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 – 10: 15 May 2019

Marine & Fisheries

Indonesia's war on illegal fishing back in the headlines
—  Prashanth Parameswaran, The Diplomat, 9 May 2019
Indonesia has sunk another round of vessels deemed to be illegally fishing within the country’s waters. While Indonesia’s war on illegal fishing has consisted of a range of economic, legal, and diplomatic efforts at home and abroad, media attention has unsurprisingly focused on the seizure and sinking of foreign fishing vessels, a campaign that was initially conducted in a high-profile fashion to maximize its deterrent effect. In 2018, the Ministry sunk 125 vessels, a majority of which were from Vietnam. Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti said an additional 51 foreign ships were sunk on 4 May at five ports across Indonesia. The minister reiterated her view that sinking foreign fishing vessels continued to serve as the best possible deterrent to address illegal fishing, noting both the relative reduction in the number of vessels that had been seen in Indonesian waters since the policy was initiated as well as the increase in the volume of fish catches for small fishermen.

Live mangrove crabs from Maluku in high demand in Singapore and Malaysia
—  Eliswan Azly, Antara News, 4 May 2019
There has been a growing demand for live mangrove crabs exported directly from Maluku to consumers in Singapore and Malaysia following an initial export of 1.1 tons of live crabs in January 2019. According to the head of the Maluku Trade and Industry Agency, Elvis Patiselanno, direct export of live mangrove crabs from Maluku is a strategic breakthrough for regional economic development. Previously, crab exports were routed through Makassar, South Sulawesi or Surabaya, East Java. Patiselanno said the current push for direct export of mangrove crabs and tuna was the result of the inauguration of the Maluku Provincial Export Improvement Team on November 8, 2018. The new team implemented an integrated export collective agreement known as “service 24/7” in which all parties agreed to provide 24-hours-per-day, seven-days-per-week service to buyers’ destination-country. Patiselanno added that buyers in China are also interested in the live mangrove crabs from Maluku, but exporters were still sorting out documentation issues.

ASC, Fair Trade USA win $500,000 grant to improve Indonesian aquaculture
—  Undercurrent News, 9 May 2019
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and Fair Trade USA will work to improve conditions in Indonesia's aquaculture sector, the groups said. The $500,000 effort, funded by the Walton Family Foundation, will involve the groups sharing "access, knowledge and experience" in collaboration with the Indonesian government to provide benefits to the country's aquaculture producers. “Improving fish farming practices in Indonesia will have a significant and positive impact on our mission to improve standards of aquaculture around the world,” the ASC's lead representative for the project, Roy van Daatselaar, said. “Collaboration is an integral part of the ASC program. This project will draw on the complementary strengths of our two organizations to bring lasting benefit to the local community through initiatives that will lead to better outcomes for the environment and those that work on, and live near, the participating farms."

KKP, Association of Fisheries promote sustainable tuna industry
—  M. Razi and Azis Kurmala, Antara News, 7 May 2019
The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) is working with the Indonesian Pole & Line and Handline Fisheries Association (AP2HI) to promote Indonesia’s sustainable tuna industry. “As the largest tuna producing country in the world, we are committed to developing the tuna industry in sustainable and responsible ways," KKP Secretary General Nilanto Perbowo said. Indonesia is currently recognized as the biggest tuna fish producer in the world. The volume of skipjack and yellowfin tuna caught using the pole-and-line and handline methods is estimated to be more than 100,000 tons per year. Abdi Suhufan, Indonesia's Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) Coordinator, said consumers in export destination countries such as America and Japan had previously been very concerned about tuna traceability in Indonesia. He pointed out that local governments in tuna-exporting regions of eastern Indonesia, such as Maluku, had been urged to support the development of small fishers as they are the main actors of the tuna industry.

New data show shark finning ‘virtually eliminated’ in the PNA tuna fishery
—  Neil Ramsden, Undercurrent News, 14 May 2019
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), recently under fire from the On the Hook campaign for reportedly certifying skipjack and yellowfin tuna fisheries where shark finning takes place, released a new report showing a decline in the number of shark finning incidents within the certified Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) purse seine fishery from 266 incidents in 2013 to 3 in 2017, a reduction of 99%. A total of 5 incidents of shark finning were reported for certified and non-certified catches in 2017 within nearly 10,000 monitored sets — an incidence rate of 0.05%. MSC had commissioned Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management to research shark finning in tropical tuna fisheries participating in the MSC program. The data sets were collected by independent observers who joined every tuna fishing trip in the region. “While any shark finning is deeply regrettable, these new data confirm the previously reported downward trends in shark finning incidents in the PNA fishery," said Francis Neat, head of strategic research at the MSC.

MSC, Pacifical boss note elevated price of certified tuna
—  Neil Ramsden, Undercurrent News, 8 May 2018
Retail prices for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified tuna are heavily inflated at present on the Dutch market, according to Henk Brus, managing director of Pacifical. The premium prices for certified tuna products have conditioned consumers to avoid cans with the blue tick label, he added. Brus, whose company deals only with 100% MSC certified tuna, presented data showing that a can of MSC certified tuna (skipjack chunks in brine) is priced 127% higher in the Netherlands than the very lowest-price, non-MSC comparable product. Mitsubishi Corp.-owned Princes group charges 44% more for its MSC product than for its non-MSC equivalent, and Thai Union Group-controlled John West charges 35% more for its MSC cans. In terms of real actual costs, however, the MSC product should be only 7% more per can, not 35%, 44% or 127%, according to Pacifical data. “Currently, MSC certified tuna prices are inflated due to a relatively limited quantity of MSC certified sources and high market demand,” according to Nicholas Guichoux, MSC Chief Program Officer. MSC research showed consumers were willing to pay an additional 5-15% for seafood with the MSC label, Guichoux added.

Forestry & Land Use

Indonesia’s new capital plan threatens forests in Borneo
—    Kharishar Kahfi and Marguerite Afra Sapiie, The Jakarta Post, 10 May 2019
President Joko Widodo concluded a two-day journey to different cities in Kalimantan in search of options to set up a new capital following a decision to move ahead with plans to create a new administrative hub away from overcrowded Jakarta. Upon completing the city-hopping trip across the island, the President seemed impressed with two locations: Bukit Soeharto in East Kalimantan and the Triangle Area near Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan. However, these two options raised concerns among environmentalists. “Most land in Kalimantan is peatland. They might need to do preliminary work, like digging and solidifying the peatland, before starting to construct infrastructure for the new capital,” Dwi Sawung of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Wahli) said. Such changes to the peatland, he added, could threaten existing carbon reserves and worsen global warming, despite the government’s attempts to mitigate climate change. Massive land clearing around the site of the new capital could exacerbate the situation.

Capital city relocation must not affect forests: Bappenas
—    Caesar Akbar, Tempo English, 6 May 2019
National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) Chief Bambang Brodjonegoro said the planned relocation of the country's capital city would not affect forests, and that the new capital would adopt a green city design. “For sure, we want the move not to affect the environment, which is why we are looking for locations near existing cities,” said Brodjonegoro at the Presidential Staff office in Jakarta. The Indonesian government has yet to unveil the exact location of Jakarta’s replacement and maintains that the location must be “legally available so as to minimize land procurement costs and land disputes,” he said. Other than land availability, Bappenas underscored the government must avert social conflict by, among them, opting for a location whose locals were open to new cultures. Another element is that the new capital must be free from natural disaster risks. The State Land Agency (BPN) head previously confirmed that the new capital city would be built over a 300,000-hectare state-owned land plot for cost efficiency reasons.

Indonesia sees drop in hotspots due to peatland restoration
—    Vanessa Lim, ChannelNewsAsia, 2 May 2019
Following restoration efforts, the number of peatlands forest fire has dropped by 93% since 2015. In 2016, Indonesia launched an initiative to restore peatlands as part of efforts to tackle forest fires that had caused one of the region's worst haze crisis the previous year. While forest fires occur annually due to the clearing of land for commercial agriculture, the 2015 fires were exacerbated by the draining of peat forests. Nazir Foead, the head of Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency, said that about 679,000 ha or 65% of the damaged peatlands on government land earmarked for restoration had been re-wetted. The agency had announced a target of restoring about 2.5 million ha of damaged peatlands by 2020. Of that total, 40% is located on government land while the rest is in the hands of concession holders, such as plantation companies. Mr. Nazir did not provide any figures on the restoration of damaged peatlands on concession areas to date, but said there has been "some progress".

Energy, Climate Change, & Pollution

With sea levels rising, why don’t more Indonesians believe in human-caused climate change?
—    Leta Dickinson, Grist, 10 May 2019
Are humans to blame for climate change? 97% of climate scientists say yes. But if you ask Indonesians, a whopping 18% would say no, a new survey from YouGov and the University of Cambridge reveals. Of the 23 countries surveyed, Indonesia had the biggest percentage of climate deniers, followed by Saudi Arabia (16%) and the US (13%). Indonesia has a lot to lose to climate change. The capital city, Jakarta, is likely to be underwater by 2050 due to a combination of rising sea levels and aquifer overuse. Indonesia is the fifth largest carbon emitting country in the world, largely due to deforestation. As Indonesia’s middle class quickly expands, its cities are becoming increasingly dependent on cars to get around. In the next decade, energy is expected to overtake deforestation as Indonesia’s leading source of carbon emissions. Indonesia had promised to reduce carbon emissions by 29% by 2030 in accordance with its national commitment with the Paris climate accord, but it has done little to reach this goal.

Solar power in Indonesia: Designed to Fail
—    John Thomas, The Asean Post, 27 April 2019
Indonesia is the biggest energy consumer in ASEAN, and energy demand in the archipelagic country is growing rapidly. But notwithstanding plans to convert 23% of its total energy supply to renewables by 2025, and 31% by 2050, the country’s dependence on fossil fuels has continued to increase. A report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) last February titled ‘‘Indonesia’s Solar Policies: Designed to Fail?’ concluded that the country’s policies are obstacles to the wider introduction of solar energy. “In spite of abundant solar resources, the government continues to institute policies that serve as barriers to scaling up commercial and residential adoption of solar,” said Elrika Hamdi, IEEFA energy finance analyst and author of the report.  Not only is the state-owned electric power monopoly PLN “plagued by an inflexible and high-cost coal program that burdens the system with grid development challenges,” investors find it difficult to see the financial benefits of installing rooftop solar systems due to regulations.

Shell pursuing $1 billion exist from Indonesia LNG project
—    Ron Bousso, Reuters, 3 May 2019
Royal Dutch Shell is moving to sell its stake in Indonesia’s US$15 billion Abadi liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, industry and banking sources said. Construction was originally due to start in 2018, but was delayed until at least 2020 after Indonesian authorities decided to switch the project from an offshore to an onshore facility.Dwi Soetjipto, chairman of Indonesian oil and gas task force SKK Migas, said in March that the government had not approved the revised development plan. Shell sees LNG as a central pillar of the world’s transition to lower carbon energy in the coming decades. The super-chilled fuel allows easier transportation of natural gas, the least polluting fossil fuel, but is relatively expensive to develop. Shell’s decision to pull out of the Abadi project operated by Japanese oil and gas firm Inpex Corp (which holds the remaining stake), highlights the difficulty Southeast Asia’s largest economy has had in attracting energy investment. Shell, Inpex and an official with Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources all declined to comment.

ADB funds $305 million for largest combined-cycle power plant in Indonesia
—    ET Energyworld, 29 April 2019
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has announced the first drawdown of funds under a private sector financing package totaling over $305 million invested in Jawa-1, Indonesia’s largest combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant. “This project will support the country’s efforts to strengthen the liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply chain and increase energy security, while helping to reduce power generation costs,” said Michael Barrow, Director General for ADB's Private Sector Operations Department. The project comprises a 1,760-Mw CCGT power plant and ancillary infrastructure in Cilamaya, Karawang, West Java. CGCT plants utilize both a gas and a steam turbine to generate more electric power from the same amount of fuel. Jawa-1 will be one of the first and largest projects in Indonesia using LNG, demonstrating the government’s commitment to reducing dependency on coal and diesel fuel in favor of cleaner domestic energy sources such as natural gas. The CCGT power plant will supply energy to PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), Indonesia's national power utility.

Indonesia’s coal price dips nearly 8%
—    Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, 9 May 2019
The Indonesian coal price reference (HBA) has continued to decline this month due to shrinking market demand to US$81.86 per ton, or a month-to-month decrease of 7.86%. Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) Ministry spokesperson Agung Pribadi said that East and West Asian countries, especially China and India, were currently limiting their Indonesian coal imports. “China and India have started to reduce their coal imports from Indonesia. The countries launched a protection policy and have increased domestic coal production to fulfill [local] demands,” Agung said in a statement. The Energy Ministry had observed a declining trend in Indonesia’s coal price since October 2018, when coal was $100.89 per ton. The price then fell to $97.90 per ton in November and $92.51 per ton in December. That negative trend continued this year, despite the fact that the government’s continued target for national coal production remained close to the actual output level in 2018 of 485 million tons, of which 25% was for domestic market obligation.

PTBA to complete gasification study soon
—  Riska Rahman, The Jakarta Post, 15 May 2019
Publicly listed coal miner PT Bukit Asam (PTBA) will complete feasibility studies for its coal gasification project in Sumatra in May. Following PTBA’s plan to build two coal gasification plants in Sumatra, company president director Arviyan Arifin said he expected the studies to be completed by the end of the month. The plants, to be located in Peranap, Riau and Muara Enim, South Sumatra, will enable the coal miner to produce coal derivative products dimethyl ether (DME), synthetic natural gas (SNG), urea and polypropylene. Aside from building coal gasification plants, PTBA is also eyeing to expand its coal mine. Arifin said the company was seeking to acquire new coal mines that produced high-calorie coal this year. Although he declined to specify the size of the mines, he said his company was looking outside of Sumatra. He said “[the mines] could be located in Kalimantan or even outside of the country,” noting that an acquisition was necessary for the company to fulfill its mandate of increasing the country’s coal reserves.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Government defends authority over Komodo Park
—    Imanuddin Razak, The Jakarta Post, 6 May 2019
Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has stated that while all interested stakeholders are welcome to cooperate in the preservation of national parks, the central government will maintain its authority over the management of these protected areas. The minister’s statement followed a proposal from East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) governor Viktor B. Laiskodat to the Environment and Forestry Ministry to hand over the development rights for Komodo National Park to the regional administration. Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) executive director Nur Hidayati said the government should not maintain a rigid approach to national park management. “By law, it is the central government’s authority to manage conservation areas, such as Komodo National Park. But it is perhaps time to adopt a co-management system there, involving the local administration and people living in the national park itself,” she said.

Ministry adopts new “Essential Ecosystem Area” designation for use outside protected areas
—    Edi Purwanto, The Jakarta Post, 13 May 2019
Land in Indonesia is divided into two main categories: forest areas and non-forest areas for other uses (APL). A forest area includes conservation forest, protection forest, as well as, limited and permanent production forests, while APL land is mostly designated for agriculture and human settlements. These designations, however, do not necessarily match actual land use on the ground. Some APL land is forested, while much of the forest estate has been highly degraded with little or no forest cover remaining. Much of the country’s unique biodiversity is found outside protected areas. For example, about 75% of orangutans in the wild live outside of areas that are designated for conservation. Recognizing this mismatch, the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry has introduced a new category of conservation areas called Essential Ecosystem Areas (KEE). This designation aims to conserve forests that are located outside of national parks, wildlife reserves and game ranching parks. KEEs may cover areas classified as production forests, watershed protection forests and non-state APL.

Bigger catches for fishing villages that protect mangrove forests
—  Aseanty Pahlevi, Mongabay, 3 May 2019
For years, weak law enforcement and low public awareness meant environmentally dangerous practices were commonly employed in global fisheries. In Kalimantan Barat, fishermen often bombed, poisoned and netted catches indiscriminately, mangrove forests were ripped up for aquaculture, and much of the tree cover inland converted to plantations. But local and national government reforms, combined with customary traditions and ambitious NGO programs, are beginning to address the problem. In Sungai Nibung, some seven km2of the Nibung River has been closed seasonally for fishing with stocks of crabs quickly replenishing after a brief moratorium. The result is not only a jump in overall catch volume, but also a reported increase in the weight of individual crabs caught. The recovery in Sungai Nibung isn’t happening entirely in isolation in Indonesia. In Kaimana district, for example, on the southern coast of West Papua province, a community employs similar temporary closures to protect sea cucumbers.

Power plant threatens life of Tapanuli orangutans
—    Dewi Elvia Muthiariny, Tempo English, 2 May 2019
The Foundation for Sustainable Ecosystems (Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari- YEL) has raised concerns that dam construction threatens the lives of the orangutans in Tapanuli, North Sumatra. The construction is part of the Batang Toru hydropower plant (PLTA) project. YEL manager Burhanuddin said the Rp 21 trillion (US$ 1.4 billion) project threatens critical ecosystems. According to Burhanuddin, the construction of the 510 megawatt-capacity plant will sever a migration corridor used by rare species to migrate. This could threaten the entire population of 800 Tapanuli orangutans, a recently described new species and the rarest of the Great Apes. The senior environment advisor of PT NSHE, Dr. Agus Djoko Ismanto, noted that “the strategic national project of PLTA Batang Toru that aims to support new renewable energy to reduce carbon emission has undergone intensive, scientific, and professional study."

Biological extinction getting faster
 Kompas, 9 May 2019
Protection of species in Indonesia faces serious challenges. According to a new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), some flora and fauna species in Indonesia are going extinct faster than the global average. This is being triggered by the elimination of natural forests and the spread of animal hunting. Insects in particular are experiencing a very high extinction rate. “My estimation is that 30 to 40% of insect species in Indonesia are headed for extinction and 70% on Java. The extinction rate is increasing rapidly because of changes in the ecosystem,” said Prof. Rosichon Ubaidilah, an insect expert at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. In a number of areas, including Jambi, Riau and Bandar Lampung, several species are threatened with extinction. The Harimau Kita Forum noted that since 2015 the Sumatran tiger was declared extinct in six of 33 habitat pockets.


Has Jokowi kept his development promises?
—    Nithin Coca, Devex, 16 April 2019
Joko Widodo ran for election in 2014 on bold promises of development. While some progress has been made, several campaign promises have gone unfulfilled, raising questions about Jokowi's second term. Promises kept include: 1. Tackling Illegal Fishing for which Ministry Susi Pudjiastuti earned praise from the international community, including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Environmental Defense Fund; 2. Land Reform where progress under social forestry programs includes the issuance of 9 million land certificates, empowering communities to manage land collectively; and 3. Health Care with Indonesia now possessing the largest single payer health insurance system in the world. Those promises unfulfilled include: 1. Human Rights illustrated by the worsening situation in Papua and an escalation in the war on drugs; 2. Forestry and Palm Oil Plantations highlighted by fires that made Indonesia a top greenhouse gas emitter, and the stalled but critical One Map initiative; and 3. Corruption and support for the Corruption Eradication Commission, evidenced by the halt in Indonesia’s climb up Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

Is Australia to blame for Indonesia’s plastic waste problem?
— Adi Renaldi, Vice, 26 April 2019
For years, Indonesia has been getting a bad reputation for being the world's second-largest plastic producer just behind China. But Indonesians may not be the only ones to blame for all the trash in the country after all. Its neighbor down under, according to a new study, is partly responsible. For the study, Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation (Ecoton), an environmental NGO, examined the toxicity levels of 22 paper factories located along the Brantas river in East Java. Due to a shortage of raw materials, many of these factories began importing recycled paper from Australia. According to Ecoton’s findings, the country exported 52 thousand tons of waste to Indonesia in 2018 alone. Now, environmental activists suspect that Australia also purposefully slipped in thousands of tons of plastic waste in between stacks of paper it sent over. In their investigation, Ecoton found various types of household plastic waste, including diapers, plastic bags, plastic wrap, and plastic bottles, in the paper containers at one factory in East Java. Some of the waste products even bear the label "Made in Australia."

New waste import policy in works
— Kharishar Kahfi and Rachmadea Aisyah, The Jakarta Post, 14 May 2019
Amid increasing calls for tougher regulations on waste imports, Indonesia’s Trade Ministry says it is working on a revision to its 2016 regulation on non-hazardous waste imports. “A more detailed verification by an independent surveyor team should be done to prevent unneeded waste from coming into our country,” Trade Ministry secretary-general Karyanto Suprih said. The current regulation already includes a provision requiring all non-hazardous waste to be verified by an independent surveyor before being imported, but environmental groups have argued the regulation has a loophole which classifies only plastic, textile and other materials as Category B waste that is required to secure a recommendation from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and undergo further inspection before importation. Meanwhile, scrap metal and waste paper fall into Category A waste, which does not require inspection prior and during import. This loophole has been used to import hazardous plastic waste, with exporters reportedly slipping non-recyclable plastic waste into the imported package.

Widodo will go all out in second term to boost economic return
—  Fransiska Nangoy, Reuters, 9 May 2019
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has pledged to slim the government during his second term and cut red tape hampering investment to achieve some ambitious growth targets in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy by 2045. “The slimmer our organization, the faster we can run, the more flexibly we can decide on policies,” Widodo said, vowing to axe government agencies that do not contribute to growth. In a speech that voiced frustration at Indonesia’s tortuous bureaucracy, Widodo also said he would also focus on adding infrastructure and improving human resources. Widodo is now expected to pursue bolder economic reforms in his second term, which runs until 2024, making significant improvements in the investment climate. However, analysts question whether he will be prepared to take on powerful vested interests and shake up a huge bureaucracy that often manages to blunt reform efforts. Nevertheless, Widodo warned government agencies they could not stick to business as usual, at the risk of missing the 2045 target and trapping Indonesia as a middle-income country.

Government seeks to resolve waste issues with new technology
— Sausan Atika, The Jakarta Post, 15 May 2019
The government has launched a technology-based pilot project to cleanup rivers in Jakarta in a bid to reduce plastic waste. The system centers around a floating garbage-collection machine stationed on the north side of the Cikarang River’s drainage basin in Kapuk Muara, Penjaringan district in North Jakarta. The waste-management program is based on a cooperation agreement between the central government and the Dutch government. The machine, bought from the Netherlands for 300,000 euro (US$337,000), collects waste in a river and contains it in a bag that can be disposed of at a dump. It has a collection capacity of 30 tons of trash per day. The amount is relatively small compared to the more than 400 tons of daily waste that ends up in Jakarta Bay. The government has assigned the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) to develop similar equipment for broader use. Despite having the new technology, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan acknowledged that other means were still needed to tackle the capital’s persistent waste problems.

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