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5 Bird Species Lose Protections, More at Risk in New Indonesia Decree

  • Five bird species in Indonesia have lost their protected status under a new ministerial decree, issued last month in response to complaints from songbird collectors.
  • The decree also establishes additional guidelines for birds to be granted protected status, which effectively sets the stage for any species to be dropped from the list if it is deemed of high economic value to the songbird fan community.
  • Scientists and wildlife experts have criticized the removal of the five species from the protected list, and the new criteria for granting protected status.
  • Indonesia is home to the largest number of threatened bird species in Asia, but their populations in the wild are severely threatened by overexploitation.

JAKARTA — A new decree from Indonesian authorities drops five bird species from a newly expanded list of protected wildlife, and potentially sets the stage for more to follow by widening the scope under which protected status can be rescinded.

The capture and trade of the white-rumped shama (Kittacincla malabarica), Javan pied starling (Gracupica jalla), straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus), Sangihe shrikethrush (Colluricincla sanghirensis) and little shrikethrush (Colluricincla megarhyncha) will remain illegal without a government permit, but the lack of protected status means violators won’t face the jail time or hefty fines prescribed in the 1990 Conservation Act.

Four of the birds were among hundreds of species added to the ministry’s list of protected species this past June. The fifth bird, the little shrikethrush, was on the original list published in 1999. All five have now been removed from the list following the publication on Sept. 5 of a decree from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry

The capture of wild birds is to be regulated through a government permit-and-quota system that is supposed to consider recommendations from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), a state-funded think tank. Mohammad Irham, a senior ornithologist at LIPI, said his institution would reject requests to capture any of the five now-unprotected species from the wild.

He criticized the rescinding of their protected status, saying it would hasten their decline in the wild. “Our decision is based on scientific data, papers and surveys on the populations of these species in the wild,” he told Mongabay.

The ministerial decree also establishes additional guidelines for birds to be granted protected status, such as the popularity of a given species for breeding and for songbird competitions.

Under current rules, protected status can be granted to a species that is native to Indonesia, has a limited range, and has a small and dwindling population. But the decree adds new criteria for birds alone: the popularity of a species among breeders and hobbyists, the extent to which it contributes to people’s livelihoods, and the frequency with which it appears in songbird competitions.

“There’s a huge local economy aspect to the birdkeeping business,” Wiratno, the environment ministry’s director general for biodiversity conservation, told reporters on Oct. 2.

Read more5 Bird Species Lose Protections, More at Risk in New Indonesia Decree

On an Island in the Sun, Coal Power is King Over Abundant Solar

Balinese fishermen from Celukan Bawang village stage a protest against the coal plant for pollution and job loss. Image courtesy of Greenpeace.

 

  • Locals and environmentalists have opposed a plan to expand a coal-fired power plan in northern Bali, Indonesia.
  • They are worried that the expansion will exacerbate the existing impact of the plant on the environment and locals’ health and livelihoods.
  •  A particular concern focuses on the survival of dolphins and endemic species living in close proximity to the plant, with Greenpeace saying the dolphins have particularly been affected since the plant came on line in 2015.
  • Another major worry is air pollution, with many locals complaining of respiratory ailments as a result of the fumes and coal dust emitted from the plant.

 

JAKARTA — Dolphins haven’t had it easy in Bali, a resort island in Indonesia that’s massively popular with tourists.

They’re often held captive in chlorinated pools for traveling circuses; a report alleges that dolphins at one such outfit had their teeth filed down or removed altogether to prevent bite injuries to swimmers.

But the biggest challenge they face is one that threatens their habitat and that could potentially drive them away from the island’s waters. That challenge comes in the form of a massive coal-fired power plant in the sleepy fishing village of Celukan Bawang, on Bali’s north coast. The plant lies west of the popular Lovina Beach, a prime spot for dolphin-watching boat tours.

But the tour operators could soon be out of business, if the grim scenario painted by a Greenpeace report plays out. Since the plant began operating in 2015, the environmental watchdog says, it has dumped coal waste residue on the land and in the sea, wreaking havoc on the local ecosystem. The steady traffic of coal barges supplying the plant have also damaged coral reefs and driven away fish.

The impact has been far-reaching, the report says, with local fishermen forced to sail further out to sea because of declining catches in their traditional fishing areas closer to shore.

In hot water

 

Didit Haryo, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia, says dolphins are among the animals most affected by the power plant.

The plant is just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Lovina Beach, and as such lies easily within the typical dolphin roaming range of around 40 kilometers.

“In the past, locals in Celukan Bawang said there were still many dolphins passing by,” Didit told Mongabay. “But they say they rarely see dolphins nowadays.”

There are several ways in which the plant is potentially impacting the local dolphin population, says Putu Liza Kusuma Mustika, a marine mammal expert at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Read moreOn an Island in the Sun, Coal Power is King Over Abundant Solar

Fighting to Keep a Dirty Power Plant Out of a Tropical Paradise

Protest by local fishermen and Greenpeace activists to reject the development of new coal power plant in Celukan Bawang in Northern Bali (Photo : Made Nagi / Greenpeace)

 

The northern shores of Bali, Indonesia, are resplendent with ancient temples and coconut palm-lined black sand beaches. Villagers fish in the calm sea and tend their terraced rice paddies and fruit orchards. Large groups of spinner dolphins play close to shore, attracting a steady stream of visitors. Divers come from around the world to spot strange and fantastical creatures at sandy-bottom dive sites: mimic octopus, spotted shrimp, hairy frogfish, scorpionfish, neon-colored nudibranch. Lucky divers encounter sea turtles, sharks and rays.

But expansion of a coal-fired power plant in the fishing village of Celukan Bawang threatens this idyllic stretch of north Bali.  Although this region is already imperiled by warming seas, sea level rise and storm surges, the government ignored climate change when approving the project.  Today, in support of the local communities fighting the power plant, Earthjustice and the Indonesia Center for Environmental Law filed a legal brief  in Indonesia’s Administrative Court, arguing that the environmental assessment for the power plant expansion should have considered how the power plant will increase the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, as well as how climate change will affect the plant—possibly flooding it completely during storm surges.

The Celukan Bawang power plant wouldn’t just pollute the village’s air and drinking water and devastate the marine ecosystem on which the community relies for their food and livelihoods. It also represents the Indonesian government’s commitment to double down on dirty coal power, despite the threats that climate change presents to Indonesia, like rising temperatures and sea levels and increased storm surges.  And it is unnecessary:  Java and Bali already anticipate oversupply of electricity due to slowing economic growth.

Read moreFighting to Keep a Dirty Power Plant Out of a Tropical Paradise

[Press Release] Friends of The Court: Government Must Assess Climate Change Impacts of Celukan Bawang Power Plant Expansion

BALI / JAKARTA, 26 JUNE 2018 – Nine Indonesian and international environmental groups filed an amici curiae brief, or a friends of the court brief, to Denpasar Administrative Court (PTUN), specifically the judges who adjudicate the lawsuit against Celukan Bawang Coal Fired Power Plant expansion, Bali [1]. The project does not comply with the Environmental Protection and Environmental Law No.32 of 2009 and undermine Indonesia’s international climate commitment.

 

The 18-page brief stated that the expansion of the Celukan Bawang power plant does not include a comprehensive analysis of the climate change impacts in the decision making of issuing Celukan Bawang Power Plant’s environmental permit. In fact, the environmental permit should be based on environmental feasibility decisions and the Environmental Impact Assessment (AMDAL) that analyze comprehensively how the project impacts the environment [2]. This environmental impact should include the impacts of climate change.

 

“Amici believes that the legal obligations of Indonesia and the provisions in the Environmental Protection and Environmental Law and its derivatives provide sufficient grounds for the Judges to declare the Celukan Bawang Power Plant’s environmental permit null and void due to the lack of consideration for the climate change impacts of the project,” said Margaretha Quina, Head of Environmental Pollution Division of Indonesian Center for Environmental Law.

 

Indonesia has also ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and subsequent protocols, including Paris Agreement. Indonesia’s international climate commitment is also set forth in the NDC [3] which means that the obligation to mitigate climate change must be done on every development project.

Read more[Press Release] Friends of The Court: Government Must Assess Climate Change Impacts of Celukan Bawang Power Plant Expansion

491 Years Old Jakarta: An Age for Environmental Health

A worker finishes the revitalization of a watered area in Kota Tua, West Jakarta, Tuesday, Jan. 30. (JP/Seto Wardhana.)

 

As with every birthday I wish to plead good health, and every June 22 I also silently pray for Jakarta to get healthier. Relatively young by celebrated age, modern Jakarta has been suffering various symptoms of a sick body and the problem becomes more critical by each passing year. Unfortunately, the very environmental component of Jakarta is bad enough — and it costs us our health.

The air quality, much complained about, is surpassing the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline for majority of the year with only 25 to 26 of the days throughout 2017 in good quality for everyone, according to the United States Embassy. Since breathing is 24/7, the potential for disease from air pollution is the highest. Earlier last year, medical journal The Lancet Commission had a report on pollution and human health that predicted that 72 percent of premature deaths worldwide are associated with air pollution.

The water is in no better shape — Ciliwung, Jakarta’s biggest river is famous as one of the most polluted rivers globally, for year after year it has not moved from the heavily polluted quality classification, as reported by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) in 2017. In the sea, toxic soil of Jakarta Bay, a cocktail sediment of various heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants, is now being abruptly stirred up by the infamous reclamation project, bringing in more waste and plastics to the bay.

Read more491 Years Old Jakarta: An Age for Environmental Health

Envi Groups Renew Call to Scrap City Waste-to-Energy Project

On the same day, the group personally handed a letter to Mayor Lucilo Bayron’s office containing their appeal “to heed the Philippine ban on waste incineration, and pursue zero waste as the sustainable approach to managing the city’s discards.”

 

Environmentalists on Tuesday pressed anew their opposition on the planned waste-to-energy (WtE) project in Puerto Princesa City to mark the observance of World Environment Day.

A group of environmentalists led by the Environmental Legal Assistance Center ((ELAC) called on the City government to reconsider its deal with WtE developer AustWorks Corp (AWC).

“We hope the City government will hear us out, rethink its plan and opt for holistic waste prevention and reduction strategies to cut the volume of discards requiring final disposal,” ELAC executive director Attu. Grizelda Mayo-Anda said in a press conference.

Anda was joined by representatives from the No Burn Pilipinas and IPEN, a global network of over 500 public interest NGOs in 125 countries working for a toxics-free future.

Anda urged the City government to abide by the sanitary landfill’s environmental compliance certificate (ECC), requiring it to pursue zero waste approach in the next five to 10 years since it was issued in 2004.

Read moreEnvi Groups Renew Call to Scrap City Waste-to-Energy Project

In Indonesia’s Relentless Infrastructure Push, Taint of Corruption Weighs on Environment

Local houses on Bungkutoko Island in Southeast Sulawesi province, Indonesia. Photo by Kamarudin for Mongabay Indonesia
  • Investigators in Indonesia have arrested the mayor and former mayor of the city of Kendari for allegedly taking bribes in the awarding of a contract to build a land bridge to a new port set to open next year.
  • While the investigation is centered on corruption in the bidding process, activists have urged a thorough look into likely environmental violations, given that the project involves sea reclamation and forest-clearing.
  • The project continues, but has already claimed the livelihoods of the fishing community on whose tiny island the new container port is being built.

 

KENDARI, Indonesia — Like most residents of the tiny island of Bungkutoko in Indonesia’s Southeast Sulawesi province, Mahrudin and Nurhaeti are a fishing family. But their boat has remained beached recently, and the couple stay inside their small house.

The island sits just 100 meters (330 feet) from the Sulawesi mainland, but the strait — and the fishing grounds it represents for the Bungkutoko islanders — is disappearing as developers reclaim the sea to build a road to a new container port being developed on the southeastern tip of the island.

The Kendari Newport is expected to go into operation by next year, replacing the old port in Kendari, the provincial capital. The project is part of the government’s wider “maritime highway” program, meant to revive existing ports and build new ones across the far-flung Indonesian archipelago.

“You can see for yourself, [the sea] has turned into land,” Mahrudin tells Mongabay.

Read moreIn Indonesia’s Relentless Infrastructure Push, Taint of Corruption Weighs on Environment

Environmental Defenders Fear Backlash as Defendant Sues Expert Over Testimony

Basuki Wasis (third from left, holding a mic), an environmental expert from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), speaks during a press conference at the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI)’s office in Jakarta. Photo courtesy of YLBHI.

 

  • Basuki Wasis, an environmental expert whose testimony helped convict a provincial governor of abuse of power, now faces a lawsuit brought by the latter for alleged inaccuracies in his calculations of environmental damage.
  • The lawsuit against Basuki is similar to one he faced last year from a palm oil company that was fined for setting fires on its concession. The earlier lawsuit was dropped, but the company now appears to be targeting another expert witness who testified against it.
  • The litigation has sparked concerns among environmental experts and activists alike, who fear it will have a silencing effect and allow environmental crimes to go unpunished.
  • They also worry that without financial assessments of damages caused to the environment, prosecutors trying corruption cases in the natural resources sector will not be able to push for longer prison sentences and heavier fines.

 

JAKARTA — Environmental experts and activists are closely watching a lawsuit filed against an academic whose testimony helped convict a governor on corruption charges, in a case many fear could set a worrying precedent.

Basuki Wasis, an expert on environmental degradation from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), has testified in more than 200 cases involving environmental crimes such as forest fires and pollution.

On Feb. 14 this year, he testified as a prosecution witness against Nur Alam, the suspended governor of Southeast Sulawesi, who was charged with abuse of power in the issuance of mining licenses. Basuki told the court that the illegal mining activities by one of the companies that received a permit from Alam had led to deforestation and resulted in 2.7 trillion rupiah ($196 million) in combined ecological losses, environmental economic losses, and the cost of repairing the damage.

On March 12, Alam’s lawyers filed a lawsuit against Basuki, questioning the accuracy of his calculations and his credibility. (Alam was convicted on March 28; he was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay fines and damages totaling 3.7 billion rupiah, or $268,000.)

Read moreEnvironmental Defenders Fear Backlash as Defendant Sues Expert Over Testimony

Activists Fear for Environmental Protection Under Indonesia’s Revised Criminal Code

The fire from the oil spill in Balikpapan Bay, East Kalimantan Province. Photo courtesy of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Balikpapan.
  • Indonesian lawmakers aim to pass a long-awaited revision of the country’s Criminal Code this month, but already the draft has been widely criticized for rolling back personal freedoms and human rights.
  • Activists say it also threatens to gut existing legislation on environmental protection, effectively going easy on polluters and other environmental violators.
  • Problems identified include raising the bar for proving an environmental offense; more lenient sentencing prescriptions; and failing to hold the responsible parties accountable for environmental crimes.

 

JAKARTA — A highly contentious set of revisions to Indonesia’s Criminal Code threatens to undermine the fight against environmental offenders and polluters, activists warn.

Deliberations on the new draft are in the final stage in parliament, in what proponents are calling a much-needed overhaul and reform of a penal code inherited from Dutch colonial rule more than 70 years ago.

Already the bill has drawn intense criticism for new provisions that, if passed as expected in April, would criminalize consensual non-marital sex, outlaw the promotion of contraceptives, and make it illegal to insult the president or religious leaders, among other points.

But overshadowed by the furor over the looming rollback of personal freedoms and human rights are provisions that appear to weaken existing enforcement articles under the 2009 Environmental Protection Law.

“When we studied the draft, we found out that it’ll heavily affect existing environmental law enforcement and there are going to be many things that can’t be enforced,” said Raynaldo Sembiring, a researcher with the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL).

“While the current law still has some weaknesses, those weaknesses will be amplified further in the new Criminal Code.”

These include making it more difficult to prove an environmental crime has taken place, watering down sentences for environmental violations, and a persistent failure to apportion accountability for these crimes.

Read moreActivists Fear for Environmental Protection Under Indonesia’s Revised Criminal Code

Major Hurdles to Palm Oil Smallholders Certification

Global palm oil demands increase rapidly and are putting pressure on the Indonesian government to accelerate the certification of independent palm oil smallholders but a number of observers forewarn that the action will face two major hurdles related to funding and land tenure.

World Resource Institute Indonesia (WRI) Land Use Accountability Project Lead Bukti Bagja believes that the palm oil smallholders certification shows that a transformation is taking place, from “business-as-usual” to sustainable practices.

Due to the high cost of the process, starting from administering legality aspect, providing training, institutionalization, the personnel and facilities needed, to auditing, the government definitely needs to intervene and play a role in helping out.

Read moreMajor Hurdles to Palm Oil Smallholders Certification