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 – 8: 17 April 2019

Marine & Fisheries

Indonesia, US declare new protected marine areas in North Maluku
—  Ghina Ghaliya, The Jakarta Post, 4 April 2019
Supported by United States of America for International Development (USAID), North Maluku province declared the creation of three new Marine Protected Areas (KKP3K) covering about 226,000 hectares of its seas. The three areas are Sula Island (117,960 ha), Rao Island (65,521 ha) and Makian Island (42,799 ha). North Maluku’s waters provide livelihoods for more than 34,000 households, according to Deputy Governor Natsir Thoib. "The opening of these three new KKP3Ks in North Maluku will certainly help us to achieve sustainable fisheries and food security goals." he said. USAID Indonesia mission director, Erin E. McKee, said USAID Sustainable Ecosystems Advanced (SEA) had supported local administrations in managing 8 million ha of waters in the three provinces. “Through our cooperation in the maritime sector, USAID SEA has supported the government's vision […] to implement better natural-resource governance," McKee said. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry Director-General for Territorial Sea Management Brahmantya Satyamurti said the government and USAID had agreed to work together on 20 million ha of KKP3Ks by 2020.

Empowering fishermen through technology, training
—  Winny Tang, The Jakarta Post, 12 April 2019
The government aims to improve the welfare of Indonesian fishermen through digital technology by collaborating with a start-up technology company amid challenges in the fisheries industry. Through the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, the government has introduced a program that includes training and workshops for at least 1 million fishermen in 300 coastal areas or cities around Indonesia. “The 1-million independent fishermen program is very important and has to be carried out. This includes ship repairs and painting and the dissemination of information regarding the use of FishOn technology,” said Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan. The program is supported by mobile phone-based application FishOn in cooperation with state-owned telecommunications company PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia. The app offers useful features for fishermen, including Fish Finder, which helps them locate their catch easily; Panic Button to send an emergency signal to nearby fishermen for help; and Chat Messenger to send messages to friends or relatives while they are out at sea.

Fishing for votes in Indonesia
—  Iqra Anugrah, New Mandela, 12 March 2019
Fishers’ rights, usually a niche issue, have become a part of the mainstream political discourse nationally and locally. Fishers influence politics by brokering patronage, establishing alliances with supportive local candidates, or running directly in local elections. Fishers’ mobilization power and disruptive actions can lead local policy changes and deepen a form of local democracy that, while limited, works for those who participate in it. However, on a national level, fisherfolk are organizationally fragmented. There are five fishers’ unions: four independent and one legacy union, the All-Indonesia Fishers’ Association (HNSI), formed as a corporatist organization during the New Order era and there are hundreds of fishers’ organizations at the local level. However, fishing communities have yet to act as a unified interest group capable of lobbying for policies that suit their interests. The mostly localized and ad hoc nature of fishers’ political organization reflects the continuing fragmentation of Indonesian civil society, and the limited avenues that lower-class groups have in influencing politics.

With model proven, Indonesia’s Bali Seafood plans new plants
—  Jason Smith, Undercurrent News, 15 April 2019
Bali Seafood, a subsidiary of North Atlantic International, an importer based in the US, officially commissioned a processing plant on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa in April 2018 and shipped its first container of frozen snapper, grouper and tuna to the US three months later. By setting up processing plants with freezing capability out in rural Indonesia closer to where the fishers and fish are, Bali Seafood aims to reduce waste in the supply chain, improve fish quality and boost development in a poor corner of the country.The processor's US exports -- caught by some 400 to 500 artisanal vessels -- are ramping up and so are the company's ambitions. “We hope to absorb 80% of what’s on the island and there’s 800 to 900 boats on the island,” said Jerry Knecht, Bali Seafood founder, adding that as the Sumbawa plant's operations scale up, Bali Seafood plans to work with the government on putting in additional plants in the Indonesian archipelago.

Forestry & Land Use

Indonesia and Malaysia protest against EU palm oil curbs
—    Bernadette Christina Munthe and Philip Blenkinsop, Business Day, 9 April 2019
The leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s two largest palm oil producers, have taken issue with the EU over its decision to no longer consider palm oil as a green fuel. In March, the European Commission determined that palm oil has resulted in excessive deforestation and that it should no longer be considered a renewable transport fuel, albeit with some exemptions. Indonesia and Malaysia have both threatened to challenge the EU’s plan at the World Trade Organization (WTO). “Both our governments view this as a deliberate, calculated and adverse economic and political strategy to remove palm oil from the EU marketplace,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in an April 5th letter to the EU. Indonesia, the world's largest palm oil producer, argues that rather than promoting sustainability in the vegetable oil sector, the regulation is more about protecting and promoting the EU's home-grown vegetable oils, such as rapeseed and sunflower.

RI calls for cut in soybean oil imports
—    The Jakarta Post, 8 April 2019
Indonesia has called on other palm oil producing countries to reduce their imports of rapeseed and other products from Europe, citing the same environmental concerns raised by the European Union (EU) in its campaign to curb palm oil use. The call was made before the States General of the Netherlands by Mahendra Siregar, who was speaking as executive director of the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries, at a meeting on palm oil in The Hague, the Netherlands. “Indonesia, along with other palm oil producing countries, should consider imposing limitations on the imports of rapeseed and other products from Europe that contribute to high levels of CO2 emissions, which include dairy, meat products and wine,” said Mahendra. He argued that the EU’s environmental grounds in campaigning against palm oil were only made to ensure the competitive position of the latter’s home-produced rapeseed, and were hence unjustified and discriminatory.

A spat over palm oil: The Philippines’ patience with Malaysia and Indonesia wears thin
—    Joelyn Chan, ASEAN Today, 16 April 2019
The Philippines consumed approximately 1.3 million metric tons of palm oil in 2017. Despite experiencing no significant increase in demand, the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the nation’s palm oil imports reached a new high in 2018, soaring to 278 million metric tons. Quoting the nation’s Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, palm oil imports from Indonesia and Malaysia have increased by 900% over the last three years. However, there is no corresponding surge in palm oil consumption in recent years. This sudden and drastic increase in volume has raised suspicions of palm oil dumping. This is a serious issue for the Philippines. Palm oil can substitute copra in the manufacturing of cooking oil. Palm oil dumping in Filipino markets is causing excessive supply, driving local copra prices down. Five months after the DA voiced its concerns, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to form a Tripartite Technical Working Group (TWG) to settle the palm oil dumping issue. The group will attempt to determine a healthy level for palm oil imports.

Palm oil, logging firms the usual suspects as Indonesia fires flare anew
—    Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 15 April 2019
Oil palm and logging companies in Indonesia have come into public glare once again as another season of forest fires flares up in Sumatra. Hotspots have been detected in 12 concessions in Sumatra’s Riau province, a perennial tinderbox where huge swaths of the land have been carved up for palm estates and logging areas. Many of these concessions contain areas of peat swamp, which are typically drained ahead of planting, leaving behind a highly combustible layer of mulch that releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide when burned. Rasio Ridho Sani, the enforcement chief at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said his office had sent warning letters to the companies with fires on their concessions, demanding that they take swift action to end the burning. “Of course if we see an indication that [the fires] are continuing and that there’s a crime, we will enforce the law,” Sani said. The government has recorded fires spanning an area the size of 5,000 football fields in Riau since the start of the year.

Energy, Climate Change, & Pollution

Standing for parliament, and against mining in Kalimantan
—    Iqra Anugrah, New Mandela, 17 April 2019
East Kalimantan province, is a major center of various extractive industries, ranging from oil and gas, timber logging, and more recently coal mining and oil palm. Consequently, it has also become one of the major battlegrounds for mining industry-influenced political contestation. In East Kalimantan alone, there are 1,404 mining licenses registered by the provincial government. Leading local politicians, such as Said Amin, and the notoriously corrupt former district head (bupati) of Kutai Kartanegara, Rita Widyasari, to either own or receive kickbacks from mining operations. But in the 2019 election campaign, some Indonesian politicians in Kalimantan are trying to speak out against the excesses of the extractive industries there.In Samarinda, East Kalimantan, Baharuddin Demmu (Bahar is a rare example of an activist-turned-politician who continues to criticize extractive business interests. Checking the excesses of the coal mining industry in the provincial parliament remains hugely difficult, reflecting the continuing dominance of local predatory interests, and the limited influence that rural citizens and their civil society allies have in defending the sustainability of rural livelihoods.

IFC continues financing RI coal mining firms despite ban: Report
—    The Jakarta Post, 16 April 2019
The World Bank’s private-sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has been quietly funding some of Indonesia’s most destructive coal mining companies despite its 2013 virtual ban on coal financing, a report says. The collaborative report by Inclusive Development International, the Bank Information Center Europe and Jakarta-based coal watchdog Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), was released at a policy forum in advance of the World Bank’s 2019 Spring Meeting in Washington, DC. According to the report, the IFC had indirectly bankrolled six major coal mining companies in Indonesia, which it said had decimated rain forests and biodiversity, threatened the country’s food security and displaced thousands of indigenous people from their homes and land. Two of the Indonesian coal companies mentioned in the report are Bumi Resources and Adaro Energy, although both have denied any involvement in the financing schemes. The report argues that “hidden financial flows” are in violation of the IFC’s social and environmental performance standards and are in conflict with the World Bank’s limitation on direct financing for coal.

Weak control big problem in mining sector
—    Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, 5 April 2019
A landslide at an illegal gold mine in North Sulawesi in February that killed at least eight people has revealed a big problem in the mining sector: a lack of supervision. The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, which is in charge of mining, said the officials who were responsible for supervising the site could not carry out their duties because of a lack of funds. Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan said a prevailing law was a significant factor in preventing the officials from doing their jobs optimally. “The inspectorates in charge of mining activities are agencies of the central government, but their operational costs are the responsibility of the provincial administrations. This has hampered their jobs,” Jonan said. The minister was referring to an article in Regional Administration Law No. 23/2014, which transferred the authority to issue mining permits from the regency to provincial administrations in a basic contradiction to the mining law. Jonan said he believed the regulation had put the ministry’s inspectors, of which there are about 1,000 across Indonesia, in uncertainty as they have to wait for the operational funds from the provinces.

Southeast Asia’s energy majors pivot sharply to green power
—    Yohei Muramatsu, Jun Suzuki, and Yuji Ohira, NikkeiAsian Review, 15 April 2019
Southeast Asian energy companies, long dependent on fossil fuels, are rapidly turning to renewable energy to answer the mounting demand for electricity in the fast-developing region. In Indonesia, StarEnergy is looking to capitalize on native geothermal resources, made possible by the more than 100 active volcanoes that dot the island nation. At one project in West Java, steam produced by Mt. Salak passes through a pipeline to rotate power turbines. The only emissions at the plant are the milky white water vapors released by the plant's several chimneys. Indonesia's state-run utility company, PLN, will likewise tap into the country's geothermal potential -- second in the world only to the U.S. -- to ease the domestic energy squeeze. PLN is buying up green power generated by independent players, such as the Sarulla geothermal power plant in Sumatra. An international consortium controlling Sarulla, formed in part by Japanese trading house Itochu and Kyushu Electric Power, signed a 30-year power purchase agreement with PLN.

Conservation & Protected Areas

To rescue Sumatran rhinos, Indonesia starts by counting them
—    Eni Muslihah, Mongabay, 15 April 2019
Indonesian rhino researcher Budiono recorded every sign of living animals in Sumatra’s Way Kambas National Park: from mud pits to scratches on tree trunks to half-eaten leaves on the ground. Each of these might point to an elusive creature: the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). The exercise was part of a bid to obtain more comprehensive information on the size of the rhino population on Sumatra said Indra Eksploitasia, director of biodiversity conservation in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Indonesia is the last place on Earth where wild Sumatran rhinos still roam. “How many of them exactly are in the wild now, we still don’t know for sure,” Eksploitasia said. “That’s one of the things we’re working on to have the actual data.” The rhino monitoring exercise in Way Kambas, in the province of Lampung, was also designed to prepare participants to conduct independent censuses in other rhino habitats, such as in northern Sumatra’s Aceh. “This is part of the government’s efforts to rescue the Sumatran rhinos,” Eksploitasia said.

In Bali, a village hews to unwritten rules to manage its forest
—    Luh De Suriyani, Mongabay, 14 April 2019
Pengotan is a village of around 3,800 on the southern side of Bali’s Mount Batur. Much of the law of the land is informed by customary tradition, the perarem, handed down from previous generations. “Protecting this forest from generation to generation is the norm for us,” Wayan Kopok says. “We rarely see landslides here even though we have all these rock faces.” Cut down one tree and you must replant five in its place. In the rainy season, any replanting is carried out with a greater sense of urgency due to the innate risks of landslips after a downpour. Residents who manage land have to pay a fee to the community, known as an ayahan. Using half a hectare of land, for example, incurs a charge of Rp. 1 million (US$ 71). Sugar palms are prohibited. The gangly trees shoot up and spread a wide parasol, blocking sunlight to the rest of the ecosystem below. Kopok says the customary rules that govern the community’s stewardship of the environment remain an oral tradition, passed on only during village gatherings.


Environment a missing topic as Indonesia election looms
—    Kate Walton, Al Jazeera, 15 April 2019
One-third of Indonesia’s rainforest will disappear by 2020 if nothing is done to reverse the damage caused by logging and oil palm plantations. Despite the threats, the state of the environment has not been a key issue with the country heading to the polls today. "Neither candidate has strong policies on environmental protection," said Ratri Kusumohartono, a forest campaigner with Greenpeace Indonesia. "Both are still pursuing extractive industries as the main source of national income." A new civil society, focusing its attention on young voters, aims to change that. The movement is called Golongan Hutan (Golhut), or Forest Groups. It is the first time that a major, multi-organizational campaign has been developed in Indonesia to hold political candidates accountable for green issues. "This year is a political year, so [Golhut] has strong momentum to focus on important issues like environmental sustainability," said Kusumohartono of Greenpeace which is part of the Golhut coalition. "Through the Golhut campaign, we want to raise awareness on corruption, collusion, and nepotism in the forestry sector."

Plastic Energy to Develop Five Chemical Plastic Recycling Plants in Indonesia
—    Ben Messenger, Waste Management World, 15 April 2019
London based Plastic Energy has reached an agreement with the province of West Java, Indonesia, to build five chemical recycling plants. The MOU signed by the Governor of West Java, Ridwan Kamil, follows campaigns to reduce plastic pollution around Indonesia, a country which is second only to China for leaking plastic into the sea. Plastic Energy has developed a process to convert valueless plastic waste, with a patented low carbon footprint technology, into oils, known as TACOIL, for making new virgin food safe plastics. In addition to the environmental advantages, the development of the five plants is expected to boost local economies as well as establishing a blueprint for a range of waste management solutions. The company explained that the Indonesian government has made addressing the plastic waste issue a priority, with an ambitious commitment to reduce marine plastic debris by 70% by 2025. The waste management industry in Indonesia is still in its early stages of development, and as such infrastructure development still faces a range of challenges.

Gov’t approves Jakarta’s mega projects: Clean water comes first
—    Sausan Atika, The Jakarta Post, 12 April 2019
Having signed off on Jakarta’s 10-year infrastructure plan worth Rp 571 trillion (US$40.35 billion) last month, the central government says clean water and public transportation need to be prioritized. National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, cited nine mega projects, ranging from transportation and public housing to drinking water and sanitation, and flood control. Other than transportation, the city administration is seeking to provide full coverage of clean water supply, to expand the domestic sewerage system to 81% coverage, and allocate Rp 70 trillion to construct projects related to flood mitigation and raw water supply. All the projects are expected to be complete by 2030. Of the nine projects, Bambang said that clean water supply and sanitation should be priorities, as those were basic needs for every Jakarta resident. “First is the necessity to improve basic services, especially in terms of clean water and sanitation. Because there are still Jakartans who have yet to gain access to proper sanitation, let alone clean household water supply,” he said.

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