Thursday, 30 October 2008

Forests losing battle against plantations

Forests losing battle against plantations

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 30th October 2008

Massive forest conversions, rising demand for timber and infrastructure projects are the main causes for Indonesia's world-leading rate of deforestation, a new study has found.

The study by the Indonesian Forest Watch (FWI) categorically blamed deforestation on forest conversions into palm oil plantations conducted by big companies.

"We find palm oil companies prefer to convert forest areas rather than utilize idle land for their expansion as they get extra incentives from trees in the cleared forests," said Wirendro Sumargo, FWI coordinator for public campaign and policy dialogue, on Tuesday.

The field study was conducted in Central Kalimantan and Riau and Papua.

It said Central Kalimantan was seeing the fastest rate of conversion of forest area into palm oil plantations.

"In the last 17 years, the rate of forest conversion to palm oil plantations increased by 400 times to 461,992 hectares (per year) in 2007 from only 1,163 hectares (per year) in 1991," the study said, quoting data from the Central Kalimantan administration.

"Our finding shows that about 816,000 hectares of forest (there) was cleared for palm oil plantations in 2006."

He said 14 percent of the 3 million hectares of peatland in the province had been converted into palm oil plantations.

In Riau, the local administration allocated 38.5 percent of its total forest area for conversion into plantations.

"As of 2006, there were 2.7 million hectares of plantations, including 1.5 million hectares of palm oil plantations," he said.

Wirendro said that out of the 550,000 hectares of forests felled for plantations in Papua, 480,000 hectares had been allocated for growing palm oil.

The Forestry Ministry has said total palm oil plantations increased to 6.1 million hectares in 2006 from 1.1 million hectares in 1990.

The ministry has claimed the rate of deforestation between 1987 and 1997 remained constant at 1.8 million hectares per year before spiking to 2.8 million hectares per year by 2000 mainly because of severe forest fires.
However, between 2000 and 2006, the rate fell to 1.08 million hectares per year, it added.

The Indonesian Forest Watch has said the deforestation rate stood at 1.9 million hectares per year from 1989 to 2003.

The Guinness Book of World Records puts Indonesia as the country with the highest rate of deforestation on the planet, citing a rate equivalent to 300 soccer fields per hour.

Wirendro said another factor contributing to the acceleration of forest deforestation was the rising demand for timber due to the low supply of raw materials from industrial forests managed by pulp and paper firms in the country.

"The capacity of paper industries increased sharply from one million tons in 1987 to 11 million tons in 2007, while the capacity of pulp companies also rose from 0.5 million tons to 6.5 million tons over the same period," he said.

"But, the industries could only supply about 50 percent of the needed raw materials. We believe the companies also take timber from outside their concessions, including production forests (to offset the shortages)."

Wirendro said wood product industries, which bought wood from illegal and illegal sources, could be the main driver of deforestation in Indonesia.
There are currently seven pulp and paper companies operating in the country.

The study said the previous government's transmigration programs had also contributed to deforestation.

In Riau, 773,331 hectares of forest were converted into transmigration areas, while the Papua administration cut down 375,203 hectares of forest to make way for resettlement zones.

Set up forest reserves for Penans, Government urged

Thursday October 30, 2008 The StarOnline, Malaysia

Set up forest reserves for Penans, Government urged

A SARAWAK MP has proposed that the Government allocate special forest reserves with sufficient natural resources for the Penans to continue with their lifestyle.

Billy Abit Joo (BN – Hulu Rajang) said the special forest reserves with sufficient natural resources would help them survive and at the same time, also introduce them to the modern world.

“One should not drag them out of the forest to lead a modern life. Such change will be too drastic for them,” Billy said when debating the Budget.
He said there were about 10,000 Penans, including 3,500 to 5,000 still living the “traditional” way.

Billy said human activities such as logging had disrupted their lives in the forest.

The main problem faced by the community, he said, was that most of them did not have birth certificates and identity cards.

“Many of them live and die in the forest. To them, they do not need identity cards,” he said.

Billy also called on the Government to develop tourism in the Sarawak inland.

Forest preservation-carbon credit schemes in Asia

FACTBOX: Forest preservation-carbon credit schemes in Asia

Wed Oct 29, 2008

(Reuters) - U.N. climate change talks in Bali last December formally launched pilot projects for a pay-and-preserve scheme that would allow developing nations to potentially earn billions of dollars by keeping their rainforests standing.

Under the U.N.-backed process, called reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), rich nations would meet some of their emissions reduction targets by buying carbon credits from developing nations, whose forests soak up vast amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2).

Following are some of the REDD projects underway or announced in Asia aimed at leading to a formal integration of the process into the Kyoto Protocol's successor from 2013.

Covers 750,000 hectares as designated carbon forests. Project involves law enforcement, reforestation and community funding and development to reduce deforestation by 85 percent and prevent an estimated 3.4 million metric tons of CO2 being emitted annually, or a total of 100 million metric tons over the project's 30 year-life.

First REDD project to earn the internationally recognized Climate, Community and Biodiversity standard. Project involves Aceh government, Carbon Conservation of Australia, Merrill Lynch and International non-profit NGO Fauna and Flora International. Merrill has signed a multi-million dollar agreement to buy voluntary carbon credits in a deal running from 2008-13.

Fauna and Flora International and Australia's Macquarie Group have signed a deal to invest in six REDD projects globally, three of them in Indonesia. Two are in West Kalimantan, on Borneo island, for which MOUs have been signed with the local government and the third is in Papua province on New Guinea island. The other three projects are in Cambodia, Liberia and Ecuador.

International forestry investment firm New Forests and the government of Indonesia's Papua province have pledged to protect 200,000 ha. Initial estimates suggest the project could save up to 40 million metric tons of CO2 being emitted over 15 to 20 years. A large portion of VERs, estimated to sell for between US$4 and $10 a metric ton, are to be placed in a perpetual endowment fund for local communities in and around the preserved tracts of forest.

Australia and Indonesia last year signed the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership, with total investment targeted at A$100 million. The Australian government has pledged A$30 million to the scheme over four years and the project aims to protect 50,000 ha of forest and flood and replant at least 50,000 ha of drained and cleared peat swamp. The project is aimed to help both countries learn how to design and carry out REDD schemes.

The Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility aims to gather $300 million in contributions from rich nations to help more than a dozen developing countries, such as Vietnam, Costa Rica and Madagascar, prepare for REDD schemes. The program aims to help nations figure out credible estimates of their national forest carbon stocks as well as offer technical aid to design individual REDD projects.

The United Nations is running a separate REDD program to help developing nations get ready for the scheme. So far, $35 million has been committed.

(Editing by Megan Goldin)

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

New deal to rescue Borneo orangutans in Malaysia

New deal to rescue Borneo orangutans in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Conservationists said Tuesday they were planning a big push to protect Borneo's orangutans, pygmy elephants and other endangered wildlife by purchasing land from palm oil producers to create a forest sanctuary.

The deal is meant to help stave off the demise of orangutans, whose numbers have dwindled amid illegal logging and the rapid spread of palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, the only two countries where orangutans are found in the wild.

The Malaysian-based LEAP Conservancy group is in talks to buy 222 acres of tropical jungle land in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo island from palm oil operators, said Cynthia Ong, LEAP's executive director.

The territory is needed to link two sections of a wildlife reserve that is home to an estimated 600 orangutans, 150 Borneo pygmy elephants and a vast array of other animals including proboscis monkeys, hornbills and river otters.

The funds are being raised through public and private donations, Ong said. The British-based World Land Trust, which is working with LEAP on the initiative, said on its Web site that 343,000 pounds ($533,000) was needed to acquire the land.

This was the first time that nongovernment activists were trying to acquire land in Malaysian Borneo for environmental protection with the help of government officials, Ong said.

It was not immediately clear when the purchase might be finalized, but Ong said the land has not been cleared for plantations so far because of a lack of access roads.

"There is a desperate need for this purchase," Ong told The Associated Press. "We have no other avenue to avoid a potential conflict between humans and wildlife."

Environmental groups estimate the number of orangutans in Malaysia and Indonesia has fallen by half in the past 20 years to less than 60,000, largely due to human encroachment on forests. Researchers say more than 5,000 of the primates have been lost every year since 2004.

Borneo is also home to some 1,000 pygmy elephants, which are genetically distinct from other subspecies of Asian pachyderms because they have babyish faces, large ears and longer tails. They are also more rotund and less aggressive.

Prince Charles to visit Jambi forest

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 The Jakarta Post

Prince Charles to visit Jambi forest

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Tue, 10/28/2008

The Prince of Wales plans to visit Jambi forest in early November to oversee a project aimed at restoring the forest's ecosystem and saving endangered species, the Indonesian Forestry Ministry says.

"Minister MS Kaban is expected to join Prince Charles' trip," the ministry's director of forest management Listya Kusumawardhani told reporters in Jakarta on Monday.

The British Embassy in Jakarta said earlier Prince Charles would visit Indonesia from Nov. 1 to Nov. 5. The last time the heir to the English throne visited the country was in 1989.

The Harapan Rainforest project, dubbed BirdLife -- developed by a consortium of Burung Indonesia, International Bird Life and the London-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds -- operates on a 50,000-hectare forest plot. The project is part of the Prince's Rainforests Project.
The project, located about 100 kilometers from the city of Jambi, is home to about 260 species of forest-dwelling birds.

Listya said the project would be an experiment in protecting a forest ecosystem and combating climate change.

The government granted the consortium permission in April to manage the wildlife-rich lowland rainforest area in Sumatra for 100 years.

Under the license, she said, the project workers must prevent the land from being developed.

The consortium of BirdLife is currently undertaking a forest restoration project on a 52,000-hectare plot of forest in South Sumatra.

"We haven't received information on whether Prince Charles will also visit the BirdLife forest project in South Sumatra," Listya said.

The consortium aims to restore the forest's ecological balance and to protect hornbills and other forest-dwelling birds by preventing the destruction of their natural habitat and to provide a foundation for the depleted population of Sumatran tigers to stabilize, BirdLife's web site says.
It says the consortium has set up camps on the ground and hired about 60 staff to patrol the area.

Indonesia has the third-largest rainforest area in the world, with 120 million hectares.

Listya said her office had received dozens of proposals to host forest restoration projects in Indonesia.

"Demand has been booming because of global intensive talks on combating climate change through forest projects," she said.

Palm oil under attack, corectly - again.

Listen to Park Ranger Darma Bodi Pinem and the Center for Orangutan Protection’s Hardi Baktiantoro describe the effect of palm oil on orangutan habitat. Listen here:

Once you reach this page you will need to click where it says Click here for the Geo Answer below the article

Big bucks, trust needed in orangutan trade

The Jakarta Post 28th October 2008

Big bucks, trust needed in orangutan trade

A middle-aged man sat on a chair in his pet shop at an animal market in East Jakarta, waiting for his customers. He sells many kinds of birds, snakes, turtles, cats, dogs and monkeys.

The man -- let's call him Amin -- is a pet trader who sells birds, snakes, turtles, cats, dogs and monkey. He is known for his "affordable" prices.
But, only a select few customers know that they can order special "pets" that are rare and protected by the Indonesian government.

"I know it is against the law, but I get a bigger revenue from this (selling protected species)," Amin told The Jakarta Post recently.

One of his most profitable "items" is the orangutan. Amin gets orangutans from his friends in the city who have contacts with traders in Sumatra.
"It is difficult to get orangutans. Honestly, I am not a first-hand trader; I could be the third- or the forth-hand trader. That is why the price of orangutans is so high," Amin said.

It takes several weeks or even months, he said, for an ordered orangutan to arrive at his pet shop.

"We can one if you make a down payment first," said Amin whispered.
He said many customers came to the pet market in search of the rare animal. Based on past experiences, Amin said he was now more careful with such customers.

"Sometimes police officers or environmental workers pretend to be customers. We have to be more careful because we do not want to be arrested," Amin said.

Just like Amin, Lukman also sells orangutans.
"I started selling orangutans by accident. I got one from a friend in Sumatra. He had caught some orangutans in the jungle and asked me to sell them because he desperately needed the money," said Lukman, who doesn't own a pet shop but still manages to sell orangutans at markets throughout Jakarta.

Lukman, who refused to be called a orangutan trader, said there was indeed a mafia behind the illegal orangutan trade in Indonesia.

"I'm just a small trader compared to the mafia," said Lukman.
He added his friends delivered the animals by truck, as it was easier than air transportation.

"Of course, police stop the trucks at some check points ... if you just give them money they let you go," said Lukman.

He said he sold orangutans at various prices, depending on their age and size. Baby orangutans fetch the highest prices and buyers often choose them over older orangutans as they are easier to take care for and train.
"We sell baby orangutans from Rp 3.5 million (US$350) to Rp 5 million (US$500) each, but the price is negotiable."

Lukman said the price could double or even triple if delivered overseas.
He added the customers that bought orangutans were usually wealthy or "well-placed individuals".

"It depends on how much money you have. With money you can buy anything, including bribing the authorities."

Even though he has sold several orangutans, Lukman said he didn't know details about the orangutan hunters. But his friends told him that people in Sumatra who fell forests for plantations, capture the orangutans trapped in the area.

"The local people collect and keep them, and if they have the opportunity they will sell them," he said.

Both Amin and Lukman admitted that they violated the law by selling these endangered creatures. Unfortunately, the opportunity to make money from selling orangutans is a far bigger temptation, especially when rich people are willing to pay double the normal asking price.

They said the price of an orangutan rises almost daily, as the animal was becoming more difficult to find.

For security reason, they said they always screened their customers before opening their masks as orangutan sellers.

"The customers must have a lot of money and we must trust them first. I do not want to risk being arrested by the police after the transaction," said Amin. -- JP/Nani Afrida

EU Moves To Crack Down On Illegal Logging Trade

EU Moves To Crack Down On Illegal Logging Trade

LUXEMBOURG : October 28, 2008

LUXEMBOURG - EU farm ministers on Monday broadly welcomed plans to crack down on the lucrative illegal timber trade by making exporters obtain licences to prove their wood does not come from endangered rainforests.

Ministers will negotiate the proposals in detail over the next few months, after a discussion in which some voiced concern over the plan's costs for business and others said the scheme was long overdue.

The proposals, drafted by the EU's executive Commission, would oblige importers to check the legality of the timber products, to prevent shipments of wood that had been illegally harvested. It would also apply to domestically produced timber.

The European Union is an important market for both legally and illegally harvested timber -- it is the largest importer of plywood and sawnwood from Africa, the second largest from Asia, and a key market for Russia.

Environmental groups say European imports of illegally felled timber are worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.49 billion) a year and the trade can lead to more forest fires and poaching.

Many of the ministers who took the floor at the monthly meeting said the EU plan for action against illegal logging was welcome but long overdue. Britain said its success would depend largely on the degree of enforcement. Several countries, notably Austria, Latvia, Romania and Slovenia, voiced concern about the possible extra costs the scheme would impose on their timber industries and importers.

"What we fear is that companies would have to provide lots of documents, small companies in particular. The burden could be considerable," said Walter Grahammer, Austria's deputy permanent representative to the European Union.

"It's also a question of stopping suppliers from supplying illegal timber," Dutch Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg said. "But the burden must not be so great that we discourage people from making the effort (to comply)," she said.

Illegal logging costs governments of timber-producing states between 10 and 15 billion euros a year, the Commission says.

It estimates about 19 percent of the timber products used in the EU pulp and paper sector are of illegal origin.

(Reporting by Jeremy Smith; editing by Tim Pearce)

Sunday, 26 October 2008

llegal trade in endangered primates rampant in Indonesia: NGO

llegal trade in endangered primates rampant in Indonesia: NGO

Source: AFP - October 15, 2008 JAKARTA

The illegal trade in endangered primates is increasing in Indonesia's East Java province as traders market the animals in public, a conservation expert said Wednesday.

Primates such as slow lorises and Javanese langurs can be bought on
the street in Malang, according to Rosek Nursahid, director of the independent animal rights group ProFauna.

"Besides selling the endangered primates on busy public streets, the traders use abusive methods to domesticate the animals," he said. "The fangs of the slow lorises are pulled ... (and) they are forced to be awake during the day, when actually they are nocturnal animals as they hunt their prey at night." He said there were no reliable figures on population numbers in the wild but based on the loss of habitat due to rampant deforestation "their numbers are declining fast."

Buying and selling endangered species is prohibited under Indonesian law
and carries sentences of up to five years in prison. ProFauna has reported the Malang primates trade to local authorities but so far nothing has been done to stop it, Nursahid said. Other than primates, ProFauna reported that about 10,000 wild hook-billed parrots were being smuggled out of Halmahera and Talaud Islands annually, destined mainly for the Philippines.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Orangutan rescued and now in safe hands

A short film of Kerry, who was rescued by COP and Nature Alert at the end of June 2008. There are photos of her further down the sidebar to this Blog.

We took her to the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation Nyaru Menteng rescue centre where this film was later made.

See Kerry at:

We named her Kerry after one of the team at Orangutan Appeal UK, whose sponsorship helped with this rescue.

Film made by:
Jean Kernvoorzitter
Valkenburgerweg 68A6419
AV Heerlen-Holland045-574093806-51060756

Al Amin shared backhand deal with Forestry Ministry: Recording

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Al Amin shared backhand deal with Forestry Ministry: Recording

Enny Wulandari , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Fri, 10/24/2008

Former lawmaker Al Amin Nasution planned to share Rp 100 million (US$10,000) worth of gratification money with Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban in a government procurement deal, a recording played at a Corruption Court hearing revealed on Friday.

According to the team of prosecutors, the taped recording was of a phone conversation between Al Amin and Eko Widjajanto, an official from the Forestry Ministry who was responsible for the procurement of GPS units.

The recording was vaguely audible to the court because of noise interference, but Eko was standing as a witness to clarify the content of the recording.

Eko said Al Amin had been angered when the procurement committee let the company he had championed (PT Almega Geosystem) lose the tender to another company, PT Datascript. At that time, Al Amin was a member of House of Representatives Commission IV overseeing forestry and agriculture issues.

As a result, Al Amin demanded Datascript pay a gratification fee, Eko said, while adding that Datascript had limited options as it also relied on Almega for certain engineering products."Al Amin said he would give the money to MS Kaban.

When I asked him how much and to who else the money would go, Amin said that was his business," Eko testified.Following their phone conversation, Eko said, Al Amin received Rp 100 million from Datascript, Rp 20 million of which was handed to him directly.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Malaysian Companies Will Gain With BSI Global Certification

October 24, 2008

Malaysian Companies Will Gain With BSI Global Certification

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 (Bernama) -- Malaysian companies will gain in international trade, as well as inspire confidence from customers with a certification from the British Standards Institution (BSI) Management Systems, says BSI Management Systems managing director (Asia Pacific) Alwi Hafiz.

Looking at a growing demand in Malaysia, he said BSI would be able to offer its services such as providing assessment, certification and training services in all sectors in Malaysia.BSI is a global certification body and one of the leading international service providers of management systems registration based in United Kingdom.

Among the sectors that can gain with the certification are business, food, health, information technologies and plantation companies, Alwi Hafiz told reporters after the official launch of BSI Management Systems Malaysia Sdn Bhd here on Friday.

It was officiated by Boyd McCleary, the British High Commissioner to Malaysia.The opening of BSI Management Systems new office in Malaysia demonstrates its commitment to the Malaysian industry and the company's growing base of local and international clients in Malaysia, Alwi Hafiz said.

BSI has certified several plantations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.Recently, Sime Darby obtained the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Certification (RSPO) from BSI.Meanwhile, Boyd McCleary said the opening of BSI new office in Malaysia will accelerate the alignment of national standards to international standards in the country.

Malaysia remains an attractive location for British trade and investment. Close historical and educational ties, a familiar commercial and legal framework and the widespread use of English have all facilitated the process, he said.-- BERNAMA

Thursday, 23 October 2008

The burning seat

The Jakarta Post 23rd October 2008

The burning seat

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani has been sitting in the hot seat for some time now, and now her seat has now gone from hot to burning since businesspeople and politicians with vested interests have been making attempts to unseat her. We earnestly hope she will survive this saga.

The imbroglio, we suspect, is related to what has been going on in the financial market, especially to the Bakrie Group. Many believe Bakrie is now in a make-or-break situation as it struggles to meet huge obligations to its creditors who hold shares in its subsidiary companies as collateral.
Now that the value of this collateral has dropped significantly, Bakrie is trying to sell off its assets to repay $1.2 billion worth of debts that will mature between the end of this year and early next year.

As the situation worsens, the Bakrie Group, controlled by the family of Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie, may make a desperate attempt to get President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to bail them out using either state money or funds from state companies.

It seems that most cabinet ministers and even Vice President Jusuf Kalla have made no objections to such a move. But Finance Minister Sri Mulyani, who holds the key to the state coffers, differs and even resists a move that smacks of a raw deal.

We are concerned whether Sri Mulyani will be able to maintain her strong stance in the face of mounting pressure from various quarters. Because of her persistent anti-graft reform drive at the ministry, she has established more enemies than anyone else in her position previously.

Her reform of the customs office at Indonesia's largest port, Tanjung Priok, has cost certain businesspeople dearly. Those who once took an easy route by bribing customs officials to get their goods out of the customs area quickly (often by smuggling or under-invoicing imports), now find it much tougher to slip through.

Worse, several parties now claim that customs officials who were dissatisfied with Mulyani's work have intentionally slowed their pace of work. This development has impacted honest businesspeople who must bear higher capital costs because of the slowed movement of their goods.

So now both kinds of businesspeople have a reason to dislike her.
Mulyani's anti-graft reforms at the tax office have also taken their toll. One good example is the much-publicized zealous efforts of the tax office to uncover the suspected tax evasion of a palm oil company belonging to Raja Garuda Mas Group, controlled by powerful businessman Sukanto Tanoto.

Mulyani has also engaged in confrontations with certain coal producers, asking the immigration office to impose travel bans on businesspeople with coal interests who owed the state unpaid royalties and taxes. One such coal company belongs to the Bakrie Group.

But Mulyani had clashed with the Bakrie Group before this, when, through the Capital Market Supervisory Agency, she rejected a plan by Bakrie's oil and gas entity, Energi Mega Persada, to spin-off Lapindo Brantas (which had created massive problems in Sidoarjo resulting from an uncontrolled mudflow that is believed to have resulted from Lapindo drilling activities there). This case was finally resolved, with Energi allowed to sell Lapindo to wash its hands of an uncertain future liability.

And now, Mulyani is clashing with Bakrie again. This time, however the clash looks to be protracted, as Bakrie is in a do-or-die situation where it needs to attract buyers or get help from the state or it will face bankruptcy or hostile takeover. Mulyani has said if companies must go bust, then let them be. After all, it is their fault, and why should the government come to rescue them.

Because of her persistence in protecting the state budget from abuse, Mulyani's enemies have launched a covert operation to unseat her. In the public domain, concerted efforts have been made to discredit Mulyani -- claiming she is "un-nationalistic" for her unwillingness to help out local indigenous businesspeople. Some of these people have even accused her of being a running dog for the International Monetary Fund, where she once served as an executive director.

On the contrary, by acting firmly to clean up the customs and tax offices, by penalizing corrupt businesspeople and by acting firmly to defend the state budget from abuse, we can see Mulyani is in fact more nationalistic than those who have attempted to discredit her.

The current political situation may present itself to President Yudhoyono as a big dilemma: whether to help his business friends, or to side with the impeccable and respected finance minister. But the choice is really clear.

Dayak people call for a helping hand

The Jakarta Post 22nd October 2008

Dayak people call for a helping hand

Benget Besalicto Tnb., Contributor, Sampit

The decline of the forest has not only affected the endangered orangutan but also the lives of Orang Dayak, the indigenous people of Kalimantan. Many reports have described the gloomy fate of the Dayaks, who have yet to benefit from the lucrative business activities going on around them, despite the fact they are the rightful owners of the land.

In several reports, a number of Dayaks have attested they lag behind migrants around them in benefiting from the incoming investment on their lands.

As most of them have gone through only basic schooling, many have ended up taking lower positions in businesses -- mainly mining, timber estates and palm-oil companies -- operating in the country's second largest island after Papua.

Daslen, a 27-year-old village head in Bangkalan, Central Kalimantan, said Dayaks have much catching up to do if they are to emulate the migrants, who are more empowered than the locals in economic and educational terms.

The native of the Dayak Ngaju tribe said economically most of the Dayak people in his area were living under poor conditions. As a result, most Dayak families could only finance their children to attend junior or senior high school at most.

Dunis, a 60-year-old Dayak man, is a retired civil servant who worked in a West Kalimantan subdistrict office. He blamed poverty for limiting Dayak employment chances, leaving people to settle for work as security officers or field-workers in mining or palm-oil plantations.

"We're poor, we can't afford to send our children to university," said the man, who lives in a village near the town of Sampit.

Sayor Atan is a 62-year-old Hindu Kaharingan priest who officiates the religion practiced by many Dayaks in a Bangkalan village near Sampit. He said the decline of the forest had badly affected them economically and culturally.

Citing one example, he said many Dayaks had to buy expensive fertilizer for their farms because they could no longer practice traditional farming methods due to declining forest which made the land less fertile. Oftentimes their harvests were scant.

"We also find it increasingly harder to find certain plants and trees in the forests for our rituals," he said. The rituals include tiwah, a ceremony to formally bury the dead using a special coffin made from a certain big tree.
He blamed forest exploitation for impoverishing them so they could no longer even educate their children beyond high school.

"I have eight children and most of them can only attend senior high school at the highest. We have no money to send them to university."
Sampit is the city where bloody conflicts between Dayak and migrants from Madura broke out in February 2001. Thousands were reported killed in the conflict.

A report prepared by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group revealed the conflict was fueled by the fact the Dayaks were being marginalized from the ongoing economic development taking place on their own lands.

According to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Board (BKSDA), the forest area has been declining by between 1.5 and 2 percent annually across Kalimantan.

Unfortunately, rare is the company which sees the need to empower locals. It seems their way of doing business has not changed much since the fall of the New Order, when businesses exploiting natural resources relied on security to manage community relations.

Only a few implemented their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to empower local people and avoid potential conflicts which could ruin their business' sustainability in the long run.

Agro Group, a palm-oil firm, offers a good CSR example. They recently built a junior high school where students can study for free.

"We also include lessons about Hindu Kaharingan, the Dayak religion, in the curriculum," said Edi Suhardi, CSR manager of the firm, which operates in several areas of Central Kalimantan, including Sampit regency.

But Daslen is striving for more. Realizing the Dayaks' weak bargaining position vis-…-vis the government and the companies operating near his village, he is working to propose several programs he thinks might empower his people.

The programs, he said, include proposals to jointly manage small-scale palm oil plantations, set up cooperatives, and develop tourism.

After dozens of years of not reaping any economic benefit from the forest concessionaires, Daslen and his community are hoping for a helping hand.
"I hope, despite our poor condition, the government and the palm-oil companies are willing to help empower the Dayaks here," he said.

Orangutans - short films about.

If you would like to see some very interesting short films produced by our colleague Jean Kernvoorzitter of Primates Helping Primates, please click on the link below. Depending on your computer, you may find the films occasionally stop and start - it is not a fault with the film but a technical matter which can affect some computers. Please stick with the films - they are well worth watching.

contact details:

Jean Kernvoorzitter
Primates HelpingPrimates
68A6419 AV Heerlen-Holland

National Geographic palm oil short film.

A two-minute film from National Geographic regarding Greenpeace and deforestation. Excuse the first 10 seconds of an advertisement.

The Indonesian Forestry Department's Biodiversity Director, Tonny Soehartono, is featured in this film clip. He is the same person quoted on the back page of the last palm oil report by Nature Alert. Mr Soehartono has direct responsibility for protecting orangutans and rainforests.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Palm oil and illegal logging are virtually inseperable.

Illegally logged trees near Pangkalabun, Central Kalimantan/Borneo discovered this week.

Palm oil plantations spreading like an uncontrollable plague.

Photos taken this week near Pangkalabun, Central Kalimantan (Borneo). Not long ago this was all rainforest. Now all you can see are oil palm plantations; no birds, no insects, no animals - chain saws, fires and insecticides made sure of that.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in Decem,ber 2007 at
the launch of an orangutan conservation plan at the Bali climate talks “In the last 35 years about 50,000 orangutans are estimated to have been lost (diplomatic word for killed or sold into the illegal trade) as their habitats shrank. If this continues, this majestic creature will likely face extinction by 2050. The fate of the orangutan is a subject that goes to the heart of sustainable forests ….To save the orangutan we have to save the forest.”
On 9th September 2005 the government of Indonesia willingly signed what is known as the Kinshasa Declaration on Great Apes. In doing so they committed themselves to, amongst other things, improving the protection of all great apes:

“10. Resolve to set ourselves and all concerned the target, by the year 2010, of securing a constant and significant reduction in the current rate of loss of great ape populations and their habitats; and, by 2015, securing the future of all species and subspecies of great apes in the wild, by: (b) Protecting those sites from further degradation and loss of habitat and working with local and indigenous communities to ensure that any human use of habitats is ecologically sustainable and consistent with maintaining healthy, viable great ape populations; (e) Improving the protection of individual great apes and their habitats everywhere by demonstrably improving where necessary the quality and the enforcement of relevant laws, as well as the capacity of law enforcement agencies;

Three years later, millions hectares of rainforests have been cut down and thousands more orangutans killed.

Where and how to see orangutans in the wild - don't leave it too long before you do!

In response to frequent requests for information etc.

Below all the photos on the right-hand side, links to travel companies are gradually being added. Only because I don't have personal experience of each one, I am unable to recommend any particular company. All I can do is to mention some and leave you to thoroughly check out any you find of interest.

I can appreciate when planning such a trip some people might naturally have questions or concerns. The first thing to do is to ask one or more travel operators the same question! If you get stuck you can always email me and I may be able to help.

I can also recommend excellent books like Lonely Planet.

This small company specialises in escorted trips - once you have reached Central Kalimantan/Borneo - a long way, but easy enough to reach by plane.

Sumatra Deforestation & Orangutans

A very short film from PanEco and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Project

The film relates directly to the article that follows below this post re. Sumatra.

If you can find a way to vote for the film, please do. This kind of technology and me are not very compatible!

Urgent action needed over Sumatran peat forest logging 20/10/08

Urgent action needed over Sumatran peat forest logging

Ian Wood reports on the loss of vitally important swamp forests in SumatraSumatra has had more than its fair share of natural disasters over the last decade including the 2004 tsunami that killed over 190,000 people in the northern province of Aceh.

· Conservation groups and government sign Sumatra forest deal
· New plans to protect native tigers and elephants in Sumatra
· Sumatran orang-utan now in serious decline

Now a man made disaster is threatening to add to the misery that this region has endured.

The Tripa area of peat swamp forest is being logged to make way for new palm oil plantations and the effects will have dire consequences for the people and wildlife that live there.

The Tripa forests are located in north western Sumatra and provided effective coastal protection for communities in the tsunami. Behind them, very few casualties were recorded and they also serve to protect against floods as the peat swamp regulates water flow.

Their importance for both biodiversity and carbon stores cannot be over stated.They are home to one of just six remaining viable populations of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan and contain millions of tons of carbon dioxide that is being released into the atmosphere as they are destroyed.

A recent study commissioned by the Swiss NGO PanEco has shown the peat is more than 3 metres deep over much of the area.

There are already laws in Indonesia that forbid the destruction of peat more than 3 metres deep but the local government seem powerless to protect this area.

The effects are threefold.

1) CO2 is released into the atmosphere as the larger trees are cut and the remaining land is burnt.

2) Subsequent drainage causes further degradation of the peat releasing even more CO2.

3) This then results in subsidence of the land itself of approx 5 cm per year. The area of Tripa is already at about sea level, or only slightly above, so within a very short space of time the sea will claim huge swathes of this region and inland communities will have no protection against future tsunamis.

The recent agreement to protect forests in Sumatra between the Indonesian government and a number of conservation groups including WWF and Fauna and Flora International is a step in the right direction. However to save Tripa from the unfolding disaster there needs to be urgent action immediately.

Irwandi Yusuf, the governor of Aceh called for a moratorium on all logging in Aceh in June 2007 but it is being largely ignored on the ground.

Pak Adnan, one of four of Aceh's Senators agreed to meet me in Tripa and together we witnessed scenes of total devastation. His concern seemed genuine as he explained the problems this region is facing.

"I have not seen any goodwill from central government to act to protect Tripa. Already I have discussed it with the executive but they have not taken any action" Pak Adnan told me.

"If necessary it must come from the President himself who has the power to stop the destruction of Tripa. The status of Tripa must be raised to that of protected forest and then it will be immortal forever. To achieve this it needs continued pressure from both local people and the international community.

"In my heart I believe the ecosystem of Tripa must be saved, it's vital. The most important problem is the palm oil concessions on areas of peat forest. It needs a firm statement from central government and an urgent review of these existing concessions." he said.

There are five palm oil concessions that have been granted by the Indonesian central government with leases that expire in 2020. Such is the scale of logging here that the remaining tracts of forest will be long gone before then.

"Local people do not destroy the peat swamp forest as they do not have access to heavy machines but the palm oil companies have vast amounts of money," Pak Adnan told me.

"For local people we can create better sustainable sources of income such as fish breeding and livestock that fit in with the ecosystem. We could also create ecotourism opportunities and then at last the people that live in Tripa could have income from both palm oil and these other sources."

Surely this is preferable to increasing vulnerability to rising sea levels, which threatens not only communities and their livelihoods, but also the very palm oil estates themselves in the long run.

The palm oil company PT Astra Agro Lestari who are one of the main suppliers to Unilever, are running one of the legal concessions in Tripa. It covers nearly 13,000 hectares of which around 6000 hectares is still virgin rain forest, all located on peat swamp with an average depth of about 3m but reaching over 5m in places.

Unilever announced last month that they have committed to only purchasing 100 per cent sustainably produced palm oil by 2015. However, by then this important area of forest will have already been lost forever.
Regina Frey, president of PanEco, a conservation groups which campaigns for the sustainable use of natural resources in Indonesia, said: "I call on Unilever to take action to help to save these last areas of Sumatran peat swamp forest. If they refuse to buy oil palm from this concession it would send out a firm message to PT Astra Agro Lestari to stop logging primary peat forests for palm oil, thereby damaging the image of the palm oil industry"

After cutting the larger trees in the peat swamp forest the remaining trees are set on fire. The palm oil companies then cut drainage canals across the site as the land is too wet for oil palm cultivation. The peat then starts to subside as it dries out and results in very poor conditions for palm oil trees to grow in.

We saw lots of palm oil trees that are now falling over and will be useless as future crops. When the peat has degraded and subsided to below sea level the whole area will be flooded with seawater and nothing will grow here again. There is also proof that the surrounding areas of non peat swamp provide far better conditions for palm oil.

"There is plenty of non-forested land on mineral soil in the surroundings of Tripa which is available and produces excellent conditions for oil palm cultivation. In fact some of the highest palm oil yields in the world are recorded in that region. Consequently the Tripa concessions could be relocated there." said Regina Frey.

The simple truth is that the palm oil companies want to sell the timber from the large trees they fell when they clear the land. In fact there are vast areas of already cleared land in Tripa that have not even been planted with palm oil.

Now is the time for action not words here in Tripa. To destroy one of the last great areas of peat swamp forest in Sumatra is an act of criminal vandalism. Along with orangutans these forests also contain two other rare ape species, the Siamang and the White Handed Gibbon along with Sumatran tigers, clouded leopards and sun bears.

Conflicts have developed between villagers and the palm oil companies. Such is the sensitivity that PT Astra Agro Lestari's concession is now guarded by the Indonesian police and army.

I managed to get into the village of Pulo Kruet where I met one of the leaders of the community. He told me that the palm oil companies are now taking the land that belongs to his village and they are powerless to prevent it.

We walked for several kilometres together through the palm oil plantations that now surround his home. Eventually we arrived at the border of the remaining forest and saw freshly made orangutan nests in the trees right on the edge of the destruction.

Here in Tripa the fight to save this critically endangered species is one with far reaching consequences for the human population.

KPK questions Forestry Minister over graft

KPK questions Forestry Minister over graft

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Mon, 10/20/2008

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Monday questioned Forestry Minister MS Kaban in connection with a graft case in the conversion of a protected forest in South Sumatra province.

Antara has reported that KPK had questioned Kaban as a witness over the forced conversion of a protected forest for the development of Tanjung Apiapi Port in South Sumatra.Kaban, also chairman of the Crescent Star Party, said before the questioning that he had come to the office to give his testimony about the case.

The anti-graft body has named three people as suspects in the case, i.e., former chairman of the House Commission IV Yusuf E. Faisal, Commission member Sarjan Tahir and businessman Chandra Antonio Tan.KPK has said that a number of lawmakers have allegedly received bribes totaling Rp 5 billion (US$510,000) from officials at the South Sumatra administration to obtain the lawmakers' support for the conversion of the protected forest. (rid)

Monday, 20 October 2008

Palm oil television programme

Palm oil documentary on Swiss television : on the programme " Kassensturz". This is a programme of about 30 minutes
and in the Swiss/German language.

What Rainforest

As we all know, the situation in Indonesia regarding logging and the spread of oil palm plantations is extremely serious.

This film relates to Sarawak, a Malaysian state adjoining the northern border with Indonesia. Sarawak has only 5% of its once
massive primary rainforest remaining.

To start the film click the left button below the screen. To stop or pause it, please do the same.

When you come to the end of the film, please be sure to read the media quotes from the government. They are almost identical to those we see and hear in Indonesia, where what is said for public consumption is the opposite of what is happening on the ground.

So, if you want to see what Indonesia will look like in years to come, just watch this film…..and then ask yourself, what are the large international conservation groups with their multi-million pound/dollar budgets doing to prevent Indonesia's rainforest and orangutans going the same way as Sarawak's.

In my personal opinion they are doing nothing like as much as they should, could - or would like their supporters to believe. i.e. this film was made by two private and very brave individuals with a small budget. When did you last see WWF, GRASP, FFI, etc make such a revealing and moving documentary on the subject of palm oil plantations and logging in Indonesia?

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Another palm oil victim?

Orphaned when its mother was killed, now all alone and living (surviving - just) in these terrible conditions. Discovered this week by the Centre for Orangutan Protection who are now attempting to have the orangutan confiscated by the authorities - the only people who can legally do so.

His name is "Jojo" and he was bought from a hunter seven years ago who killed his mother. He has been kept in this crate for seven years.

Orangutan hell-hole

Just look at what passes for 'home' to "Jojo". Chained up 24 hours a day over a filthy, stinking pool of - the unimaginable.

Look at those eyes.

A look of wonderment as he gazes at his own reflection in the camera lens. Or could it be a look of hope and desperation that perhaps the photographer could be coming to help "Jojo"?

Another palm oil victim?

Illegally held orangutan discovered this week by an investigator from The Centre for Orangutan Protection. (see photos above) A rescue attempt is underway as I write.

Biofuel boom endangers orangutan habitat

Biofuel boom endangers orangutan habitat

Palm oil plantations are encroaching on rain forest reserves on the Indonesia island of Borneo, where the endangered primates live.

By Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer October 19, 2008

TANJUNG PUTING NATIONAL PARK, INDONESIA -- In the rush to feed the world's growing appetite for climate-friendly fuel and cooking oil that doesn't clog arteries, the Bornean orangutan could get plowed over.

Several plantation owners are eyeing Tanjung Puting park, a sanctuary for 6,000 of the endangered animals. It is the world's second-largest population of a primate that experts warn could be extinct in less than two decades if a massive assault on its forest habitat is not stopped.

The orangutans' biggest enemy, the United Nations says, is no longer poachers or loggers. It's the palm oil industry. On the receding borders of this 1,600-square-mile lush reserve, a road paved with good intentions runs smack into a swamp of alleged corruption and government bungling.

It's one of the mounting costs few bargained for in the global craze to "go green."The park clings to the southern tip of the island of Borneo, which is shared by Indonesia and Malaysia, the top producers of palm oil. Exporters market it as an alternative to both petroleum and cooking oils containing trans fats.

"That's only a slogan, you know," said Ichlas Al Zaqie, the local project manager for Los Angeles-based Orangutan Foundation International. "They change the forest, and say it's for energy sustainability, but they're killing other creatures."Indonesia is losing lowland forest faster than any other major forested country.

At the rate its trees are being felled to plant oil palms, poach high-grade timber and clear land for farming, 98% of Indonesia's forest may be lost by 2022, the United Nations Environment Program says.

"If the immediate crisis in securing the future survival of the orangutan and the protection of national parks is not resolved, very few wild orangutans will be left within two decades," UNEP concluded in a report last year. "The rate and extent of illegal logging in national parks may, if unchallenged, endanger the entire concept of protected areas worldwide.

"In July, loggers finished buzz-sawing and bulldozing a 40,000-acre swath in a northeastern corner of the park, where at least 561 orangutan lived, to clear ground for oil palm plants, Zaqie said.

The government isn't much help, say environmental activists, who accuse corrupt officials, military and police officers of siding with timber poachers, illegal miners and others threatening the forests.Activists bemoan a territorial dispute between local officials and the provincial and national governments.

"The problem now is even the central government can't really say where the exact border of the national park is," said Yeppie Kustiwae, who handles the issue of forest conversion for the World Wide Fund for Nature in Indonesia. Zaqie says palm oil companies are determined to take as much as 5 million acres of orangutan forest habitat in Tanjung Puting and the larger Sebangau National Park, where Borneo's largest population of orangutans lives.

Tanjung Puting, a tropical Eden still revealing its secrets, shelters nine primate species, including rare proboscis monkeys, whose pendulous schnozzes can be 7 inches long. Zaqie says he first saw bulldozers knocking down trees for the northeastern palm oil plantation five years ago.

He was certain the loggers were on land included in the park in a 1996 government decree. He tried without success to stop the bulldozer operators. So Zaqie went to a manager, who confirmed that the forest was being converted into a plantation by an Indonesian company called Wanasawit Subur Lestari. A

spokesman for its parent company, BEST Plantation Group, denied encroaching on the park. "We are working based on a permit issued by the government," said Wahyu Bimadhrata, BEST's legal manager. "We don't work inside the national park.

"Mounting pressures on the forest are easiest to see in the money made by palm oil plantations. In 1990, Indonesia earned $204 million from palm oil exports; the value exploded to more than $7.8 billion in 2007.Palm oil exports started growing sharply five years ago after the European Union declared a mandatory quota to replace gasoline and diesel from crude with biofuels.

Last year, it raised the biofuel target to 10% of transportation fuels by 2020, driving the price of palm oil higher and ratcheting up the threat to rain forests.The EU has maintained the policy even though a report in April by European Environment Agency scientists called it an "overambitious" experiment "whose unintended effects are difficult to predict and difficult to control.

"Instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, producing palm oil on what was once peat swamp forests may be boosting the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Leveling the jungle not only destroys trees that absorb carbon dioxide, it also releases millions of tons of carbon dioxide stored in Borneo's peat for thousands of years.

Fires set to clear trees and stumps add to the problem.As companies lobby to clear more rain forest, other Indonesians are laboring to restore habitat for orangutans and rehabilitate those who lost their jungle homes or were rescued from poachers.A decade ago, raging fires burned millions of acres of Borneo's forest.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation bought 4,500 acres that farmers had abandoned to grassland at Samboja Lestari, on the island's eastern side."People thought that in one or two years, we would give up," said Ishak Yassir, the foundation's regional program manager. "We proved them wrong.

"His Indonesian staff cares for 224 orangutans; each day, teachers take their wide-eyed pupils to forest school. They teach them the basics, such as tree climbing; the proper way to eat dirt to get at insects, seeds and other nutrients; and avoiding snakes.

Once they graduate, they join the list of orangutans ready to leave rehab.Yassir's staff has cleared more than 50 young adults for release over the last six years.

But the orangutans' rescuers can't find enough safe forest for the apes to go home Special correspondent Dinda Jouhana in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.,0,2358307.story

Saturday, 18 October 2008

'Bribes were my money': Azirwan

Saturday, October 18, 2008 The Jakarta Post

'Bribes were my money': Azirwan

JAKARTA: Suspended Bintan administration secretary Azirwan has claimed that the Rp 2.25 billion (US$230,000) he distributed to various lawmakers was his own money.

"The total amount that was disbursed to the House of Representatives members (to smooth the way for conversion of protected forest) was Rp 2.25 billion. That came from my personal savings that I got from my business (before serving as the Bintan secretary)," Azirwan told the Corruption Court on Friday in his testimony at the bribery trial of dismissed legislator Al Amin Nasution.

Azirwan said that before serving as Bintan secretary, he did some work as a mediator between foreign companies that needed fishing licenses from local companies.

"I decided to use my own money because I did not see any other way to get the House's permission for the forest conversion because the Bintan administration did not have any budget for that," he said.

Azirwan has been sentenced to 30 years in jail for bribing members of the House Commission IV on forestry and agriculture, including Al Amin.

The Bintan administration was planning to convert 8,300 hectares of a protected forest into a commercial area. --JP

EU Move Against Illegal Timber 'Toothless'

EU Move Against Illegal Timber 'Toothless'

By David CroninBRUSSELS, Oct 17 (IPS) -

A European Union blueprint for curbing import of illegal wood has been branded "toothless" by green activists.Citing estimates that 19 percent of timber brought into the EU comes from trees that have been felled illegally, the European Commission recommended Oct. 17 that all traders in forestry products should seek guarantees that their wood comes from bona fide sources.

Officials are touting the plan as a response to deforestation, one of the single largest contributors to climate change. The destruction of about 13 million hectares of forests per year accounts for about one-fifth of the world's total emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). In a related proposal, the Commission urges that about 5 percent of the revenues generated from the EU's emissions trading system (ETS), under which permits to release CO2 are bought and sold, should be used to fight deforestation.

A study is also to be undertaken into whether European countries may formally count investments in forest preservation programmes as part of their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas reduction efforts. "This is the first time any region in the world has adopted such a comprehensive approach to this very important problem, this destructive and unsustainable activity," claimed Stavros Dimas, Europe's environment commissioner.

He stated, though, that it will be a matter for the national authorities in EU countries to decide what penalties should be imposed on companies that continue to sell illegally logged wood.

"In Britain, there are some voices saying to impose prison sentences," he said. "We cannot do that. Instead of advising us to impose prison penalties, an advisor to the British government could advise his government to do so." Friends of the Earth called on the European Parliament and EU governments to strengthen the new plan.

"The legislative proposal to tackle the illegal timber trade is largely toothless and will do little to stem the rampant destruction of the world's remaining natural forests," said Danielle van Oijen, a campaigner with the organisation.

Greenpeace said the new plan is deficient as it would not explicitly criminalise the placing of illegal wood on the market. It also does not recommend any specific mechanism for checking that certification schemes run by timber firms on a voluntary basis are sufficiently robust.

"The Commission's proposal for this law will not help European consumers know if the flat-pack wardrobe they bought last Saturday is the result of forest crime," said Sebastien Risso from the Brussels office of Greenpeace.

Dimas also drew attention to the rich variety of flora and fauna to be found in the Amazon Basin and other densely forested parts of the globe. Each 10 kilometres square of tropical rainforest contains a higher number of different species than the whole of the EU's mainland, he said.

Yet whereas the Commission has calculated that 20 billion euros (27 billion dollars) is needed each year to halve the current rate of deforestation by 2020, only about one-tenth of that sum would be collected through the ETS, under its plans.

"Deforestation and degradation is costing the world's economy 2 trillion to 5 trillion dollars per year -- more than Wall Street has lost since the start of the current financial crisis," said Risso. "Today's Commission proposals cannot bail us out of global warming and species extinction."

Global Witness, an organisation that monitors the exploitation of natural resources, noted that the Brazilian government is against relying on a market-based scheme such as the ETS to fight deforestation. Each year Brazil loses 3 million hectares of forest, one-quarter of all lost throughout the world.

"Entrusting the future of the planet to the markets, in the light of the recent financial turmoil, veers between irresponsible and mad," said Global Witness spokesman Patrick Alley. "Carbon trading and forest protection are not compatible. Government funding is the most appropriate source of finance to pay for combating deforestation."

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) argued it is positive that the Commission has "finally recognised" the need for legislation to address the problem of illegal logging. But its forest specialist Anke Schulmeister complained that the proposal "does not have the teeth needed to seriously clamp down on this trade."

Meanwhile, Dimas has taken issue with estimates by the Italian government that EU efforts to tackle climate change would cost that country as much as 181 billion euros. "I wonder why there is all this fuss in Italy," he said, adding that rather than damaging the Italian economy, reducing its carbon dioxide emissions should bring tangible benefits.

Dimas argued that there is a "tremendous possibility" for Italy to create "green jobs" by investing in renewable energy and to become more self-sufficient by reducing its dependence on imported oil. (END/2008)

Friday, 17 October 2008

EU seeks tougher rules on illegal logging

EU seeks tougher rules on illegal logging

BRUSSELS (AFP) — The European Commission on Friday proposed tighter rules against illegal logging aimed at fighting climate change and protecting forests across the world.

"We must also send a firm message to timber suppliers that illegal timber or timber products will not be tolerated on the EU market," said European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, unveiling the draft law.

Under the proposed rules, which will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the 27 member states before coming into force, importers will have to seek "sufficient guarantees" that the timber they are bringing in is legally harvested.

The exporting countries will have to perform "due diligence" tests to minimise the risks of illegal timber reaching European markets.
While the legislation, if approved, would be EU-wide, it would be up to individual member states to set penalties for wrongdoers.

"Forests are home to half of all known species. When forests disappear, so does a vast array of plants and species, with disastrous and irreversible consequences," said Dimas, introducing initiatives on deforestation as well as illegal logging.

Illegal logging currently makes up around a fifth of all timber imports into the EU.

In general forests are disappearing at a rate of about 13 million hectares per year, through both legal and illegal means.

Deforestation is responsible for almost 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and has become a key issue in international negotiations.
To tackle the wider problem, the EU commissioner unveiled proposals to work towards developing in international climate change negotiations what Dimas called a "Global Forest Carbon Mechanism."

Under that scheme, developing countries would be rewarded for emissions reductions achieved by taking action to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

The plans would form part of the EU's position at the UN climate conference in Poznan in December and in the negotiations on a new climate agreement that is due to be concluded in December 2009 in Copenhagen.

Palm oil salesmen

Palm oil salesmen

An update on Hawaiian Electric's misguided plans to import palm oil
by Rob Parsons October 16, 2008

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) heard two days of testimony last week in a contested case docket to consider a proposed contract between Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc. (HECO) and Imperium Renewables to import palm oil biodiesel for electrical generation. Life of the Land, a community-based environmental group founded in 1970, has actively challenged the presumption that palm oil may provide a sustainable, renewable source of power production for Hawaii.

Two days of evidentiary hearings last week in downtown Honolulu revealed the extent to which HECO’s palm oil-biodiesel proposal is floundering. Two out of three PUC commissioners spent much of the two days dissecting the facts brought forward by HECO, picking up on many of the main themes questioned by Life of the Land’s Executive Director, Henry Curtis.

The thrust of the PUC docket was a request from HECO to approve a three-year contract with Imperium Renewables of Seattle to import biodiesel for fueling the 110-megawatt power generation facility under construction in Oahu’s Campbell Industrial Park, scheduled to go online in July 2009.

But all the pieces have not fallen into place since HECO announced its proposal to fuel the Oahu facility with 100 percent biodiesel, purportedly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut our dependence on imported fuels. Nevertheless, HECO seems hell bent on a strategy to institute palm oil imports, despite economic and environmental red flags.

Despite efforts to spin the issue by industry groups like the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), the ecological devastation wreaked by the palm oil industry on the rainforest ecosystems of Malaysia and Indonesia is well documented.

The Hawaii Agricultural Research Center (HARC) conducted a study of the viability of growing a variety of biofuel crops throughout the islands. The conclusions revealed that even if all available agricultural lands in Hawaii were utilized, they would be insufficient to replace the amount of petroleum fuels currently used for electrical generation and transportation.

For example, Maui Electric Company (MECO) consumed in excess of 76 million gallons of diesel and high-sulfur residual oils in their generation units at Ma`alaea, Kahului, and Hana. That’s equivalent to nearly 1.5 million gallons a week.

Even if 10,000 acres were planted tomorrow in jatropha curcas—a drought-tolerant, fairly high yielding oil plant at 300-400 gallons per acre annually—at maturity in 5-8 years it would only produce 3-4 million gallons, or only enough to fuel MECO for two to three weeks.

HECO has claimed that the local biofuel industry would be kick-started by the Campbell Industrial Park generation site requirement for biodiesel and by plans to build large biodiesel refineries on Oahu and Maui. BlueEarth Biodiesel LLC announced in February 2007 their intentions to partner with MECO to construct a 120 million-gallon/year facility on Maui.

Imperium received approvals to build a 100-mgy refinery on state land at Kalaeloa Harbor late last year. But soon after they withdrew an Initial Public Offering that would have raised funds to finance construction of three facilities in all. Plans to build in Hawaii have been scrapped, and Imperium’s local office has closed, its phone disconnected.

Meanwhile, production of biodiesel at Imperium’s Seattle plant halted suddenly last April, according to shipping records and testimony before the PUC. In August, the company lost a major contract to supply some 18 million gallons of biodiesel yearly to Royal Caribbean Cruises.

The cruise line also pulled out its investment in the Seattle company. Imperium went through a financial restructuring last month in order to satisfy obligations to project lenders. Production at the plant, however, is still shut down. Commission Chair Carlito Caliboso asked HECO’s Robbie Alm, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, about Imperium’s financial health and status.

Were there risks, and did the utility have a contingency plan? Alm replied that the biofuel markets have been tough on all participants. He said that even though Imperium had changed their plans to build in Hawaii, they still were assuring HECO they would have access to supplies of palm oil to meet the sustainability criteria set forth by HECO and the Natural Resources Defense Council last year.

HECO’s next witness, Ronald Cox, Manager of the Power Supply Division, said Imperium was given until October 30 to provide a contingency plan if they are unable to meet the terms of the contract. He said that even while they are hoping Imperium call fulfill the contract terms, they are also doing due diligence to see if there are other possible providers.

Commissioner Les Kondo asked how fast HECO could execute a contract with a substitute supplier. Cox answered that their first choice would be a company that could “take assignment” of the contract. Otherwise, releasing a new Request for Proposals for competitive bidding could be a lengthy process.

Kondo asked if Imperium was in compliance, or in breach of their contract. Cox stated that “default” and “breach” are legal terms open to scrutiny and interpretation, but agreed they are not currently in “full compliance.”“Is it your company’s position this is still in the public interest and prudent to approve this three-year contract?” Kondo asked. Cox said, yes, it was.

PUC staff legal counsel Stacey Kawasaki Djou inquired whether once approved, HECO could assign the contract to another entity without commission review. Cox replied, yes, they could. “So the new supplier wouldn’t necessarily be sustainable, and the commission wouldn’t be able to evaluate that?” Djou asked. Cox replied that their representatives had worked with the palm oil industry, and that reporting would be done in an annual audit. He said that he would be traveling to Malaysia in November for the annual Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil meeting, and that they would discuss things with potential suppliers then.

During a break in the proceedings, Life of the Land’s Curtis told me this approach was an astonishing lack of due diligence by the public utility to satisfy the basic requirements of the contract and its providers. He noted that the first RSPO principle is “transparency,” a word that is absent in HECO-NRDC criteria.

Curtis asked David Waller, HECO’s Vice President of Customer Solutions, about the difference between the RSPO and the HECO/NRDC sustainability criteria. “Our criteria goes beyond that of RSPO,” said Waller. “Fire is not to have been used for any clearings or plantings after 2005.

We’re striving for a balance between sustainability and the practicality to provide electricity.”“Mr. Waller, you spoke of balance,” Curtis redirected. “Can you explain how sustainability could not be practical?”Kondo asked Waller how the date 2005 was chosen.

“How is the impact different if you said no clearing for plantations within the last ten years?”Satellite imagery has shown thousands of fires in the Borneo and Sumatra regions over the past ten years due to clearing rainforest and peat lands for new plantations. Malaysia—where nearly four million acres of forest have been lost since 1990—leads all countries of the world with more than 1,000 threatened or endangered species of birds, plants, trees, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

Even as the first two plantations in Malaysia received RSPO certification within the past two weeks, an October 8 report by Friends of the Earth titled “Green Gold or Green Wash” refuted claims of sustainability. The report exposes plans to double palm oil plantation acreage by 2010.

It claims that burning has released millions of tons of greenhouse gases and says indigenous communities are still threatened, despite government promises to protect them. David Leonard, who was employed by Imperium until earlier this year, appeared as a HECO consultant and witness.

He testified that he traveled to Malaysia three times in the past two years. One of those trips also included state legislators Sen. Ron Menor and Rep. Mina Morita, each of whom reported in excess of $3,000 paid for their airfare, food and lodging on annual spending reports.

The tab was picked up by industry cheerleader the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. Leonard testified he visited two plantations operated by Sime-Darby, the world’s largest supplier with 6-8 percent of the total production. He said he believes they could fulfill the 15 million gallons annually specified in the HECO contract.

Curtis countered that the demand for certified palm oil far exceeds the supply, and that prices would likely continue to rise. Corporate cosmetic giant Unilever was the target of European protests by Greenpeace earlier this year, and agreed that greater steps are needed to protect rainforests and their inhabitants.

Unilever purchased 382 million US gallons of palm oil last year, and is now leading a coalition of multinational companies, including Nestle, Cadbury and Proctor & Gamble, to tackle the issue of sustainability. Curtis noted that HECO paid $155 per barrel of diesel fuel in April of this year, and guesstimated biodiesel at $232 per barrel.

It is estimated that “certified” biodiesel could be at least 10 percent more expensive. HECO’s PUC filing includes a request to pass the costs of biodiesel along to its customers as an “energy cost adjustment,” or fuel surcharge. Considering Hawaii’s abundance of locally available energy sources—solar, wind and ocean thermal, to name a fewseems to be an extraordinary price for ratepayers to endure, especially considering the environmental price paid to produce palm oil.

The PUC will receive Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law from all parties in the case, and may issue a final decision by the end of the year. MTW

Illegal timber in British garden furniture, says Gordon Brown advisor

Illegal timber in British garden furniture, says Gordon Brown advisor

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Daily Telegraph

Illegal timber from endangered forests is ending up in British garden furniture and new laws to tackle the problem are inadequate, Gordon Brown's forestry advisor has warned.

· Timber imports to be licensed to combat illegal logging
· Garden furniture for UK market 'from illegally logged rainforest', says report
· Britain 'imports more illegal timber than any EU country'

Europe is the largest market for timber in the world but up to a fifth of the wood - much of which ends up in Britain as garden furniture or hardwood flooring - is illegally felled from protected rainforests.

Law makers in Europe have been working on legislation to clampdown on the problem for five years and the European Commission will put forward legislation tomorrow.

But Barry Gardiner, the prime minister's special envoy on forestry, has said the law is unlikely to stop the problem. He said it will be easy for importers to buy false certification to make it appear that illegally felled timber is legal.

"Importers will be able to import millions of tonnes of illegal timber into this country because they can get away with it by ticking the right boxes - that is wrong," he said.

His concerns come as forestry moves up the agenda in national and international polictics because of they key role rainforests play in slowing climate change. It has been estimated that deforestation accounts for around a fifth of annual carbon emissions.

Earlier in the week the Eliasch Review, commissioned by Mr Brown, advised paying developing countries to protect the rainforests and any global agreement on climate change to replace the Kyoto protocol will include forestry.

Europe is putting its own house in order by introducing measures to stop illegal timber being imported into Europe. The proposed regulation will oblige traders to identify the country of origin of their timber, and ensure that any they sell has been harvested according to the relevant laws of that country.

An EU spokesman said: "The proposal will increase the protection and preservation of forests, especially in developing countries that export forest products to the EU."

Mr Gardiner is calling on Europe to introduce a law whereby importers will be subject to random checks and if they cannot prove timber is sourced sustainably they will be punished by a £100,000 fine or five years in jail.
The bulk of illegal timber ends up in furniture or flooring in Europe or the US. It is estimated that the British market alone is fuelling the destruction of 1.4 million acres of forest a year.

Mr Gardiner said laws are desperately needed to control the trade but the new legislation is unlikely to be on the statute books before May next year when there is a European election and the whole process will have to start again.

He said: "The European Commission has failed to seize the initiative and come up with a decent set of regulations to put in place. The EC knows what the problem is - deforestation accounts for 20 per cent of carbon emissions every year. Unless we grapple this fundamental problem we will never grapple the problem of climate change."

Environmental groups were also concerned about the legislation. Mariana Paoli, forestry campaigner at Greenpeace, said: "There are fears it might be too weak to stop forest crime. We do believe there is a lot of room of improvement and will continue to fight for stronger laws."

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Where does all the money go?

When you read the article below you might wonder how this could happen when the Jane Goodall Institute had an income in 2006 (last published accounts) of $17,000,000, and completed that year with $7,800,000 sitting in their bank account - and they pay their top two employees a combined amount of $280,000 between them. Given chimpanzees only exist in Africa, the JGI managed to spend almost $10,000,000 - a truly eye watering amount in any country, let alone Africa. Does this leave you wondering where all this money was spent whilst this chimpanzee population has been declining so rapidly?

If $10,000,000 AND the famous Jane Goodhall, in one year alone, do not stop the chimpanzee population declining - what will?

Is it possible we could one day be reading something similar about orangutans and one or two big name 'conservation' groups? Hmmnn.

I see Jane has been lecturing recently in Australia (doubtless raising money in the process):

"Dr Jane Goodall’s National Luncheons
The woman who redefined man, defines leadership
AGSM Executive Programs, in partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute of Australia, is delighted to offer you a rare opportunity to share Dr Goodall’s unique insight into human organisational behaviour based on her life study of chimpanzees in the jungles of Africa."

I have highlighted the section I find curious, coming as it does from someone whose own organisation is seemingly proving spectacularly unsuccessful at saving chimpanzees.

Chimpanzees' last stronghold in danger as numbers fall by 90 per cent

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent Daily Telegraph

Time appears to be running out for chimpanzees living in the wild after a survey of its last "stronghold" found numbers had plummeted by 90 per cent.

The effect of man had already led to a reduction from an estimated 100,000 fifty years ago to between 12,000 and 8,000 in 1990 in the Ivory Coast, the west African country that harboured more than half the world's population of chimps.

But a new survey has found that it has dropped a further 90 per cent to little more than 1,000 individual chimps. Now scientists believe there is only one viable population left in the Tai National Park and that the ape should be classified as "critically endangered".

Christophe Boesch, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, told the journal Current Biology, that the rise in the human population was to blame."The human population in Cote d'Ivoire has increased nearly 50 per cent over the last 18 years," he said.

"Since most threats to chimpanzee populations are derived from human activities such as hunting and deforestation, this has contributed to the dramatic decline in chimpanzee populations.

"The situation has deteriorated even more with the start of the civil war in 2002, since all surveillance ceased in the protected areas."

The few remaining chimpanzees are now highly fragmented, with only one viable population living in Taï National Park, according to a report.
Chimpanzees are notoriously difficult to spot so researchers count the number of nests to estimate populations.

In the new study, the number of nests recorded by Boesch and his colleague Geneviève Campbell had dropped by 90 per cent since the last count.

They found the catastrophic decline in chimpanzees is especially strong in forest areas with low protection status, where the researchers saw no sign of the chimps.

Even in protected areas like Marahoué National Park, chimpanzees have clearly suffered since surveillance and external funding support were disrupted by civil unrest in 2002.

Campbell said. "It was saddening that I only found one nest in this park, as during the previous survey they found 234 nests. The one nest I did find was also in an area that had just been cleared for agriculture."

Even the last remaining refuge for the dwindling West African chimpanzees the Taï National Park is extremely threatened by poachers, Boesch said.

"We must appeal to the international conservation community to invest in sustainable funding of conservation activities in national parks with known importance for chimpanzee populations.

"External financial support in that park is scheduled to end in 2010, a move that will probably have disastrous consequences for the last vestiges of chimpanzees in Côte d'Ivoire."