Best of our wild blogs: 9 Apr 13

Batfish, Bornellas, and Blennies in Bottles!
from Pulau Hantu

Random Gallery - Grass Demon
from Butterflies of Singapore

I'm different. Don't forget me.
from Hopping Around

Places - Little Guilin, Forever Ago

Sumatran rhino population plunges, down to 100 animals
from news by Jeremy Hance

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Singapore Botanic Gardens has "outstanding universal value", says Lawrence Wong

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 8 Apr 13;

The Singapore Botanic Gardens was chosen for submission as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it fulfills the criteria of having outstanding universal value, said Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG) was chosen for submission as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it fulfills the criteria of having outstanding universal value, and the gardens have made important contributions to the region and the world.

Speaking in Parliament, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said rubber seeds grown in the garden propelled the growth of the rubber industry, and the development of Singapore from a fishing village to one of the world's busiest ports in the 20th century.

Nominated MP Janice Koh had asked if there was any "public engagement" or communication" in the lead-up to the nomination.

In reply, Mr Wong said the decision to nominate the gardens was based on a study commissioned by the then Ministry for Information, Communications and the Arts, and was done in consultation with experts, academics and other stakeholders.

Mr Wong said: "There was indeed consultation done, in the lead-up to even identifying the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It was not the only site that was highlighted as a possibility. There were a few sites considered at that time. There were different views and people had actually expressed their views.

"In fact, if you'll just google 'Singapore Botanic Gardens', which I did incidentally because I was curious what happened in the past, you will find people talking about the listing of the Singapore Botanic Gardens way back in 2009 and 2010. So it's there, on public record."

According to the National Heritage Board (NHB), the 154-year-old Gardens fulfils two criteria to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was a site for experiments on crops such as rubber and orchid hybrids, that shaped Singapore's economic development.

It also has rich historical value as a British colonial garden, integrating English landscape style and buildings with the local terrain.

A feasibility study was commissioned in 2010 by the then-Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, at a cost of S$30,000.

The study identified potential sites that could fulfill UNESCO's criteria as World Heritage Sites. Other sites such as Haw Par Villa, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the former Ford Factory, were considered.

NHB and SBG are currently working together on the bid and have hired a consultant to put together a nomination dossier, including a site management plan, by February 2014.

Upon submission of the nomination documents, experts from one of UNESCO's advisory bodies will carry out site assessments and study the dossier before making their recommendations. This process takes about a year.

The World Heritage Committee will then meet around June 2015 to vote on the nomination, with some 1,600 sites currently being considered. They may approve it, defer it pending further information, or reject the nomination.

Jean Wee, the director of the preservation of monuments board at the NHB, said: "I think what's very very critical will be the site management plan. We have to assure UNESCO that as a state party, we are responsible and we will do everything that we can to make sure that this, as a protected site, will have a sustainable management plan."

Tan Wee Cheng of the Singapore Heritage Society felt that there would be many positives should the SBG get UNESCO heritage status.

"That would enhance our sense of national pride and national identity. In fact, as studies have shown elsewhere in the world, when you have a UNESCO World Heritage Site, people also become more civic-conscious.

"It means that Singapore now has a new brand name. It enhances our soft power. Now, soft power goes beyond just tourism revenue. It means that people are more interested in dealing with you, in emulating you, in associating themselves with you."

Some members of the community hope that it will open up more conservation opportunities.

"We are also thinking that the periphery areas of the central catchment area, such as Bukit Brown -- they are important sites because they are not under any protection," said Assistant Professor Lai Chee Kien of the department of architecture at the National University of Singapore.

"The Singapore Nature Society as well as the Singapore Heritage Society, they have collectively determined that it is a site worthy of conservation of both natural heritage as well as historical cultural heritage."

In the months ahead, there will be a series of public engagement sessions, where the nomination document and management plan will be shared with heritage and environmental groups, as well as the public.

Poon Hong Yuen, CEO of NParks, said: "The public's support is very important in the inscription process. It means that we will do a lot of consultation in various forms, it could be focus groups discussions, it could be exhibitions, even just talking to schools to get the school children's support."

- CNA/ac

Botanic Gardens could be World Heritage Site by 2015: NParks
Eugene Neubronner Today Online 8 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE – The Singapore Botanic Gardens could be the country’s first World Heritage Site by as early as June 2015, if the nomination is accepted by the UNESCO.

Dr Nigel Taylor, the garden's Director, however noted that this would happen only if everything goes Singapore's way. Other countries, he added, did not succeed at their first try. So it might take multiple tries while the UNESCO committee would likely ask for further background or work to be done before giving the green light.

The subject also received a hearing in Parliament today, with Nominated Member of Parliament Associate Prof Eugene Tan Kheng Boon asking why there had been “a rather long silence” since the idea was first floated in 2010. Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong replied that there was “no certainty” that Singapore would be able to obtain the tentative listing.

With the listing official, Mr Wong added, efforts would be ramped up for the formal submission – expected to be by February next year.

During a media briefing today, National Monuments Board Director Jean Wee rejected suggestions that the bid is being done to garner more tourists, instead saying it would help “foster national pride”.

Giving more information about the process to list the garden as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites (WHS), the National Parks Board (NParks) said that the Botanic Gardens was identified as the best shot due to meeting two of the 10 criteria’s from UNESCO – Exhibiting an exchange of human values on developments in landscape design, and as an outstanding example of landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history.

NParks said the Botanic Gardens has “continued and close association with scientific plant research … And (it) has had a fundamental influence on the economic and social development … Of the region.” It is also “a site of multi-cultural interchange in the development” of Singapore.

It is also a unique exemplar of the British colonial tropical botanic gardens Its different stages of development since 1859 are also preserved in its “historic English landscape style, layout, use of local topography, natural forest and buildings”.

These two points were why the Gardens trumped other sites – such as Haw Par Villa and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to be the only submission in December last year.

This is considered an important first step, as without the list, the World Heritage Committee will not consider the nomination.

Meanwhile, a series of public engagement sessions will be conducted where the nomination document and management plans would be shared with stakeholders such as heritage and environment groups, and members of the public.

This will tie in with the opening of a new museum at Holttum Hall on the garden grounds later this year.

There are only two other botanical gardens listed as protected World Heritage Sites worldwide – The Botanical Garden of Padua in Italy and Kew Gardens in the United Kingdom.

Singapore’s Botanic Gardens saw 4.4 million visits last year. There are currently 1579 tentative listed sites from 171 state parties on UNESCO’s list.

A museum to tell story of Botanic Gardens
Due to open in Nov, it will showcase the gardens' 154-year-long history
Grace Chua Straits Times 9 Apr 13;

GENERATIONS of Singaporeans have sat on the low-slung branch of a tembusu tree in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, or proposed to their spouses there.

Their accounts could go into a museum that the Botanic Gardens is building to showcase its 154-year history.

It is due to open in November at the gardens' Holttum Hall.

Though planned before 2010, the museum could help the gardens' bid to be listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, said the National Parks Board (NParks) and National Heritage Board (NHB).

The gardens, however, was not the only place picked initially for the Unesco bid.

Yesterday, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong disclosed in Parliament that sites shortlisted in 2010 included the Civic District, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Haw Par Villa and the former Ford Factory in Upper Bukit Timah Road where the British surrendered to the Japanese in 1942 during World War II.

But the historic gardens was picked for its economic and cultural significance, he said in a reply to Nominated MPs Eugene Tan, Janice Koh and Faizah Jamal.

They had asked how Singapore selected and studied the site.

The gardens was set up as a pleasure garden in 1859, and coffee, rubber and oil palm cultivated there in the late 1800s spread through the region to contribute to South-east Asia's economies.

Unesco World Heritage sites are cultural or natural sites that have been deemed to have outstanding universal value. There are 962 such sites worldwide. South-east Asia's 33 sites include Angkor in Cambodia, and Malacca and George Town in Malaysia.

Last December, the Botanic Gardens was put on Singapore's tentative list, a requirement before a site can be submitted to the World Heritage Committee for consideration.

Before the formal nomination, a process of public engagement will take place between August and December this year.

People will be asked for their feedback through talks, exhibitions and other avenues.

Singapore will formally nominate the gardens next February.

If successful, it may receive World Heritage status as early as June 2015, said an NParks spokesman. An NHB spokesman said the process can, however, take as long as 10 years because if it is not successful, the gardens will stay on the tentative list and be nominated again with a beefed-up application.

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New buildings in Singapore to be more quake-resistant

Singapore puts in place new building codes with seismic clause
Christopher Tan Straits Times 8 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE has adopted a new set of building codes that include guidelines on making new buildings more resistant to earthquakes.

The Eurocodes - which replace the British Standards which Singapore has been using for decades - were formally adopted by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) this month.

The industry has two years to comply with the new codes, that were developed over 30 years and are used by 27 European countries.

The BCA said the Eurocode clauses are "structured to stimulate innovation and are less prescriptive than the British Standards".

They include a seismic clause called EN1998 Eurocode 8, which sets out design and construction guidelines on making structures more earthquake resistant.

Professor Pan Tso-Chien, dean of Nanyang Technological University's School of Engineering and director of the Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management, said the new codes should be sufficient in mitigating the effects of major quakes in nearby Sumatra.

"We cannot have buildings that are completely resistant to earthquakes... the cost will just be too high," he said.

"What we can have are buildings that can resist shaking for a long enough period of time for occupants to vacate. You build resilience, with failure in mind."

Prof Pan has just completed a study commissioned by the BCA in 2008 to ascertain Singapore's risk exposure to powerful earthquakes in the region.

His conclusion is that the likelihood of a quake powerful enough and near enough to damage buildings in Singapore is low.

The closest one, recorded in 1943, was 400km away in south-western Sumatra and measured 7.6 on the Richter scale.

More powerful ones tend to be farther away, like the 8.4-magnitude quake recorded north of Sumatra in 2007, which was 700km away from Singapore.

The catastrophic 2004 quake that triggered a deadly tsunami occurred 900km away.

"It's not whether something is dangerous or not dangerous. It's all probabilistic," Prof Pan said.

"We now know a lot more (about earthquakes in the region) than before. Having learnt what we learnt, we want to make the minimum (building standards) safer."

Prof Pan added that even though existing buildings here were not built to withstand tremors specifically, they are built to withstand winds, which exert similar forces on structures.

Commissioner of Building Control Ong See Ho said: "We now have a set of building codes that is constantly reviewed at an international platform. For Singaporeans, we'll live, work, play and learn in a safer built environment."

Mr Chong Kee Sen, vice-president of the Institution of Engineers, Singapore, said the new codes could even result in "potential cost savings of 5 to 10 per cent" because they are more efficient.

"The industry's challenge is to train our engineers to familiarise themselves with the new codes as well as new software," he said.

"This is a cost element. Anything that is new, we have to approach more carefully. It's a new learning curve."

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Singapore open to idea of housing foreign workers at offshore islands: Khaw

S Ramesh Channel NewsAsia 8 Apr 13;

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said Singapore is open to the idea of housing some foreign workers at nearby offshore islands.

SINGAPORE: National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said Singapore is open to the idea of housing some foreign workers at nearby offshore islands.

In a written reply to a question in Parliament on Monday, he said the country has in fact housed workers on Jurong Island and Pulau Brani, at different times and durations.

However, he said not all offshore islands are suitable, due to the availability of supporting infrastructure such as sewers, as well as other planning considerations.

The government will continue to look for suitable opportunities to help house foreign workers properly and without causing too much inconvenience to them or to Singaporeans.

- CNA/xq

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Nothing goes to waste: Recycling drink cartons in Malaysia

Tan Cheng Li The Star 9 Apr 13;

Beverage cartons can be fully recycled into new paper and green roofs.

C.C. Lee holds up a piece of shiny corrugated board and gives it a couple of knocks. “It’s very hard, stronger than cement board,” he says, his eyes gleaming proudly. “We’re planning to call it ‘green roof’.”

It certainly is an apt name as the board is fully made of recycled material. Its reflective surface gives a hint of what it once was – beverage cartons. That’s right, those packet drinks which Malaysians guzzle down by the thousands each day can be saved from the dump site and transformed into a new product.

Lee’s company, KPT Packaging, started producing the construction boards in 2011 and it now makes 1,300 pieces each month. It may not be a huge figure but sales are picking up and he is in the midst of doubling his production capacity.

Beverage cartons are made of 75% paper fibre, 20% polyethylene and 5% aluminium foil. A carton typically comprises six layers – a layer each of aluminium and paper, sandwiched in between four layers of polyethylene plastic. This design is what makes them excellent packaging material for food and beverages, but it also poses a recycling challenge – the recycling process has to separate the different materials for reuse.

Full recycling of drinks cartons has long been dogged by insufficient volume and a lack of economy of scale. Factories need huge amounts of the waste to make investments in recycling machinery worthwhile but little of the discarded boxes has been retrieved. Attempts to recycle the packaging waste got off to a promising start in 2005, when an agreement was struck between Tetra Pak Malaysia and Pascorp Paper Industries which saw the latter extracting the paper fibre to produce new paper. However, the residual polyethylene and aluminium were still discarded.

Now, KPT is filling that niche. It is the only local company that is fully recycling the cartons, for aside from producing the boards from the plastic and aluminium components, it also turns the paper fibre into new paper. It joined the recycling business in 1995, picking up and sorting recyclables before sending them to recyclers. In 2005, after signing up as a collection partner with Tetra Pak Malaysia, it started fishing out drink cartons from the waste stream and sending them to Pascorp’s paper mill in Bentong, Pahang, which recycles the paper fibre in the cartons into paper.

Tetra Pak, which produces almost all the drink cartons sold locally, has been working with collectors and recyclers to set up a recycling chain for carton waste, and has even taken them on study trips to Thailand and India to see the processing of the material. It was such trips which convinced KPT of the viability of the business, and it started recycling the cartons in 2009, by buying over an existing paper mill.

“We saw that it is a good and profitable industry,” says Lee, who is director of the company started by his father. In 2011, KPT completed the carton recycling chain when it started turning the plastic and aluminium components into the shiny boards. Now it processes about 250 tonnes of cartons each month – that’s about 17.5 million beverage cartons, based on the average weight of various carton sizes.

At the KPT factory in Kampung Jawa in Shah Alam, Selangor, the recycling process starts with hydrapulping – the cartons are thrown into a huge vat together with water, and blended into bits. The fine paper fibres will sink through a wire mesh at the bottom of the hydrapulper, separating them from the bigger pieces of aluminium and plastic. The paper pulp is sieved to remove impurities, then refined into a smooth consistency. It is then passed through rollers, pressed and dried, to form medium paper (the grade of paper used to form the inner, fluted layer of corrugated board). It takes about three hours after a carton is thrown into the hydrapulper, to be turned into paper.

Drink cartons are sought after in paper production as they contain virgin pulp. “The fibres are of long lengths and so, are of good quality. We don’t need to add chemicals to strengthen the paper,” explains Lee.

KPT uses a mix of 80% carton fibres and 20% old corrugated carton to produce medium paper. Lee says extracting the fibre for paper production is not a costly or energy-intensive venture as the process is similar to conventional paper production, the only difference being the extra 25 minutes spent at the hydrapulping stage. The process requires plenty of water but the water is filtered and reused.

Reusing poly-al

The polyethylene and aluminium components of cartons are commonly referred to as poly-al. After being separated from paper pulp in the hydrapulping machine, the poly-al is crushed into tiny bits, dried and packed into 20kg plastic bags. The whole bag then goes into a hot press where a temperature of 180°C melts the bag of poly-al and bonds everything to form a hard board.

Currently sold in hardware stores, the 1.2m by 2.7m (4 feet by 9 feet) boards can be used in construction formwork, ceilings, partition walls and roofs.

“It can be used in place of plywood as it is moisture-resistant. Compared with cement roof, the poly-al roof is tougher, has better impact resistance, and more cooling as it has lower thermal conductivity,” says Lee. He adds that making the boards is the simplest way to reuse poly-al and it does not require a big investment. “With the volume of carton waste that we get, this is the most practical way to recycle poly-al. Other technologies are more expensive.”

KPT now processes only half of the 50 tonnes of poly-al generated at its factory each month into boards because of its machine capacity. The rest of the poly-al is being stored for now.

The other use for poly-al is in the making of plastic pellets, an option which KPT is now exploring. Thailand already produces poly-al pellets and these are used like plastic resin pellets: to manufacture plastic furniture and plastic ware such as pots, baskets, clothes hangers, broomsticks and containers.

“There is a market for the (poly-al) pellets,” says Lee. “Plastic recyclers say they can mix the pellets with virgin plastic resin. We foresee demand for the pellets as they are more versatile, and can be injected into various products.”

Lee believes that as long as the pellets are priced lower than virgin plastic resin, they should sell, but there are various considerations: whether the aluminium content might affect the quality of the pellets and costings. He remains optimistic, however, and has sent his poly-al pellet samples to plastic recyclers to try out. Also, a small portion of the aluminium content can be removed when the poly-al is being melted to form pellets, and this has a market, too.

Collecting enough

KPT’s venture is certainly helping to reuse a resource but recycling of the waste is still not extensive here. Last year, only 15.3% of the 1.5 billion drink cartons consumed by Malaysians were collected by KPT for recycling. Though the recycling rate has grown – it was 7.3% in 2010 and 10.8% in 2011 – it is still way below that of Thailand and India, which recycle 23% and 17.9% respectively, of the cartons consumed.

Some of the empty cartons – no one knows exactly how much – are believed to end up being mixed with other waste paper and recycled into paper. But some could very well end up in dumpsites. Which is a waste, really, as the whole carton is recyclable.

To ensure enough carton waste for its operations, KPT works with collectors all over the country as well as groups like Tzu Chi Foundation and Recycle & Reward, paying between 30 sen and 50 sen per kilogramme. It even had a short-term campaign last year where it offered RM1 per kg for the waste, just so that people will know the value of carton waste.

“It is difficult to get the cartons. Recyclers tend to mix them with OCC (old corrugated carton) as it is too much work to separate them,” says Lee. However, its limited processing capacity sees KPT still sending between 25 and 30 tonnes of cartons to Pascorp each month.

Pascorp, on the other hand, extracts only paper fibres to produce new paper and discards the remaining poly-al. Because the mill blends the cartons with other paper waste during the hydrapulping process, the residual material is not pure poly-al – it is mixed with stuff like staples and tapes – and cannot be used, explains Tetra Pak Malaysia director of communication and environment, Terrynz Tan.

In order to obtain uncontaminated poly-al, Tan says, KPT was asked to pulp only cartons and not mix it with other paper waste. “We’ve also asked KPT to maximise its capacity and use as much of the collected cartons as possible.”

Tetra Pak prefers to see 100% recycling of its products and so, encourages segregation of drink cartons from other paper waste. It’s “Flip, Flap, Flat” slogan encourages consumers to flatten the carton – and preferably, rinse it – for recycling. It has conducted various programmes with schools and non-government organisations to raise the carton collection rates.

“When cartons are lumped together with mixed paper waste, you lose the 25% poly-al content,” says environment manager Manjula Murugesan. “We want to use as much of the poly-al as possible. If recycling of poly-al picks up, it is beneficial as it will add to the value chain. Recyclers can get a higher price for the carton waste and this will help sustain the recycling effort.”

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Climate Conversations - Could sustainable logging save Indonesia’s mangroves?

CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research) Kate Evans Reuters Alert 8 Apr 13;

It sounds counter-intuitive.

Indonesia’s vast mangrove forests, CIFOR has recently discovered, are a valuable carbon sink. They shelter unique species, protect coastlines from stormy seas – and they are fast disappearing.

Conservationists would see them protected from the logger’s chainsaw.

But it’s possible that selective and sustainable logging of these forests can be done while retaining much of their carbon – and save them from worse fates.

“The threat to mangrove forests is not the cutting of the above ground wood, but conversion to other uses,” says Muljadi Tantra, the Deputy Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer of a group of companies that harvest mangrove wood for charcoal and paper pulp in the provinces of Kalimantan and Papua.

“Once you convert it into a shrimp pond, the whole soil changes, and all the carbon is lost.”

“Whereas logging, if you do it right, and you only take a very small portion of the forest each year, the impact to the environment is very minimal, because of the ability of the mangrove to regenerate itself.”

“As long as you don’t convert them, they’ll come back.”

To test these claims scientifically, Tantra has given researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) access to his PT Kandelia Alam concession in Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan province.

Daniel Murdiyarso, a senior CIFOR climate change scientist and mangrove expert, will be leading efforts to measure the amount of carbon stored and the impact on those stocks of different ways of managing the forests.

“Our current research suggests that logging removes around 20 – 25 percent of the carbon stored in the ecosystem, while the majority of it remains under the ground, in the soil,” Murdiyarso says.

But a cautious approach is needed, as well as more research, he says.

“Indonesia has around 3 million hectares of mangrove forests – but they vary in stages and status,” Murdiyarso says. “Some of them are very productive, and yes, they can be exploited – but not the way they were in the past, the way the terrestrial forests have been exploited. It has to be done differently – and very carefully.”

Tantra, meanwhile, believes the research – and his company’s transparency – may yield insights into how best to sustainably manage the forests. And that, in turn, he hopes, could change public perceptions of mangrove logging.

Family business

You could say mangroves are in Tantra’s blood.

A Chinese-Indonesian from Sumatra, his father started the company in the 1970s, selling mangrove wood for the paper pulp business. Before that, in the 1940s, his maternal grandfather was using mangroves for charcoal production and firewood.

These days, the company owns two concessions in Kalimantan and a much larger one in West Papua – 140,000 hectares of mangrove forest in all.

The company aims to harvest up to three percent of each concession each year, returning to each area after at least 20 years.

The wood is exported for charcoal and wood chip, although Tantra says the company recently lost a big buyer: Japanese companies, which used to prize the high-quality charcoal mangrove produces, have largely stopped importing Indonesian mangrove wood because of environmental concerns, he says.

This misses the point entirely, Tantra says.

“Sustainability comes from three things. Social impact, environmental impact, and economic impact – and the three circles have to work, in order to make forests sustainable. If the economic circle is missing, it’s not sustainable.”

He says that if the market for mangrove wood crashes, because of global concern about its sustainability, ironically, this could have a much more negative impact on mangrove ecosystems.

“Indonesia is not a rich country, so lot of people for their livelihood will depend on natural resources, and if the resource is not valued, they will look for other ways to make the area valuable: converting it to shrimp aquaculture, or rice field or oil palm plantations, which they hope will yield more money.”

“If we have to shut down our concessions, eventually they will be converted for other uses,” he says.

“But if we can actually extract more value out of the mangrove forest, including its environmental values such as carbon and things like that, there are many ways to justify keeping it as a mangrove forest.”

For this reason, Tantra is interested in the potential of schemes like REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), that aim to reward countries for keeping forests standing – and he is currently in the process of applying for certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The certification would assure customers that the company’s concessions are responsibly and sustainably managed – and if it happens, the company would be the first mangrove logging operation to achieve FSC certification, Tantra says.

“We’re gambling with this at the moment.”

“But what we hope the outside world can recognise is that by gaining this certification, they recognise we are doing it the correct way,” he says.

“I think it’s the right thing to do.”

One size doesn’t fit all

But what does sustainable harvesting mean in practice?

Currently, when PT Kandelia Alam harvests wood from an area of mangrove forest, they log the majority of the trees, leaving 40 trees per hectare to provide seeds for the next generation, Tantra says. Once the new growth springs up, the company monitors any gaps, and fills them by planting seedlings grown in the company nursery.

In 20 years, the theory goes, those trees will be mature and ready to be harvested again.

All this is according to Indonesian government regulation – but it’s these rules and regulations, according to Tantra, that are actually inhibiting companies from making their operations more sustainable.

“This ecosystem is very unique, and what’s been applied in terrestrial or inland forests is completely different to what’s happening here,” he said.

“There are many different experiments being done – in Malaysia, as well as what we have done ourselves in the past, that basically tell us there are other ways to make it more productive while having a smaller incremental impact to the environment and to the overall forest.”

This includes practices such as thinning out the largest trees across a wider area, he says, currently not allowed under the law.

“One of our biggest challenges is the inflexibility of the government regulation at this time. We need to lead by principle rather than rules and regulations.”

“I think if the government allowed us to more freedom, it would be better for us and better for the forest because we could adapt and optimise the way we do things – and they could just take our license if they see us doing bad things.”

But Daniel Murdiyarso believes government has an important role to play in regulating the sector.

“Government should provide informed guidance. Freedom can mean different things to different individuals or companies.”

And, he says, revoking concession licenses is not a simple process legally, and would require verification from third parties – a labour-intensive process to carry out for every Indonesian concession.

He agrees, however, that the regulations governing Indonesia’s mangrove concessions need to be revisited – they are currently exactly the same as those for terrestrial forests.

“This ecosystem is very unique, and what’s been applied in terrestrial or inland forests is completely different to what’s happening here,” he said.

“The management plans and requirements for mangrove logging should not be the same as terrestrial forests – and they should be based on research,” he said.

Mangroves produce huge quantities of leaves, which when they fall, turn into organic litter, storing carbon in the soil. Upland forests, on the other hand, store the majority of their carbon in their wood – which means when they are logged, almost all the stored carbon is lost.

It’s possible, then, that mangroves could be logged more intensively than other forests while still retaining significant amounts of carbon in the soil – however, this needs to be tested scientifically, said Murdiyarso.

“Until we know exactly how logging mangrove forests affects the ecosystem carbon and related ecosystem services, we need to be careful,” he said.

Tantra, meanwhile, says his company offered up the concession site for research because he wants answers – for both commercial as well as ethical reasons.

“If you do it sustainably, that means it’s a perpetual income, for us, for the people surrounding the forest, and for the country,” he said.

“But if we do it the unsustainable way, you only get a one time income, the forest is ruined, and it’s not even economically justifiable if you don’t do it sustainably.”

“If you’re short sighted, that’s where you run into trouble.”

This work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and is supported by USAID.

For more information about CIFOR’s wetlands research visit:

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