Best of our wild blogs: 22 Sep 15

New walk dates are out! [October]
BES Drongos

Spider Wrapping Prey for Dinner
Bird Ecology Study Group

Second largest palm oil producer in Indonesia commits to zero deforestation
Mongabay Environmental News

New study exposes true costs of converting mangroves in Southeast Asia
Mongabay Environmental News

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Going beyond the law to fight transboundary haze

EUGENE K B TAN Today Online 22 Sep 15;

Passed by Parliament in August last year, the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) seeks to enhance Singapore’s ability to deal with transboundary haze. But it can and must do more if it is not to be a paper tiger.

TAPA has extra-territorial reach enabling Singapore courts to exercise power beyond Singapore’s territorial limits. It also covers acts of commission and omission, whether such conduct occurs within or outside of Singapore, which result in haze pollution in Singapore.

The serious episodes of transboundary air pollution in 1994, 1997, 2006, 2010, 2013 and the ongoing haze are a stark reminder that while strong laws and patient diplomacy are necessary, they are insufficient in dealing with the problem.

While TAPA is limited to entities with a presence in Singapore, its successful operation is not something entirely within the control of the Singapore authorities. Instead, the strong cooperation of foreign authorities is required for any successful prosecution and enforcement.

For instance, with the current haze, the evidence needed to mount any prosecution is not in Singapore but in Indonesia, where the companies and individuals are allegedly conducting such illegal activities.

Such evidence includes geospatial information such as the ownership and occupation of the land the pollution is coming from. However, a complex web of national, provincial and customary laws — laws that often compete and perhaps even conflict with one another — governs land use and land tenure in Indonesia. To compound matters, there is a lack of reliable maps. As such, for the purposes of a successful prosecution, it is not at all clear who might own a piece of land.

Furthermore, the cooperation of the Indonesian authorities is proving elusive. Despite the regular regional and bilateral unhappiness expressed towards the Indonesian government with regard to the problem, the lack of political will and entrenched intransigence on the part of the Indonesian government is severely limiting TAPA’s reach and effectiveness.

TAPA’s extraterritorial reach is double-edged because it is often regarded by another state as an infringement of said state’s national sovereignty. The dynamics of Indonesia-Singapore bilateral relations complicate the matter further.

Like most laws, TAPA is limiting in its impact because it is inherently reactive — it kicks in after the fact of transboundary air pollution. It is also necessary to craft a pre-emptive regulatory regime that will result in corporate entities taking proactive measures to positively influence the agricultural practices of smallholders, including their use of land clearing via the slash-and-burn method.

If business entities in the entire plantation supply chain can be deterred from behaving irresponsibly, we will reduce the impact of the evidential hurdle for TAPA prosecutions.

In this regard, TAPA provides a good start: It does not only cover landowners whose lands are the sources of transboundary haze pollution, but also extends to other actors, including those engaged to start the fires and those involved in the management of an offending entity. This recognises that transboundary haze pollution is often the culmination of a series of deliberate acts in a cross-border decision-making process involving different parties.

It is highly significant that TAPA also criminalises a first entity’s failure to prevent transboundary haze caused by a second entity, to which the first entity participates in the management of the second. This attempt to deal with the chain of causation is a significant extension of jurisdiction well beyond that which is found in our general criminal law and existing legislation with extraterritorial reach.

It is highly ironic should corporate entities culpable of haze pollution in Singapore have a presence, broadly conceived, in Singapore. This is an instance in which the benefits of irresponsible business conduct are privatised, while the costs are socialised.


Going forward, the Government should consider enhancing TAPA’s deterrent effect by increasing the current maximum fine of S$2 million for an entity convicted of an offence under the Act.

To give an indication of the scale of a large commodities business: One leading agribusiness group headquartered in Singapore and listed on the Singapore Exchange had revenues of US$44.1 billion (S$61.6 billion) and equity and liabilities worth US$46.6 billion in 2013. If you consider these figures and the significant negative externalities caused by the haze, S$2 million is a mere slap on the wrist.

Furthermore, culpable key officers of the offending entity should be jailed; they should not hide behind the corporate veil.

The doctrine of limited liability is a cornerstone in our corporate law, but, ironically, this provides incentives for environmental irresponsibility. A parent company’s limited legal liability creates a potential moral hazard through the reduced economic incentive to ensure that its subsidiary exercises due care when engaging in environmentally risky activities.

Put another way: because the parent company obtains the financial rewards but is relatively insulated from direct liability, there is the incentive for the parent company to use its management and control power to make profit-maximising but irresponsible decisions for the subsidiary, including environmentally damaging ones.

In addition to the fines, TAPA could require offenders to provide financial security, such as insurance, bonds or guarantees, to enable them to cover their future potential environmental liabilities. Perhaps this “good behaviour” bond could be required of companies with palm-oil business concerns with the necessary nexus with Singapore.

The regulatory regime must motivate such entities to reduce their environmental risks and the likelihood of causing further transboundary air pollution. Of course, not all entities act, respond and are motivated solely by economic concerns. But this requirement of providing financial security — as part of a wider regulatory framework such as fines and jail terms — seeks to balance environmental protection with financial gain. The two are not mutually exclusive.

TAPA also provides for the imposition of civil liability on top of the criminal liability for haze pollution in Singapore. While welcome, this provision is more likely to be a remedy in form but not in substance.

Victims of haze pollution will find it onerous to take out an individual civil lawsuit against a company with far deeper pockets to defend itself. This asymmetric power relation is the classic “haves” versus “have-nots” in litigation. The law should facilitate the injured parties to mount a class-action suit, with the state providing the requisite legal support as part of the larger effort to protect the public interest.

Given the persistent and egregious record of transboundary air pollution that regularly harms our health and economy, an approach that relies on the coercive power of law must be complemented by a regulatory approach that is preventive in nature through nudging plantation companies to embrace responsible conduct throughout their supply chain as an integral way of doing business.


Eugene K B Tan is associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University School of Law

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To tackle haze, win over the Indonesian public

Asit K. Biswas and Kris Hartley, Strait Times AsiaOne 21 Sep 15;

An Indonesian villager covering her nose and mouth last week at her home in Banyuasin, Sumatra, which has been hit by the haze.

The return of haze in Singapore has brought the predictable round of complaints, analysis, hand-wringing and soul-searching, but the problem never seems to improve. To establish a basis for action, it is critical to link policy solutions with evidence about the health impact of haze - on Indonesia's own residents.

However, exacerbating these challenges are patterns of behaviour that are beyond the reach of government. Effective solutions will materialise only after an evolution in Indonesia's popular and political attitudes regarding forest burning.

One way to interpret the haze challenge is as an economic development and poverty issue. Lacking attractive alternatives to land clearance, farmers opt for the most expedient solution available. This is the same rationally self-interested calculus that people undertake daily before almost any decision. In burning vegetation, farmers pursue what they believe is the best available alternative, regardless of the longer-term costs to a distant and wealthy island. Economists would describe the haze as a negative externality - the unwanted impact of an action on parties (for example, citizens and states) that have no opportunity to negotiate against it.

In 1965, Singapore was a poor cousin to Indonesia. Now, Singapore is the wealthy and influential cousin (and one for whom few have sympathy). Many Indonesians probably fail to believe that they should sacrifice their own often fragile livelihoods to appease a highly developed neighbour.

Unfortunately, the haze problem has been cast as a burden primarily on Singapore, but it also negatively affects Indonesia itself. Based on a pattern of policy inaction, one is tempted to assume that Indonesia is either reluctant to acknowledge the impact on its own people, or refuses to believe that haze is a problem worth serious attention.

Furthermore, some farmers may understand the negative impact on broader Indonesian society but still refuse to change their behaviour. Therefore, Singapore is asserting negotiating power by pressing Indonesia for legislative action. Despite repeated apologies from its presidents, Indonesia's Parliament spent more than a decade refusing to support a 2002 ASEAN pact to prevent forest burning; it was finally ratified last year.

Even if Indonesia agrees to further anti-burning measures or name-and-shame efforts against blameworthy companies, such policies stand little chance of being properly implemented. As history indicates, many Indonesian legislative actions - addressing everything from corruption to pollution - have failed to generate substantive change. The same would likely happen to haze management legislation.

To make progress in solving this complex challenge, the Indonesian public must be convinced that haze is bad for them, and this begins with credible evidence. There is currently no published study that estimates the cost of haze to Indonesia in terms of health, productivity and foreign direct investment or FDI (as has already been done for Singapore and Malaysia).

Investors may avoid the country for concern not only about macro-economic conditions, inadequate infrastructure and traffic congestion, but also about environmental issues such as water and air pollution. Indonesia's young population needs hundreds of thousands of new jobs created each year, requiring sustained FDI.

This effort will be compromised unless environmental and economic conditions are substantially improved, and political pressure to address such concerns will be minimal without greater public awareness.

To address the indirect causes of haze commonly discussed, there are few feasible policy options.

A 2014 paper by National University of Singapore researchers describes several factors worsening the haze challenge, including resource-exploitative growth policies and weak forestry governance (regulatory enforcement and property rights).

Diplomatic pressure is unlikely to change the first, and improving the second is doubtful without political support. For example, it is unlikely that Indonesia will agree to strict and binding regional agreements that limit growth policy options or expose citizens to legal action.

Spot-solutions, such as Singapore's offer of helicopter support to douse fires or Indonesia's recent declaration of a state of emergency, generate splashy headlines and give the impression of progress, but target only the symptoms.

Therefore, the policy battlefield should now move from the banquet tables of regional summits to the hearts and minds of Indonesian citizens. Winning their support for stricter regulation and enforcement is a bipartite strategy.

First, an effort must be made to gather data and generate robust evidence about the domestic impact of Indonesian haze. Singapore can turn to its own world-class universities and research centres to conduct such studies.

Secondly, the findings must be expressed in an easily understood way and disseminated widely through the media and other conduits. This should not be a one-off publicity blast, but a sustained awareness initiative that targets the public and enlists the support of advocacy groups, non-governmental organisations and, ultimately (through domestic political pressure), government officials.

Public understanding of the haze crisis in Indonesia should be as common as basic literacy, and at least as embedded as the public's knowledge of common health and safety issues such as pesticides, smoking and sanitation. This may not produce the instant solution that some believe would result from aggressive diplomatic action such as boycotts and sanctions.

However, haze mitigation would be far more durable across political cycles because increased awareness often leads to deeply rooted interest in a policy issue. Indeed, an educated public is the most powerful force for change.

The first writer is Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. The second is a doctoral candidate at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

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Indonesia: Protesters in Kalimantan decry Indonesian inaction against forest fires, haze

Protests are taking place in Pangkalan Raya, Central Kalimantan, as residents and activists rally against the Indonesian government's inaction in tackling the ongoing regional forest fires.
Kane Cunico Channel NewsAsia 22 Sep 15;

PANGKALAN RAYA, Indonesia: Around 150 protesters, including students and activists from non-governmental organisations, held a protest at the Central Kalimantan Governor’s office on Tuesday (Sep 22), decrying government inaction against the ongoing forest fires, which has led to a thick haze that blankets parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

"The government is not taking serious measures to solve the fires,” said Ali Wardana, one of the protest leaders. “Central Kalimantan is in a state of emergency, and people are suffering from respiratory illnesses.”

He added: “We want disaster management teams to be prepared in advance in order to safeguard people’s health. And we want sanctions against those who burn the land for profit.”

Southeast Asia has for years suffered from annual bouts of haze caused by slash-and-burn practices in Indonesia's islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The protests outside the Governor’s office included students and activists from around 10 organisations including Save Our Borneo and Walhi, an Indonesian environmental advocacy group. Many braved the acrid and stinging conditions – the PSI level in Pangkalan Raya hit 1,400 on Tuesday - to vent their anger.

Addressing the group of about 20 security personnel guarding the gate outside the Governor's office, protesters threatened to enter the compound if the Governor did not come out to meet them. A few were subsequently allowed to enter the premises.

Some among the protesters told Channel NewsAsia they they feel the central government must do more to tackle the problem. Ms Umi Mastika, a member of the Pangkalan Raya city parliament, said the local government lacks the capacity to deal with these problems.

"Companies keep burning the forest every year but it's time for the government not to search for who did or didn't do it, but it's time for the government to take care of the health of the cities' children and the general economy," she said.

"Compared to previous governments, the current government of Joko Widodo is not acting as quickly as the previous central governments."


Aryo Nugroho, who works for environmental group WALHI said that Acting Governor Hadi Prabowo has told him that "he has many issues to deal with and work can't stop just to meet the protesters".

However, Mr Nugroho, said that the protesters have left a list of demands for him, which include full state responsibility to handle the situation and to stop giving licenses to the companies behind the forest fires.

Protesters who left the scene subsequently stationed themselves at one of Pakalan Raya's busy roundabouts at Taman Pemuda handing out regular clinical masks (costing locals around US$0.07) to motorists, though many if not all protesters told Channel NewsAsia that they did not know that these masks were ineffective conditions such as these.

"No one told us," said Rinting Alfaranus, 40, a researcher who has been living in Pangkalan Raya since the early 1990s. "All the clinics and doctors we go to tell us it is effective. They are not?

"No one tells us what to use, and your (N95) mask is too expensive for us," he said. "The people here are poor."

- CNA/rw

Indonesian company accused of starting fires on its Sumatra plantations to face prosecution soon
Bumi Mekar Hijau, a company accused of starting fires on its plantations in South Sumatra, could face prosecution as early as this week, said Indonesian police.
Sujadi Siswo, Channel NewsAsia 21 Sep 15;

JAKARTA: Bumi Mekar Hijau, a plantation company accused of starting fires on its concessions in South Sumatra, could face prosecution as early as this week said Indonesian police.

Jakarta Globe reported on Monday (Sep 21) that the company is one of ten that have so far been named as suspects in starting the fires responsible for the haze that has covered large parts of Sumatra, reaching as far as Malaysia and Singapore.

Bumi Mekar Hijau, based in South Sumatra, is a supplier to Singapore-listed Asia Pulp and Paper. Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry said around 300 companies are under investigation for alleged slash-and-burn practices in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

In Sumatra alone, about 58,000 hectares of plantation land have been set ablaze. The Indonesian government has vowed to take firmer action against the perpetrators including revoking their permits.

- CNA/rw

Satellites Detect Nearly 140 Hot Spots in Riau
Jakarta Globe 21 Sep 15;

Pekanbaru. Indonesia's National Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics detected 139 hot spots scattered across eight districts in Riau province this morning as thick haze from land and forest fires continues to blanket Sumatra island, as well as neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

“Pelalawan [district] contains a majority of them, with 84 hot spots,” said Sugarin, chief of the weather agency's (BMKG) Pekanbaru office in Riau.

Satellite images picked up 11 hot spots in Indragiri Hulu distric, 14 in Bengkalis, 10 in the districts of Siak and Kampar, seven in Indragiri Hilir, two in Rokan Hilir and one hot spot in Mernati district.

Data on 88 of the 139 hot spots is considered more than 70 percent reliable, Sugarin said, adding that they have so far not effected visibility in the province.

Riau Acting Governor Aryadjuliandi increased the emergency status on Riau's air pollution levels last Monday.

BMKG's most recent satellite images detected 284 hot spots throughout Sumatra island, with Riau containing the most, followed by South Sumatra with 92 points and Bangka Belitung with 11 points.

Haze Forces Garuda to Cancel Hundreds of Flights
Jakarta Globe 21 Sep 15;

Jakarta. Garuda Indonesia has had to cancel more than 400 flights to and from destinations in Sumatra and Kalimantan affected by thick haze from forest fires, the flag carrier revealed on Monday.

Garuda scrapped 449 flights in the period from Sept. 3 to 20. On Monday alone it canceled 11 flights.

“Garuda was forced to cancel flights due to the limited visibility from the haze that blanketed the air in several cities in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Disturbance from the haze can endanger flight safety,” Benny S. Butarbutar, the airline’s vice president of corporate communications, said in a statement on Monday.

Indonesian aviation authorities allow some flights to take off and land if visibility is above 800 meters, but the haze, particularly in the badly hit Sumatran provinces of Riau and Jambi, has restricted visibility at times to just 100 meters.

Benny said passengers with flights to destinations in the affected regions should regularly check the status of their flight with Garuda before traveling to the airport.

“Garuda will continue to monitor the situation and developments related to the effects of haze and readiness of each affected airport to re-execute flight operations,” he said.

The airline also apologized for the inconvenience associated with what it called conditions beyond its control.

National scene: With haze, govt denies residents’ basic rights
The Jakarta Post 21 Sep 15;

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said that the uncontrollable spread of smog from forest fires in Sumatra could be categorized as a human rights violation by the state because the government allows it to happen every year.

“The government has committed fundamental human rights abuses because it has not stopped [forest fires],” Komnas HAM commissioner Roichatul Aswidah said as quoted by on Saturday. She said that preventing such annual disasters was the responsibility of the central government along with local administrations.

Siti Noor Laila, another commissioner, said the spread of the haze had deprived residents of a healthy life. The people are forced to inhale polluted air in their own homes and workplaces. Therefore, she demanded the government temporarily relocate all people, particularly children, who have been affected by the haze.

Relocating residents to safe areas is no less important than the efforts to extinguish the fires, according to Siti. “The government should also provide indoor school facilities and playgrounds for the children,” Siti added.

On Friday, a group called Riau’s Anti-Haze Movement visited the Komnas HAM office in Jakarta to complain about the worsening impact of the haze on people’s health in the province over the past month.

Siti said that her institution would carry out an investigation. “We have to work immediately because the air pollution in the area has become intolerable,” she said, adding that the investigation was important for her institution before submitting a recommendation to the government.

Riau Provincial Health Agency recorded that the number of people suffering from upper respiratory tract infections as a result of this year’s haze had reached 43,386 or about double what was recorded last year.

Smoke causes airport closures, illness
Apriadi Gunawan and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 21 Sep 15;

Worsening pollution in Sumatra over the last two days has forced authorities to close down several small airports in North Sumatra and Aceh, while the number of people suffering from respiratory illness has risen.

A spokesperson for the Kualanamu office of state airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II, Wisnu Budi, said flights from Kualanamu International Airport to Ferdinand Lumban Tobing Airport in Sibolga, Silangit in North Tapanuli, Binaka Airport on Nias Island, Aek Godang Airport in Padang Sidempuan, all in North Sumatra, and Lasikin Airport in Aceh had been canceled as the airports were closed on account of thick haze.

“The airports were blanketed by haze and there was no navigation assistance equipment in the airports,” Wisnu told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

He said visibility at the airports had reached 800 meters in the morning and between 1,000m and 1,200m in the afternoon.

Nora Valencia Sinaga of the Medan Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said smoke in North Sumatra originated from Jambi, South Sumatra and Riau.

“Winds moved from the east, southeast to the north, bringing haze from forest fires in Jambi, South Sumatra and Riau to North Sumatra,” Nora said.

Meanwhile, West Sumatra will soon declare emergency status in the province and set up a task force.

“We will have a meeting on Monday with related agencies, set up a task force and declare the province as in a ‘haze emergency’”, acting governor Ali Asmar told the Post on Sunday.

As haze continues to shroud the province, there has also been an increase in the number of people suffering from acute respiratory illness, especially in the areas bordering Jambi and Riau.

The West Sumatra Health Agency’s disease mitigation and public health division head, Irene, said sick numbers had risen in the last two weeks.

“Almost 14 times the number of patients in Solok, reaching 395 cases. Some areas also showed similar increases,” Irene said.

Health Ministry secretary-general Untung Suseno Sutarjo said the ministry would set up two additional health posts in Pekanbaru with 14 specialists and paramedics from Jakarta.

“Half a ton of medicine to treat respiratory illness has been transported. Hopefully, the medicine will arrive here tonight,” Untung said in Pekanbaru on Sunday.

He admitted that the shipment of medicine from Jakarta was a precautionary measure to avoid expired drugs from being distributed to patients.

On Friday, an officer in a health post in front of Sukaramai traditional market, Pekanbaru gave expired medicine to patients. It is still unclear as to why the expired medicine was kept in stock.

While pollution worsens in many areas of Sumatra, it has reportedly decreased in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, thanks to rain.

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Indonesia: Killing of endangered Sumatran elephant sparks anger

The elephant was found dead close to the camp where he lived with his one-metre long tusks hacked off, leaving bloody stumps in its place.
Channel NewsAsia 21 Sep 15;

JAKARTA: A critically endangered Sumatran elephant who had patrolled Indonesia's jungles to help protect threatened habitats has been killed for his tusks, an official said Monday (Sep 21), sparking a surge of anger online.

Yongki, a tame creature who worked with teams of elephant keepers, was found dead close to the camp where he lived in a national park on the western island of Sumatra, said park official Timbul Batubara.

His one-metre (three-foot) tusks had been hacked off, leaving just bloody stumps, and his legs still bore the chains put on him by his keepers to ensure he stayed in the camp. There are estimated to be less than 3,000 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild. They are frequently targeted by poachers for their tusks, which fetch a high price for use in Chinese traditional medicine.

Batubara, from the Bukit Barisan Selatan national park, said it was not yet known how Yongki was killed. His body, which was found Friday, bore no bullet wounds but he had a blue tongue. Elephants have in the past been poisoned.

Yongki, aged about 35, was well-known among the local "mahouts" or elephant keepers. Nazaruddin, the head of the Indonesian Mahout Forum, said keepers in the area were "very shaken".

"We are mourning the lost of an elephant who has been helping us in handling conflicts and helping forest rangers patrol the forest, and he was a good elephant," Nazaruddin, who goes by one name, told AFP.

The elephant was involved in patrols aimed at reducing tensions, with the tame elephants stopping wild elephants from rampaging through villages. The patrols also help rangers keep a lookout for illegal logging and poaching that threaten Indonesia's vast rain forests.

There was anger on social media after pictures of the elephant's body circulated, with users posting comments on Twitter next to the hashtag #RIPYongki. "It is time we enforce life sentences for hunters of legally protected animals," said Facebook user Aprilia Putri.

Protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Sumatran elephant as critically endangered. It is one of many species that are under threat in Indonesia.

- AFP/yt

Elephant poaching in TNBBS probed
The Jakarta Post 23 Sep 15;

The management at the South Bukit Barisan National Park (TNBBS) in Lampung has launched an investigation into the killing of Yongki, a tame Sumatran elephant that was found dead recently with his ivory tusks missing.

In a written statement, TNBBS Center head Timbul Batubara said the 35-year-old male elephant, which had been a member of the park’s elephant patrol team over the past several years, had been found dead on Friday at 7:30 a.m. local time with severe wounds found at the base of his missing two tusks.

Yongki’s body, according to Timbul, was discovered just 300 meters behind his patrol camp in Pemerihan, West Pesisir regency, which is situated some 120 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital of Bandar Lampung.

“There are indications that the elephant was killed,” Timbul said, as quoted by Antara news agency on Tuesday.

The center’s provisional investigation, according to Timbul, found no gunshot wounds in Yongki’s body. Apart from a suspiciously bluish tongue, Yongki’s mouth also showed no trace of foam that might indicate poisoning.

Yongki’s internal organs, meanwhile, looked normal despite the finding of a colon infection caused by a paramphistomum parasite worm.

“This [killing] case is now under investigation,” he said.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Indonesia recently revealed that the elephant population in Sumatra had continued to decline over the past decade mainly because of poaching, particularly in Riau, Aceh and North Sumatra.

WCS said the population of Sumatran elephants was currently no higher than 1,000, or 69 percent lower than that of 25 years ago.

The decrease in the population of Sumatran elephants has caused the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list the species as endangered.

Indonesian Mahout Forum chairman Nazarudin, who helped captured Yongki in the wildlife, said the elephant and his herd used to attack crop fields belonging to local residents in West Lampung regency.

“In 1994, we managed to capture him and several of his friends who lagged behind their herd after storming a crop field,” he said, as quoted by

Yongki was later trained to become a patrol elephant, whose main duty was to anticipate wild elephant attacks on human beings in an effort to prevent deadly conflicts.

After several years patrolling in the Way Kambas National Park area, also in Lampung, Yongki was transferred in 2009 to the TNBBL area. In his new patrol camp, Yongki lived with four male elephants — Karnangin, Renggo, Tomi and Sampot — and a female elephant named Arni.

Nazarudin, who works in Way Kambas, said Yongki was among just a few patrol elephants able find traces of wild elephants. Yongki was also able to help park officers find their way back home after conducting a patrol in the heart of a forest.

“I have lost count of how many times Yongki was involved in our conflict prevention operations,” Nazarudin said. “[His involvement] helped reduce the number of elephants killed by humans.”

Yongki’s killing has also sparked anger among netizens. On Tuesday, Twitter, for example, reported that the hashtag #RIPYongki had become a trending topic in Indonesia.

“It is a very sad story to hear #RIPYongki,” said humanitarian worker Syamsul Ardiansyah on his Twitter account on Tuesday.

Budhi Astika, another Twitter-user, also shared his condolences.

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Malaysia: Haze returns to Sarawak

YU JI The Star 22 Sep 15;

KUCHING: The haze has returned to Sarawak, with Sri Aman town, about 160km from the state capital, breaching the unhealthy air quality index pre-dawn.

With an Air Pollution Index (API) reading of 112, Sri Aman had the worst haze in the country Tuesday morning. It crossed into the unhealthy range at 4am.

In Kuching, the API was 80, rising from just 44 a day earlier. Sibu had an API of 73 while Miri was at 35.

The blue skies that southern Sarawakians enjoyed beginning last Friday was short-lived. A change of wind direction Monday evening is believed to have brought the haze back.

Visibility in Kuching was down to a mere 800m.

The Singapore-based Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre is reporting "widespread smoke haze" across Kalimantan as the dry weather conditions prevailed. In Sumatra, it added, shower activities in recent days has helped to reduced the extent of haze area.

Latest images from the satellite NOAA-18, which captures open burning larger than 10-sq-m, showed 475 hotspots on Borneo on Monday.

According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department's seasonal report, there could be 20% to 40% less rain this month in Sarawak compared to the long term average.

"The moderate El-Niño currently experienced is expected to intensify in Sept and it may continue until early 2016 with a probability of over 90%," said its weather outlook until Feb 2016.

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Most Malaysians evacuated from Riau

RAZAK AHMAD The Star 22 Sep 15;

PETALING JAYA: Most Malaysians stuck at the epicentre of the haze in Indonesia’s Riau province have been evacuated with no more flights planned for the time being due to the improving weather.

Malaysian Consul-General in Pekanbaru Hardi Hamdin said 225 students as well as the families of the consulate staff were flown back to Malaysia last Friday.

The Indonesian government had declared a state of emergency in the province after its Air Pollutant Index (API) reading hit 1,000 on Sept 14.

The weather had since improved over the weekend with the API down to 197 yesterday.

“At its peak when the API hit 1,000, the sun appeared red in the sky, we could not see anything down the street outside the consulate due to the thick haze.

“But things have improved a lot. So, at this point, we are not planning any more evacuation flights,” said Hardi.

During the evacuation, which was organised by the National Security Council and Wisma Putra, Hardi said the first group of 120 Malaysians departed from Pekanbaru airport at 7pm local time, followed by a second group of 105 three and half hours later.

Besides those evacuated, a number of others had returned to Malaysia on their own.

Most of the Malaysian students in Riau are taking up Islamic studies at the Universitas Islam Negeri Sultan Syarif Kassim.

Over 300 Malaysians, mostly university students, are estimated to be in Riau.

Hardi said the areas worst hit by the haze were Riau’s capital Pekanbaru, the neighbouring province of Jambi and Palembang.

Three Malaysian staff, including Hardi, had remained behind to man the consulate.

He said they mostly stayed indoors and drank at least three litres of water daily.

“We developed cough, sore throats and eyes, headaches and a lingering taste of smoke in our mouths, but we’re getting better.”

Most Malaysians in haze-hit Riau brought home
RAZAK AHMAD The Star 21 Sep 15;

PETALING JAYA: Most of the Malaysians caught in the haze in Indonesia’s Riau province have been evacuated, said National Security Council secretary Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab.

Last Friday, the council evacuated 225 Malaysians by air from Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau on the island of Sumatra.

Thajudeen said no further flights were being planned.

“For Pekanbaru, there’s no further evacuation since we have evacuated almost all our students including family members of staff of the Malaysian Consulate," he said adding the few Malaysian students remaining in Pekanbaru refused to be evacuated.

The Indonesian government declared a pollution emergency in the province after the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading hit 1,000 on Sept. 14.

Thajudeen said that since Saturday, the haze situation in Pekanbaru improved with the National Standard Air Pollutant Index (ISPU) ranging between 170 and 190, below the danger level of 300.

He said the area in Indonesia with the worst air quality reading at present is Palangkaraya in central Kalimantan, which recorded an ISPU reading of 1,482.05 as at 8am Monday.

He said there were some 300 to 400 Malaysians, mostly students, residing in Riau province as well as the Riau islands.

He advised Malaysians in Sumatra to register with the Consulate.

“It would ensure that we can provide the necessary assistance or advice during this period of time.”

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Indonesia promises to cut carbon emissions by 29% by 2030

Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest CO2 polluters because of deforestation, says it would go further and cut emissions 41% if it gets $6bn in aid
Suzanne Goldenberg The Guardian 21 Sep 15;

Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest carbon polluters, is expected to imminently announce it will cut greenhouse gas emissions 29% by 2030 compared to what it is currently on course for.

It will be one of the last big climate plans from a rapidly-developing economy to be unveiled ahead of a summit in Paris in December aimed at limiting warming to 2C.

Indonesia said it was prepared to cut emissions by 41% from a ‘business as usual trajectory’ if it received financial and technological support from industrialised countries. Jakarta put the price tag on that support at $6bn (£4bn).

But the World Resources Institute, a leading environmental thinktank, said it was near-impossible to judge the scale of Indonesia’s ambition or how it would actually meet those goals because the country was so vague in its plan.

“It doesn’t include a lot of information,” said Taryn Fransen, who leads the Open Climate network at WRI. “The current version does not allow for any accountability because it is simply not transparent enough.”

Most developing countries have been more forthcoming about what they mean by a “business as usual” scenario, she said.

Indonesia’s plan also set a relatively low bar for moving from fossil fuel to cleaner energy sources, setting a target of just 23% of energy coming from renewable sources by 2030.

Indonesia is ranked the world’s sixth biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, because of the destruction of its rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands for palm oil and paper plantations. A strong climate promise from the country is critical to fighting global warming.

Indonesia, a coal producer, has also been leaning more heavily on coal for energy generation, after China drastically cut imports. Coal shipments to China have fallen by close to 50%, according to Greenpeace, while local coal use doubled in the six years ending in 2014. Coal now makes up about 35% of domestic electricity, according to Greenpeace.

Indonesia’s promise before Paris lagged behind other developing countries such as Mexico and South Korea, which have been clear about spelling out their emissions reductions targets to the UN.

So far, only three other countries have been as hazy about spelling out their business as usual scenarios and they are all much smaller than Indonesia: Benin, Gabon, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Indonesia committed four years ago to stop opening up new forests and peatlands for plantation expansion – but huge swathes of forest are cut down and burnt each summer to clear land for corporate development or oil palm plantations.

WRI said Indonesia needed a ban on all future forest clearance, including licences that were awarded some years ago, and have yet to be activated.

“If Indonesia wanted to seriously protect its land and reduce carbon emissions than it needs a permanent moratorium,” said Andhyta Utami, a research analyst at WRI in Jakarta.

Indonesia’s vast swathes of forests and peatlands are one of the most important carbon stores. When these are cut down, or drained and burned, to make way for plantations, carbon dioxide is released.

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Indonesian Tuna Canneries Named and Shamed in Greenpeace Report

Jakarta Globe 21 Sep 15;

Jakarta. More than a dozen Indonesian tuna canneries fail to meet internationally agreed standards for responsible fish processing, Greenpeace revealed on Monday.

The environmental group’s “Tuna Cannery Ranking for Indonesia and the Philippines” report found that 13 Indonesian canneries failed to meet three key criteria for processing fish: traceability, sustainability and equity, or the well-being of employees.

“When we did our research on these companies, we discovered many big tuna brands do not have any control in their supply chain,” Arifsyah Nasution, a marine campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia, said in a statement on the group’s website.

“It has meant they can’t trace the accuracy of tuna distribution from the fishing boats to the canneries and then the consumers,” he added.

“It’s no wonder these companies had a hard time to meet the traceability, sustainability and equity criteria.”

Indonesia provides 4.6 percent of all canned tuna exports, a global market that was valued at $8.1 billion in 2013, according to the report. Most of the tuna caught and processed by Indonesian companies is destined for markets in Europe, North America, Japan and the Middle East.

The canning companies named in the report include Delta Pasific Indotuna, Samudra Mandiri Sentosa, Sinar Pure Foods International, Pasific Harvest and Bali Maya Permai Food Canning Industry.

The report also listed Avila Prima Intra Makmur, Rd Pacific International, Aneka Tuna Indonesia and Banyuwangi Cannery Indonesia.

Juifa International Foods, Carvinna Trijaya Makmur, Deho Canning and Maya Muncar were also named.

None of the companies were immediately available for comment.

“It is important that tuna canneries strengthen their standards on traceability, sustainability and equity in order to protect the health of our oceans and the safety of people who provide tuna to consumers,” Greenpeace said.

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El Niño: a global weather event that may save California — and destroy the tropics

The last major El Niño brought droughts, floods and disease to equatorial regions – bad luck that those of us in temperate areas should help mitigate
Kyle Meng and Solomon Hsiang The Guardian 21 Sep 15;

The current buzz in cafes across California is that snow from this year’s big El Niño will bring the best skiing in years. What fortunate skiers don’t realize is that the same periodic ocean-atmosphere interaction in the Pacific Ocean is one of the most devastating natural forces on Earth, endangering the wellbeing of over three billion people across the tropics. El Niño creates winners and losers on a global scale. Each year is like planetary roulette, and the current forecast is for families in the tropics to suffer in the coming months.

The last time a really large El Niño occurred was during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter of 1997-98. Droughts, floods and outbreaks of infectious diseases plagued villages across Africa. Floods inundated Peru. Megafires rampaged through Indonesia. Fisheries collapsed off the coast of South America. Crops failed across much of the tropics and global food prices rose. Civil conflicts broke out in Africa and Asia.

Today, in all likelihood, we stand about a month away from another major El Niño. Current state-of-the-art forecasts tell us that an event similar to 1997-98 is likely to return this winter. Our own research on the human toll of El Niño suggests that households in the tropics will begin to feel the heat as early as September.

El Niño occurs when the normal systems of wind and ocean currents in the Pacific collapse – resulting in massive warming and drought throughout much of the tropics and subtropics. Major floods occur in some coastal locations as nearby oceans get warmer. Countries throughout much of Central and South America, Africa, South and South-East Asia and the South Pacific get hotter and dryer. Countries in the temperate regions of North America, Europe and Northern Asia get the reverse, experiencing mostly cooler and wetter conditions.

This global asymmetry translates into major agricultural losses in tropical countries due to heat waves and drought and crop gains in temperate countries. Though the expected food gains from temperate countries could, in theory, more than offset potential losses in tropical countries, this has not happened historically, and countries in the tropics have endured turmoil and hunger mostly on their own. The challenge with El Niño is fundamentally about the limits in the global reallocation of food.

This time can be different. The human cost of El Niño this year does not need to be like in 1997. Our world is more connected than ever before. The cost of moving food around the globe continues to drop. Digital information and news now reach many parts of the world almost instantaneously.

Furthermore, we now have a better understanding of El Niño’s human and economic impacts. In a series of scientific papers, we, together with co-authors in climate science and economics, have shown that El Niño events systematically caused crop failures, economic contraction and higher risk of civil conflicts throughout the tropics over the last 50 years (and not just 1997). This knowledge can empower us to act in anticipation of El Niño’s biggest impacts. The further a driver can see down the road, the easier it is for them to avoid catastrophe.

In the coming months, countries that experience bumper cereal yields under El Niño, as the United States likely will, should be prepared to quickly provide food aid to tropical countries when needed. Aid agencies, peacekeeping groups, refugee organizations and other international institutions should start, if they haven’t already, to carefully monitor the situation in the tropics.

Furthermore, the US Congress should consider relaxing the ethanol mandate for this coming year so that excess corn supplies can be redirected for international food trade rather than turned into fuel. International lending agencies should consider temporary repayment relief for tropical countries who may need to prioritize avoiding famine and social instability over debt repayment this year.

These short run responses are critical in the coming months. In the long run, the global impact of El Niño can be reduced by greater integration of international food markets and improved global access to financial instruments, like crop insurance, that help families cope with these temporary hardships.

The fundamental physics of El Niño and its unequal effects have been around as long as civilization. It is not a consequence of bad institutions or policies. Rather, individuals in the tropics are about to experience harsh conditions because they were born there – a stroke of bad luck that those of us in temperate regions should recognize with sympathy.

We have applied our ingenuity to make the modern world more connected and technologically advanced than ever before. Let’s now apply our humanity to ensure that the unfortunate among us are not crushed by a natural disaster that our technologies can forecast and mitigate. We can be the generation to finally end the devastation El Niño has wreaked on humankind for millennia.

Coastal flooding, erosion forecast, as storms gather pace
Peter Spinks Sydney Morning Herald 22 Sep 15;

Brace for impact. Dramatic flooding and erosion across populated coastal regions of the Pacific Ocean will result from more severe storms driven by climate change, climate scientists warn.

The predicted storms will impact areas from south-east Queensland through southern New South Wales to eastern Tasmania. On the eastern Victorian coast, places such as 90 Mile Beach will also be affected, says co-researcher, Professor Andrew Short of Sydney University.

"As a result, coastal erosion on many Australian beaches could be worse than currently predicted, based on sea level rise alone," he warns.

Data for the comprehensive study came from 48 beaches across three continents and five countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, including Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Japan, Canada and mainland United States – all of which would be affected by the surge in storms.

Researchers from 13 institutions, who analysed the data from 1979 to 2012, sought to determine whether patterns in coastal change might be connected to major climate cycles.

Global climate change increases the likelihood of stronger El Nino and La Nina weather patterns – the alternative warming and cooling over large parts of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

Previous research has analysed coastal impacts at local and regional levels, but this is the first study to collate data from across the Pacific to determine basin-wide patterns.

"La Nina events – the converse of El Nino – result in more intense and frequent storms in the Coral-Tasman seas," Professor Short says.

"These, in turn, produce more waves, and higher waves, from the east. This leads to general beach erosion along the south-east Australia coast."

Professor Short says climate change is driving both rises in sea level, which leads to beach erosion, as well as more intense storms during La Nina years. "These will generate even more beach erosion – so it's a double whammy," Professor Short explains.

While not part of this study, he says that east coast low-pressure systems not only generate big waves but also bring strong damaging winds, heavy rain and flooding to regions of south-eastern Australia, including eastern Victoria.

The research is published today (September 22) in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Read the Nature Geoscience article at:

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Carbon pricing schemes double since 2012 in climate fight: World Bank

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 21 Sep 15;

The number of carbon pricing schemes worldwide has almost doubled since 2012 but most taxes or markets have prices too low to prevent damaging global warming, the World Bank said on Sunday.

Carbon pricing, including emissions trading schemes from California to China, now covers about 12 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in a sign of momentum before a U.N. summit on climate change in Paris in December, it said.

The number of carbon pricing instruments, both implemented or planned, has risen to 38 from 20 since 2012, it said. South Korea began carbon trading this year, for instance, and both Chile and South Africa plan taxes on carbon emissions.

"There is a growing sense of inevitability ... that there will be a price on carbon" for governments and businesses, Rachel Kyte, a vice president and special envoy for climate change at the World Bank, told a telephone new conference.

The study showed that prices, meant to shift investments from fossil fuels toward cleaner energies such as wind or solar power, ranged from less than a dollar a tonne of carbon dioxide in Mexico to $130 a tonne in Sweden.

In more than 85 percent of cases the price was less than $10, "considerably lower", the report said, than levels needed to help limit temperature rises to a U.N. goal of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

The World Bank did not suggest a target price.

The combined value of the carbon pricing instruments was estimated at $50 billion a year worldwide, with $34 billion from markets and the other $16 billion in taxes.

A year ago, 73 countries and more than 1,000 companies and investors called for a price on carbon. Kyte said the group was becoming a "powerful coalition" that would make announcements before Paris. She gave no details.

A parallel report by the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with input from the International Monetary Fund, also laid out new principles for carbon pricing that it called FASTER.

"Carbon pricing is central to the quest for a cost-effective transition toward zero net emissions in the second

half of the century," said Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD.

FASTER stands for Fairness, Alignment of policies and objectives, Stability and predictability, Transparency, Efficiency and cost effectiveness and Reliability and environmental integrity.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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Weaker aquaculture standards would boost risk to oceans, WWF warns

Small fish are removed in massive amounts every year, often used for fish feed in aquaculture farms
WWF 21 Sep 15;

WWF today raised concerns about proposed standards released by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), a certification scheme for farmed seafood.

In public comments, WWF urged ASC to strengthen its proposed criteria for fish feed, which can have significant environmental impacts on the wild-caught fish and agricultural crops from which it is made. Specifically, WWF called for ASC to require feed manufacturers to source wild fish from fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which maintains the leading standard for sustainable fishing.

"ASC has established the most credible and effective standards to ensure that aquaculture is environmentally and socially responsible," said Dr. Aaron McNevin, director of aquaculture for WWF's Sustainable Food programme. "With its draft feed standard, ASC has a significant opportunity to improve the way it measures and manages the environmental impacts of feed. ASC should reaffirm its support for MSC certified feed in order to protect wild fish stocks."

A new WWF report on ocean health highlights the need for stronger feed standards. The oceans' vertebrate populations declined by 49 percent between 1970 and 2012, driven in large part by overfishing for human consumption and aquaculture. According to a World Bank report, approximately one-fifth of all fish harvested from the oceans is used to produce fish meal and oil, most of which—about 60 percent of fish meal and 80 percent of oil—are fed to farmed fish.

When they were released starting in 2009, the farm-level ASC standards for salmon, shrimp, tilapia, abalone, trout and pangasius required that all marine ingredients in feed be sourced from MSC certified fisheries within five years of ASC certification. In the current draft standard, ASC would allow farms another 10 years to meet this requirement.

"By requiring reduction fisheries to be MSC certified, ASC can most effectively protect biodiversity in our oceans," continued Dr. McNevin. "Feed companies and the aquaculture industry have had five years to build a sustainable, MSC certified supply of marine feed ingredients. It's time for progress, not further delay. We can't kick this can down the road any longer."

WWF also advised ASC to work with agriculture experts and those involved in other commodity roundtables to ensure credible criteria are developed for soy, corn, palm oil and other terrestrial crops used in feed.

ASC is the only aquaculture certification scheme that is a member of the ISEAL Alliance, an international body that has established a code for the development of credible sustainability standards. Among ISEAL's requirements for standards development, certifications must demonstrate how issues or concerns raised in public comment phases have been addressed in the revisions of each standard.

WWF is a founding member of ASC and MSC. WWF works with communities, governments, fishers, suppliers, retailers and other stakeholders to promote healthy oceans and responsible fishing and aquaculture. For more information, visit

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