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 – 19: 18 September 2019

Marine & Fisheries

Fishery industry books solid performance as minister bids farewell
—  Norman Harsono, The Jakarta Post, 11 September 2019
Indonesia’s fisheries industry recorded five years of solid performance under Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti’s administration, which is slated to end later this month when the minister is expected to leave office. Indonesia’s fisheries industry was worth US$4.43 billion (Rp 62.24 trillion) as of the second quarter of 2019, a 6.2% increase from the same period last year. Susi pointed out that fisheries export volumes increased 4.45% to 1.13 million tons last year whereas export value increased at a steeper 7.44% to $4.86 million last year. “Why is this so? Because we control the supply. We control the largest fisheries supply. Because it’s now harder for illegal fishing boats from other countries to fish in Indonesian waters. That’s why prices are better for us,” she said. Going forward, the ministry aims to boost Indonesia’s fish exports by enabling the country’s islands, particularly those in eastern Indonesia, to export products directly to other countries instead of shipping them through Jakarta.

Fishermen catch oil, not fish, after well accident
—  The Jakarta Post, 16 September 2019
The oil spill from state energy giant Pertamina’s Offshore North West Java block that occurred 2 kilometers off the coast of Karawang, West Java, on 12 July has reached nine islands in Thousand Islands regency. The spill follows a gas well kick, an unplanned and often violent release of gas caused by low pressure in a wellbore. Officials from the Environment and Forestry Ministry previously estimated environmental cleanup efforts would take as long as six months. “The ministry has not finished conducting an environmental impact analysis yet. However, we are aware that Pertamina has already started placing oil booms, which trap the spill from spreading to more areas. Furthermore, they [Pertamina] have already deployed 44 ships to prevent the spill from reaching more islands,” said the ministry’s director general, Karliansyah. People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA) secretary-general Susan Herawati estimates it will take a year or more to clean up the oil from the Karawang and Thousand Islands seas.

Indonesia’s aquaculture goes digital
—  Jason Thomas, The Asean Post, 17 September 2019
New technologies are helping Indonesia tap into its huge potential in aquaculture and cement its position as one of the world’s top aquaculture nations. Indonesia’s aquaculture sector has enjoyed strong growth over the past decade. While marine capture fisheries production grew around 34% from 2008 to 2017, growth in Indonesia’s aquaculture sector exploded by 264% during the same period according to data from the FAO. Around 3.3 million people are directly employed in Indonesia’s aquaculture industry, but 80% of all fish producers and 70% of all shrimp producers are smallholders who use manual methods, highlighting the sector’s massive promise. Start-ups such as eFishery, which markets itself as the first ‘fishtech’ start-up in Indonesia, are helping to provide farmers with the right tools they need to get the most out of their fish farms. With its strong track record as a major exporter to global markets, the digitalization of Indonesian aquaculture will have a vital role to play in satisfying the seafood needs of ASEAN and beyond.

SFP launches longline tuna FIP in Indonesia
—  IntraFish, 17 September 2019
The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) is developing a new national-level fishery improvement project (FIP) for longline tuna in Indonesia, as part of an ongoing initiative to make 75% of the global production in key seafood sectors sustainable. The FIP will cover albacore, yellowfin and bigeye tuna longline fisheries in the Indian Ocean within the exclusive economic zone of Indonesia and international waters, as well as fisheries in the Western Central Pacific Ocean. The Indonesian Longline Tuna Association (ALTI) is backing the FIP, alongside 14 Indonesian companies that operate more than 250 vessels. “This could be a historical milestone for the longline tuna fishery improvement project towards MSC certification,” said ATLI Chairman Dwi Agus Siswa Putra.

Indonesia’s fisheries not managed efficiently
—  Jason Thomas, The Asean Post, 11 September 2019
Indonesia is considered the world’s eighth most fish dependent country, with fish contributing 52% of all animal-based protein in the Indonesian diet – well above the global average of 16%. However, a large amount of seafood never reaches dinner plates because of poor management. An article by officials from the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research and UNIDO in May found that poor fishery management leads to almost 40% of Indonesian seafood catch – or US$7.28 billion a year – being classified as waste or loss. Bad distribution networks contribute 15% to this figure, with another 9% lost due to poor processing and packaging processes. Bad fishing practices, such as throwing away unwanted catch at sea, potentially contribute to 8.2% – with another 6% of losses stemming from poor transportation and poor storage systems. With Indonesia’s fisheries sector playing a critical role in providing food security and employment, the industry’s stakeholders should consider the risks that continued mismanagement poses to the long-term productivity and economic value of its fishery assets.

Forestry & Land Use

Indonesia arrests 185 as it struggles to bring huge underground fires under control
—  South China Morning Post, 16 September 2019
Thousands of Indonesian firefighters are locked in a round-the-clock game of whack-a-mole as they battle to extinguish an invisible enemy. Vast blazes are ripping across the archipelago’s rainforests, unleashing a toxic haze over Southeast Asia. Jakarta has deployed more than 9,000 personnel to battle fires in hard-hit Sumatra and Borneo. On 16 September, authorities said they had arrested some 185 people suspected of being involved in activities that led to out-of-control fires sweeping the country. “Indonesian police will enforce the law against anyone who is proven to have carried out forest and land burning, whether it was done intentionally or through negligence,” National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told reporters. “This is a last resort. The most important thing is prevention.” Four corporations were also being investigated, he added. At the start of September, Indonesia sealed off dozens of plantations where smog-belching fires were blazing, and warned that owners – including Malaysia and Singapore-based firms – could face criminal charges if there was evidence of illegal burning.

‘We’ve been negligent,’ Indonesia’s president says as fire crisis deepens
—  Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 17 September 2019
Indonesia’s president has admitted negligence on the part of the government, as top officials engage in a blame game amid the worst spate of forest fires since 2015 that’s sending clouds of toxic haze across large swaths of the country and abroad. This year’s fires, most of them set deliberately to clear land for planting, have burned nearly 340,000 hectares as of 31 August according to data from the Environment Ministry. “Ahead of the dry season, everyone should have been prepared,” President Joko Widodo said on 17 September during a meeting with officials in Sumatra’s Riau province, one of the worst-affected regions. “But we’ve been negligent again [this year], so the haze has become big,” he added. The president’s remarks come after several of his top aides issued a series of widely ridiculed claims about the fires, haze, and their cause. Siti Nurbaya Bakar, the environment minister, was criticized last week for denying that the fires in Indonesia were sending haze to Malaysia and Singapore, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

A Papuan village finds its forest caught in a web of corporate secrecy
—  Mongabay, 16 September 2019
When a string of palm oil companies arrived in the village of Anggai, in a heavily forested corner of Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province, Robertus Meyanggi hoped they would help his community prosper. Before long, his optimism faded to despair. The promises to build schools and health clinics and provide electricity never materialized, years after the firms, said to be owned by the same conglomerate, set about clearing rainforest to make way for an oil palm plantation. Meanwhile, villagers’ requests for basic information about the project, such as its size and precise location, were met with stonewalling. Even copies of signed agreements between some clan representatives and the companies were withheld from community members. Soon there were more companies, one constructing a giant sawmill to suck in timber from their land, but no more clarity. “We don’t even know who owns these companies,” said Robertus, an indigenous Auyu in his mid-20s. “We’re completely in the dark.”

Energy, Climate Change, & Pollution

Indonesia sends back hundreds of shipping containers full of waste
—  Channel News Asia, 4 September 2019
Indonesia has sent hundreds of garbage-filled shipping containers back to their countries of origin, according to the customs agency, as the Southeast Asian nation pushes back against becoming a dumping ground for foreign trash. About 250 containers seized across the archipelago in recent months have already been returned and authorities are inspecting more than 1,000 others, a customs official said. Among them, 49 containers of waste seized on Batam Island near Singapore have been shipped back to the United States, Germany, France, Hong Kong and Australia, said agency spokesman Deni Surjantoro. The shipments were loaded with a combination of garbage, plastic waste and hazardous materials in violation of import rules. "Imports can't be contaminated with toxic or dangerous materials," he said. Indonesia has been tightening its surveillance of foreign trash in response to soaring imports. Huge quantities of waste have been redirected to Southeast Asian nations after China - which used to receive the bulk of scrap plastic from around the world - closed its doors to foreign refuse last year in a bid to clean up its environment.

Indonesia will struggle to meet 2025 renewables target
—  Jakarta Globe, 5 September 2019
Global rating agency Moody's Investors Service believes Indonesia is unlikely to achieve its renewable energy target by 2025. Indonesia wants to derive 23% of the its primary energy needs from renewable sources within the next six years, up from 12% currently. But the government has been placing more focus on coal-fired power plants than on renewable sources, Moody's said in a recent report. "Renewable energy faces many challenges in Indonesia. The key challenge is the evolving policy and regulatory framework, which has seen multiple changes over the years." Wind and solar electricity costs are higher than coal-based power generation, which the government subsidizes. Also, tariffs are set at 85% of the average power tariff in each region for renewable energy projects, the agency said. "The absence of a strong electricity grid on many Indonesian islands also makes it difficult to have large renewable energy projects," it added. The agency noted that state utility company PLN is both the largest coal-based power generator and the sole electricity distributor in the country. Renewables would increase the risk of PLN's coal- and oil-based power projects being abandoned.

EU defends stance on palm oil amid Indonesia’s backlash
—  Riska Rahman, The Jakarta Post, 6 September 2019
The European Union has defended its stance on palm oil and warned against any threat of retaliation by the Indonesian government, leading to a rise in trade tensions between the two jurisdictions. The EU, which is Indonesia’s largest palm oil customer, denied allegations that it had deliberately tried to undermine the market for the commodity, citing market demand as the reason for its problems. “What causes those ups and downs in the palm oil market? The main factor is the market itself,” said charge d’affaires ad interim of the EU mission in Indonesia, Charles Michel-Geurts. He cited rising demand for more sustainable products as consumers became more aware of the impact of deforestation on the planet. As a result, manufacturers have begun labeling their products to cater to consumer preferences. “The EU as an institution has nothing to do with NGOs, or producers, it’s their choice and strategy in capturing market share,” he stated, adding that the zone had no legislation promoting a complete ban on palm oil products as it only regulated labeling.

Graft, illegal practice plague coal mining in South Sumatra
—  Kharisar Kahfi and Yulia Savitri, The Jakarta Post, 11 September 2019
Widespread illegal coal mining in South Sumatra is estimated to have caused millions of dollars in state losses, a recent anti-graft agency investigation has found. The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) found in August that the transport of illegally mined coal in the province, through Lampung, had been going on for years. Dian Patria, the KPK’s regional coordinator for graft prevention coordination and supervision, said the agency had initially investigated a tipoff pertaining to unauthorized coal mines in South Sumatra. Later, the anti-graft body’s team found that the commodity was being transported using a 10 ton truck from Muara Enim regency to Lampung through Martapura district, where unidentified people joined the convoy to safeguard the shipment. This is not the first time reports of state losses in the coal mining sector have come to light. Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) released a study last year showing that around US$25 billion (Rp 365 trillion) worth of coal transactions between 2006 and 2016 had gone unreported, potentially causing state losses.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Indonesia’s Komodo Island beset by confusion, not overtourism
—  Shabrina Koeswologito, Skift, 4 September 2019
A decision to close Komodo Island, one of Indonesia’s most important attractions, will only be made at the end of this year, contrary to reports early this year that the island would be closed for one year from January 2020. The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the body that has the authority to close the island, made the announcement on its website. The announcement will hopefully end massive confusion that started when the governor of East Nusa Tenggara, Viktor Laiskodat, announced at a forum in Kupang on 21 November last year that the island would be closed for a year. Komodo Island is part of the UNESCO-listed Komodo National Park, a cluster of islands in East Nusa Tenggara. But the damage has been done. “Many travel bookings were cancelled due to the news,” said Jonathan Thamrin, owner of tour company Travacello. This, despite the fact that even if Komodo Island was closed, visitors could still see the rare dragons in the wild in Rinca Island, which, along with Padar Island and numerous other smaller islands, comprises Komodo National Park.

Has Indonesia’s ban on the manta ray gills trade succeeded?
—  Nabiha Shabab, ChinaDialogue Ocean, 13 September 2019
As the former manta ray hunters of Lamakera, East Nusa Tenggara struggle to find alternative livelihoods, some continue to resist despite an official crackdown. In 2014, Indonesia granted full protection to both species of manta – the giant manta (mobula birostris) and the reef manta (mobula alfredi) effectively creating the world’s largest manta ray sanctuary. However, the authorities have not found it easy to enforce the regulations in Lamakera. To cut the trade off at its source, in 2016 WCS cooperated with the provincial Marine and Fisheries Affairs Office and the Water Police to set up a daily patrol of the seas around Solor. “By late 2018, reports of manta catch dropped significantly,” said Apolinardus Yosef Lia Demoor, who manages the patrols for the local fisheries office based on the neighboring island of Flores. “The trade chain is almost broken now.” But is Lamakera still exporting manta ray gills? Mardiah, of WCS, asserts this is difficult to determine “without further investigation.”

A dam threatens the world’s rarest ape. Why are some conservationists suddenly on board?
—  Dyna Rochmyaningsih, Science, 10 September 2019
A Swiss conservation group named PanEco did a remarkable about-face last month. For years, it had fiercely opposed Indonesia’s plan to build a new hydropower dam on northern Sumatra, a project it said was an existential threat to the fewer than 800 remaining Tapanuli orangutans (Pongo tapanuliensis), a newly recognized species that PanEco is dedicated to saving. But on 23 August, the group announced a partnership to mitigate the dam’s impacts with the company building it and the Indonesian government. Biologist Regina Frey, PanEco’s founder and president, says she is just making the best of a bad situation. “The project is high up on the government agenda … and will be implemented in any case. It makes great sense to change our strategy,” Frey tells Science. The orangutans now have the government and the company “on their side,” board member Carel van Schaik, a primatologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, wrote in a statement. But some scientists and conservationists feel betrayed.

Endangered orangutans could be the biggest losers as Indonesia builds a new capital
—  David Pierson, The Los Angeles Times, 13 September 2019
Rapid deforestation in East Kalimantan, Indonesia has diminished habitats for wildlife including orangutans, Sumatran rhinos and proboscis monkeys — animals that can rarely be found elsewhere in the world. The culprits behind the shrinking forests have long been the same: the coal, palm oil and timber industries, to name a few. But the region is now facing something entirely unexpected. Indonesia’s president has picked the remote province of East Kalimantan to build a new capital from scratch to replace Jakarta. The proposal, so outlandish that few believed President Joko Widodo was serious when he first floated the idea four years ago. The changes couldn’t come to a more storied region of Indonesia. Environmental advocates say a new capital could invite excessive development, further straining a province that increased its rate of deforestation last year at a time when the national rate declined. “I’m not worried about the capital,” said Jamartin Sihite, chief executive of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. “I’m worried about everything they’re going to build around the capital.”


Environmental impact study of new Indonesian capital to be ready by November
—  Channel News Asia, 29 August 2019
An environmental study of Indonesia’s new capital in East Kalimantan province will be completed by November, Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said on 29 August, amid concerns raised by green groups over the relocation. “It won’t take long. It will be two months at the latest, most likely in November,” she said. At the end of August, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced that the capital would be moved from Jakarta to North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kartanegara districts in East Kalimantan. Under the plan, government workers would be relocated to the new capital while the center of business would remain in Jakarta. The government said the new capital would be a smart and green city.
Minister Siti Nurbaya said that simultaneous restoration of the environment in these two districts would be part of the relocation. Her ministry was preparing a reference framework and strategic actions for Widodo, the Presidential Secretariat Office and the National Development Planning Agency, she said.

Indonesia is building its new capital on indigenous land
— Skylar Lindsay, ASEAN Today, 17 September 2019
For the Indonesian government, the Borneo province of East Kalimantan is a clean slate. It is a blank page to design and build a cleaner, safer, more efficient capital city. But this swath of Borneo that Indonesian President Joko Widodo has chosen for a new capital is occupied by the indigenous Dayak, a society that already does a better job of managing valuable land and rainforest than the Indonesian government. The new site for the capital brings a host of environmental and social challenges: chiefly that the planned location is already home to the indigenous Dayak people. It’s not clear that the Indonesian government has consulted the Dayak at all or asked for their consent. The Widodo government plans to construct a new US$33 billion city to house the capital in a heavily forested area of East Kalimantan that the Dayak have called home for around 3,000 years. The new city may well decimate their environment and drastically alter their way of life.

Danke, Mr. President
—  Karina M. Tehusijarana et. al., The Jakarta Post, 12 September 2019
Former president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie died at the age of 83 at the Gatot Subroto Army Hospital (RSPAD) in Central Jakarta on Wednesday. “Allow me on behalf of all the Indonesian people and government to express my deep condolences on the passing of Bapak Prof. B.J Habibie at 6:05 p.m. at RSPAD Gatot Subroto,” President Joko Widodo told reporters at the hospital on Wednesday night. “I think he was a statesman that we should take as an example and role model in life.” The prominent engineer, born on June 25, 1936, served as research and technology minister under Soeharto for 20 years, before being thrust into the role vice president during the dying days of the New Order regime in March 1998. Renowned for his intelligence and known as “the golden son” of Soeharto for his close relationship with the country’s longest-serving president, he became the first, and shortest serving, president of the Reform Era, assuming the office after Soeharto’s resignation in May 1998 and relinquishing it after fresh legislative elections held in October 1999.

Falling production leaves bitter aftertaste in RI's cocoa industry
—  The Jakarta Post, 9 September 2019
Bars of flavorful chocolate displayed on shelves at supermarkets across the country cannot sugar-coat the bitter fact that Indonesia’s cocoa industry is in dire straits. Several factories have been forced to close due to their failure to cater to soaring demand for chocolate, amid a lack of cacao beans. The head of the beverages, tobacco and refreshments subdirectorate at the Industry Ministry, Mogadishu Djati Ertanto, revealed that 9 of 20 cacao-processing factories had stopped production since last year. The remaining 11 factories were running below 59% of their capacity to process around 463,060 tons of cacao beans this year. “We need to import cacao beans, because many factories have stopped operations due to a lack of supply,” he said during a discussion attended by cocoa industry representatives, government officials and agricultural research bodies at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) headquarters. The cocoa industry has been pushing the government to cut the import duty from 5 to 1% and eliminate the 10% import value added tax (VAT) for cacao beans as imports continue to climb to meet domestic demand.

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