Friday, 27 June 2008

Yet another land rights dispute: Village chief arrested

Yet another land rights dispute: Village chief arrested Jun 27, 08 1:46pm

The arrest of an Iban tuai rumah (headman) and a land rights activist is the latest of a unending saga of native customary rights (NCR) land disputes in Sarawak.

This time the incident involved the alleged burning of an excavator belonging to a company which is clearing land for oil palm in an area encompassing three Iban villages - Keniong, Sungai Raya and Tebuan - in the Simunjan district of Kota Samarahan.

Two companies - Dakar Wijaya and Stuyong Enterprise - have been given licences by the state authorities to plant oil palm and the Iban landowners claim that about 600 hectares of their NCR land are being taken over.

The two companies, said Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) secretary-general Nichola Mujah, moved into the area a month ago and the local people have since been protesting against the encroachment of their land.

Despite several meetings in the district office in Simunjan between representatives of the companies and the local natives in the presence of government officials and warnings given against the encroachment - the companies proceeded to begin work in the disputed areas.

There are some 350 Iban families from the three villages - including Tebuan, which is made up of Iban converts - and they have banded together to form a land action committee.When workmen form the companies moved in with their heavy equipment three days ago to clear the land, they were confronted by the Ibans and one excavator was set alight.

After a police report was lodged, two of the natives - village head Ajan Wein and land committee member Kudei Jampong - were summoned to go to the police station in Simunjan where they were subsequently arrested and detained.

Yesterday, they were brought before the local magistrate and further remanded for four more days until Monday pending the completion of police investigation, according to Mujah.Plantation firms vs natives.

The Simujan area has seen much land clearing activities and the planting of oil palm by companies with leases issued by the state government.This resulted in increasing conflicts, as is happening in any other parts of Sarawak, between NCR landowners and the plantation companies.

This has prompted Sadiaʼs Mujah to advise the state authorities to stop issuing further leases to such companies and to pay serious attention to the rights of natives to their land.

Mujah said that the state government must consider the plight of those natives who have worked and tilled their land for generations.Presently, there are nearly 200 of NCR claims in court following the disputes between native landowners and the state authorities and plantation companies which are given leases throughout Sarawak.

Oriental to expand plantation ops

Friday June 27, 2008 The StarOnline, Malaysia

Oriental to expand plantation ops


GEORGE TOWN: Oriental Holdings Bhd has drawn up a plan to expand its oil palm plantation business, which also includes a possible listing of the division.

Group chairman Datuk Loh Cheng Yean said the company aimed to increase the plantation size to 60,000ha from 40,000ha now in two to three years.

“Some RM500mil to RM600mil would need to be invested. We are looking at acquiring more oil palm plantations in Asia,” she said after the company's AGM yesterday.

Apart from Malaysia, Loh said the group had oil palm plantations in Indonesia.

In 2007, the group’s plantations produced a record crop of 512,378 tonnes compared with 399,990 tonnes the year before. The yield in Malaysia, however, fell to 92,956 tonnes versus 104,691 tonnes in 2006.

Loh said the drop was expected because the palms suffered slightly from stress due to the preceding year’s high yield, she said.

“With the anticipated higher crude palm oil price in 2008, our plantation sector should enjoy a price-driven boost to earnings.

“The push for biofuel as an alternative energy source by various governments, coupled with higher soybean prices, will benefit the sector,” she said.

For the first quarter ended March 31, the group posted a pre-tax profit of RM132.7mil on revenue of RM1.27bil. That compares with RM88mil and RM1bil respectively a year earlier.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Parliament extends rights to apes

Parliament extends rights to apes

By Martin Roberts in Madrid June 26, 2008 The Australian

SPAIN'S Parliament voiced its support today for the rights of great apes to life and freedom – apparently the first time any national legislature has called for such rights for non-humans.

The Parliament's environmental committee approved resolutions urging Spain to comply with the Great Apes Project, devised by scientists and philosophers who say our closest genetic relatives deserve rights hitherto limited to humans.

"This is a historic day in the struggle for animal rights and in defence of our evolutionary comrades, which will doubtless go down in the history of humanity," said Pedro Pozas, Spanish director of the Great Apes Project.
Spain may be better known abroad for bullfighting than animal rights but the new measures are the latest move turning once conservative Spain into a liberal trailblazer.

Spain did not legalise divorce until the 1980s, but Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government has legalised gay marriage, reduced the influence of the Catholic Church in education and set up an Equality Ministry.

The new resolutions have cross-party or majority support. They are expected to become law and the Government is now committed to update the statute book within a year to outlaw harmful experiments on apes in Spain.

"We have no knowledge of great apes being used in experiments in Spain, but there is currently no law preventing that from happening," Mr Pozas said.

Keeping apes for circuses, television commercials or filming will also be forbidden, with breaking the new laws an offence under Spain's penal code.
Keeping an estimated 315 apes in Spanish zoos will not be illegal, but supporters of the Bill say conditions will need to improve drastically in 70 per cent of establishments to comply with the new law.

Philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri founded the Great Ape Project in 1993, arguing that "non-human hominids" like chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos should enjoy the right to life, freedom and not to be tortured.

Felda to expand plantation ops overseas

note: ref. yesterday's comment about Malaysian companies expanding into into Indonesia.

Thursday June 26, 2008 The StarOnline, Malaysia

Felda to expand plantation ops overseas

KUALA LUMPUR: Felda will concentrate on expanding palm oil plantation operations overseas following a government directive for it to cease opening new plantations in the country.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Felda had already ventured overseas to raise productivity through commercial activities.

“Felda had obtained land in Kalimantan and Acheh in Indonesia, in Papua New Guinea and in Brazil,” he told reporters after witnessing the presentation of ISO/IEC 27001:2005 accreditation to Felda Prodata Systems Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Felda Bhd, from Sirim QAS International Sdn Bhd at the Parliament House here yesterday. Felda Prodata is Felda’s in-house IT systems provider.

Is there hope for the world's vanishing forests?

Is there hope for the world's vanishing forests?

The global rate has slowed, but deforestation still rapid in many countries

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
CBC News Canada

In many ways, obviously, the world is a radically different place than it was at the dawn of human agriculture. But perhaps the most visible change over the last 10,000 years has been in the planet's green roof — its forest cover.

There is between one-third and one-half less forest on Earth today. And in recent times, what remains has been disappearing at an alarming rate.
Each year, 13 million hectares of forest is lost, according to 2005 figures. That's an area roughly the size of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick combined.

When forest regeneration is taken to account, the net annual loss is still 7.3 million hectares, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports. (Some environmental groups, though, dispute this number as being too low.)
The good news is that the global rate is slowing. The net annual forest loss was higher during the '90s at 8.9 million hectares, according to the FAO.

And in Canada, which has 10 per cent of the world's forests, the rate is stable — no significant gains or losses. Many countries like China, for one, have even begun a trend of "afforestation," which means they plant more trees than they clear.

That's good news for the lungs. A single tree can take between 50 to 100 kilograms of small particles, like carbon dioxide, out of the air in a given year and produce three-quarters of a human's oxygen needs.

Why the trees are cleared
The clearing of forests for agriculture and industry has a long history around the world. Take the case of the eastern United States, which lost almost half of its original forest cover by the end of the 19th century as the land was settled.

Today, the loss of tropical rainforest generates the most attention, and with good reason. Home to half of the world's animals and more than 100,000 plant species, the rainforest's biodiversity is invaluable.

A worker cuts an acacia tree during a clearing near Bukit Tiga Puluh natural forest in Riau, Indonesia, in April 2008. (Achmad Ibrahim/Associated Press) Brazil's Amazon forest has been a focal point of concern for many years. Since the early 1970s, an estimated 20 per cent of the rainforest has been cleared, much of it for cattle-grazing pasture as Brazilian beef exports skyrocketed.

The rainforest is also being cleared to grow crops. As Brazil has become the world's leading soybean exporter, for example, rapid growth in crop production has led to illegal land-grabs and clear-cutting of forest.

Agriculture plays a somewhat smaller role in the Congo Basin. But the world's second-largest rainforest is also threatened by oil production and logging, which accounts for up to 13 per cent of the economy in the Central African Republic, one of six countries spanned by the forest area.

According to United Nations estimates, 66 per cent of the Congo Basin rainforest will be destroyed by 2040 without immediate action.
A massive illegal logging trade has caused Indonesia to experience some of the world's most radical deforestation in recent decades.

Almost 40 per cent of the country's forests were cleared in the last half of the 20th century, and almost two million hectares (two per cent of the total) disappeared each year between 2000 and 2005.

Palm oil production also plays a devastating role. Environmental groups warn that, although many palm trees are grown on land already designated for agriculture, a surge in global demand has led Indonesia to drain wetlands and burn through prime rainforest and peat. The oil is used in foods, cosmetics and as a critical bio-fuel ingredient.

War-torn Afghanistan faces a particularly acute forest loss. About 70 per cent of the country's forests have been cleared during two decades of war, internal strife, drought and environmental mismanagement, according to an Afghan official.

Haiti, Sudan and Zimbabwe have also experienced significant deforestation in recent years.

Less forest, more greenhouse gases
When forests are cleared in a non-sustainable way, the environment receives a nasty double-whammy.

The cleared forests can't take any carbon dioxide out of the air, which means less of a filter for greenhouse gas emissions.

But the act of deforestation actually is a major cause of those emissions as well. Moist, dense rainforest soil contains even more carbon than the tree branches and leaves, and it's all released into the atmosphere when the forest is cut and burned.

The clearing of forests has helped Indonesia become the third-largest producer of greenhouse gases on the planet. Brazil is close behind.
And deforestation contributes roughly 25 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, according to various estimates.

That's more than 12 times all of Canada's emissions or, as one British newspaper theorizes, the equivalent of eight million people flying from London to New York daily.

Signs of progress
Despite the long-term trend, there is hope to protect the remaining forests.
After years of decline, the trend of deforestation has been reversed in many industrialized countries as forests are regenerated. Europe, for example, added 661,000 hectares of forest a year between 2000 and 2005, according to FAO estimates.

China, as well, added almost four million hectares of forest cover each year during the first half of the decade. Vietnam is adding two per cent annually.
And as awareness of the problem grows, countries are setting aside more land for conservation. The central African country of Gabon, to name one example, set aside 10 per cent of its forest land in 2005.

Former prime minister Paul Martin has joined a $200-million effort by Britain and Norway which aims to protect the Congo Basin, while the United Nations Environmental Program met its Billion Tree Campaign goal and now aims to plant seven billion new trees around the world.
Seven billion new trees: They can't replace the original forests, but they can begin to put a patch on the Earth's green roof.

Stop clearing forests, states told

2008/06/26 New Straits Times, Malaysia

Stop clearing forests, states told

PUTRAJAYA: State governments should heed the prime minister's directive against clearing permanent forest reserves for oil palm plantations, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin said.

He said states should stop approving such applications although they had jurisdiction on the matter. "Although states have jurisdiction over their land, we request that they do not approve applications to convert permanent forests for agriculture use, especially for palm oil plantations," Chin said yesterday after his ministry's monthly assembly.

He was commenting on Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's statement on Tuesday announcing a ban on land clearing in permanent forest reserves for new oil palm plantations.Chin said only permanent forest reserves were affected by the ban. He said companies should find alternative land for plantations.

"We are not preventing people from starting new oil palm plantations, but we ask that they use other land such as agricultural land or replace other commodity crops with oil palm."

Abdullah has said the government decided to impose the ban to avert criticism that Malaysia is sacrificing its forest reserves and biodiversity for oil palm profits.

He said there were smear campaigns by parties in Western countries against Malaysia's oil palm industry which could harm exports of the commodity.Chin said the ban was also in line with the government's policy to preserve the 15.3 million hectares of permanent forest reserves.

He reiterated Abdullah's comments that Malaysia already had 4.4 million hectares of oil palm plantations nationwide, including 600,000ha in Sarawak.Abdullah has also said opening new land is unnecessary as the existing plantations were able to meet demand. With new technology and efficient management, it is possible to increase oil palm output by 30 per cent without opening new land.

Forestry company denies affiliation with Riau Andalan

Forestry company denies affiliation with Riau Andalan

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Thu, 06/26/2008

An executive in the legal department of PT Persada Karya Sejati (PKS), based in Pelalawan regency, Riau province, has told the Corruption Court that her company is not affiliated with PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP).

"They are independently separate companies but are engaged in business contracts related to the development of pulp plantations and the supply of wood," Paulina testified during the trial of Pelalawan Regent Tengku Azmun Jaafar on Tuesday.

Azmun is facing charges of illegally issuing authorization letters to 15 companies for the utilization of 120,000 hectares of forest in the regency between 2002 and 2003.

Paulina countered the testimony of another witness, former Pelalawan forestry office employee Hambali, who told an earlier court session that PKS had acquired several companies in Pelalawan that owned forest utilization and pulp plantation development licenses.

Hambali told the court two weeks ago the PKS was really a unit of RAPP, one of the country's largest pulp and paper producers in Indonesia.
Paulina said that legally PKS and RAPP are not affiliated, "but my company (PKS) supplied RAPP with pulp materials under ordinary business contracts".

PKS, she added, did business not only with RAPP but also supplied pulp and timber to other companies in Pelalawan.

Corruption Eradication Commission prosecutors said seven of the forest-based companies acquired by the PKS had been set up by Regent Azmun's relatives and cronies to obtain forest utilization licenses.

Prosecutors accuse Azmun of receiving more than Rp 19 billion (US$2 million) from the companies to which he issued forest utilization permits.

TDM To Increase Investment In Oil Palm Plantations In West Kalimantan

June 25, 2008

TDM To Increase Investment In Oil Palm Plantations In West Kalimantan

KUALA TERENGGANU, June 25 (Bernama) -- TDM Bhd is planning to increase its investments in the oil palm plantation sector in West Kalimantan this year with the acquisition of another 30,000 hectares of plantation land.

During an extraordinary general meeting held here Wednesday, its chairman Datuk Wan Hisham Wan Salleh said TDM has been long planning to increase the acreage of its oil palm plantation and the purchase of a 30,000 hectare of land adjacent to its existing estate was the result of four years of research and studies."

With the addition of the new land through an agreement signed in April, TDM aims to produce one million metric tonnes of fresh fruit bunches a year with contributions from the plantations expected to exceed RM400 million in early 2013."

Besides, we also project TDM's FFB volume to increase from 516,000 metric tonnes in end 2007 to two million metric tonnes in 2020," he said in a statement here Wednesday.TDM currently manages 12 oil palm plantations covering a total of 30,000 hectares in Terengganu and has two palm oil mills with capacity to process 550,000 tonnes of FFB.-- BERNAMA

Highway plan in Indonesia's Papua threatens forests: NGOs

Highway plan in Indonesia's Papua threatens forests: NGOs

JAKARTA (AFP) — An Indonesian plan to build a highway through the forests of Papua risks opening the door to massive deforestation in the jungle-clad half-island, environment groups said Wednesday.

The 4,500 kilometre (2,796 mile) Trans-Papua highway between the provinces of Papua and West Papua would lead to an explosion in palm oil plantations and allow easy access for illegal loggers, Greenpeace and Papuan NGOs said in a statement.

The planned road "would not only result in irreversible biodiversity loss and consequent ecological disaster, it will have a devastating impact on the lives and livelihood of the Papuan people," Greenpeace campaigner Bustar Maitar said.

The NGOs urged the government to properly consult local Papuans before going ahead with highway, which is the cornerstone of a 2007 plan by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to develop the resource-rich but impoverished provinces.

The plan comes as Indonesian officials eye Papua's vast wilderness as a potential site for more palm oil plantations to cash in on voracious global demand for the crop.

Palm oil plantations could be created on between three and four million hectares (up to 9.8 million acres) of suitable land in the two provinces, an agriculture ministry official told AFP in May.

Indonesia, the world's largest palm oil producer, also has one of the highest levels of deforestation, with weak law enforcement and widespread corruption allowing illegal landclearing and logging to flourish.

Riau's threatened Indragiri 'a serious cause for concern

Riau's threatened Indragiri 'a serious cause for concern

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru 26th June

Fishing communities in the Indragiri River delta in Riau risk losing their livelihoods because alarmingly high rates of mangrove destruction have led to dwindling biodiversity in the area, a local official said Tuesday.

Alimudin, head of the Indragiri Hilir regency's Mining and Environmental Agency, said 553.74 square kilometers of mangrove swamps, half the regency's coastline had been severely damaged.

He said logging companies were the main culprits behind the damage, having operated in the area since the 1990s.

"They have turned hundreds of thousands of hectares of mangrove swamp into wasteland, parts of which are now permanently submerged by seawater," he said.

Alimudin said several species of marine life, such as shrimps, crabs and fish, were now increasingly rare because of the loss of their natural habitat.
He said the environmental damage would be extremely difficult to overcome because of a lack of funds to help restore the wetlands.
"The only way to prevent the extinction of marine life in the area is to restore the ecosystem of the mangrove swamps. However, we can't do much about it without the funds," he said.

Wirman, head of the local fisheries and maritime agency, said his office had repeatedly requested funds from the provincial administration and government to build permanent embankments protected by mangrove trees. However, he said, there was no response yet to any of the requests.
"This is a serious cause for concern," he said.

He added around 2,500 fishermen risked losing their way of life if the mangrove swamps, the natural breeding grounds for fish, continued to be destroyed. He said the damage would also weaken the natural buffer against sea erosion.

"Shrimp farmers can only overcome the threat of tidal flooding by building embankments and replanting mangrove trees," he said.

Severe damage to mangroves is also on the rise in neighboring Rokan Hilir regency's Bangko district.

Wan Achmad Syaiful, head of the local forestry office, said more than 1,000 hectares of protected mangrove swamps had been destroyed by loggers.
"Police have identified the perpetrators and are gathering evidence for the case against them," he said.

About Rp 1.6 billion (US$166,000) in losses is incurred by the state through illegal logging in protected mangrove swamps every year, while misappropriation of reforestation funds amounts to US$14,454, he said.
"We will increase surveillance in protected areas and coordinate with the police to apprehend those responsible for the damage," he said.

Delfitri Akbar, executive director of the Bahtera Melayu environmental group and the recipient of the 2008 Kalpataru environmental award, urged the government to restore mangrove swamps by immediately planting new trees. She also called for increased engagement of local fishing communities in the effort.

"The fishing communities have long depended on the mangrove swamps. If logging is to be prohibited, then the most effective solution is to engage them as participants," she said.

"The government should pay coastal residents to replant mangrove trees. Don't apply labor-intensive methods that will leave them indifferent.
"Apart from creating new jobs, the effort will bring about mangrove swamp sustainability."

Delfitri also urged the government to allow people the opportunity to be involved in mangrove restoration projects without having to go through a tender process.

Kedah MB stands firm on logging in the Ulu Muda forest reserve

2008/06/25 New Straits Times, Malaysia

Kedah MB stands firm on logging in the Ulu Muda forest reserve
By : Adib Povera

ALOR STAR: Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak is defiant about cutting trees in the Ulu Muda forest reserve.

"Now, even if the Federal Government gives us the RM100 million compensation, we will still cut down the trees," he said.

Azizan told his critics that they should not be too obsessed with caring for the environment "like parents who are extremely obsessed with their offspring".

"The child is so pampered that he does not need to go to school. The child does not want to leave home."This is like our forest. We are too obsessed with preserving the trees that we don't cut them.

"We leave the trees till they get old and rot. The trees die and fall and affect the growth of others." As for Kelantan counterpart Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat's advice on the matter, Azizan said that the Pas spiritual leader might have misunderstood his plans to chop down the valuable timber trees in the water catchment area, which is about twice the size of Singapore.

It was reported yesterday that Nik Aziz was concerned there would be shortage and pollution of water if the forest reserve was logged.Azizan's other critic was Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng who was concerned that logging in the forest reserve would deplete the water supply to Penang.

Some 63,000 padi farmers also protested against Azizan's plan. Others included the Penang-based Sahabat Alam Malaysia, and the Kedah branch of the Malaysian Nature Society.

Azizan, when reminded that he had strongly opposed a logging plan for the forest reserve when the former Barisan Nasional state government had proposed using helicopters to fell timber trees in 1992, said the circumstances were different then.

He said when he was the state opposition leader, he was not well informed on the matter. "Just like many now, I had thought then that the entire water catchment area would be logged."

Then, Kedah did not have many financial problems and the proposed logging was just to add more funds to our coffers. "Today, the situation is different and we need funds to run development programmes for the people."

He said his plan would depend on the outcome of an environmental impact assessment study. For every hectare of the forest reserve, only three trees would be chopped.

Azizan was not considering other ways, including raising quit rent or assessment rates, to replenish the state coffers."We promise we won't sacrifice the environment. We will find the best way to log the forest reserve."

He thanked his critics for their concern.Meanwhile, Penang has expressed its strongest objection against the Kedah government's logging plans.In a press conference in George Town last week, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said he was against Kedah doing so as the move would lead to catastrophic effects, particularly at the Muda Dam.

Muda reserve logging plan a 'cruel act against

Muda reserve logging plan a 'cruel act against nature

Wed, Jun 25, 2008, The New Straits Times Malaysia

Alor Star, Malaysia: The Malaysian Nature Society has described the state government's plan to log timber in the Ulu Muda forest reserve as "a cruel act against nature".

Its Kedah branch chairman, Phang Fatt Khow, said the logging, if carried out, would also displace tens of thousands of padi farmers under the Muda Agricultural Development Authority.

"It is simply a very bad plan to earn money for the state.
"The logging would destroy the rich bio-diversity of the forest reserve and cause many people to suffer," he said when asked about Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak's plan to allow logging in the forest reserve, a gazetted water catchment area that supplies water for irrigation, domestic and industrial use to Kedah, Penang and Perlis.

Phang said there were still many other avenues the state government could look to for funds for Kedah.

He suggested that the state government seriously consider eco-tourism in the forest reserve as a win-win situation for man and nature.

"Ulu Muda is a very big forest reserve. We have not made any serious efforts to explore its potential in every aspects.

"However, we feel that the forest reserve should be preserved as a national heritage.

"We should carry out environmentally-friendly activities like research and other studies on the forest.

"Ulu Muda could also be a money-spinner for the state if we carried out sustainable activities."

The Ulu Muda forest reserve is a huge water basin which collects water in three dams - Pedu, Ahning and Muda.

In 2002, the then Barisan Nasional state government had proposed to remove valuable timber in the forest reserve using helicopters.

Under the system, a felled tree would be lifted up vertically from the forest to ensure minimum damage to the surrounding areas.

In May 2003, the cabinet decided not to allow any logging in Ulu Muda to preserve water quality in the area.

Azizan claimed the federal government promised to give the state RM100 million in compensation for sparing the forest reserve.

But since taking over the running of the state, Azizan, who had sung a different tune as an opposition MP, had cited a shortage of funds for reviving the logging proposal.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

PM: No clearing of forests for oil palm plantations

note: If the PM is to be believed, then I think we can consider this another big step forward (the last one in my view was Unilever's decision to move towards only using sustainable palm oil. So, despite all the bad news I post, there is hope and every reason to believe we are making solid progress. But, we must not forget that Malaysian palm oil companies are VERY active in Indonesia, so the PM's announcement may simply be a question of 'why cut down our forests when we can take Indonesia's instead?'

2008/06/25 New Straits Times, Malaysia

PM: No clearing of forests for oil palm plantations

KUALA LUMPUR: The government will not allow the clearing of forest areas for any new oil palm plantations, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said yesterday.

He said this was avoid accusations being made by some western parties that the opening of oil palm plantations was destroying the forest and ecosystems.

"We realise there are campaigns being carried out by some non-governmental organisations in the west to spread negative news about us as they think that the oil palm plantations are a result of forest clearing which is also endangering the existence of orang utan," he told reporters here.

Abdullah, who is also Finance Minister, said the existing oil palm plantations were enough to cater to current demands and there was no need for the opening of new plantations at the moment.There are currently 4.3 million hectares of oil palm plantation land in the country.

"We don't have to reduce the protected forests to increase new oil palm plantations. We have proof. With more effective management of the plantations and new technologies, production can go up by 30 per cent," he said after chairing the meeting of the cabinet committee on the competitiveness of the country's oil palm industry.

He said continued research and development would also result in value added products in the industry. On the expansion of the biofuel industry, he said: "This will depend on the investors, on whether they want to produce palm oil as a fuel material. The high price of world crude oil will be a major determinant on whether they produce oil palm-based fuel."

On whether he was concerned with the increasing palm oil price, he said: "As far as we are concerned, price of oil (palm oil) is our wealth. As for cooking oil, it is a controlled food item." - Bernama

Biofuel use 'increasing poverty

BBC News 25th June

Biofuel use 'increasing poverty

Palm oil is one of the biofuel crops stirring controversy
The replacement of traditional fuels with biofuels has dragged more than 30 million people worldwide into poverty, an aid agency report says.

Oxfam says so-called green policies in developed countries are contributing to the world's soaring food prices, which hit the poor hardest.

The group also says biofuels will do nothing to combat climate change.
Its report urges the EU to scrap a target of making 10% of all transport run on renewable resources by 2020.

Oxfam estimates the EU's target could multiply carbon emissions 70-fold by 2020 by changing the use of land.

The report's author, Oxfam's biofuel policy adviser Rob Bailey, criticised rich countries for using subsidies and tax breaks to encourage the use of food crops for alternative sources of energy like ethanol.

"If the fuel value for a crop exceeds its food value, then it will be used for fuel instead," he said.

"Rich countries... are making climate change worse, not better, they are stealing crops and land away from food production, and they are destroying millions of livelihoods in the process."

Opportunity - or crime?
Biofuels are a divisive issue with strong arguments on both sides.
Leaders such as Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have suggested the biofuel boom provides developing nations with a great opportunity.

He says it creates a profitable export for energy crop producers in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean that could enable them to claw their way out of poverty.

But several aid agencies and analysts have warned of the possible downside of biofuel crop cultivation.

One UN adviser went as far as describing biofuels as a "crime against humanity".

RI needs $1b for reforestation

note: The same Minister continues to sell off large tracts of forests to loggers/palm oil companies, whilst at the same time seeking money to replant trees. A lesson in how to double your money/profits.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 Jakarta Post

RI needs $1b for reforestation

SEMARANG: Forestry Minister MS Ka'ban said his ministry would need US$1 billion to rehabilitate forests throughout the country.

"By rehabilitating our forests, we save our own earth," he said in a seminar here Tuesday.

"With global warming, triggered by carbon emissions from big industrial countries, some islands in Indonesia may go underwater due to the increasing sea water level from the melting of ice in the north and south poles."

Ka'ban said his ministry planned to rehabilitate 1.7 million hectares of forests at an expense of Rp 8.5 trillion (US$917 million) this year.

He added that the ministry had considered making tree planting obligatory for married couples and school children nationwide. -- JP

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Biofuels threaten food security and environment

Jakarta Post 24th June

Biofuels threaten food security and environment
by Jonathan Wootliff,

Less than two years ago few people knew about biofuels. Today, Indonesians are struggling to cope with the escalating costs of daily essentials, like rice, as the amount of agricultural land being used to produce this new source of energy increases.

A combination of skyrocketing oil prices and the need to find alternatives to climate changing fossil fuels is driving this new biofuel obsession.

Environmentalists are becoming increasingly worried about the adverse impacts this will have on the country's rapidly diminishing rainforests.
It's a cruel irony that biofuels, which were developed as an alternative to greenhouse gas-emitting petroleum, threaten the environment. Experts fear that the attractive revenues derived from biofuels will result in a surge toward the conversion of conservation-rich land.

Land use in Indonesia is already complicated and muddled without this additional burden.

An airplane view of much of Sumatra and Kalimantan shows a scarred and chaotic landscape.

The rate of forest loss is accelerating.
On average, about a million hectares a year were cleared in the 1980s, rising to about 1.7 million hectares per year in the first part of the 1990s.
Since 1996, deforestation appears to have increased to a devastating annual average of two million hectares.

Opportunistic planting of oil palm by misguided farmers on land that cannot sustain the crop often results in vast abandoned areas reminiscent of desserts.

Although outlawed, slash and burn practices continue to cause massive fire destruction, and illegal logging abounds at an alarming pace.

In spite of sound forestry and environmental laws designed to protect high conservation value forest, the habitats of some of the world's most precious and threatened species are going fast.

According to environmental NGO Greenpeace, the country's forests are disappearing at the rate of three hundred soccer pitches every hour.

Demands that the government do more to enforce the laws to protect these forests often falls on deaf ears. In spite of the impressive rhetoric from the forestry minister and other officials, the destruction marches on.

No sensible environmentalist is campaigning for Indonesia to be deprived of using forest and other land for economic development. Millions of people depend on it for their survival. But it has to be managed. That's what sustainable development is all about.

Degraded forests provide ideal land for agricultural use, and there is plenty forest with limited conservation value suitable for development.
Land needs to be strictly delineated so that environmentally important areas are protected. Until this is done, the use of land for the growing of biofuels must be regarded with great caution.

We simply cannot allow the biofuel lobby to argue that its products will help us to combat climate change, when their crops are devastating Indonesia's remaining ecologically sensitive places.

Land used for biofuel is displacing traditional crops, thus driving up food prices. And land use for biofuel crops is increasing the destruction of the nation's rainforests.

Farmers must be discouraged from the allure of attractive revenues derived from growing biofuels. Short-term financial gains will lead to longer-term economic woes.

Contrary to what the exponents of biofuel are saying, this is clearly not a panacea for climate change or rising fuel costs.

There is surely a strong enough case here for the government to sharpen its focus on the biofuel challenge and enforce environmental law.

This is urgent and must be done in the interests of both Indonesia's environmental and food security.

Jonathan Wootliff is an independent sustainable development consultant specializing in the building of productive relationships between companies and NGOs. He can be contacted at

Monday, 23 June 2008

Witness: District Head receives Rp1.5 billion from PT RAPP

Witness: District Head receives Rp1.5 billion from PT RAPP

Source: EoF News - June 16, 2008

PEKANBARUA witness on the trial of Pelalawan District Head Azmun Jaafar in Jakarta told the judges last week that the defendant received at least Rp 1.5 billion from PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) as a gratification for issuing forestry operation license for the subsidiary of Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL).

Suara Karya reported Monday (16/6/2008) that Hambali, staff of Pelalawan District Forestry Service, said that Azmun set up companies to grant logging license he issued before the firms taken over by PT RAPP, APRIL affiliated company.

Azmun is charged by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) over allegedly receiving bribes from pulp companies which cause the State suffer loss of Rp 1.2 trillion, the report said.In his testimony at the trial held Friday (13/6/2008) in Corruption Court, Jakarta, Hambali initially set up and managed CV Harapan Jaya, where PT PKS and PT RAPP gave him money Rp 2.8 billion for issuing Annual Working Plan (RKT), Tribun Pekanbaru daily reported last weekend (14/6/2008).

Hambali said he gave Rp 1.5 billion money to Azmun, the District Head, following the issuance of RKT logging license for the companies that finally taken over by PT RAPP (APRIL subsidiary), Tribun reported.“Because the companies’ licenses were handled by the District Head,” Hambali told the court.

Kompas daily reported (14/6/2008) that Hambali handed over Rp 600 million to Riau Forestry Service Head, Asral Rahman, as gratification for RKT license issued by the province institution for APRIL affiliated companies, CV Harapan Jaya and CV Madukoro.”I received Rp 600 million from staff of PT PKS [Persada Karya Sejati] for administrating RKT. The money I handed over to Asral Rahman,” Hambali, the witness said.

The prosecutors of the case accused Hambali and Budi Surlani were ordered by District Head Azmun to find companies to get pulpwood plantation licenses. Some of 15 companies had been taken over by PT RAPP, APRIL subsidiary, Kompas daily reported.Hambali had met Rosman, General Manager Forestry PT RAPP, in setting plans to get RKT for the companies. Rosman, who concurrently staff of PT PKS, now is at large as he allegedly involved in the gratification case, the reports said.

Hanging in the balance

Hanging in the balance

June 22, 2008 Sydney Morning Herald

Sandakan's wonders are under threat. See them while you can, writes Graham Simmons.

At first glance, it's hard to credit that Sandakan was once the capital of British North Borneo (now Sabah). A ramshackle jumble of rusting corrugated-iron huts overlooking the Sulu Sea, this gateway town of about 350,000 people is now in the throes of redevelopment. Its formal declaration as a city, scheduled for this year, is expected to put Sandakan firmly back on the South-East Asian map.

Long before the arrival of the British, Sandakan was a trading port of the Islamic sultanate of Sulu, based in the south of the Philippines. Then, after more than 90 per cent of Sandakan's buildings were razed by the Japanese in the last years of World War II, the British moved the capital to Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu), on the north-east coast of Sabah. Sandakan was rebuilt - more or less - and was then left to rot in the steamy equatorial heat for the next 50 years or so.

It is tourism that has revived Sandakan. To Australian visitors, the main place of interest is the Sandakan Memorial Park, commemorating the infamous Sandakan-Ranau death march of World War II.

On the 250-kilometre march, about 4000 Malays and Indonesians and more than 2000 Australian and British prisoners-of-war died on the way - and among the Allied troops, only six Australians lived to recount the horrors of the experience. Near the Memorial Park, the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Sanctuary is about hope. At the sanctuary, orphaned orang-utans are cared for, nurtured and taught survival skills before being released into the wild. Perhaps as a result of this constant human contact, they are disarmingly friendly towards visitors.

More than 300 baby and juvenile orang-utans are in residence at Sepilok at any one time, spread out over about 4300 hectares. At feeding times large numbers of them converge at the feeding station - a series of raised tree-platforms connected by rope swings. At the time of my visit, many of the creatures appeared to be mocking the spectators - and given our voyeuristic demeanour, maybe they had reason to do so.

In Sandakan town, public spaces are undergoing a much-needed, major clean-up. A new fish market graces the waterfront, selling the finest produce of the Sulu Sea - super-fresh tuna, red snapper, garoupa, mackerel, rayfish, mangrove crabs and tiger prawns. The fish market forms part of the new Sandakan Harbour Square, which when completed will be home to a new central market, a town square, a mall and a convention centre. But the most atmospheric part of Sandakan is undoubtedly the Buli Sim-Sim Water Village. In neighbouring Brunei, the famous water village of Bandar Seri Begawan is home to more than 10,000 people, who live in stilt-houses perched over the Brunei River. Buli Sim-Sim is a little smaller, but is equally colourful.

Buli Sim-Sim consists of three sections - the original Malay section dating from 1879; the "new" Malay section established in the 1970s to provide cheap housing (neat and colourful rental houses go from as little as $20 a month); and the Chinese section.

The old Malay section is pretty much off-limits to visitors, however. The boardwalk timbers are rotting, rubbish is heaped up in large piles by the shoreline and it would appear that paint is unknown in this part of town.
Sandakan is also the gateway to the rainforest wonders of south-east Sabah, best reached by speedboat along the Kinabatangan River.

Several monkey species live along the Menanggul River (a tributary of the Kinabatangan) and some visitors are even lucky enough to spot the rare Borneo pygmy elephant. Among the monkeys is one of the most bizarre-looking creatures to come out of the jungle - the proboscis monkey, with a huge, bulbous nose, a giant belly and a long white tail.

On spotting one, I thought that nature had been taking lessons from Salvador Dali. After dark, the Menanggul River wears a different face again. The nocturnal animals of the rainforest are wide awake while others sleep. The colourful blue-eared kingfisher somehow manages to rest by turning totally blind at night-time, so you can go up and shine a torch in its face without evoking the slightest reaction.

But the forests of Sabah are severely under threat. Demand for palm oil has seen vast swathes of rainforest cleared to make way for palm oil plantations.

The time to see Sandakan and the nature wonders of Sabah's south-east is now, before industry wreaks its inexorable havoc.

Getting there: Royal Brunei Airlines flies regularly to Kota Kinabalu; from there Malaysian Airlines and its subsidiary MASwings connect to Sandakan. Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Sanctuary: about 23 kilometres from Sandakan. Return taxi about $30-$35 - or catch a bus from the Sandakan Council building.

Sunday, 22 June 2008


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KPK urged to arrest former Riau officials

Saturday, June 21, 2008 12:33 PM

KPK urged to arrest former Riau officials

Rizal Harahap , The Jakarta Post , Pekanbaru Sat, 06/21/2008

Conservationists in Riau on Friday hailed the decision made by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to name three former heads of the Riau Forestry Office and a regent as graft suspects.

The Riau Forest Savior working network coordinator, Haryansyah, said Riau had waited long enough for the decision as Pelalawan Regent Azmun Jaafar had already stated the suspects played a role in the issuance of illegitimate permits.

Haryansyah urged the KPK to immediately arrest the three suspects to restore the public's trust in the law and justice. The arrests should be made to erase the image that law enforcers prosecute commoners, but not state officials, he said.

"Not only Azmun but everyone must be treated equally. Arrests are needed to accelerate the legal process," Haryansyah told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He urged the KPK to immediately name a number of officials as suspects involved in the issuance of forestry permits in Riau.

Based on investigations conducted by the working network, he said, some 36 companies operating in Indragiri Hulu, Indragiri Hilir, Kampar, Siak and Pelalawan regencies had received commercial forest permits from the regent since 2002, despite the passing of a forestry law revoking the regent's authority to issue the permits as of September 2002.

"A lot of people are allegedly involved in issuing illegal forestry permit, from regents to ministers. If a permit is dubious, it could set off a chain reaction because procedurally it is an inseparable entity," Haryansyah said.
"Forestry office heads, governors and ministers must be held responsible and treated fairly by the KPK. Even if corruption is not involved, the official is wrong for keeping quiet about the crime," he said.

Companies benefiting from ill-gotten timber derived from illegal permits, said Haryansyah, must also be implicated. "KPK must investigate those taking advantage of the crime. We are ready to provide information and hand over evidence that we possess on forestry crimes," he said.

The three former forestry office heads who have been named as suspects in the Azmun case were identified as Syuhada Tasman, who led the office from 2003-2004, Asral Rachman (2004-2005) and Burhanuddin Husein (2005-2006).

KPK believes the three suspects were responsible for devising working plans for 15 logging permits issued by Azmun in Pelalawan from 2001 to 2006.

They are still on duty. Syuhada, who is the former Riau Plantation Office head, currently works for the Riau Research and Development Agency, Asral is Riau Manpower Office head, and Burhanuddin is Kampar regent.
Since KPK released his current suspect status, Burhanuddin rarely makes public appearances.

Asral and Syuhada were not available at their respective offices. According to unnamed sources at the Riau Manpower Office and Riau Research and Development Agency, both men are out of town on official visits.
Riau Governor Rusli Zainal declined to comment on the suspect status of the three former high-ranking officials.

Kedah to use heli-harvesting

Sunday June 22, 2008 The StarOnline, Malaysia

Kedah to use heli-harvesting


ALOR STAR: The Kedah Government is going ahead with its plan to allow selective logging in the Ulu Muda catchment areas using the heli-harvesting technique.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak, however, assured the public that the catchment areas would still be preserved because only selective logging to remove decaying trees would be allowed.

“We will be using the heli-harvesting technique to remove the decaying old trees that are more than 100 or 200 years old.

“That means we will only be removing a few trees every hectare,” he said.
He said Kedah had no other choice as it had to cope with rising expenditure.

“We are desperate to increase the revenue to make ends meet as the Federal Government is not keeping its promise to pay RM100mil annually in compensation for sparing the catchment areas,” he said.

Azizan said this in response to objections from various quarters against the state’s plan to carry out logging activities in catchments.

Azizan said the state need not carry out selective logging in reserved forests covering 122,000ha if the Federal Government fulfilled the promise made in 2003 to pay RM100mil a year as compensation for preserving the catchment areas.

The Federal Government had paid the money once when Datuk Seri Syed Razak Syed Zain was mentri besar, he said.

On calls by Sahabat Alam Malaysia for the Penang Government to pay compensation to Kedah for preserving catchments that are crucial to ensure continuous water supply to Kedah, Azizan said they would appreciate it if Penang contributed.

“But it is not our intention to disturb Penang and Perlis that are dependent on water sources from Kedah,” he said.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Unilever announces sale of oils business and plantation interests; plans to buy soap business of Cosmivoire

Unilever announces sale of oils business and plantation interests; plans to buy soap business of Cosmivoire

Update 6/19/2008 6:40 AM ET

(RTTNews) - Consumer goods supplier Unilever Plc (UL: News, Chart, Quote ,ULVR.L: News, Chart, Quote ) said Thursday that it will sell its edible oil business and plantation interests to Ivorian agro-industry firm SIFCA and to a 50/50 joint venture company between SIFCA and two Singapore-based companies, Wilmar International Ltd and Olam International Ltd.

The company expects the sale of its edible oil business in Côte d'Ivoire together with its interests in oil palm plantations, Palmci and PHCI, to be completed by the end of 2008. Unilever said that the disposal agreement with SIFCA, palm-oil processor Wilmar and agricultural products supply chain manager OLAM is in line with its strategy of increasing its focus on core business areas.

Parallel with this, Unilever also announced its planned acquisition of the soap business of Cosmivoire, an Ivorian producer with a market presence throughout Francophone West Africa. The company expects that this purchase will boost its consumer business position both in the sub-region and in Côte d'Ivoire.

Green groups oppose Kedah logging plan

thestar online, Malaysia

Thursday June 19, 2008 MYT 5:50:27 PM

Green groups oppose Kedah logging plan


ALOR STAR: Environmental groups are against the Kedah government’s plan to allow logging at the Pedu, Muda and Ahning dam catchment areas, claiming it will be detrimental to the environment.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Kedah branch chairman Phang Fatt Khow urged the Pakatan Rakyat state government to reconsider the move to protect water catchment areas as well the surrounding bio-diversity.

“We are against the state’s plan to allow logging because in the long run, it may jeopardise water supply for padi cultivation,” Phang said Thursday.
He however agreed that the state should receive compensation from the Federal Government if it had to sacrifice the logging contracts to protect the environment.

Consumers Association of Penang president S.M. Mohamed Idris also cautioned against allowing logging at catchment areas as it would cause problems such as water pollution, flooding or droughts.

Mentri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak said that the state government would scrap its logging plan if the Federal Government paid the state RM100mil annually as promised.

“We have to carry out logging because we need the money to run the state and conduct development for the people. But if we can have other revenue, then we won’t need to do it,” he told newsmen after visiting SK Suka Menanti here.

Azizan had on Wednesday, announced that the state government had approved logging activities at the dam catchment areas which would contribute about RM16bil in revenue for the state.

He had said the move was necessary to cover the high expenditure incurred by the state following the petrol price increase.

“We have been providing water to Penang and Perlis and we also produce rice for the whole nation and we protect the forest. Thus the Federal Government should compensate us,” he said.

When asked on protests from environmentalists, Azizan reiterated that the government was exercising its right to log to cover increased operating costs.

Is this the end of the road for first gen biofuels?

Is this the end of the road for first gen biofuels?

Government review expected to call for rethink over biofuel targets, as producers argue lack of certainty over government policy is impacting investor confidence.

James Murray, BusinessGreen, 19 Jun 2008

An official government report is set to conclude that booming demand for biofuels has had a "significant" impact on global food supplies, forcing ministers into a major rethink of controversial biofuel targets.

According to reports in today's Guardian newspaper, The Gallagher Review will warn that while some biofuels can have environmental benefits there is need for wider research into the indirect impacts of demand for energy crops on deforestation and food prices.

The Review, which was commissioned by the Department for Transport and chaired by the head of the Renewable Fuel Agency Professor Ed Gallagher, will also call for a clear distinction to be made between "first generation" biofuels derived from food crops such as corn, palm oil and soya, and "second generation" biofuels made from waste organic matter and non-food plants such as algae and jatropha which would theoretically be grown without eating into land used for food production.

A government official familiar with the Gallagher Review told the newspaper that the report's findings raised the prospect of sustainability criteria being introduced to distinguish between different types of biofuels. "Simply setting a target without stipulating what kind of biofuel is to be used in what circumstances can have all sorts of unintended consequences," he said.

Another official added that the review has also "thrown up the likelihood" of UK and EU targets being readdressed.

The first such target is already in place with all petrol and diesel currently sold in Britain required to contain 2.5 per cent of biofuels. The UK is expected to increase that target to five per cent by 2010, while the EU is considering imposing a 10 per cent target by the same date.

The government will now face increased pressure to rethink, or even drop, all these targets if clear sustainability criteria cannot be developed.
Speaking to, A spokeswoman for the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) said that the industry urgently needed clarity on the future of the EU's biofuel targets. "We are aware the 10 per cent target is under attack in Brussels and that is a major cause of concern because the industry has worked with this target in mind, " she said. "We need targets that are binding if we are keep investor confidence."

She added that the EBB agreed with sustainability criteria in principle, but warned that these had to be "pragmatic" and should apply to other sectors as well as biofuels. "If you are serious about protecting biodiversity you can't apply sustainability criteria just to biofuels, the food industry needs to be included too," she said. "For example, biofuel accounts for just three per cent of the palm oil imports into Europe."

Increased demand for palm oil has been frequently cited as a prime example of biofuel's negative impact on the environment with critics claiming that vast swathes of Indonesian rain forest are being felled to make way for palm oil plantations, undermining any carbon savings that would come from the biofuel.

The spokeswoman added that while the industry was working hard to develop so-called second generation biofuels the EU's targets were unlikely to be met without the use of established biofuels as well. She added that were sustsinability criteria be introduced they should be modelled on proposalsd currently being considered in Brussels that are based on impact on biodiversity and the level of carbon savings delivered and as such would not ban all biofuels based on food crops.

Ahmedabad to get new zoo & pandas

The TIMES of India

Ahmedabad to get new zoo & pandas

19 Jun 2008, 0236 hrs IST, Kumar Manish,TNN

AHMEDABAD: Breakfast with an orangutan. Close encounter with a panda. No, you aren't on a jungle safari. It could all happen in apnu Amdavad, with plans afoot for a new zoo that would have animals not bound in cramped enclosures.

The Ahmedabd Municipal Corporation (AMC) has already begun frantic search for land for the new zoo in the city, to be spread over 100 acres. At present, the areas — near the Science City in Sola, Pirana and Hathijan — are high on the priority list.

On the shopping list, apart from orangutans and pandas, are lions from Gir, the African elephant and the Himalayan Yak. “There is a proposal for a zoological park of international standards. We are looking for land which will be easily accessible, will be a noise-free zone and environment-friendly,” said deputy municipal commissioner ZA Sacha.

The existing Kamla Nehru Zoological park in Kankaria is spread over 31 acres and has 1,500 birds and 350 animal species. The zoo sees around 20 lakh visitors a year but the animals and birds have been at the receiving end for long because of its location with heavy traffic around, pollution and nearby railway yard.

The new place will be an “open zoo” with animals placed in large, spacious areas, amidst natural beauty in green landscapes. “Today zoos need a holistic approach. These are potential sites to educate people about the importance of wildlife, environment and its conservation,” says Sacha.

Regents seek approval for plantation expansion

So much for the Kinshasha Declaration. I wonder if GRASP/UNEP/Ape Alliance will have anything to say about the article below. If the past is anything to go by the answer will be NO.

Jakarta Post 19th June

Regents seek approval for plantation expansion

Benget Besalicto Tnb, Contributor, Sampit, Central Kalimantan
At least two regencies in Central Kalimantan are waiting for approval from the Jakarta-based forestry ministry to convert some of their forest into industrial plantations, the regents say.

The conversion -- most of it from former industrial forest concessions -- is meant to accommodate expansion plans from several palm oil companies, including Agro Indomas, Agro Bukit, Best Agro International Group, Wilmar Group and Sinar Mas Group, said the regent of Seruyan, Darwan Ali, last week.

"But we have had no words from the ministry so far," he said.
Under current regulations, plantation businesses are under the authority of the agriculture ministry, while industrial wood-based forest businesses are managed by the forestry ministry. But any land conversion from forest into industry will also have to be approved by the forestry ministry.

Syarif Bastaman, a member of Agro Indomas' board of directors, who is also a shareholder in the company, admitted his company had planned to invest more than Rp 7 trillion until 2012 to expand his company's palm oil plantations.

"We've planned to invest up to Rp 7 trillion until 2012 here. If the forestry ministry approved it, we will soon realize our investment here.

"One of our projects is to develop the 22,000 hectare Agro Wanalestari plantation in Seruyan regency, which could employ more than 3,000 workers if realized. Currently, we've employed more than 5,000 workers in both Agro Indomas and Agro Bukit," he said.

Agro Indomas and Agro Bukit are two sister companies under the Agro Group, which is owned by Carson Cumberbeth, a Sri Lankan company owned by business giant Hari Selvanatan.

"The protracted process resulted from the difference in land use maps between the regencies and the central government or ministries in Jakarta," Syarif said.

Darwan said his administration had designed a new space arrangement. But all the areas it proposed for conversion are former forest concession areas, which required approval by the forestry ministry.

"But so far we haven't got any response from the forestry ministry in Jakarta."

Darwan was speaking after attending fire awareness training held by Agro Indomas, in cooperation with the ministry of forestry, the Indonesian Palm Oil Council, WWF Indonesia, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) and Care International.

Kotawaringin Timur Regent Wahyudi K. Anwar shared Darwan's view, saying the new investments, if realized, will certainly boost local economies in the regencies.

Local government data shows that there are about 1.5 million hectares of former industrial forest concession areas that can be converted into plantations and industrial forests in the province.

Helping orangutans natural for LUSH

Helping orangutans natural for LUSH

Jun 18, 2008 04:30 AM

Do you care about orangutans?

LUSH Cosmetics, which provides handmade, natural products made from fruits and vegetables, is protecting Sumatra's rain forest, and the orangutan's habitat, by producing soaps without palm oil.

Soon, you'll be able to learn all about how the company sources its ingredients when you click on an item for sale on its website

Mark Wolverton, Vancouver-based president and CEO of LUSH North America, says he and his team of buyers travel the world armed with cameras to investigate and document the way ingredients are made. No products using child labour. No products produced in a conflict zone.

"We're unique. The niche we have is the front edge of handmade, natural, environmental, quality, treat-yourself-stuff.

Although organic, natural or environmentally friendly cosmetics are less than 5 per cent of the Canadian market, it is an area that is fast-growing and shows much promise for future growth.

Wolverton, whose company has been in Canada for a decade, says his market of ethically minded 20- to 45-year-olds do the research.

"In this day of information, people are far more educated about making choices."

LUSH sell its creams and lip balms in recyclable containers with little or no packaging and uses its profits (it is a private company so no numbers
divulged) to lobby for change in the environmental field. Sumatra's rain forest are one such project.

"People come to us because they want to support the environment," says Wolverton, adding that it also means "delivering a good, quality product that is not BS."

Trish Crawford

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


18th June 2008


The illegal wildlife trade is rampant in Medan city, North Sumatera,according to a recent investigation conducted by ProFauna Indonesia incollaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

It was recorded that around 10,000 wild species endemic to Sumatera Islandwere poached to supply the domestic and international illegal wildlifetrade in 2007.The hub is in Medan, at Bintang animal market.

Many protected wildlifesuch as eagles, cockatoos, slow lorises, gibbons, mitered-leaf monkeys,sun bears and others are sold freely. Each animal could fetch between IDR100,000 (US$ 11) to IDR 1,500,000 (US$ 160).Some traders in the market also supply other traders in Pramuka marketJakarta, the largest wildlife black market in Indonesia.

Every two weeks,wildlife traffickers in Bintang market smuggle about 300 animals toJakarta through Polonia airport in Medan.Medan is also an exit point of wildlife smuggling to Singapore andMalaysia, through the ports of Belawan and Tanjung Balai in Medan, KualaTungkal in Jambi, and Batam, Riau.

Investigations have uncovered a corrupt government officer from theNatural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) of the Forestry Department,who is involved in the wildlife trafficking between Medan - Jakarta.

The officer employs two key methods to illegally aid the poachers. He hasbeen issuing false licences for Wild Plant and Animal Transportation, declaring that the consignments which contained protected animals, asunprotected species. He also overlooks poachers smuggling protectedspecies in specially constructed hidden bottom drawers of carrying crates,which transport the CITES unprotected common song birds that can betransported freely.

The smuggling through Polonia airport in Medan usually takes place in theevening when security is slack. ProFauna has successfully filmed theprocess undercover. The evidence will be presented to the authority.The corrupt officer’s involvement in wildlife trafficking mars thedepartment’s commitment to stop crime against wildlife.

According to the 1990 wildlife law regarding Natural Resources andEcosystem Conservations, trading in protected species is prohibited.Offenders will receive up to a 5 year jail sentence and up to IDR 100millions (US$ 11,000) in fine.

Asep R. Purnama, ProFauna’s campaignsofficer, stated, “The Forestry Department and the Police must conduct aconfiscation operation in Bintang market, Medan.”ProFauna also demands that the Forestry Department and the Police make anexample of the corrupt officer and prosecute him to the full extent of thelaw. Illegal wildlife trade is a cruel crime, that must not gounpunished.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ProFauna Indonesia
• ProFauna Indonesia ( is a wildlife protectionorganization in Indonesia, established in 1994. ProFauna has become thelargest wildlife protection organization in Indonesia with 500,000 memberand supporters.

Indonesia plans forest fire management cooperation with Japan

Indonesia plans forest fire management cooperation with Japan

Posted June 18th, 2008 by Mohit Joshi

Jakarta - The Indonesian government has set aside the equivalent of more than 40,000 dollars this year for cooperation with Japan in forest fire management, a senior Forestry Ministry official said Wednesday.

"Through the cooperation, we hope Japan will grant more than 500 million yen [4.63 million yen]," said Soni Partono, director for forest fire management at the directorate general of forest protection and natural conservation. "Last year, Japan gave us 300 million yen for the cooperation."

Indonesia and Japan have long cooperated in the field and last year's grant was for training on how to prevent forest fires, the state-run Antara news agency quoted Partono as saying.

The cooperation this year was targeted at forest fire management in Jambi and Riau provinces on Sumatra island and West Kalimantan on the Indonesian portion of Borneo Island, he said, in addition to observation in the provinces of North Sumatra, Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and South Sulawesi.
Forest fires in Indonesia have become an international issue as their release of greenhouse gases have caused Indonesia to become the world's third-largest carbon emitter.

Each year since 1997, uncontrolled slash-and-burn practices by farmers, plantation owners and loggers, especially on Sumatra and Borneo, also sends haze into neighbouring countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand.

The smog causes health problems and losses amounting to billions of dollars from lost tourism revenue and flight delays, among other things.
The fires sparked diplomatic rows with Indonesia's neighbours. Indonesia has argued it lacks the money and technical expertise to prevent or control the fires in the vast archipelago nation.

Indonesia's deforestation has been driven by the pulp, timber, palm oil and biofuel industries. (dpa)

BLD Plantation to develop 6,000ha in Sarawak

Wednesday June 18, 2008 The Star Online, Malaysia

BLD Plantation to develop 6,000ha in Sarawak


BLD Plantation Bhd will invest some RM110mil to develop 6,000ha of new oil palm plantations in Sarawak in the next three years.

Executive chairman Datuk Henry Lau Lee Kong said the company would be aggressive in its new planting programme as more than half of its 53,000ha land bank had not be developed.

He said it was timely to increase the planted area as prices of crude palm oil (CPO) had been good. The group currently has about 23,000ha planted with oil palm, with half of the plantations already producing fresh fruit bunches (FFBs).

“In three years, another 6,300ha of matured planted areas will be added,” Lau told StarBiz after the company AGM yesterday.

Last year, the group’s FFB production increased 3.6% to 211,000 tonnes. This is expected to grow to 266,000 tonnes this year, 290,000 tonnes next year and 320,000 tonnes in 2010.

Lau said expanding the group’s planted hectarage would also ensure an increasing supply of related products to feed its palm oil mill, refinery and kernel crushing plant.

Datuk Henry Lau Lee Kong
Wholly-owned subsidiary Kirana Palm Oil Refinery Sdn Bhd has invested more than RM100mil in a refinery and a dry fractionation plant in Bintulu. Both plants are now on trial production and are expected to begin commercial production next month.

The refinery, which has a processing capacity of about 1,200 tonnes of CPO a day, is now producing refined bleached and deodorised palm oil, palm olein, palm stearins and palm fatty acids distillate.

The kernel crushing plant has a daily capacity of 300 tonnes. Its products include crude palm kernel oil and palm kernel expeller.

BLD Plantation would continue to look out for good plantation land locally, Lau said, adding, however, that it had no plans to expand its plantation business to Indonesia yet.

“The promotions on use of biofuels by the European and other governments, as well as the recent import duties cut in India on edible oils to curb inflation, augur well for the palm oil industry.

“In view of the tighter supply of global oils and fats and the price volatility of CPO, it is expected that the outlook for the industry will remain positive,” he added.

For the year ended Dec 31, 2007 (FY07), group revenue rose 13% to a record RM152mil from RM134mil in FY06.

Net profit more than doubled to RM37.8mil in FY07 from RM16.9mil previously.

Filmmakers get credit they deserve

Filmmakers get credit they deserve

18/06/2008 3:37:00 PM The Camberra Times

Independent Australian producers Cathy Henkel and Jeff Canin maxed out seven credit cards to make their latest documentary The Burning Season. The film centres on, about the deliberately lit fires that rage across Indonesia every year to clear land for crops.

The ABC, BBC and US network CBS had all pre-bought the film and the Hatchling Productions pair had also managed to secure funding from Australian film funding bodies as well as distribution through National Geographic.

But filming began in March last year while and the cash flow didn't come through until December, when Henkel and Canin were at the Bali climate change Kyoto Summit and most of the filming had already finished.

"It's quite a complex deal and it probably took all of last year to put together. However, the story began and I just had to go," Henkel said.
"So it's tricky and it's a lot of risk that the independent producer has to take but we managed to do it and it's now fully financed and this is not unusual."

Life in the documentary business is tough but Henkel believes life without documentary would be a poorer place.

She and Canin were in Canberra this week on Monday to meet with politicians, including Greens senator Bob Brown and Environment Minister Peter Garrett, for a special screening of the film.

Henkel said she hoped the screening would emphasise the importance of documentary film in Australia.

"[With the formation] of the new agency Screen Australia we just want to ensure that documentary has a high profile and is recognised for its importance. Of course we need Australian documentary for our culture but we are also arguing that we have an innovative, growing viable business," Henkel said.

The Burning Season tells the story of three people from different worlds, whose lives intersect in the lead-up to another burning season young Australian entrepreneur Dorjee Sun who wants to establish a cutting-edge carbon trading scheme that effectively re-values forests; an Indonesian farmer Achmadi who burns trees to clear land for growing palm oil; and Danish expatriate Lone Droscher Nielsen who cares for over 600 injured and orphaned orangutans.

"This is a character-based story so we're following three characters and their journeys through last year the various struggles, obstacles and issues that they encountered. It's not issue-based as such but the issues emerge from the characters," Henkel said.

"It's very fast-paced and a bit of a thriller: you don't know what's going to happen next. We also have Hugh Jackman narrating the film and that's because we wanted a storyteller who would get across some of the tough concepts that people need to understand. They need to understand what Dorjee's trying to do and they also need to know the global facts, such as 20 per cent of climate change comes from deforestation."

She said it wasn't a documentary in the style of Michael Moore.
"It's not a polemic and it's not propaganda either. It is a story but it asks the questions of the audience: Do you think carbon trading could save the forests of the world? Do you think Dorjee's onto something? Is he a pioneer of something that could be replicated around the world or do you just think he's a profiteer?"

She said documentary had the power to change people's opinions.
"I can only speak for myself but my life has been changed by seeing documentary films and my attitudes are frequently changed by seeing films. So I do believe that they do change attitudes and that's clearly why we do it. We hope that people will at least think about and discuss important issues that we raise. If it changes even one person, you've made an impact."

Monday, 16 June 2008

Orang-utan plea fails to move panel on palm oil

Orang-utan plea fails to move panel on palm oil

Carmel Egan The Age, Australia
June 15, 2008

A WILDLIFE campaigners' bid to force food manufacturers to list palm oil on product labels has been rejected by federal authorities.

The campaigners blame the expansion of palm oil plantations across Indonesia and Malaysia for rainforest destruction that is pushing orang-utans towards extinction.

They had hoped that manufacturers would be required by law to declare the use of palm oil in their products — including ice cream, biscuits and margarine — but the campaigners' appeal to Food Standards Australia New Zealand was deemed outside the authority's jurisdiction.

Mornington Peninsula mother-of-three Amanda Enright was among those who applied to FSANZ to make palm oil use a labelling requirement.
She was motivated by a desire to "give consumers with ethical, environmental, religious or other reasons the ability to make informed choices and avoid certain foods".

"Today's consumers are largely uninformed as to what's in their food, where it came from or the environmental impact of its production," Ms Enright said.

"This restricts their ability to affect the marketplace in a positive way through their purchasing power. Producers, manufacturers and suppliers are not being held fully accountable for their actions and are therefore able to get away with murder."

But the parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Jan McLucas, has informed Ms Enright her appeal had failed. "FSANZ has advised me that your application cannot be considered further as it is outside the scope of its legal capacity," Ms McLucas wrote just over a week ago.

"Your concern regards an international environmental issue and, as such, does not raise issues relating to the supply, adequacy or safety of food in Australia and New Zealand. Your concerns relating to consumer choice do not extend to the supply, safety or adequacy of food.

High in saturated fats, palm oil has a long shelf life and is used as a binding agent in many supermarket products, including detergent, shampoo, toothpaste, lipstick and paint. It is also used in commercial deep-frying as it has superior crisping qualities and does not taint food flavours.

By law, manufacturers must declare the use of peanut, soy bean and sesame oils under food allergy regulations.

Dairy products identify the source of animal fats and oils.
But there are no such regulations for palm oil, which is believed to constitute up to 10% of the content of Australian processed foods.
People who want to avoid palm oil will have to continue to guess about its possible inclusion in foods based on disclosures about high levels of saturated fats.

If the ingredient list states "vegetable oil" and the nutrition panel shows the item has high levels of saturated fat, then it is likely to contain palm oil.
he objectives of the FSANZ Act do not extend to choices about international environmental issues."

Firm paid billions for illegal logs: Witness

Firm paid billions for illegal logs: Witness

Source: The Jakarta Post - June 14, 2008

PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) paid at least Rp 6.4 billion (US$684,800) to exploit forests using illegal permits issued by Pelalawan Regent Tengku Azmun Jaafar, a court heard Friday.

Hambali, a former official of the Pelalawan forestry office, testified that he and his partner had received money from PT Persada Karya Sejati (PKS), a subsidiary of RAPP that allegedly took over two plots of forest land illegally allocated for their two companies in 2005.

"One of the companies, PT Harapan Jaya, is mine. The regent told me to use the company's name in applying for a forest resource utilization permit he was to issue later," Hambali told the Corruption Court in Jakarta in a trial against the regent.

"RAPP then took over the companies through PKS. We agreed because we didn't have any capital or equipment to cut down the trees. They later paid us with some of the money gained from the exploitation," he said.

Hambali told the court that he and his partner, Budi Surlani, had received a total of Rp 2.8 billion in early installments from Rosman, a general manager at RAPP who is at large, after the takeovers in July 2005.

Hambali said at least Rp 1.5 billion went to Azmun and Rp 600 million to Asral Rahman, head of the Riau forestry office. Azmun has been suspended as Palelawang regent as he stands trial for illegally issuing authorization letters to 15 companies for the utilization of more than 120,000 hectares of forest in Pelalawan, Riau, in 2002 and 2003.

The authorization letters, which gave permission to utilize planted forest resources, were later used to exploit natural forest by the companies. Prosecutors of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said the exploitation of the forest resources by the companies caused a total of Rp 1.2 trillion (US$128 million) in losses to the state.Seven of the companies were established by Azmun's relatives and acquaintances, and none of them met the criteria necessary for forestry enterprises in terms of financial and technical qualifications.

Six of the seven companies belonging to Azmun's relatives and cronies were taken over by PKS/RAPP soon after their authorization letters were issued.Prosecutors said RAPP gained more than Rp 930 billion from the exploitation of forest resources.

Azmun received more than Rp 19 billion from the companies since he issued the letters; while Azmun's brother, Tengku Lukman Jaafar, who was involved in establishing some of the companies in 2001, earned more than Rp 8 billion, the indictment says.A total of Rp 240 million also went to Fredrik Suli and Sudirno, both senior officials with the Riau forestry office, it says.

Presiding judge Kresna Menon adjourned the trial until next Friday to hear testimony from more witnesses. (dre)

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Orangutans could face extinction over next 10 years

So, here we have the Ministry of Forestry acting as the sales office for selling off licences to log forests they should be protecting under the Kinshasha Declaration, trying to convince us of their concern for the orangutan population. I don't buy it.

Then, there is the 'little' matter of orangutans being a protected species, often inhabiting the very same forests. Let us be quite clear about this, if Toni and his boss REALLY wanted to save 3000 orangutans a year they could be doing a a lot better than they have been up to now.

I wonder how this news makes UNEP/GRASP feel?
I wonder if they will issue any kind of statement reminding Indonesia of its moral obligations under the Kinshasha Declaration? I wonder if GRASP will pluck up the courage to say something even mildly critical - maybe even devote more of their time and resources to orangutans?

I have heard some orangutan scientists have been reluctant to speak out for fear of losing their research permits. To which I reply; a) we know the cause of 3000 orangutan deaths every year (it's been happening throughout their period of research) and there's nothing more we need to know that will save any in the future b) carry on with your research and according to this press report you will be out of a job in 10 years.

Well done to Ian Singleton for speaking out. I wonder if any other scientists will express their concern publicly? How about a collective statement of alarm etc from those scientists who make a living out of studying orangutans?

Maybe a similar statement from the zoo world might help - it could do no harm. If this sounds radical, let's hear some other ideas. All we know for certain is: a) whatever has been done in the past has not worked b) 3000 + orangutans are dying/killed every year. Just how much worse does it have to get before we hear GRASP, orangutan scientists, etc. speak out?

It will be up to you and your conscience to decide if you are doing enough to stop it happening during your lifetime. I'm old enough to remember when there were tens of thousands of Indian tigers living out their lives in protected forests etc. Yesterday I read there are about 1500 left. Could orangutans be facing the same fate?

Could you be doing more to help orangutans - they can't help themselves can they? More to the point: will you?


The following extract refers to environmental problems in general. I just hope you find it as thought provoking and relevant to orangutans as I have."This is such a shocking and unpalatable fact that most people deny it, or they just don't want to think about it. They believe as individuals, they can do little about it, so push it to the back of their minds. But I can't do that.When something has to be done, we need to do it. It doesn't matter how big the challenge is or how hard the solution; if I know something is wrong, and I am in a position to help, I will do my best to make it right." Duncan Bannatyne, successful British businessman.

Friday, June 13, 2008 12:36 PM

Orangutans could face extinction over next 10 years

Apriadi Gunawan , The Jakarta Post , Medan Fri, 06/13/2008

The number of orangutans could fall by nearly 50 percent over the next decade due to habitat destruction and human-animal conflicts, according to estimates by the directorate general for forest protection and nature conservation.

The current orangutan population is believed to be 61,234, according to data from the directorate general. Most are found in the forests of Borneo (54,567), with the remainder in Sumatra (6,667).

In Borneo, orangutans are found in East Kalimantan (4,825), Central Kalimantan (31,300), West Kalimantan including the neighboring Malaysian state of Sarawak (7,425) and the Malaysian state of Sabah (11,017).

In Sumatra, orangutans are found in Seulawah (43), West Central Aceh (103), East Central Aceh (337), West Leuser (2,508), Sidiangkat (134), East Leyser (1,042), Tripa Swamp (280), Trumon-Singkil (1,500), East Rawa Singkil (160), West Batang Toru (400) and East Sarulla (150).

The orangutan population in Borneo is facing the greatest risk of decline over the next 10 years, said director of biological diversity conservation at the Forestry Ministry, Toni Suhartono.

He said the rapid pace of forest destruction had attributed to habitat loss each year of between 1.5 and 2 percent in Borneo and between 1 and 1.5 percent in Sumatra.

Toni said habitat loss due to forest destruction was the main cause of the reduction in the numbers of orangutans, compounded by less significant factors such as human-animal conflicts.

The government is very concerned about the reduction in the orangutan population, said Toni.

The government has prepared an action plan to preserve habitat in order to keep the orangutan population and habitat in a stable, or even improved, condition.

Toni said the government would focus on a number of efforts in a bid to save orangutans from the threat of extinction.

The programs, due to be completed by 2017, include conservation education, research on sustainable orangutan conservation, improving cooperation with environmental groups, setting up a forum to monitor enforcement of regulations, arranging a logging schedule in orangutan habitat, issuing a law against mining in habitat areas, law enforcement and patrols against poachers.

"The government aims to have all the conservation programs realized by 2017 so as to ensure a sustainable orangutan population and the protection of its habitat," Toni said during a recent workshop organized at the North Sumatra Natural Resources Center in Medan.

About 100 participants from various agencies, higher learning institutes, NGOs and businesses attended the two-day closed-door seminar.
Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program director, Ian Singleton, who took part in the workshop, expressed doubt the action plans would be achieved by 2017 without effective law enforcement.

According to Singleton, it is essential the Indonesian government include law enforcement in the action plan.

Also necessary, he said, were public awareness campaigns on orangutan conservation and its habitat because many people were still unaware that keeping orangutans as pets was illegal.

"Based on my observations, many orangutans are being kept as pets by certain people, including individuals from the police and military, ironically," Singleton said, adding that of the 120 orangutan confiscations made by authorities, up to 70 percent had involved individuals from the security forces.

Six arrested for illegal logging

Friday, June 13, 2008 Jakarta Post

Six arrested for illegal logging

JAYAPURA: Police in Jayapura, Papua, arrested six employees from two forestry companies for alleged illegal logging outside approved forest concession areas, causing Rp 234 billion (US$24.8 million) in losses to the state.

The chief of detectives at the provincial police headquarters Sr. Comr. Paulus Waterpauw, said in Jayapura on Thursday that six suspects working for PT Kaltim Hutama and PT Centrico were arrested for alleged theft of 13,000 cubic meters of hard wood in Kaimana and Nabire regencies.

"The suspects will be charged with violating the forestry law which carries a maximum 20-year jail sentence," he said, adding that one of the suspects was a regional manager of PT Centrico.

The cases will be processed and brought to court after the case files are completed, he said. --JP

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Orangutan hell

This is one of two young-adult orangutans discovered
by Centre for Orangutan Protection investigators. Both orangutans are held illegally by a businessman. One is named Lupus, a male of about 9 years old, and the other one has been named Lupis - a female estimated to be 14 years old.

Apart from being restrained by heavy chains these orangutans have no protection from either the blisteringly hot sun or torrential rain - it's either one or the other in Borneo.

I am unable to go into more details for the moment, but the authorities are now aware of these orangutans and they will help COP rescue them just as soon as a place can be found for them in a rescue centre. We will update you on this serious situation as soon as we can.