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 – 12: 12 June 2019

Marine & Fisheries

Opinion: Is Indonesia really the top global tuna exporter?
—  Hendra Sugandhi, The Jakarta Post, 11 June 2019
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti was recently quoted saying that Indonesia is the world’s largest tuna supplier. The statement has gone viral, but data and facts are needed to support such a claim. According to the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) Indonesia is a member to, the IOTC and WCPFC, Indonesia ranked first as a global tuna-catching country from 2011 to 2017. However, data from United Nations Comtrade, International Trade Center, in 2018 shows Thailand is the number one global tuna exporter. Indonesia ranks only ninth. It turns out that Indonesia’s tuna exports only account for 30% of its average production, which is considered low. Whether the data is inaccurate or the quality of our tuna is not fit for export is the work of policymakers. Ironically, although the country’s total tuna catch volume is high, the value of tuna imports in 2018 also increased from previous years. Indonesia definitely is not the world’s largest tuna exporter, but it can be at least among the top three in the next five years if policy changes are put in place to support sustainable tuna resource utilization.

Jokowi’s global maritime fulcrum: 5 more years?
—  Tiola, The Diplomat, 11 June 2019
Early in his presidency in 2014, Jokowi highlighted his vision to turn Indonesia into a global maritime hub, motivated by the idea that the vast archipelago had turned its back on the sea for too long. With Widodo’s second term, immediate questions over whether his concept of the Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) will prevail emerge. On the economic side, at least 19 new ports have been built across Indonesia. Admittedly,the intensity of this maritime development is still significantly less than that of land-based infrastructure. On the military side, the GMF concept has brought minimal changes to the Navy’s role within the Indonesian Military. In the foreign policy realm, Indonesia has also been able to foster deeper relations with major regional players such as India through maritime cooperation. Ultimately, the GMF has translated into some tangible results in economic policies, some costly procurements for the Navy, and a foreign policy that features substantial maritime dimension.However, in the coming second term, it is unclear whether Widodo will continue to commit to these reforms.

Indonesia vs China in a fish fight at sea
—  John McBeth, Asia Times, 1 June 2019
The catch has expanded dramatically, the fish are bigger and new canneries have sprung up all around Indonesia, all apparent signs of a hale and hearty fisheries industry. But Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti continues to fight a constant battle since she banned foreign trawlers from Indonesian waters in arguably one of the most notable achievements of Joko Widodo’s first term as president. Pudjiastuti said she believes up to 80% of the nation’s catch is still exported illegally or offloaded on to foreign, often Chinese-owned, mother ships outside its 200-mile economic exclusion zone (EEZ) – a transshipment practice she wants declared an international crime.Five years after the ban’s enforcement,the Chinese have predictably sought to undercut Indonesia’s actions by using satellite systems that detect water density and direct fishing fleets to biomass concentrations of mainly tuna and tuna-like species before they reach Indonesian waters. It is a picture that raises concerns about sustainability in nearby Indonesia.

Even small-scale fisheries can destroy marine ecosystems
—  Vitaliy Soloviy, Sustainability Times, 9 June 2019
A new study in Nature Communications suggests that while the impact of small-scale fisheries on ocean life has been considered negligible, at a global scale small-scale fisheries catch amounts to millions of tons ever year, often in places of high biodiversity. The authors suggest that we need to direct more attention to how those small-scale fisheries are managed if these hotspots of biodiversity are to continue sustaining thriving local ecosystems. In a featured case, from a decade-long study carried out in the Wakatobi National Park in Indonesia, researchers identified over 500 species of fish caught, many of them long before they had the chance to reproduce.Threats also came from artisanal fish fences, which scientists have revealed often destroy seagrass and corals during installation. In addition, the fences themselves are built using large quantities of mangrove wood, which together leads to ecosystem degradation both on land and in water.

Sharks killed in secretive Indonesian trade
—  David Lipson and Phil Hemingway, ABC News, 7 June 2019
“No one breaks the rules here… when [fishermen] catch sharks in their nets, they release them back to their habitats,” said the chief of the local fisheries cooperative, Darto. A surprise trip to a fish market in Indramayu, West Java however uncovered a lucrative shark trade. Indonesia is believed to kill more sharks than any other nation despite the government’s export ban on some threatened shark species. "Shark fins are still economically lucrative for fishers, especially those whose livelihoods are based on targeting sharks for the shark fin trade," said Vanessa Jaiteh, a researcher on Indonesia shark fisheries.Cutting fins off sharks is not illegal in Indonesia, but the practice of finning them at sea, and throwing their bodies back overboard, is believed to be one of the biggest threats to shark populations. According to Dwi Ariyoga Gautama, from WWF, while industrial scale operations pose a significant threat to shark numbers, it was often smaller unregistered boats that cause the most damage.

Forestry & Land Use

Indonesian ban on clearing new swaths of forest to be made permanent
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 10 June 2019
A provisional moratorium on issuing forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging is expected to be made permanent, Indonesian officials have announced.The moratorium prohibits the conversion of primary natural forests and peatlands for oil palm, pulpwood and logging concessions, and was introduced in 2011 by then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as part of wider efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. It was initially slated to run for two years, but has been extended three times since then, most recently in July 2017 by Yudhoyono’s successor, President Joko Widodo. Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar recently said that when it comes up for renewal again this July, the policy will be made permanent. The move dovetails with the current administration’s development model of reigning in agricultural and forestry expansion and boosting productivity from existing concessions. Activists and environmentalists have welcomed the plan to make the moratorium permanent as a key step toward reducing deforestation and helping Indonesia meet its emissions reductions goals.

How Indonesia turned over a new leaf in forest protection
— Sonny Mumbunan and Edward Davey, The Nation, 11 June 2019
The most recent global survey of tree cover, released by Global Forest Watch, revealed a worrying panorama: the world lost 3.6 million hectares of old-growth rainforest in 2018. But one country stood out as a success story: Indonesia reported a notable reduction in forest loss for the second year in a row. While absolute forest loss remains high (340,000 hectares in 2018), the direction of travel appears unmistakable. Indonesia’s success is in part due to the robust measures President Joko Widodo’s government has put in place, including temporary bans on further expansion of oil palm plantations into forests and peatlands. The government of Indonesia’s Low Carbon Development Initiative (LCDI) – led by National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro – recently found that the country could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 43% by 2030, while still growing its gross domestic product (GDP) 6% per year until 2045. To achieve the ambitious scenario laid out by the LCDI, Indonesia needs to restore 1 million hectares of degraded land to forest every year until 2024.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution 

Opinion: Switching to renewable energies a must in combating climate change

— Benget Besalicto S.T., The Jakarta Post, 10 June 2019
Indonesia cannot deny the fact that the world is growing increasingly aware about the environmental impacts of climate change. Unfortunately, Indonesia is still far below its renewable energy target. According to data from the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, fossil fuels still dominate the national energy mix. Around 43% of the current energy mix is derived from oil fuels, followed by coal (28%), natural gas (22%) and other fossil fuels (0.8%). The World Resource Institute (WRI) ranks Indonesia as the world’s sixth largest producer of carbon emissions at 1.98 billion tons per year; with the country’s energy sector producing the largest share of it. As matters stand at global and national levels, Indonesia has no other choice but to wean itself from its dependence on fossil fuels and start turning to the increased use of renewable energy sources. One of the keys to the increased use and accelerated development of renewable energy sources in the country is to establish a business climate that is conducive to all investors.

Indonesia: A nation rich in unrealized solar energy potential 
—    Solar Magazine, 31 May 2019
Solar energy and Indonesia seem almost ideally suited for each other. However, Indonesia has yet to tap into its abundant solar energy resource potential in any significant way. The Indonesia government has set a target of renewable energy providing 23% of electricity generation by 2025 and 31% by 2050. At present, some 13% of power generation nationwide comes from renewable energy resources, mainly hydroelectric and some geothermal power production, according to government statistics. IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, expects Indonesia’s installed solar power capacity to grow significantly in scale by 2030, driven by initiatives on the part of the government and PLN. IRENA’s outlook is looking overly optimistic, however. As is generally the case among Southeast Asian nations, opening up the power market to independent power producers and distributors takes a back seat to boosting conventional industrial and economic growth and development, including the use of fossil-fuel power generation.

Commentary: Ending coal financing, and jump-starting sustainability
—    Simon Tay and Lau Xin Yi, Business Times, 31 May 2019
All major Singapore banks recently announced that they will stop financing new coal-fired power plants. This is significant in aligning Singapore as a financial hub, but it opens more questions about how sustainability can be jump-started in our rapidly growing region. Coal-fired plant construction in Asia is led by energy-hungry India and China, even as they also ramp up solar, wind and other renewables. Asean countries especially Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are not far behind. While the above steps are notable, it will take more than saying "no" to move Asia towards a low-carbon future. A broader effort to "green" the financial system is needed so that capital is channeled towards sustainable industries, companies and projects. Ending coal financing is only a beginning. The next step will be to provide solar and other low-carbon energy and infrastructure projects with "green" finance in the emerging markets of Asia. Only then can the finance sector help jump-start progress towards a low-carbon economy and sustainable future.

Energy ministry blamed for dirty mining practices
—    The Jakarta Post, 31 May 2019
Mining activists and environmentalists have called for the suspension of Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry operations amid widespread claims of environmental and social damage caused by mining practices. The demand was delivered during a rally in Jakarta to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the Lapindo mudflow incident in Sidoarjo, East Java. The incident, allegedly caused by an oil and gas company’s drilling activities, saw the displacement of more than 10,000 people from four villages. Although years have passed since the incident, activists claimed the ministry had yet to do anything significant to prevent the mining sector from causing further damages, arguing it was guilty of human rights violations across the country and did not comply with sustainability principles. The Network for Mining Advocacy (Jatam) argued suspending the ministry’s operations was necessary to solve problems caused by mining practices, as it would give the government time to make the transition to an economic scheme that benefits people. The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry declined to comment on the activists’ demand.

Conservation & Protected Areas 

The Napoleon wrasse: one of the world’s most endangered coral reef fish 

—    Simon Parry, South China Morning Post, 8 June 2019
A gentle giant of the Indo-Pacific, the magnificent fish is among the world’s biggest reef species. It is a favorite of divers for its vivid coloring, natural curiosity, and the distinctive hump on its head. However, it is also a favorite among moneyed diners in Hong Kong and mainland China. Because the Napoleon wrasse is rare and matures slowly, the rampant trade, in mostly juvenile fish is putting the species in deepening peril. Hong Kong owned-ships export wild-caught Napoleon wrasse out of Indonesia without CITES permits and then do not report their cargos to customs, according to a study led by the University of Hong Kong. In a complex piece of detective work spanning years, the study gathered evidence of the scale of the illegal Napoleon wrasse trade. Although in recent years, Hong Kong’s Customs and Marine Department have increased enforcement and Indonesia has improved control of foreign vessels, there continues to be a failure to crack down fully on lawbreakers participating in the illegal seafood trade.

Without forest, no water, no Dayak 
—    Koen Kusters, Landscape News, 29 May 2019
After having received a village forest permit, the village of Laman Satong in West Kalimantan can now earn money from its forest by selling carbon credits. But it has not gone smoothly. In 2011, with the help of several NGOs, Laman Satong successfully applied for a village forest permit, giving them the legal right to use and manage 1,070 hectares of forest. The community established a village forest committee (LPHD) and developed a carbon credit scheme. However, the community would only receive carbon credits if they could prove that they had maintained the core 400 hectares of the village forest. They couldn’t. For two years in a row, farmers had opened parts of the village forest to cultivate rice or oil palm. As a result, payments were stalled. Only after the farmers were allocated lands outside of the village forest could the LPHD start restoring the opened parts, and resume carbon payments. This shows that maintaining the forest is not an easy task, even with a village forest permit.


ASEAN’s top cocoa bean producers are struggling to cope with increasing demand for chocolate 

—    Hillary Leung, ASEAN Today, 8 June 2019
Indonesia once stood as the third largest cocoa bean exporter in the world after Ghana and the Ivory Coast. But that number has been steadily decreasing since. Now the country is a net importer of cocoa. Several factors contributed to the decline in quality and quantity of cocoa beans in the region. Firstly, most cocoa plantations are owned by smallholders which lack the necessary financial means to maximize production and develop new plantations. In Indonesia, local farmers own more than 95% of the country’s cocoa plantations. Farmers have to contend with ageing cocoa trees, many of which were first planted in the twentieth century. Also, due to the low income from producing cocoa bean, many local farmers have switched to more profitable crops like palm oil. Now, the government is launching a national program to boost cocoa bean production to 600,000 tons by 2024. According to the Indonesian Cocoa Association, such a huge number would be enough to meet local demand and exports.

Choked by smog, Jakarta residents join forces to sue government
—    The Straits Times, 3 June 2019
Fed up with being choked by polluted air in Jakarta, 57 people have joined forces to sue the government over poor air quality in the capital. Grouped under the Capital Advocacy Team and represented by the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), the residents are set to file a citizen lawsuit against the government to the Central Jakarta District Court. LBH Jakarta attorney Ayu Eza Tiara said the lawsuit would be addressed to the President, the Environment and Forestry minister and the governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java provinces. They plan to submit the lawsuit on 18 June. Through the lawsuit, Tiara added, they would like to push the government to take action to address air pollution by creating stricter policies that have a significant impact on reducing air pollution in the capital.According to Greenpeace, aside from the millions of vehicles in the city, poor air quality is also caused by the coal-fired power plants located in neighboring areas. The emissions from power plants are reported to contribute 33-36% of air pollution.

The waste emergency 
—    Rolf Hajek, Inside Indonesia, 11 June 2019
As the world’s fourth most populous country, it is important for this one-trillion-dollar economy to tackle the waste that it accumulates on a daily basis and which, with increasing prosperity, continues to accumulate faster. Overall, the country has implemented quite an extensive legal framework, but enforcement is weak. The ambitious Presidential Regulation No.97/2017, A Roadmap Towards 2025, calls for a 30% waste reduction and for a maximum of 30% of the country’s waste to end up in landfill. Numbers vary, but currently Jakarta leads with a recycling rate of a meagre 7.5%, while other areas average at 2-3%. The Indonesian government was set to release new a regulation applying ‘extended producer responsibility’ (EPR) by the end of 2018, but delayed the process due to the 2019 presidential elections. EPR is often seen as a magic solution, but these efforts need to be concerted and streamlined in order to achieve the desired impact. Indonesia has a general EPR policy in place, but more specialist management and strategic planning are still very much needed.

Indonesia to re-export illegal plastic waste 
—    Virna P.S and Yashinta Difa P, Antara News, 10 June 2019
Indonesia will re-export illegal plastic waste entering the country, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said, following news of the illegal import of plastic waste in Gresik, East Java. "The waste that enters Indonesia, which has plastic, is definitely not legal. And…therefore we will perform a re-export," Nurbaya said. The import of illegal plastic waste is not a new problem. From 2015 to 2016, Indonesia re-exported dozens of containers of plastic waste. In 2018, data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) showed an increase of 141% in imports of plastic waste in Indonesia. This figure was the highest for imports of plastic waste in the past 10 years. Environmental activist, Mochamad Adi Septiono, explained that Indonesia should anticipate the impact of China's National Sword policy, which strictly limits the import of plastic waste. "The garbage produced by countries such as America is usually sent to China, now that China has implemented its policy, ASEAN countries, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, are being targeted," he said.

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