Category Archives: Environment

Indonesia hits European Union with WTO lawsuit over palm oil

Yahoo – AFP, December 16, 2019

Indonesia has accused the European Union of discrimination against its palm
oil exports (AFP Photo/Mohd RASFAN)

Indonesia has filed a World Trade Organization lawsuit against the European Union over plans to phase out palm oil-based biofuel for cars, the trade ministry said.

The action could escalate a trade dispute between Indonesia -- the world's top palm oil producer - and the EU, which plans to end its use of biofuels by 2030, citing concerns over widespread deforestation caused by the sector.

The EU earlier imposed duties on imports of subsidised biodiesel from Indonesia saying it was needed to level the playing field for its producers.

In response to what it called "discriminative" policies against its key palm oil exports, Indonesia said it filed a complaint with the WTO last week.

"Indonesia officially sent a request for consultation on December 9, 2019 to the EU as the initial step for the lawsuit," Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto said in a statement Sunday.

Neighbouring Malaysia, the world's second-biggest palm oil producer, has also threatened WTO action against the EU.

Teresa Kok, the minister overseeing Malaysia's palm oil sector, told AFP on Monday that she will head to Europe in March, and a challenge will not be filed until after then.

She said she wanted to try to convince European officials to change course on her trip.

"I want to give my trip a chance and see whether I can avoid filing the case at the WTO," she added.

Palm oil is the world's most widely used vegetable oil and a key ingredient in a wide range of products from food to cosmetics.

But environmentalists say it drives deforestation, with huge swathes of Southeast Asian rainforest logged in recent decades to make way for palm plantations.

Iman Pambagyo, Indonesia's director general for international trade negotiations, said Jakarta had previously tried other bilateral avenues to reach an agreement, without success.

"We need to assert Indonesia's stance on EU policy," Pambagyo said, referring to the WTO complaint, and adding that he hoped for a "best solution".

Indonesia arrests nearly 200 over raging forest fires

Yahoo – AFP, September 16, 2019

The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have
unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

Indonesia has arrested nearly 200 people over vast forest fires ripping across the archipelago, police said Monday, as toxic haze sends air quality levels plummeting and sparks flight cancellations.

Jakarta has deployed thousands of personnel to battle blazes that are turning land into charred landscapes and consuming forests in Sumatra and Borneo islands, where thousands of schools have been shut over health fears.

The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia, triggering diplomatic tensions with Indonesia's neighbours.

On Monday, authorities said they had arrested some 185 people suspected of being involved in activities that led to out-of-control fires sweeping the country.

"Indonesian Police will enforce the law against anyone who is proven to have carried out forest and land burning, whether it was done intentionally or through negligence," National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told reporters in Jakarta.

Indonesia's peat fires: a smouldering problem (AFP Photo/John SAEKI)

"This is a last resort. The most important thing is prevention."

Four corporations were also being investigated, he added.

Last week, Indonesia sealed off dozens of plantations where smog-belching fires were blazing, and warned that owners -- including Malaysia and Singapore-based firms -- could face criminal charges if there was evidence of illegal burning.

Some of the most serious fires occur in peatlands, which are highly combustible when drained of water to be converted into agricultural plantations.

Thick haze in Borneo -- where air quality levels have plummeted to "dangerous" levels in some areas -- caused the cancellation of about a dozen flights Sunday, national airline Garuda said.

Rival Lion Air said about 160 Borneo flights had been affected at the weekend.

Meanwhile, nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections linked to the haze in recent months, according to Indonesian health authorities.

Nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections 
linked to the haze in recent months (AFP Photo/Str)

While forest fires are an annual problem, the situation this year has been worsened by drier weather in Indonesia, with diplomatic tensions soaring as toxic smog drifts over to neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore.

The haze pushed Singapore's air quality to unhealthy levels for the first time in three years at the weekend.

In 2015, Indonesia suffered its worst forest fires for almost two decades, which dramatically increased its greenhouse gas emissions.

Huge fires tearing through the Amazon are also compounding concerns about the long-term impact of such blazes on keeping global temperature levels stable.

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Cold Lava Flood Strikes From Indonesia’s Mount Merapi

A cold lava flood has flowed from Indonesia's Mount Merapi on Sunday, hitting Jurang Jero village of Magelang regency of Central Java province, reported China's Xinhua news agency.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of the Data Center, Information and Public Relation at the National Agency of Disaster Management (BNPB) said that the cold lava flood was triggered by heavy rainfall on the top of the volcano.

In a statement, he said that there were no casualties reported during the flood that hit at 14:15 local time (0714 GMT). Only two trucks used to mine volcanic sand were washed away by the flood.

He added that the authorities and volunteers has faced difficulty to search and rescue due to strong flood current

In a statement, Sutopo said only two trucks used to mine volcanic sand were carried by the flood, and authorities and volunteers has faced difficulty to evacuate the trucks due to strong flood currents.

As much as 90 million meter cubics of cold lava are threatening people living around Mount Merapi that erupted in 2010

Tri Mumpini Wins ‘Asia’s Nobel Prize’ for Helping Poor

Indonesian social worker Tri Mumpuni is among the winners of Asia’s prestigious Magsaysay award this year for giving green technologies to the poor, organizers said on Wednesday.

Award foundation president Carmencita Abella said Tri, along with an Indian engineer and a Philippine charity group, had helped harness the technologies to empower their countrymen and worked to create waves of progressive change across Asia.

Each year six people or organizations are named joint winners of the Magsaysay award.

This year the other winners were a man who set up an Islamic school for girls in Indonesia, a lender to India’s poorest, and a man working to restore democracy in Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge murdered his father.

“Working on critical issues ... they are showing how commitment, competence, and collaborative leadership can truly transform individual lives and galvanize community action,” Abella said.

The award, often described as Asia’s Nobel Prize, is named after a famous Philippine president who died in a 1957 plane crash.

It aims to honor people who address issues of human development in Asia with courage and creativity.

Tri Mumpuni, 46, was recognized after her IBEKA foundation built 60 small power plants harnessing the energy of water stored in dams to bring electricity to half a million people, the awards foundation said.

She was once kidnapped with her husband by former separatist rebels in Aceh province while pursuing her nongovernmental group’s project to bring electricity to rural Indonesia.

Another winner was US-trained Indian engineer Harish Hande, 44, for bringing solar lights to a country where half of all households have no electricity, the awards foundation said.

His Solar Electric Light Co.-India has tapped the sun’s energy to light up 120,000 households and is now one of the country’s largest solar technology providers.

The winners are to receive their awards in Manila on August 31.

Mount Lokon and Cumbria’s fiery past

One thing that the north of England lacks is a good volcano, although Newcastle University's scientists may create one if they drill too deeply for their geothermal water under the city centre.

We've also got some excellent reminders of igneous, ash-cloud days in the heart of the Lake District where you can still pick up scraps of rock burnt red or ochre, and rare minerals such as diatomite and graphite have made fortunes for enterprising prospectors.

These musings are prompted by Gunung (Mount) Lokon blowing its top a quarter of a century after I nearly fell into its crater, along with assorted other Northerners including an officer from RAF Newton-on-Ouse. We were on a scientific expedition to Northern Sulawesi (formerly the Celebes spice islands) and decided that Lokon was too good a target not to climb.

Foolishly, we ignored the valuable motto 'Time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted', thus proving it true as what appeared from a distance to be springy, Blencathra-like turf turned out to be elephant grass. This has sabre-shaped leaves with edges so sharp that they cut you like a scalpel; you feel nothing until blood starts dripping from your arms and legs.

Lokon's nastiest trick, however, is hiding its crater in a cloud of sulphurous steam between two cones from which scree runs lead enticingly downhill after the stiff and bloody ascent. Discarded bottles of Bintang (Star) beer on the highest summit lull trippers into a state of complacency. It's a picnic spot for local hoodies; no need to take special care.

Oh yes there is. It was by luck not judgement that this contributor to The Northerner and Environment blogs didn't end up poached in the scalding hot water which fills the crater, at the bottom of the scree run, like a pan of pea soup. Read more here.

All these years later, as Lokon blows its top for the umpteenth time, I still remember its name with respect. And a shudder. But it would still be nice to have a tamer version to add to the other attractions of England's better half.

Source: Guardian

Residents flee in panic after Mount Lokon erupts

Panicked residents continued to flee the area around Mount Lokon in the north of Sulawesi island on Friday, after the volcano erupted just before midnight on Thursday local time, spewing hot lava and ash as high as 1,500 meters.

"The eruption has set ablaze the forests around the crater," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. He said there had been no immediate reports of casualties.

Many have taken refuge in school buildings where the government plans to distribute masks and tents. Evacuation has been advised to some 28,000 people who live within 3.5 kilometers of the crater.

Over 4,000 people have already been evacuated. Mount Lokon last erupted in 1991, killing a Swiss tourist. It is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes.

Red alert raised at Mount Lokon, Sulawesi

Indonesia reportedly raised the alert status at Mount Lokon volcano to its highest level and made plans to evacuate hundreds of people Monday.

Government volcanologist Kristianto told AFP that authorities raised the alert level due to a sudden rise in volcanic activity since Saturday. The volcano spewed ash 1,600 feet into the air this past weekend.

"Today we will be evacuating people living within a 3.5-kilometre [two-mile] radius around the volcano as a precautionary measure, in case of a bigger eruption which may be accompanied by deadly searing gas," he told AFP.

Mount Lokon is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia and a popular tourist destination. Tourists will also be barred from the 1,580-meter hike to Mount Lokon.

Seawall to save Jakarta from drowning

Authorities in Jakarta will cooperate with Dutch experts to prepare a master plan to deal with the capital’s flood woes, Governor Fauzi Bowo said on Friday.

Fauzi said the master plan, which would include a huge seawall in Jakarta Bay, would be administered with financial assistance from the Netherlands.

Ben Knapen, the Dutch minister for European affairs and international cooperation, said a Dutch team was studying flooding problems in the capital and creating a solution, of which the seawall was one component.

He said the master plan would need about four million euros ($5.7 million) and about 18 months to complete. Construction of the seawall could take 10 to 20 years, he said.

The government has said it hopes to have the seawall completed by 2025.

Fauzi said the seawall would involve the construction of polders — a Dutch term referring to reclaimed land on which dykes and canals are built to regulate water flow. He said the area covered by polders would be about 50 square kilometers.

“This is about 50 times the surface of the National Monument square,” Fauzi said. “Where can we find such a wide area? We are conducting a computer simulation and the only possibility is to build these polders in Jakarta Bay.”

He said a study by the Jakarta Coastal Defense Strategy showed there would be significant land subsidence and sea levels increases during the next 50 to 100 years. One of the more pessimistic predictions suggested Jakarta could be partially swamped by rising sea levels by 2030.

The study said Jakarta needed a large polder surface to act as a water reservoir and help regulate flooding.

Fauzi said Dutch experts were in the process of conducting a feasibility study on the seawall. The study, he added, would be used as the basis for formulating regulations as part of the master plan.

Computer simulations of all development projects related to the polders and the seawall would be completed before they were included in the master plan, he said.

Haze comes back in Sumatra and Kalimantan

Haze has come back on Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands over the past few weeks, affecting the environment, the local inhabitants` health and air traffic.

In fact, in March 2011, Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta had predicted that forest fires might occur in the dry season, in June or July 2011, especially on Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands which are prone to forest and plantation fires.

Setting fire on forest or plantation areas in order to clear land in the dry season, could cause the fire to become out of control

"Regional administrations, which areas are often hit by forest fires, should be cautious," State Environmental Affairs Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said when opening a coordinating meeting on Sumatran eco-region in Palembang, South Sumatra, early March this year.

The minister had also urged the regional authorities, in cooperation with the agriculture service, to make sure that there would be no land clearing by using slash and burn method.

Despite the minister`s warning, however, Rokan Ilir district, Riau province, was blanketed by haze recently as a result of forest and land fires in a number of areas in the province.

Riau province`s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said it had detected at least 36 hotspots in Sumatra on June 28, 2011.

Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra listed in Danger List

The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra in Indonesia has been added to the Danger List. IUCN has consistently recommended the site to be included on the Danger list since 2004, the year of its inscription on the World Heritage List. Four UNESCO/IUCN monitoring missions in the last five years have led to the conclusion that the site needs an emergency restoration plan. Road construction and agricultural encroachment are among the major threats of this area.
“Including the exceptional Sumatran rainforests on the Danger list today signals a message of international concern to support this site,” says Peter Shadie, IUCN’s senior adviser on World Heritage. “The Committee has taken this important decision after several years of debate, and we now need to ensure that it leads to real action on the ground to tackle long standing threats.”
“World Heritage Sites have been recognised as no-go areas for mining, both by IUCN, UNESCO and business leaders,” says Tim Badman, Director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “We consider inclusion on the Danger List was fully warranted, and we consider urgent remedial action is needed for the Virgin Komi Forests to resolve the critical threat to its Outstanding Universal Value.”
The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, the world’s most renowned icon of the Inca civilization, was also not added to the Danger List, despite threats such as lack of adequate governance, future construction of a road, impacts of the growth of numbers of visitors and lack of preventive measures against natural disasters.