TAN WEIZHEN Today Online 23 Mar 17;
SINGAPORE — Site investigation works to study if the future Cross Island Line will pass under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) are now being carried out in the area, with mitigating measures being put in place to address nature groups’ concerns about the impact of such works on the reserve.
The works are being done at 16 sites at the CCNR. These began last week at one site in a forested area, while at another four sites, works started in February.
At a media briefing yesterday, Dr Goh Kok Hun, deputy director of geotechnical and tunnels at the Land Transport Authority (LTA), stressed that those involved in the study are adhering to stringent requirements during the investigation works.
“The LTA is working closely with NParks (National Parks Board), nature groups and our contractors to ensure that the site investigation works are done in the best possible manner. Other than significantly reducing the number of boreholes required from 72 to 16, we have also limited the boreholes’ locations to existing trails and clearings like this within the CCNR,” he told reporters after a demonstration on how the works are being done at one of the sites at the CCNR. He also explained how the mitigating measures work.
“Workers have to observe stringent requirements stipulated under the Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan while carrying out their works.”
He added: “We are doing these soil investigation works so that once we understand soil and rock conditions, we can assess the impact of construction and operations for the two possible alignments — the direct alignment or the skirting alignment.”
The direct alignment option will cut through the CCNR, running for 2km, while the skirting alignment will run for 9km under homes and businesses. The authorities have yet to make a decision on the issue.
Nature groups are opposed to the direct alignment option, noting that it will hurt the nature reserve and there are no guarantees that the mitigating measures for the site investigation works will not have an impact on the environment.
The LTA said other mitigating measures have also been put in place during the investigation works at the 16 sites, which are expected to be completed by the end of the year.
For instance, all activities will be restricted to daylight hours from 9am to 5pm, so as not to affect nocturnal animals.
Boreholes will also be done only at public trails and existing clearings within the CCNR. “Ecologically sensitive” areas such as streams and swampy areas will be avoided, and there will be also be a 30m buffer zone around them.
A certified arborist has been appointed to propose and assess methods to avoid damage to trees during the borehole process, the LTA said.
Today Online 22 Mar 17;
SINGAPORE — A survey conducted by Government feedback unit Reach has found that just slightly more than half (52 per cent) of the respondents expressed overall support for this year’s Budget initiatives — believed to be among the lowest since Reach began conducting the annual post-Budget polls several years ago.
The telephone survey also found that many disagreed with the 30-per-cent water tariff hike, Reach said in a press release on Wednesday (March 22).
The poll was conducted from February 22 to March 3, and the randomly-selected sample of 1,111 citizens was weighted to be demographically representative of the national population in terms of gender, age and race.
Among the findings, 43 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “it (was) reasonable to increase water prices to fund the higher costs of water production and to encourage water conservation”. In comparison, 24 per cent said they were “neutral”, 32 per cent agreed or strongly agreed and 1 per cent were “unsure”.
Reach also said that at its feedback booths, “many Singaporeans had initially shared their unhappiness on the increased water prices”.
It added: “But after various agencies and political office-holders had explained the increase, more people at (the booths) at the end of February and March said that they supported the increase. They understood the rationale behind the move and accepted that water is vital to our country’s survival and that it should be priced properly.”
Still, Reach chairman Sam Tan said the unit will embark on more public education.
In comparison, there was strong support for initiatives to help persons with disabilities, families in housing, and children’s education. For example, 72 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the increase in Central Provident Fund housing grant for couples buying their first resale flat would offer “significant support for young families”. An identical proportion felt the same about the Third Enabling Masterplan — a roadmap to build a more inclusive society where persons with disabilities are supported to realise their potential — would help those with disabilities to integrate better in the workforce and society.
Asked if an increase in the number of infant-care places would “make Singapore a more conducive place to raise a family”, 66 per cent of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed.
Two-thirds of the respondents also either agreed or strongly agreed that training support offered under the SkillsFuture movement will create better employment opportunities for Singaporeans.
Despite the high levels of support for the social measures, overall support for the Budget measures was relatively low: 52 per cent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “Overall, I support the initiatives announced in the Budget.” More than a third (35 per cent) were neutral, while 11 per cent disagreed or strongly
Reach did not reply to queries on whether this was the lowest level of support since it began conducting the polls. Nevertheless, earlier media reports showed that in 2010, 70 per cent of 800 Singaporeans surveyed expressed support for the Budget that year. The figure was about 60 per cent the following year. In 2012, the proportion spiked to 93 per cent while it was about two-thirds in 2013.
Between 2014 and last year, the proportion hovered around 70 per cent.
Members of Parliament interviewed by TODAY said the survey results mirror sentiments on the ground, especially concern about the water price hike among low-income Singaporeans.
“Many Singaporeans are supportive of most of the measures in the Budget … but for some, the water price increase overshadows their support on other issues,” said Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah.
Fellow Nee Soon MP Louis Ng said the low overall support reflects the population’s desire for their voices to be heard. “The survey results show that we need to improve on our communication of Budget measures and to get the public involved in the process of drafting the Budget statement,” he said.
Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo added that the relatively low overall support is “not entirely unexpected” for a Budget that seeks to “position Singapore for the long term”. Faced with economic pressures, some Singaporeans may be looking out for more short-term support measures, he noted.
Many welcome Budget 2017 measures, but against water price hike: REACH
Today Online 22 Mar 17;
SINGAPORE: More than half of Singaporeans welcomed Budget 2017’s initiatives to support families and build a more inclusive society, but many disagreed with the move to increase water prices, according to Government outreach portal REACH.
A total of 1,111 randomly selected Singapore citizens aged 20 and above were polled by phone over 10 days, REACH said in a press release on Wednesday (Mar 22).
Overall, 52 per cent of Singaporeans polled said they supported the measures. Eight in 10 welcomed the increase in post-Secondary education bursaries, while seven in 10 agreed that the increase in CPF housing grant for first-time buyers of resale flats would help support young families.
Two-thirds of respondents also welcomed an increase in the number of infant care places, while 72 per cent agreed that the Third Enabling Masterplan would help those with disabilities integrate better into society.
More than half of those polled also supported the jobs and skills-related initiatives, REACH said.
However, nearly half – or 43 per cent – of respondents disagreed with the move to raise water prices. About 32 per cent agreed with the move while 24 per cent said they were neutral, according to REACH.
At REACH’s listening points – open booths in public areas for people to give feedback to the Government – many Singaporeans said they were unhappy about the price hike. But after explanations by the Government, more people accepted the increase, REACH said.
“They understood the rationale behind the move and accepted that water is vital to our country’s survival and that it should be priced properly,” it said.
Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and for Manpower Sam Tan, who is also REACH chairman, said the Government understood Singaporeans’ concerns.
“For those who are affected by the rising costs, there are measures to help households through the increase in U-Save rebates. We also hear the suggestions of some Singaporeans to improve communication on the water increase, and to do more public education so that everyone can work collectively to understand the need for water conservation.”
The Star 23 Mar 17;
KOTA KINABALU: The culling and trapping of crocodiles will be carried out in areas where the reptiles have attacked human, the Sabah Wildlife Department says.
Department director Augustine Tuuga said rangers would be deployed to trap crocodiles in areas where the reptiles posed a danger.
He said crocodile hunting was allowed under the state’s Wildlife Protection Enactment 1997 but only a few licences had been issued as they were listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Sarawak downgraded crocodiles to Appendix II that allowed for the controlled trade of the reptiles during the Conference of Parties last year. This allowed Sarawak an export quota of 500 crocodiles caught from the wild.
He said Sabah was seeking its own export quota of crocodiles but it would have to come up with a management plan for them .
Augustine said the department contacted wildlife research NGO Danau Girang Field Centre to do a study.
Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin had called for the state to emulate Sarawak and allow hunting of the reptiles after a man and his 13-year-old son were killed in a crocodile attack along Sungai Kinabatangan on Monday.
Crocs in affected areas to be trapped and culled
RUBEN SARIO The Star 22 Mar 17;
KOTA KINABALU: Crocodiles in areas where attacks have taken place will be trapped and culled, says the Sabah Wildlife Department.
Its director Augustine Tuuga said rangers would also be deployed to trap crocodiles in areas where the reptiles pose a danger to humans.
He said crocodile hunting was allowed under the state Wildlife Protection Enactment 1997, but only a few licences were applied for as the skin of reptiles caught in the wild cannot be exported.
“Crocodiles are listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora,” Augustine said.
He said Sarawak had proposed downgrading crocodile protection to Appendix II during the Conference of Parties last year, and this was approved. Appendix II allows for controlled trade.
As a result, Sarawak had an export quota of 500 crocodiles taken from the wild, while there was none for Sabah and West Malaysia, he added.
Augustine said Sabah was moving towards getting its own export quota of crocodiles from the wild, but the state would first have to come up with a management plan for these creatures.
He said his department had contracted wildlife research non-governmental organisation Danau Girang Field Centre to conduct a study that was due to be completed next year.
Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin called for the state to emulate Sarawak and allow for the hunting of the reptiles after a 50-year-old man and his 13-year-old son were killed in an attack along Sungai Kinabatangan.
The two victims, from Kampung Seri Bersatu in Bukit Garam, had gone fishing on March 18, but their partially devoured bodies were discovered in the river two days later.
Bung Mokhtar said drastic action was needed to control the crocodile population, especially along the nation’s second longest waterway.
He said villagers living along the river were at risk because of the increasing number of these reptiles.
Over the past two years, Wildlife rangers have had to respond to incidents of human-crocodile conflict with reptiles appearing in populated areas around Sabah.
A seafood restaurant owner in Jalan Pengkalan Weld has forked out a whopping RM7,500 to buy an enormous 150kg grouper as a rare delicacy for his customers. (Pix by SHAHNAZ FAZLIE SHAHRIZAL)
MOHAMED BASYIR New Straits Times 22 Mar 17;
GEORGE TOWN: A seafood restaurant owner in Jalan Pengkalan Weld has forked out a whopping RM7,500 to buy an enormous 150kg grouper as a rare delicacy for his customers.
Chew Kean Ghee, 45, said that he could not resist buying the 150kg fish when it was put up on sale at an open tender recently.
“My customers will be more than happy to enjoy this rare treat. That is the reason I was willing to spend that much money just for a fish.
“I want to satisfy my customers in the best way possible by serving them this fish for a price as low as RM17 per serving.
“This will be a great dish to be enjoyed either individually or in groups,” he said when met at his shop today.
The process of cleaning and cutting up the gigantic fish alone took him up to four hours.
Chew said that he was glad that the image of him purchasing the grouper made its rounds on social media recently as this would attract more customers to his restaurant.
He plans to donate some of the profits made from the fish to several primary schools in the state.
Beh Lih Yi Reuters 22 Mar 17;
JAKARTA, March 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Indonesia is recruiting tribespeople to help fight outbreaks of haze which shroud Southeast Asia every year with a government deal designed to tap into traditional ways of containing forest fires.
The region suffers every dry season from a haze caused by smouldering fires, often set deliberately to clear land for pulp and paper and palm oil plantations on Sumatra and Borneo islands.
Most of the fires are on peat land which are highly inflammable and often cause fires to spread beyond their intended areas, sending smoke across to neighbours Singapore and Malaysia.
For the first time, the Peatlands Restoration Agency - set up by President Joko Widodo in 2016 to fight the fires - has struck a deal with indigenous groups in a bid to tap their traditional knowledge in managing lands and fires.
"We realise indigenous groups are already practising good peatland management, using their local wisdom," the agency's deputy head Myrna Safitri told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
For instance, a long-held tradition by the Dayak tribe on Borneo island dictates they cannot leave a place that has been set on fire until the fire stops.
Fires are often started in the dry season by farmers to clear their land quickly and cheaply to plant new harvests.
In other places, some tribes have already developed new ways to avoid burning the land when they are preparing for the new planting season, according to the official.
"We are really impressed. We hope with our recognition of the indigenous people, that kind of knowledge sharing can be expanded to other places," Safitri said.
Under an agreement with the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago signed last week, the agency will promote such practices and hope the tribespeople can inspire others.
The alliance is the umbrella group that represents some 50 million indigenous people in Indonesia.
"We hope it would be one of the effective ways to control the fires at the grassroots level," Safitri said.
Indonesia has been criticised by neighbours and green groups for failing to end the annual fires.
In 2015, dry weather caused by the El Nino phenomenon saw one of the worst outbreaks of haze in years, with smoke blanketing neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia for weeks and drifting as far north as the Thai capital Bangkok.
The fires cost Indonesia $16 billion that year and left over 500,000 Indonesians suffering from respiratory ailments. (Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)
Suherdjoko The Jakarta Post 22 Mar 17;
Five barges carrying coal from Kalimantan destroyed hundreds of square meters of coral around Karimunjawa Islands in Jepara, Central Java, when they took shelter from storms, an official has said.
Karimunjawa National Park Agency official Iwan Setiawan said the damaged coral was located in waters around Cilik, Gosong Tengah and Tengah islands where the five barges passed on Jan. 14 and Feb. 10 to find shelter from storms.
“The barges took shelter in the area because of bad weather, or the west season. Strong waves dragged their anchors, which damaged coral reef in the area. The first incident hampered barge Sinar Anugerah in January while four other barges suffered similar incidents in February,” said Iwan on Wednesday.
He further said the Karimunjawa National Park Agency had met the barges’ captains and made records of the incidents. The cases were later reported to the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s Environment and Forestry Law Enforcement and Security Agency in Surabaya, East Java.
(Read also: Indonesia not yet ready to handle cruise ships: Official)
Karimunjawa is a prime destination for maritime tourism in Central Java. It has 27 islands, five of which are populated by about 10,000 people. Every week about 2,000 local and foreign tourists visit the area.
The incidents received close attention from conservation group Alam Karimunjawa, which reported the cases to the Central Java Legislative Council.
Alam Karimunjawa head Jarhanudin said the destruction of coral by barges passing through waters around Karimunjawa Islands had been repeatedly reported to the Karimunjawa National Park Agency and port master. “We received few responses, however,” he said. (ebf)
Sat 01 April 2017: 7.30am – Join us for a very muddy World Water Day mangrove cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore
2 Apr (Sun): FREE Guided Herp Walk @ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Herpetological Society of Singapore
Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 21 Mar 17;
JOHOR BARU: Johor is a step closer to become the first state to have a waste water recycling plant with the launch of a pilot plant in Taman Scientex here.
The plant, which has a capacity to recycle 125 cubic metre of waste water a day, was built by Jauhar Bluewater Sdn Bhd at the cost of RM2 million.
It uses a membrane bioreactor and reverse osmosis processes to treat waste water and the treated water, called Bluewater, will be tested to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. However, the treated water is targeted for industrial use.
Jauhar Bluewater group managing director Datuk Seri Jeff Yap said the company would conduct various tests on the operations of the pilot plant and the quality of water it produces for the next six months.
“In that period, we will also study the cost of recycling waste water. Once all the tests are completed, only then will we start to look for a suitable location for a permanent plant,” said Yap.
He said the company has yet to determine the cost of the permanent plant as it would depend on the size and capacity of the plant.
Yap was speaking to the media after the launch of the pilot plant by Tunku Temenggong Johor Tunku Idris Sultan Iskandar, who is also the honorary chairman of Jauhar Bluewater.
Also present were state Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad and Jauhar Bluewater deputy chairman Datuk Moehamad Izat Emir.
Antara 21 Mar 17;
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - A total of 18,882 meter square of coral reef in the Raja Ampat sub-district, West Papua, had been declared damaged by the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs.
According to a press statement received here on Tuesday, the Ministrys Deputy of Maritime Sovereignty Arif Havas Oegroseno stated that both the survey teams, established by the Indonesian government and MV Caledonian Sky ships insurance company, had agreed to the total meter square of damaged coral reef.
Furthermore, Havas noted that the 18,882 meter square area was divided into two separate damage conditions.
"About 13,270 meter square of the total damaged area was totally destructed as it was ran aground by the cruise ship, while the rest of the 5,612 meter square area was moderately damaged as it was scourged by the sand and coral reef pieces that were disrupted by the ships movement. The latter now possess 50 percent life expectancy," he remarked.
Havas also noted that should the rehabilitation processes fail and the moderately damaged coral reef, with 50 percent life expectancy, end up dying, then the 5,612 meter square area will also be included under the totally destructed category.
Following the survey, both the teams had agreed to carry out their own investigations separately.
Both teams are then scheduled to conduct another meeting during the first week of April in Jakarta, with the discussion around the final survey results as the agenda.
"The valuation team will soon review the economical damages caused by the coral reef destruction," he said, adding that the valuation team will be led by the Ministry of Forestry and Environment.
It was previously reported that the team of various ministries, tasked with settling the Raja Ampat coral reef damage dispute, established a total of 22,060 meter square of survey area, along with British insurance company P&I Club.
The MV Caledonian Sky cruise ship, which ran aground onto a coral reef off Raja Ampat District in West Papua on March 4, 2017, had resulted in a huge loss to the district.
The damage caused by Caledonian Sky, carrying hundreds of tourists and 79 crew members aboard, was due to the negligence of the its captain, according to the Raja Ampat district government.
The accident resulted in the destruction of the ecosystems structural habitat and the reduction or loss of diversity of eight coral genera, including acropora, porites, montipora, and stylophora.(*)
Caledonian Sky destroyed more than 18,000 m2 of pristine Raja Ampat reefs, survey concludes
The Jakarta Post 22 Mar 17;
Survey teams from the government and the insurance company for the British-owned MV Caledonian Sky, which ran aground on coral reefs in West Papua’s famous Raja Ampat, have reached a conclusion regarding the area damaged by the cruise ship.
“The two teams have agreed that the ship damaged 18,882 square meters and both teams have signed an official letter together,” the deputy for maritime sovereignty at the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister, Arif Havas Oegroseno, said in press statement on Tuesday.
The damaged area has been divided into two categories. Some 13,270 square meters were heavily damaged while 5,612 square meters suffered medium damage. Still, the reefs damaged to a medium extent had only a 50 percent chance of survival, Havas said.
“If the medium-damaged coral reefs die then the area will be counted as total damage,” he said, adding that it would impact the valuation of the losses in parallel with the compensation claim.
Furthermore, the two survey teams had agreed to conduct a follow-up analysis, Havas said. The teams will meet in Jakarta to discuss the final survey results in the first week of April.
The follow-up will include the economic calculation of the total losses by a valuation team lead by the Environment and Forestry Ministry.
The 90-meter British-flagged vessel owned by cruise tour operator Noble Caledonia smashed into and destroyed coral reefs in the Dampier Strait off Raja Ampat on March 4. (rin)
Indonesia not yet ready to handle cruise ships: Official
The Jakarta Post 21 Mar 17;
Regardless of who will be blamed for the recent kerfuffle surrounding UK cruise ship the MV Caledonian Sky, which ran aground in Raja Ampat, West Papua, damaging coral reef in the area, the deputy minister for maritime sovereignty at the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister, Arif Havas Oegroseno, said it must be admitted that Indonesia was not yet accustomed to handling a large number of cruise ships.
Speaking to journalists during a recent interview, Arif Havas said it was only recently that cruise ship companies across the world included Indonesia as one of their destinations because of a string of regulations imposed by the government.
“They were previously somewhat reluctant to visit Indonesia. They just wanted to stop in Singapore. They didn’t want to enter Indonesia because of its [flawed] bureaucracy, its ‘red tape’ [illegal levies] and poor infrastructure,” he said as quoted by tribunnews.com on Tuesday.
With a growing number of cruise ship visits, Arif Havas said infrastructure in Indonesia was not yet ready to handle the challenge.
“Our effort to draw in more ‘cruise visits’ to boost our tourist sector will certainly result in challenges,” he added.
One of the measures the government will take is to tighten regulations for cruise ships that pass through conservation areas such as Raja Ampat.
Arif Havas said in other conservation areas, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, cruise ships were allowed to pass through but were subject to tightened regulations.
“It’s not a strange thing to have a cruise ship enter waters with coral reefs.”
Arif Havas said with the current availability of tourist infrastructure in the country, the government was still calculating how many cruise ships could safely enter Indonesian waters. (hol/ebf)
Chief Maritime Minister Demands Firmer Regulations to Manage Raja Ampat Islands
Amrozi Amenan Jakarta Globe 21 Mar 17;
Jakarta. Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has called on the West Papua provincial administration to improve its regulations for managing the Raja Ampat Islands, a world-famous diving spot, after a British cruise ship damaged coral reefs there earlier this month.
A task force has been deployed to assess the damage caused by the ship, Caledonian Sky, when it ran aground in shallow waters during low tide on March 4. The team will also assess legal aspects of the case.
"We need firmer regulations, since Raja Ampat is our tourism destination that possesses [more] rare coral reefs [compared to other places] in the world," Luhut said in Gresik, East Java, on Monday (20/03).
The minister has yet to receive reports on the total damage.
However, a preliminary investigation showed that the damage covers nearly 1,600 square meters of coral reef at a diving site known as Crossover Reef.
"We have been in contact with the ship's insurer; they will take responsibility for the damage," Luhut added.
The central government will seek compensation of up to $1.92 million, according to the environmental science and conservation news and information website, Mongabay. Marine experts say it will take several years before the coral reefs begin to recover.
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry took over the investigation into the incident from Maritime Affairs Minister Susi Pudjiastuti last Thursday.
Raja Ampat Coral Damage Worse Than Expected
Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 22 Mar 17;
Jakarta. More than 18,000 square meters of coral reef in Dampier Strait of Raja Ampat, West Papua, were damaged by Caledonian Sky cruise ship, a joint survey team has revealed earlier this week. The damage is more than 11 times bigger than a preliminary investigation suggested.
"Both parties [the national survey team and insurance survey team] have concluded that the damaged area is 18,882 square meters", Coordinating Maritime Affairs Deputy Minister Arif Havas Oegroseno said in a statement on Tuesday (21/03).
"[The area of] 13,270 square meters was badly damaged by the ship, while 5,612 square meters were destroyed by shockwaves," Arif said.
A follow-up in-depth analysis will be conducted in April, while another team will calculate the economic loss.
"The loss-assessment [team] will be led by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, as mandated by the 2009 Law on the Protection of Environment," Arif said.
Meanwhile, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the incident is also an international crime and will involve several foreign governments.
"The settlement has to involve the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Bahamas," Luhut said, as quoted Antara news agency.
Caledonian Sky cruise ship is owned and operated by Swedish company Salen, although it bore the flag of the Bahamas.
The ship's ticketing agent is registered in the UK and its captain, American resident Keith Michael Taylor, holds a British passport.
Despite the Caledonian Sky's good intentions to solve the issue, the Indonesian government is considering to take the case to an international court and seek higher compensation.
The islands off of West Papua are famously known by divers worldwide as a pristine location with unmatched underwater biodiversity. The waters of Raja Ampat have been recorded to be the home of 1,508 fish species, 537 coral species, 699 mollusk species and a plethora of other marine life.
Ratri M. Siniwi & Muhamad Al Azhari Jakarta Globe 21 Mar 17;
Jakarta. Palm oil is an important commodity for Indonesia's economy, contributing $17.8 billion, or about 12 percent, to its export revenue.
While this year the production of crude palm oil is likely to increase 16 percent, to up to 33 million tons, with expected conducive weather conditions, environmental issues and social conflicts continue to overshadow the sector's future in the world's biggest palm-oil producing country.
Just earlier this month, the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) approved a set of recommendations to the European Commission, which will phase out the use of palm oil as a component of biodiesel by 2020 and require exporters to prove responsible cultivation practices on their plantations.
A report prepared by the European Commission says that as the demand for palm oil is estimated to double by 2050, it poses severe environmental damages to oil-producing countries such Indonesia, Malaysia and others in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Palm oil industry has been accused of causing deforestation, environmental degradation, and human rights violations ranging from land disputes to child labor.
The report is due for a vote in the European Parliament on April 3-6.
In response to the report, Indonesian experts, executives of an organization seeking to promote sustainable development, and a former government official, have started to defend the industry that employs millions.
"This is a real black campaign, involving conflicts of interests, and deriving from trade competitors," said Bayu Krisnamurthi, former deputy minister of trade and agriculture in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's cabinet.
Bayu is now the chairman of the Indonesian Society of Agricultural Economics, which provides expertise to the agricultural sector.
In November 2013, the EU set duties of 8.8 percent to 20.5 percent for Indonesian palm oil producers to apply for five years. It argued that by imposing duty on the raw products, an advantage will be given to domestic producers.
The Indonesian government's is going to file a complaint to the World Trade Organization against the duties.
Petrus Gunarso, a member of the Indonesian Forestry Scholars Association (Persaki), rebutted the claim that Indonesia's palm oil industry is the main contributor to the country's deforestation, claiming that most of the palm oil plantations, which currently cover about 11 million hectares, were previously rubber plantations.
Petrus said that many farmers had converted their plantations as the price of rubber has been declining and palm oil cultivation is more profitable.
"That's why the sizes of our rubber plantations have shrunk," he said, adding that plantations are also established on degraded forests, which the government classifies as non-forest estates.
"By Indonesian law, that's not deforestation," Petrus said.
While palm oil producers may need to work more on convincing Europeans to buy their products, at home they have to deal with social conflicts, especially regarding land disputes.
The Indonesia Business Council for Sustainable Development, IBCSD, has commissioned a team to study the costs of these conflicts.
Using 2016 data from five plantations in Kalimantan and Sumatra, the team concluded, in a report titled "The Cost of Conflict in Oil Palm in Indonesia," that the tangible costs of social conflicts ranged from $70,000 to $2.5 million. The biggest direct costs were income losses due to disrupted operations.
The intangible costs, according to the report, ranged from $600,000 to $9 million, and were due to reputational losses, casualties and property damage.
The reputational losses, according to the study, affect the companies' ability to obtain loans, decrease the demand for their products and their stock market value.
"Conflicts are going to exist in all industries, it's our homework now to find the most feasible solutions for the companies and communities," said Aisyah Sileuw, president director of consulting firm Daemeter, which published the report.
As the infamous commodity makes the industry the most favorite one to bash on, Aisyah believes it is "impossible to get rid of it," not only because of the huge export revenue it generates, but also since 40 percent of the country's smallholders depend on palm oil.
SIAU MING EN Today Online 21 Mar 17;
SINGAPORE — To change water consumption habits, banking on high prices alone might not cut it. Instead, the pricing structure should be pegged to the number of people in the household and entail discounts for households which manage to cut back on their water usage.
This was the view of Dr Jochen Krauss, a pricing consultant who has more than nine years’ experience in consulting national and international clients.
“A fair system needs to differentiate users. And a way to differentiate users is by introducing tiers,” he said, ahead of World Water Day tomorrow.
Since the Government announced last month that water prices would go up by 30 per cent in two phases, varying opinions on how the pricing structure here should change have been floated: For instance, charging the well-to-do higher rates, and differentiating prices by household type.
In Singapore, the tiering is based on volume. Households pay S$1.17 per cubic metre of water if they use less than 40 cubic metres each month, a threshold introduced during the last price revision in 2000. Those who use more than that pay S$1.40 per cubic metre.
Dr Krauss disagreed that pricing should be tied to income levels or the size of a house, given that water is a universal resource. But it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure the lower-income can afford and have access to water, he added.
While someone living in a bigger house could use more water, he noted that this “does not constitute basic usage anymore”.
“We’re talking about water, not the number of air-conditioning units. If you have a larger house, then you have more rooms to cool down ... but still, you are the same person. If you think you want to have a pool (in a bigger house), there (should be) a cost to pay for it,” he added.
A carrot-and-stick approach would help nudge people to conserve the scarce resource, said the managing partner at Simon-Kucher & Partners. This means penalising those who use water excessively and incentivising others who make the effort to cut back on their water usage by giving a discount on their water bill.
The authorities could set a basic water-consumption threshold for an average household size before adjusting it according to more or fewer people living under one roof. This means that a two-person household will have a lower threshold than a five-person household given that two people will use less water.
“Household members are a huge driver of water consumption, not the number of toilet bowls. It’s the number of people using these bowls and the faucets ... and that is a function of variable consumption,” he added.
This has been the pricing approach taken by Barcelona, for instance, one of the European cities that has managed to reduce its per capita water consumption to less than 100 litres a day. Last year, Singapore households used 148 litres of water per capita per day.
In Europe, water prices have led to varying consumption patterns. For instance, high water prices have forced countries such as Germany and Finland to save water and reduce their consumption. Countries such as Belgium and Spain, on the other hand, have similarly low consumption rates despite their relatively lower water prices.
But Denmark continued to have a high water consumption rate despite its higher water prices.
There are limitations even with Dr Krauss’ suggested system: At some point, households will not be able to reduce their water consumption any further. Citing Germany as an example, Dr Krauss noted that the authorities “have incentivised water usage so much” that not enough water flows through its infrastructure, making it more costly to maintain.
While it is hard to determine how often water prices should be adjusted, he noted the authorities might not want to wait for another 17 years before doing so. And with changes in prices, “everyone somehow logically assumes it’s an increase”, he said, adding that water prices can go down with breakthroughs in technology.
“If you have not changed it for 17 years, chances are, it will be an increase ... But revisiting the topic of water on a more regular basis, a recalibration (of prices) could have different forms,” he said.