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 – 15: 24 July 2019

Marine & Fisheries

Indonesia sees first online fish auction site

—  The Jakarta Post, 21 July 2019
Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Panndjaitan has inaugurated Indonesia’s first online fish auction site (TPI) as a pilot project for the Satu Juta Nelayan Berdaulat (One Million Sovereign Fishermen) program in Palangpang, Sukabumi, West Java. “The program is not only being conducted in Sukabumi, but it will also be done for the whole of Indonesia” said Panndjaitan. It is one of the government's efforts to reduce poverty, realizing the potential profits to be gained from the sea. Panndjaitan added that with an online auction, fishermen would be able to conduct transactions without using money, and could directly inform the “fish market” about their hauls while still out at sea. “While they are still at sea, the 'fish market' will already know what is in their catch and transactions can be done while they are at sea. To support this, we partnered with signal transmitter startup Net1, which can transmit up to a distance of 60 kilometers, using Wi-Fi,” said Panndjaitan. He hopes that with the online system, fishermen will no longer be cheated by middlemen.

Fisheries Ministry to reduce single-use plastics in fishing ports
—  Arindra Moedia and Fardah, Antara News, 21 July 2019
Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry (KKP) has committed to reduce marine plastic debris by limiting single-use plastics in fishing ports. "The regulation has been made. We have selected [single-use] plastics in fishing ports managed by the KKP," said Bramantya Satya Murti, Director General for Maritime Spatial Management at the ministry on the sidelines of the Plastic Waste Parade event. Plastic waste remains a problem particularly on small islands. "We have set a target that 70% of land waste must not enter the ocean. It's a huge task. This task cannot be done by the government alone. Other stakeholders, the community and producers must also be responsible for Indonesia's ocean," he said. Earlier, at the same event, KKP Minister Susi Pudjiastuti asked all companies that produce plastic products to help clean up plastic debris from the seas and oceans. Indonesia is the world's second largest contributor of marine plastic debris, which could threaten the country's fish exports, Pudjiastuti remarked.

Indonesia seizes notorious fishing vessel wanted by Interpol
—  The Strait Times, 16 July 2019
A notorious Panama-flagged vessel wanted by Interpol for illegal fishing has been seized by Indonesia, authorities said on 16 July. The MV Nika, which has an extensive rap sheet of maritime offenses, was intercepted by the Indonesian Navy in the Strait of Malacca, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) announced via Twitter. There were 18 Russians and 10 Indonesians aboard the 750-ton vessel. The crew have been detained and are now being questioned. The MV Nika is suspected of falsifying registration documents and claiming it was a bulk carrier instead of a fishing boat in order to avoid detection, said KKP Minister Susi Pudjiastuti. "This ship has been wanted by Interpol in many countries for a long time," Pudjiastuti told broadcaster TVOne. "The ship kept changing flags. The last one it used was Panama's... which is typical of ships used in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing." Indonesia, the world's biggest archipelagic nation, has launched a crackdown on foreign vessels fishing illegally in its waters, claiming it was costing the economy billions of dollars annually.

Helping seaweed farming achieve its full potential
—  Robert Jones et. al., The Fish Site, 12 July 2019
We should not think of seaweed as unwelcome marine “plants” as their name would suggest. These often overlooked species within the aquaculture world have tremendously diverse commercial applications; the potential to improve human wellbeing for coastal communities in emerging economies; and can be farmed in harmony with marine ecosystems. Seaweed farming is already a booming sector, with the global industry worth more than US$6 billion per year, and red seaweed production in Indonesia alone growing almost 900% over the last decade. Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of red seaweed, with over one million coastal Indonesians engaged in seaweed aquaculture, many living in remote communities with few other economic opportunities. World Bank analyses shows that expanding seaweed farming in these and other tropical areas has potential to boost local incomes, improve food security and enhance environmental health.However, this is not an industry without challenges. Disease reduces yields; lack of consistent product quality constrains prices; and poor environmental practices have resulted in habitat degradation and marine plastic pollution.

Forestry & Land Use 

Supreme Court declares Jokowi among those liable for 2015 forest fires

—  Channel News Asia, 23 July 2019
The Attorney-General of Indonesia on 22 July defended the government after the country's Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling which blamed President Joko Widodo and his cabinet ministers, as well as regional administrations, for failing to control the wildfires in 2015. The wildfires which raged through Indonesia in 2015 caused thick haze to engulf the country and neighboring Singapore and Malaysia. “The conclusion is the government should fulfil its obligation to protect its citizens against the disaster," said Supreme Court spokesman Abdullah after the ruling. Attorney-General H M Prasetyo said the government has acted to tackle the wildfires issue. "Recent statistics show that forest fires have decreased in numbers. Many individuals and companies have also been charged in court, and will eventually be convicted," he said. The lawsuit was filed by environmentalists and residents of Central Kalimantan, who were among the most affected by the disaster. It urged the government to take responsibility for the wildfires and for the treatment of survivors.

‘Dangerous’ new regulation puts Indonesia’s carbon-rich peatlands at risk
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 12 July 2019
A new Indonesian government regulation restricting the types of carbon-rich peat landscapes which must be protected has raised concerns among environmentalists that the country may backslide on its forest protection policies. Existing regulations require plantation companies and other concession holders whose land includes areas with peat layers 3 meters or deeper to restore and conserve those areas. Subsequent policies and restrictions have tended to support this prohibition on clearing deep peat. However, a new regulation issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry redefines the area that must be protected, essentially opening up large areas of what had been protected peatlands to exploitation. Under the new regulation, concession holders are now only required only to protect peat domes, which are peat forest areas where the peat layer is so thick that the center is topographically higher than the edges. Areas beyond these domes would once again be open for exploitation, even if they are within the 3-meter peat layer requirement which would have guaranteed protection under the previous regulations.

Indonesia pays serious attention to handling forest fires 
— Eliswan Azly, Antara News, 19 July 2019
Indonesia is bracing for devastating and more frequent forest fires. As of July this year, forest fires have devastated a total of 30,477 hectares, according to Agus Wibowo, spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), noting forest and bush fires that engulfed the provinces of Aceh, Riau, Jambi, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and West Papua. "The BNPB and the Agency for Technology Assessment and Application (BPPT) have conducted aerial operations to induce artificial rain," he remarked. Nearly 99% of the fires were triggered by intentional or accidental human activities, he believed. The Indonesian Military and Police have deployed 1,512 officers to prevent and help extinguish forest fires in the five provinces of Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, and South Kalimantan that have declared an emergency alert status. Earlier, this year, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency reminded the regional authorities to be vigilant over possible forest fires and droughts, as this year's dry season was forecast to be more severe than that of the previous year.

Can jurisdictional certification curb palm oil deforestation?
— John Watts et al., Mongabay, 10 July 2019
Dan Nepstad of Earth Innovation Institute, John Watts, and Silvia Irawan of Inovasi Bumi argue that the surge in oil palm expansion in Indonesia since the early 2000s caused deforestation, environmental degradation and social conflicts for which previous strategies to reduce these negative impacts have seen only modest success, pointing to jurisdictional certification pilots of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as a promising approach. The RSPO pilot in Seruyan, a palm oil district which has experienced many problems, has introduced several innovations, including a facility to provide technical support to smallholders while managing funds from companies; implementation of the “jurisdiction-wide environmental protection plan”; a mechanism for resolving land conflicts; and a method for mapping and registering independent smallholders. Jurisdictional certification, in the right context, offers the potential of achieving inclusive and sustainable production of oil palm at a large scale. Jurisdictional certification also offers the clearest pathway for implementing landscape approaches to sustainable production that are strengthened by laws and regulations and embedded in multi-stakeholder, collective initiatives.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution 

Radical changes proposed for Indonesia to meet clean energy target

— Tim Daubach, Eco-Business, 16 July 2019
Indonesia will require nothing less than a policy overhaul—starting with its state-owned power utility—to meet the target of having 23% of its electricity generated from hydro, solar and other renewable sources by 2025, according to a new report released last week. Unless Southeast Asia’s largest economy “radically changes” its roll-out of renewable energy, clean sources will only make up 12% of the energy mix in 2025, said management consulting firm AT Kearney in its report titled Indonesia’s Energy Transition: A Case for Action. This means it would only achieve about half its target. There are four main barriers to renewable energy growth, but at the heart of the issue is that no single agency in Indonesia is accountable for the development of renewable energy, stated the report, done in partnership with the Employers’ Association of Indonesia. The government should make state-owned power utility PLN, or Perusahaan Listrik Negara, accountable for the deployment of renewable energy, argued the authors.

Indonesia’s president signals a transition away from coal power
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 16 July 2019
President Joko Widodo has expressed his intention to wean Indonesia off coal, a move running counter to his administration’s previously stated policy of increasing reliance on the fossil fuel. The president made the announcement at an 8 July cabinet meeting, according to Siti Nurbaya Bakar, the Minister of Environment and Forestry. “[T]he president emphasized that we must develop the energy sector with a focus on renewable energy,” Siti said. Widodo’s comment came during a period of particularly poor air quality in the Jakarta that prompted a citizen lawsuit holding top officials, including the president, liable for the pollution which is blamed in part on coal-fired power plants operating near the city. If the administration follows through with concrete policies to phase out coal use, this could signal the beginning of a crucial transition to renewable energy for Indonesia, the largest energy consumer in South East Asia and one of the biggest consumers of coal in the world, according to analysts.

President Widodo vows to fight EU palm oil rules
— Business Times, 12 July 2019
Indonesia's president promised to fight the European Union (EU) over plans to restrict the use of palm oil in its biofuels. Brussels wants to limit the materials that can be used in fuel that is counted towards its renewable energy targets, setting a 2030 limit for phasing out palm oil, which environmentalists say drives deforestation and climate change. But the plans have angered major palm oil producing nations such Indonesia and Malaysia, whose economies are highly dependent on the commodity. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he was determined to get the EU to change its rules. "For me, if there is discrimination like that, I will fight because of the 16 million farmers and workers in this business," he said. "Palm oil is a strategic commodity for Indonesia." Palm oil and its associated industries contribute roughly 4% to Indonesia's GDP and provide a livelihood for 6% of the population. Palm oil company shares have dropped 9% this year because of worries over the restrictions.

Indonesia, facing a waste crisis, plans to burn it for electricity
— Basten Gokkon, Mongabay, 22 July 2019
The Indonesian government plans to burn wastes to fuel power plants in four cities on the island of Java this year as part of efforts to tackle the country’s plastic waste crisis. Indonesia is the second-biggest contributor, after China, to the influx of plastic waste into the oceans, and is among a growing number of Asian countries refusing to continue to import waste from developed countries. President Joko Widodo called for a solution to the waste problem during a cabinet meeting on 16 July, criticizing the lack of updated plans to build waste incinerators. “To this day, I haven’t heard any progress on which ones are already online and which ones are already built,” the president said. “This isn’t about the electricity. We want to resolve the trash issue; the electricity comes afterward,” he added. The energy ministry expects to have twelve waste-to-energy plants online by 2022, generating a combined 234 megawatts of electricity from burning 16,000 tons of wastes per day.

Indonesia takes firm stance on banning foreign waste
— Ani Nursalikah, Republika, 10 July 2019
Over the past few months, Indonesia has repeatedly objected to being a dumping ground for foreign trash containing hazardous and toxic waste (B3 waste). Indonesian authorities have been thoroughly checking containers full of foreign rubbish arriving at seaports and sending the imported waste back to the countries of origin, including the United States and France. This last time, a firm stance was shown by the authorities in the handling of eight containers comprising 210 tons of wastes shipped from Brisbane's seaport in Queensland, Australia to Surabaya's Tanjung Perak Port. The authorities of Tanjung Perak Port's Customs and Excise Office found that the containers were not just loaded with paper waste but also with a variety of household waste, such as used cans, plastic bottles, used engine oil packaging, and diapers. The imported waste paper is often used as a raw material for industries. However, as revealed by the Head of Tanjung Perak Port's Customs and Excise Office, Basuki Suryanto, the rubbish found in the eight containers might have contained B3 materials.

Jakarta’s air quality is ‘healthy’: Environment minister 
—    Channel Asia News, 11 July 2019
Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said on 11 July that Jakarta’s air quality is still “good or healthy” based on national standards, as residents piled pressure on the government to curb pollution. She rejected the assessment of Air Visual - an independent online air quality index (AQI) monitor - which pegged Jakarta at the "very unhealthy" level of 231 on 25 June, nearly five times the level recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Based on observation of Jakarta’s air, the air quality is still good or healthy if compared with national air quality standards,” she said in her speech at the opening of Environment and Forestry Week 2019, according to local media reports. Activists and scientists have blamed Jakarta’s smog on a cocktail of vehicle fumes, smoke and emissions from coal-fired power plants surrounding the capital, one of the most congested cities in the world with a population of 10 million people.

Conservation & Protected Areas 

Conservation agency and wildlife group to release songbirds in Kerinci Seblat 

—   Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post, 16 July 2019
The Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and Flora and Fauna International (FFI) plan to release 100 white-rumped shamas into the wild amid rampant illegal hunting in Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) in Jambi Province in September. Agency head Rahmad Saleh acknowledged that the release of the birds, locally known as murai batu or kurcica hutan was a response to the decline of the species in the wild due to widespread hunting. Even though the population of the singing bird is reported to be threatened, the white-rumped shama is not listed as a protected bird in Indonesia. “We have so many singing birds right now. However, the population will continue to decline,” Rahmad said. The birds to be released come from breeding facilities in Bogor, West Java. Each breeding facility in the country is obliged to release 10% of the animals it breeds into the wild.

Ombilin coal mine listed as UNESCO world heritage site 
—   Ani Nusalikah, Republika, 9 July 2019
The Ombilin Coal Mine in Sawahlunto, West Sumatra, was designated as a world cultural heritage site during the 43rd session of UNESCO World Heritage Committee. "Ombilin was designated as a world cultural heritage site today," Education and Culture Ministry's Director of Cultural Heritage and Diplomacy Nadjamuddin Ramly said. It is the fifth world cultural heritage site in Indonesia after the Borobudur Temple (1991), Prambanan Temple (1991), Sangiran Site (1996), and Subak system in Bali (2012). "In this case, the uniqueness of the Ombilin coal mine site in Sawahlunto exemplifies a series of technological combinations in a mining city landscape designed for efficiency in the coal extraction, processing, and transportation phases, as demonstrated in the company organizations, division of labor, mining schools, and structuring a mining city inhabited by around seven thousand residents," Ramly elaborated. "Several records must be completed before the deadline of December 1, 2021. After the designation by UNESCO, all parties involved in the Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto are expected to maintain its status as a world cultural heritage," Ramly concluded.

Activists reject plan to develop road traversing forest areas
—  Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post, 23 July 2019
Activists from a coalition of 36 civil society groups have protested a proposal to build a 31.8-kilometer-long mining road that they say will damage the ecosystem in the forestry area of Jambi and South Sumatra, asking President Joko Widodo’s support to halt the plan. The road was proposed by coal mining company PT Marga Bara Jaya and the permit was being processed at the Environment and Forestry Ministry, according to members of the coalition. Jambi People’s Justice Foundation (YKR) director Musri Nauli said the activists rejected the plan to build the road since it would affect the forest landscape along the Kapas and Meranti rivers in South Sumatra, as well as the Kandang River and upstream area of the Lasian River in Jambi. “The areas cover the remaining lowland forests in Sumatra, so if a mining road is built in [the area], it will disturb the ecosystem,” Musri said.


How Jokowi can spend money better in a second term
—  Aichiro Suryo Prabowo, New Mandala, 23 July 2019
The Constitutional Court’s ruling on Joko Widodo’s victory in the contentious, divisive 2019 presidential contest has sustained the president’s record of electoral invincibility. Now Widodo has set to work on the campaign promises made with his running mate and future vice president Ma’ruf Amin. Widodo’s second term policies will likely be a continuation of work initiated over the last five years. In his first public speech after re-election, Widodo confirmed that building infrastructure and improving the domestic business environment would remain a priority. The incoming administration also plans to focus on human resource development and effective execution of the state budget. Realizing these objectives, however, will not be easy, because doing so may be incompatible with the way Jokowi leverages his political capital. One version of the president portrays him as an idealist champion of reform, but another presents him as a pragmatic politician who as the incumbent president will like many other presidents before him do what it takes to stabilize his government.

Political accountability and Indonesia’s new capital plan
—  Iqra Anugrah, New Mandela, 23 July 2019
“Moving the capital is just an empty slogan!” This is one of the most common reactions heard in response to President Widodo’s sudden announcement to relocate Indonesia’s capital from Jakarta. This is not the first time that the Indonesian government has expressed desire to relocate its capital from Jakarta, but it looks like Widodo is committed to making the plan happen. From a sustainability standpoint, the major question concerns the environmental and budgetary pros and cons of moving the capital. Moving the capital is complex and contentious because it might create social and environmental problems in the new capital, while Jakarta’s many problems remain unresolved. It is not an exaggeration to expect that the new capital will face many of the old problems that a lot of rapidly-urbanizing peripheral towns in Indonesia have faced for years, such as land conflicts and unfair land transactions and environmental degradation. More likely than not, the new capital will follow the existing pattern of urban development in Indonesia, which breeds the above mentioned problems and is therefore highly unsustainable.

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