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 – 13: 26 June 2019

Marine & Fisheries

Commentary: Empowering women to protect our oceans, future
—  Susi Pudjiastuti, The Jakarta Post, 13 June 2019
Billions of people around the world depend on the fresh food and livelihoods provided by healthy oceans. In fisheries, one in two seafood workers is a woman. Yet, women are largely concentrated in low-skilled, low-paid, seasonal jobs without health, safety and workers’ rights protections. In Indonesia, it’s fair to say that the work of women represents half the catch in the fisheries sector, currently valued at over US$18 billion annually. Yet, growing up, we know the people who bring us our fish as “fishermen.” Don’t women go out to sea to fish as well? And what happens after the fish is caught? In our country, small-scale fisherwomen are still undermined and marginalized as they are fighting to be acknowledged as fishers, rather than as fish workers. As the world’s second-largest producer of capture fisheries, Indonesia’s fisheries industry is a key pillar of our economy and food security. Closing the gender gap will enhance women’s economic empowerment, strengthen Indonesia’s leadership in sustainable fisheries and drive economic development.

Coral reefs are facing extinction
—  Liyana Hasnan, The ASEAN Post, 15 June 2019
There are 5.1 million hectares of coral reefs in Indonesia, of which 65% face extinction due to destructive fishing practices. Protecting marine life and reefs indirectly protects fish. If coral reefs die, so do fish. Scientists have predicted 90% of coral reefs will be extinct by 2030. The United Nation (UN) Environment and its partners have promoted the implementation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to revive the biodiversity of reefs and to secure fish populations, ensuring wide-ranging benefits to people and societies. MPAs are helping the coasts, estuaries and seas in many ASEAN countries, however, questions have been raised on the selection of areas and whether quotas are filled to achieve targets of conservation benefits. MPAs are central in efforts to protect the world’s sea life and biodiverse habitats. But, small teams of rangers and managers are understaffed, poorly equipped, and lack basic information on damaging activities that are taking place.To be more effective, MPAs needs strong governance that promotes a sense of stewardship to demonstrate social, economic and environmental benefits for communities.

Indonesia’s reef fishes in good shape
—  Asian Scientist Magazine, 18 June 2019
A research team in Indonesia has estimated the natural stock of reef fishes from three regencies in the lesser Sunda-Banda Seascape to fill gaps in knowledge of species composition and biodiversity. Their findings are published in the IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science. Using an underwater visual census method, the team recorded a total of 176 species belonging to 19 families of economically important reef fishes. Based on both abundance and biomass values, the researchers found that the highest estimated stock is located in the Southwest Maluku regency of Indonesia, followed by the Alor regency and the East Flores regency. In addition, the community structure of fish in the three regencies is still in a relatively good condition.

Forestry & Land Use 

Palm oil giants unite to tackle human rights challenges in Indonesia

— Zafirah Zein, Eco-Business, 21 June 2019
Until a few years ago, human rights issues in the palm oil industry have received scant media attention, despite the fact that the sector depends on low-wage, back-breaking work to produce one of the world’s major commodities. In Indonesia, more than 8 million people are employed in the sector, with many more unaccounted for. In 2016, multiple advocacy campaigns exposed human rights issues on palm oil plantations in Indonesia, which included job insecurity for casual workers, unethically low wages, poor health and safety conditions and cases of forced and child labor. In a major collaborative effort to address persistent labor rights issues, five industry giants have jointly announced two new pilot projects that seek to change practices around casual labor and improve conditions for women workers. The first pilot project addresses casual labor and will launch in West Kalimantan, targeting smaller palm oil plantations. The second pilot project aims to improve gender equality in the palm oil industry by enhancing the role of gender committees on palm oil estates.

Pineapples and peatland
— Sandra Cordon, CIFOR, 14 June 2019
Sowing 10,000 pineapple plants is not everyone’s idea of a good time. But for Meri Andayani and her friends, the opportunity to grow, harvest and sell their own produce is a dream come true. And that dream includes greater prosperity as these women work to restore and revive a piece of Indonesia’s peatlands. The project was conceived in the aftermath of Indonesia’s devastating 2015 wildfires. Having drawn up action arenas, the community restores the landscapes to produce a variety of crops, liberica coffee, rubber, coconuts, fish, as well as pineapple. Although growing crops and livelihoods is important, at the core of the entire project is raising awareness of the value of fire-free peatlands restoration work. “This is a real experience of what happens when you don’t burn… and on understanding the market situation and improving the community’s livelihoods,” adds Purnomo, whose project partners include the University of Riau. The intention is to scale-up the project to regional and national levels, supported by guidelines this project will help to establish.

Indonesia to restore 200,000 ha of peatland this year
— Fransiska Nangoy, Reuters, 19 June 2019
Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency recently said that it aims to restore 200,000 hectares (ha) of peatland in 2019, as it races to reach a 1 million ha restoration target by the end of next year. The agency was set up in 2016 to restore carbon-rich peatland damaged by fires in seven provinces on Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua islands in 2015. From 2016-2018, the agency restored around 679,000 ha of peatland, Nazir Foead, head of the Peat Restoration Agency, said. "If we can improve the peat condition during the rainy season the risk of flooding can be reduced, and in the dry season, the peat can release water which will reduce the risk of forest fire," he said. In addition to its own restoration target, the agency is also supervising the restoration of up to 1.6 million ha of degraded peatland, a project being undertaken by plantation and forestry companies on the orders of the government, Foead said. By the end of May, those companies had restored 258,695 ha of peat area.

‘Too many’ maps slow return of Indonesia’s indigenous land
— Rina Chandran, Reuters, 13 June 2019
A pledge by Indonesia to hand back control of customary forests to indigenous people is being hampered by overlapping land claims for mines, plantations, forests and public land in the country, a senior government official said.Indonesian President Joko Widodo had vowed to return 12.7 million hectares of land to indigenous people following a historic 2013 court ruling to lift state control of customary forests. Rights to about 1.9 million ha of forest land had been handed over by 2017, but land rights activists said the process was slow, and the government had refused to recognize a map of customary land prepared by indigenous rights group AMAN. “There are too many maps - we have 85 thematic maps for forestry, mining, plantations, customary forests, etc.,” said Prabianto Mukti Wibowo, assistant deputy minister for forest governance in the Environment Ministry. “We need to reconcile them all before settling a claim. We are also trying to reconcile AMAN’s map, but there are some discrepancies, and we have to consider them carefully,” he added.

Energy, Climate Change, & Pollution 

Private sector to challenge EU biofuel ban

— Rachmadea Aisyah, The Jakarta Post, 15 June 2019
Palm oil producers support the government’s efforts to challenge the European Union’s latest decision to completely phase out the consumption of palm oil, which the EU has classified as a high-risk vegetable oil, by 2030. In addition to filing a separate legal suit, palm oil producers will provide funds for the government to oppose the EU’s move. Under the regulation, palm oil is the only commodity singled out for having a high risk of causing deforestation based on indirect land use change (ILUC) risks, which are calculated on the basis of agricultural land previously destined for food but converted to biofuel production. In a statement issued in April, the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) questioned whether political and economic protectionism, rather than science-based decisions, were the true drivers of the Delegated Act, which the CPOPC called in its statement “a calculated and adverse economic and political strategy to remove palm oil from the EU marketplace”.

UK grants Indonesia $16.3 million for renewable energy
— The Jakarta Post, 19 June 2019
The United Kingdom has granted Indonesia US$16.3 million to finance a plan to involve provincial administrations in developing renewable energy across the nation. The grant will finance the Indonesian government’s Low Carbon Development Initiative (LCDI) to improve efforts to reduce carbon emissions and help the country reap the benefits of renewable energy. The initiative will help provincial administrations formulate plans on renewable energy through technical support, such as policy planning assistance and funding. National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said that, so far, only Central Java, West Java and South Sulawesi had joined the initiative. “The next step is to encourage more provincial administrations to join,” Bambang said.  Under the agreement, the two governments will cooperate on several things, such as increasing agricultural productivity, reducing deforestation, improving sustainable energy and lowering pollution. “The initiatives are our effort to boost economic growth while at the same time [preventing] environmental degradation,” Bambang said.

Indonesia to charge higher coal mining royalties
— Fransiska Nangoy and Bernadette Christina, Reuters, 20 June 2019
Indonesia’s Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry has proposed revising regulations governing mining rights to include higher royalty payments and earlier applications for permit extensions. Under the proposals, royalties on coal sales to the central government would rise to 15% from 13.5%, Bambang Gatot Ariyono, the ministry’s Director General of Coal and Minerals, told parliament on Thursday. The change in the royalty rate would be imposed when coal miners shift from so-called contracts of work to special mining permits which is required under the 2009 mining law. The change in the mining rules would increase the government’s share of coal mining revenue to 79% from around 68% currently, Ariyono said. “The holders of coal contracts of work can have permit extensions without going through a bidding process, if they agree on better state revenue,” Ariyono said. The ministry is also revising mining rules to allow miners to submit for a mining permit extension within five years before it expires, up from two years currently.

Inpex signs deal for development of Masela Block
— Rachmadea Aisyah and Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, 17 June 2019
The Indonesian government and Japanese oil and gas giant Inpex have signed a basic agreement on the development of the Abadi gas field in the Masela Block in eastern Indonesia, paving the way for the commencement of project estimated to be worth between US$18 billion and $20 billion. The head of agreement (HoA) was signed by Upstream Oil and Gas Regulatory Task Force chief (SKKMigas) Dwi Soetjipto and Inpex Indonesia president Shunichiro Sugaya on the sidelines of the G20 energy and environment ministers summit. Separately, Soetjipto said the HoA signing was an important milestone in the development of upstream oil and gas operations in Indonesia. The development of gas blocks, in particular, have become more important as the commodity has become the sole stronghold in Indonesia’s oil and gas trade balance. “With the development of the Masela Block, we expect to see a huge inflow of foreign investment [...] and a multiplier effect on [the block’s] supporting and derivative industries domestically, thus supporting the national economy,” Soetjipto said.

Indonesia returns trash to exporters
—  Ardila Syakriah et. al.,The Jakarta Post, 17 June 2019
The Environment and Forestry Ministry has returned five containers of trash to the United States after finding the containers, which were only supposed to carry clean paper scraps, contained diapers, plastic scraps, wood, fabrics and shoes in significant amounts. Trash, Waste and Hazardous Waste Management Directorate General secretary Sayid Muhadhar said that the government would return five containers to the US from Tanjung Perak Port [in Surabaya, East Java]. “Although the containers were originally from Canada, the country of departure was the US,” he said. “The five containers are on the Zim Dalian vessel and are ready to be transported back to the US,” the Environment and Forestry Ministry said. Activists have called on the government to take a stronger stance against waste-exporting countries, suggesting that merely returning the trash was not enough to solve the problem. The Environment and Forestry Ministry, however, argued that returning the waste was proof of the government’s commitment to protect Indonesia from unwanted garbage from other countries.

Bali desperately trying to reduce plastic waste  
—   Cathy Adams, The Independent, 22 June 2019
More than half of rubbish on tourist island Bali ends up polluting land or being dumped in waterways or the ocean, according to new research. Findings from the Bali Partnership show that just 48% of waste from the Indonesian island is disposed of through recycling or landfill, while 33,000 tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean each year. As part of a national initiative, Bali, which receives around 16 million tourists each year, of which 6.5 million are international, has pledged to reduce ocean plastics by 70% by 2025 through the Bali Partnership. The Bali Partnership, which brings together local and national government as well as waste experts and businesses, was supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The island of Bali is small, but its significance is big,” said Ida Bagus Mandhara Brasika of the Bali Governor’s waste management task force. “What happens in Bali will always be noticed by the world. In Bali we are now at the right moment to stop our ocean leakage.”

Japan wants to become Southeast Asia’s trash manager  
—    Ephrat Livni, Quartz, 24 June 2019
Waste management is a dirty business, but a lucrative one that’s bound to grow as global garbage woes worsen. The worldwide market for trash-incinerating power plants that reduce pollution will be worth $80 billion by 2022, according to some financial analysts’ estimates. Japan, which has cultivated just this rubbish acumen, is hoping to cash in on the refuse boom. A 23 June report in Nikkei Asian Review reveals that Japan’s environment ministry has set aside about US$18.6 million in its fiscal 2019 budget for a public-private consortium that will develop proposals and bid on waste management deals in Southeast Asian nations, most of which face serious pollution challenges. Currently, there are 10 trial waste-to-power plant projects across the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Japan will help its own companies sell trash conversion plants—and comprehensive waste management plans—in the hopes of cornering the market before China.

Conservation & Protected Areas 

Sumatran rhinos to get a new sanctuary in Leuser ecosystem
—    Basten Gokkon, Mongabay, 18 June 2019
The Indonesian government plans to build a third sanctuary for the captive breeding of Sumatran rhinos, a species on the brink of extinction. The proposed facility will be located within the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh province, at the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, according to Wiratno, the head of conservation at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. “This is a top priority in our emergency action plan to rescue the Sumatran rhinos.” Indonesia currently has two captive-breeding centers that hold a total of eight Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis): one in Sumatra’s Way Kambas National Park, which holds seven rhinos, and one in the Kelian forest, in Indonesian Borneo, which is home to a single rhino. The plan to open the Leuser sanctuary was described in a decree issued by Wiratno last December, which also included proposals to double the capacity of the Way Kambas sanctuary; partner with Malaysia, which has a stock of harvested eggs for fertilization; and boost efforts to capture more rhinos from Borneo and house them in the Kelian sanctuary.


Commentary: farmers, fishers, and local folk a casualty in Indonesia’s embrace with vested interests  

—    Iqra Anugrah, Channel News Asia, 22 June 2019
Back in 2014, many rural voters and civil society actors expected that President Joko Widodo would fight for the interests of marginalized citizens, especially those residing in rural areas. Yet, he disappointed many of them. What made Jokowi unable to implement the much-needed reforms that many marginalized rural citizens and activists have been pushing for? Since the very beginning, Jokowi was held captive by the more senior politicians in his party. It is clear Jokowi is beholden to these political elites whose support is crucial for the stability of his administration, giving him little political space or muscle to address pressing social and environmental issues. Entering his second term, the issue of environmental and natural resource governance will continue to present many challenges to Widodo. Out of these many problems, three issues are most pressing: Indonesia’s continuing dependence on the extractive industry, the declining quality of rural livelihood, and the need to promote an alternative vision of rural development. For Widodo, the ball is now in his court.

ASEAN leaders adopt Indo-Pacific outlook  
—    Dian Septiari, The Jakarta Post, 24 June 2019
After more than a year of negotiations, ASEAN leaders have finally adopted a document outlining the organization’s geostrategic concept of the Indo-Pacific region, in which the regional grouping emphasized its centrality amid the competing global powers. Proposed by Indonesia, the outlook is intended to serve as the guideline for ASEAN in engaging its external partners, including the rivaling superpowers of the US and China. “This outlook represents the centrality and force of ASEAN in upholding the principles of peacekeeping, fostering a culture of dialogue and strengthening cooperation,” President Joko Widodo said at the meeting. Widodo said the outlook was increasingly relevant to the world’s developments, as the trade war between the US and China had not shown any signs of reconcilement and there was “a concern that the trade war is growing into a multi-front war” that could have an impact on the security and stability of the region. Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said the five-page document detailed the key elements and goals of the outlook, as well as the principles and possible areas of cooperation.

Sinking towards disaster  
—    Mark Doman, ABC News, 24 June 2019
Year after year, Rudi Suwandi’s home in Northwest Jakarta is being swallowed. Rudi first remembers the water appearing in the mid-90s, when the village started flooding every rainy season. For years, the ground beneath their village has been sinking. And it’s not just here. It’s happening across Jakarta. Roads are warping, breakwalls have been swallowed and entire buildings have been left abandoned. Worst of all, the city, which straddles the Java Sea and serves as the exit point for a handful of major rivers, is more prone than ever to flooding. Researchers at Indonesia’s Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) have been at the forefront of tracking the phenomenon, known as land subsidence, for more than two decades. Using a mix of satellite radar technology and in-ground measurements they’ve been able to map the rate at which the city is sinking. Since the 1970s, parts of Jakarta have sunk more than four meters, at a rate of up to 25 centimeters a year. That means these areas are sinking faster than any other city in the world.

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