Best of our wild blogs: 8 Apr 16



Infographics on the EIA
BES Drongos

Operation WE Clean Up @ Lim Chu Kang Beach & Mangrove (Sun 08 May 2016: 7.30am) – join us!
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Guiding at Pulau Semakau with lots of sea stars!
wild shores of singapore


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'We shouldn't have to wait till 2020 to see clear blue skies': Vivian Balakrishnan

Singapore's Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that regional leaders had endorsed the vision of a haze-free ASEAN by 2020.
Channel NewsAsia 7 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: As ASEAN becomes more integrated, member nations must join hands to tackle transboundary challenges, such as the perennial haze, said Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said at the end of the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday (Apr 7).

“Quite frankly, as the former Minister for the Environment, I don’t see why we have to wait till 2020 to see clear blue skies,” he said, noting that leaders have endorsed the vision of a haze-free ASEAN by 2020.

Just last month, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said that last year's haze episode – caused by forest fires in Indonesia and exacerbated by a severe El Nino effect – cost Singapore an estimated S$700 million of losses.

Dr Balakrishnan also said that Singapore wants to do more with the Indonesian government and other interested stakeholders, “to promote sustainable agricultural practices, to strengthen our response to forest fires, and to hold errant companies responsible for the fires that they start, or allow to occur on their concession areas”.

Besides cooperation within ASEAN – with respect to transboundary haze, and the ASEAN Economic Community – the Foreign Affairs Minister said that Singapore must continue to be plugged into regional and international trade groupings that will open doors for our people and businesses.

Some of these include the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement – two trade deals Singapore hopes will be ratified soon, said Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

He also touched on the importance of economic cooperation with key partners, noting that Singapore – despite its small size – is the largest foreign investor to China and Indonesia.

- CNA/ll


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Programme bears fruit - and veggies

Veena Vinod, The Straits Times AsiaOne 8 Apr 16;

An edible garden at Spectra Secondary School has not only been a source of learning for its students, but it is also a feast for the eyes and palate for nearby residents.

In the level four rooftop garden at the school in Woodlands, Secondary 1 students from the Normal-Technical stream grow vegetables and fruits, such as lettuce, brinjal and banana, in 11 garden beds.

Groups of four students are given an area of land measuring 1m by 1m to grow crops of their choice. They are responsible for weeding, watering and fertilising the area.

At the end of 10 weeks, their crops are harvested and sold to the public at a farmer's market in the school. The students also sell herbal teas and snacks made from the harvested produce.

Said principal Krishnan Aravinthan, 48: "We wanted to fill the school with learning spaces and this garden is more than that.

It brings the community together and gives our students a sense of accomplishment."

Crops grown by the students of Spectra Secondary School include (from left) bananas, chikus, brinjals and a wintermelon that weighs nearly 2kg. Photo: The Straits Times
The self-sustaining garden is irrigated by rainwater and fertilised by compost made from leaves and weeds from the plots.

The initial batch of 70 potted plants were bought from an external vendor for $3,000. The school subsequently saved the seeds for future crops, and other seeds have been donated by volunteers.

The garden was built to inculcate the values of responsibility and resilience.

Said school staff developer Lyvenne Chong: "The main message of the programme is that nobody owes you a living - you have to work hard to put food on the table.

"It is difficult to teach values like persistence and respect in the classroom. We felt that a hands-on process would be more impactful."

Mrs Chong, 58, conceptualised the programme and designed its syllabus as part of character and citizenship education after looking up existing research into gardening as a tool to motivate students.

She found that gardening could offer less academically-inclined students a taste of success.

The problems related to the growing of crops, such as pest infestations and wilting, become analogies for life's challenges.

Secondary 2 student Joel Soh, 14, who went through the programme last year, said: "We had pests, such as caterpillars and aphids, that would eat the crops. When we discovered them, we would move (the pests) to a vacant plot. It was hot and tiring (doing so), but we never gave up."

Although Joel has graduated from the programme, he still helps out at the garden on Saturdays, doing things such as weeding and watering the plants. He also helps the volunteers - parents and members of the public - harvest the vegetables when they are ready.

He said: "It's satisfying to see our plants sold and the money going to needy students."

Vegetables and fruits sold at the farmer's market are priced at $2 a bag and sales proceeds go to a fund for the school's needy students. Over $2,000 was raised last year.

Parents of students and residents living nearby have also come on board - they spend their weekends helping out at the learning garden, weeding the plants or setting up trellises.

Describing the edible garden programme as very meaningful, Ms Josephine Tan, 44, chairman of the school's Parent Support Group, said that many children do not know where vegetables come from or the efforts that go into growing them.

"In the beginning, none of the students were comfortable with getting their hands dirty, but now, some of them even want to help out in their free time," she said.

Regular parent volunteer Pearlyn Bulner, 37, takes her family to help out in the garden on weekends. She said: "It's good exercise for the family and a great opportunity for us to bond."

The next farmer's market at the school, which is open to the public, will be held on May 16, 17 and 19 from 8am to 10am.


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Replacing Causeway 'not solution' to easing congestion: Vivian Balakrishnan

Walter Sim, Straits Times AsiaOne 8 Apr 16;

Replacing the Causeway is "not the solution" to border congestion, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.

"Both governments are working to improve congestion at the Causeway and at our borders," he added.

Dr Balakrishnan gave this update in the debate on his ministry's plans. Dr Faishal Ibrahim (Nee Soon GRC) had asked about efforts to boost connectivity between Singapore and Malaysia.

Dr Balakrishnan said the Causeway continues to have sufficient capacity. The conclusion was reached after a joint study by both neighbours, while Singapore had also done its own projections.

His comments come amid renewed calls to consider replacing the Causeway with a bridge. The latest came from the Sultan of Johor last month. In 2001, then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had also mooted an arched bridge to let vessels sail under it.

The solution to congestion lies in continually enhancing checkpoint efficiency and operations - but not at the expense of security considerations. This is done through such measures as the use of technology and improving infrastructure, Dr Balakrishnan said.

For example, all motorcycle clearance counters at Singapore land checkpoints will have automated features by the year end. "We have a responsibility to Singaporeans to ensure that we maintain a stringent level of checks," he said. "The Malaysian Government has also had to step up its own security measures."

Meanwhile, progress is also being made on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail, which aims to connect both cities in 90 minutes, and the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System link.

Dr Balakrishnan, recounting his visit to Sabah last week, yesterday expressed his gratitude to the Malaysian guides and the authorities who helped Singaporeans after an earthquake struck Mount Kinabalu in June last year, killing 18 people.

"The Malaysians' swift, instinctive and spontaneous response at our point of acute need reflects the close ties between our two peoples," he said. "It behoves us as politicians to build on the already strong ties of kinships, friendships and relationships."

The annual Leaders' Retreat will be held in Malaysia this year.

Dr Balakrishnan said it will allow both sides to "take stock of" various bilateral projects. Economic ties also remain robust, he said. Singapore and Malaysia are each other's second largest trading partners.


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Malaysia: 3 global giants drop Malaysian palm oil supplier

David Fogarty, The Straits Times AsiaOne 8 Apr 16;

Three of the world's top food and consumer goods companies that make Dove soap, M&M's and Kellogg's Corn Flakes have dropped a leading Malaysian palm oil producer because of deforestation in its plantations in Indonesia.

Unilever, which owns over 400 brands including Dove, announced last week that it has begun cancelling its supplier agreements with palm oil producer and trader IOI Group over evidence of bad environmental practices in Indonesia.

IOI is Malaysia's No. 2 palm oil company by production and a top 10-listed global palm oil firm. Unilever is one of the world's top buyers of palm and palm kernel oil and refined products.

United States food giants Mars and Kellogg's have also announced that they are in the process of removing IOI as a supplier by progressively dropping contracts with IOI's refining subsidiary IOI Loders Croklaan, which has refineries in Malaysia and Holland.

Palm and palm kernel oil are used in most common foods and products - from cookies and ice cream to soaps and cosmetics.

Many major food and consumer product firms have pledged to ensure that their supplies are sourced from companies that do not contribute to the destruction of rainforests, fires or conflicts with local villagers, and have been applying greater pressure on plantation companies to comply.

Unilever said last Thursday that it made the decision after IOI was suspended last week from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a group of planters, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and consumers that sets standards for the global palm oil sector.

The RSPO said it suspended IOI's certification for non-compliance with rules. The suspension took effect on Monday.

The decision follows a year-long investigation under the RSPO's complaints process. Last year, a Dutch NGO lodged a complaint with the RSPO, accusing IOI of causing deforestation and community conflicts at its subsidiary's concessions in West Kalimantan.

"It's all about brand reputation and customer perception. They have no choice but to start disengaging from IOI," plantation company analyst Ivy Ng of CIMB told The Straits Times.

IOI Group chief executive officer Lee Yeow Chor said in a statement last Thursday that the company regarded the RSPO suspension as a "very serious matter and (it) has given rise to new challenges for us". He said IOI has since taken corrective action "to review and enhance our sustainability practices".

The decision to drop IOI is likely to hurt the Malaysian firm. Plantations and its large refining and specialty chemicals subsidiary contributed to more than 80 per cent of earnings in the financial year to end-June 2014.

IOI did not respond to queries on the impact on its business and Unilever would not reveal the size of the supplier contracts with IOI, saying only that the Malaysian firm was one of its larger suppliers in Europe.

"The suspension of IOI Group's RSPO certification appears to have far-reaching impact on its downstream business that is more severe than in our earlier analysis," Ms Ng said in a research note this week. "It has also hurt the reputation of the group."

RSPO's suspension means that IOI can no longer produce certified palm products. The company has a history of complaints from NGOs.

"For the past eight years, NGOs have painstakingly documented IOI's destruction of peatland forest and orang utan habitat in West Kalimantan," Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Annisa Rahmawati said in a statement last week.

"IOI has been given every opportunity to reform and has repeatedly refused to do so, even though its actions were contributing to the fire and haze crisis," she said.


Household names nix Malaysian palm oil company
CK TAN, Nikkei 8 Apr 16;

IOI, one of Malaysia’s largest conglomerates, has been shut out by international household names in food and consumer goods over the environmental cost of its palm oil production.

SINGAPORE -- Malaysia's second-largest plantation company by market capitalization is being dropped as a supplier to such major multinationals as Unilever, Kellogg, and Mars after being stripped of its status as a sustainable producer of palm oil.

The suspension of IOI by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry regulatory association, followed complaints a year ago by environmental activists that three subsidiaries in Indonesia had cleared land without permits and beyond permissible boundaries.

"The RSPO is hopeful that the IOI Group will be able to find a solution to address the infringements flagged," the Malaysia-based organization said last Friday.

IOI started life as Industrial Oxygen Inc. in 1969 and has developed into one of Malaysia's largest conglomerates.

The RSPO finally hauled it up for felling more trees than permitted, planting without permits and clearing peat land.

IOI said that it viewed the suspension as a "serious matter" and that it has put remedial measures in place, including firefighting capacity.

"We will actively work with the complainant to jointly verify the issues," said Lee Yeow Chor, IOI's group CEO, in a news release.

The RSPO sets standards for the palm oil industry to ensure that the production process, from planting to packaging, complies with guidelines to reduce environmental damage. The organization's website says it has over 2,000 members, from plantation companies to nongovernmental organizations, representing about 40% of the global industry.

Although the RSPO has probed only the deforestation allegations against IOI over the past year, nongovernmental organizations alleged it to have been involved in violations over a six-year period.

An RSPO spokesperson told the Nikkei Asian Review that this is IOI's first suspension. The sanction took effect on Monday and seriously affects IOI's standing as a producer of sustainable palm oil, which is used by personal care and food companies globally. Palm oleochemicals are used in the production of confectioneries and cosmetics and are often cheaper than other vegetable oils.

U.K.-based Unilever said IOI's suspension infringed its procurement policy for buying from responsible sources.

"In line with our grievance procedure, we are now in the process of disengaging with the supplier," the company said. The procedure will be implemented over three months.

Unilever said it uses a 1.5 million tons of palm oil and related products a year to manufacture consumer goods, impacting about 8% of global production. It did not reveal how much of this it has been sourcing from IOI, which produces over 750,000 tons of certified sustainable palm oil annually, according to TA Securities, a local research company.

Kellogg said it has already replaced 67% of its supply from IOI subsidiary Loders Croklaan. A U.S. household name best known for cereals, Kellogg set out in 2014 to fully map its palm oil supply chain by 2015. Loders is one of its five main suppliers, which also include Cargill and Sime Darby, together meeting 90% of its palm oil needs.

Mars, the maker of M&M's and other candies, said it will not source from Loders "while the suspension is in place."

IOI's appeal against the RSPO decision includes an action plan to address the reasons for the suspension.

"We stand by our responsible operating principles and in particular our sustainable palm oil policy," said Julian Veitch, chief executive of Loders.

IOI could now face sanctions from other customers that use palm oil from certified sources. The group derives over half of its revenue from Europe and North America, according to TA Securities.

Widespread land clearance by burning has made serious air pollution an annual occurrence in Southeast Asia. Indonesian authorities have promised effective action against culprits, including plantation companies.

Greenpeace Indonesia told local media that despite warnings, IOI's actions have contributed to forest fires in Indonesia and haze further afield.

Indonesia and Malaysia together account for about 85% of global palm oil production, and leading plantation companies like Sime Darby and Wilmar International have massive land banks in both countries.

Shares of IOI were down 1.11% at 4.49 ringgit ($1.15) on Thursday after the RSPO announcement.


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Malaysia: Deforestation and pollution also cause of water crisis

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 8 Apr 16;

JOHOR BARU: It is easy to blame the El Nino phenomenon for the drop in water levels in several dams and rivers in Johor but we need to study other causes too.

“We are also to blame for cutting down trees indiscriminately.

“Deforestation in the catchment areas is the chief cause of falling water levels at dams statewide,” said Malaysian Nature Society Johor branch chairman Vincent Chow.

He said that the state authorities are sending the wrong signal by insisting that all is well in Johor despite the drop in water levels.

Newspapers reports quoted Johor water regulatory body director Mohd Riduan Md Ali saying there are no plans yet to implement rationing in the state despite the drop in water levels in dams.

Syarikat Air Johor Holdings Sdn Bhd general manager for production and distribution Elias Ismail said there was sufficient water supply for everyone during the current hot spell.

Chow said many of the rivers in Johor are polluted too.

He said among the rivers which needed immediate attention were those in Kluang namely Sungai Mengkibol, Sungai Kahang, Sungai Sembrong Kiri and Sungai Semrong Kecil as well as Sungai Johor in Kota Tinggi.

Green Earth Society Johor president P. Sivakumar said Johor should study catchment areas which have turned “bald” due to human activities.

“All is not well in Johor when it comes to water supply and long-term water management policies,’’ he said, adding the lack of enforcement was the reason why illegal logging and large scale agricultural activities including from oil palm plantations are taking place inside water catchment areas or close to dams.

He said Malaysia should emulate Singapore and start looking at new water resources like rainwater harvesting and treated used water.


Water crisis if dry spell goes on
TASHNY SUKUMARAN The Star 8 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Several states are in danger of a water crisis if the hot weather continues, says Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Johnity Ongkili.

He said Sabah, Perlis, Johor and Kedah were among the states that would be affected.

“Over the next two to three weeks, if the weather continues, there may be insufficient water for treatment by the plants. Now we are praying for rain to come.

“We are monitoring the situation very closely,” he said at the launch of the Asiawater 2016 conference yesterday, adding that some areas in Negri Sembilan were also at risk.

“Water at some dams are at critical levels but they are still managing. No requests for rationing yet.”

He also commented on non-revenue water (NRW), saying that as in most states, Putrajaya had not been able to lower the amount proportionately to investment in the sector.

“Only three states have achieved a commendable NRW level of below 30%,” he said, adding that five states recorded a level of 40 to 50%.

He added that a new NRW action plan has been formulated and would be brought before Cabinet by the end of the month.

He said that while the overall investment amount has not been fixed, the first priority was to deal with existing operators to change connectors that can be fixed immediately, and after that replace old pipes.

“Managing NRW is no longer a one-off exercise,” he said.


Bkt Malut Dam will be critical if heatwave lasts till June
The Star 8 Apr 16;

LANGKAWI: The water level at Bukit Malut Dam here will be critical if the heatwave goes on for another two months.

Kedah Local Govern­ment, Housing, Water Supply, Water Resources and Energy Committee chairman Datuk Badrol Hisham Hashim said the level was now 70.9m, adding that critical was 50.5m.

He said the state government has given an assurance that there would not be a water crisis on the island.

The water supply was adequate for the next two months, he added.

Earlier, Badrol visited the reservoir at the Padang Saga water treatment plant, accompanied by Syarikat Air Darul Aman (Sada) chief executive officer Datuk Adzmi Din.

He advised the public to use water wisely during the El Nino season to help avoid water rationing.

On talk that Langkawi would be facing a water crisis in 2018, Badrol said the Federal Government has allocated RM3mil to Sada to carry out studies.

“The involved parties are in the process of appointing a consultant to carry out the studies and in less than a year, we will get a report on the island’s water supply status.

“The studies will also involve the reverse-osmosis process of turning sea-water into drinking water, which will be controlled and supervised by Sada,” he added.


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Malaysia: 150 firemen and volunteers hard at work putting out Sabah forest fires

KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 7 Apr 16;

BEAUFORT: The Fire and Rescue Department are still toiling away to extinguish forest fires at the Binsuluk forest reserve here, with 150 men deployed for the task.

Sabah Fire and Rescue Department assistant director (operations) Khairul Azuwan Ibrahim said they also received reinforcements totaling 55 personnel from the Sabah Forestry Department.

"Some of the areas like the Rural Development Corporation (KPD) farm nearby has burnt down but still has thick smoke.

"We now face accessibility issues on how to reach the middle of the 200 hectare forest reserve ...

The Forestry Department is trying to clear a path using an excavator," he said when contacted.

Khairul said it would be a huge help to the firemen on the ground in putting out the blaze if the cloud seeding operations launched today results in rainfall.


Sabah cloud-seeding operation begins to extinguish forest fires
KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 7 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: An attempt to perform cloud seeding operation in this Sabah took place using the Royal Malaysian Air Force's C130 aircraft this morning.

The aircraft left the Labuan base at 11am to perform the operation at Binsuluk, Beaufort where forest fires had been rampant.

This came about following an order by the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, where previously it was reported that the 'towering cumulus' type of cloud is required in order for the operation to work.


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Malaysia: Shark Fin Soup Tied to Weddings but More Than Half Surveyed Are Willing To Replace With Alternatives

WWF-Malaysia 7 Apr 16;

7 April, Kuala Lumpur: WWF-Malaysia’s Asian City Shark Fin Consumer Survey 2015 reveals that consumption of shark fin soup is strongly tied to celebrations such as weddings (85%). The majority of consumers (57%) responded that it would be acceptable to replace shark fin soup with alternatives at weddings.

Malaysia is ranked as the world’s 9th largest producer of shark products and 3rd largest importer in volume terms (Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, State of the Global Market for Shark Products report, 2015). 84% of these imported shark fins are consumed domestically. The high shark fin consumption in Malaysia is the main driver of sharks being overfished. The decline of sharks in our waters will cut short the supply of seafood and also affect human survival.
“Findings from the consumer survey show that there is a high chance to reverse the present scenario of high shark fin consumption,” said Ms Chitra Devi G, Sustainable Seafood Manager with WWF-Malaysia. “While changing behavior is most likely to be influenced by one’s own decision (32%), social media also has significant influence (30%) on why consumers stop asking for shark fins.”

“Another key finding of the survey is that shark fin soup consumers are mostly of Chinese ethnicity (76%), living in Kuala Lumpur or Petaling Jaya (91%). Interestingly, shark fin consumption is also gradually being introduced to new market segments. We believe that the reason for the perpetuity in consuming this soup is for its status symbol, and also a fallacy that it signifies the wealth and prosperity of the host,” added Ms Chitra.

Other interesting findings of the survey are that shark fin soup consumption has decreased in the past 6 months (44% decline) and 56% expect to decrease consumption in the coming 12 months. The decrease is driven by shark protection gaining more public concern (85%), environmental concerns (65%) and a change in dining culture (55%). Meanwhile, shark fin soup was consumed on average twice in the last year, mainly in restaurants.

The tide may at last be turning as there are more signals that attitudes are changing because more people opt to not serve or eat shark fin soup. For the sake of our oceans, please give up shark fin soup. As more of us refrain from consuming shark fin soup and encourage more people to do the same, we will eventually restore shark populations to healthy levels and our oceans to their natural equilibrium.

Mr Jonn Benedict Lu, Volunteer Leader for “I’m FINished with FINs” campaign said, “Since the launch of our “I’m FINished with FINs” campaign in Malaysia 2 years ago, we knew groundswell support was evident, but no one had any idea how pervasive it was. This report is a resounding validation of the collective efforts made by many NGOs and interest groups over the years, and also a vindication for supporters who have encountered challenges along the campaign journey.”

“Many of us have had friends and family members opining ‘You may not eat, but there is no way Asians will ever stop eating shark fin soup. You are wasting your time.’ With a staggering 81% of surveyed Malaysians not having eaten shark or ray meat in the last year, and with 56% of those eating shark fin planning to decrease their consumption, I would say we have made our point, that even culturally entrenched habits and mind-sets can change. Faith in humanity restored indeed!” declared Mr Lu.

Join the My Fin My Life campaign at the “We Are All Together” (WAAT) Endangered Species Art Exhibition Tour 2016: Endangered Species Conservation, at Publika Shopping Gallery from 8 to 10 April 2016. Framed art work and art sculptures depicting endangered species, including sharks, created by over 30 local artists will be on display. One of the highlights is a life-sized hammerhead shark sculpture made of recycled materials by local artist, Louise Low, to raise awareness on saving sharks.

“We Are All Together” was first launched in early 2015 and organised by Creative Volts. This year we are collaborating with My Fin My Life campaign. WAAT is a platform built to help local artists, conservation partners to achieve one ultimate objective – Endangered Species Conservation. Everyone is sharing their resources to make things happened!” said by Abner Yap, PR & Marketing Director of Creative Volts.

WAAT is calling local artists for creative visual submissions. So far, more than 100 artworks have been collected from Malaysia, Hong Kong and Russia. Aiming to promote Malaysian art and culture, WAAT helps local artists to gain resources and to build their name (brand) from collaboration with local communities.

WAAT will be launched at 1 Utama Shopping Centre on 13 May 2016. It is the continuation of My Fin My Life activities following the launches in Penang and Kota Kinabalu. Together with Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA), Reef Check Malaysia, Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Selangor, Branch Marine Group, Shark Savers and Scuba Schools International (SSI), WWF-Malaysia is running the My Fin My Life campaign from January to July 2016 to deliver the message that the demand for shark fins is threatening not only sharks but human survival. Please visit myfinmylife.com to make a pledge against shark fin consumption by breaking the soup bowl.


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Indonesia: Government focused on Raja Ampat development -- Jokowi

Antara 5 Apr 16;

Manokwari (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo said tourism development in Papua Barat is focused on development of Raja Ampat in the Raja Ampat District.

"This year we are still focused on development of Raja Ampat. (Development of) the Arfak mountainous tourist destination will come later," the president said here in Tuesday.

He said the budget has been set only for development of an airport terminal and to lengthen the airport runway in the district of Raja Ampat.

The district administration has been told to prepare land for the project, he said, adding construction would start when land has been available.

He said there are still many agenda for infrastructure development in Papua Barat.

There are sea toll, railway, airport and other infrastructure projects to be built, he cited.

Jokowi said development of the highway between Manokwari-Wasior of Teluk Wondama has to be accelerated this year to be operational in 2017.

In addition, the plan to extend the runway of the Rendani Manokwari airport has to be implemented soon to allow the airport to accommodate wide bodied aircraft, he said.

He said land clearing has to be completed this year and construction could start next year.(*)


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Indonesia: Government urged to halt Jakarta coastal reclamation project

Andi Abdussalam Antara 7 Apr 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - A political party leader and fishermen have called on the Jakarta authorities to halt the North Jakarta coastal reclamation project until all legal and environmental aspects of the project are settled.

"The reclamation process could be continued if its environmental impact analysis and legal aspects have been settled," Mardani Ali Sera, deputy secretary general of the Executive Board of the Prosperous Justice Party, noted in a written statement on Wednesday (April 6).

The Jakarta reclamation project, in which at least 17 reclaimed islands and a waterfront city will be built, was initiated in the era of the New Order government over two decades ago. However, environmentalists are opposed to the plan, claiming that it would destroy the ecosystem and worsen the annual flooding.

According to Mardani, the North Jakarta Bay reclamation project needs to be halted and re-discussed from the perspective of ensuring the prosperity of Jakartas residents.

He stated that the process of reclamation could be continued after its environmental impact analysis and legal aspects had been addressed.

The relevant parties should also ensure that the reclamation process meets the required condition to offer benefits to people from different sections of the society such as the high, middle, and lower income groups.

After all, the reclamation and waterfront city mega project is seen as only benefiting the people of the upper classes and marginalizing fishermen whose livelihood depend on the Jakarta Bay.

Therefore, Secretary General of the Peoples Coalition for Fishery Justice (Kiara) Abdul Halim called on the authorities to halt the project as it had not yet secured a legal umbrella through the issuance of the Jakarta bylaw on the zoning of its small isles and coastal areas.

Halim remarked that the Jakarta Bay reclamation project was not advantageous for the coastal community and will only benefit big property developers.

"It will only benefit property developers. The coastal communities, in this case, the fishermen, will not be benefited," Kiaras secretary general affirmed on Wednesday. He said the coastal communities include the fishermen and fish farmers who cultivate cultured fish and oysters.

PKS deputy secretary general Mardani added that the reclamation could be continued after the legal and environmental aspects have been settled, taking into account the interest of lower-income people.

It should meet the mixed society concept, providing benefit for upper and lower classes of people.

"It should be ensured that the reclaimed land will be used to develop a residential complex for people from different income groups, with a ratio of one luxury, three middle-class, and six modest houses," the PKS deputy secretary general explained.

Jakarta chief development planner Tuty Kusumawati claimed that the spatial plan for the North Jakarta reclamation project had been formulated based on public interest.

"Of the total planned reclaimed islands, some 50 to 55 percent of each island is made available for the people," she noted on Monday.

Of the 50 percent land area designated for the people, some 20 percent of each island are set for open and green spaces, 5.0 percent for blue spaces or lakes and water catchment areas; 5.0 percent for social and public facility areas; 5.0 percent road infrastructure; and public beaches covering at least 10 percent of the islands coast.

The issue on the reclamation of the North Jakarta coastal area came to surface following the disclosure of an alleged corruption scandal linked to the drafting of bylaws governing the zoning plan for the Jakarta island and coastal areas.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Friday (April 1) announced it has named as suspect Mohamad Sanusi, chairman of the Gerindra Party faction in the Jakarta Legislative Assembly, for allegedly receiving a bribe in connection with the drafting of the bylaws.

According to reports, the KPK also named the president director of PT Agung Podomoro (one of the project developers), Ariesman Widjaja, who allegedly has paid Rp2 billion in bribes to Mohamad Sanusi, in connection with deliberation of draft bylaws on zoning plan for Jakartas coastal area and small isles for 2015-2035 and on spatial plan for strategic North Jakarta coastal area.

KPK on Thursday (March 31) confiscated evidence in the form of cash money worth Rp1.14 billion out of a total of Rp2 billion commitment that has been paid by Ariesman to Sanusi through PT Agung Podomoro Lands personal assistant Trinanda Prihantoro.

The draft bylaws have been discussed for the past several months but the Jakarta provincial government and the Jakarta legislative assembly still failed to reach an agreement over them.

PKS deputy secretary general Mardani Ali Sera emphasized that the KPK should aggressively investigate the mastermind behind the corruption scandal linked to the reclamation project in North Jakarta.

Mardani stressed that all parties involved in the reclamation project such as members of the Jakarta Regional Legislative Assembly (DPRD), the private sector and the Jakarta government must also be investigated.

"The KPK will summon all parties involved in the drafting of the bylaws for questioning," KPK acting spokesperson Yuyuk Andriati stated on Monday (April 4).

The idea to reclaim the north Jakarta coastal areas surfaced during the New Order government. It was stipulated in Presidential Decree No.17/1994 on the northern coast as a potential area. One year later, President Soeharto issued Decree No.52/1995 which stipulated that the reclamation would be done in North Jakarta.

The plan to implement the reclamation project was contained in the Jakarta government bylaw No. 8/1995. However, the environment ministers decree no. 14/2003 said the reclamation could not be done until its environmental impact analysis (AMDAL) stated the project is feasible.

In 2003, six developers of the project sued the environment minister for its decree which said the north Jakarta coastal area reclamation breached AMDAL regulation. The high court ruled in favor of the six companies, but at the Supreme Court (MA), the environment minister won the appeal.

Thus, in 2004, then President Megawati Soekarnoputri asked then Jakarta governor Sutiyoso to review the-Rp20 trillion-worth reclamation project which stretched 32 km along the Jakarta northern coast.

On the continuation of the project, regardless of the fact that Presidential Decree No. 52/1995 has been annulled by Presidential Decree No. 54/2008, Jakarta chief development planner Tuty Kusumawati said what has been revoked in decree no. 52/1995 was the article concerning the spatial planning while that concerning the authority and issuance of license were not revoked.

"Article 4 stipulates that the authority and responsibility of reclamation are in the hands of the Jakarta Governor," she said.(*)


Q&A: The problem with Jakarta's land reclamation
Devina Heriyanto TheJakartaPost.com 7 Apr 16;

Following the controversy regarding the reclamation of Benoa Bay in Bali, now another reclamation project has become the news headlines. As a huge project off the coast of the capital city, Jakarta’s land reclamation has attracted the spotlight, particularly after the recent case of graft by the CEO of one of the project’s developers, Agung Podomoro Land.

What does ‘land reclamation’ mean?

Land reclamation refers to the activity of building more land or adding land area to a small island (or islet) or reef, making it bigger and more habitable. On a bigger scale, land reclamations result in artificial islands.

Jakarta’s land reclamation project is a project initiated by the Jakarta city administration involving the construction of 17 manmade islands on the northern coast of the city, which are being developed by private companies.

What is the objective of the project?

The current governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, or Ahok, has repeatedly argued that the land reclamation project is needed to help Jakarta solve its land problems. Jakarta is facing threats from subsidence and rising sea levels, which combined, he says, will be far worse than Jakarta’s annual flood problem.

Subsidence refers to the gradual sinking of the city. Jakarta is sinking an average of 7.5 centimeters per year, and by up to 25 cm annually in areas near the coast, which is even faster than the rate of subsidence in Venice, Italy. Most of the sinking happens due to the massive extraction of groundwater from below the city, as Jakarta is the most populated area in Indonesia.

The land reclamation project was initially a part of the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD) plan, more popularly known as the The Great Garuda, which aims to build a seawall to keep water out of the city and to help slow subsidence. However, the land reclamation project was taken over by the Jakarta city administration and environmental experts, including the deputy director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), have stated that the land reclamation itself will not help the subsidence problem.

What is the problem with the land reclamation project?

As the project builds at least 17 artificial islands with a projected total area as big as Bogor, it will significantly alter and degrade the already fragile environment of coastal Jakarta. The presence of artificial islands will change sea currents, which can lead to the erosion of nearby natural islands or even more flooding of the city. Fishermen have protested, saying that the project will affect their catch, and that they will have to go further out to sea to fish, increasing their gasoline expenses.

The environmental impacts of the Great Garuda Wall, a separate but related project, will be even more drastic. When finished, the waters inside the wall will lose its salinity, changing the sea into freshwater. Many species will have to migrate outside the wall and the mangrove forest in northern Jakarta will disappear.

The project also clashes with other construction projects and existing infrastructure. The Transportation Ministry's Tanjung Priok Port Authority representative said that the land reclamation would hamper the passage of ships in and out of ports, and there are a number of seaports along the north coast, including Muara Angke, Sunda Kelapa, Tanjung Priok and Marunda.

The Indonesian Association of Submarine Communications Cable Systems representative warned that many telecommunications cables were located under a number of the planned islets. An accident could lead to the disruption of communications.

The fisheries and marine affairs minister has asked the city to delay the project, and later stated that the project required permission from the ministry since it affected the marine environment. Governor Ahok, however, argued that there should be no problem with the permit since the authority of the Jakarta governor was on the same level as that of a minister.

Most important is the effectiveness of the project itself in preventing subsidence. Environmental experts argue that the land reclamation will not help the subsidence problem. One NCICD consultant even stated that stopping groundwater extraction alone would stop the sinking within a decade.

What is Ahok’s position on this?

In response to the protest by local fishermen, Ahok stated that the fishermen had been “politicized”. Ahok also claimed that criticism of the project was merely a political attack to discredit him, as he has repeatedly been a target of critics since he took office.

Who will actually benefit from the project?

The developers, of course. The artificial islands are set to host luxurious real estate and golf courses, accessible only for those of higher income as the properties are being sold for Rp 30 million (US$2,200) per square meter.

Deputy governor for spatial planning and the environment stated that 30 percent of the reclaimed land area would be green area, and there would be housing provided for low-income residents. However, at Golf City for example, the planned low-cost rental apartments are only intended to house workers to support the wealthier community. Urban experts have expressed concern about whether the project will benefit the public at large or just the high-income residents of the gated community.

What about the graft case?

KPK investigators recently arrested Jakarta city councilor Mohamad Sanusi of the Gerindra Party and another suspect, identified as Geri, at a shopping mall in South Jakarta. Both of them received money from an employee of PT Agung Podomoro Land (APLN) that was intended to purchase the councilors’ support during the City Council’s drafting of a bylaw on zoning of coastal areas and small islands. Based on the bylaw, the company has to hand over 15 percent of the reclaimed land to the city administration. The bribe was intended to change that requirement to 5 percent. PT Agung Podomoro Land president director Ariesman Widjaja has been named a corruption suspect also.

An analyst from KDB Daewoo Securities Indonesia stated that Agung Podomoro Land owned much less land from the project than its competitors. In 2015, Agung Podomoro Land owned around 1,000 hectares, while PT Ciputra Development and PT Bumi Serpong Damai owned 4,000 ha and 6,000 ha, respectively. This lack of land makes the reclamation project crucial for Agung Podomoro Land.

Ahok stated that he would never agree to reduce the requirement, since it was based on expert advice. A document carrying the governor’s handwriting has been circulated on the internet, where Ahok appears to comment that a new requirement of 5 percent being based on an agreement between the governor and developers is “crazy” and “may lead to corruption”.


So what is the problem?

The problem lies in the possibility that the land reclamation does not help Jakarta’s subsidence problem – and that it will even lead to other environmental problems – and that the land will mainly be used by higher-income citizens instead of benefiting the public at large. The recent graft case reflects the tendency of developers to exploit land for private benefit instead of the public’s, fueling criticism of the project.


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Indonesia: Bali Police thwart turtle smuggling attempt

Ni Komang Erviani Jakarta Post 7 Apr 16;

Bali Water Police thwarted an attempt to smuggle 45 green turtles to the island on Wednesday. Five people have been arrested.

The police discovered 45 green turtles on a boat traveling in waters near Karangasem in East Bali. The turtles were large, averaging 45 cm and aged between 40 to 70 years old.

The turtles were taken to a turtle breeding center at Serangan Island on Thursday afternoon for treatment before they were released back into the wild. Six of the turtles had already died.

Protected species – Dozens of green turtles were confiscated during an operation in waters around East Bali on Wednesday. The protected species were transported from Madura to Bali. (thejakartapost.com/Zul Trio Anggono)

Bali Water Police chief Sr. Comr. Purwoko Yudianto said that the police managed to foil the turtle smuggling attempt based on information provided by the general public. When the police went on patrol, he said, they spotted the vessel KM Putra Tunggal and later discovered the store of large turtles inside.

"The vessel captain and five crew members have been arrested," Purwoko said.

He further said that the police had discovered that the boat had transported the turtles from Madura to Karangasem. "The boat apparently departed from Madura on March 20. They had wanted to go to Karangasem to sell the turtles," Purwoko said, adding the turtles would likely have been sold for consumption. (ebf)


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Indonesia: Aceh group calls on govt to protect Leuser through online petition

Marguerite Afra Sapiie Jakarta Globe 7 Apr 16;

People grouped under Gerakan Rakyat Menggugat (GeRAM) are raising awareness for the need to protect the Leuser Ecosystem Zone (KEL) in Aceh through an online petition.

Posted on change.org in February, the petition calls on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to protect one of the richest expanses of tropical rainforest in Southeast Asia. It has garnered 55,000 signatures as of Thursday.

Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio has also promoted the petition through social media following his visit to Mount Leuser National Park in late March.

The petition is among efforts to urge the government to revise an Islamic bylaw on spatial planning that does not include KEL as among the protected forests and national strategic areas in its land-use plan.

The group filed a class action lawsuit in January against Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo, Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah and Aceh Legislative Council speaker Muharuddin at the Central Jakarta District Court.

The government has only made empty promises despite the group's push for KEL protection since 2013, Farwiza Farhan, chairperson of Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (HAKA), said on Wednesday.

"We want the promises to be legally binding, so we took the matter to court," Farwiza told journalists at a press conference.

Three mediation attempts with the government resulted in a deadlock one month after the lawsuit was filed. The lawyer for the Aceh administration refused to continue negotiating and suggested that the case be taken to court, Farwiza said.

A lack of political will from the local government hampered the group’s efforts in demanding KEL preservation, she added, with local officials having the tendency to accommodate the interests of business players rather than that of citizens.

"In the last few years, the Aceh administration has issued more permits and land clearing has continued, with land being converted to oil palm plantations," Farwiza said.

GeRAM member Abu Kari said the group aimed to fight for KEL to be included in the Spatial Planning Bylaw. As one of Asia's largest carbon sinks, KEL protection was important for the environmental balance in Aceh, he said.

Not only the general citizens, indigenous people living in the forests depend their lives in the unique tropical rainforest area where endangered species such as elephant, Sumatran rhinos, orangutan and Sumatran tigers all live in one habitat. (rin)


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Reducing food waste would mitigate climate change, study shows

Scientists estimate up to 14% of emissions from agriculture in 2050 could be avoided by managing food use and distribution better
Reuters The Guardian 7 Apr 16;

Reducing food waste around the world would help curb emissions of planet-warming gases, lessening some of the impacts of climate change such as more extreme weather and rising seas, scientists said on Thursday.

Up to 14% of emissions from agriculture in 2050 could be avoided by managing food use and distribution better, according to a new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

“Agriculture is a major driver of climate change, accounting for more than 20% of overall global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010,” said co-author Prajal Pradhan.

“Avoiding food loss and waste would therefore avoid unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate climate change.”

Between 30 and 40% of food produced around the world is never eaten, because it is spoiled after harvest and during transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers.

The share of food wasted is expected to increase drastically if emerging economies like China and India adopt western food habits, including a shift to eating more meat, the researchers warned.

Richer countries tend to consume more food than is healthy or simply waste it, they noted.

As poorer countries develop and the world’s population grows, emissions associated with food waste could soar from 0.5 gigatonnes (GT) of carbon dioxide equivalent per year to between 1.9 and 2.5 GT annually by mid-century, showed the study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal.

It is widely argued that cutting food waste and distributing the world’s surplus food where it is needed could help tackle hunger in places that do not have enough - especially given that land to expand farming is limited.

But J├╝rgen Kropp, another of the study’s co-authors and PIK’s head of climate change and development, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the potential for food waste curbs to reduce emissions should be given more attention.

“It is not a strategy of governments at the moment,” he said.

The researchers analysed food requirements in the past and for different future scenarios.

They found that while global average food demand per person remains almost constant, in the last five decades food availability has rapidly increased - hiking the emissions related to growing surplus food by more than 300%.

The paper did not look at how food waste could be shrunk, but initiatives to tackle the problem are already on the rise in both developed and developing countries.

In January, for example, 30 company heads, government ministers, and executives with foundations, research groups and charities launched a coalition to work towards cutting food waste by half and reducing food loss significantly by 2030.

The aims are in line with the new global development goals that took effect this year.

“Champions 12.3” - named after the food-waste goal number - includes the bosses of Tesco, Nestle, Rabobank, Unilever, Oxfam America, WWF International and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Andrew Steer, another coalition member who heads the World Resources Institute, noted then that if food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

“Food loss and waste hurts people, costs money and harms the planet,” he said in a statement. “Cutting (it) is a no-brainer.”


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