Indonesian environmental damage affects gross domestic product

Antara 23 May 12;

Bandung, West Java (ANTARA News) - The continuing environmental pollution and damage in Indonesia is eroding five percent of the country`s gross domestic product growth per year, according to the World Bank.

Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya stated here on Tuesday that the research conducted by the World Bank in 2009 indicates that Indonesia`s development is still not based on sustainability principles that prioritize the preservation of nature.

"The increase in income per capita is rapidly driven by the magnitude of the liquidation of our natural resources and environmental assets. There is continual exploitation of natural resources and excessive destruction of the country`s natural assets, despite the fact that this results in tremendous damage to the present generation, in the form of natural disasters," he observed.

Kambuaya also cited several indicators suggesting that the quality of Indonesia`s environment is still far below expectations. The country has ranked 74th out of 132 countries in the environmental performance index released by the Yale Centre for Environmental Law and Policy.

Indonesia scored 52.29 out of a maximum value of 100 in the index.

"That`s still way below some Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia and even Vietnam," Kambuaya remarked.

According to Kambuaya, Indonesia`s deforestation rate during the last decade reached an average of 1.17 million hectares per year, while the damaged reef areas in Indonesia for 12 years reached 70 percent.

However, the Indonesian government remains committed to sustainable development through the National Long-term Development Plan 2005-2025 as well as its medium-term development plans for 2010-2014, Kambuaya noted.

The government`s application of green economy comprises four elements in the development programme: poverty reduction, decent work, sustainable economic growth and environment internalisation in development activities.

Kambuaya claimed that the green economy implementation actually depends on one key factor that changes the value of human behavior and makes it environment-friendly.

Each individual member of the community, business and government is expected to contribute to the implementation of a green economy by adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle, Kambuaya noted.

"A variety of environment-friendly lifestyles have been taught through the values regarding traditional wisdom and ethics of the environment, which have been rooted in people`s lives," he said.

He acknowledged the fact that many companies still do not carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment. From among 1,002 companies assessed by the Ministry of Environment in 2011, he continued, the majority of companies were categorised as red because they did not manage their waste properly.

Kambuaya promised strict law enforcement against companies that do not manage their waste products according to the government`s regulations.

Every year, there is an increase in the number of companies that are subjected to administrative sanctions and brought to justice, he added.

Editor: Ella Syafputri

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Cambodian forest campaigners fight rampant logging

Suy Se AFP Yahoo News 26 May 12;

Frustrated by government inaction, Cambodian citizen patrollers are risking their lives to take on the country's illegal loggers in a bid to save their shrinking forests.

The shooting of a prominent environmentalist by a military policeman last month after he refused to hand over logging photos rocked the kingdom and shone an unflattering light on government conservation efforts.

Forest communities who depend on the woodlands for their survival say they plan to keep Chhut Vuthy's brand of grassroots activism alive by stepping up the patrols he introduced last year to monitor forest crimes.

"We are all Chhut Vuthy," supporters said at a recent memorial rally in the remote jungle in southwestern Koh Kong province where the 45-year-old was gunned down.

Rampant illegal logging contributed to a sharp drop in Cambodia's forest cover from 73 percent in 1990 to 57 percent in 2010, according to the United Nations.

"We must protect the forest before it's gone. The forest is our rice bowl," 58-year-old Chan Yeng told AFP at the rally, recalling how she once helped confiscate a chainsaw while on patrol in northeastern Prey Lang forest, where the livelihoods of thousands of indigenous people are at risk.

She said the patrols work: after talking to loggers, documenting their activities or preventing them from benefitting from their illegally harvested timber, her community has seen a drop in forest crimes in recent months.

In the past, when Vuthy was still alive, the patrollers even went so far as to burn hidden caches of luxury timber worth tens of thousands of dollars.

In what will be their largest coordinated action yet, hundreds of villagers plan to patrol forests across 10 provinces in June, according to the Communities Peace Building Network, which coordinates grassroots forest activities.

Campaigners admit it could be risky but they say forest communities are willing to put themselves in harm's way because they cannot rely on the authorities to save the country's natural riches.

"Given the government's inaction or inability to stop illegal logging and to stop deforestation, I think it now falls to the Cambodian public to do something," said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

Government spokesman Ek Tha said he welcomed civilian efforts to help preserve the country's pristine woodlands but rejected accusations that it was a sign that authorities were failing to tackle the problem.

"You can't control 100 percent of the natural resources across the nation," he told AFP.

In its haste to develop the impoverished nation, the government has been criticised for allowing well-connected firms to clear hundreds of thousands of hectares (acres) of forest land -- including in protected zones -- for everything from rubber and sugar cane plantations to hydropower dams.

Rights groups and environmental watchdogs have linked many of these concessions to rampant illegal logging, and say armed government forces are routinely used to act as security guards for offending companies.

Following the outcry over Vuthy's death, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a freeze on new land grants, a move cautiously welcomed by environmental groups, who nevertheless argue it will not save the forests already under threat.

For that, campaigners say, more people like Vuthy are needed.

One of them is Prum Dharmajat, 41, a Buddhist monk who lives in Aoral wildlife sanctuary in southwestern Kampong Speu province.

He has quietly dedicated the past 10 years of his life to preserving a two-by-three-kilometre (1.2-by-1.8-mile) patch of forest near his hut -- with a few tips from Vuthy along the way.

The area has long been stripped of its valuable trees, but Dharmajat, whose name translates as "Nature", tries to dissuade loggers from felling the remaining ones for firewood or charcoal, with some help from the villagers and children he educates about conservation.

"The destruction of nature is happening too quickly," the orange-clad holy man told AFP, a gaggle of children swarming around his wooden hut.

But even for monks -- highly revered in this staunchly Buddhist nation -- standing between a logger and a lucrative haul can be a dangerous undertaking.

Dharmajat said he has been threatened many times, and after a recent visit to Phnom Penh he returned to find several trees felled and 11 peacocks poisoned close to his home, in what he believes was an act of revenge by frustrated loggers.

Dharmajat is undeterred, however, and said he supported the plans for more community patrols as an effective tool to deter forest crimes.

But he urged patrollers and those accused of harming the forest to peacefully handle their inevitable confrontations.

"We have to resolve it so that no blood is shed," he said.

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Will Rio+20 Spark a Green Revolution?

Stephen Leahy IPS News 25 May 12;

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 25, 2012 (IPS) - Think of Rio+20 as the hothouse to grow the green ideas and values humanity needs to thrive in the 21st century.

No one is expecting, or even wants, a big new international treaty on sustainable development said Manish Bapna, interim president of the World Resources Institute, a global environmental think tank based in Washington, D.C.

"The important action will be on the sidelines of the formal negotiations," Bapna told IPS in an interview.

Blocs of countries, civil society organisations and representatives of business will meet, create coalitions and make commitments on specific issues and on regional concerns.

"There could be some exciting specific commitments coming out of Rio," Bapna said.

Perhaps the most important outcome from Rio+20 would be to put to rest the erroneous belief that protecting the environment comes at the cost of economic growth when it is in fact the opposite. Without a healthy, functioning environment, humanity loses the benefits of the environment's "free products": air, water, soil to grow food, stable climate and so on.

"One of the big hurdles to a sustainable future is that officials in many countries think they can't afford to move onto a more sustainable pathway," he said.

Bapna hopes Rio+20 will generate a "new narrative" - a wider understanding that there is no viable alternative to the transition to low-carbon, resource-efficient economies that alleviate poverty and create more jobs.

As many as 50,000 people are expected to participate in hundreds of events at the Rio+20 Earth Summit spanning two weeks in mid-June in Rio de Janeiro. More than 130 world leaders will attend, including Russia's Vladimir Putin as well as the prime ministers of India, Manmohan Singh, and China, Wen Jiabao.

U.S. President Obama has not confirmed his attendance at the 20th anniversary of world's first Earth Summit that gave birth to three major environmental treaties on climate change, biodiversity, and land degradation and desertification.

In just about every environmental category things have only become worse since 1992. However, a few countries like Germany understand the environmental and economic necessity of shifting onto a more sustainable path, Bapna said.

"Germany is making the single-most important effort in the world to fight climate change by de-carbonising their economy," he noted.

Germany is committed to double its energy and resource productivity by 2020, which will generate news jobs and enhance its competitiveness in a world with fewer and more expensive resources.

Consumption of fresh water, oil, copper and gold are on pace to triple by 2050, according to a 2001 U.N. report. Except there simply aren't enough resources left on the planet to manage that.

About 22 percent of Germany's energy comes from renewable sources and its goal is to reach 35 percent by 2020, and grow to 80 percent by 2050. Major efforts in improving energy efficiency have been the key in making this shift.

Rio+20 needs to engage people on the sidelines with a new "story" about the imperative to live sustainably with examples of how new markets and green jobs are being created, Bapna said.

The official Rio+20 negotiations are going so badly that an extra week of talks will be held next week. Those negotiations involve what's called the "zero draft". It is intended to be the roadmap for sustainable growth, often called the green economy, and will likely include a set of sustainable development goals.

However, like all U.N. agreements, every word requires unanimous approval by all nations, which is extremely challenging.

"We recognise that we can not continue to burn and consume our way to prosperity. Yet we have not embraced the obvious solution – the only possible solution, now as it was 20 years ago: sustainable development," said United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon in a statement Thursday.

Ban acknowledged the negotiations were "painfully slow" and personally pushed for the extra week of talks urging countries to look beyond their national interests.

"Rio offers a generational opportunity to hit the reset button: to set a new course toward a future that balances the economic, social and environmental dimensions of prosperity and human well-being," he said.

With less than 30 days left to the high-level segment, there is still "no agreed definition of what the green economy is," said Craig Hanson, director of the People and Ecosystems Program at World Resources Institute.

There is growing consensus about the need for green growth and development but people are uncertain what a green economy actually looks like. Germany offers an example with its clean energy efforts that have created 370,000 jobs, Hanson told IPS.

Niger's success in reversing desertification in the Sahel is another, he said.

Negotiations on how to get to greener economies have been a struggle with some countries putting their national interests ahead of what might be best for the planet and future generations he acknowledges.

Phasing out the hundreds of billions of dollars governments dole out in fossil fuel subsidies annually would be best for future generations but it is unclear what countries are prepared to do, said Bapna. "Will they reaffirm previous promises or make firm commitments at Rio? We just don't know."

The U.N.'s Sustainable Energy for All initiative has serious momentum and a bloc of countries could make firm financial commitments to help bring clean energy to world's poorest people, he added.

About 1.4 billion people have no access to electricity and 2.5 billion use traditional biomass for cooking, which has many health and environmental impacts. Bringing electricity to those without out would cost 30 to 40 billion dollars a year - a fraction of the amount spent on current fossil fuel subsidies.

The world has changed since 1992. Things are a lot less predictable. There is no overarching green vision uniting all countries.

"What we do know is this is the critical decade. The world needs short-term commitments to act," said Bapna. "Rio will be a pretty remarkable event.... We need confidence and hope to come out of Rio."

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