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News articles on asia
Mongabay.com news articles on asia in blog format. Updated regularly.
(02/04/2010) The European Union may be planning to classify oil palm plantations as forests, raising fears among environmental groups of expanded conversion of tropical rainforests for biofuel production, reports the EUobserver, which cites a leaked document from the European Commission. The draft document shows that policymakers are considering language that would specifically allow use of biofuels produced via conversion of rainforests to oil palm plantations.
Half of Indonesia's species remain unknown
(02/02/2010) Incorporating 17,000 tropical islands, Indonesia is one of the world's richest areas of biodiversity. However, according to the Jakarta Post, over half of this biodiversity remains unrecorded with only 20 of the more than 400 regencies in the country recording species.
Why top predators matter: an in-depth look at new research
(02/02/2010) Few species have faced such vitriolic hatred from humans as the world's top predators. Considered by many as pests—often as dangerous—they have been gunned down, poisoned, speared, 'finned', and decimated across their habitats. Even where large areas of habitat are protected, the one thing that is often missing are top predators. However, new research over the past few decades is showing just how vital these predators are to ecosystems. Biologists have long known that predators control populations of prey animals, but new studies show that they may do much more. From controlling smaller predators to protecting river banks from erosion to providing nutrient hotspots, it appears that top predators are indispensible to a working ecosystem. Top predators sit at the apex of an ecosystem's food chain. Wolves in Alaska, tigers in Siberia, lions in Kenya, white sharks in the Pacific are all examples of top predators.
China leaves US (and Europe) in the dust on renewable energy
(02/01/2010) This year China has become the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels and wind turbines, doubling its wind capacity since 2005. The economically booming nation—and the world's most populous—has also invested heavily in nuclear power and the world's most efficient coal plants, according to the New York Times.
Protest in China against sludge incinerator
(01/27/2010) Approximately 400 hundred citizens protested the proposal to build a sludge incinerator in Southern China in Foshan, according to the Guangzhou Daily and Reuters.
Real-life Avatar: court blocks destruction of indigenous community in Borneo
(01/27/2010) A court in the Malaysian state of Sarawak has issued an injunction to block the continued destruction of the Iban village of Sungai Sekabai, reports the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), an indigenous rights groups. Last week Sarawak state police demolished 39 Iban homes in a dramatic escalation of land dispute between the community and a state-backed palm oil developer.
Indigenous in Borneo win "landmark" court ruling over land rights
(01/21/2010) A Malaysian court has ruled in favor of indigenous communities in a dispute over land rights just two days after authorities "arbitrarily" destroyed 25 Iban homes in the village of Sungai Sekabai in Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo), reports the Bruno Manser Fund, a rights group.
Malaysian police destroy homes in Borneo indigenous community
(01/20/2010) Malaysian authorities yesterday destroyed two dozen homes in an indigenous Iban community near the town of Bintulu in Sarawak, alleges a human rights group.
Cheerios maker linked to rainforest destruction
(01/19/2010) An activist group linked General Mills to destruction of rainforests in Southeast Asia in dramatic fashion on Tuesday, when it unfurled a giant banner, reading "Warning: General Mills Destroys Rainforests", outside the company's Minneapolis headquarters building.
Indonesian government report recommends moratorium on peatlands conversion
(01/19/2010) A study issued by Indonesian government recommends a moratorium on peatlands conversion in order to meet its greenhouse gas emissions target pledged for 2020, reports the Jakarta Post. The report, commissioned by the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), says that conversion of peatlands accounts for 50 percent of Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions but only one percent of GDP. A ban on conversion would therefore be a cost-effective way for the country to achieve its goal of reducing carbon emissions 26 percent from a projected baseline by 2020. But the recommendation is likely to face strong resistance from plantation developers eager to expand operations in peatland areas. Last year the Agricultural Ministry lifted a moratorium on the conversion of peatlands of less than 3 meters in depth for oil palm plantations. Environmentalists said the move would release billions of tons of carbon dioxide.
Orangutans vs palm oil in Malaysia: setting the record straight
(01/16/2010) The Malaysian palm oil industry has been broadly accused of contributing to the dramatic decline in orangutan populations in Sabah, a state in northern Borneo, over the past 30 years. The industry has staunchly denied these charges and responded with marketing campaigns claiming the opposite: that oil palm plantations can support and nourish the great red apes. The issue came to a head last October at the Orangutan Colloquium held in Kota Kinabalu. There, confronted by orangutan biologists, the palm oil industry pledged to support restoring forest corridors along rivers in order to help facilitate movement of orangutans between remaining forest reserves across seas of oil palm plantations. Attending NGOs agreed that they would need to work with industry to find a balance that would allow the ongoing survival of orangutans in the wild. Nevertheless the conference was still marked by much of the same rhetoric that has characterized most of these meetings — chief palm oil industry officials again made dubious claims about the environmental stewardship of the industry. However this time there was at least acknowledgment that palm oil needs to play an active role in conservation.
India becomes largest buyer of palm oil
(01/14/2010) India surpassed China as the world's largest buyer of palm oil in 2009, reports Bloomberg.
REDD must address corruption to save rainforests in Indonesia, says report
(01/13/2010) The Indonesian government squandered billions of dollars in funds set aside for reforestation through corruption and mismanagement in the 1990s, raising important questions as the country prepares for the influx of money from a proposed climate change mitigation scheme known as REDD+ (reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation), warns a new report released Tuesday by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a forest policy research group.
Breeding area of 'world's least known bird' discovered in Afghanistan
(01/13/2010) Named in 2007 the 'world's least known bird', the large-billed reed warbler has officially lost that title as researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have discovered its breeding ground in the remote Wakham Corridor in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan. "Practically nothing is known about this species, so this discovery of the breeding area represents a flood of new information on the large-billed reed warbler," said Colin Poole, Executive Director of WCS’s Asia Program said in a press release.
Malaysia and China agree to $11 billion deal to build mines, dams in Borneo
(01/13/2010) Malaysia and China today agreed to am $11 billion deal that will turn a vast area of Sarawak, a Malaysian state in northern Borneo, into an industrial corridor for mining and energy development, reports The Financial Times.
Dams a 'monument of corruption': Baru Bian, new leader of Sarawak's People's Justice Party
(01/12/2010) In an interview with the Bruno Manser Fond, the new leader of the Malaysian state Sarawak's People's Justice Party (PKR), Baru Bian, spoke out against the state government's plans for mega-dams in the middle of the rainforest, as well as continued rainforest destruction and corruption.
Consumers should help pay the bill for 'greener' palm oil
(01/12/2010) Palm oil is one of the world's most traded and versatile agricultural commodities. It can be used as edible vegetable oil, industrial lubricant, raw material in cosmetic and skincare products and feedstock for biofuel production. Growing global demand for palm oil and the ensuing cropland expansion has been blamed for a wide range of environmental ills, including tropical deforestation, peatland degradation, biodiversity loss and CO2 emissions. In response to these concerns, a group of stakeholders—including activists, investors, producers and retailers—formed the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to develop a certification scheme for palm oil produced through environmentally- and socially-responsible ways. It is widely anticipated that the creation of a premium market for RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) would incentivize palm oil producers to improve their management practices.
Conservation organization purchases vital wildlife corridor for elephants in India
(01/11/2010) On Christmas Eve, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) completed a transaction to purchase an important wildlie corridor used by over a thousand Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). The 25.4 acre Kollegal Elephant Corridor was under private ownership, but may now be incorporated into adjacent Biligiri Ranganswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary (IFAW).
Indonesia to plant and restore vast area of forest to reach emissions target
(01/07/2010) Indonesia will rehabilitate degraded forests and plant millions of hectares of new forests to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent from projected levels by 2020, reports Reuters.
Chinese official links extreme snowstorm to global warming
(01/05/2010) Bitter cold and snow have shut down Beijing after it received 4-8 inches (10-20 centimeters) of snow on Sunday, the largest snowfall since 1951, according to the Sydney Morning Hearld. Guo Hu, the head of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau linked the storm to global climate change.
Rainforest conservation: a year in review
(12/27/2009) 2009 may prove to be an important turning point for tropical forests. Lead by Brazil, which had the lowest extent of deforestation since at least the 1980s, global forest loss likely declined to its lowest level in more than a decade. Critical to the fall in deforestation was the global financial crisis, which dried up credit for forest-destroying activities and contributed to a crash in commodity prices, an underlying driver of deforestation.
Coal plant could damage rainforest reserves, coral reefs, palm oil plantations in Malaysian Borneo
(12/20/2009) A proposed coal-fired power plant in Malaysian Borneo could damage the region's world-renowned coral reefs, pollute air and water supplies, open Sabah's biodiverse rainforests to mining, and undermine the state's effort to promote itself as a destination for "green" investment and ecotourism, warn environmentalists leading an effort to block the project. The scheme, which is backed by the federal Tenaga Nasional Berhad and state energy company, Sabah Electricity Sdn. Bhd, has faced strong opposition and already been forced to re-locate twice since it was conceived more than two years ago. The 300-MW plant is now planned for a coastal area that is situated in the middle of the Coral Triangle/Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion, an area renowned for astounding levels of biodiversity.
Malaysia to allow logging in indigenous 'peace park' to proceed
(12/17/2009) Malaysia, the country with the fastest rate of greenhouse gas emissions growth since 1990 among middle and upper income countries, will allow logging to proceed in a contested rainforest area in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo.
Forest destruction by Sinar Mas undermines efforts to develop and promote greener palm oil
(12/14/2009) An investigation commissioned by Unilever, the world's largest buyer of palm oil, confirms that Indonesian group Sinar Mas, the world's second largest producer of palm oil, has been destroying forests and peatlands despite committing to "greener" palm oil production as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Unilever has now suspended its $32.6 million contract with Sinar Mas.
Rainforest tribe sues the Malaysian government for enabling deforestation
(12/10/2009) Five Penan rainforest communities are suing the Sarawak state government and the Malaysian timber giant Samling for violation of their native customary rights, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, a group that works on behalf of indigenous groups in Malaysia.
Cheap REDD isn't the best conservation strategy for biodiversity
(12/03/2009) The lowest-cost approach to compensating reductions in emissions from deforestation and degradation under a proposed UN program (REDD) isn't necessarily the best approach for biodiversity conservation, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Indonesia could double oil palm plantation area
(12/02/2009) Indonesia has 18 million hectares of land suitable for oil palm cultivation, nearly twice the 9.7 million hectares that have already been allocated for plantations, said Agriculture Minister Suswono said at the opening of the 5th Indonesian Palm Oil Conference in Bali.
Rainforest tribe declares 'peace park' to defend lands from logging in Sarawak
(11/30/2009) In an attempt to block destructive logging of their traditional land, a group of indigenous Penan has declared a "peace park" in the Upper Baram region of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo, reports the Bruno Manser Fund.
REDD may not be enough to save Sumatra's endangered lowland rainforests
(11/24/2009) A prominent REDD project in Aceh Indonesia probably won't be enough to save Northern Sumatra's endangered lowland rainforests from logging and conversion to oil plantations and agriculture, report researchers writing in Environmental Research Letters. The study highlights the contradiction between the Ulu Masen conservation project; which involves Flora and Fauna International, Bank of America, and Australia-based Carbon Conservation, a carbon trading company and the continuing road expansion, and establishment of oil palm plantations in the region.
India scraps plan to build physics lab in tiger reserve
(11/23/2009) Indian officials have decided against a plan to built a Neutrino Observatory, an underground experimental physics laboratory, in Mudumulai Tiger Reserve, an area conservationists say serves as an important corridor for elephants and other wildlife.
Indonesian government suspends license of logging company in controversial forest area
(11/19/2009) The Indonesian government today temporarily suspended the license of Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL) for developing an area of forest and peatland in Sumatra pending a review of the company's permits, reports Greenpeace.
Palm oil developers push into Indonesia's last frontier: Papua
(11/10/2009) Oil palm developers in the Indonesian half of New Guinea are signing questionable deals that exploit local communities and put important forest ecosystems at risk, alleges a new report from Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telapak.
40% of lowland forests in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo cleared in 15 years
(11/10/2009) Forty percent of lowland forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) were cleared from 1990 to 2005, reports a new high resolution assessment of land cover change in Indonesia.
Conservation and Carbon in Borneo’s Heart and Ours
(11/04/2009) My friend Rezal Kusumaatmadja contacted me in July to ask if I could join him and some of his associates for a couple of days in the village Mendawai, located along the Katingan River in south central Kalimantan. The purpose of the gathering was to bring everyone in the group up to date on progress and challenges related to the Katingan Peat Conservation Project, as well as to give the group an opportunity to meet one another. The Katingan Project aims to create a forest-based carbon containment facility defined and guided by REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Destruction in the developing world) principles and methodology. Currently, nearly 25% of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are caused by felling, burning and converting the world’s remaining primary forests. While areas surrounding the Katingan peat forest vividly express this statistic, Katingan is part of a growing strategy to reverse the trend. The Katingan project endeavors to transform conservation into a product that might offer strong competition against illegal logging and expansion of industrial agricultural plantations - whose practices cause enormous emissions of greenhouse gasses, as well as destroying biodiversity, depleting and polluting watersheds and corroding native cultures.
Non-Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil producers pledge not to develop peatlands for plantations
(11/04/2009) Palm oil producers outside of Malaysia and Indonesia pledged to stop developing new plantations on peatlands, circumventing an impasse that developed between palm oil producers and environmental groups meeting this week at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in Kuala Lumpur. The factions deadlocked over plans to account for emissions from plantation development, delaying the criteria for a year.
Impasse over palm oil emissions at RSPO meeting
(11/04/2009) Environmentalists and palm oil producers meeting at the annual Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) were locked in an impasse over how to account for emissions from converting forests and peatlands to oil palm plantations, report conference attendees.
Palm oil lobby group launches public relations push to counter environmental complaints
(11/02/2009) A report released by World Growth International in late September claimed that environmentalists are waging a “morally indefensible” campaign against palm oil. The report accurately highlighted the high productivity of oil palm — the world's highest-yielding commercial oilseed — and noted that the crop has created jobs and driven rural development in Malaysia and Indonesia. Critically, World Growth also downplayed chief concerns about the rapid expansion of oil palm cultivation across southeast Asia, notably worries that palm oil production is contributing to deforestation, putting endangered wildlife like the orangutan at risk, and adversely affecting climate. To make its case, the report made some questionable claims, asserting that oil palm plantations sequester more carbon than natural forests and that deforestation is driven by poverty rather than industrial activities.
Emotional call for palm oil industry to address environmental problems
(10/21/2009) During what was at times an emotional speech, Sabah's Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun, called on the palm oil industry to stop polluting rivers and work with NGOs to save orangutans and other wildlife. He delivered the speech on the first day of an Orangutan Conservation Colloquium held in early October in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
Major Chinese Lead Smelter Admits Fault in Poisoning, Environmental Contamination
(10/17/2009) The largest lead smelting company in China has recently admitted responsibility in contributing to pollution leading to poisoning in almost 1,000 children residing near lead factories. Out of 2,743 children tested for lead poisoning, 968 were determined to have excessive lead levels in their blood. Lead poisoning causes anemia, brain damage, and muscle atrophy, among other serious medical and environmental problems. Lead levels in blood samples from the children were 5 times higher than safe limits.
Forests versus oil palm plantations in Sumatra
(10/14/2009) A chainsaw chugs into life and tears into the trunk of a tree as tall as a two-story house. Petrol and man work together as the chain sets its teeth into the wood and edges its way through. The tree creaks, leans, and falls with a great crash to a backdrop of whoops and cheers. The sight and sound of tree felling is common in Indonesia, the country with the highest rate of deforestation in the world. The destruction of forests in this archipelago, draped like an emerald necklace across the equator, can be measured in hectares per minute. Today, though, is a good day for the conservationists.
Palm oil industry pledges wildlife corridors to save orangutans
(10/03/2009) In an unlikely—and perhaps tenuous—alliance, conservationists and the palm oil industry met this week to draw up plans to save Asia's last great ape, the orangutan. As if to underscore the colloquium's importance, delegates on arriving in the Malaysian State of Sabah found the capital covered in a thick and strange fog caused by the burning of rainforests and peat lands in neighboring Kalimantan. After two days of intensive meetings the colloquium adopted a resolution which included the acquisition of land for creating wildlife buffer zones of at least 100 meters along all major rivers, in addition to corridors for connecting forests. Researchers said such corridors were essential if orangutans were to have a future in Sabah.
Could agroforestry solve the biodiversity crisis and address poverty?, an interview with Shonil Bhagwat
(09/24/2009) With the world facing a variety of crises: climate change, food shortages, extreme poverty, and biodiversity loss, researchers are looking at ways to address more than one issue at once by revolutionizing sectors of society. One of the ideas is a transformation of agricultural practices from intensive chemical-dependent crops to mixing agriculture and forest, while relying on organic methods. The latter is known as agroforestry or land sharing—balancing the crop yields with biodiversity. Shonil Bhagwat, Director of MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford, believes this philosophy could help the world tackle some of its biggest problems.
Roads are enablers of rainforest destruction
(09/24/2009) Chainsaws, bulldozers, and fires are tools of rainforest destruction, but roads are enablers. Roads link resources to markets, enabling loggers, farmers, ranchers, miners, and land speculators to convert remote forests into economic opportunities. But the ecological cost is high: 95 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon occurs within 50-kilometers of a road; in Africa, where logging roads are rapidly expanding across the Congo basin, the bulk of bushmeat hunting occurs near roads. In Laos and Sumatra, roads are opening last remnants of intact forests to logging, poaching, and plantation development. But roads also cause subtler impacts, fragmenting habitats, altering microclimates, creating highways for invasive species, blocking movement of wildlife, and claiming animals as roadkill. A new paper, published in Trends in Evolution and Ecology, reviews these and other impacts of roads on rainforests. Its conclusions don't bode well for the future of forests.
Palm oil both a leading threat to orangutans and a key source of jobs in Sumatra
(09/24/2009) Of the world's two species of orangutan, a great ape that shares 96 percent of man's genetic makeup, the Sumatran orangutan is considerably more endangered than its cousin in Borneo. Today there are believed to be fewer than 7,000 Sumatran orangutans in the wild, a consequence of the wildlife trade, hunting, and accelerating destruction of their native forest habitat by loggers, small-scale farmers, and agribusiness. Gunung Leuser National Park in North Sumatra is one of the last strongholds for the species, serving as a refuge among paper pulp concessions and rubber and oil palm plantations. While orangutans are relatively well protected in areas around tourist centers, they are affected by poorly regulated interactions with tourists, which have increased the risk of disease and resulted in high mortality rates among infants near tourist centers like Bukit Lawang. Further, orangutans that range outside the park or live in remote areas or on its margins face conflicts with developers, including loggers, who may or may not know about the existence of the park, and plantation workers, who may kill any orangutans they encounter in the fields. Working to improve the fate of orangutans that find their way into plantations and unprotected community areas is the Orangutan Information Center (OIC), a local NGO that collaborates with the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS).
Indonesia: emissions to rise 50% by 2030, 3rd largest GHG emitter
(09/22/2009) A report released by the Indonesian government shows the country is the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter, largely as a result of the destruction of rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands. Indonesia accounts for 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
EU biofuels policy undermines governance in Indonesia, alleges report
(09/21/2009) Indonesian authorities are failing to prevent illegal logging and conversion of protected areas for oil palm cultivation used to supply the European market with supposedly "green" biofuels, alleges a new report from Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) and WALHI KalBar (Friends of the Earth Indonesia, West Kalimantan). The report, "Failing governance - Avoiding responsibilities", claims that European biofuel policies have driven reckless oil palm expansion in Ketapang District, West Kalimantan, resulting in illegal issuance of development permits and land conflicts, thereby undermining governance structures.
After declining 95% in 15 years, Saiga antelope begins to rebound with help from conservationists
(09/20/2009) In a decline on par with that suffered by the American bison in the Nineteenth Century, in the 1990s the saiga antelope of the Central Asian steppe plummeted from over one million individuals to 50,000, dropping a staggering 95 percent in a decade and a half. Since then new legislation and conservation measure have helped the species stabilize in some areas but in others the decline continues. Working for six years with the Saiga Conservation Alliance, Founding Member and Executive Secretary Elena Bykova has helped bring the species back from the very brink of extinction.
Carbon Financing and Community Forestry
(09/20/2009) Deforestation and forest degradation contribute some 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Forest-related mitigation measures are now recognized to be amongst the most practical and cost-effective interventions to slow global warming – as well as providing a host of other environmental products and services. However, rural poverty, weak law enforcement, and escalating demand for food and fuel continue to drive forest destruction at an alarming rate – in the Asia-Pacific region alone, some 3.7 million hectares of natural forest are lost every year. This also threatens millions of already vulnerable rural livelihoods, often undermining traditional rights to vital forest resources.
Saving the last megafauna of Malaysia, an interview with Reuben Clements
(09/15/2009) Reuben Clements has achieved one success after another since graduating from the National University of Singapore. Currently working in peninsular Malaysia, he manages conservation programs for the Endangered Malayan tiger and the Critically Endangered Sumatran Rhino with World Wildlife Fund. At the same time he has discovered three new species of microsnails, one of which was named in the top ten new species of 2008 (a BIG achievement for a snail) due to its peculiar shell which has four different coiling axes. ie7uhig
World’s only Sumatran rhino to give birth in captivity dies at Cincinnati Zoo
(09/10/2009) Emi, the world’s only Sumatran rhino to give birth in captivity, died on Saturday at the Cincinnati zoo. She successfully gave birth to three offspring, one of which has been released back into the wild in Indonesia.
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