Best of our wild blogs: 24 Feb 18

Strategic Environmental Assessments — A Holistic Approach to Urban Sustainability

Biodegradable plastic signifies false hope for threatened Mediterranean seagrass community
The Dorsal Effect

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Indonesia: Agency eyes restoration of 140 thousand hectares of Riau`s peatlands

Antara 23 Feb 18;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Peatland Restoration Agency has targeted to restore a total of 140 thousand hectares of peatland areas in Riau Province this year, or an increase of over 400 percent than that in the previous year.

"We had restored a total of 27 thousand hectares of peatland areas last year. For this year, we have targeted to restore 140 thousand hectares of peatlands," Nazir Foead, the agency`s head, noted at a meeting with the Riau provincial government`s representatives here on Friday.

Foead expressed optimism that the target would be achieved owing to the involvement of various teams, including those from the Riau Peatland Restoration Agency and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

"I believe we can accomplish the target," he emphasized, adding that this year, Rp49.5 billion had been allocated for rewetting the peatland areas in Riau Province, or is higher than that of last year.

Riau, one of the provinces in Sumatra Island prone to forest and land fires, has some 4.8 million hectares of peatlands. However, the agency has targeted to restore 900 thousand hectares of peatland areas in Riau.

Last year, the Peatland Restoration Agency had assisted 75 villages and urban villages spread across seven targeted provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and Papua.

In order to support the restoration program, the agency has build several infrastructure, such as by drilling wells and building canals in the provinces of Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, and South Kalimantan.

A total of over 200 thousand hectares of peatland areas located outside those owned by plantation companies had been rewet, he added.

Reported by FB Anggoro

Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Indonesia: Tapir dies after falling into well

Antara 24 Feb 18;

Jambi, Jambi Province (ANTARA News) - A Tapir has reportedly died during treatment after being rescued from a well in which it was stuck for a day.

The well belonged to a citizen of the Muntialo village in West Tanjungjabung subdistrict of the Jambi province.

The Tapir reportedly died on early Thursday morning due to respiratory failure as he was stuck in the muddy well for a long time. "We evacuated the Tapir and treated it for one night but it could not be saved," Head of Section III Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Hall, Faried, said on Friday.

The adult male Tapir had been evacuated to the Taman Rimba Jambi zoo after being rescued from the well to receive treatment.

"Initially, our plan was to release it back in the wilderness after it recovered but Tapirs are sensitive and require special attention. We did not get the chance to release it," he added.

The Tapir weighed nearly 100 kg and had come from the protected peat forest in the Bram Itam area, he added. Tapirus Indicus, according to the listed status, is a rare and endangered animal. It has also been included in the red list of species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

In Indonesia, international trade of Tapir is prohibited, as per the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.

Reported by Dodi Saputra
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Study to challenge claim Indonesia second-biggest marine polluter

Moses Ompusunggu The Jakarta Post 23 Feb 18;

A top Indonesian marine scientist has said that Indonesia is planning to conduct a large-scale research study aimed at challenging international findings that the world’s largest archipelago nation is the world’s second-largest marine polluter.

"Many parties have said Indonesia's seas have been polluted by plastic and other [materials]. We want to determine whether this is accurate," said Dirhamsyah, who heads the Center of Oceanography Research at the government-sanctioned Indonesian Science Institute (LIPI).

Various studies indicate Indonesia is the second-biggest polluter of marine plastic debris worldwide after China. International parties like the United Nations have also pressured Indonesia to take stern action to deal with the plastic littering its seas on the back of its effect on sea ecosystems like coral reefs.

Indonesia's status as one of the biggest marine polluters on Earth was also highlighted in the UN's maiden Ocean Conference in New York last June.

A study published in the journal Science in January estimates that there were more than 11 billion pieces of plastic debris in coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific region. Surveying more than 150 coral reefs in Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Australia between 2011 and 2014, the study found reefs near Indonesia were littered with the most plastic, while the lowest concentration was found in Australia.

"People can say they accept or reject the results. But I personally don't really believe [the findings]," Dirhamsyah said, referring to the January study.

Reza Cordova, a LIPI marine scientist and lead researcher of the institution's upcoming study, said LIPI was trying to fill in the gaps in the data on marine debris in Indonesia's seas. The Indonesian government has yet to record official data on the matter. Most of the data, he said, came from outside parties like NGOs.

LIPI will begin gathering data for the study at the end of this month. It has identified around 20 locations in the country where sampling will take place. Eight universities across Indonesia and relevant agencies will help the institution conduct the study.

Researchers will focus on at least one seashore area in each of the 20 sampling sites, which are located in 16 provinces. In each seashore, researchers will use 50-100 m2 transects in three different locations to calculate the weight of and amount of debris in each transect.

The sampling will be conducted once a month, especially during full moons when high tides are expected to bring in more debris from the sea to the seashore. Reza said the results from the 20 locations could be used to calculate a nationwide estimate.

The method had never been used before, Reza claimed, adding that the institute was open to collaborating with NGOs to verify the sampling process.

Reza said it would take at least 12 months for his team to conclude the study, which he expected to be the basis for the country's effort to combat the problem of marine debris.

"From the study, we can give suggestions to the government on regions in Indonesia that need specific attention,” said Reza.

Globally, plastic debris is a major threat to coral reef ecosystems, apart from blast fishing by fisherfolk and coral bleaching caused by rising sea temperatures due to global warming.

Coral reefs are important for coastal communities because they help boost tourism and provide protection from waves and storms. More importantly, they also act as key spawning and nurturing grounds for fish and other sea creatures.

Plastics entering the sea carry pollutants and can be a magnet for harmful bacterial, which could lead to diseases in coral reefs entangled in the debris.

"Plastic is a silent killer for sea creatures," Reza said.

Andi Rusandi, director of marine conservation and biodiversity at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, welcomed LIPI's initiative, saying it could help the government in its sea conservation efforts.

"As the study will calculate the amount of marine debris in Indonesia, it will help the government to take a step forward," Andi said. (ahw)

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Taiwan to ban disposable plastic items by 2030

AFP Yahoo News 22 Feb 18;

Taipei (AFP) - Taiwan is planning a blanket ban on single-use plastic items including straws, cups and shopping bags by 2030, officials said Thursday, with restaurants facing new restrictions from next year.

It is the latest push by Taiwan to cut waste and pollution after introducing a recycling programme and charges for plastic bags.

The island's eco-drive has also extended to limiting the use of incense at temples and festivals to protect public health.

Its new plan will force major chain restaurants to stop providing plastic straws for in-store use from 2019, a requirement that will expand to all dining outlets in 2020.

Consumers will have to pay extra for all straws, plastic shopping bags, disposable utensils and beverage cups from 2025, ahead of a full ban on the single-use items five years later, according to the road map from the government's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).

"We aim to implement a blanket ban by 2030 to significantly reduce plastic waste that pollutes the ocean and also gets into the food chain to affect human health," said Lai Ying-ying, an EPA official supervising the new programme.

According to Lai, a Taiwanese person on average uses 700 plastic bags annually. The EPA aims to reduce the number to 100 by 2025 and to zero by 2030.

The government has already banned free plastic shopping bags in major retail outlets including supermarkets and convenience stores, expanding the move to smaller businesses including bakeries and drinks kiosks from this year.

The island started recycling plastic and pushing to reduce single-use plastic items more than a decade ago.

Last year, nearly 200,000 tonnes of plastic containers were recycled, the EPA said.

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Britain and Europe must ban palm oil in biofuel to save forests, EU parliament told

Forest peoples affected by plantations urge EU to enact ban despite diplomatic opposition
Jonathan Watts The Guardian 23 Feb 18;

If Britain and other European nations are to fulfil forest protection goals, they must ban the use of palm oil for biofuel and tighten oversight of supply chains, a delegation of forest peoples told parliamentarians this week.

The call for urgent, concrete action comes amid an increasingly heated diplomatic row over the issue between the EU and the governments of major palm-producing nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Costa Rica.

The European parliament voted last April to prohibit sales of biofuels made from vegetable oils by 2020 in order to meet its climate goals. This was followed by a related vote last month. Whether and how this might be implemented is now being considered by the European Commission and member states.

The pushback has been strong, particularly in south-east Asia, the origin of 90% of the world’s palm oil exports, which is used in hundreds of supermarket products. Palm oil can also be blended with diesel to power engines, which is what the ban would halt.

Influential politicians in these countries, many of whom are closely linked to the industry, accuse the EU of trade protectionism, colonial thinking and undermining poverty reduction efforts. Malaysia’s plantations minister described the proposed ban as “crop apartheid.”

But indigenous and other communities who are negatively affected by the plantations urge the EU to push ahead with the ban and to go further by tightening other supply chain controls to prevent damage to their land, rights and environment.

Franky Samperante, a founder of the indigenous peoples’ organisation Pusaka, said the Indonesian government had granted concessions to more than 50 companies to open plantations on 1.2m hectares of land claimed by local communities. For him, any palm oil from this area should be considered a conflict product and prohibited from sale in Europe.

“There should be sanctions. If not, there is no point,” he said.

Samperante is part of a group of 14 forest peoples representatives from 11 nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America visiting Europe this week to lobby for a new action plan on sustainable supply chains.

The delegation proposed concrete steps, including for European nations to establish sustainable trade ombudsmen to look into reports of human rights and environmental violations, and for companies to adopt binding human rights policies rather than voluntary actions. Their call was supported by a coalition of environmental NGOs including the Forest People’s Programme, Global Witness, Greenpeace, WWF and the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Tom Griffiths, the author of a report on rights and deforestation, said lofty goals to protect forests were being undermined by a failure to protect the rights of those who live in them.

“There are so many pledges and commitments by companies and government that sound good on paper, but the reality on the ground is starkly different,” he said. “At the meetings this we, they are all saying close the gap.”

Their recommendations will be presented at a multilateral meeting in Paris in June, when the French president, Emmanuel Macron, is expected to launch his strategy for “deforestation-free trade”.

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