With such tourism potential, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya opposed the governor’s idea, calling it “irrelevant.” In response, Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Baker said she would summon representatives from the NTT administration [in order to make it] clear that decisions regarding national park conservation areas were solely under the jurisdiction of the central government. Last week, all relevant parties agreed to shelve the proposal. Instead of closing the entire park for a year, there will be a temporary and partial closure which will only apply to Pulau Komodo, the park’s largest island.

Fifty tons of marine debris picked up from Wakatobi
—    Abdul Azis Senong and Rahmad Nasution, Antara News, 22 February 2019
Local government and community members commemorated National Waste Care Day by picking up 50 tons of marine debris from various coastal areas in Wakatobi National Marine Park, according to Jemuna, the Head of Wakatobi District's Environment Office. Regarding the floating rafts of marine debris frequently spotted in Wakatobi waters, Hugua, the former head of Wakatobi District said he did not know whether it was discarded by local people, vessels passing through nearby waters, or if it was caused by trans-border pollution. "We do not need to point our fingers at each other. Instead, the best strategy for solving this problem is how we can drastically reduce the use of plastic waste and clean up our sea," he said. In November last year, a dead sperm whale washed ashore in Wakatobi containing 5.9 kilograms of plastic waste in its stomach. The death of this 9.5-meter-long whale rang alarm bells about the impact of marine debris in the country’s waters threatening the existence of its marine life.


Jakarta to bid adieu to plastic bags
—    Fachrul Sidiq and Sausan Artika, The Jakarta Post, 22 February 2019
The Jakarta administration claims it is getting closer to issuing a regulation that would pave the way to a ban on single-use plastic bags. The Jakarta Environment Agency will resubmit a draft of a new regulation to Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan. Once signed, the regulation would take effect next month. While the agency had previously aimed for the regulation to be issued in January, Baswedan demanded a revision to the regulation requiring alternatives to replace plastic bags, amid strong opposition to the policy from the Jakarta business sector. The regulation, based on a 2013 by-law on waste management, will stipulate that traditional markets, retailers, and shopping malls provide customers with environmentally friendly shopping bags. The regulation also stipulates incremental fines and sanctions to be imposed on mall owners and retail operators that fail to comply. The city will first reprimand the violators before punishing them with fines of up to Rp 25 million (US$1,776). Repeated offenders may face revocation of their business permits.

Commentary – Indonesia: policy missing in talk of politics
—    Iqra Anugrah, The Interpreter, 22 February 2019
Indonesia’s second presidential debate may have been a source of amusement for many thanks to the colorful exchange between the incumbent Joko Widodo and the contender Prabowo Subianto. Analyses, fact-checks, and memes referring to and criticizing the candidates’ debating styles and facial expressions quickly flooded social media after the Sunday debate. But this may have revealed a bigger problem, which is the lack of policy details to address structural socio-ecological issues.The debate kicked off on the topic of infrastructure. The president boasted his record in infrastructural development and highlighted the number of new highways, airports, and ports that his administration has built. Prabowo criticized Jokowi’s ambitions by pointing out the lack of feasibility studies, cost efficiency, and poor consultation with local communities. Prabowo, however, failed to specify how his infrastructural policy would address those problems. Neither candidate addressed how recent infrastructural initiatives have accelerated land conflicts between local communities, corporate, and state authorities.

Three new policies to boost rubber prices
—  The Jakarta Post, 27 February 2019
The government has announced three new policies that aim to jack up the price of natural rubber, which has hit a record low since 2018. Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution said the new policies would restrict natural rubber exports, expand the domestic use of rubber in construction, and replant trees at rubber plantations. “With these three new policies, we believe we can prevent another fall in natural rubber prices,” Nasution said. He added that the current price of natural rubber exports was around US$1.45 (Rp 20,300) per kilogram. Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, the top three rubber-producers and members of the International Rubber Tripartite Council (IRTC) met on February 22 in Bangkok, Thailand. They agreed to boost the local use of natural rubber through a demand promotion scheme. Under the scheme, the Indonesian government will expand the domestic use of rubber in infrastructure projects, such as roads, railway dampers, road dividers, and bridge bearings.

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