Best of our wild blogs: 29 Mar 16

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Malaysia, Johor: Water catchment areas under pressure

Low Sock Ken The Sun Daily 27 Mar 16;

JOHOR BARU: Population increase and climate change, among other factors, have been identified as the main factors that have affected water levels at dams in the state.

Illegal farming near water catchment areas and encroachment activities also contribute to the problem.

"Water catchment areas are supposed to be protected but farming activities near water dams are still prevalent," Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili said at a press conference after a visit to the Sungai Johor barrage project in Kota Tinggi.

He pointed out that the problem was not only in Johor, but also in other locations like Cameron Highlands where there is illegal farming and encroachment.

He said some parts in Johor Baru, Pasir Gudang and Pengerang had affected some 450,000 people who had to endure four months of water rationing from August to December last year.

Ongkili said the federal government could not do much because this was a land matter which was under state jurisdiction.

Johor DAP chief Liew Chin Tong when contacted said the encroachment problem needs to be resolved with political will.

"I have seen how severe the encroachment is in one of my field trips last year," Liew said. "It was truly shocking. Having no forests in the water catchment had adversely affected the quantity and quality of water that enters the reservoir."

State health and environment committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said river pollution was another factor which damaged water resources.

He said people need to change their attitude and not throw rubbish into the drains as it will be flushed into the nearest river.

He said the local government should also not issue licences for factories near riverbanks.

Syarikat Air Johor Holdings Sdn Bhd corporate communication chief Jamaluddin Jamal said only two dams – the Sungai Lebam Dam and the Sungai Layang Dam – in Johor were below critical water levels.

He said the water level at the Sungai Lebam Dam had dropped to 10.44m, below the critical level of 12.27m, while the water at the Sungai Layang Dam dropped to 20.53m below the critical level of 23.50m.

He said there was still enough water supply, adding that water rationing would only be implemented as a last resort.

Malaysia, Johor: No water rationing
YEE XIANG YUN The Star 29 Mar 16;

JOHOR BARU: There is no need for water rationing in Johor despite the ongoing hot spell caused by El Nino, said Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

He said that there is still enough water in all the dams in the state including the previously critical Sungai Layang dam in Masai and Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi.

At the end of last year, the two dams recorded drastic drops in water level and this led to four months of scheduled water supply.

“We have started to transfer water into the Sungai Lebam dam through the Raw Water Project to Rapid (Pamer) project, which helped solve the matter,” he said.

He said while the Sungai Layang dam was still in the critical level, the water level was still within manageable conditions.

“Residents in the area do not have to worry about water rationing or scheduled water supply for now.”

However, Mohamed Khaled hoped that consumers would not waste water, especially during the current hot season.

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Malaysia: Long queues for spring water on Sabah island

RUBEN SARIO The Star 29 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: With the dry spell showing no sign of abating, a spring remains the sole water source for hundreds of villagers in northern Pulau Banggi and the scores of people on nearby islands.

Banggi islander Salma Marail said there were long queues, until 3am the next day, to collect water from the spring at the foothill of Bukit Serong, near her village of Kampung Timbang Dayang.

“Sometimes the people leave almost empty-handed because the supply was reduced to a trickle,” she said.

Salma said the spring was in the middle of the jungle, about an hour’s walk from her village. It’s even more difficult for those from the other islands.

“They have to travel by boat and walk one hour to get the water, then it’s another hour to get back to their vessels,” she said.

Her village is about 13km from Banggi’s main settlement of Karakit.

Salma said although the Banggi water treatment plant was functioning, the amount it was producing was not enough.

Kudat District Officer Sapdin Ibrahim said the plant was running at 30% of its maximum capacity, producing two million litres per day, due to a drop in the water level at its intake point in the river.

State Natural Disaster Manage­ment Committee head of secretariat Kol Mulliadi Al Hamdi Ladin said district officials in Kudat were working with NGOs to distribute bottled water to the island, which has a population of 20,000 in 18 villages.

No hunting allowed in Sabah due to drought
KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 28 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: No hunting activities are allowed in Sabah with immediate effect following a directive issued by Sabah Wildlife Department here.

The temporary state wide freeze on issuance of all hunting licence was done taking into account of the prolong drought, the department said in a statement.

"This measure was a precautionary move and to reduce occurrence of forest fires. "The chances of forest fire increase with presence of human activity in the forest, for example hunting.

"We will withdraw the temporary suspension once the drought season is over," said its director William Baya.

Brief respite from the heat, heavy rain in Pahang all morning
T.N.ALAGESH New Straits Times 28 Mar 16;

KUANTAN: Residents in the state capital today woke up to heavy rain that saw cooler temperatures, bringing some relief after a prolonged hot and dry spell.

The heavy rain which continued till noon brought an end to weeks of dry weather and uninterrupted sunshine which had triggered a series of bush fires in the state capital. Pahang is among several states in the country which experienced a heat wave.

It had taken a toll on the people and farming activities.

A Fire and Rescue spokesman said the heavy downpour had brought helped put out forest and bush fires reported during the dry spell in several areas here.

"Although firemen have managed to bring the situation under control but the heavy rain today has completely doused the fires especially in Nenasi, Pekan," he said.

Pahang recorded an average temperature about 35 degrees Celcius and a high of 37 degrees Celcius during the heatwave.

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Malaysia: 100 hit by heatwave since March 1

The Star 29 Mar 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has recorded 100 heat-related cases for treatment at government health facilities since March 1 until Sunday following the current hot weather.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said of the total cases, 22 were for heat cramp, heat exhaustion (63), heat stroke (14) including one death in Segamat, Johor.

However, he said, from daily observation of cases reported from March 22 until Sunday, there was a drop in the number of cases for heat cramp and heat exhaustion with no cases of heat stroke.

"The extreme hot weather can cause a person to sweat often and as a result there will be less liquid in the body.

"It will also cause a person to feel tired easily and weak, as well as dehydration and heat stroke," he said in a statement here Monday.

Dr Noor Hisham advised children and senior citizens to take extra care of their health, and the public to postpone plans to carry out extreme activities or sports, like kayaking, cycling, marathon and mountain climbing.

"If it cannot be avoided, they should shorten the period of their activity or rest for a longer time and drink a lot of water,” he added. - Bernama

Terengganu schools halt outdoor activities due to El Nino
The Star 29 Mar 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Schools in Terengganu cannot conduct outdoor activities for students between 12.30pm and 2.30pm during the El Nino phenomenon.

State Education director Shafruddin Ali Hussin said this was a precautionary measure, although temperatures predicted for this week were still below 35°C.

“Children are always active, and from my visits to several schools since the El Nino, I found them still excited and participating in activities held at their schools, although some have to be conducted in classrooms.

“For co-curricular activities held every Tuesday afternoon, the schools have been informed to continue activities in the building to keep students away from direct sunlight and prevent them from getting heatstroke,” he said yesterday.

He said various initiatives were also made by Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) in schools to address the El Nino situation.

“Some PTAs provide free drinks to students and there are also schools which received sponsorship from private companies.

“Schools which do not provide free drinks are required to ensure there is always enough water supply, like at the water vending machine and at the canteen,” he added.

The first case of heatstroke in Terengganu was reported last Saturday, involving a policeman who collapsed during a parade to commemorate the 209th Police Day celebration.

The policeman regained consciousness while on the way to the Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital.

He was allowed to return home after treatment the same day. — Bernama

No outdoor activities at schools until further notice
CAVINA LIM The Star 29 Mar 16;

GEORGE TOWN: Schools in the northern region will abide by the Education Ministry’s directive to suspend all outdoor activities due to the heatwave.

St Xavier’s Institution’s acting principal Dr Sim Hock Keat said the school had not allowed any outdoor activities since the directive was issued last week.

“Indoor co-curricular activities will go on as usual as they are conducted in classrooms. There are also certain activities which are held at the school hall.

“PJ (Pendidikan Jasmani dan Kesihatan) lessons have been stopped and only theory lessons are conducted in classrooms. All sports practices are also postponed,” he said yesterday.

Dr Sim said there had been too many heatstroke cases.

“We cannot take this kind of risk under such extraordinary temperatures,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kedah state Education Committee chairman Datuk Tajul Urus Mat Zain said centralised training for the Kedah Schools Sports Council selections by schools was conducted indoors after 10am.

“For warming-up activities, these are conducted indoors in school halls due to the scorching heat,” he said.

Perlis Education Department director Izmi Ismail added that school principals should use their discretion in allowing outdoor activities.

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Malaysia: Certain areas may be submerged by 2100

The Star 29 Mar 16;

SEVERAL coastal areas along Kedah, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak may be slightly submerged by the year 2100, the Dewan Rakyat heard.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said this was based on projection studies conducted six years ago.

“The highest increase of sea level (in Peninsular Malaysia) is expected to be at the Kedah beach (0.52m), followed by Kelantan (0.47m).

“In Sarawak, it is expected to be recorded at Miri beach (0.59m) and in Sabah, Tawau beach (1.06m),” he said in reply to a question from Datuk Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz (BN-Tanah Merah).

Dr Wan Junaidi said the ministry had taken several measures including building structural barriers such as groyne wave breakers and rock revetment to protect the coastal areas.

“We also will continue to plant mangrove trees, carry out beach nourishment, and counsel local authorities and developers so that the ground level of proposed future developments has to be well above sea level,” Dr Wan Junaidi said yesterday.

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Indonesia to Promote Whale-watching Tourism

Fardah Antara 28 Mar 16;

Jakarta (Antara News)- With over 17 thousand islands, Indonesia is the largest and most varied archipelago on Earth and spans over 5,000 equatorial kilometres between Asia and Australia.

Its total coastline extends over 80,000 km, close to one third of the Earths circumference at the equator.

So, it is not surprising if Indonesian waters have an exceptionally high whale and dolphin diversity.

Twenty nine different cetacean species inhabit these waters, several of which are rare and endangered, according to APEX Environmental, an environmental organization with extensive expertise in oceanic whale and dolphin surveys, and cetacean ecology research.

More than one third of all known whales and dolphins species worldwide can be found in Indonesian waters, according to APEX, whose Indonesian Oceanic Cetacean Program (IOCP) has conducted research in Bunaken, Tua Marine Park and Sangihe Talaud in North Sulawesi, and Komodo National Park in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).

Indonesias tropical cetaceans include Spinner, Spotted, Indo-pacific Bottlenose, Frasers and Rough-toothed Dolphins, as well as Melon-headed, False Killer, Pygmy Killer Whales and Edens Whale.

NTTs traditional whale hunting community in Lamalera, on the south coast of the island of Lembata, and Lamakera in neighbouring Solor, are the most famous and last two remaining Indonesian whaling communities.

The people in Lamalera hunt sperm whale and orca. The hunters have religious taboos that ensure that they use every part of the animal. About half of the catch is kept in the village; the rest is traded in local markets, using barter system.

The only species of whale which is not hunted is the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), because according to local folklore, the blue whale once rescued a family in Lamalera and is considered holy.

The whale-hunts are carried out in a traditional manner, with bamboo spears and using small wooden outriggers, 10-12 m long and 2 m wide, constructed without nails and with sails woven from palm fronds.

The animals are killed by the harpooner leaping onto the back of the animal from the boat to drive in the harpoon.

The World Wildlife Fund has carried out surveys in the village to determine that the limited hunting does not endanger world whale stocks or other endangered species.

Given the fact that East Nusa Tenggara has a huge potential to develop whale watching tourism, the government is planning to promote whale-watching tourism internationally.

"As long as I know, the province has 10 species of whale. Please do me a favor and promote it," Safri Burhanuddin, deputy of the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, said in Kupang, NTT, recently.

Various species of whale and the unique traditions and culture in the province could woo tourists, he said.

He instructed the local maritime and fishery office to monitor the best locations and time for whale watching activities.

East Nusa Tenggara Governor Frans Lebu Raya has lauded the plan to promote whale migration sites to boost tourist arrivals in the province.

"We have urged a whale researcher from Australia to map the whale migration route and schedule," the governor noted, and made a reference to Benjamin Kahn, a cetacean researcher and director of the Coral Triangle Oceanic Cetacean Program for APEX Environmental.

Kahn is an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Centre of Marine Science and Technology at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia.

The scientist first worked with Oceanic Society in 2015 aboard "Raja Ampat: Snorkeling and Whale Watching expedition."

Benjamin Kahns research showed that whales migrate from the Australian waters to the NTT waters, especially to the Lamalera waters, where the fishermen hunt these species, he explained.

However, the research conducted by Kahn has yet to reveal precisely when the whales migrated from other sites to the Indonesian waters, the governor said.

"Whale migration will be a new tourist attraction in order to realize the potential of NTT as a tourist province," Raya stated.

The provincial administration needed to intensify its promotional activities to introduce this unique tourism attraction, the governor emphasized.

He suggested that an international seminar on whale fishing during the hunting season, which takes place from May to October, be organized as a promotional event.

Besides NTT, Raja Ampat Islands located in West Papua Province is also an amazing site to watch whales and dolphins.

Oceanic Society has planned another unique cruise experience that combines high-tech whale watching with snorkeling Raja Ampats outstanding marine ecosystems in February 2017.

"Weve teamed up with local experts to bring you this top-notch marine wildlife cruise. Oceanic Society travelers will gain 20+ years of local knowledge as we partner with the experts of the Pindito, one of the original live-aboard ships of Raja Ampat. This program is tailor made to offer our guests unrivaled opportunity to locate and possibly snorkel with whales and dolphins, including orcas, pilot whales, sperm whales, Brydes whales and more," the Oceanic society said on its website. ***1***


26-03-2016 21:15:21

Indonesia steps up marine tourism promotions
Andi Abdussalam Antara 28 Mar 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Being the worlds largest island country with over 17 thousands islands and 54,716 kilometer coastal lines, Indonesia is rich in beautiful isles, beaches and such underwater resources as coral reefs, fish and other sea biota.

These potential resources are scattered in various regions across the country, offering greatest chances for the government to tap their commercial benefit through tourism development.

Therefore, according to Hari Untoro Dradjat expert staff for maritime affairs of the Tourism Ministry, the government is intensifying the development of tourism in various regions.

He said in Denpasar, Bali on Tuesday (March 22) that the government now focuses the development of its tourism in the regions.

"In the tourist resort island of Bali alone, there are 16 tourism regions, five special tourism areas and 151 tourist destinations," Dradjat told a seminar on tourism in Denpasar on Tuesday.

Thus, the government which has set a target to attract 12 million foreign tourist arrivals this year and 20 million by 2019, is also intensively promoting its tourism, particularly marine tourism, through various activities such as festivals, expositions, yacht-sail races and others.

It is admitted that Indonesia is best for its undersea world with various beautiful diving destinations such as Raja Ampat in West Papua; Bunaken in Manado (North Sulawesi); Lembeh Bitung in Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara/NTB); Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT); Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko in Wakatobi (Southeast Sulawesi); and Morotai as well as Halmahera in Ambon (Maluku).

Indonesia has thousands of places of this kind that are scattered across the country from Sabang in Aceh Province to Marauke in Papua Province.

The government therefore, is also active in promoting the countrys tourism through its "Wonderful Indonesia" logo in various parts of the world such as in Europe and Australia. Apart from that, exhibitions and festivals are also held at home.

In West Sumatra, for example, the government will organize a festival on Mentawai Island.

With regard to this event, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya invited the public to visit Mentawai Enchantment Festival 2016 to be held on April 19 to 21.

"The visitors can enjoy traditional food and marine tourism on Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra," Arief Yahya said in Jakarta on Sunday. Mentawai is known for its best surfing point. Many international surfing competitions are held in Mentawai each year.

There are two spots of wave namely Lances Right and Macaronies. The two points are recorded as the 10th best in the world for surfers. Mentawai Islands have pristine beaches with sun baked sands and has consistently been a popular surfing destination.

There are about 73 surf spots in Mentawai with 49 of them offering exclusive locations. In addition to surfing spots, there are also 33 diving locations and 38 fishing areas.

"Please look for wonderful Indonesia in Mentawai," the minister said.

The festival will display art and cultural exhibitions, nautical activities, traditional dances, food, and many others. It will be centered on Mapaddegat Beach, District of North Sipora, West Sumatra.

In efforts to attract more visitors, both domestic and foreign tourists, a marine tourism expo will be organized in Jakarta. The Tourism Ministry supports the organizing of the event.

The event is described as the countrys biggest marine adventure tourism exhibition, themed with: "Deep & Extreme Indonesia 2016". It will be held at the Jakarta Convention Center, from March 31 to April 3, 2016.

"The Tourism Ministry supports the organizing of the event. Lets explore the beauty of Indonesias underwater world," Tourism Destination Development Deputy of the Tourism Ministry Dadang Rizki said in Jakarta on Sunday.

Organized since ten years ago, the exhibition is the biggest and most complete of its kind held in the country. It explores marine tourism markets in various regions to be developed into world best diving tourist destinations.

Dadang explained that the Indonesian underwater world is host to various coral reefs which serve as habitat for more than 2,000 fish species and various sea biota.

Different fish species such as wrasse, dansel, trigger, sweetlip and unicorn are all can be found there. There are also various big fish species such as tuna, marlin, hammer head sharks, sailfish, yellowfin tuna, barracuda, dolphin and whales.

Various tourism operators and diving organizers, government organizations, tourism promotion boards and travel bureaus will take part in the exhibition.

The operators and diving organizers will display diving operator ship and various diving accessories, and other water sport devices. They will also exhibit underwater photography equipment.

Promotions through various activities at home and abroad are organized to demonstrate that Indonesia has huge marine potential that serves as the pillar of the countrys tourism.

Therefore, maritime expert Raymond Lesmana suggested that the government should develop the pillars of the marine tourism in order to attract more foreign tourists.

"The government should develop the pillars to enable its tourism to development progressively," remarked Raymond in Mandurah, West Australia, on March 22.

He made the statement when he became a speaker during the promotion event of "Wonderful Indonesia for Yachter Community Australia 2016" organized by the Tourism Ministry.

The promotion event was attended by Indonesian Consul General to West Australia Ade Padmo Sarwono, Head of the Asia Pacific Marketing Affairs of the Tourism Ministry Adella Raung and members of Yachter Community from the Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club Inc.

Raymond said the government should carry out the pillars of the marine tourism sector namely national policy (Presidential regulation among others) which provides visa-free facility to foreign tourists, local government support to the national policy, making use of the momentum of marine tourism agenda, improvement of tourism infrastructure and of human resources.(*)

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Indonesia: Companies take steps to reduce forest fires in Indonesia

Indonesian pulpwood giant steps up with new measures
New Paper 28 Mar 16;

Some Singaporeans have noticed a burning smell lingering in the air over the weekend.

But the Pollutant Standards Index values (PSI) remained in the moderate levels, according to the National Environment Agency.

Those in Indonesia, however, are not so lucky. Early this month, the western province of Riau declared a state of emergency over forest and land fires blazing on the island of Sumatra.

And Indonesian pulpwood giant Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP)has stepped in to to announce concrete steps it is taking towards haze-free skies, with US$20 million (S$27.4 million) being pumped into its fire prevention and suppression efforts.

More than 400 of APP's employees, as well as staff from the company's suppliers, will be trained by fire management experts from Canada and South Africa under the Incident Command System (ICS).

The ICS is a standardised approach to the command, control and coordination of emergency response.

Also part of the front-line defence: two fire detection drones with thermal imaging cameras capable of near real-time data delivery, and a fleet of water-bombing helicopters, said APP.

Grouped together as mobile fire management teams, the new aircraft and the ICS teams can be deployed rapidly to high-fire risk locations.

These locations are identified based on data from national bi-weekly fire risk reviews.

Recognising the need to engage the local community to fight forest fires, APP signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with seven villages in the South Sumatra region as part of its agroforestry programme.

This MOU will help the communities raise their standard of living and improve their livelihood by providing them with training and support to grow crops with better revenue yield.

Other firms, like PT Smart Tbk, have also launched programmes to work with the local community to cut down forest fires.

PT Smart Tbk, which is a subsidiary of palm oil producer Golden Agri-Resources, launched its Desa Siaga Api programme in eight villages in West Kalimantan early this month. The programme aims to empower local communities to prevent fires.


Villagers will be trained and will be provided with facilities and equipment to extinguish fires.

Those that are successful in reducing or eliminating fires will be eligible for additional support through social infrastructure development aid or technical assistance from PT Smart Tbk.

Another major palm oil producer, Sime Darby Plantation (SDP), launched a fire hot spot dashboard last year.

The dashboard monitors incidences of hot spots in the region using satellite data. It will also indicate the actions taken by the respective estates to extinguish fires.

SDP's operating company PT Bhumireksa Nusa Sejati and Riau University have been training local communities in sustainable farming practices and educating them on the benefits of zero burning.

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Norway fund drops 11 firms over deforestation

Move demonstrates finance sector clout in pushing for greener practices
David Fogarty Straits Times 28 Mar 16;

Norway's Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, has dropped 11 companies because of connections to deforestation, the fund said in its 2015 annual report.

The fund's decision shows the growing clout of the finance sector in pushing firms to improve their environmental practices by setting higher standards for investment.

Four firms were formally excluded by the fund's council on ethics after investigations showed that their oil palm plantations caused serious environmental damage in Indonesia, including fires in at least one case. The excluded companies are South Korea's Posco and its subsidiary, Daewoo International Corp, and Malaysia's Genting Berhad and IJM Corp. The fund held nearly US$200 million (about S$270 million) of Posco shares at end-2014.

The fund formally excluded the four because of deforestation in rainforest areas, including primary forest areas critical to wildlife. The council used satellite imagery, government maps and information on company websites, as well as research that it commissioned.

IJM did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Spokesmen for Posco-Daewoo and Genting said they were unable to comment on the council's findings.

Stakes in another seven firms were divested by the fund, the GPFG said in its annual report on March 9, citing deforestation and lack of environmental safeguards. It did not name these firms, which included two palm oil firms, four pulp and paper firms and an Indian coal miner.

Green group Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN), which monitors the fund's investments, identified the two palm oil firms as Kulim Malaysia and Hong Kong-listed First Pacific, the majority owner of Indonesian food giant PT Indofood that owns Singapore-listed Indofood Agri Resources.

"Our approach to responsible investment management may in some cases lead to divestments from companies where we see elevated long-term risks," a spokesman for GPFG told The Straits Times in an e-mail. "We divested from 73 companies last year. Of these, seven... were related to deforestation and 42 were related to greenhouse gas emissions."

First Pacific and Kulim did not reply to requests for comment. Indofood Agri Resources also did not reply, but it has been the focus of non-governmental organisations critical of its environmental practices, labelling it a laggard.

With assets of about US$830 billion, the fund's actions are closely monitored by investors and environmental groups. It invests in over 9,000 firms, but in recent years has taken a tougher approach to those involved in environmental destruction, labour rights abuses, corruption and driving climate change.

Since 2012, the fund has divested 50 firms for their deforestation practices and formally excluded eight for severe environmental damage in rainforest areas, RFN said. Among palm oil firms dropped are Singapore-listed Wilmar and Golden Agri-Resources.

Firms linked to bad environmental practices
Last year, Norway's sovereign wealth fund formally excluded two South Korean and two Malaysian companies after investigations by its ethics council showed the firms' oil palm plantations had caused serious environmental damage in Indonesia. The council publicly released its detailed findings and presented them to each of the companies.


Posco, a South Korean steel-maker, holds a majority stake in Daewoo International Corp, a South Korean conglomerate with interests in forestry and food production. Daewoo's majority-owned Indonesian subsidiary, PT Bio Inti Agrindo, has been developing oil palm plantations totalling 32,500ha in Papua province, in a remote area with virgin rainforest.

Investigations by the council showed widespread forest clearance and a large number of fires within one of the two concessions, according to satellite imagery. This suggests the land was being illegally cleared by burning, the council said. The firm denied this in a reply to the council.

The council criticised Daewoo for failing to provide sufficient information about the environmental impact of its plantation development, and its lack of detailed surveys of the area's plant and animal species.


The council first recommended excluding Genting Berhad and its subsidiary, Genting Plantations, in 2014 over forest loss in Genting's oil palm concessions in Kalimantan. The 10 concessions cover more than 150,000ha, or slightly more than twice the size of Singapore.

The council's investigations showed clearance of dense rainforest, and conversion of deep peatlands and areas mapped as potential orang utan habitat.

It criticised Genting for its lack of transparency, saying the company did not respond to requests for information on the condition of the forests and peatlands or the levels of biodiversity in its concessions.

In a 2015 follow-up, the council further assessed the risk from Genting's conversion of forests into oil palm plantations.

The company did not respond to requests for information. The council later found that it might have underestimated the scale of deforestation in some of Genting's concessions.


In 2014, the ethics council investigated four Indonesian oil palm concessions in East Kalimantan province being developed by IJM Plantations, a subsidiary of IJM Corp. The concessions cover about 35,000ha.

The council found large areas of rainforest had been cleared and that, in one of the areas investigated, forest in buffer zones outside the concession boundary had been cleared, in violation of the IJM Corp standards stated on its website.

The council said it contacted the company several times with questions about its operations, including steps the firm was taking to reduce environmental damage, but received no answers.

In a 2015 follow-up, the council maintained its recommendation to exclude IJM Corp from any investments, saying it had not detected any major changes in the company's operations.

David Fogarty

Norway drops Asian palm oil firms in show of green credentials
* Fund sells out of 23 Asian firms to slow deforestation
* Environmentalists welcome shift, urge more action
Joachim Dagenborg and Alister Doyle Reuters 8 Mar 16;

OSLO, March 8 Norway's $710 billion sovereign wealth fund has pulled out of 23 Asian palm oil companies after accusing them of causing deforestation, winning praise from environmentalists.

It said it sold stakes in the firms after a review of companies that have cleared forests for palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. Palm oil is used in many foods and consumer goods such as soaps, lipstick and peanut butter.

The fund is one of the world's biggest investors, underpinned by Norway's oil and gas assets. Last year it expanded its investment guidelines to include deforestation as a threat to future growth.

Stakes in firms including Wilmar, KL Kepong and Golden Agri-Resources Ltd were sold during 2012, according to the fund's annual report released on Friday.

Of these, the biggest holding had been in Singapore-listed Wilmar, worth 382 million crowns ($67.29 million).

"In the first quarter of 2012 we sold our stakes in 23 companies that by our reckoning produced palm oil unsustainably," the fund said, without naming any firms.

Norway has given more than any other developed nation to help slow deforestation, partly as a way to avert climate change. Indonesia is home to the world's third-largest expanse of tropical forests and is the top prodicer of palm oil. Malaysia is the world's second largest producer.

The companies deny that they are a threat to forests.

Golden Agri's website, for instance, says: "we aim to be the leader in sustainable palm oil production." Wilmar and KL Kepong similarly say that they support best practices and standards to protect the environment.


The Rainforest Foundation environmental group has long accused Norway of double standards by investing billions of dollars in palm oil or soya farmers while also giving cash to nations from Brazil to Indonesia to slow deforestation.

"We are very happy with this development in the palm oil sector," said Nils Hermann Ranum, of Norway's branch of the Foundation.

Still, he said that Norway should do more to pull out of other sectors that cause deforestation, such as logging companies, oil and gas firms, soya and meat producers.

By the Foundation's estimates, Norway had investments totalling $13.2 billion in companies damaging rainforests at the end of 2012, against $14.4 billion a year earlier. "They need a more coherent policy," he said.

Norway has programmes to slow deforestation worth $1 billion each for Brazil and Indonesia, as well as smaller projects in nations from Guyana to Tanzania.

Many companies, including Anglo-Dutch consumer group Unilever Plc and Swiss food group Nestle, have cracked down on palm oil suppliers in recent years because of worries about deforestation.

Deforestation accounts for up to about a fifth of greenhouse gases from human sources. Forests soak up carbon dioxide as they grow and release it when they burn or rot.

Yngve Slyngstad, head of Norway's fund, told Reuters that Oslo was trying to investmore in palm oil producers whose policies did not damage forests that are home to endangered animals such as orang-utans and absorb greenhouse gases.

"We have sold many of the small companies and concentrated investment in larger companies who often have a better practice," he said.

Among palm oil firms, the fund more than quadrupled its holdings in Malaysia's Sime Darby to a value of 688.8 million crowns at the end of 2012 from 150.7 million crowns a year earlier.

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