Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"The Greater Akashic System" – July 15, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) (Subjects: Lightworkers, Intent, To meet God, Past lives, Universe/Galaxy, Earth, Pleiadians, Souls Reincarnate, Invention: Measure Quantum state in 3D, Recalibrates, Multi-Dimensional/Divine, Akashic System to change to new system, Before religion changed the system, DNA, Old system react to Karma, New system react to intent now for next life, Animals (around humans) reincarnate again, This Animal want to come back to the same human, Akashic Inheritance, Reincarnate as Family, Other Planets, Global Unity … etc.)

Question: Dear Kryon: I live in Spain. I am sorry if I will ask you a question you might have already answered, but the translations of your books are very slow and I might not have gathered all information you have already given. I am quite concerned about abandoned animals. It seems that many people buy animals for their children and as soon as they grow, they set them out somewhere. Recently I had the occasion to see a small kitten in the middle of the street. I did not immediately react, since I could have stopped and taken it, without getting out of the car. So, I went on and at the first occasion I could turn, I went back to see if I could take the kitten, but it was to late, somebody had already killed it. This happened some month ago, but I still feel very sorry for that kitten. I just would like to know, what kind of entity are these animals and how does this fit in our world. Are these entities which choose this kind of life, like we do choose our kind of Human life? I see so many abandoned animals and every time I see one, my heart aches... I would like to know more about them.

Answer: Dear one, indeed the answer has been given, but let us give it again so you all understand. Animals are here on earth for three (3) reasons.

(1) The balance of biological life. . . the circle of energy that is needed for you to exist in what you call "nature."

(2) To be harvested. Yes, it's true. Many exist for your sustenance, and this is appropriate. It is a harmony between Human and animal, and always has. Remember the buffalo that willingly came into the indigenous tribes to be sacrificed when called? These are stories that you should examine again. The inappropriateness of today's culture is how these precious creatures are treated. Did you know that if there was an honoring ceremony at their death, they would nourish you better? Did you know that there is ceremony that could benefit all of humanity in this way. Perhaps it's time you saw it.

(3) To be loved and to love. For many cultures, animals serve as surrogate children, loved and taken care of. It gives Humans a chance to show compassion when they need it, and to have unconditional love when they need it. This is extremely important to many, and provides balance and centering for many.

Do animals know all this? At a basic level, they do. Not in the way you "know," but in a cellular awareness they understand that they are here in service to planet earth. If you honor them in all three instances, then balance will be the result. Your feelings about their treatment is important. Temper your reactions with the spiritual logic of their appropriateness and their service to humanity. Honor them in all three cases.

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle
American zoologist played by Sigourney Weaver in the film Gorillas in the Mist would have been 82 on Thursday (16 January 2014)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jambi-Kerinci road cut by landslide

JAMBI, Jambi (The Jakarta Post) : A major highway in Jambi city was again hit by landslides, this time cutting the road at Muaroamat village, Batangmerangin district in Kerinci regency.

There are at least 50 landslide-prone areas along the Jambi-Kerinci route.

The road was covered with earth as high as one meter, with fallen trees obstructing traffic.

Around 100 vehicles coming from both directions were stranded by the landslide.

Many bus passengers were forced to walk for six hours to continue their journey with other buses from Batangmerangin to Sungaipenuh.

Flashflood stops traffic

The Jakarta Post: Heavy rainfall since Sunday has damaged the Air Pangi Bridge, stopping land traffic along the Central Sumatra Highway between Lahat and Tebing Tinggi.

In Ogan Komering Ulu Timur regency, floods have also engulfed around 1,200 hectares of rice fields and dozens of residents' houses in six districts.

A local resident said Tuesday the bridge probably collapsed due to rapid river currents carrying logs. "The river currents were very swift, and three meters higher than normal conditions," said Umar, 40.

Police had to close some traffic between Lahat and Tebing due to the broken bridge. "Motorcycles, small public vans and private cars are still allowed to pass," Lahat Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Eko Indra said.

Police rerouted traffic heading toward Lubuk Linggau via the Talang Padang Regency road, while vehicles heading toward Bengkulu and Medan were diverted to the Eastern Sumatra Highway.

Lingering drought hurts hectares of Bantul crops

Slamet Susanto, The Jakarta Post, Bantul, Yogyakarta

While rain has started falling in a number of regions throughout Indonesia, Bantul regency is still mired in a long drought.

Residents there are struggling to get enough drinking water, while hundreds of hectares of paddy fields are being neglected.

Wells have dried up in six of the most severely affected villages: Terong, Jatimulyo, Munthuk, Mangunan, Temuwuh and Dlingo. All are in Dlinggo district.

Residents say the PDAM water company, which is owned by the local administration, has also stopped supplying water.

The residents have to rely on traders, who sell the water at Rp 100,000 (US$10.52) per tank truck.

"Aside from its expensiveness, we still have to line up too. We order now and the water will be sent four or five days later," said Sumarni, a resident of Terong village.

Sumarni said lack of water was especially difficult since she and her neighbors were busy completing the reconstruction of their houses devastated by the earthquake that struck the area on May 27 last year.

"If things get worse, we're afraid funds set aside for reconstruction will have to be channeled into buying water. We can't do anything about it it ... we are badly in need of water," she said.

Prawiro, another resident of Terong, said the residents hoped the government would be willing to provide water. He said a proposal for assistance had been sent to the government, but no response had come yet.

The long drought has dried up the irrigation networks in about 500 hectares of two-month-old paddy fields in Sanden, Keretek and Bambanglipuro. The rice plants are increasingly turning yellow.

Other farmers have bought water pumps, but this increases their costs.

"Running the water pumps has forced us to spend more to supply water for the plants," said Junianto, a resident of Tegalrejo in Sanden district. "I have been forced to spend Rp 100,000.

"Farmers are always in a losing position," he added.

Fertilizer is expensive and other supporting products are costly as well, but by the time they sell their agricultural products, prices fall," he said.

The rice plants are also affected by the fact that irrigation systems in Bantul were devastated by the earthquake. It will take a long time to repair them, Junianto added.

Rain in Bogor forces evacuations in Jakarta

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

"Flood season" has officially started in Jakarta as hundreds of homes along the Ciliwung River, which runs through East and South Jakarta, were inundated to a depth of up to 2.5 meters Tuesday.

Thousands of residents of Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta were forced to take refuge in temporary shelters, while more than 1,000 others in Rawajati, Bukit Duri and Manggarai in South Jakarta also evacuated their flooded homes.

"The flood has affected 2,735 families or 10,260 people. Of the total number of affected families, 628 have been evacuated to emergency shelters," Sumarsono, a member of the Kampung Melayu neighborhood association, told Antara news agency.

Residents of Kampung Melayu are currently staying in temporary shelters in the Santa Maria school complex in Jatinegara, Hermina Hospital and Attawabin Mosque, while South Jakarta residents were directed to community health posts.

Although it has rained only sporadically throughout the day in the city this week, heavy downpours since Monday evening in Bogor, West Java, caused the levels of the Ciliwung River, which passes through Jakarta, to rise significantly higher.

According to data from the Jakarta Crisis Center houses on the banks of the Ciliwung were flooded 30 to 260 centimeters above the floor level.

Among the worst affected areas were East Jakarta's Kampung Melayu and Cawang, as well as South Jakarta's Bukit Duri and Manggarai.

Residents of Kebon Baru in Tebet, South Jakarta, have been carefully monitoring the level of the Ciliwung in their area, which regularly floods during the rainy season.

Operators have opened the Manggarai sluice gate in an attempt to open natural drainage routes for the floodwaters.

"We will leave the gate open until the total amount of water in the area is reduced," gate operator Adie Widodo said as quoted by Antara, adding that the gate would be shut as soon as the level on the measuring board dropped to 600 cm.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the water level in Manggarai had reached 825 cm.

At the Katulampa sluice gate in Bogor the water level had returned to normal Tuesday after reaching an alarming level Monday.

However, gate operators remain on alert as more wet weather is forecast, Katulampa gate operator Andi Sudirman said.

Aside from floodwater from Bogor, water has also been streaming into the city from Depok.

On Monday night, the level at the Depok sluice gate had reached 320 cm. Operators said that when it reached 400 cm, areas in South Jakarta, like Kebayoran Baru and Gudang Peluru, would flood.

Jakarta is vulnerable to flooding even when there is little rain because of its altitude -- much of it is near or below sea level -- and poor drainage system.

The administration has said the delay of the completion of the East Flood Canal, which will be linked to the existing 17-kilometer West Flood Canal, is the main reason why the city continues to flood.

The semicircular canal will accommodate excess water from all of the rivers in Jakarta.

However, critics have argued that the loss of open green space through residential and commercial development and the disregard shown toward the land-to-building ratio have contributed to the situation.

The last major floods hit the city in 2002, killing 21 people and displacing more than 380,000 others.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

RI to host climate conference

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

As a country that has already experienced the effects of climate change, Indonesia will hold an international conference on the problem this December, it was announced Monday.

Addressing a joint media conference with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Yvo de Boer, State Minister for the Environment Rachmat Witoelar said Indonesia was ready to lead the charge on climate change issues.

Sprawled across the Equator, Indonesia's islands are threatened rising sea levels, while its farmers are currently suffering through a prolonged dry season.

Rachmat said both indicated that the threat of global warming was in need of immediate international action.

The conference, which will be held in Bali, will have around 10,000 participants, including environment ministers, from the more 100 countries who are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol.

It will be the first in a series of negotiations on clean development schemes, to be concluded with a new set of environmental agreements by 2010.

The parliaments of member countries are expected to ratify the agreements by 2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires.

Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, developed nations must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent on their 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

The conference will discuss financial incentives for both developed and developing countries; efforts to seek the participation of major carbon culprits like the United States; and a higher target for emission reductions.

The meeting is also expected to address forestry sector issues, which are not sufficiently covered under the current "clean development" scheme.

Rachmat said Indonesia would propose at the meeting that an environmental fund be set up to support countries that preserved their rain forests.

"If it is agreed to, we will prioritize the forests threatened by fires in Bengkulu, Papua and the Leuser conservation area," he said.

De Boer said she hoped that different interests could be accommodated at the meeting.

"It will not be easy to reach a consensus between industrialized and developing countries. But we have to start somewhere," she said.

At a 12-day conference on climate change in Nairobi last year, China and India, the world's largest developing countries, refused to be bound by emission reduction regulations.

They regard emission reduction as an economic burden because of the cost of converting to more efficient, low-carbon energy forms.

Despite several verbal commitments to clean fuel development, the United States is yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, saying it would be too costly for its economy.

The Nairobi convention was only able to agree to review emission reduction targets by 2008.

Indonesia would see to it that any agreements made on clean development mechanisms were in line with poverty reduction efforts, Rachmat said.

Lampung on target to become major biofuel center

Oyos Saroso H.N., The Jakarta Post, Bandarlampung

Lampung is set to become a major national production center for biofuels during the next four years, an official says.

Four local companies are spending more than Rp 860 billion (US$90.52 million) on bioenergy projects in the province, while a South Korean firm plans to invest more than Rp 90 trillion to build a bioethanol refinery.

A project worth Rp 184 billion and managed by PT Acidatama Lampung Chemical Industry in Central Lampung was approved by the provincial administration in 2005.

In 2006, PT Bio Energi Ind. invested $900,000 to build a plant in Tulangbawang regency. That year, three other local firms -- PT Sumi Asih in Bandarlampung, PT Medco Ethanol in Lampung and PT Luhur Prakarsa Maju Dinamika in North Lampung -- began investing a total of Rp 675.6 billion.

Meanwhile, South Korean's PT CSM Corporation has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Lampung administration to invest Rp 90 trillion in the province to build an ethanol refinery in North Lampung.

CSM has already planted a 20,000-hectare plot of land with cassava -- 10,000 ha in Way Kanan, 5,000 ha in Tulangbawang and another 5,000 ha in North Lampung.

The head of the Lampung Investment, Culture and Tourism Promotion Office, Syaifullah Sesunan, said the interest shown by investors indicated the province's potential and that foreign investors' trust had improved.

"We intend to become the center for biofuel in Indonesia. Large companies in Lampung such as PT Sugar Group, which has been producing refined sugar, and the PT Perkebunan Nasional VII state plantation company have built biodiesel and bioethanol plants, along with foreign investors," Syaifullah said on Monday.

Lampung Research and Development Agency head Rellyani was optimistic that biofuel production in Lampung could easily meet 10 percent of the province's energy demands as stipulated in a presidential decree on fuel supply.

"Lampung is estimated (currently) consume around 43,000 kiloliters of bioethanol annually, while (biofuel) production capacity could reach 740,733 k/lt a year," Rellyani said.

"We're confident Lampung could become a bioethanol producing center and supply fuel to the western part of the country, particularly Sumatra and Java," she said.

Rellyani estimated local demand for biodiesel at 97,597 k/lt a year, "while production of biodiesel is projected at around 128,000 k/lt annually. This shows a surplus in biodiesel production", she said.

She said Lampung was more suited to producing bioethanol than biodiesel.

"There is a huge amount of cassava and sugarcane here, and the soil conditions are also suitable to grow these crops."

"Biodiesel is made from palm oil and the jatropha plant. Most farmers prefer to turn palm oil into crude palm oil than biodiesel, while supplies of jatropha are still limited at the moment."

Lampung has a plantation area covering 543,800 hectares, producing 367,840 tons of palm oil a year, 5,386,062 tons of cassava per ha annually and 7,101,600 tons of sugarcane yielding 340,876 tons of molasses annually.

The government wants biofuels to make up 10 percent of total energy production by 2010, however, current production levels are well below this amount.

Total levels will increase, however, with the work of PT Medco Ethanol Lampung (MEL), which has been operating in North Lampung since October, and is targeting production of 60,000 k/lt of bioethanol annually.

The country's first bioethanol plant is currently in the design and construction planning stage. Workers are building access roads to the factory site and securing partnerships with cassava and sugarcane suppliers.

PT MEL project director Panya Siregar said the company planned to invest around $4.12 million in the plant through a project funding scheme. The plant is expected to employ 150 workers and be backed by a supply of around 13,000 ha of cassava plantations, providing around 600,000 working days for farmers annually.

"The factory's presence will have positive impacts on supporting sectors, such as transportation, and create a new distribution network for cassava and sugarcane farmers," Panya said.

The company will also use modern technology to benefit from biogas produced from by-products, he said.

"The factory is designed to produce 180 k/lt of bioethanol daily or an equivalent of 60,000 kiloliters annually. In its initial stage, the company is planning to produce high quality ethanol for industry, especially for overseas markets, such as Singapore and Japan," Panya said.

Meteorologist warns of heavy rains in Greater Jakarta

JAKARTA (Antara): As water started inundating several areas in the capital, Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) Tuesday warned of possible heavy rains pouring the Greater Jakarta in the next few days.

"Downpours in the Greater Jakarta tend to increase in the Greater Jakarta," BMG spokesman Ahamd Zakir was quoted by Antara news agency as saying referring to the areas of Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi.

He said that the heaviest rains may fall in South Jakarta and Puncak in Bogor regency with downpours ranging from 50 to 100 millimeters per day as compared 30 to 40 millimeters per day oflast week.

"Downpours in Bogor reached 114 millimeters on Monday due to heavy rain on Monday night," Zakir added.

The heavy rain in Bogor sparked flooding in a number of areas Tuesday because Ciliwung, the main river in the capital, could not accommodate rain water flowing from Bogor.

Zakir warned people living in river banks to keep alert for possible overflows of river water because January and February are the peak rainy season of this year.

The worst area hit by Tuesday's flood is Cawang subdistrict in East Jakarta. Floods also hit Bidara Cina district also in East Jakarta as well as a number of subdistricts in South Jakarta like Kampung Melayu, Kalibata, Pancoran, and Pejaten.

Monday, January 29, 2007

North Sumatra Running Out of Sugar


Monday, 29 January, 2007 | 17:12 WIB

TEMPO Interactive, Medan: Sugar stocks in North Sumatra Province have decreased even though there have been 6,000 tons of sugar imported.

The additional supplies were insufficient to meet the consumption needs of the 12.5 million inhabitants of the province.

Monthly sugar consumption at North Sumatra averages 17,000 tons, whereas the sugar stocks are only 18,400 tons.

“Despite the remaining 1,200 tons, it is certain that next month North Sumatra will experience a lack of sugar,” Rommel Sembiring, Head of the Industrial and Trade Agency of North Sumatra told Tempo, on Saturday (01/27).

According to him, the additional imported sugar next month will not be able to meet people's consumption needs.

Sugar supplies this month, said Sembiring, were taken from: the remainder of last year's sugar reserves of 8,400 tons; PTPN II sugar production of 4,000 tons; and imported sugar of 6,000 tons.

In order to secure people's needs, the provincial government has asked for additional imported sugar of 9,000 tons.

During 2007, North Sumatra will need sugar reserves of 150,000 tons.

SAHAT SIMATUPANG

Govt to impose duties on imported milk

Sukabumi, West Java (ANTARA News) - The government is considering imposing duties on imported milk to enable local dairy farms to compete with foreign rivals, a minister said.

"We have requested the WTO (World Trade Organisation) to press advanced countries to lift subsidy for their dairy farms soon," Agriculture Minister Anton Apriantono said here Sunday.

He said the national milk output which averaged 342 thousand tons per year was well below demand due to the low productivity of local dairy cows.

In 2005 alone, the national milk output represented 26 percent of demand which reached 1,306 thousand tons, he said.

The lower milk output meant that the prospects for the country`s dairy farms were promising, he said.

"The main problem facing the local dairy farms is the gap between the quality set by the government and the quality of local dairy products. Consequently, the dairy products of low quality are rejected by dairy industries," he said.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Reporter missing on mountain

INDONESIA (The Jakarta Post) : Austrian freelance journalist Franz Resch has been missing since Thursday on Mount Sibayak in North Sumatra, police said Saturday.

A joint police and military team has been unable to find the 47-year-old man, who works for the London-based International Press Association.

Karo Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Ricky F. Wakanno said the search would continue until his whereabouts are known.

"We're still looking for the man and we'll continue until he is found, dead or alive. We're doing this to fulfill a request from the man's family through the Austrian embassy in Jakarta," he told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

Resch left Tuesday morning to climb the peak in Simpang Empat district, Karo regency. He was not accompanied by a guide. Several witnesses, including two German tourists, saw him on the mountain that day.

He could not be contacted as of Thursday, and the police declared him missing.

Ricky said Resch is the most recent in a long list of people who have gone missing on the mountain.

According to police data, at least seven foreigners have been lost on Sibayak, and three have been found dead.

More info about Gunung Sibayak

Sand exporters in Batam say ban will hurt workers

Fadli, The Jakarta Post, Batam

Sand exporters from the Riau Islands have shown dissatisfaction with the government's decision to band sand exports.

The decision will damage the islands' sand mining industry, which relies heavily on exporting its product, Riau Sand Exporting Businesspeople Association's general secretary, Syahrul Jamal, told The Jakarta Post.

At least 300,000 cubic meters of sand from Batam, Bintan, Karimun and Lingga would no longer be exported on a monthly basis to Singapore, the Riau Islands' main market, he said.

He said the quantity of exported sand was greater than local demand, which was around 100,000 cubic meters a month. For the 32 existing sand-exploration businesses operating on the island chain, Singapore is more appealing than domestic markets, he said.

"In terms of pricing and payment, exporting sand brings in more profits. It's easier to collect money from Singapore than from local buyers. Here, collecting money can be extremely difficult and lead to disputes," Syahrul said.

Singaporean buyers pay around S$9 (Rp51,300) for one cubic meter of sand, whereas local buyers pay around Rp 90,000, he said.

However, Singaporean buyers purchase the sand on the spot, pay in cash and organize transportation. When dealing with domestic buyers, Syahrul said, sellers are responsible for all aspects of the transaction.

Often, he said, retailers who purchase sand take three months to pay for the product.

"We'll analyze the policy among our members once more as we were just informed of it. The policy is political in nature and does not consider the economic impact it will have," Syahrul said.

Trade Minister Mari E. Pangestu said the export ban was imposed to promote environmental protection. The exporters have until Jan. 23 to begin winding up exports and until Feb. 5 before all transactions must be finalized.

Singapore's Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said the decision was unfortunate, but that it would not slow the nation's resurgent construction industry.

There have been ongoing efforts to diversify the sources of Singapore's basic construction materials, AFP reported.

Syahrul said the new policy would reduce the production capacity of the Riau Islands' 32 sand mining companies. It could also hurt up to 3,000 workers, whose incomes depend on sand mining.

He said sand mining causes less environmental harm than other mining activities. It requires the use of about 50 hectares over three years, while other mining activities, such as coal and granite mining, usually require some 5,000 ha for use over 15 years.

"In terms of the environment, there are other much more harmful activities. We've committed S$3 from each exported cubic meter of sand toward environmental conservation," Syahrul said.

Meanwhile, Riau Islands Governor Ismeth Abdullah said he understood the central government's reasons for the ban. He said, however, many unskilled laborers employed by sand mining companies would be disadvantaged.

"We support the central government's new policy and can understand the reason why it was made," he said.

Related Story : Indonesia acts, S'pore regrets


Navy foils attempt to smuggle 15 tons of logs to Malaysia

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Officers at the Dumai Naval Base foiled an attempt to smuggle 15 tons of logs to Malaysia after detaining a nameless ship in Tanjung Gering waters, Pulau Rupat, Riau province, a Navy spokesman said.

"Skippered by Sukri, the nameless ship of 12 gross dead-weight tons was trying to smuggle out the logs," spokesman of the Navy`s Western Fleet Command Lt Col Hendra Pakan said here on Saturday.

When he was examined, Sukri was not able to produce a sailing license while the logs in the ship`s hold were not covered by the required documents.

Sukri and other members of the ship`s crew as well as the nameless vessel are being held at the Bengkalis naval post for further investigation, he said.

Illegal logging and log smuggling to a number of countries such as Malaysia and China have are causing losses to the state amounting to about US$600 million annually.

According to a report issued by the forestry Ministry in 2003, about 10 million cubic meters of logs are being smuggled out to other countries every year.

From Papua, for example, an average of 600,000 cubic meters of logs were being exported illegally to foreign countries including China, every year.

The log smuggling to several countries such as Malaysia and China involved large or small volumes. Large volumes were transported in container ships and barges. Wooden motor vessels and rafts were used to carry out small scale log smuggling.

Indonesia acts, S'pore regrets

Jakarta bans sand exports to S'pore; Republic will turn to new sources, steel-based construction

Sharon Vasoo, Deputy Foreign Editor

Todayonline.com: For some time now, Singapore has been basking in its friendship with Indonesia, trying to nudge foreign investors to go to its larger neighbour. It has been a staunch supporter of Indonesia's Riau Island's Special Economic Zones.

On Monday night, the warm ties had to negotiate a sand trap. Indonesia's Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu unilaterally announced that her country would ban the export of sand, soil and topsoil — a move that will affect mainly Singapore which imports between six and eight million tonnes of land sand annually. It comes at a time when Singapore's construction sector has just roused itself from a long, lethargic spell and is set to take off.

Singapore imports almost all the sand used in its buildings from Indonesia but is confident that it will find other sources to bridge the shortfall. It has also been persuading its developers to switch from sand-based construction to using more steel — which is more easily available and makes for quicker, cleaner projects.

Indonesia's decision may speed up this switch.

"It could also be an opportunity — just as our water disputes with Malaysia led to our engagement with Newater," said an observer.

Nevertheless, Indonesia's sudden and swift decision has not gone down well. "Singapore is disappointed," said a statement from the National Development Ministry and the Building and Construction Authority.

Ms Mari said that Indonesia took this decision because its government wanted to protect its environment and maintain the nation's maritime borders. "After observations in the field, there is actually quite heavy environmental damage and the banning of sand exports is a response to this," she said.

It is understood that Singapore had offered to work with Indonesia to address its environmental concerns.

"We regret that Indonesia did not take up our offer ..." said the statement.

Still, Jakarta decided to go ahead with the ban under which exporters have been given up to Feb 5 to honour existing sand contracts.

Observers say that the Indonesia's move was mainly to placate domestic lobby groups and provincial ministers who feel that they have not benefited from the trade that fetches Indonesia more than $120 million a year from Singapore alone. It has been the Republic's main supplier of sand since Malaysia banned exports in 1997.

On paper, the ban could affect between $60 billion and $90 billion worth of projects here that are already in the pipeline. But there is not likely to be any disruption at all.

"We have quite a sizeable sand stockpile, and we are prepared to release the stockpile to meet the immediate needs of the industry," Dr John Keung, BCA's chief executive officer told Channel NewsAsia.

Meanwhile, the alternatives are already clicking into place. The Housing and Development Board has already started procuring sand from sources outside Indonesia to produce concrete. At least one such ship, it is understood, is already on its way to Singapore.

This arrangement will ensure that Singapore builders get a steady supply of sand to make concrete for their buildings. But since the sand is being shipped from areas much further away than Indonesia, industry experts said that it was likely to be more expensive than Indonesian supplies. This sand could add between 1 and 2 per cent to project costs, experts said. So, it probably made more sense to switch to steel-based construction which would be marginally more expensive — it could add 3 per cent to project costs — but would see buildings come up faster, with less dependence on foreign labour.

Backing this, Mr Keung said: "It is very important for us to move away from such high dependency on sand export in construction work. We've been trying to persuade the industry to move towards a more sustainable form of construction, like the use of steel structure."

Industry experts that it was possible for Singapore to cut its sand consumption by up to 70 per cent. This would mean that the Republic would only have to import between one and two million tonnes of sand a year.

Of late, Britain has slashed its sand usage by up 70 per cent and Japan by 50 per cent.

The trend has caught on in Singapore too, with the National Library, Capitol Tower and the Ang Mo Kio Hub Mall using steel more than concrete in their structures. Even the Marina Integrated Resort design has a steely edge to it.

The construction industry here is expected to shrug off the impact of this ban sooner rather than later, observers said.

For now, they are more intrigued by the mixed signals that Indonesia is sending as far as its relationship with Singapore goes.

"Sometimes governments are forced to make tough decisions, but these decisions should not be seen as an expression of negativity against another country," said Mr Wiryono Sastrohandoyo, a former Indonesian ambassador and now a senior fellow at Jakarta's Centre for Strategic and International Studies. Not many builders in Singapore will agree with that.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Minister warns company for posing threat to 1,600 orangutans

Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - Forestry Minister MS Kaban has strongly warned the Makin Business Group for planning to open an oil palm plantation in an area which hosts the habitat for about 1,600 orangutans in Katingan district, Central Kalimantan.

"We have given the company a warning and asked it to save the life of orangutans in the area," Minister Kaban said here Tuesday night.

Kaban made the remarks during a meeting between Vice President Jusuf Kalla and Central Kalimantan`s regional government officials, mining, plantation and forestry businesses.

The minister said if not seriously reprimanded Makin Group`s plan could lead to the distinction of thousands of orangutans in the area.

Therefore, he called on the business group to save first the rare animals in the area which was to be turned into a plantation.

"I think Indonesia has been under a heavy spotlight for incompetence in preserving its biodiversity," the minister said.

Makin Group is planning to open a 50 thousand hectare oil palm plantation in Katingan district, Central Kalimantan, in 2007.

In the area, there is a habitat for orangutans with a population of 1,600.

In the meantime, Assistant Manager of the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS), Hardi Baktiantoro, said the opening of the plantation in Katingan district was a serious threat to 1,600 orangutans in Kalimantan.

"Based on our data, the area, where Makin Group is to open an oil palm plantation, is host to some 1,500-1,600 orangutans. If the company resumes its planning, it will exterminate the rare animals," he sadi.

He predicted the population of the Kalimantan orangutan would have been extinct by 2010 in line with the opening up of forests to make way for palm oil plantations.

"The biggest threat to orangutans is the expansion of oil palm plantations," he said.

Scientist warns of major natural disasters in SE Asia

Mumbai (ANTARA News) - Increased seismic activities have been recorded in the past one month in the Java-Sumatra-Andaman region of South East Asia, indicating possibility of a major disaster in the near future, according to a senior scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) here.

Though volcanic activities in the region had subsided after the devastating earthquake-triggered tsunami of December 2004, more than 52 earthquakes with varying magnitutde have been recorded in the last one month, D Chandrasekharam, senior professor in the Department of Earth Sciences, IIT, told PTI yesterday.

This appears to be a natural cyclic process but there is a possibility of it triggering a major disaster, he said.

"Since December 25, 2006 till today morning (January 24) the entire Java-Sumatra-Andaman island subduction zone experienced more than 51 earthquakes varying in magnitude from 4.2 to 7.5 on the Richter scale," the noted earth science expert said.

"These include two major earthquakes - 7.1 magnitude in Taiwan on December 26 and 7.5 in Molucca sea. Also 4.9 and 6.1 magnitude earthquakes were recorded in Nicobar Islands."

Majority of these events are associated with "thrust fault", an underground phenomenon that had caused the 2004 tsunami killing nearly 2.5 lakh people across several countries, including India, the scientist said.

"This only shows how active this region is seismically. Are we prepared with our tsunami warning system to alert people well in advance about any impending natural

disaster?," Chandrasekharam asked.

Chandrasekharam said perhaps a mock trial should be carried out by India to test any tsunami warning system that it is installing.

The recent earthquakes should ring an alarm bell. Tsunami warning systems should alert coastal population within 10 minutes of occurrence of any major disaster, he said.

Referring to the earthquake of 8.1 magnitude that hit the Kuril islands on January 13, he said: "The Pacific tsunami system gave warning within nine minutes of the occurrence of this earthquake and lifted the warning within 20 minutes."

Similar thing happened with regard to 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan on December 26 last year.

Tsunami warning was given within 11 minutes of the earthquake and the one-meter wave triggered by it was monitored till it reached one of the Philippine islands south of Taiwan, Chandrasekharam added.

The more you earn, the more you waste

The Jakarta Post

Guess who is responsible for polluting the city's rivers?

Need a clue? You may find that your own home is full of things that create pollution. Dishwashing liquids and many personal care products, such as shampoo, contain a wide array of contaminants that are carried into local waterways when we rinse them down the drain.

It is easy to blame industries or people living on the banks of rivers.

But a study says people on higher wages tend to produce more wastewater.

According to a 1990 study on urban drainage and wastewater disposal in Jakarta, middle- and high-income households produce 38 percent and 116 percent more wastewater than low-income households respectively.

By 2010, the two household categories will have produced 65 percent and 194 percent more wastewater respectively as compared to their poorer counterparts.

Households in general contribute some 75 percent of the city's wastewater. Commercial premises contribute 15 percent and the rest comes from industries.

One could argue that industries are the biggest offenders, but research suggests otherwise as wastewater from households has a higher biological oxygen demand (BOD) level.

A high BOD level indicates the water contains a significant amount of organic pollutant.

"Rapid urbanization has worsened the pollution of waterways. Housing estates are being constructed in the suburbs without adequate wastewater treatment facilities," the study report says.

And so the polluted wastewater flows into the city's rivers.

All the while, Jakarta only has one water treatment plant in Setiabudi, South Jakarta, which can only process up to 3 percent of the city's wastewater.

The plant, which was built in the early 1990s using World Bank money, provides rudimentary treatment only.

Underlying the city is a tangled network of water and sewer pipes and utility conduits. However, as much of the sewerage system is in poor repair or has insufficient capacity -- except in some parts of Jakarta like the Sudirman-Thamrin and Kuningan business districts -- creating a pooled water treatment plant requires a significant investment.

In a recent meeting on the revision of the Jakarta Spatial Plan, urban expert Suhadi Hadiwinoto said a clustered system would best suit the city's wastewater management.

A 2005 gubernatorial decree promotes the clustered system, as well as the individual development of septic systems and drainage fields.

It is now just a matter of implementation, which also largely depends on our own awareness of the importance of water security.

If we are the ones who are polluting the water, then why shouldn't we take responsibility? (JP/Anissa S. Febrina)

High time for households to treat wastewater on the lot

Anissa S. Febrina, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The argument of water resources is a big issue these days. Everybody talks of the water shortage in the city and, similarly, of the floods that destroy homes.

"Last week I had to buy 10 jerricans of clean water a day since barely a trickle came from the tap, said Arijaty Azhari, a 53-year-old mother of four who lives in Roxy, Central Jakarta.

"And last night, since it had been raining all day, my living room was covered with water," she said.

It would be easy to channel her anger to the city water operators and the environmental agency for water management failures, but experts say it is high time for residents, as well as businesses, to take responsibility.

"Individual households can start with two things, building a simple rainwater reservoir and constructing a small water treatment plant," said water management expert Nusa Idaman Said, who is also a researcher at the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT).

The combination of individual, communal and regional treatment plants would help secure the city's water supply as the plants would reduce the water pollution level, making it possible for river water to be further processed.

Currently, according to Nusa, city water operator PT PAM Jaya and its foreign partners PT Thames PAM Jaya and PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya only supply some 8,000 cubic meter of water per second, or 30 percent of the water needs of Jakartans.

The estimation is based on the company's report that it produces 15,000 cubic meter of water per second, of which 50 percent fails to reach customers due to theft and leakages.

Some 80 percent of the company's water supply comes from Jatiluhur dam in West Java, another 15 percent from Tangerang water utility PDAM Tirta Kertarahardja (PDAM TKR), and only 5 percent from the Ciliwung River, which runs through the city.

The company blames Jakarta's most recent water crisis on Jatiluhur dam drying up, which caused its tap water production to drop to 65 percent.

"The rivers running through the city have great potential as a source of water. the problem is they are too polluted to be treated," Nusa said.

We should first look at our own behavior before blaming industries and those living along the riverbanks.

Think of the soap, shampoo and detergents entering drains, where it may flow untreated into the rivers.

While the role of industries cannot be denied, households contribute some 75 percent of water pollution, a study on Jakarta's wastewater and drainage systems reveals.

As urban families are becoming more dependent on soluble chemical products, nature can no longer filter the water for us.

Realizing the paramount role of water, the city administration issued earlier in 2005 a bylaw requiring households, as well as businesses, to build wastewater treatment plants.

For households in densely populated areas, communal plants are recommended, while those in less crowded areas can install their own septic systems.

"The system is as simple as building a septic tank and the cost depends on the materials," Nusa said.

A simple septic tank costs about Rp 1 million.

BPPT itself has developed Biotreat-10, a biofilter system that uses anaerob and aerob tanks in which wastewater is filtered using microbacteria.

The system can reduce biological oxygen demand level -- a parameter for estimating the concentration of organic pollutants in water -- by 90 percent.

The technology is there. Now, money is all that is needed.

"Since it requires an investment, it is better for the administration to aim first at middle- to upper-class households. The houses in Menteng and Pondok Indah for example," he said.

It is probably more difficult to change the paradigm that one has to set aside a certain amount of money to help nature filter the water than to get donors to help build treatment plants in poor districts.

Surprisingly this time, dealing with businesses, especially newly built housing estates and apartments, is easier since it makes more sense for them to invest in a wastewater treatment plant.

Large-scale housing estates like Lippo Karawaci and those built by the Ciputra group already operate their own treatment plants, although the processed water is only used for the upkeep of green spaces.

Lippo Karawaci, for example, treats its wastewater and uses it to water its golf course and gardens.

Ciputra too has taken water processing into its own hands to secure supply for the residents of its housing estates like Citra Garden in Cengkareng, West Jakarta, Citra Gran in Cibubur, East Jakarta, and Citra Raya in Tangerang.

"We receive the supply from the nearest river and treat it in our own plants before distributing it to households," Ciputra group director Harun Hajadi said.

"We also treat some of the wastewater collected from houses, but only a small percentage," he said, adding that the plants cost around 20 percent of the total investment for each housing estate.

Apartments and office buildings have also built water treatment plants, although on a scale that is sometimes too small to cover their water needs.

But still it is better than nothing.

"All water management efforts must run parallel. The city must improve large-scale water infrastructure, businesses must comply and build proper plants and households must also start taking responsibility," Nusa said.

Clean water luxury for North Jakarta slum dwellers

"After all, it's God's water."

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Ruslan was dusty and dripping with sweat though he had gotten an early start to beat the suffocating Jakarta sun.

The 40-something man stooped over with his hands on his thighs to catch his breath when he arrived at his small house, finally able to stop pulling his cart, which he had loaded up with 20-liter jerricans full of water

"Water is scarce nowadays," he said.

Ruslan lives in slum neighborhood Kampung Kandang in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta. The official map of Jakarta suggests it is unoccupied but satellite photos show otherwise.

While residents have managed to come to terms with shortages of just about everything else, no one can get by without water.

Most houses in his neighborhood are not connected to the water system.

Some people tried to build their own wells but though the water was clear when drawn it soon turned a reddish-brown color. They have no other choice but to buy drinking water from vendors.

Spending an extra Rp 3,000 (less than US$1) does not mean much to the better-off, but for low-wage earners it is a substantial sum.

The United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) 2006 Human Development Report Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis said people living in the slums of Jakarta, Manila and Nairobi paid five to 10 times more for water per unit than those in high-income areas of the same cities.

For Rusland and his neighbors, the fact that they are squatting on state land does not help.

According to Rhames Simanjuntak, a spokesman for one of the city's two water operators, Thames Pam Jaya (TPJ), delivering piped water to slum neighborhoods poses something of a dilemma.

"We have to abide by the regulation on piped water distribution, which requires the home owner to present a house or land ownership deed before we can supply their property."

Rhamses said the city administration prohibited the water company from making any connection between the slums and the domestic water system because the land was state property and not designated for housing.

"However, people living in the slums are constantly stealing water."

He said the area where Ruslan lives was among the three districts -- Rawa Badak, Tugu Selatan, Kelapa Gading Barat -- where TPJ had reported the theft of utility services was widespread.

A resident of Kampung Kandang, who asked not to be named, said fresh water had quickly become big business in the area.

"We don't have any lawful access to water, how can do basic things like take a shower or go to the toilet?"

Ruslan said a few people in the area did have piped water within their dwellings.

"Some of them sell their water to the others."

He said he wished piped water could be brought to everyone in the slum community.

"We're happy to pay monthly, rather than buying jerricans of water daily."

Rhamses said 50 percent of the water distributed by TPJ was not paid for, causing major revenue losses for the company.

The company supplies 9,000 liters of water per second to areas of North and East Jakarta.

He said illegal connections, theft and leakage were responsible for 30 percent of unbilled water consumption.

"The rest is due to malfunctioning distribution system controls like broken meters."

Rhamses said the problem was not cut and dry.

"The city administration can be hypocritical and has on occasion issued identification cards to slum dwellers."

Neighborhood unit head Bawono said the people living there were not illegal residents. "I was sworn in by the district head."

Bawono did, however, acknowledge the land was not theirs. "It belongs to the government."

A resident said he did not understand why people like him were denied access to clean water.

"After all, it's God's water."

UNICEF Opens 227 Child Care Centers In Indonesia

January 26, 2007 4:26 p.m. EST

Siddique Islam - All Headline News South East Asia Correspondent

New York, NY (AHN) - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has completed construction of the first of the 227 mother-and-child health centers in Indonesia's tsunami-devastated Aceh province and earthquake-hit Nias Island.

"Through these family health and development centers, mothers, children and babies will have immediate and full-time access to professional midwives, specialized infant health care and learning and development activities," UNICEF's Chief of Field Office in Aceh Edouard Beigbeder says.

"This is a brand new facility for the community. It's not replacing something; it's giving the community something they didn't have before. Strengthening community-based health systems will have a long-lasting impact on child survival and development and will help facilitate Aceh and Nias' recovery, rehabilitation and development."

UNICEF has set aside $11 million for the construction of the centers, in addition to $90 million for the construction of more than 300 permanent schools. The campaign also marks the first time UNICEF has taken on a construction role.

Indonesia was the worst-hit of the dozen Indian Ocean nations that were struck by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami on 26 December 2004, accounting for some two thirds of the death toll of more than 200,000, with over half a million others left homeless.

Food vs. Fuel

As energy demands devour crops once meant for sustenance, the economics of agriculture are being rewritten

BusinessWeekOnline

Greg Boerboom raises 37,000 pigs a year on his farm in Marshall, Minn. Those hogs eat a lot of corn—10 bushels each from weaning to sale. In past years he has bought feed for about $2 a bushel. But since late summer, average corn prices have leapt to nearly $4 a bushel. To reduce feed costs, he sells his pigs before they reach the normal 275 pounds, and keeps them warmer so they don't devour more food fighting off the cold. Still, Boerboom hopes just to break even. "It's been a pretty tight squeeze on pork producers," he says. "The next eight months will be really tough."

The spike in the price of corn that's hurting Boerboom and other pork producers isn't caused by any big dip in the overall supply. In the U.S., last year's harvest was 10.5 billion bushels, the third-largest crop ever. But instead of going into the maws of pigs or cattle or people, an increasing slice of that supply is being transformed into fuel for cars. The roughly 5 billion gallons of ethanol made in 2006 by 112 U.S. plants consumed nearly one-fifth of the corn crop. If all the scores of factories under construction or planned go into operation, fuel will gobble up no less than half of the entire corn harvest by 2008.

Corn is caught in a tug-of-war between ethanol plants and food, one of the first signs of a coming agricultural transformation and a global economic shift. Ever since our ancestors in the Fertile Crescent first figured out how to grow grains, crops have been used mainly to feed people and livestock. But now that's changing in response to the high price of oil, the cost in lives and dollars of ensuring a supply of petroleum imports, and limits on climate-warming emissions of fossil fuels. Farms are energy's great green hope. "Economics, national security, and greenhouse gases have created a perfect storm of interest," says John Pierce, vice-president for bio-based technology at DuPont, (DD ) which is making fuel and chemicals from plants.

Indeed, a massive expansion of biofuels is the one policy that has support from Democrats and Republicans and from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. In his Jan. 23 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush called for 35 billion gallons of renewable fuels per year within 10 years, enough to replace 15% of gasoline burned in American cars and trucks. Congress is considering measures that would require 60 billion gallons by 2030. And the fervor for greener fuels isn't just a U.S. phenomenon. Europe is requiring that 5.75% of diesel fuel come from plants by 2010, while Japan and others line up contracts to buy biofuels to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

NEW LANDSCAPE

The consequences, while still uncertain, are impossible to ignore. According to the most optimistic estimates, which involve a switch to still-unproven energy crops, replacing U.S. consumption of gasoline with biofuels would take at least 50 million more acres of American cropland. Some put the figure far higher. Meeting Bush's mandate with corn ethanol alone isn't even feasible, because it would mean an additional 80 million acres of corn. Eliminating gasoline entirely could require more than double today's 430 million acres of cropland, by some calculations. Bioenergy threatens to eclipse food, livestock feed, and all other uses "as the major driver of American agriculture," testified Iowa farmer John Sellers at a recent Senate Agriculture Committee hearing.

Already, the growing demand for biofuels is bringing major expansions. Last fall, Singapore was enveloped in choking haze from forest fires set to clear land to plant oil palms. The palms will supply 90 biodiesel plants under construction in Malaysia and Indonesia. Biofuels are "a key engine of growth," says Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. If the bioenergy boom continues, Agriculture Dept. chief economist Keith Collins foresees boosts in sugar cane and other crops everywhere from Thailand and Australia to Brazil and Central America. "It starts to change the landscape of agriculture," he says.

Whether this is good or bad is a matter of intense debate. At one extreme is Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. He warns of a coming "epic competition between 800 million people with automobiles and the 2 billion poorest people," and predicts that shortages and higher food prices will lead to starvation and urban riots. "I don't think the world is ready for this," he says. Dow Chemical Co. (DOW ), which is turning soybeans into foam for furniture and car seats, worries about rising demand. "There's only so much biologically based stuff around," says William F. Banholzer, corporate vice-president and chief technology officer. With chemical companies competing with fuel and food over the supply of certain crops, "it's not a very rosy picture," he says. Nor is the conversion of ecologically valuable forests to oil palm in Malaysia or sugar cane in Brazil. "Why are we burning our forests to plant something that we have been told will be clean, environmentally friendly fuel?" asks S.M. Idris, chairman of environmental group Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth). "This is technology gone mad."

In addition, biofuels are expected to bring a rare permanent change in farm economics. "People had grown accustomed to $2-per-bushel corn. That's not going to happen anymore," says Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Assn. Higher corn prices are already rippling though the economy, lifting prices for soybeans and other crops, and products like tortillas. Next could be meat, poultry, and even soft drinks. Chicken producers estimate that the industry's feed costs are already up $1.5 billion per year. "Ultimately, these increases will be passed on to consumers, and we could have a fairly dramatic inflation scenario for food costs," says William Lapp, president of consultant Advanced Economic Solutions.

Is all this really so bad? Pessimists, in fact, are a minority in debates about food vs. fuel. Lapp notes that food is now at its cheapest level, historically. "It'll be easier to pass on the food increases because we're spending a smaller portion of our disposable income on food than in the 1970s," he says. And some experts even argue that a boost in food prices could be beneficial to Americans' health. A doubling of corn prices makes corn syrup more expensive, lifting the price of a bottle of soda by 6 cents, calculates David Morris, vice-president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis. That might lead people to consume less. "If Americans reduce our input of sugar, we could make 2 billion more gal. of ethanol and help overcome our obesity problem," he says.

And while grocery bills could rise modestly, higher agricultural commodity prices are a boon in many ways. Corn farmers are having a rare period of prosperity, and the federal government is getting a break. In 2006, Uncle Sam gave corn farmers $8.8 billion in subsidies. Thanks to high corn prices, subsidies are expected to drop to $2.1 billion in 2007. "All the price-dependent spending is getting wiped out," explains the USDA's Collins.

Higher incomes for farmers also mean healthier rural economies and more jobs in the U.S. and around the world. Contrary to Lester Brown's grim scenarios, "[biofuel] could be a lifesaver for Third World countries," argues Morris. "It can help keep farmers on the land without providing huge public subsidies." Plus, crop-based fuels could shift the global balance of power, as countries grow enough of their own fuel to cut back on imports from OPEC and other oil producers.

In the most optimistic scenarios, the world will move smoothly to biofuels through increased farm acreage, higher yields, and new crops and technologies. "Don't underestimate the ability of U.S. and global agriculture to respond to higher prices," says Collins. Farmers already plan to seed 10 million more acres of corn this spring. Some even worry about overshooting demand. "There's an old saying that goes, Farmers will see a hole in supply and put a pile on top of it,'" jokes Illinois farmer Steve Pitstick, who's shifting most of his soybean field to corn.

Corn is just the first step. It's a lousy raw material for fuel because producing 10 gallons of ethanol consumes the energy equivalent of about 7 gallons of gasoline, and greenhouse gas reductions are minuscule. That's why the key will be changing to more environmentally friendly sources, such as agricultural waste, trees, or new crops. Pine groves in the South could supply 4 billion gal. of ethanol a year and revitalize declining rural communities, says Georgia Tech's Roger P. Webb. Stanford University biologist Chris Somerville calculates that, with the right plants, 3.5% of the earth's surface could supply all of humanity's energy needs, compared with 13% now used for agriculture. One of the best candidates: perennial prairie grasses. Their deep roots store carbon captured from the air, improve soils, and require little water. Companies are now trying to breed the most productive varieties. Only 49 million acres could supply 139 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2030, figures venture capitalist Vinod Khosla. "Farmers will be better off, the world will be less dangerously dependent on the Mideast, and we will take a giant step in greenhouse gas reductions," he argues. "There is little downside."

Of course, a lot could go wrong along the way. Methods to turn the cellulose from prairie grass into fuel may be hard to scale up. A host of unintended consequences could appear. And if the price of oil drops significantly, the whole biofuels bandwagon could come to a shuddering halt.

But a new world seems inevitable. "We have to be prepared for dramatic change in agriculture," says Nebraska pork farmer Joy Philippi. "There will be a tremendous shift."

Chin Teck to plant 2,000-3,000ha of palm trees in Indonesia

KUALA LUMPUR (The Star online) : Chin Teck Plantations Bhd, which made its second foray into Indonesia last year, plans to cultivate 2,000 to 3,000ha of oil palm trees in Sumatra this year.

Executive director Wong Aun Phui said the company, which owns some 14,000ha of oil palm land under a joint-venture project, had cleared 300ha and planted 200ha.

“Our second joint venture will help enhance the earnings potential of the group and is in line with its strategy to increase its oil palm interest,” he said after the company's AGM yesterday.

Last year, Chin Teck teamed up with sister company Negri Sembilan Oil Palms Bhd and several other partners to each buy a 40% stake in Chin Thye Investment Pte Ltd.

Chin Thye would, in turn, own 70% of Indonesian company P.T. Lampung Karya Indah that was licensed to undertake plantation operations in Sumatra.

Wong said Chin Teck's second plantation project in Indonesia would contribute significantly in seven years if the price of crude palm oil remained at the current level.

The company made its foray into Indonesia eight years ago and has to date developed 20,000ha in Sumatra.

Locally, it has estates in Pahang, Kelantan and Negri Sembilan, with a combined planted area of 30,000 acres.

“We are also looking at expanding our landbank locally, if we can get sizeable plantation land of say, 10,000 to 15,000 acres,'' he said.

He added that the company's expansion would be mainly financed by cash.

He also said none of Chin Teck's estates, locally or abroad, were affected by floods.

On its food and confectionary joint-venture projects in China, Wong said the group's associate company, Gaeronic Pte Ltd, was expected to return to the black this year after posting a RM4.75mil pre-tax loss for the year ended Aug 31, 2006.

“We have overcome our human resources problem and embarked on an aggressive brand building and promotional campaign last year.

“We have seen positive results for the last two months,” he said.

Chin Teck registered a higher net profit of RM7.68mil in the first quarter ended Nov 30, 2006 from RM4.84mil in the previous corresponding period.