Best of our wild blogs: 17 Feb 16

Thought on Cross Island MRT Line
Life in Transition

Read more!

Lessons to be learnt from construction of BKE

Straits Times Forum 17 Feb 16;

I wish to add to senior transport correspondent Christopher Tan's lucid and rational commentary ("Cross Island Line debate misses elephant in room"; yesterday).

I have spent much of my time photographing and writing about the forests in Singapore and in the region.

While intact forests in the region offer unparalleled biodiversity, it does not mean the fragmented forests in Singapore have nothing to offer.

On the contrary, some things are easier seen in Singapore than anywhere else, for instance, flying lemurs and oriental pied hornbills.

The proposed Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) will cut through the core of our forests in MacRitchie.

The forests in MacRitchie are still revered by many as one of the last bastions of our natural heritage.

We have already lost many species of flora and fauna. Even soil investigation studies will have an irreversible effect on the forests.

Digging deep may affect the drainage and water supply to the forests, and the deleterious results may not be known until years later.

Escape routes along the proposed CRL tunnel will inevitably be built, which means more damage will be done to the forests in order to accommodate them.

There are lessons learnt from the construction of the non-elevated Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE), which separated the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve from the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

An eco-link was built to try to mitigate the loss from the separation. But as an afterthought, it is a costly intervention.

I urge the authorities to abandon the idea and work on a line that skirts Thomson Road instead.

To recover what has been lost, nature needs a helping hand - it does not need further fragmentation; it needs time and protection to regenerate.

Chua Ee Kiam (Dr)

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

Read more!

Food waste: Where food matters, looks matter more

IT FIGURES heads to Singapore farms, markets and hotels as it studies the issue of the country’s wanton waste of food.
Channel NewsAsia 16 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: If you and your family made it a point to finish every morsel of your Chinese New Year meals, then you have all done exceptionally well.

This is because every year, Singapore sees hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food going to waste. According to the National Environment Agency, the country wasted approximately 790,000 tonnes of food in 2014. During the Chinese New Year period, food waste increases by up to 20 per cent.

As a small country with limited agricultural ability, Singapore is heavily reliant on imports for food. In 2014, Singapore spent US$10.6 billion (S$14.8 billion) importing 5.93 million tonnes of food. But out of that, 13 per cent of its imports, or US$1.4 billion worth of it, end up as waste.

Since 2004, food wastage has increased almost 50 per cent, while food imports have been steadily increasing by 37 per cent over the same period.

"As the country gets more affluent, society gets richer, more people have more income to buy food," said Mr Eugene Tay, the founder of sustainability consultancy, Green Future Solutions, in an interview with Channel NewsAsia’s It Figures.

"We can buy a lot of food imported from different countries. You buy more stuff, and you can't finish it, and it expires and then it goes to waste."

In Singapore, food wastage has been traced to each and every step in the lifecycle of food production, from farm to dinner plates.


Mr Alan Toh has been managing his farm, Yili Vegetation, for almost two decades. It is one of 200 small farms in Singapore. Along with his son, Mr Zheng Jie, he is part of Singapore’s agriculture industry, which occupies just 1 per cent of the island’s land space. With only four hectares of land to work with, Mr Toh’s main challenge is to maximise the efficiency of his small plot.

That is because even at this stage of the food process, Mr Toh sees his vegetables go to waste.

All too often, produce that is perfectly edible but slightly off-colour or bruised is not accepted for display and sale. In the business of food production, supermarkets and grocers are highly selective about the appearance of their produce, and Mr Toh is forced to discard edible produce that does not meet the aesthetic standards. This accounts for up to 25 per cent of his original output.

"It gives people an image," said Mr Zheng. "If it does not look good, people will think it tastes bad. All these vegetables are still edible, but we couldn't just sell (them). Just tossing (them) away for cosmetic purposes doesn't feel good."

Even at the point of purchase, more produce is rejected by customers, and it is usually down to cosmetics, said Mr Desmond Lee, a produce seller at a local market.

"Customers pay," said Mr Lee. "They want high-quality products. They want everything to be perfect."

According to him, he ends up throwing out three tonnes of his produce each month. He estimates that the market as a whole throws out 300 tonnes of unsold food.

"When you waste food, you're not just wasting the food itself - you're wasting all the resources, the water, the energy, the fertiliser and the labour," said Mr Tay.


During food preparation itself, more ingredients are culled and condemned to the bin. According to studies done by National University of Singapore students in 2010, 10 to 20 per cent of food served in Singapore restaurants and hotel buffets goes to waste.

And food waste across the planet is growing. According to the United Nations, people around the world throw out one-third of the food that is produced for us to eat.

But food waste worries lie not only with the food that is wasted.

Once we have wiped our leftovers from our dinner plates into the trash bin, the waste needs to be disposed of. Typically, food waste would go to a landfill where it would decompose, or it would go to an incinerator.

Mr Edwin Khew, chairman of the Association of Sustainable Energy (SEAS), believes both methods need to be eliminated as much as possible.

"The issue with landfills obviously is the emissions of landfill gas, which is basically methane. This is a very bad greenhouse gas - it is 23 times worse than carbon dioxide," said Mr Khew.

Burning food waste is Singapore’s primary method of waste disposal which uses enormous amounts of energy to do.

Said Mr Khew: “The thing is that burning food means you use a lot of energy to evaporate the water in the food. Because there is about 80 to 85 per cent of liquid in any food. And you have to evaporate all that before the residue left behind can burn.”

One company, Eco-Wiz, is trying to tackle the issue of energy and waste disposal in a different way - by turning waste into water.

Eco-Wiz’s EcoDigester uses microbes to break down the food to produce water that can be reused for cleaning or landscaping purposes. Eco-Wiz CEO, Renee Mison, is hoping this food recycling system can help decrease energy use in waste disposal.

With little to no food waste, there is less need to transport rubbish to incinerators, she said.

This system is installed at around 30 hotels, restaurants and schools in Singapore and, most recently, was installed at Ang Mo Kio market, as part of an NEA-driven pilot programme to tackle Singapore’s food waste problems. Each digestor can process about 1 tonne of waste per day and it takes 24 hours to produce the reusable water.

Ms Mison believes the future will see far more efficient and useful recycling.

"There are 20 million tonnes of food waste worldwide generated every day, so our goal is to recycle as much food waste as we can. And besides turning the food waste into recycled water, we are going to turn it into energy on site," said Ms Mison.

Read more!

Slew of activities lined up for first CBD car-free day

TOH EE MING Today Online 17 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — The authorities are pulling out all stops for the first car-free Sunday in the Civic District on Feb 28, organising sports activities, earlier opening hours for museums and guided heritage tours to woo visitors.

The flurry of activity kicks off a six-month pilot that will see the roads around the Padang, together with Fullerton Road, fully closed to vehicles from 7am to 9am every last Sunday of the month.

St Andrew’s Road and part of Stamford Road will be closed until 12pm while Connaught Drive will beclosed until 7pm. Shenton Way and Robinson Road will be partially closed, creating a car-free walking, running and cycling route of approximately 4.7km.

Jointly organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Land Transport Authority, National Parks Board, National Arts Council, Health Promotion Board and Sport Singapore, the pilot, announced at the end of last year, is part of the Government’s efforts to drive a “car-lite” culture.

While the line-up for the full six months was not revealed, the programme will comprise fitness, cultural, family and food options.

In a media briefing today (Feb 16), Mr Andrew Fassam, senior director of urban design at the URA said: “The event is not just for sports and fitness groups, it also presents a great opportunity to celebrate the cultural district, and for family and friends to come down and spend the morning in the city exploring the area.”

Noting more here are taking up cycling, he added: “We are putting in effort to build up the cycling infrastructure ... to make it easier and safer for people to cycle to work … It’s a cultural change, but we’re slowly getting there.”

The public will be able to take part in group running sessions and mass aerobics workouts with Zumba and Bollyrobics fitness routines, or try their hand at different sports such as 3-a-side Basketball and Mini Tennis. Two food trucks will be stationed in the area and museums such as the National Gallery Singapore, Asian Civilisations Museum, and Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall will open earlier at 9am.

A children’s zone at Esplanade Park will also be set aside for them to do origami, sketching or learn about plant propagation, while there will be street performances with lion dancers, stilt walkers and martial arts performers. Thirteen bus services will be affected, added a URA spokesperson.

For those keen on trying out cycling as a means of commuting, they can pair up with a buddy from cyclist interest group Love Cycling SG, to explore routes from the heartlands to the city area. Those without their own bikes can contact bicycle rental firms on URA’s website to rent one, and collect them on Connaught Drive.

Food outlets in the area TODAY spoke to were hopeful the initiative would bring them more customers, though they are taking a wait-and-see approach before rolling out any plans.

Mr Joseph Paul, general manager of French cafe Angelina, said that he would consider opening earlier for breakfast and brunch crowd if the initiative brings in “good foot traffic.” He said: “(Currently), we get a slightly later crowd, as people start coming in about 10.30 am to 11am.”

Added Mr Jesse Vergara, outlet manager of Australian bistro Dimbulah Coffee at CHIJMES: “We already see about fifty cyclists regularly coming down on Saturday mornings … Hopefully this would might further boost business around the area.”

Nearby Duxton resident like Mr Tong, 54, who works in IT, said this would give him the incentive to cycle more, as he tends to cycle at night to avoid traffic. “Many senior residents also stay nearby … It would encourage a healthy lifestyle for them,” he said.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong wrote in a blog post today that it would take “tremendous effort and time” to make this vision of a car-lite Singapore a reality. He added: “But if we want a future city that’s cleaner and greener, and provides an even better quality of life, we must start to make changes now.”

Read more!

Drier, warmer weather expected in second half of February: MSS

This month could rank among the top five warmest Februaries since records started in 1929, met services say.
Channel NewsAsia 16 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: Expect drier and warmer weather in the second half of February, as the dry phase of the Northeast Monsoon season starts said Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) on Tuesday (Feb 16).

The temperature for the next fortnight is forecast to range between 25°C and 34°C the agency said in an advisory. "The mean monthly temperature for February 2016 is likely to be warmer than the long-term mean of 27.1°C for February. February 2016 could rank among the top five warmest Februaries since records started in 1929," MSS added.

Rainfall is expected to be near average over the next fortnight, but short-duration thundery showers can be expected on five to six days in the afternoon.

In the first two weeks of February, most parts of the island received above average rainfall and a monsoon surge resulted in a wet start to the Chinese New Year. Daily maximum temperatures of below 30°C were recorded in Singapore on consecutive days during the period.

- CNA/ju

Last 2 weeks of Feb to be drier and warmer
Chew Hui Min, MyPaper AsiaOne 17 Feb 16;

EXPECT the second half of February to be drier and warmer than the first two weeks of the month, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a weather advisory yesterday.

The temperature for the next fortnight is forecast to range between 25 deg C and 34 deg C.

The mean monthly temperature for this month is likely to be warmer than the long-term mean of 27.1 deg C.

February 2016 could also rank among the top five warmest Februaries since records started in 1929, NEA said.

Short, localised thundery showers are predicted on five to six days in the afternoon.

This is due to "strong solar heating of land areas and convergence of winds in the surrounding vicinity".

Rainfall for the month is expected to be near average.

The north-east monsoon will persist, with low-level winds blowing mostly from the north or north-east.

The prevailing wet phase of the season is expected to gradually transit to the dry phase around the last week of February.

Read more!

Malaysia: Call for study on whale-dolphin deaths in Malaysia

MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 17 Feb 16;

JOHOR BARU: There have been 11 cases of beached whales and dolphins in Malaysia’s coastal areas in the past three months and a non-governmental organisation has called on the Government to conduct proper studies to save these animals.

MareCet founder and chairperson Dr Louisa Ponnampalam said marine research in Malaysia was quite new compared to that in Western countries which have the capabilities and financial resources to conduct such studies.

She pointed out that the recent case of a whale that beached itself at Sungai Sarang Buaya, near Batu Pahat, was a good wake-up call for the Government to initiate research on such mammals.

There are 26 species of marine life that can be found in Malaysian waters, from whales to dolphins and even dugong, but due to financial constraints with logistics issues, not many organisations are able to conduct proper research on these animals.

“Whale sightings in Malaysian waters, in particular at Langkawi and Kudat, are quite the norm but due to public misconceptions about these gentle creatures, there is not enough awareness,” she said.

Dr Louisa said the time was right for the Government to initiate a dedicated study on whales, which would help shed light on the presence of the animal in our waters.

She said the whale that beached itself in Pantai Rambah on Feb 8 might not be a Sei Whale as thought but a Bryde Whale, which is a species that was typically found in warm, tropical waters.

“Proper research involving stakeholders will help us understand these whales and give us important knowledge on marine conservation which will help us sustain all life in our waters,” she said.

It was reported that the whale on Pantai Rambah was towed out to deep water by fishermen but the 15-tonne mammal was found dead in Batu Pahat about a day later.

A post-mortem found pieces of plastic rubbish in the whale’s stomach, badly damaged internal organs and a parasite in the carcass.

Read more!

Malaysia: Long dry spell may hit Sabah and Sarawak

RUBEN SARIO The Star 17 Feb 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A climatologist has warned of an El Nino phenomenon that could induce a drought over northern Borneo in the next three months.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Climatology and Oceano­graphy Prof Dr Fredolin Tangang (pic) said all signs pointed to a prolonged dry spell in Sabah and northern Sarawak, like what happened between 1997 and 1998.

He said that according to a forecast by the Apec Climate Centre in Busan, South Korea, there was more than an 80% likelihood of below normal rainfall in northern Borneo in the expected period.

Dr Fredolin said the El Nino phenomenon had already resulted in a 3°C above average rise in surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean.

A 5°C increase in the Pacific Ocean two decades ago resulted in widespread drought in Sabah, causing massive forest and bush fires as well as crop failures.

The El Nino pheno­menon is driven by warm surface water in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Its strength is measured by how much higher temperatures are over three-month averages.

Dr Fredolin, who served as vice-chairman of the United Nations Panel of Climate Change from 2008 until last year, said reports of rivers drying up in northern Sarawak were among the signs that the El Nino-induced drought had set in.

“There has already been reduced rainfall in northern Borneo since this month, with the average in Kota Kinabalu being 85.4mm.

“However, El Nino exacerbates the situation because it reduces the rainfall further.

“In 1998, rainfall between February and April was only 4.7mm or 5% of the average amount,” he said.

Noting that the El Nino phenomenon began in the middle of last year, Dr Fredolin said it was at its decaying stage.

“But it is at this stage that El Nino exerts its strongest effect over northern Borneo,” he said, adding that the next few months would be critical for Sabah and northern Sarawak in terms of conservation of water resources, especially in the rural areas.

“The authorities will have to be on the lookout for open burning and forest fires. It will also be hotter during the drought, with temperatures increasing by as much as 2°C above normal in the coming months,” he said.

Dr Fredolin said floods and wet weather in southern parts of Sarawak and in Kalimantan, Indo­nesia, was also consistent with the typical effect of El Nino in that region from January to April.

Asked about the rain over parts of Sabah’s west coast during the weekend amid El Nino, he said these were due to cold surges associated with the strengthening of the “Siberian High”.

“Due to the high pressure over Siberia, pulses of cold or very cold dry air in the northern hemisphere blow south, collecting moisture over South China and transporting them to our region.

“But these cold surges are temporary,” Dr Fredolin added.

He said El Nino was not expected to have a pronounced effect in the peninsula, based on the impact of the phenomenon in the past years.

There was only a 50% likelihood of a drought in the peninsula, with the northern region being more prone, he said.

It’s about to get hotter in the north of peninsula
JUSTIN ZACK The Star 17 Feb 16;

PETALING JAYA: Hot weather is to be expected in the coming week in Malaysia.

Northern Perak, Penang, Kedah, Perlis and Kelantan can expect a dry spell in the coming days courtesy of the El Nino phenomenon.

“In the next few days, we are expecting temperatures in those states to be above their average, between 0.5°C and 2°C. It will be hot,” said Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) deputy director-general Alui Bahari.

He added that the average temperature varied between the states and advised the public to keep updated via

Previously, he said there was a possibility of drought in those states.

However, he said the Klang Valley area would enjoy some respite with isolated rain expected there.

He also noted that this year’s Chinese New Year was not as hot as last year due to the spate of rain.

Previously, an unverified news report went viral online predicting that Malaysia would experience cold weather during the Chinese New Year period.

The same report also claimed that the temperature in some parts of peninsular Malaysia would drop to as low as 16°C due to the wind change.

However, both MetMalaysia and reports from the media debunked the report.

Read more!

Malaysia: Long-term damage from bauxite mining hard to fix

QISHIN TARIQ The Star 17 Feb 16;

PETALING JAYA: While Kuantan may be seeing some improvement to its environment following the moratorium against bauxite mining, academics say the long-term damage may be much harder to fix.

United Nations University research fellow Prof Dr Jamal Hisham Hashim said unless the mining areas were rehabilitated, a temporary ban on bauxite mining would not be enough to fix things.

He said rehabilitation meant measures like refilling mines and repairing damage to roads and neighbourhoods near mines.

"Rehabilitation isn't likely, especially not by illegal miners. They can leave it to the land owners to clean up the mess," he said, during a forum on sustainable bauxite mining at University Malaya here on Tuesday.

Prof Dr Jamal revealed that of the 1,200ha of bauxite mines in Kuantan, 790ha were on Felda land, which was previously oil palm plantations.

Universiti Teknologi Mara Assoc Prof Dr Harinder Rai Singh said the Pahang capital was at a tipping point and, if not addressed the oil palm estate ecosystem could be permanently damaged.

On the Felda settlers’ move to clear their lots to mine for bauxite, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Chemi­­­cal Engineering Depart-ment Associate Prof Dr Maketab Moha­mad said it could damage future attempts to regrow oil palm trees there.

He said water pollution data showed the presence of chromium in bauxite run-off, which was poisonous to oil palm trees.

Several academics presented studies on air and water pollution in Kuantan during the forum which suggested pollution levels had improved leading up to the moratorium, as mining activities slowed down even before the ban.

A representative from the Mine­ral and Geoscience Department in attendance urged the academia to conduct more studies during the moratorium to accurately gauge its impact.

Asked if the environmental agencies were working with the academics, he said that the agencies were conducting their own research on how to improve the bauxite industry.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry had imposed a three-month moratorium starting Jan 15 against the mining and transport of bauxite ore.

The temporary ban was to allow Kuantan Port to clear its backlog of bauxite stockpiles and for the authorities to improve bauxite industry standards.

About two-thirds of the areas polluted by bauxite waste here, covering 39 locations and 17 residential sites, have since been cleaned up.

Read more!

Indonesia: Govt bows to request for forest documents

The Jakarta Post 16 Feb 16;

The Environment and Forestry Ministry released documents that had been demanded by the Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) on Monday after a lengthy legal dispute centering on open access to information.

The FWI sued last year the ministry at the Central Information Commission (KIP) for refusing to release what the ministry deemed to be confidential documents.

The KIP then delivered a ruling in favor of the FWI, after which the ministry filed an appeal with the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN). The ministry, however, lost again.

“This afternoon’s ceremony shows that we as the government are very concerned with open access to public information,” the ministry’s spokesman, Novrizal, said during the submission of the documents in Central Jakarta.

The documents requested are the Annual Production Forest Working Plan (RKT-HT), 283 documents of the Industrial Material Fulfillment Plan (RPBBI) for volumes of more than 6,000 square meters, 222 documents of the Natural Forest Working Plan (RKU-HA) and the Timber Exploitation Permits (IPK).

The ministry’s secretary for the director general of sustainable forest products management, Sakti Hadengganan, said that the government initially refused to disclose the documents to the FWI because it had to listen to input from timber companies that did not want sensitive data to be misused against them.

“We listened to the Association of Indonesian Forest Concessionaires [APHI] before and we couldn’t ignore them. In democracy, the government has to listen to everyone,” he said.

Read more!

Indonesia: Riau floods worsen, engulf more houses

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 16 Feb 16;

Flooding in Riau province worsened on Monday, extending to downstream areas as the overflowing Indragiri and Kampar rivers engulfed homes in Indragiri Hulu and Pelalawan regencies.

Floods in three other regencies — Kampar, Kuantan Singingi and Rokan Hulu — which were caused by the two rivers as well as the overflowing Batang Rubuh and Rokan rivers over the weekend, have not yet receded.

According to reports received by the Riau Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), floods in Indragiri Hulu inundated 22 villages in five districts with between 20 centimeters to 1 meter of water, affecting 231 homes, most of them in Sungai Lala district.

Meanwhile, Abdul Kadir, a resident of Semelinang Tebing village, Peranap district, Indragiri Hulu, remains missing after reportedly being swept away by floodwater.

According to Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edwar Sanger, the 65-year-old man was believed to have slipped and fallen as he was defecating in the river on Saturday at around 11:30 p.m. local time. When he failed to return home by midnight, his wife Marina, 65, and son, Arga, 21, went to the river, which is located close to their home.

Kadir was nowhere to be found, though his torch was still on the riverbank. Marina and Arga reported the incident to village officials, who tried to search for Kadir using boats, but were hampered by swift currents and rising water levels.

“Indragiri Hulu BPBD, assisted by police and Indonesian Military [TNI] personnel, searched for the victim using a rubber dinghy. The search will be conducted indefinitely,” Edwar said on Monday.

In Pelalawan, the overflowing Kampar River engulfed residences in Langgam and Pangkalan Kerinci districts from Sunday night. A thoroughfare belonging to PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, which is a major route connecting the two districts, was forced to close temporarily as a 3.5-kilometer stretch of the road was flooded.

Swift currents and rising water levels have endangered motorists, as floodwater toppled a number of utility poles owned by state electricity company PLN.

Pelalawan BPBD and Fire Department head Hadi Penandio said the local administration had imposed a flood alert status in anticipation of the rising rivers.

“Areas around the Kampar River will be monitored continuously. The water level now is around one to one-and-a-half meters above the usual level,” said Hadi.

Based on temporary data, the swollen river has engulfed 45 homes in Langgam and Rantau Baru subdistricts. Three schools and a place of worship were also inundated. “As many as 54 families, or 187 people, have sought refuge in safer places, including with their relatives,” said Hadi.

“For the time being, residents have to use boats or motorboats as their means of transportation. The government has set up two flood command posts and a public kitchen to meet the needs of evacuees,” he added.

Read more!

Inside Indonesia’s nuclear dream

Nuclear energy is on the cards for energy-hungry Indonesia. Channel NewsAsia gets a look inside the country’s nuclear research reactor and asks the experts if the country is ready for its own atomic power plant.
Samantha Yap Channel NewsAsia 16 Feb 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesia is on track for the construction of its first experimental nuclear power reactor in Serpong, Banten, near Jakarta, putting the country one step closer to building a fully operational nuclear power plant.

The people behind the reactor are aiming to meet President Joko Widodo’s goal of building new power stations to supply 35 gigawatts worth of power to meet the archipelago’s energy needs, but many in the country remain divided.

“In our opinion, like or dislike, nuclear must be included for the demand of electricity by 2025,” said Dr Taswanda Taryo, deputy chairman of Nuclear Energy Technology at the National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN).

BATAN, which was established in 1958, has built and continues to operate three research reactors located in Serpong, Bandung and Yogyakarta. None of them produce electricity but BATAN is hoping they they will be part of Indonesia's energy mix by 2025.

Behind layers of security, Channel NewsAsia got an up-close look at the Serpong 30 megawatt G.A. Siwabessy research reactor. The research reactor is being used to produce radio isotopes to be used in agriculture and in the medical sector.

Indonesia’s nuclear scientists are brimming with confidence and say that with their decades of experience and expertise, Indonesia should be ready to build the 10 megawatt experimental power plant.

“We have research reactors, we have safety laboratories, we have the waste treatment centre and also we have the nuclear fuel centre here, so everything is complete,” said Dr Taryo


But to turn the nuclear dream into reality, many have asked if Indonesia can implement appropriate safety and security measures.

That responsibility lies with Indonesia’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency (BAPETEN), which regulates and licenses nuclear applications. The agency is subject to review by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“Recently in August 2015, we had an integrated regulatory review service mission by the IAEA. They reviewed our capability and our readiness to license new nuclear power plants.

The conclusion is that we are ready,” said Professor Jazi Eko Istiyanto, BAPETEN’s chairman.

Dr Dohee Hahn, a director at IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Power said the IAEA does not certify any country as being fit or unfit for nuclear power, nor does it ascertain whether a nuclear power plant is being operated safely. Both are responsibilities of national regulators.

What the IAEA does prescribe for countries with nuclear ambitions is a Nuclear Energy Programme Implementing Organisation (NEPIO) to lead and manage efforts in developing nuclear power plant programmes.

Indonesia does not have an entity such as NEPIO, but BATAN is optimistic that it is well-equipped to build a nuclear power plant.

Associate Professor Sulfikar Amir from Nanyang Technological University’s Division of Sociology at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, said he is hesitant about Indonesia’s capability to build and operate a nuclear power plant.

“I think at the moment Indonesia should reconsider pursuing nuclear energy because of the lack of capacity in dealing with the risks,” said Prof Sulfikar, who has been observing Indonesia’s journey to attain nuclear power since 2008.

“Was Japan ready when they built Fukushima Daiichi in 1970s? Were they ready? Were the Japanese ready with what happened in 2011?” he asked, referring to the Fukushima nuclear crisis in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.


Indonesia’s archipelago, which is made up of 17,000 islands – sits on the most active part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and is consistently prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.

“Science tells us that nuclear is inherently dangerous, especially in a country like Indonesia,” said Mr Arif Fiyanto, head of the Climate and Energy Campaign at Greenpeace Indonesia.

Plans for a nuclear power plant to be built in Indonesia have prompted safety concerns across the ASEAN region.

Some of the proposed sites for Indonesia’s first nuclear power plant are located in the province of Bangka-Belitung, an island off Southeast Sumatera. BATAN’s feasibility studies found Muntok in West Bangka, and Permis in South Bangka, suitable for the construction of a nuclear power plant as well.

Said Dr Djarot Wisnubroto, the chairman at the nuclear agency: “Well, we say we live in the Ring of Fire. The fact is that some parts of Indonesia are not on the Ring of Fire. In Kalimantan, in Bangka and even near Singapore on Batam island. That side is a good and appropriate site for the nuclear power plant."

Other proposed sites include West and East Kalimantan. However, Mr Fiyanto believes places like Kalimantan are not immune to earthquakes.

“They use the argument that Kalimantan is safe from earthquakes and that it is not vulnerable to natural disasters. They keep using that argument, but a big earthquake hit East Kalimantan right on the proposed site of the nuclear power plant”, said Mr Fiyanto, referring to a 6.1-magnitude earthquake on Dec 21 last year.

“There is no valid argument to build a nuclear power plant in Indonesia. Nuclear is not safe, nuclear is not clean, nuclear is a false solution for climate change. And nuclear will not support us to achieve our energy sovereignty, so we don’t need nuclear, not at all,” argued Mr Fiyanto who has led the anti-nuclear campaign for Greenpeace Indonesia since 2008.


While Indonesia is resource-rich, pro-nuclear voices say that renewable energy sources are not enough to meet the energy needs of its vast population.

“In our calculation, if we are including solar, and if we’re talking about geothermal, about coal and about micro-hydro power, and other energy sources, then there is still the lack of electricity,” said Dr. Taryo.

The conceptual design for the 10-megawatt experimental nuclear power plant has been completed by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM), a nuclear power vendor.

If the green light is given by the Indonesian President, then vendors such as ROSATOM will get a shot at building the country’s nuclear power plants. ROSATOM have set up a regional office in Singapore with a focus on expanding in Southeast Asia.

Currently, there is no ASEAN country that has a fully operational nuclear power plant.

“If the political decision is made in Southeast Asia to go nuclear, (then they) are going to be the safest and the most advanced nuclear power plants available on the market today,” said Mr Egor Simonov, ROSATOM’s regional representative in Southeast Asia.

But the responsibility to maintain and operate the plant still lies with the respective countries.

“It is the total responsibility of the one who operates the plant to operate it safely. The licensee has to operate the plant safely and then the oversight is done by the regulator. So these are the structures that should be in place in every country that operates power plant,” said Ms Agneta Rising, director general of the World Nuclear Association.

In her assessment of the region, Ms Rising said Southeast Asia is ready to build nuclear power plants. With regard to Indonesia in particular, Ms Rising said: “For what I see and learn, Indonesia has a lot of competence in this area, a lot of experience and a lot of professionalism.”

Prof Istiyanto remains hopeful as well, saying he believes his country is ready despite detractors. “What’s left now is the president’s decision."

Channel NewsAsia’s Special Documentary, A Nuclear Affair, airs Feb16, 9.30pm (SG/HK) and 8.30pm (JKT), with an encore at 10.30am, Feb 17.

- CNA/kc

Read more!