Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Sarawak begins work on new RM3 bil

Sarawak begins work on new RM3 bil dam

Anil Netto Sep 29, 08

Preliminary work on a RM3 billion dam in Murum in Sarawak has again put the spotlight on the governmentʼs controversial scheme to build a string of 12 dams in the next decade to tap cheap electricity in the state.

Its advocates say that the proposed 944MW Murum dam, near the site of the contentious 2,400MW Bakun dam, still under construction, in the upper Rejang basin in central Sarawak will boost job opportunities, diversify sources of electricity generation and draw new investment.But while private firms may benefit from the dam construction work and cheap electricity, critics argue that the human cost, the financial burden and risk to the state and the public, and the environmental cost could be too high.

Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), 65 percent owned by the Sarawak government, officially informed Bursa Malaysia on Sept 2 that the Murum dam project had been awarded to China's Three Gorges Project Corporation, which reportedly submitted the lowest bid among eight companies.

SEB also told the Malaysian stock exchange the same day that a ''detailed environmental impact assessment has been submitted to the relevant authorities for final approval'' - which means that the project was awarded before the final approval of the detailed EIA was obtained.

While the state is using its resources to build the dams, about 1,000 indigenous folk in the Murum Dam catchment area will lose their homeland. Most of these are Penan, amongst the last of the world's hunter-gatherers, living near the Murum, Plieran and Danum rivers and tributaries.

New dam lies in Bakun catchment areaWeng, a Penan, whose longhouse - traditional wooden houses - and ancestral land will be flooded, laments: ''The good things we ask for, they (the government) do not give. We ask for schools, clinics, but till now we have yet to see them.

What we don't want, what is bad for us, that they provide - logging, oil palm plantations, acacia plantations...''The haste to commence work on the dam leaves activists worried that there might not be proper consultation and inadequate work on the resettlement of one of the most marginalised and disenfranchised peoples in the country.

The experience of the problem-ridden Bakun dam, whose reservoir area will cover 695 sq km, is hardly inspiring. The RM8 billion Bakun dam is expected to be completed in June 2010 and start generating power in 2012.

Some 11,000 indigenous people - mainly Kenyah, Kayan, Lahanan, Ukit and Penan - were displaced and just over 9,000 of them were transferred to a resettlement scheme in Asap River from 1997.

A delegation from the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), visiting the area in 2006, found shoddy housing, poor drainage and roads, delays and disputes in the compensation payment.Critics point out that a large portion of the dams' catchment areas has already been degraded by massive plantation developments.

"The whole Bakun catchment is being destroyed by logging and plantation," points out Raymond Abin, programme development officer at the Borneo Resources Institute (Brimas), a group working closely with indigenous communities to monitor environmental and development issues. Forests have been logged to plant oil palm, pulp and wood tree plantations.

Moreover, the Murum dam, just 60km upstream from Bakun, lies in one of the three main catchment areas for Bakun.''Has any work been done on cumulative impacts? How will all this affect the micro-climate or local climate, the hydrological regimes, the animal life of the area, already much devastated by the logging and plantation development?'' asked a Sarawak-based academic, who declined to be named.''Indeed, how will Murum affect Bakun?

Doesn't the public deserve to know the results of these cumulative impact assessments?'' the academic added.Uncertainty over Bakun-generated powerThe plan for the Murum dam comes at a time when uncertainty hangs over what to do with all the electricity to be generated from the 205-metre high Bakun dam.

The original plan was to transmit the electricity via cables under the South China Sea to the peninsula, making it the world's longest undersea electricity transmission. But in 2001, the plan was changed to confine the supply to Sarawak and neighbouring Sabah.

In 2005, however, the government decided it would not be cost effective to transmit electricity to Sabah because of the distance. The cabinet decided the following year to once again channel Bakun's electricity to the peninsula even though the peninsula currently has a comfortable reserve capacity.SEB entered into a ʽheads of agreementʼ this May to supply 3,000MW of electricity to national electricity corporation Tenaga Nasional Bhd in the peninsula from 2017 and another 5,000MW from 2021.

But these plans were thrown into uncertainty after Sime Darby, a government-linked corporation, worried about the plan's viability, pulled out in August from an understanding to lead the laying of RM15 billion undersea cables.

The electricity from the Bakun dam will now be channelled to the aluminium smelter plants until the Murum dam is ready, the Sarawak Energy managing director said in June. If and when the submarine cables are laid in the South China Sea, the electricity from Bakun would then be channelled to the peninsula.Tomorrow: Murum dam - Public funds for corporate profit?

Palm oil company behind 10,000 villagers being evicted.

The StarOnline, Malaysia

10,000 villagers ignore eviction notices

By : Sulok Tawie

KUCHING: About 10,000 villagers in Bekenu, Bintulu Division, have been ordered out of the homes they had been staying for generations.

The villagers in 13 communities were issued eviction notices by an oil palm plantation company.

Although the eviction notices expired yesterday, the villagers have vowed to stay on.

Local dailies reported that the villages had been in existence since 1910. Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Datuk Seri Awang Tengah Ali Hasan was shocked when informed of the eviction order yesterday.

"Are you sure about that? "Who issued the notices and when are they supposed to move out?" he asked reporters who approached him after he had handed land titles to villagers of Kampung Tanjong Poting and Kampung Tanjung Senibong in Bau district, about 60km from here, yesterday.

He said evicting such a large number of people would require the state government's approval. He said moving a large number of people required proper planning and finding alternative suitable places to resettle them.

The affected villages are Kampung Batu Satu, Kampung Butir, Kampung Kejapil, Kampung Keluru Tengah, Kampung Keluru Jaya, Kampung Subak, Kampung Sepurau, Kampung Selangau, Kampung Opak, Kampung Tusan, Kampung Uban, Kampung Terahad and Kampung Beraya. A community leader, Penghulu Sahar Puasa, led a peaceful demonstration in Bekenu recently, saying that they would stay put on the land they and their forefathers had occupied since 1910.

Penghulu Sahar said they had raised the matter with the Bintulu Land and Survey Office and were told that the oil palm company had been issued with a probationary lease to develop the land. On the matter of renewal of agricultural land leases in Sibu, which had caused an uproar among owners, Awang Tengah said the premium rate was set at 25 per cent on current value to "encourage the owners to develop the land".

Landowners had complained that they were asked to pay up to RM90,000 in premium to renew leases.Awang Tengah said a flat RM10,000 premium was imposed on developed urban agricultural land and a flat rate of RM5,000 was imposed on semi-urban agricultural land.

Earlier, in his speech at the handing-over ceremony for the land titles, he warned the people that the Land and Survey Office would not survey their Native Customary Right (NCR) land if there were disputes over ownership.He said they had to settle minor issues among themselves before asking the office to survey their land.A total of 385 land titles were issued to the villagers.

Taib family's CMS to benefit from dam

Taib family's CMS to benefit from dam

- Malaysiakini.com Anil Netto Sep 30, 08

Who will foot the bill for the resettlement of those affected by the new RM3 billion Murum dam?

''Is it Sarawak Energy (Berhad) or will it be passed on directly to the state government and hence the taxpayer,'' asked one Sarawak-based activist, who declined to be identified.In the case of Bakun, the mega-dam in central Sarawak which is still under construction, compensation to indigenous people and resettlement cost the Sarawak and federal governments over RM876 million.

''But there are still Bakun residents who have not received compensation even though they left the Bakun area 10 years ago,'' noted the auditor-general in his 2007 annual report.Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), which is 65 percent owned by the Sarawak state government, will fund the Murum dam.

It was reported in June that SEB would issue bonds to finance the project.SEB has been in negotiations with infrastructure firm Cahaya Mata Sarawak (CMS) and the multinational Rio Tinto Alcan to supply 900-1,200MW of electricity to power a huge smelter. A power purchase agreement was supposed to have been signed by Aug 31, and there has been no news since.

Both CMS and Rio Tinto are in a consortium, the Sarawak Aluminium Company (Salco), to build the US$2 billion aluminium smelter with an initial annual capacity of 550,000 tonnes, which could later be expanded to 1.5 million tonnes.

The smelter is located in the Similajau area of Sarawak, not far from the proposed Murum and Bakun dams.Rio Tinto Alcan, which has a 60 percent stake in Salco, owns bauxite mines, alumina refineries and aluminium smelters around the world.

CMS, a listed infrastructure firm controlled by Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud's family, is a major producer and supplier of steel, cement and other construction materials in the state.

Taib (photo, far left) has been chief minister of Sarawak for more than 25 years.According to the firm's 2007 annual report, the substantial shareholders of CMS are the chief minister's daughters, Jamilah Hamidah and Hanifah Hajar, son-in-law Syed Ahmad Alwee Alsree, and family concern Majaharta Sdn Bhd, each with a 14 percent stake.

Taib's wife Lejla has an 11 percent stake while sons, Sulaiman Abdul Rahman and Mahmud Abu Bekir, own 9 percent each.Taib's brother-in-law, Aziz Husain, on the other hand, happens to be managing director of SEB.Why the need of so many dams?

Sarawak plans to lure such energy-hungry industries by providing an abundant supply of cheap electricity within the 320-km long Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score), an economic development region, managed by the state, where abundant power would be supplied to energy-intensive private industries.

Score, launched by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in February 2008, aims to tap into the state's 20,000MW hydropower potential by building even more dams in the longer term.Sarawak's current installed capacity is just 980MW, adequate for its current needs of about 750MW, but it aims to expand its hydro capacity to 7,000MW or more over the next decade by building a string of 12 dams along the various rivers in the state.

While smelters could create jobs and contribute to GDP, the funding for the dams required to supply cheap electricity will have to be raised by the state or borrowed from public pension funds (as in the case of Bakun).And while indigenous communities are displaced, many foreign workers will have to be brought in for the construction of the dams.

And then there are theenvironmental costs.''Will that justify building Murum at a probable estimated cost of RM3 billion, with likely cost overruns to RM5 billion?'' asked a Sarawak-based academic, who declined to be identified.

In the case of Bakun, ''cost over-runs of RM708 million were approved by the Finance Ministry even though the contract was for a fixed lump sum with all risks to be borne by the main contractor (a consortium of private Malaysian companies and China interests),'' chided the auditor-general in his report.Sarawak Hidro, the Bakun dam developer, has outstanding borrowings (as at end-2007) of RM3.4 billion.

It had received RM3 billion from a state-managed workers' pension fund, the Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) in 2007, and RM400 million from a state-owned pension trust fund in 2002.The EPF loan is guaranteed by the federal government.

The federal government had also allocated RM1.8 billion for the project between 1997 and 2004. Sarawak Hidro has already spent RM4 billion on the project.Natives: Better bomb us nowSo is Murum really necessary?''For energy needs in Sarawak, we don't need the Murum, because Bakun is more than enough to supply the state's needs,'' says Raymond Abin of the Borneo Resource Institute (Brimas).

''Of course, (much of) this will not go to the really rural areas but will supply industry's needs.""The impression among many sceptics is that these are all self-serving projects," said another senior academic in a Sarawak-based university, carefully weighing his words while requesting anonymity.

All these funds are not helping the most affected communities like the Penan.''This is not development for the Penan. This is not assisting the Penan,'' says Weng, a Penan whose home will be submerged. ''This is killing the Penan. As our old headman said before, better bomb us now than 'kill' us slowly!''

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Palm oil victims caught on camera

Several short video films made by the Centre for Orangutan Protection can be viewed by clicking on:


Although the commentary/written word is largely not in the English language, the images will tell their own story.


Palm oil - is there a more environmentally destructive industry?

Sunday September 28, 2008

Villagers see red over eviction order

MIRI: Some 10,000 villagers from 13 Kedayan-Malay villages in northern Sarawak are up in arms over a move to evict them from their century-old settlements.

They received the eviction notices from the Land and Survey Department recently asking them to move out by tomorrow.

The villages are located some 40km south of Miri City, along the Sarawak Second Coastal Highway near the Miri-Bintulu division boundary.
Yesterday, scores of villagers staged a demonstration by the road to tell motorists about their plight.

They unfurled banners and placards denouncing the eviction. The crowd grew as passers-by joined in the protest.

Two elderly Kedayan chieftains, Penghulu Sahar Pusha and Bengkil Bangkol, joined in the demonstration.

“This move to evict us is a huge shock. We have been living in these villages since 1910.

“We were told that they have plans to build a sawmill and develop oil palm plantations. We were informed that 1,800ha of our land had already been allocated for a sawmill.

“Where are we to go? This is our ancestral home. We have been here for almost 100 years,” said Sahar.

Bengkil claimed that the developer had already cleared four cemeteries to build access roads.

“We have sought urgent meetings with the relevant authorities to help us. We recently met Miri Land and Survey Department officials but they told us we have no right over the land because we only have provisional leases.

“We protested saying that we have native customary rights because our ancestors have been there since 1910 but they refuse to withdraw the eviction notices,” said Bengkil.

The villagers are now appealing to Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to intervene and stop the eviction.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Orangutans are good news for WWF's balance sheet.

25 + years, tens of millions of pounds of donors money spent, and numerically speaking not a single tiger saved - but when did inconvenient facts like this ever prevent WWF asking for more money to waste on salaries, reports, travel, etc? Thousands of tigers have been killed during WWF's massive Save the Tiger Campaign.

And now, never an organisation to miss out on a good money-earner WWF is continuing to encourage people to adopt orangutans as well as tigers. How many orangutans have WWF saved with their campaign so far? How much of donors money do they pay their advertising agency? WWF raises over £500,000 a year in the UK alone from their orangutan adoption project....but where does the bulk of this money end up - and how many orangutans does it save each year?

WWF highlights adoption schemes

Marketing Week 25-Sep-08

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is launching an integrated autumn campaign to raise awareness of the charity's wild-animal adoption programmes.

The campaign, created by Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw and media planning agency Trinity Communications, will see ads showing footage of animals in the wild being broadcast during daytime programming on digital channels ITV2, ITV3, Cartoon Network and selected music channels.

The charity will also use rich media online for the first time, broadcasting live footage of animals in the wild, in a bid to broaden their audiences and appeal to a fresh market.

The campaign will encourage new supporters to adopt an orangutan or a tiger and will carry the message "What Will You Do When I'm Gone?" to highlight the potential extinction of the species.

WWF says it is doubling its investment in "acquisition marketing" for the campaign, a move away from its traditional use of direct mail for fundraising.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Palm oil / Malaysian businessmen and orangutans - a recipe for ecological disaster.

I appreciate most people will not be familiar with a city called Pontianak, in the northwest corner of Borneo and close to the border with Sarawak. Pontianak is where any number of wild caught orangutans remain illegally trapped in terrible cages - many photos of which appear in this Blog. Local so-called conservationists refuse to help them, as do larger groups like WWF, FFI, UsAid, Nature Conservancy. In fact it's easier to say who is still trying to help all these illegally caged orangutans: Nature Alert and with the support of Orangutan Appeal UK - the Centre for Orangutan Protection is active within Indonesia.

What follows is a current media article about Pontianak. It is a place I have come to know quite well!

September 26, 2008 10:56 AM

Experience Shadowless Sun At 'Equatorial City'

By Amrizan Madian
PONTIANAK, Sept 26 (Bernama) - Located on the Equatorial line at 0'0 N, 109'20 E, Pontianak which is also known as the Equatorial City has unique attractions for visitors to the capital of West Kalimantan.

To reach Pontianak, travelling on land from Kuching takes some eight hours while a flight from the state capital of Sarawak is only about 30 minutes.

Jakarta is an hour's flight away from Pontianak. Spread over an area of 107.2 square km, Pontianak has a population of close to one million, the majority of which is Malay Muslims (65 per cent) while the rest are Chinese, Dayak and other ethnic groups.

The founder of this 237-year old city is Syarif Abdurrahman Al-Qadri, who is of Arab descent.LEGEND OF PONTIANAKIt is believed that the name Pontianak, which means vampire in the Malay folklore, originated from the legend when Syarif Abdurrahman encountered this ghoul when he sailed along Sungai Kapuas, which at 1,143 km long, is the longest river in Indonesia.

According to the legend, Syarif Abdurrahman had to fire his cannon to chase the vampire away, and he also decreed that the spot where the cannon ball fell was the place where he would start his sultanate. Hence, the cannon ball went over the spot where Sungai Kapuas meets Sungai Landak, a place now known as Beting Kampung Dalam Bugis Pontianak Timur or Pontianak.

Today, the era of modernisation has swept through Pontianak and turned it into a city choked with commercial centres and modern buildings as well as shopping complexes and hotels.Sudio Subandi, a bank employee here, told Bernama that Pontianak is the economic nerve centre for West Kalimantan.

"All major economic activities are conducted in Pontianak and for a long time, the city has become the nerve centre for all activities, after Jakarta," he said.EQUATORIAL MONUMENTHe said foreign tourists from Sarawak in Malaysia are regular visitors to this city, apart from those who fly in from Jakarta and other Indonesian provinces.

A key attraction in Pontianak is the Equatorial Monument that became the city's iconic attraction since 1928, that splits Pontianak into two.A Dutch geographer erected this monument in 1928 and 10 years later it was refurbished by Indonesian architect Sylaban.

A spectacular phenomenon happens at the Equatorial Monument twice a year, the Vernal Equinox on March 21-23 and the Autumnal Equinox on September 21-23.Known as the phenomenon of the shadowless sun, during these times, everything on the location around the zero point will cast no shadow on the ground for at least five to 10 minutes.

"On March 21-23 and Sept 21-23, every upright structure like a pole at the Equatorial Monument would have no shadow for between five and 10 minutes", said a souvenir stall operator at this site.

TOURISM ATTRACTIONS. Among the tourism attractions in Pontianak is pusat wisata, which is a nursery for planting the aloe vera plant, located at Jalan Budi Utomo. Here, tourists can have a closer view on how aloe vera, which originated from the Canary Isles, North Africa, is cultivated.

Pontianak is considered ideal for the growing of aloe vera as it gets more sunlight in a year compared to other areas in Indonesia. Meanwhile, Pontianak is the favourite destination of Malaysians, particularly those from Sarawak, who wish to experience West Kalimantan's mini Jakarta.

A visit to Pontianak is considered incomplete without dropping in on the shopping havens at Jalan Jen Sudirman, Ayani Mega Mall as well as the traditional markets at Pasar Flamboyan at Jalan Gajahmada, Pasar Dahlia at Jalan H.Rais A.Rachman and Pasar Mawar at Jalan Wolter Monginsidi.

EDUCATION CENTREPontianak boasts the presence of Universiti Tangjungpura (UNTAN) which has a student population of some 15,000.UNTAN Assistant Rector, Prof Dr Saeri Sagi, said the university has eight faculties comprising that on law, economics, education, technical, political science, agriculture, mathematics and medicine.

Bambang Hermanseh, a political science undergraduate at UNTAN, said he is honoured to study at the university despite coming from a remote village in Sambas district.

"In Indonesia, it means a lot when given the opportunity to pursue an education, what more if it is at university level, just like the Equinox at the Equatorial City," said Bambang.He hopes that more universities would be set up in Pontianak as the increasing number of students here applying for tertiary-level education is on the rise. Otherwise, these students may have to seek their tertiary education in Jakarta.

INVESTMENTS. According to Malaysian Consul in West Kalimantan, Zaini M. Basri, the cordial relations between Sarawak and West Kalimantan paves the way for more investments for both Malaysia and Indonesia.

He said many Malaysian investors came to West Kalimantan to expand their operations particularly in the oil palm and coal-mining sectors.

Among the plus factors that draw Malaysian investors here is the cheap labour as well as vast land areas ideal for plantation operations.

"There are some Malaysian companies carrying out joint venture projects with the local investors since several years ago with their turnovers for last year reaching RM2 billion," he said.

Zaini said 4.5 million hectares of land in this province is being turned into oil palm estates and he expressed confidence that more Malaysian investors would take the opportunity to invest in West Kalimantan.-- BERNAMA

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Malaysian Investors To Open Oil-palm Plantations In Papua

Whilst there are no orangutans in Papua, there are fabulous rainforests full of wildlife and countless species yet to be discovered. So, we can see below, as the Malaysian government and palm oil companies spend a fortune on dining and wining EC and British government officials, telling them that Malaysia is protecting the environment, all the time these same people are doing deals that actually destroy the environment.

September 25, 2008 10:12 AM

Malaysian Investors To Open Oil-palm Plantations In Papua

JAYAPURA, Sept 25 (Bernama) -- A number of Malaysian joint ventures recently sent their experts to Nabire in the eastern Indonesian province of Papua, to study the potentials of the region for development of oil-palm plantations.

The chairman of the Nabire district legislative assembly, Daniel Butu, confirmed here on Wednesday that the investors planned to develop a large-scale plantation.

Quoting Antara news agency, the experts have also come to study the possibility of setting up a factory in the region to process crude palmoil into finished products.

Butu said the district assembly members welcomed the plan hoping that it would create employment and opportunities for the people in the region to improve their welfare.

He said no memorandum of understanding had been signed so far because the results of the study still had yet to be presented to the district head and the assembly.

"The distric legislative assembly supports any company wishing to develop the people of Nabire including the Malaysian companies," he said.He said he hoped however that the companies would not only set up plants for crude process like several domestic and foreign companies that had developed oil palm plantations in Papua and West Papua.

"We hope these investors would also set up factories that would process the raw materials into finished products such as soap, cooking oil and other cosmetic materials," he added.According to data, since 1980/1981 PT Perkebunan Nusantara II Tanjung Morawa, North Sumatra, had developed thousands of hectares of oilpalm plantations in Arso in the regency of Keerom and in Prafi in the regency of Manokwari in West Papua.

PT Sinar Mas Group meanwhile has since 1994/1995 developed thousands of hectares of oilplam plantations in Taja in the Kaureh District and in some areas in the Unurmguay District in the regency of Jayapura.PT Korindo Group have also developed thousands of hectares of oilpalm plantations since 1997/1998 in the Asiki District in the of Merauke Regency.

These companies only set up plants to process crude palmoil and to ship it to factories in Sulawesi, Java and Sumatra to be further processed into products like cooking oil and other cosmetic materials.Two Malaysian companies have since January this year developed oilpalm plantations in Bewani, in the East Arso District in the Keeromg regency bordering with Papua New Guinea while another one is just begining to develop an oilpalm plantation in the Unurumguay District in the Jayapura regency.-- BERNAMA

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Visiting Borneo

In response to the many requests I receive for details of how to visit some of the locations seen on my Blog I thought this new web site may well be of interest. http://www.wowborneo.com/

Although I do know both owners and I am familiar with some of the locations they take people to see, I have no commercial interest in their company and I have not taken one of their trips. That said, I do admire what they have achieved and I wish them every success. If local Indonesian people can see foreigners coming to visit and experience their natural world, they will be much more likely to respect and protect it.

Friends of the Earth Rejects Forest Stewardship Council


Friends of the Earth Rejects Forest Stewardship Council

- Major victory for Ecological Internet's campaign to end ancient forest logging as key response to climate and biodiversity crises

September 23, 2008
By Earth's Newsdesk, a project of Ecological Internet http://www.ecoearth.info/newsdesk/
Dr. Glen Barry, +1 (920) 664-1965,

(Earth) -- Friends of the Earth (FoE) is the first major international NGO to confirm they no longer support Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, which falsely suggests primary and old-growth forest logging is desirable and even sustainable. This is a major victory for those including Ecological Internet (EI) and FSC-Watch[1] who have courageously taken on large environmental interests using FSC to greenwash ancient forest destruction.

FoE pioneered timber certification during the 1980s and was one of FSC's founders, but FoE International in Amsterdam has confirmed that it is now "reviewing" its membership of the organization. FoE UK announced on their website[2] they are "deeply concerned by the number of FSC certifications that are now sparking controversy and threatening the credibility of the scheme. We cannot support a scheme that fails to guarantee high environmental and social standards. As a result we can no longer recommend the FSC standard."

"FoE is to be commended for their courage in admitting all forest certification schemes including FSC are failing forests, climate and peoples globally. FSC plantation and ancient forest logging standards have been shown to be a fraud -- business as usual forest destruction. We welcome reports that other European NGOs may follow FoE's lead, and demand that Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace and WWF stop their stonewalling and follow suit, or face escalating disruptive protests" warns Dr. Glen Barry, Ecological Internet's President.

EI has long sought protection for all the Earth's remaining primary and old-growth forests. These efforts were stymied by large environmental bureaucracies falsely suggesting cutting carbon and species rich, centuries old trees is an environmental good. It became obvious the world's forests could only be protected, and global ecological sustainability achieved, if groups supporting FSC were confronted. Our protest campaign launched last year, assisted by recent overwhelming ecological science showing old-growth forests continue to store and remove carbon and are essential to fighting climate change[3].

More Information:
[1] For more information see http://www.fsc-watch.org/ [2] See their statement at:
[3] See earlier EI release at:


Dr. Glen Barry is a global spokesperson on behalf of global environmental sustainability policy. Ecological Internet provides the world's leading climate and environment portals at http://www.climateark.org/ and http://www.ecoearth.info/ Dr. Barry frequently conducts interviews on the latest climate, forest and water policy developments and can be reached at: glenbarry@ecologicalinternet.org, +1 (920) 664- 1965.

Indonesia's anti-corruption heroes

Southeast Asia Times
Sep 23, 2008

Indonesia's anti-corruption heroes
Megawati Wijaya JAKARTA -

Indonesia's anti-corruption drive has seen unprecedented numbers of politicians and high-ranking government officials convicted in recent months.

The resurgent Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has transfixed the nation's public as it aggressively pursues powerful political figures, and even plans to take on the House of Representatives.

The man behind the anti-graft campaign, KPK chairman Antasari Azhar, has in the past eight months overseen arrests on corruption charges of five members of parliament, a former national police chief and ambassador to Malaysia, a senior government prosecutor, and three central bank officials, including the governor.

Several of those suspects have already been convicted in the KPK's special Corrupt Crimes Court (CCC). Others could soon be behind bars. Former senior Foreign Ministry official and ambassador to Singapore, Slamet Hidayat, is standing trial for allegedly embezzling Rp 8.4 billion (US$900,000) from an embassy fund earmarked for renovating facilities and housing.

Current ambassador to the US and former Foreign Ministry secretary-general Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat has been called as a witness and local press reports indicate he may be indicted as a suspect.

Endemic corruption has long dragged on Indonesia's economic development and taken a heavy toll on foreign investor confidence. Indonesia ranked 143 out of 179 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2007 Corruption Perception Index, while the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy ranked Indonesia third, trailing only the Philippines and Thailand in a survey of Asia's most corrupt economies.

Indonesia slipped two spots down to 129 in the World Bank's most recent "ease of doing business" survey. The quasi-independent KPK was established in late 2003 and tasked with restoring investor confidence in the rule of law by cleaning up the country's notoriously rampant graft levels.

The 550-member body, which boasts 30 police, 25 prosecutors, 50 investigators and a special court, has unusually wide-ranging powers, ranging from naming corruption suspects, making arrests and summoning political office holders and high-ranking officials to testify in cases.

The KPK also has the authority to take over cases that have stalled with the police or state prosecutor's office and can ask the president to suspend officials under investigation to facilitate prosecution and access their personal bank accounts.

Under Azhar's nine-month tenure, the KPK has captured the national imagination through its pursuit of some of the country's most powerful political figures. Since December, the body has recovered over Rp 400 billion of pilfered state funds.

Last month it even launched a preliminary investigation into the judiciary's alleged misuse of court fees. Since its inception in 2004, the CCC has reached verdicts quicker and with a higher conviction rate and longer sentences than the normal court system, which is known among investors for is meandering ways and susceptibility to corruption and political interference.

Politics of corruption. At the same time, the KPK's intensified prosecutions have coincided with a dip in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's popularity ahead of next year's parliamentary and presidential elections.

Perceived endemic official corruption ranks among voters' top gripes, according to opinion polls. Azhar is well known for his strong independent streak and plays up his drive for greater official transparency and justice with flair. During a recent presentation at Indonesia's embassy in Singapore, he proudly announced his Rp 62 million annual salary - before 35% government taxes are paid, he reminded the audience.

Under Azhar's predecessor, Taufiequrachman Ruki, the KPK came under heavy criticism for being understaffed, underfinanced and disproportionately netting opposition politicians when it did act.

For instance, the 2007 arrest and imprisonment of Widjanakaro Puspoyo, chairman of the National Logistic Agency (Bulog), on corruption charges led to opposition recriminations of a political witch-hunt. Puspoyo was a card-carrying member of the main opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the day after he was charged he was replaced by Mustafa Abu Bakar, a prominent member of the military-linked Golkar party, which is now strongly represented inside Yudhoyono's ruling coalition.

Similar protests were lodged last year when the KPK detained Suwarna Abdul Fatah, a PDI-P politician and governor of East Kalimantan, for allegedly illegally granting a land-concession permit to a private company to clear more than a million hectares of state land for an oil-palm project.

The PDI-P-led opposition claimed his detention while still on trial represented a double standard, as Golkar politician, Nurdin Halid, was left free during his KPK-led trial on charges of misappropriating funds. Azhar's stewardship, too, has been dogged by controversy, particularly for its investigative and prosecutorial methods.

The KPK has used evidence collected from wire-tapping telephones, which is legally permissible under the 2002 KPK law, to make certain high profile arrests. These include the charges successfully brought against former Attorney General Urip Tri Gunawan, who was caught on the telephone accepting $660,000 in bribes from a businesswoman attempting to end an investigation into a misappropriation of Bank Indonesia (BI) liquidity support funds.

According to case documents, Gunawan told the businesswoman on the phone that a decision in BI's favor was secured, and that his verdict would say, "After investigating for so long, there is no evidence of any violations of the law."

Gunawan was sentenced on September 4 to a 20-year jail term, while the businesswoman received five years behind bars. Now the KPK has hinted it might widen the bribery case investigation to include attorney general office investigators.

Other criticism has surrounded the KPK's use of humiliation tactics against corruption suspects, including a requirement they wear a special prisoner uniform and have their hands cuffed during prosecution or when appearing in KPK courts.

The purpose of the garb, Azhar says, is to uphold accepted norms of "equality before the law" and supporters of the policy hope the public loss of face will deter other potential corruptors. Critics meanwhile say the dress code violates universal innocent until proven guilty standards.

Deep-seated rot. In an interview with Asia Times Online, Azhar brushed the criticisms aside, arguing that he is fighting to uproot a deep-seated culture of corruption. The KPK is now working to establish regional CCCs that will allow for faster investigations and prosecutions at the provincial level.

Currently, provincial corruption cases are handled either through the Jakarta court or non-specialized regional courts, Azhar said. He also said the KPK plans to launch a national public awareness campaign aimed at educating the public about what constitutes corruption, its impacts, and the possible punishments for complicity.

The KPK currently works with anti-corruption bodies in 114 different countries to share information and ways to fight against graft, according to Azhar. After launching investigations into the Finance, Home Affairs, Foreign, Agriculture and Forestry ministries, state-owned television station TVRI and the state-run postal service, the KPK has recently turned its investigative attentions towards the powerful House of Representatives.

In that direction, KPK acting secretary-general Syamsa Adi Sasmita was present at a national budget discussion meeting in parliament last month. The KPK's parliamentary scrutiny is exceptional considering the quasi-independent body's chairman is currently selected by parliament. And there are indications that lawmakers aim to rein in the KPK's powers as more politicians both inside and outside the ruling coalition come under scrutiny.

The House Honorary Council's deputy chairman Gayus Lumbun recently said that the parliamentary commission that oversees laws and human rights would enforce strict controls in monitoring the KPK's work mechanisms, including its use of phone-tapping.

In April the local press reported that a House commission warned the KPK against "criminalizing" lawmakers and in a closed-door meeting the agency's leaders were asked to explain the KPK's recent arrests of legislators implicated in corruption cases.

The arrests, they complained, were too publicly visible, involving in certain instances car chases and entrapment schemes in front of the media, according to the reports. "Why must the KPK go after the legislator and not members of the executive power?" asked commission chairman and PDI-P politician Trimedya Panjaitan, according to news reports.

"The arrests can be misleading to the general public who doesn't understand law and might think the House is full of criminals." More significantly, Yudhoyono's cabinet last month introduced a provisional bill to the House aimed at outlining the CCC's future mandate but which some legal experts fear will compromise the court's future independence and the sustainability of the KPK's current vigorous anti-corruption drive.

In particular, ministers introduced language which would make the chief justice of the Supreme Court ultimately responsible for appointing the CCC's judges and abandon the practice of using ad hoc judges, which have so far shown greater independence than career judges.

In response to a legal challenge to the KPK's constitutionality, a recent Constitution Court decision required that parliament must pass a new stand-alone law on the CCC by December 2009.

Judicial review Previously a director at South Jakarta's Attorney General's Office, Azhar has run up against several ex-colleagues in his investigations. He emphasized during his interview with ATol that the KPK does not compete with the police or the attorney general's office, but rather "acts as a trigger for other bodies to fight corruption in the country".

Nonetheless, critics contend that the KPK has at times been selective in its prosecutions and has intentionally let influential corruptors walk free. National University of Singapore sociology associate professor and Indonesian political commentator Vedi Hadiz notes for example that former president Suharto and his famously graft-ridden cronies have oddly eluded KPK trial and conviction.

The KPK also showed what some viewed as a lack of impartiality when it failed to prosecute two members of Yudhoyono's cabinet - National Development Planning Minister Paskah Suzetta and Forestry Minister Malem Sambat Kaban - who also allegedly took bribes in the BI case. Yudhoyono held a controversial closed meeting with the two ministers after they were first implicated and the KPK later cited lack of evidence for letting them off the hook.

At the recent trial of former BI governor Burhanuddin Abdullah, two former deputy governors, Aulia Pohan and Anwar Nasution, were also implicated, with a former staff member at the BI's communication bureau, Asnar Ashari, testifying before the CCC that Rp 31.5 billion disbursements were made to members of the House of Representatives' Financial Commission with Pohan's consent.

Nasution was alleged to have ordered the destruction of documents concerning BI fund embezzlement. Both have denied the charges and neither were formally made suspects in the case. Critics note that Aulia is the father-in-law of Yudhoyono's eldest son, Agus Yudhoyono, while Anwar is now head of the powerful government Audit Board.

Azhar said that once a case is opened, the KPK cannot by law stop its investigations. "KPK is still looking for evidence. The cases will be wound up eventually if can find enough evidence," he said, referring to the two officials. The KPK's latest test comes with the recent discovery of 400 travelers checks worth a total of Rp20 trillion which were allegedly received by a number of House members over a five year period spanning 1999-2004.

Flagged by whistle-blower Agus Condro, a House representative with the opposition PDI-P, the checks are allegedly linked to the election of Miranda Gultom as BI senior deputy governor in June 2004. Alleging that he was not the only lawmaker to receive money to vote for Gultom, Condro has implicated several other PDI-P members and has since been removed from the House and the party's list of candidates for next year's legislative election.

Azhar told ATol that the KPK will soon open investigations into the senders, receivers and motives behind the checks. "The KPK knows what it has to do," said Azhar. "We are working hard to create a clean government that all Indonesians can be proud of."

Saving peat forests

Tuesday September 23, 2008

Saving peat forests


Peat forests are worth more as they are, than chopped down.

BY nature it is waterlogged. So, when humans try to alter its traits, the system bites back. As though furious with the violation, the land combusts, sending out sporadic fires which foul the air with smoke.

And these spats have been occurring for the past decade with ad hoc solutions that only stop the symptoms but do not address the root causes. This is the seemingly never-ending plight of the highly fragmented peat swamp forests in Selangor, where rapid development comes with the pressure to venture into areas that are highly sensitive to human disturbance.

Not that there is lack of recognition of the socio-ecological value of this semi-submerged ecosystem.

Global Environment Centre director Faizal Parish and Selangor state executive councillor Elizabeth Wong inspecting the degraded peatland in Kampong Johan Setia near Klang that was encroached upon and improperly used, causing periodic peat fires.

More than a decade ago, the importance of peat swamp was already recognised. A four-year assessment project (1996-2000) produced the Integrated Manage­ment Plan for the North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest (NSPSF) 2001-2010, arguably the largest peat forest in the state at 72,444ha.

This large tract of forest in the north-western part of Selangor was not gazetted until 1990 following the recommendation of the World Bank-funded North-west Selangor Integrated Agricultural Development Project completed in 1983. It called for the protection of the forest which is a vital water source for the Tanjung Karang granary.

Prior to that, the Raja Musa and Sg Karang Forest Reserves forming the NSPSF were extensively logged, leaving only 1% of the area covered with high density forest. Despite its depleted condition, the four-year assessment found it to contain sufficient composition of seedlings, saplings and small trees aiding its recovery.

Ensuing oil palm plantation have contributed to further degradation and fire risk by its network of canals to drain the peat for planting.

The burning of peat soil is a common practice. It is done as a cheap means to fertilise acidic soil before planting. However, such practices are illegal and harmful to the environment and public health.

Other smaller peat swamps scattered south of the state are in no better shape. Take the frequent fires in Kampung Johan Setia near Klang and the recent fire along a 3km stretch of the Elite Highway at Dengkil that added to the smoky plumes drifting across from Sumatra, for example. These peatlands were cleared for agricultural purposes and deliberately torched to improve soil fertility.

“Burning the cleared land is the cheapest way to enrich the acidic soil for cultivation. It also helps in clearing the land of debris from logging,” says Faizal Parish, pointing to the heaps of branches, twigs and stumps dotting the parched landscape on the 658ha land sandwiched between the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve and the Paya Indah Wetland Sanctuary that was cleared by the Pertubuhan Peladang Negeri Selangor (PPNS) purportedly for cultivating honeydew melon and starfruit.

The director of Global Environ­ment Centre (GEC) has been highlighting the fire hazards and his organisation is the technical and operational support agency for the Asean Peatland Management Initiative, a project under the Asean Agreement on Trans­boundary Haze Pollution signed by member states in 2002.

NSPSF was picked as a pilot site to demonstrate sound management but actions on the ground are making little progress. Thus far, efforts to block the 500km abandoned canals have been hampered by the lack of political will and fund. After all the prolonged delays, the fund is expected to be disbursed end of this year.

There is a chance that the problem can be resolved if the state government pays heed to land use policies and the heightened awareness that peat forests are worth more standing than chopped down.

Over the years, the remaining stands of peatland on the west coast has been shrinking: the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve has shrunk from its original 10,500ha to its present 1,265ha; the Kuala Langat South Forest Reserve has diminished from 11,663ha to 2,053ha.

Although degraded, the Raja Musa (23,410ha) and Sg Karang Forest Reserves (49,034ha) are the largest chunks of peat swamp that stand a good chance of rehabilitation and preservation for posterity.

In a show of commitment to protect the sensitive peat swamps, Selangor environment executive councillor Elizabeth Wong threw her support behind the Depart­ment of Environment to drag PPNS to court €“ a rare action that aims to send a strong signal to would-be offenders.

Following the discovery of the encroachment in the NSPSF, the Government has taken a strong stance in evicting illegal settlers in the south-east corner of the Raja Musa Forest Reserve. Village committees at Kampung Johan Setia were mobilised to patrol the 1,183ha degraded peatland from further illegal activities. The state is currently mapping the boundaries of the Temporary Occupancy Land to identify the title holders in a bid to hold them accountable for their respective plots.

In fact, Wong has also expressed interest to re-gazette peatlands that were excised from forest reserves during the previous administration and sort out land ownership issues to secure these fragile yet vital ecosystem.
“Environmentally sensitive areas like peat swamp need to be preserved. There is other state land that can be developed. If we manage our peat swamp properly we could increase its economic value in the near future,” she adds.

Conservationists have noted that recommendations in existing Structural and Local Plans for development on peat need to be reviewed in light of emerging knowledge of peatland ecological sensitivities and functions.
Faizal is encouraged by the state’s enthusiasm and is optimistic that restoration plan for peat swamps in Selangor will finally be implemented.
“For some time now, we had been looking at rehabilitating burnt and drained areas but very little was achieved.

Now, the state government has asked us to extend the Asean Peatland Management Initiative project to the degraded south-east area outside the reserve which is a former tin mine.

“Rehabilitation to prevent fire and haze will benefit the state in the short term and in the long run it will gain from the growing recognition of peat swamp as a carbon sink to combat global warming,” he enthuses.
He suggests allowing the forest reserves to regenerate over the next 30 years as it doesn’t make any economic sense to develop plantation or township due to the high fire risks. In the meantime, the state could explore funding sources like selling carbon credits in the voluntary carbon trading market.

Studies have shown that disturbed peat swamp in Indonesia and Malaysia would continue to emit carbon dioxide (a global warming gas) for the next 285 years even if clearing is stopped.

Drainage of peatlands leads to aeration and decomposition of the peat material and hence to oxidation that triggers CO2 emission.
Wong discloses that GEC is assisting the state in developing a management plan that includes blocking the canals to prevent further peat loss and reforestation.

Raja Petra to be detained 2yrs under ISA (updated)

This is how the government of Malaysia reacts to criticism. Do you want palm oil that comes from such a country added to your food? I mean, despite this suppression of any criticism the government knows very well that Malaysian companies and people are heavily involved in illegal logging and the wildlife trade.........in this respect they are no different to China. We can be sure the Malaysian goverment checks this Blog!

Tuesday September 23, 2008

Raja Petra to be detained 2yrs under ISA (updated)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin was served with an order last night that would see him detained in Kamunting for two years under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

The detention order was signed by Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar last night.

He will be held without trial under Section 8 of the ISA, reporters were told by his lawyers, who were at the High Court hear to argue their habeas corpus application on Tuesday.

He was detained under the ISA on Sept 12. Two others detained that day, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok and Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Choon Heng, have since been released.

Raja Petra had filed a notice of motion through Messrs Mathews Hun Kandiah last Tuesday citing the grounds that his detention was unlawful and contravened the Federal Constitution.

His lead counsel at Tuesday's proceedings was Malik Imtiaz Sarwar. The Deputy Public Prosecutor was Abdul Wahab Mohamad.
The Court set Oct 28 to hear further submissions

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Minister lobbies EU over palm oil restrictions

This demonstrates why it is vitally important to keep the pressure on the EC and the UK governments. Unless both continue to receive reports such as the last one published by Nature Alert in November 2007, you can be certain these government officials will suffer from a form of convenient amnesia and begin to lower their resistance to lobbying by the palm oil companies and - their 'hospitality'. Don't forget, most, if not all of these government officials will have never seen a palm oil plantation, let alone a rainforest or wild orangutan: some of them would be hard pressed to find Borneo on a map. It's our job is it not to put the latest images and information under their noses? I think we should all be verrrrrrry grateful COP is out there in Indonesia exposing the palm oil industry and government excesses; no one else dares to do this. The last sentence in this article gives us an idea of just one of the many organisations COP confronts. How would you like to take on the mafia, corrupt governments and an industry where money is plentiful?! COP does this on a total budget of less than 5% the annual budget of some NGO groups out there in Borneo - some of whom I suspect pay their individual staff more than COP spends in total on all their staff and campaigning work.

Minister lobbies EU over palm oil restrictions
Multa Fidrus, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Tanggerang, Banten
19th September

Indonesia, the world's largest palm oil producer, has sent Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono to lobby the European Union (EU), over concerns the group were planning a policy that would limit imports of the commodity.

After arriving in Jakarta on Tuesday from a week-long visit to the continent, Anton said Indonesian and Malaysian representatives met EU parliamentarians, assuring them the palm oil produced by the two countries met emission standards set by the EU.

Anton visited several European countries -- the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Belgium -- with his campaign. During a meeting on Sept. 11 with the EU, he filed Indonesia's opposition to a planned EU directive on renewable energy and fuel quality (DREFQ) which would enter a voting phase during the general assembly next month.

Anton, who is a tout supporter of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), argued that this directive would hamper palm oil exports from Indonesia and Malaysia to EU member states.

The directive, however, regulates palm oil supply for alternative energy use, while imports for cooking oil and soap are not subject to the same laws.
Palm oil exported to the EU for biofuel is required to have a minimum emissions benchmark rate of 35 percent (the higher the rate the lesser the impact of the commodity on the environment).

According to the EU, however, the average recorded emissions rate of 32 percent for palm oil was below the minimum requirement.

Malaysia has denied the emissions rate measurement made by the EU, arguing that it was in fact around 60 percent.

Indonesia and Malaysia account for 85 percent of the world's palm oil output.

Anton said the planned EU directive was merely aimed at reducing the group's dependency on palm oil, which it could not produce itself.

"We are being attacked with environmental issues, while the real reason is trade competition, specifically with rapeseed. I asked the audience in a seminar why it should be us who makes the sacrifice and not those producing rapeseed or soybean."

"The EU was influenced by negative campaigns from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). We feel it's not about environmental issues, it's about trade," Anton said.

According to the ministry, Indonesia's palm oil exports reached 16.9 million tons last year with a total value of US$7.9 billion. Exports to Europe accounted for one fifth of this figure.

The EU has also accused palm oil producers of damaging the environment by planting crops in or near natural forests, and even in the middle of protected animal habitats.

SawitWatch researcher Norman Jiwon said oil palm plantations had caused huge amounts of damage to the environment.

"Aside from peatland damage, the planting and production of palm oil is damaging our environment," he said.

However, Anton argued that of the 133 million hectares of forests cleared, oil palm plantations accounted for 6.3 million hectares, highlighting the relative size of the damage.

"It's only a small proportion. And the peatland cleared for the plantations was only 5 percent of the 6.3 million hectares," he said.

"We should choose between human interests or those of the monkeys," said Anton, adding that the palm oil sector currently employed more than 5 million people.

Founder of the Center for Orangutan Protection, Hardi Baktiantoro, said the numbers Anton cited were only statistics.

"On paper, these plantations are said to be developed on grasslands or in agricultural areas when in reality they have flattened forests containing high biodiversity." "It's mafia at every layer. From the map making, through to other production and legal processes," Hardi said. (iwp)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Three months to renovate quarters

Here we see another side to the palm oil industry. Abuse of their already lowly paid staff. Whilst all this happens, as can be seen in the following article the palm oil industry and respective governments are lying to the EC and UK government. What a greedy, repulsive industry it is.

Friday September 19, 2008

Three months to renovate quarters


THE management of 28 oil palm plantations and rubber estates in the Kuala Muda district in Kedah have been given three months to renovate substandard workers’ quarters or submit housing plans for the construction of new houses.

Labour office senior assistant director Mohd Jarjis Abdullah said the department had issued warning notices failing which action would be taken against errant employers.

He said they were among 38 oil palm plantations and rubber estates which came under the jurisdiction of his office.

According to regulations under Section 5 of Workers Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990, the houses should have at least two rooms, wall partitions between rooms reaching up to the ceiling and inbuilt toilets, he said.

The offence carries a maximum fine of RM2,000 and RM100 for each day delayed in providing the facility.

Mohd Jarjis said recent checks showed many houses had only one room and no proper wall partitions and the toilets were placed outside the house.
He said the latest case was the poor housing facilities and unhygienic living condition found at Kupang Estate in Baling, about 40km from Sungai Petani.

Despite verbal warnings last year to the estate management, he said a surprise check on Sept 9 showed that the problems were still not rectified.
“The management failed to address the problem. We will charge them in court soon,” he said.

Estate manager Zamri Zainal Abidin could be reached for comments.

Malaysia clears misconceptions on palm oil

As can be seen, the Malaysian and Indonesian governments have gone on a charm offensive to try to divert attention away from what they are doing to rainforests and orangutans. For them, like so many people, what they read about themselves is nothing more than an inconvenient truth.

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Malaysia clears misconceptions on palm oil

LONDON: The World Sustainable Palm Oil Conference staged here on Sept 15, provided a window of opportunity for both Malaysia and Indonesia to clear misconceptions on the development of the palm oil industry, said the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Peter Chin.

“The conference was indeed timely as over the past few years, the palm oil industry has been confronted over issues concerning the environment, in particular deforestation, loss of biodiversity and the threat to wildlife.

“These have been complemented lately with concerns on carbon emission from the development of peatland.

“All these have projected a wrong image of the industry to consumers around the world,” he said at a joint press conference with his Indonesian counterpart Dr Anton Apriyantono after a dialogue session with participants of the conference.

The conference was jointly hosted by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli), the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).

According to Chin, the conference entitled ‘The Road Ahead for Sustainable Palm Oil’, also provided an opportunity to highlight the current progress of the industry in its quest towards achieving sustainable palm oil production.

“The response from the industry players was good. But to my surprise, not many non-governmental organisations were present as there were only eleven,” Chin said.

Despite much progress having been made towards the sustainable development of palm oil, the critics have been accusing the industry of not being environment friendly.

Even the use of palm oil for biodiesel has not been spared the criticism, though it is now a principal source of “green energy”.

Chin said it was most unfortunate that the allegations had affected the image of palm oil and the producer countries concerned, namely Malaysia and Indonesia as the worlds largest producers and exporters of the commodity.

He said policy makers, especially in the European Union (EU) and other developed nations had unnecessarily put Malaysia’s export market at risk.
The EU, which is the advocator for biofuels, is now drafting a new directive on the use of renewable energy.

“What worries the Malaysian government is that the pressure for strict sustainability requirements in the EU as well as in the United States may lead to the imposition of policies that impede the palm oil trade.

“All these may contravene the principles of the WTO and free trade. While we admit that there are always opportunities ahead to improve the palm oil industry, we do not agree that it be singled out as being responsible for environmental degradation,” he added.

Also present at the press conference was the Malaysian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohammed, the Member of Parliament for Stone, United Kingdom, William Nigel Paul Cash, MPOC chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, MPOC chairman Datuk Seri Lee Oi Hian and MPOB chairman Datuk Sabri Ahmad.

EU urged to review decision on biofuel

Wednesday September 17, 2008

EU urged to review decision on biofuel

Malaysia, Indonesia ministers get together for the first time to voice concern

LONDON: Malaysia and Indonesia have jointly urged the European Union (EU) to review its decision on renewable energy and fuel quality, particularly on the use of palm oil for the production of biofuel.

Both Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui and Indonesian Agriculture Minister Dr Anton Apriyantono have voiced concern over the move by the European Parliament’s influential Industry Committee.

Chin said the two countries would continue to engage with EU member states on the committee’s decision to increase the percentage of carbon emission savings for palm-based biodiesel from the threshold value of 35% to 45%.

Describing the move as illogical, he wondered how the EU would get its supply of biofuel once the three major raw materials of oil palm, rape seed and soya were weeded out.

Datuk Peter Chin (left) having a discussion with two forum participants
“If the RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) is accepted as sustainable palm oil, whether it’s used for food or fuel doesn’t matter because it’s sustainable anyway,” he told a joint press conference with Apriyantono on the sidelines of the World Sustainable Palm Oil Conference on Monday.

Earlier, Chin had delivered a keynote speech at the conference themed “The Road Ahead for Sustainable Palm Oil” jointly organised by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, Malaysian Palm Oil Board and Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

This is the first time that ministers from two of the world’s largest producers of palm oil have come together to address a forum that brought together government and corporate leaders, strategic thinkers and research bodies.

Chin said the EU should not impose another level of certification through the 45% threshold so long as sustainable palm oil could be produced from any source.

“How can we be subjected to two certifications and probably the high costs too?” he said in response to the negative perception towards palm oil.
In his speech, Chin said the past few years had seen the oil palm industry confronted with issues concerning the environment, particularly deforestation, loss of biodiversity and threat to wildlife.

The situation had been aggravated lately with concerns on carbon emission from peat land development, he said, adding that these issues projected a wrong image of the industry to consumers worldwide.

“While our industry is committed to supplying the world with quality palm oil, we are also committed to keeping our forests intact.”

Chin said the use of palm oil for biodiesel had not been spared from criticism despite its principal goal as a source of “green energy.”

He expressed concern that the pressure for strict sustainability requirements in the EU as well as in the US might lead to imposition of policies that impeded palm oil trade.

Such a move, he said, could even border towards a contravention of the principles of the World Trade Organisation and free trade.

“While there are always opportunities to improve the palm oil industry, it should not be singled out as being responsible for the environmental degradation in my country, much less to that of the world’s environmental woes,” he added.

The minister had earlier led a nine-day joint ministerial mission to The Hague and Brussels where he held discussions with Dutch Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning Jacqueline Cramer as well as Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

RI workers, children 'enslaved' in Malaysia, commission says

note: Indonesian loggers and illegal gold miners in south-west Kalimantan (I suspect elsewhere as well) trap young girls into working for them and/or becoming prostitutes.

RI workers, children 'enslaved' in Malaysia, commission says

Erwida Maulia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 17th September

"Slavery practices" at palm oil plantations in Sabah, Malaysia, have affected thousands of Indonesian migrant workers and their children, the National Commission for Child Protection has announced.

Commission secretary general Arist Merdeka Sirait said Tuesday a fact-finding team sent to plantations in Sabah discovered tens of thousands of Indonesian migrant workers and their children had been "systematically enslaved".

"They are placed in isolated barracks with no access to transportation, making it impossible for them to leave the plantations. Nor do they have access to clean water, lighting and other facilities," Arist, a team member, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

About 72,000 children of Indonesian migrant workers at the Sabah plantations were forced to work without regulated employment hours, meaning they were made to work all day long, he added.

The children were not provided with birth certificates or any other type of identity documents, effectively denying their right to formal education, among other rights, Arist said.

"It is done deliberately so they'll remain illegal and continue to serve as migrant workers, just like their parents. We call this 'bonded labor' (a means of paying off debt by direct labor rather than by currency or goods), and it is a modern kind of slavery," he added.

Citing figures from the Indonesian consulate general in Sabah's Kota Kinabalu, Arist said there were about 200,000 legal migrants from Indonesia -- as well as 134,000 illegal workers -- employed by at least 103 palm oil plantations in Sabah.

"Bonded labor" was common at all the plantations, he said.
In addition to suffering, illegal workers were paid very little and often extorted by Malaysian security officers who checked their documents, Arist said.

He accused the Malaysian authorities of deliberately allowing such conditions to persist, adding the commission would report its "very serious" findings to the Malaysian and Indonesian governments.
An official at the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta told the Post local authorities have been jointly investigating the case with the Indonesian consulate general in Kota Kinabalu.

An official statement on the issue will be publicly released in the next few days, he said.

The commission sent a fact-finding team to the Sabah plantations after a group of Indonesian teachers working there reported an alleged case of child exploitation as well as several cases of physical and sexual harassment of children of Indonesian migrant employees.

A spokesman for the teachers, Sahrizal, said children between the ages of six and 18 had to work for hours collecting sacks of oil palm seeds scattered on the ground, in return for a minimal amount of pay.

The children were often forced to work by their own parents or by plantation managers, he added.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Regent given 11.5 years in jail for forestry graft

Regent given 11.5 years in jail for forestry graft

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Tue, 09/16/2008

The Corruption Court on Tuesday sentenced non-active Pelalawan regent Tengku Azmun Jaafar to 11 years and six months in prison for issuing illegal authorization for forest resource use.

The panel of judges said the defendant was guilty of issuing authorization letters to 15 companies for the use of more than 120,000 hectares of forest in the regency between 2002 and 2003.According to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), the exploitation of the forest resources by the companies caused more than Rp 1.2 trillion (US$128 million) in losses to the state.

The judges, led by Kresna Menon, also told the defendant to pay a Rp 500 billion fine or serve six months additional time in jail and to pay Rp 12.3 billion in restitution to the state.Previously, the KPK prosecutors demanded a 12-year prison sentence for Azmun.

Azmun's lawyer Hieronimus Dani, said the defendant, who considered the verdict was not fair, had not decided whether to appeal against the verdict."We are disappointed with the decision.

The judges overlooked the fact that authorization letter was no use without sanctions from the governor and the provincial forestry agency," he said. (dre)

Environmentalism protects our most basic human rights

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 The Jakarta Post

Environmentalism protects our most basic human rights

by Jonathan Wootliff

In a new democracy like Indonesia's, there is rightly much concern for human rights. Since the fall of Soeharto, we have witnessed the emergence of thousands of homegrown civil-society organizations intent on improving the lives of the average Indonesian.

In a country rife with corruption and widespread poverty, these valiant not-for-profits play an essential role in safeguarding the rights of ordinary citizens who do not have the wherewithal to fend for themselves.

Without their determined efforts to make Indonesian society fairer, there is no doubt millions of vulnerable people would suffer a myriad of injustices.

But with all the gallant campaigning for enhanced constitutional privileges, rule of law, freedom of expression, protection of children, gender equality and so forth, there is a fundamental human right that sometimes gets overlooked.

Surely there can be no more fundamental right for every man, woman and child than unfettered access to clean water and fresh air?

Without these basic requirements for our survival, there would be no point in fighting for anything else. Nothing is more fundamental -- nothing is more important -- than human health.

Effective environmental management is the key to avoiding a quarter of all preventable diseases in Indonesia. And these diseases are directly caused by environmental factors.

The environment influences our health in many ways -- through exposure to physical, chemical and biological risk factors, and through related changes in our behavior in response to those factors.

According to the World Health Organization, millions of people die unnecessarily each year due to preventable environmental causes. Our disregard for the health of our planet is taking its toll on our own wellbeing.

Mitigating environmental risk could save thousands of Indonesian lives each year, and improve the health of tens of thousands more.

Children and the poor are the most susceptible to many life-threatening diseases that could be so easily be eradicated if we were to pay more respect to our environment.

All too often, the protection of our ecosystem and concern for nature is considered a luxury. But it is high time we wake up and understand that environmental protection must be a priority.

The fact is that saving the birds and trees directly translates into better quality human health and life expectancy.

Environmental problems are compromising Indonesians' health, both in cities and the countryside.

Respiratory diseases as a consequence of traffic pollution are rising at an alarming rate in Jakarta and other major metropolises.

The plundering of the nation's natural resources, particularly through deforestation, is damaging the health of those living in rural areas.

Food safety is becoming a growing issue as a consequence of irresponsible farming practices and a disregard for environmental protection.
Coastlines are increasingly exposed to natural hazards, and there is evidence that the 2004 tsunami hit those communities hardest where mangrove belts had been cut down.

From the Indonesian tropics to the Arctic Circle, climate and weather have powerful direct and indirect impacts on human life. While people adapt to the conditions in which they live, and though the human physiology can handle substantial variations in weather, there are limits.

Weather extremes -- often caused or exacerbated by our lack of regard for environmental protection -- such as heavy rains, floods and hurricanes, also have severe impacts on human populations.

Thousands of deaths occur in Indonesia each year as a result of climate tragedies alone, many of which can be avoided through sound environmental management.

In addition to changing weather patterns, climatic conditions give rise to waterborne diseases. Climate-sensitive diseases are among the largest killers on the globe.

WHO statistics show that diarrhea, malaria and protein-energy malnutrition alone caused more than 3.3 million deaths globally in 2002.
Both national and regional governments must take a stand. Indonesia must focus more on the environment. Everyone from ordinary citizens through to big businesses and politicians must understand the imperative of taking better care of nature.

The country is blessed with some of the world's most valuable natural resources. The future health of this nation depends on us taking the environment more seriously. If we squander nature, we put our very own survival on the line.

It's time we put humans on the endangered list, along with the orangutan and the tiger. Maybe then Indonesia will take more seriously its responsibility for nurturing nature.

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

Rainforest conversion to oil palm causes 83% of wildlife to disappear

Rainforest conversion to oil palm causes 83% of wildlife to disappear

mongabay.comSeptember 15, 2008

Conversion of primary rainforest to an oil palm plantation results in a loss of more than 80 percent of species, reports a new comprehensive review of the impacts of growing palm oil production.

The research is published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. "By compiling scientific studies of birds, bats, ants and other species, we were able to show that on average, fewer than one-sixth of the species recorded in primary forest were found in oil palm," said led author Emily Fitzherbert from the Zoological Society of London and University of East Anglia.

"Degraded forest, and even alternative crops such as rubber and cocoa, supported higher numbers of species than oil palm plantations." The results confirm that oil palm plantations are a poor substitute for natural forests when it comes to conservation of biological diversity.

Oil palm plantations and logged over forest in Malaysian Borneo
The study warns that burgeoning demand for palm oil for use in foods, household products, and biodiesel will continue to fuel expansion in the tropics.

Because planters can subsidize operations by the initial logging for forest plots, it seems likely that forests will continue to fall for new plantations despite the availability of large tracts of degraded and abandoned land.

"There is enough non-forested land suitable for plantation development to allow large increases in production without large impacts on tropical forests, but as a result of political inertia, competing priorities and lack of capacity and understanding, not to mention high levels of demand for timber and palm oil from wealthy consumers, it is still often cheaper and easier to clear forests.

Unless these conditions change quickly, the impacts of oil palm expansion on biodiversity will be substantial," the authors conclude. CITATION: Emily B. Fitzherbert, Matthew J. Struebig, Alexandra More, Finn Danielsen, Carsten A. Brühl, Paul F. Donald, Ben Phalan. How will oil palm expansion affect biodiversity? Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Volume 23, Issue 10, October 2008, Pages 538-545 Related articles Falling palm oil price makes palm biodiesel viable, may offer target for NGOs(9/10/2008)

Plunging palm oil prices are increasing its attractiveness as a biofuel feedstock and thereby helping buoy demand for the oilseed, reports Reuters. Malaysia targets Africa and the Amazon for oil palm expansion(8/25/2008) Facing land scarcity at home and environmental complaints, Malaysian palm oil producers should look overseas to expand operations, a high-ranking Malaysian agricultural minister said Monday.

Palm oil industry moves into the Amazon rainforest(7/9/2008) Malaysia's Land Development Authority FELDA has announced plans to immediately establish 100,000 hectares (250,000) of oil palm plantations in the Brazilian Amazon. The agency will partner with Braspalma, a local company, to form Felda Global Ventures Brazil Sdn Bhd. FELDA will have a 70 percent stake in the venture. The announcement had been expected. Last month Najib said Malaysia would seek to expand its booming palm oil industry overseas. The country is facing land constraints at home.

Oil palm plantations are no substitute for tropical rainforests

Published: 15th September

Oil palm plantations are no substitute for tropical rainforests

The continued expansion of oil palm plantations will worsen the dual environmental crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, unless rainforests are better protected, warn scientists in the most comprehensive review of the subject to date.

Lead author, Emily Fitzherbert from the Zoological Society of London and University of East Anglia said: "There has been much debate over the role of palm oil production in tropical deforestation and its impacts on biodiversity. We wanted to put the discussion on a firm scientific footing."

Palm oil, used in food, cosmetics, biofuels and other products, is now the world's leading vegetable oil. It is derived from the fruit of the oil palm, grown on more than 50,000-square miles of moist, tropical lowland areas, mostly in Malaysia and Indonesia.

These areas, once covered in tropical rainforest, the globe's richest wildlife habitat on land, are also home to some of the most threatened species on earth. The review, published today in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, singles out deforestation associated with plantation development as by far the biggest ecological impact, but finds that the links between the two are often much more complex than portrayed in the popular press.

Co-author Matt Struebig, from Queen Mary, University of London, explains: "Most land-cover statistics do not allow us to distinguish where oil palm has actually driven forest clearance. Oil palm certainly has directly replaced tropical forest in some areas, but oil palm companies also often have close links with timber or paper pulp companies, giving additional motives for deforestation."

Within countries, oil palm is usually grown in a few productive areas, but it looks set to spread further. Demand is increasing rapidly and 'its potential as a future agent of deforestation is enormous', the study says. Most of the suitable land left is within the last remaining large areas of tropical rainforest in Central Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Where oil palm has replaced tropical forest the impact on wildlife depends on what species survive in the new oil palm habitat. The study confirmed that oil palm is a poor substitute habitat for the majority of tropical forest species, particularly forest specialists and those of conservation concern.

Emily Fitzherbert continues: "By compiling scientific studies of birds, bats, ants and other species, we were able to show that on average, fewer than one-sixth of the species recorded in primary forest were found in oil palm. Degraded forest, and even alternative crops such as rubber and cocoa, supported higher numbers of species than oil palm plantations."

Even this estimate is likely to be optimistic, because forest habitats are more difficult to survey and some species inhabit plantations briefly before going extinct. There is little potential to help wildlife within plantations, so ensuring that new plantations do not replace forest and protecting what is left of native forest in and around plantations are the only real options for protecting the majority of species, the researchers say.

International policies demanding evidence of environmental responsibility, in particular that land of high conservation value is not converted to oil palm, can help. "There is enough non-forested land suitable for plantation development to allow large increases in production without further deforestation," said co-author Ben Phalan, from the University of Cambridge.

However, in identifying these areas, there needs to be a careful distinction between degraded land that is of low conservation value, such as imperata grasslands, and partially logged or degraded forest areas which can still harbour relatively high levels of biodiversity and bring greater wildlife and carbon storage benefits if restored.

"Unless governments in producer countries show stronger leadership in controlling logging, protecting forests and ensuring that crops are planted only in appropriate areas, the impacts of oil palm expansion on biodiversity will be substantial," adds Phalan. This study is released as pressure mounts on UK and EU officials to rethink targets for biofuel sales.

The UK's Renewable Fuels Agency revealed that more than 80 per cent of UK biofuels were not meeting even very basic environmental standards and has urged the UK government to slow the introduction of biofuels until more is known about their negative impacts. While increases in biofuel use will almost certainly add to pressure on tropical forests, the study highlights how those pressures might be reduced.

A recent initiative, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, has encouraged 40 per cent of the palm oil industry to commit to saving wildlife on and around plantations. The scientists hope that the Roundtable will continue to attract many of the remaining 60 per cent. In Indonesia, local organisations are using satellite technology and the internet to investigate illegal forest clearance by oil palm companies and to put public pressure on them to improve.

These initiatives will help, but the study warns that unless they are scaled up and better supported by stronger government action against deforestation, damage to rainforests and their unique wildlife will continue.

Malaysia Committed To Ensure Palm Oil Supply For Food Sector, Says Chin

September 15, 2008 16:02 PM

Malaysia Committed To Ensure Palm Oil Supply For Food Sector, Says Chin

From Tengku Noor Shamsiah From Tengku Noor Shamsiah Tengku Abdullah LONDON, Sept 15 (Bernama) --

Malaysia will continue giving priority to the food sector while complementing the supply of raw materials for biofuel, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui said Monday.

He said this commitment was reflected in the agreement between Malaysia and Indonesia, the world's top palm oil producers, to each cap six million tonnes of crude palm oil for biofuel production every year.

"In addition, in line with the Kyoto Protocol, Malaysia takes the lead in Clean Development projects in South East Asia, especially in the plam oil sector," he said in his keynote address at the World Sustainable Palm Oil Conference.Chin noted that over the past few years, the oil palm industry has been confronted with issues concerning the environment, in particular deforestation, loss of biodiversity and threat to wildlife.Concerns on carbon emission from development of peatland raised recently exacerbated the situation, he said.

Together, these issues project a wrong image of the industry to consumers around the world."While our industry is committed to supplying the world with quality palm oil, we are also committed to keeping our forests intact," he said.

He said forests in Malaysia have been managed sustainably through the implementation of Sustainable Forest Management policies.Under these policies, forests in Malaysia are classified into different classes such as Permanent Reserved Forests (12.19 million ha), Totally Protected Forests (3.11 million ha), National Parks, Wildlife & Bird Sanctuaries and Nature Reserves (2.44 million ha) and State land/Alienated Forests (0.57 million ha) which are also known as "conversion forests" as they have been earmarked for development.

In total, he said, more than half (about 59 percent) of Malaysias total land area is currently under forest cover.Malaysia also maintains its water catchment areas, ox-bow lakes and high-conservation value forests and where necessary, provide a wildlife corridor within the plantations to enable wild animals to pass through the plantations.

In addition, Malaysia's National Parks, Wildlife and Bird Sanctuaries and Nature Reserves area have been increased from 1.87 million hectares in 2000 to 2.44 million hectares now due to reclassification of these forest areas.

He said the Malaysian Government and the palm oil industry launched the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife and Conservation Fund in April aimed at enhancing conservation efforts on wildlife and biodiversity through scientific studies.The fund, with an initial capital of €3.9 million or 2.9 million (RM20 million), is expected to benefit all palm oil stakeholders worldwide."Currently, five projects have been approved for funding," he added.

The conference is jointly hosted by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI), Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).Present were Malaysian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohammed, Indonesia's Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono, Member of Parliament for Stone, UK, William Nigel Paul Cash, MPOC chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, MPOC chairman Datuk Seri Lee Oi Hian and MPOB chairman Datuk Sabri Ahmad.

Too much illegal wood in EU markets - WWF

Too much illegal wood in EU markets - WWF

Related links
· Read the report here
· The report is based on a study related to the German market Illegaler Holzeinschlag und die EU carried out by WWF Germany. Read it here.

22 Jul 2008 Brussels, Belgium: Almost one-fifth of wood imported into the European Union in 2006 came from illegal or suspected illegal sources, with Russia, Indonesia and China being the main sources, says a new WWF report.

The global conservation organisation calls for strong European legislation to prevent illegal wood entering the EU markets.In 2006, the European Union imported between 26.5 and 31 million cubic metres of wood and related products from illegal origins, equivalent to the total amount of wood harvested in Poland in the same year.

In all, 23 per cent of wood-based products imported from eastern Europe, 40 per cent from South East Asia, 30 per cent from Latin America and 36-56 per cent from Africa originated from illegal or suspect sources. Major importers are Finland, UK, Germany and Italy.

Illegal logging destroys the protective function of forests, increasing risk of natural disasters such as floods and landslides, and leads to deforestation, one of the main causes for climate change. Illegal logging also pushes wood prices down resulting in major economic losses for states, industries and local communities, said Anke Schulmeister, WWF Forest Policy Officer.

Strong measures are needed at EU level to protect the worlds remaining forests and our own future. The study highlights the ineffectiveness of the existing EU Forest and Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Licensing Scheme in stopping trade in illegal wood. Even if all Voluntary Partnership Agreements currently negotiated by the EU with partner countries under FLEGT were concluded, about 90 per cent of illegal wood would still enter the EU markets.

No such negotiations are planned with countries like Russia and China and many products that are manufactured from illegal wood (eg. furniture and other ready processed wood products or paper) are not covered by FLEGT regulation.

The report traces the ten main routes for illegal wood trade. The main trader is Russia with 10.4 million cubic metres of illegal or suspicious wood transferred to EU countries in 2006. Almost half of this wood arrived in the European market through Finland, where it was processed into pulp and paper and then exported to the other EU countries.

While second position is held by Indonesia, China has recently become a major player having tripled its exports of wood and paper products to the EU between 2003 and 2006 - 32% suspected to be from illegal sources. Meanwhile China imports the greater proportion of its wood from so-called high-risk regions like the far east of Russia, South East Asia and Africa, with a high probability of illegal origin.WWF urges the introduction of EU legislation to guarantee that only legal wood is traded in the European market.

Traders should prove the origin and legality of wood and penalties should be introduced for any violation. The European Commission is expected to propose legislation on this issue in the coming months.

For further information:Anke Schulmeister, WWF Forest Policy Officer, Tel. +32 (0) 2 740 09 22, email: aschulmeister@wwfepo.orgStefania Campogianni, Press Officer, WWF European Policy Office, Tel.+32 (0)2 743 88 15, Mob: +32 (0) 499 539736, email: scampogianni@wwfepo.orgNotes to editors:-The EU adopted the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan in 2003 to combat illegal logging and the associated trade. Licensing regulations in the framework of Voluntary Partnership Agreements with producer countries seek to exclude illegal timber from being imported into the EU.

Negotiations in this area are ongoing with Ghana, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Malaysia.-The WWF report estimates that 16-19 per cent of wood imports in the European Union in 2006 came from illegal sources - between 26.5 and 31 million m³.

Estimated illegal wood imports amounted to 10.4 million m³ from Russia, 4.2 million from Indonesia and 3.7 million from China.-Chinas exports to the EU of legal and illegal wood and related products amounted to 4 million m³ in 2003 and 11.5 million m³ in 2006.-The biggest amount of illegal wood or wood of suspicious origin comes from Russia to Finland. Motivated by this fact, WWF Finland, WWF Russia and the Finnish Forest Industries Federation (FFIF) in 2006 started negotiations aimed at improving the tracing system of Finnish companies operating in Russia to combat the illegal trade of wood.