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 – 7: 3 April 2019

Marine & Fisheries

US swimming crab imports saw minor volume, major value climb in 2018
—  Jason Huffman, Undercurrent News, 28 March 2019
US imports in 2018 of the three species of swimming crab (blue swimming crab or Portunus armatus, red swimming crab or P. haanii, and blue crab or Callinectes sapidus) increased by 8.8% from 26,334 to 28,645 metric tons as the value jumped by 23.3% from US$586.9 million in 2017 to US$723.8 million last year. Brice Phillips, Director of Club Store Sales at Phillips Foods and Chairman of the National Fisheries Institute’s Crab Council attributed US consumers’ willingness to keep paying more for one of seafood’s biggest luxury items to the high level of US disposable personal income (DPI). DPI has never been higher in the US than the US$15.8 trillion it reached in the 4th quarter of 2018 so it’s no surprise to Phillips that consumers have been willing to keep buying, even as price has continued to escalate. The high price of blue swimming crab, in particular, was evident on July 30 when Urner Barry reported that US wholesalers were paying, on average, $29.83 for a pound of jumbo lump from Indonesia.

Indonesia wins $2.52 million settlement for coral damage by foreign ships
—   Basten Gokkon, Mongabay, 19 March 2019
The Indonesian government announced that it had reached a settlement with the operators of two foreign-flagged ships that struck coral reefs in the Bangka-Belitung archipelago off Sumatra in 2017, damaging more than 18,000 m2 (1.8 ha) of coral reefs. Following the incidents, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries launched an investigation and conducted negotiations with representatives of the ships’ owners to reach an out-of-court settlement, under which the operators agreed to pay a combined sum of US$2.52 million. "The compensation takes into account losses from ecological value, economic value or societal losses, and environmental restoration of the damaged coral ecosystem caused by both incidents," a ministry representative said. However, Anton Wijonarno, manager of marine protected areas for WWF Indonesia, called on authorities to implement more stringent regulations for coastal areas out to 12 nautical miles from shore, and urged that funds from the settlement be put in a fund for ecosystem restoration.

From Kyoto to Kansas City, it is Indonesian tuna on the world’s sushi counters
—  Meaghan Tobin, South China Morning Post, 19 March 2019
Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of tuna, with an annual catch worth an estimated US$5 billion. Roughly one of every six tuna caught worldwide over the past three years was caught in Indonesia, which accounted for 16% of world tuna production last year, according to Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. The largest market is the US, which consumed nearly half of Indonesia’s 2018 tuna catch, mostly as frozen whole fish or fillets, followed by Japan, which imported nearly 25%. Increasingly, diners all over the world want to know where their fish comes from and how it was caught. “Demand for responsibly sourced seafood has grown in markets all over the world,” said Jeremy Crawford, Southeast Asia Director for the International Pole and Line Foundation. Experts estimate that nearly 20% of Indonesia’s tuna could be taken by more environmentally friendly methods. Last year, Citraraja Ampat Canning became the first fishery in Indonesia to receive Marine Stewardship Council certification for sustainable fishing.

Government urged to step up maritime security to halt rampant illegal fishing
—   Dewi Elvia Muthiariny, Tempo.Co, 26 March 2019
Illegal fishing committed by foreign boats is still rampant, according to Abdi Suhufan, coordinator for Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW). From the start of 2019 “up to 19 March 2019, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries seized 16 foreign boats fishing illegally in Indonesian seas,” Suhufan said, suggesting that monitoring operations may be insufficient due to lack of budget. Suhufan also said that rampant illegal fishing in Indonesia is probably caused by declining fish stocks in neighboring countries. Nine out of the 16 vessels hailed from Vietnam and the rest were Malaysian boats. “Based on 2014-2018 data, Vietnam is the country that most conducted illegal fishing [activities] in Indonesia with a total of 276 vessels arrested,” Suhufan concluded.

Forestry & Land Use 

No more fires in Indonesia? Blazes on Sumatran peatland say otherwise
—    Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 27 March 2019
Forest fires have flared up again in Sumatra with the beginning of the dry season, raising questions about the government’s claims that this problem is under control. An area spanning nearly 26 km2 has recently gone up in smoke in the province of Riau. “The fires in Riau these past two months have been severe,” said Muhammad Teguh Surya, Executive Director of the environmental NGO Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan. “The worst thing is that this hasn’t caught much attention. Instead, the president said there are no more fires.” President Joko Widodo claimed in a debate with election rival Prabowo Subianto in February that his administration’s policies had resulted in no new fires since the devastating blazes that swept the country in 2015. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry later acknowledged there have been fires every year since 2015, but that the scale of the fires was smaller. That seasonal pattern appears to have resumed again this year, with all of the fires in Riau occurring on carbon-rich peatlands.

A state-owned company evicts farmers from their land and plants oil palm without permits
—    Ian Morse, Mongabay, 26 March 2019
A state-owned plantation company, PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) XIV, is evicting farmers to establish an oil palm estate on the island of Sulawesi. In 1973, PTPN XIV received a 30-year permit to raise cattle and farm tapioca. After its lease expired in 2003, the concession was left unattended, opening the door for thousands of farmers who moved in to plant corn and rice and/or graze cattle. After a sixteen year hiatus, the company has returned to claim the land to plant oil palm. Under Indonesian law, if a plantation company’s right-to-cultivate permit (HGU) is not extended after the initial 30-year term, the land reverts to state control. Jemmy Jaya, a spokesman for PTPN XIV, acknowledged that the company had yet to obtain an HGU permit, but told Mongabay that PTPN XIV still holds the rights to the land because it is state-owned. “The community there should be grateful that we let them use the land for 15 years without asking anything in return,” Jaya said.

Forest protection efforts earn Indonesia millions
—    Hugh Biggar, Landscape News, 25 March 2019
An innovative effort to keep trees in the ground and carbon out of the air is paying dividends in Indonesia – the fifth-highest emitter of carbon dioxide globally. Norway announced on 16 February that it will pay Indonesia for reducing its deforestation by 60% in 2017, as compared to 2016. The payment is to be made as part of a REDD+ partnership established in 2010 — the acronym stands for ‘Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation’ – with the ‘+’ referring to conservation, sustainable forest management and carbon stock enhancement. REDD+ was developed to provide a framework for developed nations to pay developing nations for protecting forests. According to Indonesian Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya, Indonesia has decreased its annual deforestation rate from 1.09 million hectares to 480,000 hectares between 2014 and 2017. Based on estimates of avoided carbon dioxide emissions, Norway is expected to pay Indonesia roughly US$24 million. Norway and Indonesia are still working to confirm the reduction in deforestation. The funds are anticipated to be used by the Indonesian government to underwrite environmental initiatives.

Energy, Climate Change, & Pollution 

Indonesia charts a new, low-carbon development path
—   Leonardo Garrido et. al., WRI, 25 March 2019
Indonesia’s socioeconomic performance over the past two decades has been impressive, cutting extreme poverty in half and doubling per capita income. But this growth came at a steep cost, which included slashing forests, spewing greenhouse gases, and burning so much coal that nearly 60% of Jakarta residents suffer from air pollution-related diseases. However, a new report from the Indonesian government’s Low Carbon Development Initiative claims that less carbon-intensive, more efficient energy systems could deliver an average of 6% GDP growth per year until 2045. What would low-carbon growth in Indonesia actually look like? One required action includes moving away from coal and increasing renewable energy’s share of the power sector to at least 30% by 2045. This would cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 43% by 2030, exceeding Indonesia’s current international climate target. The government is now feeding findings from this new report directly into its next five-year development plan.

Indonesia slams EU for dismissing environmental efforts
—   Kharishar Kahfi et. al., The Jakarta Post, 21 March 2019
Indonesia has responded defensively to a recent European Union proposal to restrict use of palm oil-based biofuels, despite Indonesia’s progress in curbing deforestation and forest fires. Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution called the plan “unfair and discriminative” because palm oil was singled out as the only biofuel feedstock that would be barred from a list of alternatives. “There is no point in history when [one] commodity was restricted while other similar commodities were allowed. This is protectionism supported by flawed scientific data,” Darmin said. The EU plans to phase out crude palm oil as a source of biofuel by 2030. Abundant evidence of deforestation has been raised against palm oil producing countries, prompting the EU’s efforts to phase out the commodity. Darmin said the government had tried to show the EU data on declining deforestation in Indonesia, which was the basis for Norway’s recent decision to deliver its first payment to Indonesia for progress under their Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) scheme.

Indonesia threatens to quit Paris climate deal over palm oil
—  Bernadette Christina Munthe and Fransiska Nangoy, The Jakarta Post, 28 March 2019
A senior Indonesian minister warned that Southeast Asia’s biggest economy could exit the Paris climate deal if the European Union goes ahead with a plan to phase out palm oil in renewable transportation fuel. Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, has lashed out after the EU classified palm oil as a risky crop causing significant deforestation and ruled that its use as a renewable fuel should stop by 2030. Speaking at a palm oil forum, Luhut Pandjaitan, the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs said that the EU “should not underestimate Indonesia” and pledged the government would firmly defend its national interests. Oil palm cultivation is often blamed for deforestation and the destruction of habitats for endangered animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers. Indonesia’s government, however, argues that oil palm requires far less land than comparable edible oil crops such as soy and rapeseed. “If the US and Brazil can leave the climate deal, we should consider that. Why not?” Pandjaitan said.

Palm oil’s complex land conflicts
—    Nabiha Shabab and Dominique Lyons, CIFOR, 13 March 2019
In 2017, Indonesia produced 37.8 million tons of crude palm oil (CPO), exporting 80%, with a value of US$31.8 billion, making it the world’s biggest palm oil producer and exporter. Strong global demand has led to the rapid expansion of plantations. Smallholders account for 40% of palm oil production, but one third do not have proper land tenure permits. In 2017, 70% of the oil palm plantations operating in state-owned forests were controlled by smallholders. Participants in a recent workshop organized by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) agreed that poor governance, poor gazetting of state forest areas; inequality between corporations and big investors and smallholder farmers; and ineffective implementation of government policies and land swaps were key factors contributing to smallholder encroachment. However, they agree that palm oil production does not need to cause deforestation. Hero Komarudin, a CIFOR scientist, called for enhanced governance combined with legalization of existing smallholder plantations in state forests through land amnesty or social forestry schemes, with priority given to those practicing ethical agriculture and working to prevent deforestation.

Conservation & Protected Areas

West Papua province leaps ahead in conservation
—    Olivia Desmit, HumanNature, 25 March 2019
The West Papua government has announced legislation aimed at making the province Indonesia’s first “conservation province.” The announcement that the government will henceforth take steps to ensure that all future economic activity and development will be sustainable came nearly four years after the regional government first announced its intentions, amidst rapid economic development that threatened the area’s magnificent habitats and wildlife. Ninety percent of West Papua’s 120,000 km2 area is still covered by forests, much of which remains unexplored. The Bird’s Head Seascape region is home to more than 1,800 species of fishes and three-fourths of the world’s hard coral species. The objectives of the new legislation include support for sustainable local livelihoods, facilitating economic growth and protecting globally significant biodiversity and ecosystem services, including carbon storage. A key component is the empowerment of Papuans through the protection of natural resource rights.

Bid to protect Borneo’s wild cattle hinges on whether it’s a new species
—    Budi Baskoro, Mongabay, 18 March 2019
At the headwaters of the Belantikan River on the island of Borneo, an organization committed to protecting orangutans is extending its efforts to protect the slightly less charismatic endangered Bornean banteng, a type of wild cattle. Long thought to be a subspecies of the banteng found on Java, Bos javanicus, a growing body of DNA evidence suggests the Bornean banteng may be a separate species – a distinction conservationists hope will earn the animals the attention they need to help ensure their survival. “We’ve been researching them since 2003,” said Eddy Santoso, the Director of the Indonesian Orangutan Foundation. Recent estimates put the total number of wild banteng living in the Belantikan area at no more than 20. If the Bornean banteng is ultimately recognized as a separate species, it would likely be listed as critically endangered, given the small remaining population size and rapidly shrinking habitat. This distinction could help bring new attention and resources to help protect these animals sharing the forest with the Bornean orangutan.


Polluted rivers bring water treatment issues to fore
—    Sausan Atika, The Jakarta Post, 26 March 2019
Although Jakarta has made major strides in infrastructure development over the past few years, an inadequate tap water supply and a lack of proper wastewater treatment facilities show there is still much work to be done. The city administration recorded a significant increase in rivers categorized as heavily polluted in Jakarta from 32% in 2014 to 61% in 2017. Subekti, the President Director of city-owned wastewater treatment firm PAL Jaya, stated that the high pollution conditions were mainly due to untreated wastewater being discharged into rivers. The polluted conditions are not expected to improve if the city does not develop a proper wastewater treatment (IPAL) facility. Jakarta’s sole IPAL, located in Setiabudi, Central Jakarta, can only treat about 2% of the city’s wastewater. The Jakarta Water Resources Agency’s raw water, clean water and wastewater department head, Eko Gumelar, said recently that 10 communal IPAL facilities would be developed this year.

Greener buildings for better future
—    Josa Lukman, The Jakarta Post, 1 April 2019
From their construction to operation, buildings around the globe accounted for 36% of total energy use and 39% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017, according to the 2018 Global Status Report by the United Nations Environment Program. “This is very significant,” Green Building Council Indonesia (GBCI) chairman Iwan Prijanto said in a recent discussion in Jakarta organized by the global Schneider Electric energy management company. “It can be said that the building sector is the largest contributor of emissions, even when compared to the transportation and industry sectors.” It is an arduous task to advocate for greener buildings in Indonesia, a country that is still lacking in the renewable energy department and where the concept of sustainable buildings is not well known. To address the issue, the GBCI introduced a rating system that helps stakeholders know which areas require improvement. Aside from the rating, it also conducts thorough inspections on buildings. All buildings that have met GBCI’s requirements are awarded “Greenship” certification, ranging from bronze to platinum.

UN Environment Assembly adopts five resolutions initiated by Indonesia
—    Martha HS Fardah, Antara News, 21 March 2019
The Fourth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) adopted five resolutions put forward by Indonesia on sustainable production and consumption, sustainable peatland management, mangrove forest preservation, ocean protection, and sustainable coral reef management. "Indonesia initiated five out of the 23 resolutions adopted during the Fourth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly," said Laksmi Dhewanthi, an expert staff member at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The five resolutions will not only respond to environmental challenges but also create an environmental pillar supporting sustainable development. Indonesia plans to promote international cooperation in peatland conservation and restoration. The Indonesian government has been lauded for establishing the Regional Capacity Centre for Clean Seas (RC3S) in Bali and International Tropical Peatland Centre (ITPC) in Bogor.

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