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News articles on southeast asia
Mongabay.com news articles on southeast asia in blog format. Updated regularly.
Indonesian tycoon bears responsibility for devastating mud volcano, contends new research
(07/01/2015) A mud volcano responsible for displacing more than 40,000 people in Indonesia's East Java province was caused by an oil and gas company owned by one of the country's richest tycoons, and not by an earthquake as company executives and some scientists have claimed, according to new research out of Austraila's Adelaide University that aspires to put to matter to rest.
‘Criminalization’ of local people in Indonesian province rife amid oil palm, coal booms
(07/01/2015) A coalition of local NGOs in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province is campaigning for an end to the criminalization of residents who oppose plantation and mining projects on their land. The issue was a theme in the government's recently concluded national inquiry into land conflicts affecting indigenous peoples, and last week President Joko Widodo promised to secure the release of indigenous citizens who had been criminalized.
'Sea change' in clothing industry means more protections for forests
(06/30/2015) Sateri has become the latest major viscose producer to adopt a new wood- and pulp-sourcing policy aimed at removing deforestation from its supply chain. The company, the world's third-largest viscose producer, joins Aditya Birla and Lenzing, the two biggest, in making commitments to stop buying wood pulp from natural or endangered forests.
After two decades, Indonesia publishes plan for tackling invasive species
(06/29/2015) Twenty years after ratifying a legally binding UN convention which obligates parties to deal with invasive alien species, considered to be main direct drivers of biodiversity loss across the globe, Indonesia has drawn up a national strategic plan on the matter. The plan outlines steps to mitigate invasive species through policy, institution-building, information management, research and education, capacity-building and public awareness.
NGOs, activists fret new role for Indonesia's spy agency
(06/29/2015) A mysterious new partnership between Indonesia's spy agency and Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) to boost foreign investment has civil society wary of deepening agrarian conflict in the post-authoritarian country. While little is known about the specifics of the new arrangement, activists point to Indonesia's long history of repression by state security forces to warn that intelligence reports on local sentiment could be manipulated to stymie community opposition to development projects.
Illegal forest clearing spotted in Aceh's biggest peat swamp
(06/26/2015) Encroachers have been clearing forest at three locations in Aceh's biggest peat swamp since February, the Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve, analysis of Landsat satellite imagery by environmental group Greenomics-Indonesia shows. The area is home to the densest population of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans in the Leuser Ecosystem.
Indonesian president pledges to accelerate long-delayed indigenous rights law
(06/26/2015) Indonesian President Joko Widodo reiterated his commitments yesterday to a number of indigenous rights issues at a meeting in Jakarta with the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). He promised to make passing a long-delayed law on indigenous peoples rights a priority; acknowledged the importance of setting up a task force for indigenous issues; agreed to the release, in principle, of indigenous citizens who have been "criminalized," or unfairly prosecuted by the law; and pledged to encourage economic development based on indigenous models as a counterweight to big business.
Video: camera traps highlight wildlife diversity of 'forgotten' park
(06/25/2015) Things appeared to be on the upswing in Cambodia's vast Virachey National Park in the early 2000s. Conservation groups were surveying the area and the World Bank had committed $5 million in funds. But then the Cambodia government handed out a mining exploration permit covering 90 percent of the park.
Status change to come for Indonesia's partial logging moratorium?
(06/25/2015) Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry might upgrade the partial logging moratorium from a presidential instruction to a government regulation, or PP, later this year, a ministry official said this week. The change would take place after the ministry completes its semiannual revision of the moratorium map for the ninth time in November, according to The Jakarta Post.
Filipino fishermen operating illegally in Indonesia's Sangihe Islands
(06/25/2015) Indonesia’s crackdown on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has so far focused on foreign boats weighing more than 30 gross tons that enter Indonesian waters. But the Indonesian maritime affairs and fisheries minister recently expressed her dismay that in Sangihe, a group of islands directly adjacent to the Philippines, Filipino fishermen are allowed to operate with impunity.
Indonesia's booming caged-bird trade is fueling trafficking and threatening extinction
(06/25/2015) Indonesia is a global hub for the wild bird trade, given its abundance of bird species and deep-seated tradition of bird-keeping. But while newspaper headlines regularly trumpet the most alarming examples of international smuggling, experts warn it’s the domestic pet trade that poses a bigger threat.
Indigenous Indonesians file land claim against IndoMet coal project
(06/24/2015) A few months before BHP Billiton’s Haju mine is set to begin operations in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province, residents of nearby Maruwei village have filed a claim for 1,000 hectares of land in the area under a new land rights scheme for indigenous peoples. The scheme, called Dayak Misik and introduced by the provincial government last year, allocates 10 hectares to each village for communal use and five hectares to each household.
Indonesia to revive controversial sugarcane plan in Aru?
(06/23/2015) The Indonesian agriculture minister's recent comments that the Aru archipelago in the country's eastern waters will be one of three sites for a major new sugarcane initiative has sparked an outcry among civil society groups, as a similar controversial plan was shelved only last year after activists waged a long battle against it.
Controversy emerges over alleged deforestation policy breach by APRIL supplier
(06/23/2015) Less than three weeks after APRIL unveiled a sustainability policy that is supposed to protect natural forests, an environmental group is alleging that one of the Indonesian forestry giant's subsidiaries is already breaching the commitment. But APRIL refuted the claim and says it continues to stand by the policy.
Bengkulu governor orders review of mining permits
(06/23/2015) The governor of Indonesia's Bengkulu province reiterated his commitment to bringing mining in the province under control, as environmentalists urge his administration to crack down on rampant illegality in the sector and the threat it poses to protected areas.
Can we save the Sumatran rhino? Indonesia holds out hope
(06/19/2015) 'One percent of the world's population,' veterinarian Zulfi Arsan says as he nods towards Bina, a 714-kilogram, 30-year-old female Sumatran rhinoceros leisurely crunching branches whole. A gentle and easygoing rhino, pink-hued Bina doesn't seem to mind the two-legged hominids snapping pictures and awing at her every move at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.
'Trying to follow the money': Opacity rules in Southeast Asia's land rush, finds study
(06/15/2015) As the rush for land in Southeast Asia continues at breakneck speed, often bringing with it social and environmental destruction, a new study by a major environmental research group explores how well investors really know where their money is going, and the possibilities and limits of existing data in achieving greater accountability.
Forest governance index shows Indonesia has long way to go
(06/13/2015) Weak spatial planning and law enforcement, land tenure problems and a lack of transparency in licensing are some of the issues highlighted in an annual report on forest governance the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry presented to the president last week. The Forest Governance Index 2014, as it was packaged, gave Indonesia score of 35.97 on a scale of one to 100.
Palm oil giant announces deforestation freeze amid NGO campaign
(06/12/2015) Palm oil giant Astra Agro Lestari has announced an immediate moratorium on land clearing, less than a month after the launch of an environmental campaign targeting one of its sister companies, the Mandarin Oriental hotel chain. The prohibition applies to Astra Agro's own plantations as well as to those of its suppliers. Astra Agro characterized the freeze as a major step toward bringing its operations into line with the standards of the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge, a high-profile, joint sustainability commitment signed by palm giants Wilmar, Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources, Asian Agri and Musim Mas as well as the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce.
Oil palm company accused of violating RSPO, IPOP standards in Indonesia
(06/11/2015) The reputation of oil palm business group Sawit Sumbermas Sarana, a holding of one of Indonesia's richest men, has in recent days taken hits on multiple fronts, with a pair of NGOs separately accusing the firm of violating various sustainability commitments it is party to. The criticism highlights holes in both the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a high-profile sustainability pact to which palm giants Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources, Musim Mas, Asian Agri and Cargill are signatories, and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
In Sumatra, an oasis in a sea of oil palm
(06/08/2015) Sumatra is estimated to have lost 85 percent of its forests in the past half century, primarily due to widespread conversion for oil palm and pulp plantations. In the village of Tangkahan, however, residents have managed to preserve their forests and create one of Indonesia's ecotourism hotspots.
Coordinated protests hit Socfin plantations in four countries
(06/05/2015) French NGO ReAct is coordinating protest actions against the plantation operations of Socfin, a Belgian company with origins in the Belgian Congo. Yesterday, protesters gathered in Paris outside the headquarters of Bolloré, another conglomerate which holds a 39 percent stake in Socfin. Other demonstrations have been staged in three African countries and Cambodia in recent weeks.
In Aceh, an illegal logger reformed
(06/05/2015) Mukhtar used to be an illegal logger. Now he coordinates community forest rangers in Indonesia's Aceh province. His job involves preventing dangerous human-elephant encounters and helping communities protect themselves from environmental offenders - like Mukhtar once was.
Student becomes first researcher to hold an Annamite striped rabbit
(06/03/2015) Almost nothing is known about the Annamite striped rabbit. First described in 1999, this beautifully-colored rabbit is found in Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and Laos, but—rarely seen and little-studied—it's life history is a complete mystery. But Sarah Woodfin, a student at the University of East Anglia, got lucky when undertaking a three month research trip on the species. Really lucky.
Pulp giant APRIL updates sustainability policy with Greenpeace's tentative approval
(06/03/2015) Indonesia's second-largest pulp and paper producer has announced a new sustainability policy it hopes will win it the good graces of NGOs like Greenpeace, which has campaigned with some success for a boycott of the company due to its destructive environmental practices. Unlike the previous policy, the new one protects carbon-rich peatlands and forests of high-carbon stock.
Director-generals inaugurated as merger of Indonesian Environment, Forestry Ministries continues
(06/02/2015) Indonesia's newly merged Environment and Forestry Ministry completed a major step in its restructuring last week with the inauguration of 13 director-generals, with important implications for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's agendas on climate change, land reform and more. Notable appointments include Climate Change Oversight Director-General Nur Masripatin, Environmental and Forestry Spatial Planning Director-General San Afri Awang and Social Forestry and Environmental Partnerships Director-General Hadi Daryanto.
First-of-its-kind mapping technique sheds new light on tropical forests
(05/29/2015) Scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts have developed vegetation height maps for the entire tropics at very fine spatial scales. These first-of its-kind high resolution maps can help researchers estimate forest cover, monitor biodiversity and wildlife habitats, and manage and monitor timber.
Proposed border checkpoint and road threaten critical Cambodian forest and wildlife
(05/28/2015) A proposed border checkpoint at Kbal Damrei, on Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, together with a new road leading up to it, may harm Cambodia’s Mondulkiri Protected Forest. The proposed border crossing is slated to be developed within Mondulkiri Protected Forest, in Eastern Cambodia.
GAR, Wilmar punish palm oil supplier for clearing rainforest in New Guinea
(05/28/2015) Palm oil trader Golden Agri-Resources announced today that it would suspend purchases of crude palm oil from plantation developer Austindo Nusantara Jaya Agri, which was outed in an NGO report last week for the third time in the past year for clearing forest in Indonesia's West Papua province, in violation of Golden Agri's no-deforestation commitment. Wilmar has also frozen its dealings with the company, though Asian Agri and Musim Mas, which also buy from it, have given no indication they will do the same.
Can improved oil palm productivity and Indonesia's forestry moratorium go hand in hand?
(05/27/2015) An op-ed from Mongabay-Indonesia chief editor Ridzki R. Sigit, who calls for renewed efforts to boost smallholder productivity on Indonesia's oil palm plantations in the wake of the renewal of the country's moratorium on new concessions in primary forests and on peat.
Palm oil activist murdered in Jakarta
(05/23/2015) An Indonesian activist who opposed unbridled oil palm expansion was stabbed to death by a group of men before dawn this morning outside a nightclub in South Jakarta. Whether the attack was related to his activism or the spontaneous result of a barroom brawl is not yet clear. But Indonesian media are reporting that one of the assailants shouted that he was a soldier as he brandished the knife that killed Jopi Peranginangin, the 39-year-old head of campaigns for Sawit Watch, which strives for social and ecological justice in the palm oil industry.
Timber 'mass graves' uncovered as Malaysian authorities pursue illegal loggers
(05/21/2015) A crackdown on illegal logging in Peninsular Malaysia's largest continuous forest complex has uncovered three timber 'mass graves' – burial sites where valuable logs have been stashed beneath tons of earth to hide evidence. The loggers apparently made haste in fleeing the hilly terrain where they left the timber. A joint operation by Malaysia's antigraft agency and Forestry Department found parts of logs sticking out of the ground and the red earth still unsettled, indications their quarry had hurriedly concealed the felled trees.
Indonesia sinks 41 foreign vessels in a single day to counter illegal fishing
(05/21/2015) The Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry redefined fireworks yesterday. In coordination with the national navy, it blew up 41 illegal foreign fishing vessels to commemorate National Resurgence Day, the birthday of the country's first native political party. The mass sinking brings to 60 the number of boats new administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has scuttled on charges of illegal, underreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Sumatran tiger found dead in a pig trap
(05/20/2015) Authorities in the Indonesian province of West Sumatra buried the rotting carcass of a critically endangered female tiger that died after being ensnared by a pig trap on a rubber plantation earlier this month. The creature, a mother who was probably teaching her young to hunt, was found covered in wounds, its neck entangled in wire.
Golden Agri takes another hit as sustainability guru suspends its membership
(05/20/2015) The charity that Indonesia's Golden Agri-Resources has enlisted to devise and implement its zero-deforestation and community-engagement commitments suspended its cooperation with the palm oil giant yesterday, following breaches of the policies they had designed together. A few hours later, Golden Agri announced the resignation of its chief sustainability officer.
Price trends a reliable, cheap indicator of wildlife declines, finds study
(05/15/2015) Market prices can provide an equally reliable indicator of wildlife declines as field data for a thirtieth of the price, according to a new study analyzing Sumatra's pet bird trade. The researchers found that species that were increasing in price but decreasing in trade volume were likely to have been identified by the ornithologists they surveyed beforehand as undergoing population declines.
Geckos, moths and spider-scorpions: Six new species on Mount Tambora, say Indonesian researchers
(05/14/2015) Indonesian researchers believe they have identified six new animal species in the newly declared Mount Tambora National Park on the island of Sumbawa. Their haul includes two bent-toed geckoes, two moths and and two amblypygids, a type of arachnid that resembles a scorpion crossed with a spider.
Indonesia's partial forest-clearing moratorium extended, but activists wanted more
(05/14/2015) Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo extended the country's partial forest clearing moratorium yesterday on the day of its expiration, leaving largely intact a policy civil society groups had demanded be strengthened. The environment and forestry minister said the government greatly appreciated the calls from organizations like Greenpeace, Walhi, Kemitraan, Sawit Watch, World Resources Institute and others, and would address the proposed changes.
Non-bank financiers ready to help Indonesian fishermen
(05/13/2015) The Indonesian Financial Services Authority has organized dozens of non-bank financial institutions to support the country's maritime and fisheries sector, a key priority for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. Smaller operators in the sector have struggled to adapt to a new ban on trawlers and seine nets, and one of the government's goals is to make credit for environmentally friendly fishing gear more widely available, as industry groups have requested.
Wilmar, Musim Mas supplier caught clearing elephant habitat for palm oil in Aceh
(05/12/2015) A new report provides evidence that a supplier of palm oil giants Wilmar and Musim Mas is bulldozing valuable forests in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem in violation of the companies’ zero-deforestation policies as well as the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a high-profile, joint sustainability pact that also includes Golden Agri-Resources, Asian Agri, Musim Mas and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin).
Twitter campaign prompts Indonesians to free captive cockatoos in droves
(05/11/2015) Days after police at a port in Indonesia’s second-largest city arrested a passenger with 24 rare birds stuffed in plastic water bottles, a public outcry has prompted the government to set up shelters to accommodate people who wish to return more of the creatures, which have up to now been highly sought after by collectors and breeders.
Golden Agri's wings clipped by RSPO in West Kalimantan
(05/08/2015) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has prohibited Golden Agri-Resources, one of its most prominent members, from "acquiring or developing any new areas" pending the resolution of a formal complaint against the palm oil giant in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province. The decision is a stern directive from an organization that has been criticized for failing to take action against companies that flout its standards.
Hai Fa controversy just a hiccup in Indonesia's illegal fishing crackdown
(05/07/2015) Despite resistance from some quarters, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his hard-charging maritime affairs and fisheries minister have shown no signs of abating their crackdown on illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the archipelago.
Police probe ship's crew after nabbing smuggler with 24 rare birds in plastic bottles
(05/07/2015) Police at a major port in Indonesia's second city of Surabaya, where 24 rare birds of paradise were found stuffed in plastic water bottles aboard a passenger vessel yesterday, are coordinating with the authorities at the creatures' place of origin to tighten security.
Bribery a matter of course for illegal Thai fishing ships in Indonesia
(05/06/2015) A convoy of blue Thai fishing boats slowly entered the mouth of the Kapuas River near Pontianak, the capital of Indonesia's West Kalimantan province, escorted by an Indonesian warship. The boats were directed to moor at the local Navy base, about 62 nautical miles from the site of their capture. The crew were transferred to the warship. There they sat on the deck. A naval personnel pointed to a fisherman in a rumpled blue shirt. His name was Sam Phong, 28. He could speak a bit of Indonesian, though not fluently. Still, his speech shed a bit of light on why he had so diligently been fishing illegally in Indonesian waters.
Aru, Mentawai peoples hit the big screen in Oslo
(05/06/2015) A pair of documentaries about small-island indigenous peoples in Indonesia were screened in Oslo on Tuesday as part of a global roadshow leading up to the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris in December. The shorts, "Oil Palm Free Islands" and "The Warden of Jagarian Forest," are part of the If Not Us Than Who series, an initiative of UK-based Handcrafted Films.
West Papua 'oil palm atlas' portrays industry's explosion in region
(05/06/2015) There's a saying in the Indonesian palm oil industry: Sumatra is yesterday, Kalimantan is today, and Papua is tomorrow. Tomorrow might well have arrived. A new report sheds light on the industry's rapid expansion in Indonesia's Papua and West Papua provinces – and on the companies behind the plantation drive. The result is a portrayal of a frontier region's early encounters with a crop that has come to dominate the Sumatran and Bornean landscapes – a portrait made that much starker by the central government's foreign media blackout in the territory.
30 illegal orangutan pets seized in West Kalimantan
(05/05/2015) Thirty orangutans being kept as household pets in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province have been seized and placed in a rehabilitation center, where they are learning to fend for themselves so they can be released into their natural habitats, local conservation authorities report.
Riau forum asks Jokowi to help business save forests
(05/04/2015) A sustainable-business forum in Indonesia's Riau province urged the government to support companies' zero-deforestation commitments, which remain hampered by policies that prevent firms from preserving forests in their concessions. Under the current legal regime, if a plantation company decides to set aside land for conservation, the government reserves the right to take it back and give it to a firm that will develop it.
94 trafficked pangolins released into Sumatran wilds after massive bust
(05/04/2015) Following a major seizure of illegal wildlife goods in North Sumatra, the Indonesian authorities released 94 critically endangered pangolins into the wild last week, including a newborn whose mother died shortly after the authorities caught up with the traffickers. Five tons of pangolin meat were burned in the wake of the bust.
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