Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Action by Greenpeace in the North Sea: Palm Oil that kills the climate and forests is Not Welcome

Personal note:

In this very good article by Greenpeace I have highlighted something I've mentioned previously. It's pure madness that overseas governments, and now companies, give Indonesia vast sums of money to 'save' forests'. It is my view that the REDD carbon credit scheme will leave a lot of donors/investors poorer and RED faced.


Action by Greenpeace in the North Sea: Palm Oil that kills the climate and forests is Not Welcome

Greenpeace – December 24, 2008
Rotterdam, Netherlands

Greenpeace today protested against a shipment of Indonesian palm oil en route to Rotterdam by painting "Forest Crime" on the side of the Isola Corallo. The tanker is transporting palm oil from Indonesia's largest palm oil producer, Sinar Mas, to Europe and was already subject to a Greenpeace action six weeks ago in the port of Dumai in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Recent Greenpeace investigations (1) have brought to light information showing that Sinar Mas is actively destroying Indonesian rain forests and peat lands. While not itself a household name, Sinar Mas supplies to multinationals like Nestle, Pizza Hut and Burger King.

"Sinar Mas is a climate and forest criminal" said Suzanne Kröger, Forests campaigner, Greenpeace Netherlands. "Despite on-going discussions with Greenpeace, Sinar Mas continues to destroy Indonesia's last rain forests. Now is the time for companies like Nestle and Burger King to show their concern for the welfare of the planet by cancelling their contracts with Sinar Mas, otherwise they are supporting the ongoing destruction of some of the world's last remaining forests and thereby dramatically speeding up climate change."

Companies like Unilever, who also buy from Sinar Mas, are supporting the Greenpeace call for a moratorium on any further expansion of palm oil plantations in the remaining Indonesian rain forests. In addition to pushing for the moratorium, Greenpeace believes that companies now need to show that they are serious by cancelling contracts with companies like Sinar Mas that continue to deforest for palm oil in Indonesia.

Indonesia is the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases (after China and the USA) as a result almost entirely of deforestation. Not only is this a disaster for the climate and local biodiversity but also for indigenous communities who depend on the forests for their livelihood and for unique wildlife such as the endangered Sumatran tiger and orang-utan.

Bustar Maitar, Forest campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia said "If the Indonesian government doesn't take urgent action now, millions more hectares of pristine forests will be cut down and burnt. They also need to stop their hypocrisy: first they sell concessions to companies who have a long-standing record of forest decimation and then they ask the international community for funds to protect the very same forests. In order to qualify for funds to save their forests, the government must implement a moratorium on any further deforestation so that companies like Sinar Mas don't cut down all of the trees before the money can reach the forests."

Greenpeace's "Forests for Climate" funding mechanism for forest protection was presented at the Poznan climate talks earlier this month. The document is a blueprint for the international community to establish funding for tropical forest protection as one of the major steps in the fight to curb climate change. Countries like Indonesia are hoping to get financial compensation for their attempts to reduce deforestation, meanwhile Sinar Mas's expansion plans include the conversion of almost 2 million hectares of pristine forest in Indonesia's Papua provinces as well as further forest clearing in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

Slump hits Indonesia ecotourism

Slump hits Indonesia ecotourism

Written by George Mcleod The Phnom Penh Post

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Projects such as orangutan rescue at Sumatra national park, as well as other sites, feel brunt of economic crisis, with fewer funds for protecting rare animals and threatened habitats.


Every morning at dawn, Darma grabs a bucket of milk and a sack of bananas and crosses into the jungles of Sumatra, Indonesia. He makes his way up a thin mountain pass to a platform, where he is greeted by a group of hungry orangutans - most rescued from homes and private zoos across Asia.

Over the years, possibly thousands of tourists have made the short mountain trek with Darma under a project to save the endangered primates and their jungle home. But with the economic crisis and lingering fears of terrorism, Darma's jungle trips have been lonelier.

"I used to bring dozens of tourists to the platform to watch the orangutans feeding. Now, it is rarely more than two," said Darma, who like many Indonesians has only one name.

As he speaks, a giant 77 kilogram (170 pound) orangutan appears from overhead to accept the offering of fruit and tries to make off with a tourist's camera before vanishing into the trees.

Sumatra's Gunung Leuser National Park hosts some of the last of the world's great apes, but tourists - who provide much-needed funds for the orangutan rehabilitation program - are becoming as rare as the primates themselves as the economic crisis hits.

The troubles started with the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 and cut tourism by almost half, leaving the community and the park starved for funds.

"I would estimate that 60 percent of the guides are jobless," said Rambe, a local guide.
Now, the economic crisis has dealt another blow to Indonesia's struggling ecotourism industry.

Figures say 6.4 million tourists visited the republic in 2008, far below the eight million targeted by the government. Tourism earnings in Southeast Asia's biggest economy are expected to fall next year to US$6.5 billion, from an estimated $7.57 billion in 2008, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

The village of Bukit Lawang - tourist gateway to the 950,000-hectare Gunung Leuser - was once a busy village filled with backpackers and tour groups. It was hailed as an ecotourism success story after a European Union-funded project in 1995 enlisted the community in forest protection.

But the small settlement on the banks of a gushing river now resembles a ghost town. The jungle has reclaimed many of the guesthouses, and monkeys have taken up residence in empty bedrooms.

Local guides say hundreds of villagers were encouraged to attend training courses where they learned conservation, sustainable development and survival skills.

Many were certified as guides and earned a living showing visitors the park and the orangutans - giving them a stake in fending off poaching and illegal logging.

Fewer ecotourist dollars
But without tourists, locals have less incentive to protect the forest and its primates.

"People can earn thousands of dollars from selling an illegally poached orangutan," said one former guide. "These days, most of us don't earn that much in a year, so you can see why poaching is such a problem." And declining tourism is not the only threat to the gentle apes.

Increasing palm oil demand has caused hundreds of miles of protected forest to be cut down for plantations.
Ashley Leiman of the UK-based Orangutan Foundation said demand for bio-diesel, which is made from palm oil, is a major contributor to deforestation.

"Everyone is concerned about carbon emissions, but deforestation is the number two cause of carbon dioxide," she said.

A 2008 report by the global conservation group WWF said that 65 percent of Sumatra's rainforests have been cut in the past 25 years, releasing more carbon dioxide than the Netherlands.

At current rates, orangutans will have no viable habitat by 2022. But according to a UK-based tourism expert, the economic downturn's effect on eco-destinations will depend more on the ability of governments to protect flora and fauna.

"The biggest threat [to eco-tourist destinations] isn't the decline in tourism, but the decline of the state ... that could mean fewer resources for patrols of sensitive areas ... or tourism operators having less money to offer backhanders to the government to fend off illegal logging."

Even before the crisis, local rangers say their government paychecks were irregular.
"It is not abnormal for us to go for months without pay," said one ranger. "There are only 1,000 rangers to patrol one of the biggest parks in Indonesia.


Sunday, 28 December 2008

Eye in sky to deter illegal loggers

Personal note: Whilst it destroys the forests of Indonesia, Malaysia is increasingly keen to save its own. China has been doing much the same things for years.

New Straits Times Online


Eye in sky to deter illegal loggers

SIX hours. That is all the time it takes to detect illegal logging in Peninsular Malaysia, thanks to the Forestry Department’s eye in the sky. Called the ‘Forest Monitoring Using Remote Sensing’ system, it was jointly developed with the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency. Agency director-general Datuk Darus Ahmad and Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia deputy director-general Datuk Razani Ujang talk to SONIA RAMACHANDRAN about the system.

Datuk Darus Ahmad says the satellite images are also used to build a national forest inventory.

Datuk Razani Ujang says the Forestry Department will verifies whether what is on what is seen on the satellite images and on the ground is the same.

Q: Whose idea was the system?

A: The satellite-based computerised system was mooted by the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency and the Forestry Department and it started on the instructions of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who chaired the 20th National Forest Council meeting in September 2006.

Q: When was it completed?

A: It was completed in August this year and launched in October. The agency manages the system which is used by the department.

Q: What does the system do?

A: It monitors both licensed concession areas to detect compliance with regulations as well as high potential areas for illegal land clearing.

By identifying illegal land clearing, we can detect forest fires and help in haze prevention.

The images are also used to build a national forest inventory of the country's total area of forest cover.

This can be used to estimate the timber volume from the forests.

Q: Why do we need an inventory?

A: The inventory contributes to the national effort for forest and environmental sustainability.

There is always criticism that our forests are diminishing.

Q: How does it work?

A: We receive the data from the French Spot (Satellite Pour l'Observation de la Terre earth-observing satellites) through our ground receiving centre in Temerloh and it is processed within six hours.

The data is then placed in our database which is linked to the department.

To access any information, the department gets on to the Internet and calls up the specific page to check if logging carried out in that area is legal. The department will also go down to the field to check.

Q: What is considered illegal logging?

A: Logging outside the concession area as well as in protected areas such as riverbanks, areas above 1,000m and slopes of more that 40 degrees gradient. Also illegal is the building of logging tracks outside the logging concession area as well as logging of prohibited trees.

Q: How often are the images taken?

A: For licensed logging areas as well as sensitive areas, we take the images once a week.

Sensitive areas are those with high potential for forest clearing and the Spot satellite, which has a 2.3m resolution which can detect individual trees, passes over the same spot once a week.

For less sensitive areas, which consist of normal forest cover, the images are taken monthly.

Q: Does the system cover the whole country?

A: Currently the system is only for Peninsular Malaysia because we are working with the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia. We can always extend it to Sabah and Sarawak.

Q: How much did the system cost?

A: Only RM120,000. The system was built using existing resources and internal expertise.

Q: Can the images be used as evidence in court?

A: Satellite images have been used to prosecute land owners for open burning so this has potential to be used as evidence in court.

That was a manual system where the image has to be interpreted manually.

This system has all the relevant data incorporated into it, including the template for licensed land boundaries, so it is immediately known that an offence is being committed.

Q: What is the difference between this system and the airborne hyperspectral imaging kit that has a sensor hooked to a computer and global positioning system device?

A: That is an airborne system. Our satellite system is more reliable and cheaper as we don't need an aircraft to operate it.

Our system will also have more frequent images and cover a wider area and it is linked online to the Forestry Department.

Q: What happens when you receive the images?

A: The satellite images are acquired by the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency and processed.

When the end product is obtained, it will be sent to us and we will access it online. We will then verify the images.

We have a Geographic Information Section (GIS) which will produce hard copies of the images.

Verification can also be done by the state and district offices.

Then, we have to verify the images on the ground. This can be done by state, district or headquarters officers.

The results of this ground check will then be passed on to the enforcement unit.

Q: Why can't action be taken during the ground check? Why does the information have to be passed to the enforcement unit?

A: We have an enforcement unit at the headquarters and several at state forest departments.

By law, every officer posted to a state has to be gazetted in that state.

Only gazetted officers have the locus standi to carry out enforcement in the respective states.

There are plans to amend the National Forestry Act 1984 where federal enforcement officers will be gazetted to be able to carry out enforcement in the states.

Q: How long will everything take?

A: When the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency receives the satellite images, it is in a raw form. The images can be full of distortions like lines, blurring or even cloud cover.

They have to be cleaned and aligned to the scales and coordinates.

The GIS unit will verify the data within two hours as it has to compare the images with our most current base map because the template used could be outdated due to changes in land use and new issuances of licences.

The verification part is to see if there is abuse. We have to ascertain whether what is on the imagery and on the ground is the same.

Our target is to complete everything within 24 hours.

Q: Do you have enough staff for all this?

A: We need dedicated officers to do the verification work and we need to employ them. At the moment, we have officers from different sections helping out.

Q: Can the images be used as evidence in court?

A: At present, the satellite images are not used to prosecute offenders. Only field evidence is used.

However, it has potential to be used as we have included it as an amendment to the National Forestry Act to be used as evidence.


Saturday, 27 December 2008

Walhi to Take Police to Court Over Logging

December 26, 2008 The Jakarta Globe

Anita Rachman & Nivell Rayda

Walhi to Take Police to Court Over Logging

The Riau Province chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, or Walhi, plans a court challenge to a police decision to halt long-running illegal logging investigations involving 13 timber companies, a forum official said on Friday.

Ali Husain Nasution, Riau Walhi’s legal counselor, said that the group would soon file lawsuits at eight district courts in the province.

“We want the district courts to examine why the police have stopped the investigations,” he said, adding that there were indications of conspiracy behind the decision, though he did not provide details.

According to Walhi, prosecutors ignored the testimony of experts from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture, who said the companies being investigated had caused substantial damage to the environment.

The group also alleged that local governments had violated the forestry law by issuing permits to log in areas where it was illegal to do so, such as on slanting ground and in protected forests, which could cause flooding and landslides.

Hadiatmoko, the chief of the Riau Police, said earlier that the investigations, most of which date back to 2007, were being dropped at the behest of prosecutors, who had determined there were no grounds to press charges.

“Why have the police dared to let these companies off? The evidence is there,” Ali said, adding that Walhi itself had submitted substantial evidence of environmental damage.

M. Teguh Surya, Walhi’s head of advocacy and networking, said that in 2008 alone, the logging companies had cut down two million cubic meters of timber valued at more than Rp 3 trillion ($273 million).

“What the court should have done is not only look at the forestry law, but also other laws, such as those on corruption,” Teguh said, alleging that the companies had bribed district heads to issue logging permits.

In September of this year, Tengku Azmun Jaafar, one of the province’s district heads, was jailed for 11 years by the Anti-Corruption Court in Jakarta for accepting bribes in connection with the issuance of logging permits.

Teguh, however, said that the companies and the masterminds behind the illegal logging should be punished just as severely.

The country’s leading anticorruption watchdog, Indonesian Corruption Watch, said that in the last three years, less than one-third of 205 illegal logging cases resulted in convictions. Those who were convicted received light sentences of two years or less.

Amnesty calls for probe into fatal shooting

Last week, with the predictable approval of the Minister of Forestry, prosecutions were dropped against illegal loggers.Soon after, this is what happened to some of those who complained about the loggers.


Amnesty calls for probe into fatal shooting

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 27th December 2008

Rights group Amnesty International urged Indonesian police Wednesday to investigate a crackdown on protesting villagers in which hundreds of houses were destroyed in Riau.

Two children died following the violence and nearly 400 people were left homeless last week after police and other officials fired bullets and tear gas while evicting residents of Seluk Bongkal village, Amnesty said in a statement.

"Hundreds of people are now living in the forest, their homes destroyed, and two families are grieving the loss of their children," campaigner Josef Benedict said in the statement published on its official website Wednesday.

The global rights group also called on police to allow the National Commission on Human Rights and the local government access to the area to ensure the safety of the villagers.

Quoting local sources, Amnesty said a two-year-old girl died after falling down a well during the clash, while a two-month-old baby died from burns. Two other people were injured from gunshots.

The villagers have been engaged in a land dispute with pulpwood supplier PT Arara Abadi, a subsidiary of Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper, since the forestry ministry awarded the company rights to develop the area in 1996.

Spokesman for the Riau police Adj. Sr. Comr. Zulkifli said 79 members of the Riau Labor Union (STR) had been detained for allegedly inciting the unrest. Following the incident, a platoon of police personnel stood guard at the disputed area, located around 180 kilometers north of the provincial capital of Pekanbaru.

Representatives from six local NGOs went to the Riau police Wednesday to express their support for an investigation into the individuals behind the incident.

"This support for a police investigation suggests there are people who regret the actions of the labor union," Zulkifli said.

The clash erupted after around 800 local residents, all suspected members of the STR, resisted a police order to leave a property they claimed ownership of Thursday last week. Police opened fire when residents wielded sharp weapons and threw stones at the officers, police said.

General Manager of PT Arara, Nurul Huda, said the eviction concluded 20 reports it had filed against the residents, who he said had occupied the company's land for years.

"The land belongs to the state, we only lease it," he said, dismissing allegations that the company had brought in the police to evict the people.


Police chief criticized over logging case closure

Police chief criticized over logging case closure

Erwida Maulia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 27th December

Police came under fire Friday from lawmakers and activists for their decision to drop an investigation into 13 forestry companies accused of illegal logging activities in Riau province. Legislators said they would seek support from the House of Representatives to summon National Police chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri to clarify the heavily-criticized decision.

Alvin Lie, a member of the House's energy, mining and environment commission, said his faction would coordinate with both the forestry and legal affairs commissions, also at the national legislature, to develop the plan.

"This is a setback for the police force. This case has occurred while the country is in the middle of focusing efforts on combating illegal logging," he said to Tempointeraktif.com news portal.

Alvin, a senior politician from the National Mandate Party (PAN), said this was a major illegal logging case for police to be dropping.

"We will ask for transparency in handling the case and also for the police to take responsibility for it. If there is something wrong (during the investigation), we will demand the police reverse their decision."

Similar criticisms were lodged by fellow lawmakers Suswono, deputy head of the House's forestry commission and Patrialis Akbar, a member of the House's legal affairs commission.

Suswono said his commission would demand police fulfill their promise to combat widespread illegal logging in the country.

Patrialis said there was a plan to clarify the issue in a hearing with the National Police chief after the House ends its recess on Jan. 19.

On Monday, police in Riau issued a Letter of Order to Stop Investigation (SP3) into 13 out of 14 companies whose alleged logging activities had affected around two million cubic meters of forest across the province last year.

The companies are all affiliated with the pulp and paper firms PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) and PT Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper (KIPP).

Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Hadiatmoko said the SP3 was issued because according to Forestry Ministry expert witnesses, the accused companies had permits from the government that allowed them to carry out the logging activities.

Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban said his office respected the police's decision to drop the investigation, confirming that the firms in question had obtained forestry licenses from the government.

At a joint press conference Friday, several NGOs, including Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) and leading environmental watchdog Walhi, said there was a "conspiracy" behind the issuing of the SP3.

ICW's Febri Diansyah said putting a stop to the investigation set a "bad precedence" in the nation's fight against illegal logging.

"The SP3 issuance is proof that the government is encouraging forest destruction with its (poor) policy on illegal logging. It has also made the legal and trial processes a safe haven for environmental criminals," he said.

Febri said the argument put forward by Riau police that there was sufficient evidence of legal flaws in the case was "baseless and bias".

The NGOs demanded that National Police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri take action against Riau police over the handling of the case.