Best of our wild blogs: 22 Mar 17

Sat 01 April 2017: 7.30am – Join us for a very muddy World Water Day mangrove cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

2 Apr (Sun): FREE Guided Herp Walk @ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Herpetological Society of Singapore

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Malaysia: Johor launches pilot water recycling plant

Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 21 Mar 17;

JOHOR BARU: Johor is a step closer to become the first state to have a waste water recycling plant with the launch of a pilot plant in Taman Scientex here.

The plant, which has a capacity to recycle 125 cubic metre of waste water a day, was built by Jauhar Bluewater Sdn Bhd at the cost of RM2 million.

It uses a membrane bioreactor and reverse osmosis processes to treat waste water and the treated water, called Bluewater, will be tested to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. However, the treated water is targeted for industrial use.

Jauhar Bluewater group managing director Datuk Seri Jeff Yap said the company would conduct various tests on the operations of the pilot plant and the quality of water it produces for the next six months.

“In that period, we will also study the cost of recycling waste water. Once all the tests are completed, only then will we start to look for a suitable location for a permanent plant,” said Yap.

He said the company has yet to determine the cost of the permanent plant as it would depend on the size and capacity of the plant.

Yap was speaking to the media after the launch of the pilot plant by Tunku Temenggong Johor Tunku Idris Sultan Iskandar, who is also the honorary chairman of Jauhar Bluewater.

Also present were state Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad and Jauhar Bluewater deputy chairman Datuk Moehamad Izat Emir.

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Indonesia: Ministry declares 18,882 meter square of Raja Ampat coral reef damaged

Antara 21 Mar 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - A total of 18,882 meter square of coral reef in the Raja Ampat sub-district, West Papua, had been declared damaged by the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs.

According to a press statement received here on Tuesday, the Ministrys Deputy of Maritime Sovereignty Arif Havas Oegroseno stated that both the survey teams, established by the Indonesian government and MV Caledonian Sky ships insurance company, had agreed to the total meter square of damaged coral reef.

Furthermore, Havas noted that the 18,882 meter square area was divided into two separate damage conditions.

"About 13,270 meter square of the total damaged area was totally destructed as it was ran aground by the cruise ship, while the rest of the 5,612 meter square area was moderately damaged as it was scourged by the sand and coral reef pieces that were disrupted by the ships movement. The latter now possess 50 percent life expectancy," he remarked.

Havas also noted that should the rehabilitation processes fail and the moderately damaged coral reef, with 50 percent life expectancy, end up dying, then the 5,612 meter square area will also be included under the totally destructed category.

Following the survey, both the teams had agreed to carry out their own investigations separately.

Both teams are then scheduled to conduct another meeting during the first week of April in Jakarta, with the discussion around the final survey results as the agenda.

"The valuation team will soon review the economical damages caused by the coral reef destruction," he said, adding that the valuation team will be led by the Ministry of Forestry and Environment.

It was previously reported that the team of various ministries, tasked with settling the Raja Ampat coral reef damage dispute, established a total of 22,060 meter square of survey area, along with British insurance company P&I Club.

The MV Caledonian Sky cruise ship, which ran aground onto a coral reef off Raja Ampat District in West Papua on March 4, 2017, had resulted in a huge loss to the district.

The damage caused by Caledonian Sky, carrying hundreds of tourists and 79 crew members aboard, was due to the negligence of the its captain, according to the Raja Ampat district government.

The accident resulted in the destruction of the ecosystems structural habitat and the reduction or loss of diversity of eight coral genera, including acropora, porites, montipora, and stylophora.(*)

Caledonian Sky destroyed more than 18,000 m2 of pristine Raja Ampat reefs, survey concludes
The Jakarta Post 22 Mar 17;

Survey teams from the government and the insurance company for the British-owned MV Caledonian Sky, which ran aground on coral reefs in West Papua’s famous Raja Ampat, have reached a conclusion regarding the area damaged by the cruise ship.

“The two teams have agreed that the ship damaged 18,882 square meters and both teams have signed an official letter together,” the deputy for maritime sovereignty at the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister, Arif Havas Oegroseno, said in press statement on Tuesday.

The damaged area has been divided into two categories. Some 13,270 square meters were heavily damaged while 5,612 square meters suffered medium damage. Still, the reefs damaged to a medium extent had only a 50 percent chance of survival, Havas said.

“If the medium-damaged coral reefs die then the area will be counted as total damage,” he said, adding that it would impact the valuation of the losses in parallel with the compensation claim.

Furthermore, the two survey teams had agreed to conduct a follow-up analysis, Havas said. The teams will meet in Jakarta to discuss the final survey results in the first week of April.

The follow-up will include the economic calculation of the total losses by a valuation team lead by the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

The 90-meter British-flagged vessel owned by cruise tour operator Noble Caledonia smashed into and destroyed coral reefs in the Dampier Strait off Raja Ampat on March 4. (rin)

Indonesia not yet ready to handle cruise ships: Official
The Jakarta Post 21 Mar 17;

Regardless of who will be blamed for the recent kerfuffle surrounding UK cruise ship the MV Caledonian Sky, which ran aground in Raja Ampat, West Papua, damaging coral reef in the area, the deputy minister for maritime sovereignty at the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister, Arif Havas Oegroseno, said it must be admitted that Indonesia was not yet accustomed to handling a large number of cruise ships.

Speaking to journalists during a recent interview, Arif Havas said it was only recently that cruise ship companies across the world included Indonesia as one of their destinations because of a string of regulations imposed by the government.

“They were previously somewhat reluctant to visit Indonesia. They just wanted to stop in Singapore. They didn’t want to enter Indonesia because of its [flawed] bureaucracy, its ‘red tape’ [illegal levies] and poor infrastructure,” he said as quoted by on Tuesday.

With a growing number of cruise ship visits, Arif Havas said infrastructure in Indonesia was not yet ready to handle the challenge.

“Our effort to draw in more ‘cruise visits’ to boost our tourist sector will certainly result in challenges,” he added.

One of the measures the government will take is to tighten regulations for cruise ships that pass through conservation areas such as Raja Ampat.

Arif Havas said in other conservation areas, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, cruise ships were allowed to pass through but were subject to tightened regulations.

“It’s not a strange thing to have a cruise ship enter waters with coral reefs.”

Arif Havas said with the current availability of tourist infrastructure in the country, the government was still calculating how many cruise ships could safely enter Indonesian waters. (hol/ebf)

Chief Maritime Minister Demands Firmer Regulations to Manage Raja Ampat Islands
Amrozi Amenan Jakarta Globe 21 Mar 17;

Jakarta. Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has called on the West Papua provincial administration to improve its regulations for managing the Raja Ampat Islands, a world-famous diving spot, after a British cruise ship damaged coral reefs there earlier this month.

A task force has been deployed to assess the damage caused by the ship, Caledonian Sky, when it ran aground in shallow waters during low tide on March 4. The team will also assess legal aspects of the case.

"We need firmer regulations, since Raja Ampat is our tourism destination that possesses [more] rare coral reefs [compared to other places] in the world," Luhut said in Gresik, East Java, on Monday (20/03).

The minister has yet to receive reports on the total damage.

However, a preliminary investigation showed that the damage covers nearly 1,600 square meters of coral reef at a diving site known as Crossover Reef.

"We have been in contact with the ship's insurer; they will take responsibility for the damage," Luhut added.

The central government will seek compensation of up to $1.92 million, according to the environmental science and conservation news and information website, Mongabay. Marine experts say it will take several years before the coral reefs begin to recover.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry took over the investigation into the incident from Maritime Affairs Minister Susi Pudjiastuti last Thursday.

Raja Ampat Coral Damage Worse Than Expected
Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 22 Mar 17;

Jakarta. More than 18,000 square meters of coral reef in Dampier Strait of Raja Ampat, West Papua, were damaged by Caledonian Sky cruise ship, a joint survey team has revealed earlier this week. The damage is more than 11 times bigger than a preliminary investigation suggested.

"Both parties [the national survey team and insurance survey team] have concluded that the damaged area is 18,882 square meters", Coordinating Maritime Affairs Deputy Minister Arif Havas Oegroseno said in a statement on Tuesday (21/03).

"[The area of] 13,270 square meters was badly damaged by the ship, while 5,612 square meters were destroyed by shockwaves," Arif said.

A follow-up in-depth analysis will be conducted in April, while another team will calculate the economic loss.

"The loss-assessment [team] will be led by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, as mandated by the 2009 Law on the Protection of Environment," Arif said.

Meanwhile, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the incident is also an international crime and will involve several foreign governments.

"The settlement has to involve the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Bahamas," Luhut said, as quoted Antara news agency.

Caledonian Sky cruise ship is owned and operated by Swedish company Salen, although it bore the flag of the Bahamas.

The ship's ticketing agent is registered in the UK and its captain, American resident Keith Michael Taylor, holds a British passport.

Despite the Caledonian Sky's good intentions to solve the issue, the Indonesian government is considering to take the case to an international court and seek higher compensation.

The islands off of West Papua are famously known by divers worldwide as a pristine location with unmatched underwater biodiversity. The waters of Raja Ampat have been recorded to be the home of 1,508 fish species, 537 coral species, 699 mollusk species and a plethora of other marine life.

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Indonesia: Environmental Damage, Social Conflicts Overshadow Future of Palm Oil Sector

Ratri M. Siniwi & Muhamad Al Azhari Jakarta Globe 21 Mar 17;

Jakarta. Palm oil is an important commodity for Indonesia's economy, contributing $17.8 billion, or about 12 percent, to its export revenue.

While this year the production of crude palm oil is likely to increase 16 percent, to up to 33 million tons, with expected conducive weather conditions, environmental issues and social conflicts continue to overshadow the sector's future in the world's biggest palm-oil producing country.

Just earlier this month, the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) approved a set of recommendations to the European Commission, which will phase out the use of palm oil as a component of biodiesel by 2020 and require exporters to prove responsible cultivation practices on their plantations.

A report prepared by the European Commission says that as the demand for palm oil is estimated to double by 2050, it poses severe environmental damages to oil-producing countries such Indonesia, Malaysia and others in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Palm oil industry has been accused of causing deforestation, environmental degradation, and human rights violations ranging from land disputes to child labor.

The report is due for a vote in the European Parliament on April 3-6.

In response to the report, Indonesian experts, executives of an organization seeking to promote sustainable development, and a former government official, have started to defend the industry that employs millions.

"This is a real black campaign, involving conflicts of interests, and deriving from trade competitors," said Bayu Krisnamurthi, former deputy minister of trade and agriculture in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's cabinet.

Bayu is now the chairman of the Indonesian Society of Agricultural Economics, which provides expertise to the agricultural sector.

In November 2013, the EU set duties of 8.8 percent to 20.5 percent for Indonesian palm oil producers to apply for five years. It argued that by imposing duty on the raw products, an advantage will be given to domestic producers.

The Indonesian government's is going to file a complaint to the World Trade Organization against the duties.

Petrus Gunarso, a member of the Indonesian Forestry Scholars Association (Persaki), rebutted the claim that Indonesia's palm oil industry is the main contributor to the country's deforestation, claiming that most of the palm oil plantations, which currently cover about 11 million hectares, were previously rubber plantations.

Petrus said that many farmers had converted their plantations as the price of rubber has been declining and palm oil cultivation is more profitable.

"That's why the sizes of our rubber plantations have shrunk," he said, adding that plantations are also established on degraded forests, which the government classifies as non-forest estates.

"By Indonesian law, that's not deforestation," Petrus said.

While palm oil producers may need to work more on convincing Europeans to buy their products, at home they have to deal with social conflicts, especially regarding land disputes.

The Indonesia Business Council for Sustainable Development, IBCSD, has commissioned a team to study the costs of these conflicts.

Using 2016 data from five plantations in Kalimantan and Sumatra, the team concluded, in a report titled "The Cost of Conflict in Oil Palm in Indonesia," that the tangible costs of social conflicts ranged from $70,000 to $2.5 million. The biggest direct costs were income losses due to disrupted operations.

The intangible costs, according to the report, ranged from $600,000 to $9 million, and were due to reputational losses, casualties and property damage.

The reputational losses, according to the study, affect the companies' ability to obtain loans, decrease the demand for their products and their stock market value.

"Conflicts are going to exist in all industries, it's our homework now to find the most feasible solutions for the companies and communities," said Aisyah Sileuw, president director of consulting firm Daemeter, which published the report.

As the infamous commodity makes the industry the most favorite one to bash on, Aisyah believes it is "impossible to get rid of it," not only because of the huge export revenue it generates, but also since 40 percent of the country's smallholders depend on palm oil.

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